I would say this author is my 'guilty pleasure', except for the fact that I dislike the term. Why feel guilty about what you love to read? It smacks of book snobbishness and that's something I abhor. It's a bit of a feature, in fact, of one of the two books I've read by Katie Fforde this month: Love Letters.
Laura works in a bookshop. She has a degree and maybe should be doing something a bit more challenging but she adores her job and wouldn't change it for anything. Except that she will have to as the shop is closing. Good at organising literary events in the shop, Laura lands herself a temporary job organising a brand new literary festival. It's to take place in and around a stately home and the surrounding village; the couple who own the house are running the event. Laura inadvertantly leads people to believe that she knows the famous Irish writer, Dermot Flynn. She sets people straight, she knows his two books well, but not him. But people ignore this and send her off to Ireland to try to persuade the reclusive author, who never leaves Ireland, to come to their festival. When she eventually tracks him down Laura's nerves lead her to drink too much and she ends up in bed with the author, although the situation is much more complicated than that would indicate. One way or another Laura persuades the author to come to the festival but Laura is soon to discover that persuading Dermot to come is actually the easy part...
I wonder how much of her own experiences the author put into this book. By that I'm not referring to the romantic elements but all of the wonderful background settings. She must have had experience of literary festivals, how they're run, the authors who attend. There are two wonderful middle-aged chick-lit writers among the characters and they're just joyous. It struck me she must know what she's talking about when she observes these authors mingling with each other and records the snide remarks. There are comments on book snobbery... how literary authors look down on chick-lit writers because they actually 'sell' books. Anne and Veronica, the chick-lit authors, turn up in a Porshe, which says it all really. Plotwise the book was huge fun. A great deal of misunderstanding between Laura and Dermot made for all kinds of twists and turns and sometimes you just think, 'Why don't they just 'talk' to each other?' But heck... that wouldn't be any fun at all, would it? LOL. What else? Not much else to say other than the final chapters of this book were some of the funniest I've read anywhere. I giggled and giggled at Laura's rather staid parents' reaction to what happened... hilariously written, pure pleasure to read.
So, I enjoyed that one, but before it I'd actually read another, Living Dangerously, the very first book Katie Fforde wrote and if anything, I enjoyed that even more.
Polly Cameron is in her mid-thirties and living alone with her cat. She's trying to become established as a potter but is having to work in a wholefood cafe in order to pay the bills and eat. Her experiences with the opposite sex have led her to believe that the whole romance/sex thing is incredibly over-rated and it's not for her. Not that her mother and friends accept this and it's at a party given by an old school friend, Melissa, that Polly meets David. He's middle-aged, tall and very good looking but this is countered by the fact that he's a bit stuck-up quite frankly and Polly is not at all taken. David has two teenage sons, one of whom, Patrick, Polly helps out when he's clearly drunk and under the influence of drugs. This brings her further into contact with David and Polly can feel an attraction growing. A distraction is needed and Polly finds it with a predatory journalist. It's on an evening out at a pub with a bad reputation, with said journalist, that Polly once again encounters Patrick, once again under the influence. Coming to his rescue she drives the boy home but the car breaks down and they have to walk the rest of the way home. Drenched to the skin, David is there to greet them and clear up the mess: what happens as a consequence is life-changing for Polly.
Oh! this has to be my favourite of Katie Fforde's books. Not an unusual reaction from what I can gather from reading other reviews. I suspect the attraction is the rather Pride and Prejudice bent to the plot. David being the clear Mr. Darcy figure, the journalist, Mr Wickham, and so on. I suppose David's son, Patrick, is the Lydia figure with a role reversal in that it's Polly who comes to his rescue - although that connection is slightly more tenuous. It doesn't matter, not to me anyway, the book is huge fun and I loved it to bits. So much that although I read it on my Kindle I ordered a hard-copy to keep on my bookshelves. The story is very romantic, funny, and best of all the characters feel real. All of Fforde's heroines are normal women with insecurities, imperfections, often a bit scatty, very far from perfect examples of womanhood. I love that they're usually a bit older than your average heroine and I particularly liked that the hero in this was middle-aged. She doesn't exactly say but David had to be 50 or close and that makes such a refreshing change. How Katie Fforde makes reading about normal people so addictive, I have no idea. Clever writing is the only answer I can come up with. Long may she continue to come up with the goods but I'm okay as there are quite a few of hers I've yet to read. I'm off the library this afternoon and hoping to find several that I really fancy - Summer of Love, Wild Designs, Highland Fling and Paradise Fields. But anything at all will do!