Janet Jackson’s Yorkshire B&B by Becky Papworth
This is a truly honest and funny novel! Janet Jackson – yes, that is the name of the main character’s name – has decided to open a B&B on a small basis. She has spent all her money on converting her garage into a tiny cottage and embarks on letting it out. After all, she lives in beautiful Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, a small town which is a magnet for tourists and unconventional lifestyles. That would seem to be a sensible move given that she is a divorcee whose only other income is her full-time job as a dental receptionist and she has a teenage daughter Chloe at home to support. Despite being a bit demanding in the case of snacks and similar essentials of life, Chloe is often helpful with her computer knowledge and business acumen, which Janet seems to lack. Maureen, on the other hand, who also lives in the main house is frankly not keen on actually helping – she has other interests including performance poetry and well, men. In case of emergency, she is often absent in mind, body and spirit (unless from a bottle), leaving Janet to sort out the situation as much as possible.
Janet tells the story of the garage/ cottage / self -catering annex etc in her own words, including her panic moments, her worries about most things including tax and welcome hampers, and her mistakes. Becky Papworth has given Janet a convincing voice to describe the daily ups and downs of being a landlady, host and owner of the newest B&B in the market, as well as trying to get on with her own life. There is romance, including with safe Peter, and who would expect her ex husband to reappear with issues? The humour is gentle and convincing, emerging from situations and the amazing variety of guests that the cottage attracts. There are classic mistakes in charging for stays and other traps, especially when a noisy neighbour gets involved, but there also some lovely visitors that restore everyone’s faith. The downsides of single parenting a teenager emerge, but also the rewards when Chloe is supportive of her mother’s efforts.
This is a genuinely funny book which is relatable on many levels even if you have never been tempted to let a cottage or even a room. Janet’s household is as chaotic as possible, but there is a lot of affection between the inhabitants. I really enjoyed her enthusiasm for gardening, how she copes with her job at the dentists with the memorable patients, and the hurdles she must overcome. Christmas is a brilliant set piece with a full house of people she has sort of collected. There are some awkward situations which I could see coming, but they were still funny. The characters were well drawn in their often-maddening consistency, especially the ever-flamboyant Maureen. This book was honest about the choices for older women in a way many other light reads are not, especially the realities of romance in a complex world. I especially enjoyed the tips for life that appear at the end of every chapter; they begin with “Tips for Running a B&B” and become Tips for other situations such as “Tips for Family Life” and even “Tips on Nights out with Sisters”. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book and recommend it as a light-hearted read.