How to Marry Harry by Nikki Perry and Kirsty Roby

New novel How to Marry Harry by author sisters Nikki Perry and Kirsty Roby provides a writing masterclass in humour and pathos, revolving around one mum’s hare-brained plan to wed her daughter to pop star Harry Styles.

By Timothy Arden

A hilarious debut with more ‘pop’ than Harry Style’s back catalogue, How to Marry Harry is a brilliantly modern and light-hearted work of women’s fiction that sees the former One Direction frontman serving as an unwitting matchmaker.

Revolving around one mum’s madcap bid to get her daughter together with the pop star, it offers the perfect balance of belly laughs and pathos that will make you both laugh and cry.

Fans of Harry will no doubt lap this up but it will appeal to all readers of all ages, especially older women—traditionally poorly served by publishers—who want inspirational joie de vivre stories about romance, adventure and independence.

Fundamentally, the novel highlights the message that life must be seized and that anything is possible whatever age you are.

The plot follows middle-aged protagonist Jo, who is left reeling after separating from her self-absorbed, adulterous husband.

Feeling vulnerable, Jo is looking forward to a trip to Scotland with her sister Bobbi, even though its purpose is to scatter the ashes of their late uncle.

Preparing for the trip, she surfs the web and comes across the music of Harry Styles, which lifts her spirts and proves the perfect distraction from the troubles in her life.

Hours spent googling about Harry, however, do lead her to becoming somewhat obsessed with the singer, to the point that she decides he would make a perfect husband for her 22-year-old daughter Bayley, not to mention being a particularly dashing son-in-law.

The fact that Bayley is love with bar manager Sam doesn’t deter Jo from her plan, and roping in her sceptical sister she sets out for the UK with the intention of following Harry Style’s latest tour accompanied by a life-sized cardboard cut-out of a bikini-clad Bayley in order to attract the singer’s attention.

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, her objective does not go to plan. Instead of wooing a celebrity on her daughter’s behalf she and Bobbi end up going from one escapade to another, getting thrown out of a hotel, tagging along on a stranger’s hen night, and even being arrested for grave digging!

While on their travels they also befriend sensitive teenager Adam, who like Jo is following Harry’s tour for his own reasons, trying to come to terms with the loss of his mother and his own place in the world.

And Adam’s involvement leads to the arrival of his father, Kelly, a widowed whiskey distiller, who invites Bobbi and Jo to stay with them while in Scotland.

As Jo gets to know the handsome Kelly she realises that her bid to find a husband for her daughter may be misplaced and that she should, perhaps, be instead focusing on her own love life.

Of course, and as no less an authority as Shakespeare observed, the course of true love never did run smooth and an error in communication leads to Jo leaving for London, severing all contact with the hunky Kelly.

Still, there is consolation in the form of her sister Bobbi, who is always be there for her come what may. 

Will there be a happy ever after for Jo, Kelly, Bayley and Adam? My lips are sealed but you’ll have a great time finding out.

How to Marry Harry by sister writing duo Nikki Perry and Kirsty Roby is an uplifting comedy novel that will have you both crying tears of laughter and sadness. 

All told, How to Marry Harry should be the one direction for your next read for it is a wonderfully spirited and fresh debut that balances the absurd and poignant with the precision of a tightrope walker.

Written by New Zealander sisters and writing partners Nikki Perry and Kirsty Roby, the novel is a love letter of sorts to their favourite pop star, the aforementioned Harry Styles, but is anything but fan fiction, displaying a firm grasp of their craft in a story that’s really about securing your own right to happiness.

Harry, though, did bring this potent sister act together. Having previously trained to write for television, they were inspired instead to pen a novel thanks to Style’s positive ‘can-do’, inclusive persona and songs.

And they discovered him at the perfect time, while kept apart due to the first Covid lockdown. Their new-found pop icon kept them uplifted during the dark days of the pandemic and led to hours of pleasurable research on all things Harry as they set to work.

It’s an unusual catalyst for a writing career but thank heavens for it as How to Marry Harry is a glorious romp that will keep you grinning from ear to ear while stirring your soul.

What I love the most is that this novel reminds you that you’re never too old to start again or to rediscover who you really are.

This is clearly the case with Jo, signposted by this telling passage:

She hadn’t really admitted to herself that ever since Bayley had left home to study to be a chef, she was still trying to find a purpose for herself. She’d spent all those years being someone’s mum, someone’s wife, a daughter, a friend to people she both knew well and didn’t really know at all. Who was she? Who had she even been before? What music did she used to love? What books did she read that weren’t for work?

But it is also applicable to Adam, who is struggling with his sexuality and his desire to be a musician (dreaming of applying nail polish at school, just like his hero, Harry).

It’s all very relatable and older women will be pleased to see that authors Nikki Perry and Kirsty Roby, both mums of three, are giving voice to situations and issues typically absent from women’s fiction, which is often skewered to younger readers.

With How to Marry Harry, writing due and real-life sisters Nikki Perry and Kirsty Roby have delivered a novel that will delight and speak to readers of all ages.

I also love the fact the characters come together and seek solace from music, which in the right hands can connect people in a way no other art form can.

Despite their differences, Harry Styles unites them all and is the platform for them bouncing back. In this vein, there are parallels with the timeless comedy drama Educating Rita.

The humour is solid, though sometimes earthy, and the pages sparkle with funny episodes and lines that will stay with you, from a story about visiting a town in Philadelphia called ‘Intercourse’ to an accident with a kilt at a very inopportune moment.

That said, the comedy never overshadows the core emotional hook of the novel, which has some well-handled tear-jerker moments, such as when the sisters are scattering the ashes of their late Uncle Bill or when Adam finally comes out to his dad.

These punch you right in the feels because of the characters, who are three-dimensional with their own drives and desires.

In combination, they illustrate all forms of love, including romantic love, motherly love, the love and friendship between sisters, and self-love and acceptance.

Indeed, the relationship between Bobbi and Jo was the one I enjoyed most in the book. They are a cracking double act, perfectly complementing each other and ready to fight each other’s corner in an instant.

The novel is dedicated to Harry Style’s mum, Anne, "for giving us Harry" and is packed with his lyrics and catchphrases.

I’ve no doubt that Nikki and Kirsty will soon have significant followings but I do hope that How to Marry Harry somehow comes onto its namesake’s radar. How great would it be if he knew just how much of an impact his music has had on these talented writers’ lives, bringing them closer together and kick-starting a very promising literary career.

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

New Zealand-based co-authors Nikki Perry & Kirsty thank pop star Harry Styles for inspiring them to write their first novel, How to Marry Harry. We spoke with them to find out more about their love of the former One Direction frontman and what he stands for, and how writing helped keep the sisters connected during lockdown.

Q. You say that discovering the music of Harry Styles has changed both of your lives, and indeed helped kick-start your writing careers. Can you explain more?

A. One of the biggest things we’ve learnt from Harry is not to judge others or worry about people judging us. That meant taking a risk and putting our book out there for the world to see.

Q. You wrote the novel during the first Covid lockdown in 2020. What was your experience of lockdown, and how did your new writing partnership help get you through it?

A. Lockdown in New Zealand was, perhaps, a little different than elsewhere, although we can’t really compare it personally. Being so isolated from the rest of the world, we had very little community spread and even fewer deaths. Of course people were affected, particularly economically, but I think many people saw this as a time to reconnect with family and pursue activities that they hadn’t had time for previously. So you had an intense period of worrying about what was going on in the world, but also a kind of peace because life had slowed down. Writing was a great escape and while we were writing we were able to put everything else that was happening aside.

Q. The novel is obviously a comedy, but it deals with themes relevant to older women. What are the main themes it explores, and why was it important to share these with readers?

A. When you’ve been married for a long time you think, ‘OK, that’s it for me’ but when you’re older and become single, it can be a bit daunting. How do you even go about meeting someone or dating again? The desire for romance doesn’t disappear just because you hit your 40s. It’s scary but exciting at the same time.

Q. You say that one of the reasons you wrote the novel was to get to meet Harry Styles in person if there was a film adaptation. If you do meet him, what will you tell him?

A. After we compose ourselves, we hope we might be able to squeak out a “Thank you”. Or a “Because of you we decided to be brave and follow a dream without worrying about being judged”.

Q. What’s the greatest strength of having a writing partnership, as opposed to writing solo?

A. You have someone to bounce ideas off, someone to talk endlessly about the book and even to edit your work for you. Plus, you only have to write half a book!.

Q. You originally planned to write for television, before focusing on novels. What prompted this change of direction?

A. We still do screenwriting, but it’s a lot harder to write separately. It’s something that we feel we do best together, a bit like when we plot our books. But when we get to the actual writing for a novel, we find we do it better apart. Because we’re living in different cities, we’ve found that writing books suits us at the moment.

Q. Based on the feedback you have received from readers, what are you most proud of with your debut novel?

A. We’ve had people who tell us they’re not normally readers but that they have loved the book. When we started writing we never really intended to publish and possibly this was partly due to the stigma of reading books that aren’t considered ‘literary’. We’re so glad we decided to do it anyway. Not all reading has to be super intellectual. There’s nothing wrong with reading purely for fun.

Q. Your novel is aimed primarily at older female readers. Do you think women readers of a certain age are traditionally neglected by publishers?

A. The most prolific readers are women over 45 and yet so many books feature younger women in the earlier stages of their life. We believe women our age want to be portrayed with a more realistic representation. We’re still here, life isn’t over yet—give us a story too!

Q. What’s your favourite Harry Styles songs, and why?

A. (Nikki) ‘To Be So Lonely’. I love the tune and although it’s a sad song it’s also strangely upbeat.

(Kirsty) ‘Falling’. It’s the best song to belt out while you’re driving.

Q. You’re currently working on two new novels. What can you reveal at this stage about them?

A. Our second novel will be out later this year. Because we both love to travel, we’ve explored the theme of what it would be like to go and travel with a complete stranger. We've taken two very different characters—one who is a privileged desperate housewife and one who grew up in a religious cult—thrown them into a converted pink plumbing van, and sent them off on a road trip together.

We’re currently plotting our third novel and will be heading off to the Australian outback soon to do some ‘research’.

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