Sunday Times bestselling author Paige Toon is well known for her romantic women’s fiction, as well as her Jessie Jefferson contemporary YA novels. Whether they’re set in Europe, Australia or America, Toon’s books all have one thing in common: they’re the very definition of essential summer reads. Her latest, The Last Piece of My Heart, is the perfect book to pack in your holiday suitcase, as the story travels from the sandy beaches of Cornwall, to a tropical paradise in Thailand, and back again.
Travel journalist Bridget dreams of turning her slightly unconventional relationship blog into a novel but the publishers are having a lukewarm response. Just when she’s starting to lose heart, an alternative proposition presents itself in the form of a ghostwriting job, where Bridget will have to finish bestselling author Nicole Dupre’s novel, after she unexpectedly died before completing it. Bridget is apprehensive about taking over someone else’s brainchild but the experience could mean she has better chances of gaining a book deal of her own. So she relocates to Cornwall for the summer – setting up camp in her father’s van and living the seaside life for a few months.
Bridget has to answer to Nicole’s grieving and initially standoffish husband, Charlie, as she works from Nicole’s home office and tries to get into the mind-set of the late author by researching the places she wrote about and reading her private diaries. But as she gets to know Nicole’s family, striking up a close bond with Charlie and his baby daughter, April, Bridget finds her priorities shifting and the lines of the job and her personal life blurring. To complicate matters further, Bridget is trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend in Australia, a task that becomes increasingly difficult with the time difference and dodgy Cornish phone signal.
“The problem with giving your heart away to someone is that you never fully get it back. Long after you’ve fallen out of love with them, they still own a little piece of you.”
What makes The Last Piece of My Heart stand out as one of Toon’s best novels to date is just how heartwarming it is. The story hits all the right emotional beats and it’s easy to get carried away with Bridget’s story. She’s the sort of person who speaks before she thinks, can’t help but boogie whenever she hears music and swears at incredibly inopportune moments, making her a totally loveable and funny character, if a little embarrassing at times. And that goes for all the characters in the book too, particularly Charlie, who comes across as a genuinely kind and sincere sort of bloke. Sometimes the dialogue occasionally borders on cheesy but it’s easy to overlook that when the story is so engaging.
Toon perfectly captures the struggle of a widower having to single-handedly raise a baby; there’s that innate need to maintain normality for the child’s sake but also the immense weight of responsibility that you can’t share with another half. Charlie’s loss brings a sense of poignancy to the story and it’s through Bridget that we get a posthumous glimpse into his wife’s mind and the inspiration behind the book that Bridget is so desperate to get right, not only for her sake but eventually for Nicole’s family too.
The locations are really what bring this story to life though. Cornwall has never seemed so lovely, with its beautiful beaches, lovely coastal walks and bustling seaside towns. And when the action moves to Thailand, Toon is able to describe – in wonderful, wanderlusty detail – the paradise-like setting, making you want to hop on a plane and visit somewhere far-flung and tropical.
Fun, uplifting and charming, this is a book that’ll warm your heart like the summer sun warms your skin.