Old & Ugly by C.L. Moir (illustrations by Owen Lawrence)

Ange has been invited to a reunion…

Book blurb

In the 1973, teenagers Ange and Elizabeth are persuaded to enter the Miss Sladport-on-Sea Beauty Pageant by local entrepreneur, Spencer. When Ange is crowned the most beautiful woman in Sladport, Spencer promises her a life of fame and fortune – which he delivers. Within months, Ange is crowned The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.

Forty years later, Ange is unexpectedly invited to a reunion of old friends: Elizabeth – now married to Spencer – and the three school friends who stormed the pageant, throwing flour bombs and insults in protest at its objectification of women.

Old and Ugly is the story of that re-union – and the story of Ange’s life. 

Hilarious and laughable, conceited and fearful,  feisty  and (some might say) a fool for the admiration of men, Ange must finally confront the truth about her fantastical life of glamour and good fortune to be freed from its secrets – and freed from the man who made her, then broke her.

Irreverent and moving, disturbing and joyful, you’ve probably never read anything quite like it…

My thoughts

Ange doesn’t want to go to this unexpected and unwanted reunion. She has her reason and, she knows, it’s a good one. Not that she wants to say why when she writes, in her beautiful turquoise ink on specially bought ‘notelets decorated with silver-tabby kittens’, that she is unable to attend. No, she cannot say why not the real why, no, no indeed!

It’s all in vein though because Elizabeth always gets her way and so it is that Ange, more than forty years since they last saw each other, is on her way. On her way to this reunion to see Elizabeth and the others – Janice, Diane and Nancy. Oh, what a mistake this is!

Still Elizabeth insisted and sent the Bentley, with driver, to bring Ange. So begins Ange’s recollections of a time before, a time when she was so beautiful, the talk of the town and far beyond. Now she’s just an overweight has been, she’s old & ugly!

Through her recollections we hear Ange’s life story of childhood and youth. On how she became Miss Shadport 1973, how Elizabeth lost but got her man and how Janice, Diane and Nancy all had a hand in it. After that came the fame, the adulation, three husbands and five marriages! Life was good, she has such beautiful things like her handbag and Ange knows it but it was never quite right, never quite perfect. How could it be after what happened?

On arriving at Elizabeth’s home she meets Henry, Elizabeth’s son. They bond as Henry takes her bag, shows her to her room, helps her up the stairs, picks her up and provides not only her favourite tipple – gin and tonic – but a way, a seriously deadly way, through this darkness which has, once again, come upon Ange now she is here, now she is to face her deepest fear. Henry becomes a most surprising ally!

Still with Elizabeth’s caustic tongue, Ange’s growing determination, the three women’s friendship, Henry’s support and an unexpected visitor – a rather gorgeous one, thinks Ange! – there is mirth, some sharp exchanges, some charm and much drinking too!

Spencer, Elizabeth’s husband, despised by all except, perhaps, Elizabeth. He made Ange what she is. Even though he’s now older, sick and being trundled around in a chair. Elizabeth and Henry assure Ange and the others that he won’t bother them – they’ve taken steps! Even so the disgust, the fear, the blackness still lurks menacingly down each corridor and inside their heads.

The characters in the book are beautifully portrayed they are there in your head, in your minds eye and feel so real you are completely drawn into the story.

Talking of drawn – oh dear, I just couldn’t help myself! – I’d just like to mention the somewhat unflattering but really rather delightful illustrations in the book. How lovely it is to have them alongside this wonderful text.

This is a funny, dark, charming, heartbreaking, sobering and absorbing book. It has adorable and deplorable characters. They can shock and yet have you cheering them on in the same moment. Ultimately this group of people – friends and strangers – come together in a hot tub and mastermind a glorious but impossible ending. What does happen will astound and amaze.

What a book! This is a wonderful story which will have you chuckling, laughing and crying all together. Dealing with some very dark issues with a deft touch that is both accomplished and astute. This is a book which will keep you engrossed and totally captivated from beginning to end. It is a gem, I absolutely adored Old & Ugly and highly recommend it.


Many thanks to Behind The Hat Press and the author C L Moir, who kindly signed it, for the gorgeous cloth bound copy of Old & Ugly which came beautifully packaged and with a rather nice Penrhos gin & Folkington’s tonic to enjoy and raise a glass with/to Ange, Elizabeth, Henry et al.🍸Thank you, David, for inviting me to read Old & Ugly. Thanks also to C L Moir for writing this delightful story – cheers! 🍸

Old & Ugly with a gin & tonic


Publisher: Behind The Hat Press (15 June 2020)

Reading Groups: check out this Reading groups

Buy: AmazonSmileUK |Your local bookshop|behind the hat press shop

Author: C L Moir has been writing for over 20 years. She was born in Bristol and now lives in Herefordshire. Old and Ugly is her first novel.


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