Book review – Watching Willow Watts by Talli Roland

14 Sep

For Willow Watts, life has settled into a predictably dull routine: days behind the counter at her father’s antique shop and nights watching TV, as the pension-aged residents of Britain’s Ugliest Village bed down for yet another early night. But everything changes when a YouTube video of Willow’s epically embarrassing Marilyn Monroe impersonation gets millions of hits after a viewer spots Marilyn’s ghostly image in a frame.

Instantly, Willow’s town is overrun with fans flocking to see the ‘new Marilyn’. Egged on by the villagers — whose shops and businesses are cashing in — Willow embraces her new identity, dying her hair platinum and ramming herself full of cakes to achieve Marilyn’s legendary curves.

But when a former flame returns seeking the old Willow, Willow must decide: can she risk her stardom and her village’s newfound fortune on love, or is being Marilyn her ticket to happiness?

Having loved Talli Roland’s reality TV based debut, The Hating Game I’ve been eagerly anticipating the publication of Watching Willow Watts and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed. Talli has once again tapped into a very modern media phenomenon – in this case the power of YouTube – to pen a fun but heartfelt novel that looks at the lure of celebrity and the true price of fame.

Willow Watts is an unassuming twenty-something girl living in the less than inspiring Cotswolds village of Belcherton. Willow has given up a burgeoning career as a florist in London to return home to look after her Father and his ailing antiques business following the death of her Mother. I liked Willow straight away – we meet her as she attends the village fair and it’s clear from the start that she wants to make people happy even if it is at the expense of her own desires.

As her best friend Paula talks her into donning a Marilyn Monroe costume at the ‘Be a Star’ stall, little does Willow know how much her life is about to change. In a strange but amusingly believable twist of fate, the video of Willow’s Marilyn impression is uploaded to YouTube and becomes an instant hit as Marilyn fans worldwide believe they see the image of their idol’s ghost endorsing Willow as the next big thing!

Willow is quickly pulled into the frenzy and as fans and the media descend on the village wanting to meet her she realises that being the new Marilyn might be the answer to all of her problems and a real boost for the village. It’s at this point that the story takes a turn for the more sinister as Willow falls for the promises of fame and fortune (not to mention the romantic attentions) of unscrupulous ‘agent’ Jay Bellamy. Jay is a fantastic villain and a character that readers will love to hate – I truly was wishing him the worst as I read! Thankfully there are some fab supporting characters to help keep Willow on track – her quirky best friend Paula and American Marilyn fanatic Betts were two of my favourites and I loved the sub-slot involving Betts as she makes her own life-changing decisions.

As with Talli’s previous novel, there are several romantic stories running under the main ‘celebrity’ plot and as Willow’s ex-boyfriend Alex comes back into the picture she has to decide who she really wants to be and what she wants from her future. Watching Willow Watts is a quick and engrossing read and I loved the ending to the story. Talli has definitely found her niche in writing chick lit with an edge that is fun, modern and romantic and I’m already looking forward to her next book!

4/5

Watching Willow Watts is out now in ebook format and the paperback version will be available on November 30th. I’d like to thank Talli for sending me a review copy.

You can find out more about Talli and her books at: http://www.talliroland.com/

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