Book Review: Expected by Sarah England & author interview

Expected-CoverWhat it’s about:

Sam Sweet is terrified of giving birth. Only, she doesn’t dare tell anyone. Especially her grandchildren-obsessed mother, or her fiancé, Simon – top surgeon by day, mind-game expert by night.

Repressed by the expectations of others, Sam feels trapped. All she ever wanted was a career and a crack at independence, but as a catastrophically failed psychiatric nurse who now injects fillers into the crinkled faces of unhappy women, a career is proving tricky. There’s something wrong with the product and now clients are suing.

Nasty work colleagues stir up scandalous gossip, and soon Sam hits rock-bottom, consoling herself with button popping chocolate binges and terrifying spending sprees.

Sam is going to have to find her voice if she ever wants to be herself, fall in love, and follow her dreams. Alas, the wedding date is set…

CharlooDividerReview:

If you could tape your every thought – that is what this book sounds like. But in a good way. Sometimes “I walked down the dull, dreary street” isn’t realistic when “the weather was shit” will suffice. Sarah told me that Expected wasn’t your “typical” chick lit novel and in which I responded with “different can be good” and in this case in really was. Expected is about a young girl called Sam Sweet (what a name!) Sam is engaged to an infuriating, obnoxious man called Simon, her mother is obsessed with being a grandmother – so much so she adopts herself a doll and carries it around like a child – and Sam’s job is in jeopardy. It’s safe to say Sam isn’t in the position she wants to be in and the pressure on her to get married and have kids is becoming too much. Will Sam crack under the strain of everything and marry Simon? Or will her mother come to terms with the fact that grandchildren may not be on the cards? Join Sam in a hilarious account of her life with a psycho boyfriend, a lunatic mother and a expectation sitting on her shoulders.

I liked how Sam isn’t perfect – nowhere near in fact and Sarah definitely doesn’t try to sugar coat what Sam is thinking for example How would you like your balls strapped to a meat hook? She puts into words what all of us ladies have thought about at one point or another. Whether it be a really rubbish party and we’re wondering why we’re not sitting at home watching sex and the city and eating cookie dough out the pot or realising you’re with the wrong person. I found Sam’s character really interesting. She is a real woman – she gets nervous, anxious and worried and angry and that’s reassuring because there’s nothing worse than reading a book where the main character gets everything she wants. It’s not like most other chick lit books where all the girls want to do is settle down, get married and have a baby. Sam doesn’t want any of that – she is unhappy in her relationship and panics every time someone mentions having kids and I think it’s important to realise that it’s okay – not all women want to settle for the norm and that’s fine and Sam is the perfect example of another woman that’s just expected to do what society says. Sam really engages with the reader. Not Sarah – Sam. She’s sarcastic and asks the reader questions and I found it very unusual but different and entertaining. By 1/3 of the way through I felt like Sam was a friend – not just a character in the book however, she did begin to feel like one of those friends who you love but can only spend so much time with otherwise you want to punch them. I laughed with her ‘Old steamy specs’, sympathised with her and cringed with her. Sam’s fiancé, Simon was another very strong character in the book and I loved how Sarah made damn sure we all hated him as much as Sam did. I always try and see the good even in the worst of characters but Simon left me steaming at the ears.

I have read a few reviews on this book that mention they don’t understand why Sam couldn’t stand up for herself and leave Simon sooner and Sarah quite rightly pointed out that “Sam has very low self-esteem and nowhere to run to. She has to find a lot of courage while everything is going wrong but if she slapped him in the face and walked out before she hit rock bottom – there would be no story and women stay with men who are far worse – abusive men even. It’s not always easy to walk out. Sam is from a poor background and is heavily in debt. It happens.. She isn’t Bridget Jones with parents in the country or Becky Bloomwood with a rich boyfriend – she is really on her own!” Don’t get me wrong this was a hilarious and extremely enjoyable book but I definitely think there is an underlying message regarding the importance of emotional abuse, which is what Simon did to Sam on a daily basis by putting her down, implying she’s fat and making her feel like crap. The author never mentions that this is a book about emotional abuse – because it’s not but underneath Sam’s witty humour, funny comebacks and ability to ignore what Simon says, it’s there and it’s important to realise that not all fictional women are going to be strong heroine types.

CharlooDividerInterview:

1. Hi Sarah! Can you tell us a bit of what Expected is about?    

Well Sam Sweet is basically the poorer, unluckier version of Bridget Jones or Becky Bloomwood (Shopaholic) She’s here to represent the ordinary girl who’s got herself into a mess. And the more of a mess she’s in, the more her self-esteem plummets, along with the ability to do anything about it. Sam is a failed psychiatric nurse from a sink estate in Weston Super mare. Her mother, whose husband ran off with another woman 20 years ago – although you’d think it happened only yesterday – has only one ambition and that is to be a grandmother. But Sam is terrified of giving birth. She is easily traumatised and has no ambition to return to the sink estate and have dozens of children. She just wants a chance to do something with her life first, to fall in love, and see a bit of the world. Alas, in a drunken stupor she meets Simon – the psychopathic surgeon, who promises her a wonderful life and she believes him – because she is a dingbat and has a lot to learn. But now she’s trapped and can’t get out of the situation – her latest job is injecting facial fillers and clients are suing because it’s going lumpy; and her best friend, also her boss, is sexually jealous to the point of blind rage because her boyfriend fancies Sam and does little to hide the fact. Living with her psychopathic boyfriend and with her job on the line she now has nowhere to go! A plan is needed. However, Sam’s coping strategy as her life whizzes out of control, is to eat more chocolate and shop like a WAG on speed. But soon she piles on weight and sinks deeply into debt, at which point Simon the surgeon starts playing serious mind games; and by the time it dawns on Sam just what a horrific mess she’s in – we might as well pass her the JCB because she keeps on digging. As she hits rock bottom, however, her dream man arrives – Joel Madison! – but Sam now feels too fat to pursue matters…. and slimy Simon ups the stakes when he sniffs out her potential happiness and escape. Although that’s nothing compared to the cards her mother decides to play… oh it’s getting worse…….and that wedding to Simon is still booked. Expect a few fireworks!

2. Have you always wanted to be a writer/author?

Well as a little girl I had hoped to be a film star; and then a vet. But I have always been an avid reader, devouring my mother’s cast off ‘Victoria Holts even as a child. I’d make up stories in my head and longed to be a lady writer in an ivory tower. No, that didn’t work out either. So I became a nurse and then a medical rep – neither through choice but rather through necessity and the available options at the time. However, about 9 years ago I began to write my utterly tedious life story (and yes I had the brass neck to send it off to agents and publishers – cringes……) and from there I progressed to short stories for magazines….    

3. I mention in my review that the underlying issue of emotional abuse on Simon’s part is important to the story. Was this intentional or did it just happen along the way?

I’m so glad you picked up on that! Simon works away so effectively at Sam’s core self-esteem that she eventually starts to think it is all her fault, and he is in fact a viable option! A lot of readers want Sam to stand up for herself but she’s batting from the weaker side – without his confidence, family and professional support, strong finances and innate nastiness. She has to start believing in herself first. In answer to your question – oh yes it was very intentional!  It just takes her a bit of time to sort it all out!            

4. Are any of your characters/events based on real life or are they purely fictional? 

Almost all of them have their basis in real people – some of them a combination of two or more. However, no one person is fully represented! How could anyone be as vile as Simon you might think? And if they were – would they come forward and say, ‘Ooh I think you’ve got my psychopathic character to a tee there!’  – ha ha ! I had about 20 years as a medical rep specialising in mental health, and there are still dozens and dozens of shocking incidents and characters yet to be born!! I’m afraid I’m one of those people who never forgets things (a double edged sword) … Great fun!  

5. Who are some of your personal favourite authors that you’d recommend? 

I love the brilliant raconteur, Stephen King – that guy was born to be a storyteller! I also enjoy Susan Hill for ghost stories and Mo Hayder for crime. Well spotted – these aren’t chick lit, are they? Well my other love is comedy –  so Marina Lewycka (sp?) and Sue Townsend! All of those authors are superb in my opinion! To be honest, I want to have my boundaries pushed and don’t like to be bored – so anything challenging and breaking new ground!

6. Do you have any words of wisdom to aspiring authors out there?

Only to work hard because you really have to want to do this. It may take years to have a short story published in a magazine or anthology. A novel may take even longer. Read the best! And some kind of course to learn the essential basics – either a correspondence course or a local creative writing group. It’s not an easy ride and only the best/luckiest make any kind of living from it.  

7. Was it difficult to get your novel noticed and published through a publishing company? Did you ever consider self-publishing?

‘Expected’ had an odd journey – it was accepted by an online American company that I’d had recommended to me. The night before publication, I was informed it had run into difficulties. As I am the Queen of Jinx it came as no surprise, but I was still devastated. But things have a way of working out, and I now at least had a fully edited book. So I then sent it to Crooked Cat as I could submit to them without an agent. And they accepted it within a week. To be honest, I would like an agent and a traditional publisher for my upcoming supernatural thriller, my current project, as I’d love it to be in the shops. I know that Expected is available as a paperback as well as on kindle, but it isn’t in the shops and that’s what my little heart yearns for…….. 

8. As you said so yourself, this isn’t your usual ‘Chick Lit’ type novel. What made you stray from the norm and write such a witty and honest story?

Well I think there are lots of writers doing chick lit and doing it very well. I kept to the old maxim of writing what you know, and as comedy is such a huge part of my character (I’m the kind of girl who gets stuck in revolving doors, flies out of the car with her foot wrapped in the seat belt, is shouting out something embarrassing just as the room goes quiet at a party etc…) that it kind of came naturally to be a bit of a twit, and I had so many hugely humiliating situations to share with  you all…………oh dear……….Btw – thank you for the kind comments about Sam being witty – she’ll be really pleased!

9. What are your top tips on dealing with criticism?

Oh this is so hard…….if it is destructive then ignore it. If you can. Anything destructive says more about the person criticising you than you or your work. If it is constructive – i.e. the person is telling you what and why – then take it all on board and thank them for helping you get better at what you do. It’s tough, though. And once your book is out there then anyone can say anything about it, and publish their comments for the world to see. So it’s best to try and accept the criticism before publication and get your work into the best possible shape. You will still get criticism though! Thick skin?

10. Can we expect a sequel to Sam’s story at all in the future? If not, where can we find your other books?

Aw thank you. Yes there will be a sequel to Sam. Once I have finished my supernatural thriller, then I will type up Sam’s next book as it is all drafted out. I keep snorting with unladylike laughter because I know what I’m going to have her doing next….ha ha! Yes I do also have a collection of thrillers out called ‘3am and Wide Awake’ – 25 tales from the dark side – published with Alfie Dog Fiction. Most of my work before these was in women’s magazines and I also have another murder mystery serial coming out soon in a national magazine – hopefully before Christmas! The information will be on my website and Facebook and I’m really excited about that!

CharlooDivider

S. E. England (565x800)About Sarah England

Sarah is a freelance fiction writer based in Dorset, UK. To date she has 150+ short stories published in women’s magazines, newspapers and anthologies worldwide. Her first serial (Someone Out There) was published in Woman’s Weekly, March 2013. Her debut comedy novel ‘Expected’ is available to purchase in EBook or Paperback on Amazon now.

Visit Sarah’s website

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Purchase Expected on Amazon

Purchase her short story collection ‘3am and Wide Awake’ from Amazon

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: Expected by Sarah England & author interview

  1. Pingback: Women’s Fiction Review: New Money by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal | Books in the Burbs

  2. Thank you so much, Jenny, for inviting me onto your blog to talk about Expected and Sam Sweet – I love all this pink btw! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book, and had lots of laughs. I promise the sequel will not be too far away – Sam was left far too comfortable at the end of Expected, and I’ve got a lot planned for her yet…she isn’t going to thank me, though! ha ha … Sarah x

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