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Not such a perfect read
on 4 May 2011
This is the first of Katie Fforde's books I have read, and I did so because I had read good reviews of her writing in general. I think this must have been the wrong book to start off with.
One expects this sort of book to be formulaic - heroine meets hero, misunderstandings happen, the pair eventually get together. But one also hopes for a strong read along the way. Sadly, this book is just that bit too formulaic and the characters failed to appeal as they should. Sophie is the younger daughter of academically, if not financially, successful parents, and the one child who has failed to meet her parent's expectations. Their attitude to her is almost Victorian in their failure to empathise with and continuous belittling of her own ambitions, and she has reached the age of 22 without apparently having stood up for herself at all. She has spent her entire life being nice. So nice that she has always let herself be walked over. It is pure chance that in once more doing as the family demands of her and going to look after her "Evil Uncle Eric" (so named by the money grasping family as he has the backbone to turn down requests for cash) she finds a kindred spirit. Sophie then decides it is time to stage a small rebellion by visiting a friend in New York, where she can also investigate some oil drilling rights, the existence of which she has unearthed in clearing up Uncle Eric's papers (hating as she does to have idle time on her hands). By this stage I was seriously frustrated by the demonstration of just how nice/energetic/helpful she was - how could such a person be such a failure in life that she scrapes by on waitressing and child-minding jobs that never last long?
So to New York, where Sophie helps an old lady who instantly befriends her, to the chagrin of her handsome, rich but ill-tempered grandson - and we know just where the story is heading, even if (perhaps especially as) Luke at once suspects her of being out for what she can get from Matilda, his grandmother. A Thanksgiving visit to Matilda's Connecticut mansion follows, with Sophie helping out poor Luke, who is unable to escape the attention of all the local single women on his own. For a strong, handsome hero this seems a little pathetic. Then Sophie's American trip comes to an end, with Matilda asking her to track down a house she knew as a child (Matilda having been born in England).
But of course Luke has to visit England, where he needs Sophie's help because he has had his money and phone stolen on the plane over (on a plane? Didn't he notice at the time? Hasn't he got a limited list of suspects the police can chase up? But never mind, that angle is ignored). Sophie of course uses her meagre funds to subsidise him and the two pursue old houses and drilling rights until the misunderstanding comes, courtesy of Luke's glamorous colleague who of course lusts after him and could surely have bailed him out as soon as he set foot on English soil. The ending can always be predicted a mile off and that is only to be expected in a book of this genre; the details are the thing. Unfortunately I found myself almost screaming at Luke not to be so pathetic and at Sophie for once again letting herself be walked over. Perhaps I shall give Katie Fforde the benefit of the doubt and read one of her earlier books that fans recommend, but this is not one I could suggest to anyone who asked me for an honest opinion.