Book review: Make or Break by Catherine Bennetto

Make or Break by Catherine Bennetto
Make or Break by Catherine Bennetto
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A surprise trip to Cape Town to attend her best friend’s last-minute wedding could be just the kick-start needed to reignite Jess Roberts-Schiele’s own six-year romance with boyfriend Pete.

But Jess’s plans of returning to London with a sparkling diamond on the third finger of her left hand are thrown into turmoil by a discovery that turns her whole world upside down.

Catherine Bennetto, whose real-life experiences and work in the film and television industry inspired last year’s outrageously funny debut, How Not to Fall in Love, Actually, is at her wickedly witty best again in this new romantic comedy with an unexpectedly gritty centre.

Bennetto has worked on shows such as The Bill, Coronation Street and Death in Paradise, and she certainly knows how to put visual drama, comedy, vibrant characters and the complexity of human relationships into her smart and sassy books.

In this new rollercoaster tale, which will both warm and break your heart, we follow the adventures and misadventures of obsessive worrier Jess and her wonderfully lovable and chaotic family as their lives take an unwelcome turn.

Despite her parents being serially ‘non-commitment,’ 29-year-old Londoner Jess wants to do the ‘marriage-before-children traditional thing’ and is hoping that her Pete, her long-term boyfriend, will propose when they get an impossible-to-refuse invitation to her friend Priya’s wedding in Cape Town.

Jess has visions of beach, sun, sand, cocktails and safaris… and leaving South Africa with an ethically mined diamond engagement ring.

But this holiday isn’t set to be quite the fairy tale Jess has planned... first of all, Jess who worries to the point of paranoia, fears her single-mother sister Annabelle will not manage to look after her hyperactive seven-year-old son Hunter and three-year-old Down’s Syndrome daughter Katie without Jess’s daily input.

And then things don’t turn out quite as she had planned when they reach Cape Town. Pete seems more interested in heading off on outdoor adventures – including a seven-day hike with a man nicknamed Goat – and Jess’s fretting tendency seems to be getting out of control.

Worst of all is a discovery that sends her world tilting on its axis… and things are only set to get worse when Jess returns home.

Get ready to shed a tear or two as Bennetto plays on our heartstrings in this laugh-out-loud funny – and yet intensely emotional celebration – of the ups and downs that make family life so complex and so eternally entertaining.

The magical landscape of Cape Town, with its majestic Table Mountain, stunning coastline and eclectic people, provides a stunning backdrop to a story about learning to face up to your fears, acceptance, sharing and coping in times of adversity.

Bennetto’s wry, caustic humour once more carries the day but this clever author also has the gift of creating memorable characters and the touching sibling love between whirlwind Hunter and the adorable Katie is the undoubted cameo show-stealer in this moving and perceptive novel.

With romance aplenty, a mystery bubbling tantalisingly beneath the surface, and a superb twist in the tail, Make or Break is the perfect travelling companion for this year’s summer holidays.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)