After a few gruesome weeks of death and destruction and serial murders I have had a lovely romantic wallow over the last few days. First up, Country Plot by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Now I have read all of this author's Morland Saga, all the Bill Slider books, and other stand alone titles, but had not heard of this one until I came across it at the library so home it came.
On Lousy Monday Jenna loses her job, her boyfriend (found in bed with another woman) and her home. Heartbroken she seeks refuge with her family but is then persuaded to take a temporary post with an elderly cousin, Kitty Everest, helping to catalogue her books and her houseful of antiques and china. Eager to get away from everything and to try and forget her dastardly swine of a boyfriend, Jenna throws herself into village life and is horrified to discover that Kitty of whom she becomes very fond, may have to sell her lovely country house as she cannot afford its upkeep. Jenna is determined to see if she can come up with a scheme to raise money to save the house but has to contend with Kitty's godson, Xander, who disapproves of Jenna and does not trust her motives. He is encouraged in this by his super cool, icily splendid fiance, Caroline who loathes Jenna on sight.
Lots of machinations going on about planning, corrupt council officials, untrustworthy MPs (HAH!) and dastardly doings all make this a hugely satisfying and fun book to read. Throw in the fact that Xander is rather gorgeous and that he and Jenna dislike and infuriate each other and there you have the plot and am sure you can guess the ending.
Loved every moment of it and was thinking how Katie Ffordish is all was and as I adore Katie's books, this is a huge compliment. By a glorious moment of serendipidity the postman arrived just as I had finished reading Country Plot and he knocked on the door and handed over three parcels one of which contained, to my utter delight, the lastest Katie - A French Affair.
So down with one book, kettle on, cup of tea made and back to chair and started this one straight away. Gina and Sally Makepeace have inherited a stall in The French House, an antiques centre in the heart of the English countryside. Neither of them has any knowledge of antiques but Gina, the single sister who, yes you have guessed it, has just discovered her ghastly boyfriend in bed with another woman (they do do it don't they) and feeling heartbroken, decides to throw herself into this new venture and make it a success. When she discovers that the antique centre is rather old fashioned in its outlook and not doing very well, she is determined to try and drag it into the twenty first century. However, the owner Matthew Ballinger, is tall, dark, rumpled and less than happy with Gina and her ideas and disapproves of her generally.
So once again, we have a hero and heroine who do not like each other very much, a beautiful and scheming ex-wife into the bargain and the return of the errant boyfriend, and the scene is set for another hugely enjoyable story which I read through in two hours. I love Katie's books, you know what you are going to get, a feisty heroine who comes good and saves the day, an initially miserable and grumpy hero who you know are going to live happily ever after and I fall upon each one as they are published with cries of joy.
Third and final wallow - Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe. Now I know that everyone loves Mr Darcy, or rather Colin Firth in THAT shirt, but my most favourite hero in Jane Austen is Captain Wentworth. I just love him, he is steadfast and true and strikes me as the kind of bloke who could get a taxi in the rain, find a perfect table at a restaurant, never forget your birthday and be able to give you a foot rub, as well as being gorgeous and brilliant at writing stunning love letters.
Sophie Elliot comes to Bath to stay in the family townhouse. She also has an ex-boyfriend who she discovered in bed with another woman, this time one of her best friends. Yes I know you must be thinking by now that all these women are terrible pickers and yes you would be right, but as one who also had this happen to her, I tell you it comes as a shock that you could be so taken in. After the upset you feel a right idiot I can tell you.
Sophie is trying to write a book but not really getting on with it at all. She feels there is a presence in the house and catches glimpses of young girls in muslins in the mirror and hears giggles and laughter. The discovery of a mysterious glove which, when put on transports her back to the Bath of the time of Jane Austen, results in her meeting both Jane and Cassandra and also their brother, home from the sea on leave, Charles Austen. She finds herself falling in love with him while back in the modern world, she is immensely attracted to her neighbour Josh, totally gorgeous and sexy.
Sophie's favourite Jane is Persuasion as is mine so I felt sympathetic to her straight away and empathised with her longing to find her Captain Wentworth. Not giving anything away when I tell you that she does, that the past and present fuse together perfectly and all ends happily ever after.
I really loved this book and I can be a bit sniffy about books using Jane Austen characters and settings, but this is done in great style and is a delightful read. As soon as I finished reading this I pulled down my copy of Persuasion to read once again, the wonderful letter Captain Wentworth sent to Anne Eliot:
"'I can listen no longer in silence......you pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me that I am not too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it eight and a half years ago. Dare not say that a man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.............'
And just to finish off my day I have just watched the DVD of the last Jane Eyre with Michael Fassbender as Mr Rochester. Oh be still my beating heart that is all I can say. I am going to bed now with a cup of cocoa and a chocolate biscuit. I can take no more...