Last Bite of the Cherry by Margaret Cullingford

Last Bite of the Cherry was the last of the debut books by the New Romantics 4 on my list and, having read the others, I suppose I was expecting something similar to the novels of Adrienne Vaughan, June Kearns and Lizzie Lamb. I loved all those books so I was looking forward to reading this one.

However, from the very first scene it was quite apparent that this was something different. This wasn’t going to be a straightforward romance. There were darker layers to this story. I was intrigued.
It’s the story of two women, born on the same day, and the men who love them. Put like that it sounds simple enough, but it isn’t. Monica and Rosaleen have stories to tell, ostensibly very different, but connected by shared experiences, grief, lust, guilt and love.
Monica is poised to take her final vows to become a nun, working as a counsellor and dealing with abused women and children at a refuge. Rosaleen is one of her clients, brought to her by her dear friend Father Malachy. Rosaleen is desperate to talk but afraid and hesitant to share, drowning in guilt and sorrow. As Monica listens, over the course of several sessions Rosaleen tells her story, and it invokes memories for Monica of her own life and lost loves.

Monica’s great love, complicated yet so simple. Will loves her, but there is another side to him and she finds it hard to trust him. Their agreement is a straightforward one. They will do what they have to do and come back to each other. Monica recalls her life with him, a life in which she was loved but struggled with jealousy and fear.
Rosaleen is also loved, but has done some things that have eaten her up with guilt and are destroying her chance of happiness. Her tale helps Monica to lay some ghosts of her own and open up to her own “counsellor”, the rather lovely Malachy. But he has his own secret, and is just waiting for the right moment to confess.
The story is told through flashbacks, skipping through time to important episodes in each of the women’s lives. It’s a sensual feast, bursting with beautifully descriptive prose and imagery. You can feel the sun on your back, taste the delicious foods they are eating, catch the scent of the flowers within the pages.
Last Bite of the Cherry is intelligently and thoughtfully written, taking its time to unfold, revealing the lives of Monica and Rosaleen in a gentle manner which draws the reader in and engages every emotion.
It’s hard to put down as you peel away the layers of these two women’s lives, seeing beneath the surface to the turmoil that has brought them to this moment, to their first meeting. They were deeply loved, but it didn’t protect them from pain.

Cherries have stones. But they also have the potential to grow into “the loveliest of trees”. Can Monica and Rosaleen learn the lessons of the past, forgive their own mistakes and allow themselves to be loved again? Two women – strangers born on the same day – may yet be the other’s means of salvation.
I absolutely adored this book and I’m only sorry it took me so long to get round to reading it. Magnificent. 5/5

Buy Last Bite of the Cherry here