The Blurb:

Annabelle Riley invites you to join her on a rocky journey to happiness, that will make you laugh and cry along the way. Annabelle has discovered that hiding what she hates about herself has caused damage to those she loves most.
Behind a sunshine smile, she has been hiding a mental health issue from family and friends since she was a child. Annabelle is about to learn a lot about herself, about friendship, about life itself, and ultimately about real love.
In the charming town of Blackwood, Annabelle has found loyal friends who support our LEARNER AT LOVE. As her own heartbreak heals, Annabelle tries to fix some of the damage she feels she has caused others. She would be glad of your support along her journey. Cheer her on as she embarks on an epic adventure that will be continued in the rest of The LEARNER AT LOVE Series.
Enjoy her lighthearted story of friendship and romance that weaves in and out of insights into Annabelle’s mind and heart.

The Review:

Full disclosure: this is not the sort of book I would normally read, or be attracted to – a romance dealing with love and broken hearts and lots of emotions and feelings – but in the spirit of widening my reading experience, I decided to give it a go.
‘We Hide What We Hate About Ourselves’ evolved out of a series of blogs and it very much feels like a serial rather than a traditional novel. This does lead to some repetition throughout, with back story and dialogue overlapping. However, if you accept it as such it’s a very readable and engaging story.
It’s a credit to the author that some heavy subjects – depression, divorce, self-harm, the loss of a child, mental health and drug abuse – are treated in a light and readable way, without dragging the whole story down. There is a lot of dialogue as characters share their feelings with each other, again, more than you would find in a traditional novel. There isn’t much introspection here, it’s all laid out in conversation. The characters are complex, sometimes engaging and sympathetic, sometimes irritating and annoying – much like well-rounded people in real life.
There is enough suspense in waiting to learn the choices that Annabelle will make between the men in her life to hold interest until the very end. I could have lived without the turn towards religion as part of the answer to her problems near the very end of the book, and her dismissal of professional medical help, although that’s a personal preference.
A few typos and spelling issues, but not enough to detract from the writing, a simple style that made it easily readable and held my interest.

Summary: An in-depth look at complex relationships of love, life and friendship. Add extra points if this sort of genre is one you enjoy, but plenty for the uninitiated to enjoy too.

‘We Hide What We Hate About Ourselves’ is available from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback: We Hide What We Hate About Ourselves

Melody Finch blogs at Crushed Caramelwhere you can find more of her writing and links to her books.

I occasionally review books on my blog from independent and self-published authors. If you have a book you would like me to review, leave me a message and I will take a look.

For reviews of traditionally published books and to see what I’ve been reading, visit my Goodreads page.


  1. Oh! Wow!!!!
    ❤ Iain thank you so much!!! ❤

    I want to thank you first of all for reading my first book. I was worried it might not be your cup of tea, so it means a lot that you stuck with it. Thank you!

    Thank you also for a very kind review! It means so much. I think at some stage I need to brutally edit some of the dialogue. Perhaps mostly the long conversations between Robin and Annabelle in the middle of the book.

    I went out to Australia to stay with my beloved Goldfinch last year and one rainy afternoon we went to an art sale to buy paintings for his house. There was also a book sale there and I picked up five novels for $1. I read them when I came back to London and it struck me how widely different the five books were. One had a story I did not like at all (too dark for me), but was brilliantly crafted. One that I disliked from start to finish, especially as I did not warm to any of the characters. Then there were two books that were probably not very good, I could think of so many faults, but with each of those two books, halfway through I realized I had really come to like the main character (because they were imperfect and I found them very endearing) and I suddenly cared about them. I loved the way their stories ended. Then there was one book by Roisin Meaney which was brilliant from start to finish – interesting characters and conversations throughout. But it made me realize that for me as a reader, it was the characters above all else that made me like or dislike the stories I read. The better I got to know the characters and found things that made me as a reader empathise with them despite their moods and mistakes, the more I wanted to read about them.

    Reading those five books back to back made me feel emboldened to start writing fiction myself. I started writing around this time last year…and at first I was writing my story, but I had to change that quickly (as it was too personal to write my own story). The odd thing was that while I was writing Annabelle's fictional story, a lot was happening in my own life. Last September, Jack made contact with me after an estrangement of over four years. I found myself torn between Jack and Goldfinch (although in my case there is a lot more drama perhaps). I had also experienced a miscarriage, so my feelings were fresh from that painful loss. Added to that was the incredibly dramatic parting from Jack five years ago when I was the victim of a serious crime and fled London. So, there was a lot within myself I kept on drawing on and perhaps I added too many layers to Annabelle's backstory sometimes. (Perhaps that's a rookie flaw with writing your first ever fictional novel.)

    Anyway…I am waffling…I definitely need to work on the way I reveal the "backstory" of why Annabelle is on her own in Blackwood. When I read Roisin Meaney's book, I loved the way she told the same story from different character's perspectives. Each character dwelt on what was significant to them. I would love to work on that style of writing.

    When I compiled the series of posts on my blog into a Microsoft Word document, it totalled 240,000 words. In complete naivety, I sent it off to publishers. Two publishers suggested splitting the story into two. The main feedback I received was that it was too long. But I also had some lovely feedback from a few publishing agencies saying that what stood out to them was the way the story dealt with mental health themes. That was a surprise to me, because I thought I was just writing a light hearted romance with a few added details to make the characters more interesting. Then a director of a UK mental health charity kindly read the story and gave me some very encouraging feedback (he has had a battle with some of the same issues Annabelle has, so he said he identified strongly with her).

    In the end I could not afford the editing fees that publishers were asking me to pay, so I had to go for indie publishing (with the help of a couple of friends). In some ways, I wish I had professional help in editing and shaping the flow of the story, because I definitely grew to care about each of my characters and I wanted to do them justice so much. In the end, Annabelle's story became a three part series. I have been working six days a week for the NHS most of this year (aaaagh!) but I take one of my books to work and during what is usually just a 15 minute break, I try to scrutinise a few pages, highlighting any errors with my red pen, and making comments in the margin to add to my manuscript. But I am hoping that now that more staff are returning from furlough, I will have more time to give attention to editing my books.

    I knew that the chapters towards the end when Annabelle is alone (don't want to drop in spoilers) might not be everyone's cup of tea. I wanted to make it clear how intensely pained she is feeling at that point…with some humour to break up the scenes. I also wanted her to be less dependent on one person. I saw a danger in the way she seemed to become so reliant on whoever she thinks cares for her most. But in the second and third books in the three part series, it becomes a bigger issue. Annabelle was not encouraged to express herself as a youngster, and then after leaving home, her life has been centered around someone else. So Annabelle being allowed to think for herself, reason for herself, search for herself and decide what she believes, decide her own goals and what is important to her, become more of a theme. But as one of the main characters who she is close to her finds that difficult, partly because he wants to protect her and partly because he has strong feelings opposed to the direction she seems to be heading for…there are clashes between them.

    ❤ Anyway…I am very very grateful to you Ian for reading and reviewing my first book, especially as it is not the usual genre you would opt for. ❤

    I will use some of your very helpful feedback to try to keep polishing Annabelle's story. I want to get rid of any spelling mistakes as I know they can really distract a reader….and I do need to cull some of the repetition and longer passages of dialogue without leaving out anything essential to the storyline.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh…I forgot to mention the need for Annabelle to seek professional medical help becomes a major theme in the rest of her story…and especially book three focuses on the difference professional help can make to someone getting to grips with their own mental health. Sorry…that is important. I guess in Book One I was trying to show the damage that has been done because she has tried to hide her challenges and not get the help she needs. She is scared, as some people are, about being labelled, stigmatised or locked away somewhere. So she holds back for a long time and causes greater challenges for herself and those who love her. But later on in her story, a situation transpires… (trying not to drop spoilers is so hard!!!)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Nice to hear from you and so glad you were pleased with my review. It’s interesting to get the story behind the book and discover how it came about, it can make the reader go back and re-evaluate some of the meanings and emotions the characters feel. I do hope you will find the time to carry on writing – if you are getting advice and responses from publishers then you are doing well – I generally just seem to get completely blanked by them, so even that should be an encouragement to you. It is tough self-publishing and having to rely on friends and favours an your own time and effort to do all the editing and revising without much professional input, but it can pay off (maybe not financially!) and you should be proud of having got this far in such a short space of time. Look forward to reading more from you, and do hope you will find the time to read my own books and hopefully enjoy them! Best wishes, Iain


      1. Thanks again Iain.

        I have had a few writers mention the importance of reviews recently. So I have been working on a new feature for my blog…CARAMEL’S CORNER…which is a reading corner. I have started trying to write reviews on all the books I have bought by other WordPress bloggers. Although I will admit, I am a little scared of writing reviews!

        I have your three books on Kindle, but I think I am going to order the first book in paperback. I have had a bully of a headache for the last few days and Jack keeps telling me I should not be doing so much work on my laptop.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hope your head feels better! Do let me know if you put up a review for my book, I will be sure to share it around. Reviews are really important to try and keep interest in books going, especially when we individual self-publishers are trying to find our little corner in a crowded market. Hope my review has helped to stir up some interest in your book 🙂


  2. sorry…I left the second “i” out of your name towards the end of my comment… ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Mr. Ian for reviewing Mel’s book and giving her followers on her blog something to know about. The book link is very helpful too! It sound intriguing…I may go purchase it. Based on your recommend and what I know of Melody too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome Melanie, glad you found the review useful 🙂


  4. Great review!
    I’ve self-published some books on Amazon – specifically my Zion trilogy – and was wondering if you could read them (at least the first book in the Zion trilogy) and possibly do a review of it if you are want? You can find the first book in the Zion trilogy on Amazon and some of my other books if you search for “Ash Digest” (Ash Digest being my pen name).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Racheal, I will take a look at ‘Zion’ and add it to my list. I have a couple of others to read and review first. In return, it would be great if you could have a look at my books on Amazon – The State Trilogy – and consider giving them a read. Best wishes, Iain 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cool, no worries.
        And sure! I’d be happy to read your books!

        Liked by 1 person

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