Must-read of the week: How to Marry Harry by Nikki Perry and Kirsty Roby
New women’s fiction comedy novel How to Marry Harry by writing partnership and sisters Nikki Perry and Kirsty Roby is a fabulous treat for readers of all ages that will have you laughing and blubbering in equal measure.
By Gwyneth Rees
A feel-good novel that will have you in hysterics, How to Marry Harry is a truly wonderful romp that will nourish any reader’s soul.
Focusing on the unintentional yet transformational impact of one mum’s ambitious plan to marry off her daughter to Harry Styles, it is aimed not only at fans of the pop star but also older women who want to recapture the thrills of adventure and romance in their lives.
With key themes being compassion, love at any age, and triumph over adversity, the novel champions the affirming message that ‘life is too short not to have an umbrella in your drink’, and also the premise that you can do anything if you set your mind to it.
Keenly positive and uplifting, it follows Jo, the mother of Bayley, 22, who is left with low self-esteem and identity issues after separating from an adulterous husband.
While planning a trip to the UK with her bumbling sister Bobbi, Jo’s late-night googling leads her to believe that former One Direction musician Harry Styles would make a perfect husband for Bayley.
Despite Bayley’s reservations—she is, after all, in love with bar manager Sam—Jo throws herself into the action, convincing Bobbi to follow Harry’s UK tour during their trip, accompanied by a life-sized cardboard cut-out of a bikini-clad Bayley in order to catch the pop star’s eye.
Of course, the sisters’ quirky mission does not go to plan and in a series of hilarious escapades we see Jo and Bobbi crashing a hen’s night, visiting A&E, losing the Bayley cut-out (twice), and encountering a rather embarrassing luggage mix up.
On their trip they also befriend Adam, 17, who is trying to come to terms with his own sexuality and has secretly dropped out of school to follow Harry’s tour.
And then there’s Adam’s father, Kelly, a widowed whiskey distiller, who—grateful for Jo and Bobbi’s kindness towards his son—invites them to stay with him during their time in Scotland.
When Jo and Kelly are forced to spend a night together during a storm, she realises that perhaps she has had her priorities wrong.
Does Bayley really need her help to find love, or are her own intentions misplaced and she should actually be focusing on herself?
Still, there are more twists and turns to come as a misunderstanding sees Jo leave for London, severing all contact with the debonair Kelly.
In a scene of true girl power, sisters Jo and Bobbi confirm what they’ve always known: that they’ll always be there for each other, no matter what.
I won’t spoil how things pan out for Jo, Bobbi, Bayley and Adam but it’s safe to say that Harry Styles proves to be quite the Cupid from afar and you’ll come away from the book with a warm feeling inside.
How to Marry Harry is a wonderful work of contemporary women’s fiction designed to uplift the soul and put a smile on your face.
Written by New Zealand writing duo and real-life sisters Nikki Perry and Kirsty Roby, the book was inspired by Harry himself, whom the sisters first discovered and became ‘fascinated’ with during the 2020 Covid lockdown.
Aside from the perfectly crafted pop hits, Nikki and Kirsty admired Harry’s ‘can-do’ attitude to life, his air of inclusivity, and his willingness to push boundaries.
Unable to meet because they were outside each other’s bubble, and motivated by the megastar’s music, they maintained their bond by pursuing a long-term ambition to write a novel together, focused on the things they knew best: being sisters, travelling around the world, and, of course, Harry Styles.
Indeed, they spent hours of research reading trivia about the singer and listening to his cheering music on Spotify.
It’s a classic feel-good story that has resulted in a classic feel-good novel, with the newly formed author duo sticking to the old adage of writing about what you know best.
And in doing so they have created a delightfully left-field work of women’s fiction with plenty of laughs amid the emotional depth.
What I personally love, for instance, is that this is a book about love on many levels. First there is the love of Harry, and his sage advice on love such as ‘When it comes to choosing between your head and your heart, always choose your heart. Your head knows everything and everyone, but your heart only knows you.’
Then there is the love between the two sisters, often an unexplored relationship only really brought to prominence recently by Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag.
Then there’s also the difficult relationship between Adam and his father Kelly, and Adam’s own painful path to loving himself for who he is.
I also adore the journeys that the characters go on. Jo, for instance, turns to music and adventure to nourish her soul while she recovers from a breakup while Bayley must forge her own path away from her mother’s hopes and dreams for her.
This is all interspersed with memorable comedy setups from accidents with kilts and placing the Harry Styles cut-out in a puddle to mistaken identities and being thrown out of a guest house.
Importantly, however, this humour never detracts from the novel’s heart, with some moving scenes such as when the sisters are scattering the ashes of their Uncle Bill.
Each chapter focuses on a different character as their journeys progress and paths intertwine, and the principal players are uniformly well-drawn, never in danger of becoming caricatures.
The novel describes, for instance, how Adam doesn’t see the point of doing his A-levels. He wants to be a musician, not an accountant, yet it has been too difficult to talk to his dad since him mum died. What is wrong with ignoring the difficulties of real life and instead daydreaming about making it big like Harry, he wonders.
Maybe he should grow his hair? Do the bandana thing? But he wanted to be his own person too. He wrote his own songs and he thought he was a good singer. People always told him he had talent. He just needed to find his own look, he guessed. He wanted to be a success like Harry, not be Harry.
It is on account of these strong, believable and likeable characters, alongside the well-paced plot and locations that make How to Marry Harry ideally adaptable book for the big screen. Perhaps one day Harry Styles may get the chance to star, playing himself.
Lastly, it should be said that How to Marry Harry is the perfect holiday read and should be enjoyed by all.
Sister act Nikki Perry and Kirsty Roby are rising stars of women’s fiction and I cannot wait to see what they release next.
How to Marry Harry by Nikki Perry & Kirsty Roby (Pink Van Publishing) is out now on Amazon in paperback and eBook formats, priced £12.99 and £5.99 respectively. For more information, visit www.nikkiperryandkirstyroby.com or follow the authors on Facebook at @NikkiPerryandKirstyRoby or on Twitter at @HowtoMarryHarr1 & and @BobbiBobsbar1.
Q&A Interview With Nikki Perry & Kirsty Roby
We speak with New Zealand-based sisters and writing partners Nikki Perry & Kirsty Roby about their debut novel, How to Marry Harry, their obsession with pop star Harry Styles, and why older women can have just as much fun as younger women, among many other things.
Q: What inspired you to write How to Marry Harry?
A: Boredom initially. Our kids are all growing up, Covid hit New Zealand, and our plans to backpack across Vietnam were cancelled. We’re used to spending time together and that was impossible in lockdown so we decided to try writing a book together, just for something to do.
We wanted to write what we know, and we knew far too much about Harry …so the idea was born.
Q: To those who aren’t currently fans of his music, what is the attraction of Harry Styles?
A: I think what we like about Harry is what all his fans like about him. As well as his talent and his ridiculously good looks, he promotes kindness and inclusivity and challenges gender stereotypes.
Q: The book’s central theme is that you’re never too old to find love. What drew you to explore this idea?
A: Women over 45 are the most voracious readers and yet very few books feature women of that age as still looking to find love. There’s an assumption that you find someone in your earlier years and that is for life. Yet statistics prove that this is not the norm. People don’t just get to 40 and give up on romance.
Q: You say that there are not many women’s novels aimed at older women. Can you expand upon this, and how this gap in the market has shaped your writing?
A: We wanted to write something that shows women over a certain age can still have interesting lives. We’re having more fun in our later life than we ever did when we were younger.
Q: How have writing courses helped you both develop as authors?
A: Learning is always beneficial. We’ve done several small writing courses on various topics such as editing, dialogue, plotting, scene setting etc. We always come away feeling like we have learnt at least one small thing that we can use in our future work.
Q: What is it like having a co-writing partnership while also being sisters?
A: It’s great. We spend so much time together, either on the phone or in person, so now we plot or talk about the novel as well. Writing sex scenes can be a little weird though!
Q: You are both mums of three. What do your children think of your obsession with Harry Styles?
A: Kirsty’s sons are surprisingly tolerant of it all, although one was not impressed when the Harry cardboard cut-out she bought made an appearance!
Nikki’s three daughters, despite being of the right era, were never really One Direction followers, so they find our interest in Harry a little bemusing. But Kirsty’s daughter Aspen, who has special needs, is a massive fan of his music and sings along in the car with us. So it’s a pretty dismal one out of six for enthusiasm!
Q: What research did you do when writing the novel?
A: We wanted to go to Scotland and test out some whisky, but then Covid arrived so we went instead to Cardrona, a stunning little place in the south Island of New Zealand where you can not only drink whiskey but learn how it’s created. We also studied Harry extensively … from all angles and with great enthusiasm.
Q: What do you hope readers will gain most by reading your novel?
A: We hope they will be entertained by it, of course, so if they come away thinking it’s made their day a little better then that would be great. How to Marry Harry is about escapism and maybe an acceptance that sometimes it’s alright to bend the rules a little in life. You don’t always have to be what or who people expect you to be.
Q: What can readers expect from you next?
A: We’ve written book two, which will be out later in the year. It’s about two strangers from very different backgrounds (one’s a desperate housewife and the other grew up in a religious cult) who go on an impromptu road trip in a pink plumbing van.
Book three is at the plotting stage and we are about to do some travel—heading to the Australian outback—to research it.