Friday, May 1, 2020

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge

  The Secrets of Love Story Bridge
Author:  Phaedra Patrick
Publication Information:  Park Row. 2020. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0778309789 / 978-0778309789

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "As he did often over the past three years, Mitchell Fisher wrote a letter he would never send."

Favorite Quote:  "... there's no such thing as perfection, just two people trying to make the most of their time together."

In an English town with a river running through it, there are many bridges. Some are old and steeped in history. Some are modern and new. Mitchell Fisher was once a designer and builder of bridges. Now, he works on the bridge maintenance crew. His specific job is to cut off the padlocks people attach to the bridge as a symbol of their love.

The history of love locks dates back over a hundred years. In the past two decades, the locks have started appearing on bridges all around the world. It seems a sweet gesture. However, the locks have actually become a problem for the cities. Each individual lock may be fine, but collectively, locks add substantial weight to the bridge. The weight can be enough to impact the bridge structurally. In fact, the love locks are said to have been one of the contributing factors to a bridge collapse in Paris.

Mitchell relishes the act of removing the locks for his own love story is mired in guilt and grief. He is a single father to nine-year-old Poppy. Poppy's mother Anita has passed away. A love lost is at the heart of Mitchell's grief. The fact that he was not there and the fact that his high-pressure job as an architect often kept him from his family is at the heart of his guilt. The guilt exacerbates the grief and vice versa. It is a cycle in which he is caught.

The story begins with a crisis. Mitchell sees a woman fall from the bridge. He jumps in after her and saves her. This heroic act upends Mitchell's life. A human interest story by a journalist catches public imagination and goes viral. The identity of the woman pulls Mitchell's into the sphere of her family - her mother and her sisters Liza and Naomi. Surrounding Mitchell are also the stories of his friends, each charming and quirky in their own way. All of this together forces Mitchell's life in a new light, beyond his grief and guilt. He begins to truly see his choices and the people in his life.

The aspect of this story that I truly love is the letters. Mitchell copes with his loss by writing letters to Anita. So many people write to Mitchell about his heroism and about their stories of love. A letter becomes the basis of a misunderstanding. In real life, the art of letter writing is almost forgotten. To see it highlighted and cherished in a book is wonderful.

The story of the woman, why she jumped and her backstory feel like they don't belong in this book. Her fall becomes the impetus for the transformation of Mitchell's life, but the details of the story don't fit the rest of the book. That, however, is a minor point in an otherwise charming, story. Of course, there is a love story - several, in fact. They are sweet and clean and focus on the emotions of the relationships. A story that begins in crisis and sadness ends up a sweet, feel-good read with characters who make me smile.

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge
Blog Tour

Author: Phaedra Patrick
ISBN: 9780778309789
Publication Date: April 28, 2020

Author Bio:
Phaedra Patrick is the author of The Library of Lost and Found, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone, and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which has been published in over twenty countries around the world. She studied art and marketing and has worked as a stained-glass artist, film festival organizer, and communications manager. An award-winning short-story writer, she now writes full-time. She lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son.

Book Summary:

Fredrik Backman meets The Cactus in THE SECRETS OF LOVE STORY BRIDGE (Park Row Books; April 28, 2020; $25.99 US/$32.50 CAN), in which a cynical single father has a surprise encounter on the famous love lock bridge, sparking a journey of self-discovery that may lead him to a second chance at love.

Single father Mitchell Fisher hates all things romance. He enjoys his job removing padlocks fastened to the famous "love lock" bridges of Upchester city. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his disciplined veneer, Mitchell grieves the loss of her mother, Anita.

One fateful day, working on the bridge, Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls into the river. He’s surprised to feel a connection to her, but the woman disappears before he learns her name. To Mitchell’s shock, a video of the rescue goes viral, hailing him as "The Hero on the Bridge." He’s soon notified by the mysterious woman’s sister, Liza, that she has been missing for over a year. However, the only clue to where the woman could have gone is the engraved padlock she left on the bridge.

Mitchell finds himself swept up in Liza’s quest to find her lost sister. Along the way, with help from a sparkling cast of characters, Mitchell’s heart gradually unlocks, and he discovers new beginnings can be found in the unlikeliest places...

Author Q&A:

Would you tell us what inspired you to write about "love story” bridge?

The idea came to me after I noticed padlocks hanging on bridges, everywhere from my home city of Manchester, England, to Gran Canaria. I was aware of the famous Pont Des Arts bridge in Paris that collapsed under the weight of ‘love locks’ several years ago, and it made me wonder about who hung them there and what the stories were behind them. I had a picture in my head of a man whose job it was to remove the locks, and that he’d probably had his heart broken in the past. I called him Mitchell Fisher after the street my grandparents used to live on, Mitchell Street.

Which character do you most relate to and why?
I have a real soft spot for a minor character in the book, Carl. He’s the concierge of the apartment block that Mitchell lives in. Carl is a real trier in life and never gives up. He’s amiable, eager to better himself and can often be found making origami shapes out of paper. He was a joy to spend time with.

What challenged you the most while writing this story?
Sometimes, when I start a book, I have a small idea in my mind but don’t know the entire story. With The Secrets of Love Story Bridge, I had an image of a man on a bridge who saves a lady in a yellow dress from drowning in a river. But that was all! In the book, the lady in yellow subsequently vanishes, but I had no idea why and where she went to! It was a real challenge to try and work out her story, and I only found out her secret at the same time Mitchell does.

What was something interesting you learned while compiling research for the book?
I was amazed at how widely spread across the world hanging love locks is. Research taught me that some people believe it’s a ritual that stems from ancient Chinese tradition, whereas others believe it started in a small Serbian town during the First World War. Wherever it originated, it’s something that’s still going strong today.

What’s one of your hobbies or something we might not know about you?
I sometimes make my own dresses. I made a floaty cornflower blue one to wear on my birthday last August, and am currently making a bright coral one as a quarantine project. When the coronavirus lockdown ends, I’m going to wear it when I meet my friends for pizza and cider. I studied art at college and was brought up by creative parents, so I dabbled with sewing, mosaics, painting, etc. at an early age. I wouldn’t say I’m brilliant at dress making but it’s a nice way to relax after writing all day.

Where do you get your ideas?
I usually just think about things I’m passionate about, am interested in, or have experience with - places, objects, professions, etc. Then I see what will fit nicely together. For The Secrets of Love Story Bridge, I wanted to write about an English city, and my favourite season is summertime. I used to work for a locksmith company and so had an interest in padlocks. My teenage son is learning how to play the guitar, so one of the female characters in the book became a music teacher. Each of my books takes influences from my own life and mixes them together to form something unique. 

What is your writing process like?
I write full time, but do try to pencil in a weekly lunch with my parents, and catch ups with friends. Writing can be a solitary profession so it’s essential to keep in touch with people, even if that’s only online. I’m fortunate to be still in touch with ex-colleagues from my previous jobs, and also with fellow writers. After walking my dog, I’m usually at my writing desk by 8.30am. I work from a small shed in my garden with a lovely view of the countryside. I try to get my admin out of the way first, which can sometimes take all morning. And then I start writing.

What is the first book that made you cry?
I honestly can’t think of the first book that made me cry, but I do remember sitting down on my kitchen floor crying about my own writing! I’d written six or seven books which received good feedback from agents, but I was told repeatedly that the market was saturated. My tears were ones of frustration, that I wanted to write but couldn’t pick the right story that would get me a publishing deal.

I’d read the book Q & A by Vikas Swarup, which was made into the film Slumdog Millionaire. The idea was so simple and absolute genius, about an orphaned, illiterate boy who is arrested for winning the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The story tells of how he knows the answers to each of the questions one-by-one. I took inspiration from the idea and eventually wrote The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which became my debut published novel.

What is your writing Kryptonite?
My iPhone! On those days when I’m not in the mood to write, or the words won’t come through freely, it’s so tempting to reach out for my phone and procrastinate. Social media, answering emails, and even doing my accounts can take a huge chunk of time out of my day. Sometimes I put my phone on a high shelf so I can’t reach it, and I’ve also been known to leave it inside my house while I work in my shed.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing, if at all?
I was working for a large UK co-operative in marketing and communications when I wrote The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. I used to think of ideas for the book as I walked to the train station, and I jotted them down on my commute into work. When I found time to write, it meant I wasn’t staring at a blank computer screen and had lots of notes and ideas to work from. The novel took me eighteen months to write in total. Now, I’m in the fortunate position to be a full-time author, and I treat it very much as a full-time job, working five days a week.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I usually focus on what I know, so don’t conduct much research before starting to write. My second novel required the most exploration. Each chapter of Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone started with the name of a gemstone and its properties, for example, white opals are supposed to help with hope, desire and fidelity. The book has thirty-seven chapters, so I had to find out rather a lot about gems!

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