by Kate Fforde
This was a book that I almost really liked…
20’something Flora Stanza unexpectedly inherits 51% of a family business – an antique auction house in the country. Although Flora knows nothing about antiques or country living, she decides to take the plunge. Her cousin, Charles, who owns the other 49%, has been managing the business for several years with the assistance of his fiancee, Annabelle. Flora thinks she has never met a stuffier couple, but because her cat is having kittens she can’t go back (??? the whole kitten thing seemed weak to me. The fact that she had sublet her London flat made a much more believable reason for sticking around, but that was glossed over in favor of the fact that the cat had just had kittens…), so she ends up taking up residence in a very isolated cottage owned by Annabelle.
This was really, really close to be a super-fun fluff book. I actually liked Flora (despite her obsession with clothes), and many of secondary characters were a lot of fun. The dialogue was engaging, and the story moved right along. But for me, there wasn’t very clear character development, and that frustrated me.
SPOILERS BELOW BUT NOT REALLY BECAUSE IT’S A SERIOUS CHICK FLICK AND YOU WILL FIGURE THIS ALL OUT WITHIN THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS OF THE BOOK ANYWAY –
It’s pretty obvious that Flora ends up falling in love with Charles, although she doesn’t realize it herself at first. She and Charles are distant cousins, so it’s cool, but she keeps calling him her cousin, and everyone calls him her cousin, so it feels super strange that she’s going to end up with him. Even though Charles and Annabelle aren’t actually married yet, and they come to realize that their engagement was really just a habit, not because they were ever in love, I still don’t like the way that it unwinds – it feels really awkward (to my old-fashioned sensibilities, anyway) that Charles is living with/presumably sleeping with Annabelle even though he has fallen madly in love with Flora.
Annabelle is her own enigma. It’s as though Fforde couldn’t decide what she should be like. Literally, I had no idea what Annabelle was going to say/do next, and not in a good way. There was no consistency to her character, and I never did figure out if I was supposed to like her, hate her, be indifferent towards her… she would be super possessive of Charles at one moment, and then not at all the next. She cheats on him like crazy with the crazy hippy dude, William (more on him in a minute), but tells Flora to stay away from Charles. Literally, in one chapter she confronts Flora and tells Flora how Annabelle’s dad is the one who loaned Charles a bunch of money to help the business so Charles can’t be with Flora no matter what and then IN THE VERY NEXT CHAPTER Annabelle has eloped with William. How does that make sense AT ALL?? She spends the whole book being super snooty, and Flora goes on and on (in her mind) about how Annabelle and Charles won’t suit, and it’s partially because Annabelle is such a spoiled rich girl, but in the end Annabelle purposely throws her lot with a hippy who lives in a trailer and makes most of his meals by harvesting wild food in the woods? Annabelle gave me whiplash the entire book and made it hard for me to get into the groove of the story overall.
William – okay, so Flora is living way out in the middle of NOWHERE and she wakes up one morning and there is a STRANGE MAN IN HER HOUSE and because she doesn’t get “creepy” vibes off of him, she just goes with it? Because he makes her coffee? W H A T ?!?! And William continues to live with her off and on throughout the summer because he spends lots of time living in the woods and he’s a total hippy but his character is just super strange and a little too random to fit into the story. Flora’s immediate acceptance of him and the way he just lives there whenever and she’s cool with it and it’s okay because they aren’t attracted to each other so it’s all good … it was just weird.
And then there’s Henry. He’s the guy Flora is SUPPOSED to fall in love with. He’s young and good looking and super flirtatious. He’s also divorced because he cheated on his wife. Everyone warns Flora away from him, but she keeps dating him anyway even though she doesn’t really like him. Henry’s character was basically whatever it needed to be to make the story move along; his character was SO flat and dull and completely pointless.
And then one of the things I liked about this book was how there weren’t any sex scenes. A little smooching, a little innuendo, that’s fine, but I don’t need all the details, you know? And then, WHAM right at the end, she sneaks it in. Super disappointing and, to me, completely unnecessary. For me, a happy wedding is a way more satisfying conclusion to a love story than a shag scene. And even though Flora and Charles are planning to get married (eventually), it’s just not the same. It lacked the real commitment – after all, Charles has been engaged to Annabelle for years, and didn’t end up marrying HER. I’m not convinced that they’re really in it to win it.
So, in conclusion, this book was a combination of flat characters and morals too modern for me to really enjoy it. A fine read, fluff, a lot of funny dialogue, but not one I’m going to add to my personal library. 2/5.