Meeting Millie by Clare Ashton

Charlotte and Millie couldn’t be more different. It was apparent from their first meeting at Oxford. Millie, with her straight girl charm and curves for days and Charlotte, queer, lanky and well off. Despite their differences, an instant friendship formed that only grew stronger, until unrequited feelings got in the way.
Now ten years later, both women are back at Oxford and find themselves with a chance to rekindle the friendship they both have desperately missed. Ten years is a long time to go without talking but Charlotte and Millie’s connection is still there and maybe, there’s more to the feelings than just friendship.
When I read a book, I want it to move me, and I want to give in to all of the feels a good book evokes. There isn’t another author who brings those emotions to the surface more than Clare Ashton. Whether it’s the family drama of The Goodman’s, the sweetness of Poppy Jenkins or the sensitivity with which she handled anxiety in Finding Jessica Lambert, Ashton has an unrivaled ability to provoke feelings. Now I can happily add Meeting Millie to that list.
From the very first page when Charlotte and Millie met I was hooked. Even at first meeting, it felt like they were just meant to be a part of each other’s life. I have had a few people I met and immediately knew I would always need them in my life and wondered how I survived for so long without them. That’s how it is with Charlotte and Millie, in each other, they find the friend they have always needed.
Meeting Millie is a beautifully written book. Ashton conveys Millie’s longing for her friend in such a way that it just rips your heart out. And Millie, sweet, bold, wonderful Millie. The way losing her friend irrevocably changed her and the joy at having a chance to have Charlotte back in her life, I just love everything about Millie.
Another strength of a Clare Ashton book are brilliant supporting characters. If Olivia doesn’t get her own book next, I will lodge a complaint with Clare personally. Olivia attended school with Millie and Charlotte and has remained Charlotte’s friend. She was always put off by Millie’s brashness and flaunting of her sexual exploits. She is buttoned up and an ice queen, so naturally, I am a bit in love with her and want her to get a story where that ice melts. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Virginia, the sweet, foulmouthed elderly woman Millie rents a room from. She is an absolute delight and I hope to have her wisdom, wrapped in profanity laced snark, when I’m older.
Meeting Millie far exceeded by ridiculously high expectations. I have already read it twice and I’m sure I will reread it many more times. It is right up there with The Goodman’s as my favorite from Clare Ashton. Read it when you have the chance, and you will fall in love with Millie and Charlotte. It’s impossible not to.

An ARC was received from the author for an honest review.

The Tell Tale by Clare Ashton Narrated by Lucy Rayner

The Tell Tale
Published: 2/28/22
A small town, an enduring love, a web of secrets.

The Tell Tale, by Clare Ashton, is a beautifully crafted mystery and was one of my favorite books of 2021. The audiobook, narrated by Lucy Rayner, brings the story to life in a spectacular way. I’ve never been to Wales. I’ve hardly been out of the United States, but while listening to this audiobook, I was transported to the village of Foel. I felt like a member of the community, trying to solve the mystery of who was leaving the townsfolk notes, making it clear that their secrets weren’t so secret after all. Even though I knew the outcome, I was drawn in all over again.

Lucy Rayner’s voice is perfectly suited to the story. It’s soft and melodic. There are a lot of characters, and she did a masterful job of making them distinct. This is my first time listening to her narrate a book, and I certainly hope it’s not the last. Her voice is calm yet conveys so much emotion.

This book brought a lot of feelings out when I read it initially, primarily empathy and anger. And Lucy’s narration brought them out all over again. I have so much empathy for the women of Foel, who are living in the 70’s with misogyny running rampant. The men in the village think having a dangling participle gives them to right to belittle and control women. Overcoming that male superiority is at the heart of this story. I fought alongside Sophie, Beth and the rest of the women of Foel.

I am a Clare Ashton fangirl and I make no apologies for it. She is a brilliant author who brings stories to life in such a vivid way that I feel transported into the story. With Lucy Rayner’s narration that was only intensified. This is an author/narrator combination that I hope we get more from in the future. I will be not so patiently waiting for the next collaboration.


The Tell Tale by Clare Ashton

The Tell Tale
Published: 10/1/2021
The Tell Tale has been watching

The Tell Tale is an absolutely riveting read. There is a reason that I have Clare Ashton at the top of my favorite authors list. She creates unforgettable characters and stories that stay with you long after the last page is read. From the delightfulness of Poppy Jenkins, the drama of The Goodmans, or the shared experiences that lead to love in Finding Jessica Lambert, Clare Ashton has proven to be one of the most versatile writers in the lesfic community. We can now add the mystery of The Tell Tale to her impressive catalog of work.

The story is set in the 70’s in the village of Foel in Wales. It centers on how the town and residents are still impacted by two teenagers who eloped together twenty years ago and were never heard from again. The story is told  from the perspectives of four members of the community, Lady Sophie Melling, Beth Harris and Rhian and Geraint Thomas.

Lady Sophie and her husband Daniel returned to Foel a year ago when her father died and left her the family estate. Daniel spends a great deal of time in London leaving Sophie alone. Sophie was a friend to Elin and distant cousin to Alywn.

Beth Harris has returned to Foel with her daughter Nia in tow to care for her ailing mother. Beth was best friends with Elin in school along with Meg, who still lives in the village. Beth’s daughter Nia has the carefree nature of youth that Beth misses in herself.

Rhian is Alwyn and Geraint’s mother and wife to town council member Bryn. The years since her sons departure have been nearly unbearable and she self medicates just to be able to survive each day. Alwyn always protected little brother Geraint, who has longed for his mother’s attention and his father’s approval.

Residents begin receiving notes letting it be none their secrets aren’t so secret. The quest to find the culprit takes us down a road no one expected to travel and changes the lives of the townspeople forever.

Clare Ashton doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. The misogyny displayed by the townspeople of the 1970’s is still true for many men in all parts of the world. The majority of the men of Foel see women as subservient to men, their only role to raise the children and take care of the home. Their opinions are not asked for nor appreciated. If a woman is single clearly there is something wrong with her and a failed marriage only fails because the woman didn’t live up to her duties. Men are just being men and can do whatever they want and women should fall in line and accept their place. There were a lot of men in this book that I wanted to punch in the throat.

Despite my need to perpetuate violence against the menfolk of this town, all of the characters were so fully developed I felt that I understood their motivations and sympathized with those worthy of my compassion. This is a mystery keeps you engaged and will leave you shaking your head in wonder at the talent that Clare Ashton is working with. She seamlessly connected these characters and their stories. She has an uncanny ability to write prose that leaves you breathless at how beautiful words can be when in the hands of a virtuoso. There are a lot of twists and turns along the way that help to make this one of my favorite books of the year.

ARC received from the author for an honest review


The Goodmans by Clare Ashton

The Goodmans
Published: 2018
Family drama in a idyllic British village.

The Goodmans by Clare Ashton is my favorite book. I want to be a member of this loving, crazy family. I want to hang out with Celia, the grandmother and get my medicinal relief. I want to rage against the annoying neighbor and civil injustices with Maggie. I want to make fun of everyone with Eli. I want to encourage Jude to see the wonder that is her mother and I want to hug the mess out of Abby and Richard.

Jude is a doctor who spends the weekends in her hometown with her family and best friend Abby. She has no clue that Abby is head over heels in love with her. It takes her overhearing her brother and seeing the look of despair on Abby’s face when Bill, Jude’s boarish boyfriend, proposes to open her eyes to the truth. Abby is the quintessential girl next door. She’s a doctor as well and the whole town loves her because she is kind and attentive. After Abby’s mother died tragically while her and Jude were in college, the Goodmans made her a part of the family.

Abby feels a particular closeness with Maggie, who became a surrogate mother for her. Jude loves her mother but is more than often annoyed and exasperated with her behavior. I think one of the many reasons I adore Maggie so much is because she reminds me of my own mother. My mom was obnoxious and smothering but she had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known.  Maggie has all of these same qualities and more. She is the heart and soul of this book and I adore her completely.

Maggie and her husband Richard are separated but still live in the same house. They have decided to tell the family they are divorcing until Eli shows up with his new fiance. Everything after turns Maggie’s world upside down and the ride is surprising, exhilarating and beautiful. I will reread this book many times and have a tear in my eye every time for years to come. Clare Ashton has created a literary masterpiece.