Anyway, I seem to be back reading normally again, albeit light, easy reads. But that's fine, sometimes that's all you want and there's nothing at all wrong with that. in my opinion. So, I have two books to do quickish reviews of and the first of these is Wild Designs by Katie Fforde.
Althea is a primary school secretary, about to lose her job when two schools are merged. This is not good under most circumstances but Althea has three teenage children to feed and clothe, one of whom is a Buddhist. Her life is rather complicated. Her husband left her for a younger woman when the children were young and is now living in Hong Kong, but part of the house she lives in is his of course, so he feels he has the right to interfere in her life. Althea decides that maybe she can make a living at garden designing but more bad news comes when she's told that the empty house that houses the greenhouse she's been using illegally, has been sold. The new owner is the very attractive, Patrick Donahugh, an architect, who himself has a younger woman in tow. Althea asks him if she can continue using the greenhouse until she finds somewhere else, and he agress, but finding somewhere is not as easy as it sounds. Then Althea wins a prize of creating a wild garden at The Chelsea Flower show. She has no money and worse still Patrick's girlfriend wants her out of their garden so she can build a swimming pool. Could life get any more complicated? Well yes... her husband, Frederick, could come home from Hong Long hoping to patch things up with Althea...
Like all Katie Fforde books Wild Designs was great fun. Lots of humour, a very pacey plot, very readable. I loved the children... she had the reality of living with teenagers spot on and the Buddhist son was amusing. I loved too all the gardening details, Althea knew her plants and I enjoyed reading about plants I knew and some I didn't. The Chelsea Flower show details were interesting and huge fun. Althea's house too sounded delightful... an old Cotswold house... I could just imagine it to be honest. Is there a 'but'? Yes, I have to admit I did have a 'but'. It's not a terrible whinge... I just didn't care for all those predatory women in this story. I know they're around, in reality, but *so* many in one person's life? Gosh! Practically every woman in the story had her eye on Patrick, poor Althea didn't know where to turn for women throwing themselves at him. Also, certain things connected with Patrick and his younger girlfriend, Topaz, didn't sit well with me. Perhaps I'm old fashioned in that I like my romance books a bit more straightforward than this. But, as I said, I did enjoy the book, Katie Fforde doesn't write bad books, but this is not my favourite - that honour, so far, goes to Living Dangerously.
Book number two is Rattle His Bones by Carola Dunn, book eight in her Daisy Dalrymple series.
Daisy is taking her fiancé's daughter, Belinda, and her sister's son, Derek, to the Natural History museum in Kensington. She plans to let them explore while she gathers information for an article she's writing on the museum for an American magazine. She meets various curators and makes plans to go back with a idea to do a much more in depth article which she might be able to sell elsewhere. It's on one of these return visits that one of the currators is violently murdered with a flint weapon, and Daisy is almost a witness. Her fiancé, Alec, a Scotland Yard detective, is by now resigned to Daisy falling over dead bodies. And if not exactly happy about it, allows Daisy to continue with the interviews for her article and uses any relevent information to help with his enquiries. The big problem really is that there are so many suspects. Not just curators of the museum, but other staff and, weirdly, a dethroned German count wanting to get back a ruby the museum owns, but that he feels is his, so he can raise an army to throw the Russians out of his small country. It's a tangled web and even Daisy's bent for finding things out is put severely to the test.
Another hugely enjoyable instalment of Daisy Dalrymple's adventures with dead bodies. The Natural History museum is a huge presence in this, luckily I've been there so had no trouble picturing it. For those that haven't there are a couple of floor plans at the front of the book. It was fun reading about the competition between the various curators, how they want to pinch artifacts off each other, the petty jealousies. I wouldn't mind betting this is very realistic for museums in general. One thing I did have trouble with was remembering all their names, who was who and what they did, but that's probably my middle-aged brain failing me. Daisy was in fine form as always... talking to people she shouldn't be talking to, but getting things out of them that the police never could. I like the development of her private life, her efforts to form some kind of working relationship with her rather difficult, soon to be mother-in-law for instance, and the way her working life is progressing. I was pleased to read that Alec had no intention of stopping her working when they were married, as I'm certain that did happen back then. All in all another excellent instalment of this series. I have the next three books on my Kindle and look forward hugely to reading them.