June: Alicia Stone
In the novel June: Living a lie in a web of deceit, Cassandra finds the courage to challenge her controlling husband.
June by Alicia Stone is a contemporary romance.
By Alicia Stone
A review by Jeffrey Ross
This is a world-class piece of literature—a finely crafted book that combines several genres successfully. On one level, June functions as an academic or campus novel—much of the text revolves around the detailed, complicated, scholarly world of Professor Perry’s anthropological research and love affair machinations. It also has robust elements of a detective story when super-sleuth David outs a cheating husband. But June most significantly and boldly illuminates a woman’s “sensual” coming of age (somewhat like Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening) as heroine Cassie begins to unshackle herself from a life of emotional servitude and learns to love again. As a writer, I was humbled by the workmanship and power of this novel. Read June—you will never forget the story.
A creature of routine, she went shopping after Book Club. Every trip to the supermarket was at best an exhausting in-your-face reality experience, at worst a sensory assault. From the seductive smell of the in-store baked bread and the sweet blowsy lilies in pretty buy-me cellophane wrappers to the whole gamut of riotous colour, compelling fonts and unashamed branding the weekly shop was a marketing horror to be endured. Enthusiastic staff spoke of must-buys or operational matters over the public address system interrupting the bland music and the periodic wails of infants distressed or seeking attention. Employees wearing uniform fleece offered tiny plastic pots as if shoppers were at some impromptu cocktail party or were institutionalised, standing in line to take their medication before bedtime.
“Can I tempt you to try a French cheese on offer today? Our own-brand mayonnaise has been voted Britain’s favourite. Would you like to see if you can taste the difference?”
There were endless choices, from the selection of three types of trolley at the entrance to the alternative methods of checkout at the exit. Early on in their relationship during a trip to the supermarket, Perry asked that Cassandra take on the responsibility.
“Sweetheart, shopping is ghastly. You are so much better at all this pointless busyness than I. Look about you,” he glowered. “Eighty percent of the people here are women. You are among your own kind; you know what to do; you have the time. Lucky, lucky girl, whereas poor old me, cash rich; time poor.”
Money wasn’t a problem. Perry urged her to spend what she liked. They could afford to live well on his salary and his grandfather’s trust fund. Bunty and Reg, his parents, bought the couple’s house as a wedding gift. Early on in their relationship, Bunty had trumpeted aloud at Cassandra’s modest choice of food retailer and her student habit of shopping around for bargains.
“My dear, a housewife is judged by her table. Top end for groceries, always. It’s what Perry’s used to.”
Cassandra did the shopping, coasting in neutral following a set path. Her face assumed a forced smile. She manoeuvred the trolley around slow mannerly pensioners, avoiding the child, skidding to a halt in the detergent aisle. She read labels comparing saturated fat and salt levels, catering for Perry’s current preferences and tastes. He was most particular. Cassandra willed herself not to judge the large woman with the trolley stacked high with snack and convenience food or to think too uncharitably of the salad afterthought perched on top of the high-fat, sugar-laden mountain. She rejected the self-checkout points, aware of her need for human interaction, chatting at the till, agreeing that the weather was shocking and that the three-for-two offer on the Imperial Leather soap was excellent value.
“My husband won’t try any other. His mother uses the same brand…you know, a family thing.” Cassandra despised the words and herself for the weakness that was her norm.
The cashier listened with her head to one side. Was there a fleeting edge of solidarity or sympathy in the amber eyes? Perhaps it was the magnifying effect of the tortoiseshell glasses. Cassandra felt odd and lightheaded but conscious of a moment of female kinship and understanding with a woman she’d never met before.
“Are you alright dear?” The amber was almost orange, owlish, and wild.
Cassandra considered the question as she used her credit card. The first attempt failed as she tapped in the wrong number. Concentrating, she began the process again until she met with success. She stopped in the act of lifting the bag of shopping into her trolley.
“I think…I am.”
The cashier reappraised her as she handed over the receipt.
“Changes take time to work their way through, don’t you find? The trick is to make the right choices. Take care now.”
There was no one behind her in the queue. The adjacent cashier was busy. No one else had overheard. What a curious exchange; not at all the usual bland pleasantries between staff and customers. Cassandra wheeled her trolley away, leaning against the metal frame. Glancing back at the checkout, the grey-haired woman was changing her till roll and did not look up.
Driving home through the rain, Cassandra thought about the book club. Perry had suggested she join. One evening at dinner, he announced that everything was arranged. The wife of Perry’s occasional golf partner would introduce her to the club and pick Cassandra up, taking her to the first meeting.
Debbie, in a red sports car with a mane of tawny hair, tanned, wearing a lime green trouser suit, pulled up outside sounding three long beeps. Cassandra rushed out of the house, flustered with a wave of greeting. This went unobserved as Debbie shot into her driveway, executing a three-point-turn, which halted two inches from the next-door’s spotless and regimented recycling bins.
“Hop in. Running late. A cul-de-sac in Westmead,” she surveyed the immaculate new-builds, “bad luck. My book choice this month so they can’t start without me. Got the top down…nice day…about time. Awful summer, you’d never think we lived in the south of England for pity’s sake.”
Cassandra held out her hand to no avail as the car sped forward.
The recollection of that first meeting made Cassandra grimace and smile. She couldn’t recall the name of the first book, the plot, or the characters, only that awful new girl paralysis, all the other women staring, appraising, and judging. Fighting an overwhelming instinct to run away, she defaulted to a learned behaviour; she smiled, crossed and uncrossed her legs, agreed and disagreed, nodded and listened, wholly intent on blending in. That was three years ago. Members came and went, but the core remained the same. Perry liked to ask her about the group, wives of cronies in his wider circle, so she stayed. Debbie stayed the course too, catching Cassandra’s eye at the more outrageous comments, winking with mirth at the absurd.
Perry wanted to know who was bright. Who led the group? Who did most of the talking? That was in the early days. Of late, he had not asked much about the reading group, but Debbie had become a friend. An unlikely pairing perhaps, but, as the first meeting finished and they walked towards the waiting Mercedes, Deborah Gore-Hamilton said,
“I’ve got your number, Cassy Bishop. If you need an ally, I’ve got your back.”
That was how their friendship started. Cassandra was no longer alone.
Title: June (Many a Moon Series, Book 2)
Author: Alicia Stone
Reviewed by: Gillespie Lamb
Cassandra Bishop is an upper-class English woman in her mid-30s who has voluntarily subordinated herself to a controlling husband (and his mother). Why would she volunteer? “I was young,” she sighs. Her pushy best bud brusquely dismisses that as a whiny excuse and lovingly prods her to reassert herself. In reluctant response, an emotionally deconstructed “Cassy” begins to reassemble her natural lively spirit.
Her quicksilver transformation into a strong, independent woman loosens the constraints in her marriage relationship, with liberating and tragic consequences.
Author Alicia Stone’s forte is creating a believable slice of upper-crust British society within which her characters grow into people we care about. Her illuminating descriptions of the knick-knackery of the gentry lifestyle are fascinating in themselves. Cassandra comes across as an introspective, sensible, and nervy woman. It turns out her husband is multi-dimensional, too.
Testimonial: I am male. This is a woman’s book, PG-rated, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Alicia has recently returned to the UK. She is enjoying the south coast and exploring rural villages using back roads and public footpaths. The great thing about English villages is that they have amazing old churches full of history and stories often with a pub next door. Find out more about Alicia, or contact her on her blog: aliciastoneauthor.blogspot.co.uk
Blog URL: aliciastoneauthor.blogspot.co.uk
Twitter handle: @Alicia_author
ALSO BY ALICIA STONE
The problem is the man she desperately wants and needs is not interested in her. He was once, but ten years ago she threw away their chance of happiness. Together again, Marielle and Peter discover how they have both changed and how much they have in common. Their attraction for each other is intensified, but can their love be rekindled? Can they risk everything for love? Affairs of the heart prove to be no match for the darker powers of Fate as Marielle’s very survival hangs in the balance.
By C McKnney
3.5 Stars out of 5
Alicia Stone’s first novel in the Many a Moon series promises an interesting series ahead.
Marielle made the mistake of giving up the love of her life years ago. When she meets him again by chance, she realizes her mistake and wants to get their relationship back on the rails.
Job woes, the challenges of pregnancy, and uncertainty that Marielle’s beloved can come to care for her again as he once did are only a few of the issues that make this an interesting read
Marielle is an interesting and well-realized character; the author gets deeply into her heroine’s head, developing a sympathetic woman faced with realistic problems and issues, and negotiating an emotional minefield as she seeks happiness.
Unfortunately, the male lead is less fully realized, but after a slow start, he becomes a more relatable character. Readers should be patient and wait for him to emerge as the story unfolds.
Far more of a character study in Marielle’s development and feelings than a bodice-ripper romance, the introspective nature of this book makes it particularly suitable for readers who would enjoy seeing a single, strong woman negotiate the pitfalls of repairing the mistakes of her past and dealing with the consequences of both past mistakes and present ones.