ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The Scandalous Life of Ruby Devereaux by M J Robotham

The Scandalous Life of Ruby Devereaux by M J Robotham will be published by Aria in hardcover, eBook and audiobook on 11th April 2024. My thanks to the publishers for the proof copy.

Everyone knows Ruby Devereaux’s books. But no one knows her story… until now.

From a teenager in wartime England to a veteran of modern-day London – via 1950’s New York, the Swinging Sixties, Cold War Berlin, Venice and Vietnam – Ruby Devereaux has lived one hell of a life: parties, scandals and conflict zones, meeting men and adventure along the way. In a writing career spanning seven decades and more than twenty books, she’s distilled everything into her work. Or has she?

Now beyond her 90th year, Ruby’s energy is ebbing and her beloved typewriter put away. Until a call from her publisher presents Ruby with an ultimatum, and the impetus to embark on one last book – “warts and all”, as she says. Even in her dotage, Ruby.M Devereux has the power to surprise, because whatever this author does, she does on her own terms. Always.

Is Ruby finally about to reveal the secrets of her infamous life?

Taking the reader on a rollercoaster ride through the latter half of the 20th Century, The Scandalous Life of Ruby Devereaux is a mesmerising story of one unforgettable woman’s place in an ever-changing world.

The Scandalous Life of Ruby Devereaux has something that I really love in a book. I always enjoy stories that look back over a long life and which follow history, whether that be important events or social history.

Ruby is now in her 90th year. She’s an acclaimed author and her publishers hope she has one book left in her: her memoir. Agreeing to go forward with the project, Ruby sets about telling her life to her new assistant but this memoir has a difference: it’s told by means of her memories of twelve men in her life and the adventures she had both home and away. Via New York, Berlin, Budapest, Venice and Vietnam, and of course England, the reader accompanies Ruby on a journey through her past. What a life she had!

My favourite sections were those set in England. In many ways these were the least adventurous but for me they were the most interesting and the men in those sections seemed the most fleshed out. However, as a whole this book is quite fascinating, a romp through the second half of the 20th century with several of those scandals referred to in the title making an appearance.

Ruby really has some quite incredible experiences. She’s a wonderful character, feisty, no-nonsense, strong, wily and fun, and when life knocks her down she gets back up again. She has her good times and her bad, just like in any life. Her tale felt fresh and real, and yet also surreal at times. I enjoyed reading it and think M J Robotham has done a really great job at crafting this fictional memoir. I don’t think I’ll forget Ruby in a hurry.

M J Robotham saw herself as an aspiring author from the age of nine, but was waylaid by journalism, birth, children and life. After twenty years as a midwife and an MA in Creative Writing, she is now a full-time author, writing historical fiction as Mandy Robotham. She lives in Gloucestershire with her partner and muse mutt, Basil.

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