Popular lifestyle blogger, Libby Cartwright, is being boggled by business when help shows up in the shape of gorgeous but shy, Charlie Richmond. Libby’s determined to keep it at ‘just good friends’ – she’s dated someone from ‘Corporate Land’ before and it didn’t end well. As she and Charlie begin spending more time together, Libby is starting to waver – until she discovers something which makes her question if she’s ready for love.
Still reeling, she suffers another blow as her blog is attacked in a national newspaper, for promoting unachievable perfection. Libby knows it’s not true – but the only way to prove that is to strip off the armour she’s been wearing for years.
Is she brave enough to show the world she’s far from perfect? And will Charlie be by her side if she does…
Extract from #No Filter– Maxine morrey
‘That’s it! I am totally going to jail. I’m going to get it wrong, owe thousands, not be able to pay, and go to jail!’ I flung myself backwards with an overly dramatic sigh and lay sprawled on the paperwork I had been looking at. ‘And seriously? Me in an orange jumpsuit? I don’t care how on trend they are; I could never pull that off! Orange is so not my colour.’
Amy topped up her wine glass before reaching a hand down to grab my arm, tugging me in the direction of the sofa. I slid along the floor for a few moments in my prone position, like some sort of beached, four-legged starfish, until I eventually bumped into the furniture.
‘I think that’s more America, hon,’ she said, yanking me upwards. ‘I’m not sure what ours are like. Something much more subtle, I expect. And don’t worry. I’ll hide a file inside the first cake I bring you. You’ll be out in no time.’
I paused in my clambering from the floor onto the sofa, and gave her a look. She made a sawing motion with one hand, accompanied by an over-exaggerated wink as she held out my wine glass. Flopping onto the couch, I took the glass and swigged a large mouthful, before laying my head back onto the soft cushions.
‘Seriously though. I really don’t know what I’m doing with this. I thought I was handling all this business stuff OK until now.’
‘And you are!’ Amy interjected. ‘Your blog is doing amazingly well! I can’t believe the difference in a year – it’s incredible! Seriously, Libs, you should really be proud of yourself.’
I sighed. ‘Thanks, Ames. And I am, and of Tilly. I couldn’t have done it without her. But I’m so frustrated! I’ve taken on this insane learning curve and, for the most part, got the hang of things. I think. But this?’ I kicked a piece of paper with my bare toes. ‘This, I just cannot get my head round! Why does tax have to be so bloody complicated? They send you this stuff so that you are supposedly able to do it yourself, but write it in the most confusing language possible! How is that even remotely helpful?’
Amy just shook her head and took another sip of wine.
‘So, what are you going to do?’
‘I don’t know. I guess I need to start looking for an accountant.’ I twiddled the wine glass stem in my hand.
Amy leant over and bumped her head gently on my shoulder. ‘You know; it is OK to ask people for help sometimes. We can’t all be amazing at everything. Creating all this in such a short space of time is brilliant, Libby. Finding that you need some extra expertise in one area is perfectly acceptable, and perfectly normal.’
‘I guess.’ I put the glass down. ‘Before I forget, I have something for you.’
Immediately, Amy sat up straighter in anticipation and her eyes watched me as I crossed to the other side of the room and picked up a small, but fancy, cardboard bag with intricately twisted rope handles and a swirly script logo on the side. Walking back over to the sofa, I plopped the bag down on Amy’s lap.
‘Did I ever tell you that going for it with this lifestyle blog business is the best thing that you’ve ever done?’
I laughed. ‘You just like the freebies.’
‘True,’ Amy agreed, before letting out an ‘ooh’ of pleasure at the eyeshadow palette and perfume she’d just pulled out of the bag.
‘But thanks anyway.’
‘Any time. Oh!’ Amy’s eyes shone like those of a child who’d just won pass the parcel. ‘Really? I can have this?’ Without waiting for confirmation, Amy began excitedly spritzing the exclusive new perfume copiously on pretty much every pulse point she could reach, including mine.
Laughing, I lifted my wrist up to take another waft of the fragrance. It really was gorgeous. I smiled as my friend rummaged in the bag, unwrapping the various goodies from their pretty tissue-paper packaging. The cosmetic companies often sent more samples than I could possibly use so I always made sure my assistant got some to review and regularly ran giveaways on the blog, as a thank you to my readers. But occasionally I still had extra goodies left over. Amy always loved a good freebie so when I had something spare, it meant I got to make my best friend happy.
As the fumes of Amy’s fragrance enthusiasm began getting a little pungent, I pushed myself up and padded over to the doors that led out onto the balcony. Grabbing the handle, I slid the door to the side. Immediately, a warm breeze rushed in from the sea, dissipating the perfume, and bringing with it the screech of seagulls intertwined with chatter and laughter from the nearby bars and restaurants in the marina. I stepped out, grabbing a wide-brimmed, slightly battered straw hat off the nearby console table, and took a seat on one of the two wooden steamer chairs that resided on my balcony. Amy followed me out, wine glass in hand, the gift bag now swinging off her wrist.
If I was honest, the furniture was a squeeze and a trendy little bistro set would have been a better, more sensible option. I’d made the classic mistake of ‘guesstimating’ that they would fit perfectly on the balcony. They didn’t and I’d ended up building them in situ like some sort of furniture Jenga, which had proved to be the only way of getting them both to fit on there. But I loved them. I didn’t want a trendy little bistro set. The loungers were super comfy with full-length padded cushions, and reclined just enough without touching the glass. I could sit out here and read in comfort, watching the boats sway and bob gently in the marina, listening as the sound of waves bumping against the harbour wall carried across the water. Even in winter, when the wind howled and the sea reared up before crashing down forcefully onto the nearby beach, I would happily sit out here, wrapped up against the cold, just absorbing it all.
There was definitely no need for coats and scarves this evening. It seemed that spring had decisively handed off the baton early to summer and the new season was away and running. The evening was warm and the breeze soft as Amy and I, now having inelegantly climbed onto our respective loungers, sat back and sighed happily.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A lovely, slow to ignite friends to lovers and opposites attract romance, in a contemporary setting. Libby is a lifestyle blogger, whose popularity is now making her serious money. Worried about tax issues she eagerly accepts Charle, a friend of a friend’s offer to look over her accounts, She is accident-prone, bubbly and creative, the antithesis of Charlie who is climbing up the corporate ladder and is introverted,
Mutual attraction, proximity. and an unanswered need for someone special in their lives draws the couple together. Firstly into friendship and after much ado, romance. Both are reticent about commitment and their self-worth making them more alike than they first appear.
Libby experiences some of the negative aspects of celebrity status and social media and wants to prove that her blog is a true reflection of her and not a facsimile. Doing this is risky both from a business point of view and personally, and she wonders if people will like the true Libby, with #NoFilter.
This story has a likeable rom-com element and complex realistic protagonists. The romance is very slow-paced. which some will find frustrating.
There is also a message about the power of social media, and how it affects those who live their lives on it. There is a significant move away now, from unrealistic and negative media portrayals of self-image, especially for the young. Maybe its time for us to be more circumspect about what we share of our lives, and not try and constantly strive for an unrealistic ideal, that is probably not even real anyway?
A gently romantic, thought-provoking read.
Guest Post – Inspiration for #No Filter – Maxine Morrey
I wasn’t an early embracer of the whole social media scene. I joined Twitter to see what it was about but didn’t really use it, barely going on it. Facebook had never had any appeal for me, but writing full time meant having a ‘business’ presence on there was kind of required.
Instagram, however, was a different matter for me. As a photography fan, this platform appealed as a place to share and view interesting pictures, and perhaps connect with others who shared similar interests. It still took me a while, joining four years after its launch. But it was really about the opportunity to practice photography skills and share them. I wasn’t bothered about the Like count. It was just fun. And I think this was true of a lot of users at this time. That was the point – just having fun.
But somewhere along the line, things seem to have become a bit skewed. And there are times when it’s not fun at all– in fact, it’s the very opposite. Some users are experiencing a lack of self-worth, jealousy, violence, self-harm and heartbreakingly, even suicide. It was actually this side of things that gave me the inspiration for the book that would become #NoFilter.
Bearing in mind I write romcoms, I can see that this isn’t exactly what people would call a perfect match. But this is what many people miss about the romance genre – especially the critics, the majority of whom have never even dipped a toe into the scene before dismissing it as unworthy of their, or anyone else’s attention. Many romcoms and romances tackle subjects which are quite serious, but they do it in a way that makes it accessible, and relatable. Yes, my books have a non-negotiable happy ending but that doesn’t mean the characters have led Pollyanna lifestyles. There’s more to these books than meet the eye if people bother to look.
The spark for #NoFilter was reading a report about the increase in reports of self-harm since the advent of social media, and how the growth of the two correlated. This was both shocking and saddening. We’ve all heard of cyberbullying and trolling and how intrusive that can be, especially to school-age children. Once our home was a sanctuary away from the school bullies. Now, unless you’re offline entirely – something that seems almost impossible, if not anathema to a generation who were practically born with a mobile phone in their hand – it’s very hard to get away from.
But it’s not just others who bully. And you certainly don’t have to be of school age to be a victim. Sometimes the biggest bully is the one inside our head, and unfortunately, social media, especially the image focused channels have only given these more power. These problems are not exclusively female either. Men are certainly not immune to doubting their self-worth, but there has always been an added pressure on women when it comes to how they present themselves and how others perceive them.
Once it was the glossy magazines being berated for presenting aspirational images impossible to actually achieve. Not because there aren’t women just as stylish, intelligent and beautiful out there. But because the images laid in front of us weren’t genuine. The real person- a model, a woman already been singled out for her aesthetically pleasing appearance – has been made up, dressed and photographed in the most flattering way possible. And then begins hours of photo editing. In some cases, four or five different women are amalgamated to make one ‘perfect’ one. No wonder we feel like we’re not good enough – the image we’re aspiring to sometimes isn’t even one person! Even children aren’t immune from the photo editing suite – what sort of message that sends, I hate to contemplate.
So, battling against these perfect images on the newsstand was bad enough but in the back of our minds, many of us knew these were tweaked and toned and literally, perfected. But somehow, when it comes to social media, we seem to forget. All of a sudden there are these ‘normal’ women – not movie stars, or models – just regular women looking absolutely flawless. And that seems a lot more real than the glossy magazines. Which is a lot more dangerous.
The truth is a vast majority of the images on Instagram are not real. They’re just as fake as the magazines. The amount of photo editing apps available is staggering, with an enormous number dedicated specifically to selfies. It’s basically plastic surgery for your photograph and it can get addictive. When selfies are continuously filtered and edited, they are a representation of that person – but most certainly not that person. However, as we scroll through, seeing one perfect face and body after another, that logic doesn’t always make it through and instead, our own self-worth takes a mental pounding. That’s the danger and it’s only getting worse.
Social media is not a bad thing. It’s supposed to be fun, and it can be. It can also be supportive. Being a writer is a very solitary job, but social media has enabled me to be in contact with others in the same position and being able to gain and give support via these platforms is brilliant. The same goes for hobbies – you might not know anyone in your ‘real’ life that finds the same things as you interesting but social media enables you to find a community and I know people who have made long and strong friendships via it. It’s not evil. But it does need to be used with caution.
No one is perfect. But you are perfect as you are. If there’s anything that’s making you doubt that, then it may be time to do a bit of detoxing. Accounts that make you question your self-worth need to go. Press that unfollow and feel the pressure lift. Find the next one and do the same, and the next.
Replace these accounts with others that don’t adhere to the editing obsession and instead bring you joy. They’re just as interesting and encourage a world and a belief that is far, far more social.
Maxine Morrey is a bestselling romantic comedy author with eight books to her name including Winter’s Fairytale and the top ten hit The Christmas Project. She lives in West Sussex. Her first novel for Boldwood, #No Filter, will be published in November 2019.