Book Review: The Birthday That Changed Everything by Debbie Johnson

Title: The Birthday That Changed Everything
Author: Debbie Johnson
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: 28 January 2016

Twitter: @debbiemjohnson 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


She wanted a birthday surprise, just not the one she got…
The last thing Sally Summers expected from her husband on her special day was that he’d leave her for a Latvian lap dancer half her age. So with her world in tatters, Sally jets off to Turkey for some sun, sea and sanctuary.

The Blue Bay resort brings new friends and the perfect balm for Sally’s broken heart in gorgeous Dubliner James. He’s just the birthday present she needs. And when the chemistry between them continues to spark as the holiday ends, Sally wonders if this is more than just a summer fling.
But James has scars of his own and Sally isn’t quite ready to turn her back on her marriage. This birthday might have changed everything, but what will the next one bring?


Thank you to Debbie Johnson and Harper Collins for providing me with copy of The Birthday That Changed Everything in return for an honest review.

On her 40th birthday, Sally Summers finds herself single once more after her reliable plastic surgeon husband, Simon, leaves her for a much younger Latvian lap dancer. The only way Sally finds to deal with this betrayal is to pack her bags and book herself, and her 2 teenagers, a luxury holiday to Turkey. On her arrival at the Blue Bay Hotel, Sally meets a variety of people who each play a small part in helping her to recover from life’s recent set-back by showing her that there is still a good life available to her outside of her broken marriage. She’s certainly not too old to still enjoy a bit of fun!
Sally is a great protagonist – a typical middle-aged housewife, used to living in the shadow of a successful husband, and who now has to learn how to be on her own again. She is a hugely likeable character and reminded me of a slightly older Bridget Jones, always getting herself into mad situations! The supporting characters are a lively bunch, including handsome Dubliner James, the older and sex-obsessed Miss McTavish, Sally’s Mills & Boons loving son Ollie and his goth sister, Lucy. The only character that I really did not like was Simon, Sally’s husband. He is described as a stereotypical man in a midlife crisis, leaving his loyal wife for a 19 year old stripper. Even so, by the end of the book I did find myself feeling some sympathy for his mistakes and not viewing him quite as harshly as I had in the first few chapters.
The story provides some great humour, particularly from Sally’s ongoing mishaps. The mix up with the suitcases had me laughing out-loud (I may even have snorted with laughter!)!  Sally’s daughter Lucy also provides some light relief. She is the teenager from hell – a natural born drama queen whose mission in life seems to be to embarrass her mother as outrageously as possible! The relationship between the two is great to read about, whilst I was horrified at Lucy’s outrageous behaviour, I also found it equally entertaining.
As the characters each return to the hotel one year after the next, we see how their lives merge and unfold over the period of 4 years. The story does have some sad moments, however I felt that Johnson dealt with those issues in a sympathetic manner and the overall humour of the book enables the reader to quickly recover from any tear-jerking moments. Johnson really is a great storyteller!
There is, of course, a romance and it is a pretty sizzling one! Sally certainly seems to be enjoying herself and why not – sun, sea, sex and cocktails – could life get any better for a newly-single 40 year old! The romance has its ups and downs and I was eager to find out if it was going to prove to be a holiday fling or more of a long-term thing.
The majority of the book is set in the Blue Bay Resort in Turkey and I could imagine myself on holiday there, lying around the azure blue pool reading my book whilst the sun blazes down…. bliss! There are a few scenes back in Sally’s home in Oxford however those are few and far between. The Birthday That Changed Everything certainly feels to me like a summer read, perfect for those lazy days lying around the pool. I can’t wait to book my summer holiday now!
The Birthday That Changed Everythingis a well-written tale of friendship, family and romance. It is an emotional story in parts, however that is tempered by plenty of humour to keep the reader chuckling away until the end. It’s uplifting, funny, a little bit dirty (*wink*) and great escapism, perfect for a summer beach read accompanied by an icy G&T.
About the Author

Debbie Johnson is a best-selling author who lives and works in Liverpool, where she divides her time between writing, caring for a small tribe of children and animals, and not doing the housework. She writes romance, fantasy and crime – which is as confusing as it sounds!
Her latest book, The Birthday That Changed Everything (HarperCollins), has been described by Sunday Times best-selling novelist Milly Johnson as ‘a lovely, emotion-filled, giggle-inducing story.’
Her other romantic comedy best-sellers include Cold Feet at Christmas, Pippa’s Cornish Dream and Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper. Her next tale, The Comfort Food Cafe, will be out on HarperImpulse in May 2016.
You can find her supernatural crime thriller, Fear No Evil, featuring Liverpool PI Jayne McCartney, on Amazon, published by Maze/Avon Books.
Debbie also writes urban fantasy, set in modern day Liverpool. Dark Vision and the follow-up Dark Touch are published by Del Rey UK, and earned her the title ‘a Liverpudlian Charlaine Harris’ from The Guardian.

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