These two authors will have to forgive me reviewing you both in the same post, but my review pile really needs to be tackled and there are good reasons for reviewing these two books at the same time. Both Eleanor and Fanny tackle the perennial problem of finding true love, hence my linking them together..
I reviewed Fanny's first novel What Women Want here, and had the pleasure of meeting the author at the top of the Oxo Tower in London whence I, and several other bloggers, were being treated to a delicious Not Afternoon Tea (ie it was cocktails and desserts rather than Early Grey and cucumber sandwiches) by the publishers HarperCollins. I hasten to add that this largesse in no way affected my review....I loved her book straight away.
And here is her second, Women of a Dangerous Age, and, at the risk of sounding like a character from Miranda, this is What I Call Romance for mature ladies. Lou is off to India. Her marriage is an empty one and she wants to start a new life and a new business venture. It is in India, having her photograph taken on 'that bench' where Princess Di posed that she meets Ali. She feels frazzled and uncomfortable, in comparison 'Ali was taller than Lou, younger, trimmer (not hard) and more elegant than her too.....her oval face was framed by bobbed dark hair whose neat shiny finish gave away a small fortune spent on hairdressers and products'
Seemingly the polar opposite of each other they find a friendship forming. Lou confides in Ali about her marriage and, in turn, Ali tells her all about her latest boyfriend. Ali only dates married men, it is less messy and safer, but now her latest lover has offered marriage '...perhaps it's time to make a commitment to someone else'
Now experienced readers will already have sussed that this is not going to work out. The Lover will turn out to be a Cad, a Rat and a Bounder and Ali is heading for disaster. So it proves, BUT not in the way one anticipates. There is a real twist slap bang in the middle of Women of a Dangerous Age which I did not see coming and you can either view as sad or funny whichever you prefer. The fledgling friendship between Lou and Ali is in danger of foundering on the rock of this discovery, but as all sensible women will appreciate and cheer (this one did), No Man is going to get in the way of a good friendship.
They go into business together and gradually their entangled lives begin to sort themselves out but not without lots of self doubt along the way.
Fanny has been working in publishing for over twenty years and is currently Books Editor for Women and Home Magazine. She won't be offended, I know, when I say she is a mature lady and her maturity and understanding of human nature and all its daftness and foibles, comes through in this and in her previous book. As I feel I may be at the Dangerous Age described in this book (OK I am well beyond it, let's be honest), I loved every page and know you will too.
I hope No 3 is already being written.
Alice Brown's Lessons in the Curious Art of Dating by Eleanor Prescott had me curled up in an armchair all one afternoon reading this straight through. I am pretty sure that the reading demographic for this book does not include a twice divorced grandmother cynical and disbelieving that the Man of Her Dreams exists, so when I picked it up I was not expecting to be totally engaged from the first page - which I was.
Our Heroine is Alice Brown. She works for a dating agency, Table for Two, and despite her vague air and drab appearance, she is a romantic '.....she was forever staring out of a window...underneath the cardigans and the corduroy there was probably a decent figure....whatever her age Alice was too old for plaits'
Into this agency comes Kate with a list as long as your yard arm of all the attributes she expects in her perfect man. She is five years behind in her life plan and the knows what she wants but Alice soon realises she has set her standards too high and is being too demanding. Alice is determined to find her a true mate.
Alice's boss is Audrey, the boss from hell 'At fifty one years old and a bracing five foot ten, Audrey was what was kindly described as 'solid'. Her bosom was a large and heavily bolstered shelf. Sturdy underwear ensured it rarely, if ever, moved...' She is wildly jealous of her rival in the business, Love Birds, run by Sheryl Toogood whose awfulness is going to be hard to describe in this post without quoting the whole book and if I do that, then you may not buy it as I so want you to do.
Audrey has a devoted husband. John sends her flowers every day to the agency and is attentive and loving when Alice and her staff meet him at public functions. They seem to have the perfect marriage. Please note I said seem....
The lovely thing about this book is that there is not a character in it that the reader will not like. OK, well apart from Sheryl - each of them is portrayed and described in such warm terms, one feels that Eleanor had a soft spot for all of them (not going to mention Sheryl again) and I suspect she had a soft spot for Audrey, deep down. I know I did.
Lovely gorgeous read. This twice divorced grandmother has tried internet dating in the past and even for one mad moment did go to an agency like this, but sadly there was no Alice around to find me the Perfect Man and after a few disastrous dates decided to retire from the lists. All the men I met were laden with baggage and either self obsessed or incredibly boring and losers all. And before anybody accuses me of being too damning, I will say here and now that it did cross my mind when I went home after one of these evenings, that they might not find me so wonderful either....
This is a debut novel and I am already very much looking forward to her next. Simply delightful, warm, witty, engaging and full of happiness. What's not to love?