Jenny Porter is a virtual assistant who finds herself out of her depth in many ways. This novel, originally published in 2002, has been rereleased in a new cover and forms an ideal easy read for anyone. Jenny is a young woman who is less than keen on her boyfriend Henry, so decides that driving up to Scotland at the request of one of her clients to look at a failing mill is a good idea. Discovering that the locals are a mixed bunch, from the heavily pregnant Meggie to the fearsome Lady Dalmain, she soon discovers that her assignment involves more than a quick assessment of a small business. This novel has lasted well in terms of email being used in a limited way and some ideas of finding business opportunities, and the family relationships represent an interesting dynamic. This type of book has of course a strong romantic theme, but it is certainly not expected or straightforward. This is a book to revel in, with a large cast of well constructed characters who have ample opportunity to reveal their eccentricities and obsessions in a book which has a great deal of natural humour. The dialogue is witty and well observed, and is another source of humour.
Jenny’s work has so far been conducted at a distance, and she has little idea of what this task really entails. Her journey is eventful; she pulls to a halt by a “tartan-painted mobile refreshment van, endearingly called ‘The Homely Haggis”. She then encounters a member of the family who currently runs the mill, as well as an irritable but attractive stranger. When she proceeds to the house more revelations occur as she encounters the fragile Felicity and the demanding widowed Lady Dalmain living in a freezing house stuffed with antiques. Philip, the son of the house, is elusive on the actual running of the business, and secrets soon emerge that explain some of the problems. When Jenny explores matters further, she discovers that only radical action can save the business, the family home and much more. Can she save everything as life gets more complicated?
This book has several set pieces such as a challenging dinner party, trip to London and even a visit to a highland games. The weather plays a part in Jenny’s project, and the terrain proves almost as challenging as the freezing house, the lively dogs, and the slightly dysfunctional family. The business plan that Jenny comes up with is far from logical, but owes much to the locality and people that she encounters. Not always the most realistic of tales, this is an appealing story with plenty of local colour and enormous entertainment value. Jenny is a successful character in many ways, Lady Dalmain truly terrifying in her imperious manner, and others work well in their allocated roles. This is a light read with much to recommend it, slightly dated but also very funny. Set in the winter, this is not a seasonal read but rather has many elements of the local weather, landscape and community to enliven it. This is a light read and a very entertaining one.
At the moment it is tricky to concentrate on any one book, or even one type of book. My husband is therefore having to move piles of books around as I pick up and then put down some fairly weighty books, but at least he has managed to shelve some fiction today. How is everyone else coping with more reading time but some lack of concentration?