All Your Little Lies by Marianne Holmes – a contemporary thriller of one person coping with layers of feeling

All Your Little Lies by Marianne Holmes 

Annie is a quiet, self contained person with secrets that even she doesn’t understand. She lives alone in a little house, has a particular attachment to her boss, Paul, and has one friend, Lauren. She has an evening when she makes a few misjudgements and everything changes for the worse. It is the evening when Chloe Hills disappears, and the search for the girl intrigues and entices, leading Annie into an excited involvement. This is a book of missing elements, of an interwoven story, of a woman who struggles with people. Other novels recently have depicted those who have a strict routine, a lonely life, but this book adds the hint of an old secret. I found it an intense read, the character of Annie which shifts and moves, full of the details of her observations of other people which continually run through the narrative. This is an absorbing book which engages the reader into the point of view of Annie, as she is continually trying to second guess what other people are thinking of her, suspecting her of, and what will happen as a result. Her sense of what she may be guilty of during the evening that Chloe disappears fills the book, and her loneliness and desperation makes this a disturbing read. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to read and review this memorable novel. 

The novel begins with Annie using Paul’s keys to effect and entry to his flat. Not that she knows why she is doing it; she does not want to take anything, wreck his home or take revenge, despite his treatment of her earlier which emerges over the next few pages of the novel. She meets her friend Lauren who she is desperate to see, especially as she has few other friends . Typically Lauren can spare only a few minutes, and it is with a renewed sense of loneliness that Annie travels home. It is then that she sees a picture which immediately triggers a reaction. A twelve year old girl is missing, and Annie has the feeling that she is somehow involved. Almost inadvertently Annie turns up for a search party for the girl, meeting other people on a new basis. She struggles to say things which are appropriate, and fears she has upset  a few people, those who she desperately wants to become friendly with as an antidote to her extreme loneliness.  

This intense and significant book is a stunning read; full of the small details that build up to an in depth picture of a woman in a challenging situation. Annie is a memorable and somewhat disturbing character who has many layers to a character beyond shyness. This is a book which piles up the pressure and the tension as a thriller with real human insight. The understanding of the character is immense and powerful as it shapes the novel that we appreciate from her point of view. It is not written in her voice, but describes her so closely that it almost feels like it is telling the story. The slight distance allows another story to be inserted, completely different from what is going on in the main narrative. This is a powerful book which I recommend to anyone who is interested in how a personality can find deep trouble in a situation through many strands of confusion and more.  

The Snow Fox Diaries by Jan Mazzoni- nature and life intersect over an exceptional animal

The Snow Fox Diaries by Jan Mazzoni

Getting back to nature sounds like a good idea in this abstract, but in this novel Katie’s new appreciation for nature is complicated and costly. She discovers a fox, a very special one, and it transforms her view of what is truly important to her. She starts from a bad place, and her discoveries are not straightforward, but it makes her reassess everything. This is a lyrically written book of descriptions of an exceptional animal which breaks into the consciousness of one woman, but which reveals much about other people. This is a book of contemporary life in the city, with the disappointments of work and even married life, and the sharp contrast with life in Devon and life alone. The author identifies this as “Ecofiction” (or ecolit), a story with a strong environmental theme at its heart, and this book is a sophisticated story of one woman and her refusal to allow a rare creature to suffer despite the contemporary world. Katie is a relatable character, while those around her reveal more than would normally be expected.   I found this a fascinating and enjoyable book, with a delicate portrait of an animal on the edge of the human world. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.

The book begins with Katie and her husband Ben. Once she was busy, content and ambitious in a job which she felt fulfilled in, even if the combination with her husband’s heavy workload means that they do not see much of each other. That was before. Now Katie does not work, and has become aimless, distant from Ben who is working hard. It is only when Ben discovers a cottage in Exmoor, an area that Katie remembers from her childhood, that she begins to find her sense of purpose. She discovers a white fox and her two cubs, and realises that something so precious is outside her experience, goes beyond the privations of life on her own. However, such delicacy is something impermanent, and the balance of Katie’s life follows an interesting path as she strives to keep connections. The contrast between solitude and people jars her, and she senses the danger to creatures that should not really exist. She is suspicious, she fears discovery, yet she cannot avoid or cease to revel in a small family that only she understands.

The nature of the life Katie lives with Ben is a balance of changing ideas, with things that bring them together and force them apart. Secrets and suspicions between them echo the sense of betrayal that pervades Katies fears for her life in a house that she is trying to restore, trying to make special. This is a vividly written book with passages which set out the delicate, fateful existence of wild creatures. Katie is a character with real depth, as she struggles with her empty city life, and notices the tiny details of a house suddenly abandoned. This is a skilfully constructed novel of unconventional love and discoveries of nature and life, of the motives of people and how they react to them. It succeeds because it is a careful build up of tiny details into a big picture which fits with an unexpected plot. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys the interface between nature and people’s lives.  

The Deptford Girls by Patricia A McBride – the stories of a young woman during the London Blitz

The Deptford Girls by Paricia A McBride

Lily Baker is a young woman in the midst of a unique situation – the bombing of London during the Second World War. Amid a constantly changing scenery as formerly solid buildings are no longer there, this incident packed novel shows the effect of uncertainty, fear and danger have on Lily and those around her. This is the fourth book in a series featuring Lily Baxter, but I read it as a standalone and found its pace and action meant that I followed it well. Lily is in touch with women and men on the Home Front whether they are young and making discoveries about life, or older women struggling with children and other responsibilities. There are incidents which are unique to wartime, as the fighting comes near in various ways, through coping with the limitations on accommodation, to problems that would exist even in peacetime.  As Lily and her friends deal with racism, the problems of evacuees and mysterious businessmen, this is a book that maintains a fast pace of challenges for the women that Lily comes into contact with, while she has her own romantic issues. The amount of research that went into the incidents that make up the plots is amazing, as each challenge flows into another revelation or reflection. I found it a fascinating fictional account, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book. 

As the book opens the author uses the opportunity of introducing two new workers at the depot to introduce not only characters together, but to tour the depot itself, with hints as to the nature of the work Lily and some of her friends are engaged in as part of her military service. Her friend Bronwyn is her companion in having been bombed out twice, losing everything they possessed and having to find clothes in the rest centres. They often sleep in the tube, which is not just an adventure but an uncomfortable and crowded place which does not lead to a good night’s sleep. Lily does ARP work, which leads her to understanding the risk faced by the nights filled with raids, as well as helping her to cope with some of the situations with which she is confronted. A friend joins the WVS, and helps provide food for those enduring raids and other challenges. Bronwyn drives ambulances, and has her own experiences of death and injury.  An unexpected pregnancy means an exploration of the difficulties faced by young women at the time by institutions and social services. 

This book is a fictional overview of so many of the incidents and anecdotes of the Second World War that it is quite breathtaking. Lily is a sensitive and intelligent protagonist whose involvement in the situations described is always of significance, even if she is not the person at the centre of the crisis. This is a vivid and vibrant book of fascinating people, resolutions to situations, and a sure understanding of the setting of a bomb damaged London.I enjoyed reading of Lily’s adventures in this book, and would definitely be interested in reading others.   

The Peacock Room by Anna Sayburn Lane – a contemporary thriller with a literary basis

The Peacock Room by Anna Sayburn Lane

Literature can be a dangerous thing, at least in the life of English literature lecturer Helen Oddfellow in this, her second literary appearance. In this exciting and tense novel with much to say about the exploitation of young women, William Blake’s poetry and illustrations provide the inspiration for much of the action. Not that this is a dry book of literary history; this is a contemporary thriller which goes further than “woman in peril” and maintains a fierce pace. The settings, in a university, in the streets where Blake lived, in well known museums and libraries, tries to evoke not only the contemporary danger to various people, but also give a glimpse of the artist and his contemporaries. This is a fast moving book full of incident and interest, informative about Blake and others, and condemning how certain men have a negative concept of women. I found the writing vivid and engaging, and Helen a very human protagonist who has doubts and feels emotions as well as trying to solve mysteries. The way this story builds up, but with plenty of incidents en route, is so well constructed as to be difficult to put down. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this memorable book.

The Prologue sets an important theme of the book; a man preparing by practicing with a gun, his thoughts depicted as determined and aggressive. Helen is shown in the first chapter as waking alone, contacted by a friend Nick, and suggesting that they meet in Crispin’s flat, an older man who welcomes visitors. As he reveals disturbing drawings, Nick mentions Rintrah, one of Blake’s subjects who is a disturbing influence. He points out that one of the most knowledgeable people of the subject is Professor Pentrarch Greenwood, a person Helen has to encounter as she has to take over his tutor group for a while. Not that she is keen on this assignment, as her knowledge of Blake is limited. She calls on a Blake expert, Barbara, to recommend books and things she must quickly absorb in order to teach effectively. Helen soon discovers that it is not so much the volume of knowledge that she possesses about Blake which is important, as much as her relationship with the five students in the group, who seem to be curiously vulnerable or brashly self confident. The various characters in the novel interact and discover more about what is truly going on in a series of events which tests everyone. 

This is a novel which, like its predecessor “Unlawful Things”, combines literary investigation with tense action and drama. I enjoy the setting of the various events in this novel, even though some of the situations are disturbing. The characters are memorable in their reality and their emotions as well as their sudden bursts of understanding. Helen is an excellent main protagonist as she struggles with her own guilt, sadness and regret, but she is also inspired, brave and clever and dealing with the extraordinary situation she finds herself in throughout this novel. It is difficult to review a thriller without giving too much away , but I recommend this book as an extremely well written novel with many layers of interest.

I really enjoyed this book, and learnt a lot about William Blake and his contemporaries, just as I learnt a lot about Christopher Marlowe from this author’s first book. It is certainly a great way to learnt literary history!

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer – a classic Regency novel with a real slice of London life.

Cotillion: Heyer, Georgette: 9780099474371: Books

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

When grumpy Mr Penicuik announces that he intends to leave his fortune to whichever of his great nephews marries his ward, Kitty, there is a variety of reactions. Not that all of them are present when the announcement is made, and Kitty herself is not best pleased. The proposition behind Georgette Heyer’s 1953 Regency novel is not jealousy, but of a confusion leading from Kitty’s seemingly quixotic decision to become engaged to Freddy Standen, who has no need for a generous inheritance, and who has no particular desire to get married. Kitty’s wish to get to London is behind some of her odd behaviour, and she learns a lot in this gentle good natured comedy. A fascinating insight into society life, it introduces characters that care deeply about various things, including spending money on fashionable clothes, people who are not quite acceptable, and thwarted romances. Heyer’s ability to handle several strands of stories and propel them forward is shown to advantage in this classic novel, and as usual her research into the small details of Regency life is impeccable. Kitty and Freddy are two lovely characters who are easily sidetracked, while Meg, Freddy’s sister, is a delightful, generous and daft helper. This is an enjoyable and fascinating novel which gives an insight into Regency life.

At the beginning of the novel Mr Penicuik manages to summon three of his great nephews, Lord Biddenden who is already married, the Reverend Hugh,his brother, and Lord Dolphinton. The latter is a character who struggles with conversation and is a consistently drawn person with special needs. He struggles to understand the situation around him, and is obviously very dominated by his mother. When the older man informs them of his decision, they are shocked at his contrivance, and Hugh at least tries to explain his feelings to her. Kitty is composed, but reveals little, except to reassure Dolph that she will not marry him. There are some nephews who did not turn up, including the rather notorious Jack, and the next scene is set in a local public house, where Freddy Standen turns up, unaware of his great uncle’s plan. Kitty discovers him there, and suggests a strategy that will resolve the situation, and satisfy her greatest wish, to visit London for a month. Freddy is at first unconvinced, but agrees to the plan and joins her to announce it. It does not take long for Kitty and Freddy to set off for London, where they meet a mixed reception. 

I found Freedy to be a lovely character, who struggles to cope with the situation, but is essentially always concerned for others, or at least what they wear. The scenes where he takes Kitty to some of the sights in London is very funny, especially his reaction to the Elgin Marbles. I think Heyer enjoys writing about the acquiring of fashionable clothes, especially Meg’s extravagance, and the subtle differences in style. Freddy has strong views on appearances, and is shown to be the arbiter of taste as well as an expert dancer and safe gentleman for women to know. Kitty is a kind hearted muddler with her own agenda, but tries to be considerate to all. The plot of this book is not as dramatic as some novels of the time, but the characters and setting are very strong. Those familiar with Heyer’s novels will appreciate the subtle humour of this book, and I found it a most enjoyable read.     

Goergette Heyer is one of the authors I have rediscovered during this strange year, and it has been a good rediscovery! They are the perfect distraction and are generally safe reads with very few really serious events. According to there are twenty eight regency novels – so I still have a few to go!

Christmas Reunion in Paris by Liz Fielding

Christmas Reunion in Paris by Liz Fielding 

A meeting in a Paris hotel room is a new beginning, but also a significant reminder of the past. James Harrington is a celebrity chef with a Michelin starred restaurant and a family heritage of one of the best hotels in London. Chloe is working as a housekeeper in the hotel. From the moment that their eyes meet in the reflection in a huge window, they both instantly realise that fate has brought them together once more. The question of what they will do in the future is wrapped up in what has happened in the past. This is a romance which is more than simply two people meeting in different circumstances, more a case of an ongoing story of love in trying family circumstances. Set against the background of Paris in the tourist sites, but also the less well known parts of the city, this is a book which fits in a good sense of place amidst the narrative. Chloe and James are very effective and well drawn characters who have to fight against strong opposition as well as their own emotions to reach a conclusion. This is a romance with some strong themes of family pressure and circumstance which made this a good read. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.

 The book opens with the fateful meeting in the hotel room, from which Chloe flees. James spares no effort in tracking her down, only to discover her in a terrible apartment. Their reunion is torrid, and leaves James assuming that he can take care of Chloe who has obviously turned her back on everyone she once knew. Chloe however is reluctant to become involved with a man who she once knew, but has moved on from in every way. As secrets are revealed and memories are revived, James becomes determined to sweep Chloe back to London and make her part of his life once more. She has been deeply traumatised by events which occurred when she was a teenager which were out of the control of either one of the couple, and cannot allow herself to be swept up into easy solutions. James knows about many of these traumatic events, but struggles to understand their effects  on a woman he has not seen for several years. 

This book on the surface is a contemporary romance set in Paris and the environs in which expensive meals and cookery are discussed. It has its moments of passion, and two main characters who are interesting and well drawn. It also makes some interesting points about the vulnerability of young women to family pressure, and the after effects of the trauma parents can inflict. Chloe emerges as a strong minded and independent young woman who is reluctant to be swept away by emotion and the offer of an easy life. James is slower on the uptake when assessing what she truly wants, partly because he too has memories of difficult times in his life. This is a well written romance with some nice touches and a good backstory, though handled with a light touch. I enjoyed the French setting and the observations on good food. I recommend it to fans of contemporary romance with different themes. 

This book has “Christmas” in the title, but is not limited to the festive time of year. Some books which refer to Christmas are on sale quiet early, and cover a longer period of time. This is one of them, and is very enjoyable.

Christmas with the Teashop Girls by Elaine Everest – Women working and living together in 1940 as the Blitz increases

Christmas with the Teashop Girls: Everest, Elaine:  9781529015928: Books

Christmas with the Teashop Girls by Elaine Everest

This is a brilliantly written novel with a startling beginning. Set in late 1940 it tells the story of  a group of young women who work in the Lyons tea shops of Ramsgate and Margate. In a previous book we have been introduced to Rose, Katie and Lily; Rose is the manager of the Margate branch, and Katie and Lily are some of the “Nippies” or waitresses in the Lyons tea rooms.They have good friends and Rose’s mother, Flora, who live locally, and together they are trying to cope with the problems of an area under heavy bombing. Despite this being the second book in the series, it is so well written that it is possible to pick up the story relatively easily without reading the first book. The story revolves mainly around Rose, whose marriage to Ben Hargreaves is being discussed, as well the hard work which is caused by being on the coast of England which is actively in danger of invasion. There is a lot of research into a period and a place beset by frequent bombing raids and local arrangements to shelter in tunnels. This book, like all of those written by this author, demonstrates real understanding of her characters and the setting in a desperate time in Britain’s history. I was so very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this well written book. 

The author has taken a risk by opening this book with Rose and her mother Flora in peril. The focus then reverts from Christmas Eve to the previous September, as the young women associated with Lyons teashops are introduced. The matriarch who runs the boarding house, Sea View, is Flora, who becomes involved with the lives of her tenants. Rose, Lily and Katie live in a cottage given to them by Mildred, an exceptional woman who goes out fishing locally and runs a somewhat smelly van. Anya also works at Lyons; she is a forthright refugee from Occupied Europe and sets out her opinions with an entertaining honesty. The preparations for the wedding involve Rose meeting the widowed Ben’s daughters and mother, Lady Diana. Diana soon emerges as a memorable character, contradictory in her behaviour but always active and on the scene. Rose’s happy time with Ben in London is affected by heavy bombing as the blitz of London begins, but it is still very lively in Kent as not only bombs fall from the sky. There are emotional problems which are not altogether caused by the bombing, and there are some very satisfactory confrontations involving Flora and some of her supporters. 

The most enjoyable part of this engaging book is the interplay between the characters as they strive to cope with all the challenges and uncertainties of being at war. The personalities are so well drawn that even minor characters are given life and personality. This is so in the case of Eileen, who claims to be Rose’s half sister. This is a superb read full of vibrant characters and in a setting of the later part of 1940, when so much was uncertain, life was precious and had to be seized, yet there were still those with ulterior motives. This is an entertaining and engaging book with many memorable characters, and I recommend it to everyone who enjoys these ensemble books set during the Second World War.  

I always look forward to Elaine’s books and this one is no exception – I really enjoyed some of the set pieces and confrontations. While it is sometimes difficult to pick a favourite character from an ensemble novel like this, I must admit to really liking Lady Diana, who is certainly a strong and impressive character. Do you sometimes pick out a favourite character in books?

Secrets of the Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas – as the blitz gets worse, the women of the Manchester railways must pull together

Secrets of the Railway by Maisie Thomas

Dot, Joan and Mabel are the Railway Girls in this extremely vivid and engaging book set in Manchester in 1940 to 1941. They are women from different backgrounds, different ages, and they have links with some of the other women who work on the railways in and around Manchester. This is the second book which tells the stories of these women and their friends, yet because the narrative is so well constructed it could be read and enjoyed first. The experiences of the women are overlapped well to maintain the pace of the novel, giving different aspects of the way women worked in roles usually assigned to men. It also looks at the realities of life in a city which had an intense Blitz to contend with over a few nights. All of the women in this novel face challenges, some tragedy, and a working together which can help. Romance, humour and friendship are the positive elements that keep this book entertaining; the research into the actual mechanics and events of maintaining travel and transport under pressure makes it a good solid read. I was so very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book. 

The book begins with the redoubtable Dot as she begins to organise a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas for her family, especially grandchildren Jimmy and Jenny. Not that she confines her efforts to cooking and cleaning, shopping and queuing for her family, she has become a solid support for her friends on the railway. Her husband is still as trying, as he expects her to have his meals ready despite all her other tasks, but at least he is now doing ARP work. Dot finds that she has to use her initiative in her work, but also to investigate something which is troubling her. When problems affect those around her, she tries to be a practical help.

Mabel is still a sensitive young woman with past regrets, but is a strong friend when others suffer loss and need practical assistance. While she and Harry make a beautiful pair, everyone has troubles and challenges to face at this difficult time. Mabel has to act not only for herself, but also for those who struggle with the after effects of the bombs that fall.

Joan’s experiences in this book at times threaten to overwhelm her, as she faces discoveries and decisions that have enormous impact on her life. Her friends and colleagues offer her support, but there are certain decisions she must make for herself.

This is a book which finds its strength in the group of people that work together in strange times. There are many books which deal with groups of women on the Home Front during the Second World War, and this one is so successful because it deals with women of different age groups, and the differences in class, dress and opportunity in a positive way. The clothes of the period are carefully and consistently described to show the different backgrounds of the characters, and it is obvious that the author enjoys these details, a fact which is noted in the back of the book. I enjoyed reading this book for its consistent effort to make these women and those around them seem real, living people with their own distinctive personalities. This is a book which works well on many levels: as a sensitive and lively study of women in a unique set of circumstances, a time of danger and tragedy, and difficult decisions to be made of life and love. I recommend it as a thoroughly good read.        

Fate by Design by MJ Walsh – a woman’s life challenged in post war Britain

Fate by Design: Walsh, M.J.: 9781839752544: Books

Fate by Design by MJ Walsh

This is a novel which begins with a traumatic event, and it is one which takes the whole book to resolve. Set in the 1950s and 1960s, a mining village is the scene for a story of a disappearance and a survival, even a triumphal recovery in the face of challenges. Cassie is a young mother with a small son, Neil, at the beginning of the novel, and the challenges she faces are life changing. This is an interesting book which depicts the nature and benefits of close friends in supporting people through difficult events. It succeeds in giving details of life in a mining town, especially as the problems of having a one industry settlement, and the social difficulties that resulted in the later twentieth century. It is a book about female vulnerability, but also about how, with encouragement, this can be overcome. It has much to say about the Spanish Civil War, and the sacrifices made by those with strong convictions. This is a testimony to the survival of the human spirit, and it makes for a significant read which I was interested to have the opportunity to read and review.  

The book begins with a police investigation into the unaccountable disappearance of Eddie Gallagher from home and work. There is no apparent reason for the formerly quiet, hard working and loving husband and father to disappear without explanation or apparent reason. The simple fact of his disappearance leaves Cassie bereft and bewildered, and dependent on her friends Jenny and Ellen. Cassie is aware that she has to bring up Neil on her own, with help from her friends with child care. Sadly her vulnerability is taken advantage of in a brutal way. As she begins to come to terms with her new life she discovers that there are all sorts of opportunities for new studies and ways of looking at life. A special friend opens up a world of books and ideas from which Cassie benefits greatly, despite there being an element of tragedy at the heart of it. As she ventures into new relationships, she discovers that trust is the most important thing to her, having been so badly let down by her husband. There is much to be explored by Cassie before she can begin to find her way to a new life, and trust herself and others.    

This is a very serious and thoughtful book which looks at one woman’s story of being abandoned without explanation by an apparently loving husband. I found it a fascinating book based on a great deal of social research into a period of time when the rights of workers were still being established, the vulnerability of women was still evident, and the fate of single industry towns being discussed. It is a well written if solemn book, with a surprising revelation which is not expanded on. It is a fascinating slice of social history revolving around a woman’s life, and is a strong narrative throughout. It creates a strong impression of life at that time in Britain, as to be recommended to anyone who finds this period of interest.   

Tea Is So Intoxicating by Mary Essex – a 1950 novel republished in the British Library Women Writers series

Tea is So Intoxicating (British Library Women Writers): Mary  Essex: 9780712353625: Books

Tea is So Intoxicating by Mary Essex  

A book in which none of the characters are at all attractive does not seem at first glance to be a good idea, but in the experienced hands of “Mary Essex”, or the thinly disguised Ursula Bloom, this is a funny and truly wonderful read. First published in 1950, this book has just been republished by the British Library in their Women Writers series. This book offers a group of characters who are obsessed, searching for something, or just a bit dissatisfied, but they are put together with an effect which is quite dramatic. David is obsessive, and struggles with what he can actually achieve. For complicated reasons he decides that nothing will do but to start a tea garden out of his small, uncomfortable and impractical cottage, much to the dismay of his wife, the struggling Germayne. The locals to a woman and man are opposed to the project, from fear of competition in the form of the public house, to the vehement disgust of the lady of the manor. Mrs Arbroath has fancied herself as running the village for decades, and is appalled at the prospect of the incoming couple opening such a vulgar enterprise in her village. The Vicar, the resident retired Colonel and many others get dragged into a programme of protest, much to Germayne’s discomfort. This is a very funny, surprising and enjoyable read and I was so very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this lovely book.

The subject of a tea garden in the early 1950s was a contentious one. Rationing of the basics of life was still very much in the news, and tea itself was still a highly valued commodity. David is a man who has obsessions but not the skill to pull them off, much to the despair of his wife Germayne. It is after the war, and David’s quiet military experience and employment in the accounts department of the Dolly Varden Cosy Tea Shops, Ltd has in no way fitted him to be an entrepreneur, even to the extent of running a tea garden especially in the face of local opposition. The story of how he came to marry the despairing Germayne is also tackled, especially in the light of her previous marriage to the large, dull and relatively well off Digby and their memorable daughter Ducks. The scheme to establish a tea garden is borne of desperation and financial need, but sadly David vastly overestimates his skill at cooking, his organisational abilities and his eye for a bargain in terms of equipment. Meanwhile, Mrs Arbroath has not only discovered objections to the tea garden, but also to the morals of the newly arrived Commander and Mrs Tompkins. The situation, already building up well, is made much more dynamic by the arrival of Mimi, dubious, flirtatious and full of winning ways. 

This is in some senses a book of its time, with characters probably typical of post war Britain. It also appeals to any audience who enjoys a comedy which borders on tragedy, a drama of people and and place, of village life and the problems of weather. I enjoyed the characters hugely and the story works really well. I found the characters appealing in their awfulness and involvement with each other, and the village setting fascinating. The themes of the story are not confined to the time of writing; the problems of relationships, the issues of over ambition and the weather are well known. I recommend this book as a very enjoyable read from a skilful author in a series that is obviously discovering some real treasures.