"One Night Only" is about a woman going back to her roots, just as Sue Welfare has done by using her real name. Sue has also written under the names of Kate Lawson and Gemma Fox.
Helen Redford is a former successful and well-loved soap opera actress who was dramatically killed off some years before we meet her. She has a handsome choreographer boyfriend who, in his late thirties is a fair bit younger than Helen, who is in her early fifties. Helen’s agent, Arthur, happens to be her former husband. With the only work options being presented to Helen nowadays being pantomime or reality TV shows where she’d either be eating bugs (or worse) or risking breaking a leg, literally, an offer to make a guest appearance on Roots becomes increasingly tempting. Roots is loosely based on the Who Do You Think You Are? format but centres more on recent and current generations rather than delving further into the past. Whilst Helen is somewhat sceptical, especially as she hasn’t been back to her hometown of Billingsfield practically since she was a teenager, she eventually concedes. But just what stories and memories will a trip down memory lane with the added pressure of a TV crew bring up? And will Helen’s secret hopes for the programme be realised?
I loved this book. I literally couldn’t put it down. The story flits between the present (Helen going back to Billingsfield and the filming of the Roots programme) and the past (Helen’s late teens and, in particular, Helen and her best friend Charlotte’s first taste of fame in a local talent contest and her difficult relationship with her parents and local boy Harry). I didn’t initially warm to Helen as a character in her present world as she appeared quite cold, but the chapters where we delved into her past really allowed her to grow on you as a reader and find an understanding of her character as an adult, and it was these chapters that were thoroughly gripping. Helen as a teenager is completely loveable, the bestest friend you could hope to have, and to put up with Charlotte, well, you have to read it, you will detest Charlotte too, I’m sure! The night of the talent contest has some extremely tense elements to it involving some ‘showbiz agents’ and I thought this story intercepted the present story really well. I had a lot of questions, I was kept guessing and I wasn’t disappointed.
The only negative point I can make isn’t about the story or writing itself, but the proof reading, there were several errors I spotted including two in the first few pages. This didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book however.
Overall, I would say this book offers something a bit different, a completely refreshing read. Sue isn’t afraid to touch on darker subjects but in a way which the reader can empathise with rather than feel uncomfortable with. For me it had a bit of everything going for it, humour, intrigue, fully rounded characters, depth, romance and lost love and friendship, and of course excellent writing! I thoroughly recommend this book.
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