Saturday, 15 February 2020

Emma's Review: A Springtime Affair by Katie Fforde

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

It’s the season of new beginnings for Helena and Gilly.

Gilly runs her own B&B business from her much-loved family home, which she doesn’t want to part with – at any price.

But that's before she meets handsome estate agent Leo, and soon she begins to wonder whether selling up might not be such a bad idea after all.

Meanwhile Gilly's daughter Helena has a budding romance of her own. A talented weaver, she's becoming very close to her new landlord, Jago, who's offered to help her at an upcoming craft fair.

It’s what friends do, and they are just friends. Aren’t they?

With spring in full bloom, Helena and Gilly begin to ask themselves the same question:

Might their new loves lead to happily ever after?

Amazon Affiliate Links: Kindle or Hardcover

Many thanks to Random House UK via NetGalley for my copy of  A Springtime Affair to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

Katie Fforde is an author I always turn to if I want a read that will provide me with a nice storyline, likeable characters and a few moments of will they/won't they before we reach some sort of resolution, be it good or bad. That's exactly what I got from her new book A Springtime Affair. It's a book that can easily be read in one or two sittings as it is entertaining and flits between two women, mother and daughter, Gilly and Helena as they battle with what the romantic aspect of their lives is throwing at them. It's an uplifting, sweet read that has short snappy chapters with lots of splashes of romance thrown in and of course a few baddies to throw things ever so slightly off kilter. After all despite the lovely cover and the blurb suggesting plenty of budding romance it can't be all fun and games on the path to true love.

It was great to see a middle-aged woman as one of the main characters as I think I am going beyond the point of always wanting to read of very young women who seem totally clueless when it comes to the romance department and in general are just a bit silly. Gilly was a woman with life experiences, some good, some bad, and having been through a nasty divorce she is now safely out the other side and enjoying running her house as a B&B. Her two children Martin and Helena are now adults themselves and she feels that she has plenty of independence.

Gilly was a real homemaker and must have been a fantastic mother to her children as they were growing up as I could see she still carried those characteristics with her into later life and the running of her business. She was a talented cook and loved to keep everything in ship-shape order for her guests. So everything appears to be ticking along nicely for her, that is until she is called to Sunday dinner with Martin and his wife Cressida. Helena is also invited and they know that this is unusual and not something they look forward to as Cressida is a health freak and so strict and set in her ways right down to her daughter Ismene. Gilly wonders just what are the pair up to? Martin and Cressida were characters I never liked. Their ulterior motives although they make them out to Gilly as being advantageous for her were nothing of the sort, they wanted a nice cushy lifestyle and were using Gilly to get it.

Why should Gilly have to sell her beautiful home, the home she herself was reared in and also especially after she fought so hard in her divorce to keep it? All so Martin and Cressida can move to a bigger house and provide her with a granny annex and in turn they would have ready made babysitting on tap. I mean for goodness sake Gilly was only in her fifties and they practically had her dead and buried or consigned to a small area to suit their needs. I desperately hoped that Gilly wouldn't become a pushover for at times the way she acted, and the fact she took quite a long time to stand up for herself, suggested she might. I couldn't fathom how she just couldn't stand up for herself and simply say no - end of. I understand Martin was her flesh and blood but what he was expecting was unreasonable. You'd say something if Gilly was ill or just not able to cope on her own but she was thriving and only had even more room for improvements for herself and perhaps romance was first on the list. The fact she even considered the offer put to her was a complete and utter joke.

Then Leo arrives on the scene seemingly out of nowhere and oh what luck he was able to give her a valuation for her house and a pretty good one at that. Instantly it all just seemed so handy and so easy but I knew from the outset that Leo was a bit shady, shift and sneaky. I didn't like his forceful personality and I thought he was dominating Gilly. As she goes on several dates with him I thought she was rushing things big time and she just seemed totally enamoured with the first sign of male affection that had been shown to her in quite some time. Don't they say it's better to sit back and wait and see what could come along further down the line. Don't just jump at the first opportunity that presents itself. Maybe for Gilly there was something better out there for her and suffice to say another aspect of love, passion and kindness does present itself in a surprising way. But it's up to Gilly what choice she makes both in terms of her professional life and affairs of the heart.

Helena was a likeable enough character too and, similar to her mother, she faces a few issues when it comes to relationships. She is a weaver and works happily away in a barn she rents near the main farmhouse. But her six month warning as to the lease running out is up and now she must look for somewhere else to carry out her work. It was evident that Helena loved her craft and put so much time and interest in it and it was great to see a different and more unusual profession feature in a book and at this stage this is what Katie Fforde is known for. I enjoyed the scenes where Helena goes to trade shows to show her wares but initially I did think would things work out in terms of finding a new space?

As new landlord Jago, despite being kind and helpful, wasn't at first leaping to offer an alternative solution. Helena also likes keeping track of what is going on in her mother's life but in a good way. I didn't find her at all interfering or with ulterior motives as with Martin. She showed genuine compassion and concern for what was happening to Gilly and she didn't want her racing headlong into a decision that she may later come to regret. Likewise Gilly was a great support for Helena, always there with a word of praise or advice not to mention lots of supplies in terms of food, stews, crumbles and lots more delights. They were constantly being mentioned making me quite hungry whilst reading.

The Springtime Affair of the title was fairly obvious when it came to Gilly but it was like I had missed a chapter or two as things appeared fairly cemented and she was very much in someone's pocket before I even knew it. I had to go back and check had I actually skipped pages or was it just simply not mentioned? The element of confession of one's feelings and the dancing around each other never materialised or else as I said I totally bypassed it. It left me quite unsettled with my reading of the story for a number of chapters, then I just had to put it out of my head and accept it had happened and move on with the story. When Gilly feels she has to go and get to the bottom of something to find out is this love and relationship meant for her there was a little surprise thrown is as to why someone has been keeping secrets. I could totally understand the reasons why this person did this but the scenes set in Wales just seemed extra to requirements and the story would have worked perfectly well without them. As for the speed at what happens to both Gilly and Helena it came across as being unnecessarily fast but maybe that was just the way it came across in the writing.

A Springtime Affair was a very pleasant read and one which would be perfect if  you were looking for a quick, straightforward, uncomplicated story after reading perhaps a quite heavy book. It's not my favourite from Katie Fforde but I enjoy her books so I wouldn't have missed out on reading this one. There's lots of warmth, some humour and a little tension as to will they/won't they? It's perfect for anyone looking for something nice to curl up with for an afternoon.

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