Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Synopsis: 40 years of marriage, 8 golden charms, one man’s journey of discovery. When Arthur Pepper discovers a mysterious charm bracelet in his late wife’s wardrobe, he sets off on a journey to discover, charm by charm, her secret life before they met. Having been married for over 40 years, 69-year-old Arthur Pepper is mourning the loss of his wife. On the anniversary of her death, he finally musters the courage to go through her possessions, and happens upon a charm bracelet that he has never seen before. What follows is a surprising adventure that takes Arthur from London to Paris and India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met, a journey that leads him to find healing, self-discovery, and love in the most unexpected of places.
I have to admit, normally I wouldn’t even pick this book up (it pains me that I’m so judgemental) never mind read, but within two minutes of picking it up and glancing it’s blurb, I was intrigued; something about the idea of solving the mystery of a charm bracelet and finding out the story behind each one and like Arthur I like a bit of a mystery (and I’ve always liked the idea of charm bracelets).
It’s been a year since Miriam died and Arthur has decided that it’s finally time to sort out her belonging and donate her clothes to a cat charity. Tucked inside a boot in the wardrobe is a heart shaped jewellery box containing a gold charm bracelet, it’s not something he’s seen before and doesn’t look like something his wife would own. While inspecting the charms on it he notices that there is a phone number on the elephant, the dialling code is for a number in India. Phoning the number kick starts Arthurs quest to find out the stories behind the charms, which makes him break his dull, regimented, hermit routine, he had adopted since Miriam’s death. Throughout his hunt he learns not just about his Wife’s life before him, he also learns new things about himself, as well as re-evaluating everything he though he knew – both good and bad.
I can’t really relate to Arthur's sense of loss at the start of this book, because thankfully I’ve not yet lost anyone that close to me. But I did find that I could relate to Arthur in other small ways I think most people probably can and definitely the idea of getting stuck in a safe little rut.
I really enjoyed following Arthur as he one by one solved the mysteries of each charm, revealing the rather surprising colourful history of his wife, although I did find that some of the links or clues between one charm and the next were a little convenient, but I find that is often the case with books that centre around solving a mystery and it definitely didn’t take anything from the story. I loved almost all of the people that Arthur met on his travels (with the exception of De Chauffant, for obvious reasons, Lord Graystock and Sonny) I wonder what might have happened if Arthur had accepted the coffee from Sylvie. With some of the people Arthur met on his travels I wish that we could have found out a little more about them at the end, especially Mike and Sebastien – Although I suppose that is life, you don’t always get all the answers!
At the start I found Bernadette a little bit overwhelming, and I think I might also have pretended not to be in, and although she didn’t really change throughout the book she did seem to step back a bit once Arthur started to explore, and her heart was in the right place. I really liked the grandfatherly relationship that Nathan and Arthur developed and the way that Nathan sought him out for advice.
I don’t want to say too much about what Arthur finds out a learns about Miriam but what he finds out isn’t always what he wants to hear and everything he finds out throws up more questions that he doesn’t have answers for, and makes him question everything, at the lowest points it had me crying my eyes out as Arthur doubted his marriage and whether his wife was happy with him. Luckily Arthurs family and friends step in to show him how happy his life with Miriam had been. I like the idea that it’s never too late to start an adventure.
I have a few issues with the end, mostly with the fact that he didn’t keep the charm bracelet, but that might just be because I’m a little bit sentimental and a bit of a hoarder and don’t like throwing things out or getting rid of them, but I guess it was a fitting end.
The other thing that nagged me was the fact that he just posted the watch through Mike’s letter box, partially because it would have been nice to see Mike again. But mainly because as far as the reader can see Arthur doesn’t appear to check that Mike still lives there, he probably does, but what if he had moved?
In summary I really enjoyed reading this book even if it made me cry my eyes out, I certainly didn’t expect close encounters with tigers, chasing down muggers and nude modelling for students. I hadn’t really expected to have any strong feelings, it seems I need to stop being so judgemental in what I think I will like to read – A little lesson to take away from Arthur. And it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention how much I like Frederica and Arthur's concern over her water intake.