I have a list of about half a dozen authors whose books I always buy. I do not wait for the paperback and I do not pester publishers for review copies - I just buy them. Katie Fforde is one of these authors and I look forward each year to her next book.
I have every single one of her titles, see picture below and if I am feeling fed up or miz, for whatever reason, I know if I sit down and read a Katie or two I will feel much better. It never fails. When I had the 'flu in January and was feeling a tad pissed off with everything, I retired to bed with a pile of them next to me and embarked on a re-read. OK I fell asleep after a while, but this was because I was relaxed, not because I was bored.
I came across Katie's book, The Rose Revived, by sheer chance in my local Waterstones. I liked the cover, picked it up, read a couple of pages and that was it. Bought it, loved it and have been a fan ever since. The first four books had simply gorgeous covers, paintings which caught my eye and which I thought were quite lovely. My favourite out of these early covers was Wild Designs - I would love to have a print of this picture as it is so sunny and vivid and would cheer anybody up, even on the darkest winter day.
But then the covers changed. I remember reading that sales increased when this new style came in and though I was really disappointed to see the familiar chicklitty pastels arriving, authors don't just write for the love of it, they have to sell their books and if a new cover achieves this, well that's that. But I do miss them.
No matter, the content is still terrific fun. Love stories are by their very nature formulaic. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, then a misunderstanding or a quarrel separates them, but in the end all is sorted out and they are reunited. Non-lovers of romantic fiction turn their noses up and sneer, but let them. There is nothing more comforting that a fail safe happy ending which happens in real life as well as in fiction. Yes, it does. Has not happened to me personally but when I spend a day with my daughter and her husband and my darling Florence and see how happy they are together, then I know that this is true. So ye of little faith, hence away and wallow in your misery.
What I like about Katie's heroines are that quite a few of them are of a 'certain age'. They have been married and divorced, have grown up children, or are not in the first flush of youth. Some of her later books have featured younger characters, but my favourites are those that feature older women. Well, they would be wouldn't they seeing as I have just celebrated a birthday which I gather is called a 'Medicare birthday' in the USA...........
I think my favourite out of all Katie's books is Stately Pursuits. Hetty, our heroine, finds her lover in bed with somebody else rushes off home to her mother, who being a wise woman (as are all mothers) arranged for her to take care of a crumbling house owned by her Great Uncle Samuel who is in hospital. Her mother feels she will be too busy to pine and that this will help her recover from her broken heart. The house is dilapidated and dirty and Hetty has to get it ready for the season when it is open to the public. Of course she gradually falls in love with the house and then the future owner turns up who has every intention of selling off the house as soon as he is able. Well, Hetty has other plans and there follows a love hate relationship with Connor:
"He was tall wide and crumpled. His rugged features were screwed into a combination of extreme fatigue, irascibility and irritation. He had the touch, roughened look of a man who could wear Shetland wool next to the skin and not itch"
"I promised Samuel not to seduce you" Hetty swallowed. He was leaning so close to her she could see a tiny thread caught into a loop in his lapel. She could see the movement of his breathing as he leaned on the cupboard. It seemed fast for someone who was so fit..."
You want to find out what happens next? Well, get your own copy and stop looking at mine.
Witty, warm, amusing and delightful and a variety of settings from a stately home to a barge to the Scottish Highlands to an antique show room to a house boat to New York, I love every single one.
I said at the start of this post that I always buy Katie's books and never try to blag a free copy so I can only say a big thank you to the lovely kind person at Random House who sent me her latest title, Recipe for Love. I arrived home today from my stay in London and there were a pile of parcels waiting for me and when I opened the first one, there it was. I have had a simply lovely time this week celebrating my birthday and this was the icing on the cake.
So thank you thank you thank you. I am saving this up for the weekend and am looking forward to reading every single word and I know I will love it.