Everything is falling to pieces for Francesca Thayer. Her beautiful, old house is full of leaks and in need of total restoration. Then her relationship with lawyer Todd collapses and he moves out. As the owner of a struggling art gallery she can't possibly manage the mortgage alone, so she is forced to do the one thing she never imagined she would: she advertises for lodgers.
First arrives Eileen - a young, attractive schoolteacher. Then comes Chris, a newly-divorced father and graphic designer. Last to arrive is Marya - a famous cookery author who is hoping to rebuild her life after the death of her husband.
And so Francesca finds that her house has become a whole new world - and that her accidental tenants have become the most important people in her life. Over their year together, the house at 44 Charles Street fills with laughter, heartbreak and hope. And Francesca discovers that she might be able to open her heart again after all...
Over the years I have read all of Ms Steel's books so was glad to see that this was on offer as book of the week in Tesco so I didn't feel too bad at breaking my self-imposed book buying ban.
When her relationship with Todd breaks down she realises that she cannot afford to pay the mortgage on her own so she will have to advertise for lodgers. Her mother thinks she is asking for trouble and thinks she should simply sell up but Francesca is adamant that she wants to stay there... even if the house is falling apart around her.
She realises that by making some minor alterations to the layout of the house, she could take in 3 tenants who would each have their own living quarters and would only need to share the kitchen. As predicted by Todd and her mother she does get some enquiries from total misfits but she eventually rents out the rooms to Eileen, a teacher, Chris, a graphic designer, and Marya, a cook book author.
At first they all keep themselves to themselves but soon they become firm friends and over time they open up about their lives. It is soon apparent that Eileen has a penchant for bad-boys that puts her life in danger, that there is more to Chris' divorce than simply a marriage falling apart and wanting to protect his son Ian, and that Marya's friend Charles-Edouard wants to be more than just co-author on her next cookbook.
And as for the house, will a flooded kitchen finally force her to accept defeat and sell up her beloved home?
The characters were extremely likeable and I could emphasise with Francesca's concerns about the types of men Eileen was bringing back to the house having met them online. It was interesting to see the relationships building over time between them all and how they formed their own unique family unit wanting to look out for each other. I did find myself willing them to overcome their various issues, and have a happy ending, but of course in reality it doesn't work out like that in real-life.
I've found that I didn't really enjoy reading the last couple of her books but this one was a vast improvement although not as good as her earlier books. If you're after a nice easy read that you don't need to think about, then this one's perfect for you as I sped through it in no time at all on a dreary Sunday afternoon.