Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
‘I’d changed. Something subtle inside me had shifted while I was giving the Paris pavements a good pounding. For the first time in a long while, it was just me in charge of my own destiny’ (375).
Ruby Brown is in her forties and abandoned by her husband, in Carole Matthews novel Million Love Songs. This novel, written in the first person, follows Ruby’s life, its ups and downs, from the time her husband left to when she finds contentment within herself, having decided not to return to London after attending a Take That concert in Paris.
Two men enter her life at this time and she is torn between the two until she realises that she is an ‘OK person’ and ‘quite content’ where she is. As she says, ‘It would be nice to have a partner to share (with)..but not at any cost.’ Usually when people stop obsessing about things, that is when good things happen. Does this happen for Ruby?
Joe is the father of two teenagers whose wife has just abandoned them for a new romance. Ruby meets him when signing up for a diving course. Ruby really likes Joe but can feel the animosity from his children when she meets them. The timing and situation are just not right.
Mason, a few years younger than Ruby, offers the high life and excitement (sometimes too much for Ruby). He is also the boss of the busy Butcher’s Arms where Ruby works as a waitress. This is also where Ruby meets Charlie, another waitress, and they become ‘besties’. Charlie warns Ruby that Mason has been given the nickname ‘Shagger Soames’ for a good reason.
Threaded throughout the story line is reference to Gary Barlow, lead singer of the band Take That, and his music. Charlie is an obsessive fan and has been ‘a serious fangirl since they first came on the music scene. No other nineties band will fit the bill’ (13). The title of the book comes from one of the band’s songs.
A Million Love Songs, the song, highlights just how hard people find it to express their feelings:
A million love songs later
And here I am trying to tell you that I care
The main characters in this story all find it difficult to express their feelings and this leads to missed opportunities , anxiety and personal introspection especially for Ruby.
Charlie drags Ruby along with her to many of the concerts or opportunities to see her idol. She even has a cardboard cut-out of Gary Barlow in her living room and gifts one to Ruby as well.
I did not feel positively about this book as for me it appeared very depressing, using much drink binging and sex as an antidote to unhappiness. However at the end, when Ruby seemed to come to her senses, I could appreciate how this might be exactly how individuals feel when set adrift from being part of a couple. Indeed, on reflection it reads very much like an autobiography.
On returning to London from her stay in Paris, Ruby finds a new job and contentment. Maybe in time love will find her.
Carole Matthews has written over thirty novels, including several best sellers, and was awarded the RNA Outstanding Achievement Award in 2015. Those who have read her Chocolate Lovers novels will be familiar with this writer.
By Carole Matthews