2022 is the year of the tiger, so Popsugar have included a tiger themed prompt for this year’s Challenge. I actually didn’t have anything that fitted this prompt but spotted a copy if The California Club by Belinda Jones at a book swap and it was a fun read that ticked off this prompt.
What it’s about?
When Lara Richards jets off to glamorous California, the last thing she’s expecting is to find her old friend Helen transformed from a clipboard-clasping frump into a shimmering surf goddess. The secret of her blissful new life? The mysterious California Club. So the offer of guest membership — one wish, guaranteed to come true by the end of their stay — is one Lara and her friends can’t resist.
What I think:
First published in 2003, this book has lots of cultural references that will make a reader if a certain age a bit nostalgia.
Lara and her friends, Zoe, Sasha, Elliott and His fiancée Elise, head to California for a dream holiday and to meet up with Helen.
As they head nearer to their 30s they are all a bit lost. Lara has a chance to run her dream B & B but doesn’t have the money she needs and may have to sell up; ex-model Sasha doesn’t know what to do next, but knows she doesn’t want to be judged for her looks; Zoe is obsessed with celebrities amd becoming famous and Elliott and Elise have got engaged but there are already doubts.
In contrast, Helen is glowing. Happy, confident and sucessful, her life in California is everything she had hoped. She credits the mysterious California Club and has arranged for each of her friends to spend the first week on a series of challenges and adventures that will help them make their dreams come true.
Lara hides her real wish, which is that long-time best friend Elliott will fall in love with her, and instead wishes to spend some quality time with each of her travel companions. Her week is an epic road trip, helping her friends, having adventures, meeting interesting people and even includes a holiday romance intended to help Elliott to see what he is missing.
This is a great fun read. Lara and her friends are the kind of characters you instantly warm to. There’s lots of heartwarming moments and you will definitely be rooting for Lara and Elliott. I loved the dynamics between them all.
All of the friends learn important lessons thanks to the California Club. Sasha finds away to put her past behind her and meets someone she could really care about. Zoe sees the truth behind the glamour of Hollywood and discovers what she really wants, Elise and Elliott have a chance to consider their relationship and marriage and Lara finds the courage to pursue her hotelier dreams.
This is a classic friends to lovers romance, with lots of fun and twists along the way. There’s plenty of tigers too.
This story felt familiar to me in places so I wonder if I had read it when it was first published, but had forgotten it. It was great to revisit Belinda Jones. Feel good romance with lots fo sunshine, cocktails and laughter.