Book Review, Books, christian fiction, Christian publishing, Christian Writer, Faith, Forgiveness

BOOK REVIEW: The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge, by Ruth Leigh

The book, The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge, displayed with scented candles, flowers and soft material as background.

Image of author, Ruth Leigh

I am thrilled to be invited to take part in the blog tour for The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge, the third book in Ruth Leigh’s Isabella M Smugge series. Thrilled because like many others I have been longing to read another witty, well written book from this author’s extraordinary imagination, and to catch up on Isabella’s progressing story.

But I am also thrilled because now that Ruth has become a dear friend, I have been privileged to watch from the side-lines as this book was written. She herself would admit that it has been a hard book to write, and only exists because God enabled her. With the help of lots of prayer and encouragement from others. I have seen some of the pain this book has caused in being birthed. So to see it delivered safe and whole has brought joy to my soul!

Laugh out loud funny

As in her previous books Ruth has done an amazing job in creating Isabella’s world. She has spent hours researching what things are trending in the world of those who care about these things. The book is funny. There are laugh out loud moments, with hysterical hashtags and clever references to things ‘on trend’. Like this dig at the ever developing trend for giving paint colours pretentious names, that made me giggle,

‘We are staying in a smart twin ensuite room painted in Belle Peinture’s top selling shade, Gauzy Gutter’

Gauzy Gutter’? Perfect nonsense. Brilliant!

Deeply Moving

Apart from being funny, this book is also deeply moving and the story engrossing. There is no doubt that Isabella M Smugge is changing. Oh, she is still a renowned social media influencer, with a bestselling book series, and blogger awards galore. Her elegant home is still being featured in magazine photoshoots and she has numerous companies clamouring to engage her to endorse their products – from teething rings to self plumping pillows.

Back cover of book with blurb description

But her life in reality is definitely less glamourous. Now she is a single parent to four children, including hormonal pre-teens and a teething infant. Issy’s mother, with whom she has a fractious relationship, is now also residing with them following a stroke. Add to that a cheating husband trying to wheedle his way back in, her arch enemy Lavinia Harcourt still causing trouble, and a plethora of other family dramas and secrets coming to light. Life is far from dull, and not always in good ways. Our heroine has to admit she can’t do perfect anymore – not alone anyway.

Thankfully the village community she once looked down her nose at has now become her place of refuge. Her fellow school mums, the vicar and his wife, the church community, they are all there to help, support and understand. What’s more Isabella has found the joy of giving and serving. The scenes where she shepherds a flock of nit-ridden angels for the church nativity, and runs around with hairspray and bun nets as a dance show chaperone were hysterical, but also strangely moving. This is a new and more selflessly genuine Isabella, doing things she would once never have dreamt of doing.

Changed by Love

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this third book is Isabella’s growing personal experience of God. The church draws her, the Holy spirit touches her, and prayer becomes more natural. Isabella finds herself learning to forgive, wanting to rebuild broken relationships, becoming a much more empathetic and insightful person, and even finding the strength to address some of her own past demons.

‘At church… I once again found myself a sobbing mess, just because they sang a hymn we had at Daddy’s funeral. Honestly! I tried to pull myself together but I was as if something huge and slippery and uncontrollable had risen from the very depths of my being and was calling out for attention…’

Front cover of book against a background of cut flowers

I have had the pleasure of being able to blog review all three of Ruth Leigh’s ‘Issy’ books. The first, my first ever book blog review, on The Diary of Isabella M Smugge, you can read here. The second, on The Trials of Isabella M Smugge, you can read here. Do you have to read the first two #Issy instalments to enjoy the third? No. But why wouldn’t you? The books are so funny, so entertaining, but also so relatable. I would encourage you to read them all. But for me the third is definitely the best one yet. Why? because I really love what Ruth has done with Isabella’s character, turning her from a self absorbed snob into a open hearted, kind and generous individual. Can a person be changed like that in real life? Actually yes. Faith- filled friends and a loving God can do that for a person.

I have to admit I didn’t like Issy much at all in book one. By book two, I had warmed to her considerably, but still wouldn’t have had much in common with her. By the end of book three I loved Isabella. I wanted to spend time with her, laugh and cry with her, and get to know even more of the real person beneath all the fluff. Which is why I really hope there will be a book four. Over to you Ruth!

Joy Margetts is a published author and blogger. Her books are works of Christian Historical fiction. Set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, they tell stories of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power.

Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

Image of Joy Margetts

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, was published by Instant Apostle on 22 July 2022

More information on Joy, and her books can be found here