Chick-lit at its best

Stately Pursuits - Katie Fforde

Sometimes, I open one book after another, old favorites or new novels, and nothing works. Yesterday was one of those days. I couldn’t get into one book – a good mystery – and closed it after a few chapters. Started another – a new fantasy I’ve been waiting for – and couldn’t read past chapter three. I’ll return to them both but I wanted something light and fluffy, charming and mindless, and I found it all in this book. I finished it in one sitting, read it all night and enjoyed it. I smiled almost the entire time. A very therapeutic book.

After the protagonist Hetty finds her jerk boyfriend aka boss in bed with another woman, she is heartbroken and unemployed. With nothing better to do but sigh despondently and wallow in self-pity, she accepts her mom’s suggestion to house-sit an old house belonging to her distant, many-times removed octogenarian uncle, while he is in a hospital, having surgery.

The house is about 600 years old or more and in bad repair but charming. It seems to be the pride of the locals, the focal point of the village, but the uncle’s heir, Conan the Barbarian, wants to demolish the house and sell the land for an amusement park as soon as the old uncle is dead. Hetty sides firmly with the villagers and their campaign to save the house, She hates the Barbarian in absentia, theoretically.   

Well, the heir’s name isn’t really Conan the Barbarian, it’s just the local community’s nickname for him. His name is Connor Barrabin, but Hetty doesn’t meet him until page 70. Before that point, the book is slow and mostly filled with a narrative summary. A bit boring, but I kept reading, hoping for something to happen, and it did as soon as Connor appeared on the scene.

The story is told from Hetty’s POV, but Connor is the best character, colorful and contradictory and very male. He is not perfect but he is a solid and respectable presence on every page, even though his communication skills leave much to be desired – by Hetty. Like most manly guys, really. For the readers though, Connor is the source of  constant humorous misunderstandings and some of Hetty’s more scatterbrained but delightful escapades.

She seems flakier, sometimes even silly, although she is the one who changes the most in this book. It’s her story after all.

The writing flows artlessly, with a little humor and a little sex, very tasty, nothing too sizzling. A romantic chick-lit story at its best, forgettable but fun.