Troubador Melting in the Middle

Released: 28/11/2020

ISBN: 9781800460645

eISBN: 9781800468061

Format: Paperback/eBook

Review this Book

Melting in the Middle


Long-listed for the Exeter Novel Prize, Melting in the Middle is a literary comedy about redemption and second chances, played out amid the madness of modern life.

For Stephen Carreras, life is in turmoil. His career with Britain’s worst chocolate company is heading for the rocks when it’s taken over by US confectionery giant Schmaltz. He’s just turned forty, he’s messed up on marriage and is struggling to keep a toehold in the lives of his monosyllabic teenage children.

Then he meets Rachel, who dances to a very different beat. She challenges him to do good among the carnage that surrounds him. But to do so, he must confront his past and work out all over again what really matters…

Praise for Melting in the Middle

 “The dialogue zips along at a pace that keeps the reader on their toes without running out of breath” 
  Ian McMillan, poet, author and presenter of The Verb on BBC Radio 3 

 “Whip-smart funny and brilliantly observed. Howden is a great storyteller, turning recognisable personalities and corporate events into sharp and clever comedy.” 
Louise Fein, author of People Like Us  

“I was completely charmed. Funny, poignant and uplifting.” 
Cathie Hartigan, author of Notes From The Lost

I enjoyed Melting in the Middle very much. It captures the absurdities of business life well, and combines them with the ups and downs of home life. It reminded me of the TV series "Cold Feet" and Kingsley Amis's "Lucky Jim" - sharp dialogue and lots of laughter.

by Andrew

Anyone who has experienced corporate life will recognise the political machinations, the absurd office politics and odious characters that our hero Stephen has to deal with in his battle to do the right thing.

It’s a charming, funny book, but at its heart, Melting in the Middle is a love story. I heartily recommend it.

by Tony Franco

I rarely read a book in one sitting but I did with this thought provoking & amusing novel.

Beyond straight entertainment, there are many reasons why you might want to read "Melting in the Middle"...

... Do you work in marketing or advertising? Did you enjoy Mad Men? Are you a parent? Are you religious, atheist or agnostic? Are you wondering what’s next in your life? ...

Go for it, enjoy!

by James Boulton

This is a fantastic read. A completely absorbing story with some wonderful characters. Truly enjoyable!

by Clare

If like me you remember and are saddened by what happened to Jacob's Club biscuit, you will understand how important chocolate bars are in the national psyche. They are a serious business indeed and are not to be mucked about with. Andy Howden's novel takes a light-hearted and humourous swipe at the marketing shenanigans revolving around such a venture. But athough choccy bars provide the backdrop, the novel is really about human relationships. Finding what is lost and having to make life-changing decisions. This novel is a joy to read. The characters are very real and you can't help but wonder what happens to them after reading the last page. Very readable and highly recommended.

by LyndonR

This is such a page turner, laugh out loud funny and also very, very touching. You are rooting for Steven from the very beginning.

by Kate

I loved this book! The characters are beautifully flawed and are believable - all of us will spot people from our working lives in there! Steven's search for healing, wholeness and meaning is one which is relatable and the way his relationships begin to work together is touching and tender. There is humour and enough cynacism to stop it becoming sickly sweet but it ultimately is a tale of right winning over wrong and how redemption is possible.

by Kerry Thomas

Brilliant. I couldn't put it down. The story just carries you along as it's so well written. Highly recommended!

by William Lines

I loved this book! It is totally gripping from page 1. Both hilarious and thought provoking about what's important in life. I missed it when I'd finished..

by Laura M

The author’s first novel describes the electrifying impact of an American takeover of a British company on the victim's corporate culture, the many stresses this imposes on the latter with a romantic theme woven through the mayhem. Andy Howden maintains the story's pace, handles dialogue with impressive confidence and revolves locations, personalities and subplots with an assured touch. This book is written in a delightful and easy style that will bring much pleasure to readers. I keenly await the author’s next book.

by Richard Barber

A lively and engaging story full of vivid and often amusing characters. It begins in the season of Advent - a time of reflection and anticipation, giving a sombre background to the struggles of Stephen, the main character as he battles through the darkness of his own situation, but is drawn towards a glimmer of light which might help steer him towards the chance of a brighter future. An uplifting and memorable story. I would highly recommend it.

by Joanna Horner

I loved Melting in the Middle.
The protagonist, Stephen Carreras, is very engaging and likeable and I wanted to keep turning the pages to see what would happen to him and the other characters.
Very funny in parts, to the point of making me "LOL," the novel also addresses big themes such as family, faith and redemption.
Anyone who has worked in an office will identify with some of the scenarios, described in highly entertaining fashion, although the appeal of Melting in the Middle is not limited to those who have experienced office and/or corporate life.
In short, I urge you to read this book and immerse yourself in its humour and its humanity.

by Michele Vincent

This an impressive first novel. As always with first novels the acid test is do you want to read the next one and the answer is emphatically yes. The key elements of a novel are all attempted and undertaken with aplomb: plot, character, relationships, place and social settings. It also has work as a main theme which is surprisingly less common given its importance in most people's lives. Much of this is satirical but it is a satire that is rooted in reality, avoids crude caricature and fits neatly with the realism of the rest of the book. The novel also has a moral purpose, best exemplified by an entreaty from one of the main characters (you have to read it to find out what it is).

Particularly impressive is the dialogue which is convincing, illuminates character and moves on the plot. Also, unlike some irritating novels, it is always clear who is speaking. My only minor criticism is that I could have done without a certain football commentator.

Buy it, read it and then buy it for friends and family.

by Geoff Smith

This book perfectly captures the reality of just trying to keep your head above water when everything around you seems to be sinking. Stephen is just trying to make it now that his personal life has fallen apart, his kids are teenagers so that feels like a lost cause for the next few years, and now a corporate take over is threatening what little stability he felt he had at work. Howden is an amazing storyteller and humorist and I can't wait to read more of their work.

by NetGalley review

Set against the backdrop of a modern day "David and Goliath" story, a middle management, middle aged man must come to terms with changes not only in his business life but in his personal life. Will he succeed - only time - and his persistence - will tell, especially when a spanner, in the form of an enigmatic and contradictory young woman, is thrown in for good measure.

This slow moving tale of one man's attempts to keep his life and career afloat makes for interesting read. At times, it almost seemed as though the workplace was being used a metaphor for some sort of dystopian society where it was a case of survival of the fittest (maybe I am reading too much into something that is not there).

I would not have normally picked this up but was offered a complimentary review copy, and I did enjoy reading it.

by NetGalley review

A wonderfully witty and entertaining book, tackling some of those mid-life struggles.

I honestly don’t read a huge number of novels, but this was recommended to me so I thought I’d take some time over Christmas and New Year, and am so glad I did. I have already recommended it to my wife who has now recommended it to her book club! It approaches some really interesting areas, and weaves them seamlessly in the life of Stephen as he struggles with work, relationships, bullying, family, management chaos and a new love interest. It’s equally funny and thought-provoking, and I particularly enjoyed Stephen’s experiences in the workplace – sections pertaining to team-building and management speak certainly rang some familiar bells! Thoroughly enjoyable, morally intriguing and avoids easy stereotypes whilst still building very recognisable characters. Highly recommended.

by Philip

Andy Howden has written a perceptive and amusing novel exploring the clash between the hard headed world of corporate business and the softer but no less demanding worlds of Christian activism and belief. It kept me engaged throughout, though perhaps it did seem to turn out rather too nicely at the end. See what you think.

by Chris

A warm and sumptuous read with a soft centre!

I really enjoyed the flow of the book, with great characters that you can relate to. This is a fantastic insight into corporate life, running alongside the ups and downs of modern day parenting and a few moral conflicts along the way. Definitely worth a read and a great first novel.

by jason coleman

This book was a long and slow read but it never left me bored. There were details, dialogues and inner rants that the book could have done without, but these ultimately made up this witty and entertaining story.
The main protagonist, Stephen Carreras, is a divorced middle-aged man, who heads the marketing department for a national chocolate company - later to be taken over by a huge American company. Cue the big, bad, crude, loud-mouthed American boss and the huge changes the takeover creates in the work place and work life for Stephen.
The author really brought forth the internal struggle that Stephen faced, not only in his work life, but in his personal life as well; both as a father and whilst trying to pursue a new romantic relationship.

by NetGalley review

Midlife man spinning plates suddenly thrown into a labyrinth of 21st century Dickensian characters.
A crafty tale of treachery, bullying, scheming unwinds.
Runs at a pace. Entertaining and funny with some inventive characterisation.
Will our hero survive ?
Enjoyable read. recommended.

by Steve Martin

Melting in the Middle by Andy Howden was a great story about a man coming to terms with his past and learning what was most important to him. The book kept my interest from the start, and I found myself really rooting for the main character to succeed.

by NetGalley review

I really enjoyed this novel. The key characters were all too believable and real, and the story came along at just the right pace on the whole. It was tricky to determine exactly how the various threads might be drawn together at the end. But with the exception of one particular element – which I would prefer not to highlight as it would spoil the plot – I found the end of the tale credible and satisfactory in that it left little to my imagination. (Generally I prefer explicit conclusions in the novels I read)

The book was a perfect gift to receive on Christmas Day as we shortly found ourselves self- isolating due to a positive COVID test in the family, and each day I “escaped” into the novel and very much enjoyed the time I did so.

One of the strongest and often the most amusing parts of the book for me were the depictions of corporate life and the absolute nonsense spouted by senior managers and those attempting to climb the greasy career pole. At times I was wincing – it was all a bit too real!

I do wonder how the author will follow this up with his second novel, and whether the theme of redemption will feature so prominently. I look forward to finding out.

by AndyL

I loved this book! It was heartwarming and strong. It was exactly what I needed with everything going on in the world! A happy little escape!

by NetGalley review

As someone who doesn't read a lot these days, this book really caught my imagination and I just couldn't put it down - finishing it in just a weekend. Sharply observed, witty and just a downright good story. And as others have said - with chocolate too. What's not to like?

by Tim Morgan

Melting in the Middle finds humour and a positive spin in events that don’t immediately sound as though they are going to be a bundle of laughs – central character Stephen Carreras has his career turned upside down following a takeover by Schmaltz, a nightmarish American corporation, while his home life is in meltdown.

Stephen is a believably fallible character who not only needs to put his own life back on track, but also to look beyond himself to the needs of those around him. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him trying to do so and found myself wanting to know what happened next. The story is filled with amusing but very recognisable characters and situations and the theme of chaos following major changes in the workplace will strike a chord with many people (myself included). With that in mind there is considerable satisfaction to be had in seeing the absurdity of some of the changes that Schmaltz introduces.

The whole thing is cleverly constructed balancing humour with the more serious aspects of the story. I look forward to reading the next one!

by Graham Dollman

A very enjoyable read. A caste of 'leap off the page' recognisable characters from the real world of work and a very touching love story.

by Maddi

I have just finished reading Melting in the Middle and I have to say that I absolutely loved it, just couldn't put it down. I've never found myself rooting for a chocolate brand before and I rarely read a book where the action continues, with new information revealing itself, right up to the final pages which kept me completely hooked. I felt like I knew the characters and the story was very engaging. I look forward to reading the next book from this author.

by Julia

I really enjoyed this book. It's well written with some cracking dialogue and very funny set pieces. Good characterisation too, especially of Stephen's awful American boss and slippery Italian colleague. Stephen's bewilderment at finding himself in a completely new environment is well depicted. The ease with which Rachel manages to get along with Stephen's tricky teenagers is perhaps a little too good to be true, but this is a very minor criticism. Although it's an easy read, there are some deeper messages, notably the importance of "doing good among the carnage" and how love does indeed possess a redemptive power.

by Caroline Swallow

This is a really great first novel which I would strongly recommend as a vivid and funny picture of the ups and downs of corporate life and the challenges of developing, often not very successfully, a new relationship whilst coping with the demands and adolescent angst of teenage children. The style, characterisation and pace reminded me strongly of Jonathan Coe which is pretty remarkable as this is Andy Howden’s first book. It also augurs well for his next book which I hope is in the making.

by Alan Murray

Parenthood, separation, regrets, work-stress, new beginnings and fresh hope are all covered in this thought-provoking tale by new author Andy Howden. If you have ever worked in a large organisation you will no doubt have met many of the different characters that Andy paints so well; and laugh out loud at the depiction of the absurdities arising from corporate culture change in the drive for profit. A great exploration of values and what really matters. Perceptive, funny, well-paced, a thoroughly enjoyable read.

by Linda McLoughlin

In Waterstones, a member noticed Melting in the Middle and thought what an original title and that it stood out on the book shop stall having the sort of cover he'd pick up to have a look at. Once read, the book was presented to the Book Group for our monthly get together.

The group liked the cover's simple design and thought it attractive. Not busy. Although in general we all thought it was a good idea for a book and dealt with a contemporary issue of American corporatism and American companies taking over British firms and that this needs addressing in UK, it meandered too much. We thought it was far too long. It needed much editing.

Also, there were too many themes so it became a bit chaotic in places although they did all link together. Two members though that the book improved as they got further into it. We welcome a second book from Andy Howden and would willingly give it a go. All agreed that it was admirable to have written a book and have it published in the first place.

by North Bristol Book Group

Andy Howden's book slips down as easily as melted chocolate, and his take on goodness is refreshingly unironic.

by Charlotte Dormandy

Andy Howden

Andy Howden grew up in the Yorkshire Dales and read English Literature at the University of Sheffield before setting out on a career in market research which took him to London, Paris and Hampton Wick. He has worked for a number of companies, not all of them entirely sane.

Melting in the Middle is his first novel, started on a MA in Creative Writing at St. Mary's University, and was long-listed for the Exeter Novel Award.

Andy lives in South West London with his wife and has two grown up children who have left home but fortunately keep popping back to see him.

  • Buy as a printed
  • £9.99
  • Enter coupon code 'FESTIVE' for £3 off the paperback

  • 32 customer reviews
  • Buy as an ebook
  • £4.99
  • Find this ebook at your favourite retailer
Also by Andy Howden / Related Books