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on 7 January 2012
Erica James' books hit my bookshelf very soon after they hit the ones in the bookshops. I've found that her books fall into two categories - "absolutely brilliant" and "enjoyable". Katie Lavender falls into the latter category.

Within the first page or two, it was predictable what the big "secret" would be, and unfortunately it played out exactly as you might have predicted. The first couple of chapters move a little slowly through this predictability.

The book really picks up when we are introduced to the Nightingales. At first look, I thought the names were meant to be a joke - Stirling Nightingale, Scarlet and Rosco just seemed way too unrealistic. It was a bit of a shock to realise that they weren't a joke. They certainly convey an image of an upper class family.

At this point I began to get interested in the book and the storyline. As others have mentioned, there are quite a lot of equally important characters, and I found myself more interested in the lesser ones. Katie was a little annoying, and Stirling provoked mixed reactions. For someone so intuitive and sensitive, he was remarkably dumb about how much he pampered and spoiled his wife and kids. Lloyd, Pen and Cecily are the best characters, followed by Stirling's brother, Neil, and his mistress.

The ending of the book is nice and happy, but again, it happens just as you expect.

If this is the first Erica James book you have read, please go back and read one of the older ones - "The Queen of New Beginnings", "Paradise House", "Precious Time" (my favourite). If you like Katie Lavender, you will love Erica's older books even more.
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on 16 July 2012
I enjoyed this book, it wasn't taxing just an easy to read family saga. An interesting look at complicated family relationships. I read some of the other reviews about this not being up to her usual standard and Erica changing style. I think her style as changed, but I feel that is only natural and right, she has been writing for several years and as with all of us, as you get older you experience diffrent things and your place in life changes. I think therefore it is only natural that is reflected in an author's fiction. I look forward to her next book.
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Katie Lavender suddenly finds her life turned upside down when she loses her job and finds out something shocking about her parents who are both dead. She finds herself involved with the charismatic and complicated Nightingale family just in the middle of a family crisis. Can Katie find out who she really is and what she wants to do with her life in the future?

I did enjoy reading this book though the Nightingale family are something of an acquired taste in my opinion and the book is mainly about them – even more than it is about Katie Lavender. I liked the background to the story – large houses and beautiful gardens where money was really no object. Some of the characters were less than inspiring and if this had been a murder mystery I would happily have murdered them myself!

I thought Stirling Nightingale was probably the most three dimensional character in the book and someone who appeared able to examine his own mistakes and realise where he had gone wrong. His wife, Gina, was a two dimensional harpy and her son Rosco was very much a yuppy who started off caring for no one.

Katie Lavender herself was all right as a character but I found her a little wishy washy. In spite of all these criticisms I did enjoy the book and it did keep me reading probably because of the story line and the background though I thought Cecily and Pen were excellent older characters. I’m sure Erica James’ many fans will love this.
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VINE VOICEon 14 November 2011
I'm not going to give a synopis because the previous reviewer has already done so, perhaps in too much detail.
I enjoyed this book, it was not really what I expected, if I expected anything, and was indeed better for that.

It shows the cracks in an extended family when a series of crisis hit them. From the outside the Nightingales seem the perfect family. Stirling, the father, well-heeled, with his own successful business that he is in partnership with his brother. Gina, Stirlings wife, beautiful, sophisticated, if somewhat cold, the perfect upper class hostess and wife. Rosco and Scarlet, their somewhat spoilt and over-indulged children. Cecily, Stirling's mother, the matriach, who unfortunately allows the family to see that she has decided favourites amongst them. Neil, the brother and buiness partner and Pen his wife who loves her beautiful garden and spends time there, perhaps at the expense of everything else. Lloyd, their son, who makes bespoke garden furniture.

However, the perfect picture of Stirling's family falls apart under crisis and shows how disfunctional it really is.
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on 15 May 2013
Usually I really enjoy books by Erica James, but not this one. I took it out of the library and kept renewing it in the fond belief I'd get round to reading the rest of it, but it just wasn't worth the time of effort.

I didn't care about any of the characters, nor did they ring true.
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on 31 July 2014
I usually find this author's novels the perfect escape and intersperse them with more involving reads now and then. I found this a little tedious to be truthful and was a wee bit disappointed. It was a nice story, one to read on and off when you have a spare few minutes but I felt it too long with little changes within the story to hold a readers interest. By half way through I was having to force myself to carry on and that for me is not a good sign. Not one I would recommend which is a shame as some of this author's books, especially the ones involving Lake Como where she lives are wonderful. I hate writing reviews such as this but this one wasn't for me, sadly.
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on 12 January 2014
Erica James is an author I have been a long time fan of, since 1996 in fact when I read A Breath of Fresh Air. The Real Katie Lavender makes the thirteenth novel of hers that I have read. After having not read any of her books for a few years this is the second in the last few months, great escapism just what I have needed recently. Her novels might not be literary but they are always well constructed, this latest one is no exception, with lots of secrets revealed.

The biggest secret of all is revealed to the heroine of the title Katie Lavender by a solicitor a year after the death of her mother. It is not a spoiler to tell you about this big secret as the reader knows all about it from the start of the novel. Katie is the recipient of a large trust fund that has been built for her by her birth father, a great shock to her that the man she called Dad was not her biological father but a man named Stirling Nightingale. Curiosity gets the better of her and despite her initial reactions to this news she decides she wants to find out more about this man. Her clandestine enquiries lead her to discover that she is part of what from the outsider's view point appears to be a very successful and happy family with a perfect lifestyle! In fact the family turns out to be plagued with problems, some of the characters are very stereotyped and you find yourself sympathising with some and irritated beyond belief by others. Katie becomes embroiled in the life of the Nightingale's and their complicated family relationships as they all seem to lurch from one family crisis to another. A good mix of romance, drama and humour that will keep you reading to find out how all will be resolved.

In conclusion then if you are looking for contemporary fiction that is pure escapism then Erica James will satisfy your requirements.
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on 28 August 2012
The negatives;

The scenes cut off at horrible times, just when we were led and needed to be given a dramatic scene it just cut off like the author couldn't be bothered or didn't see it's importance in the story and it irritated me that when they were brought back, if they were at all, it was done so carelessly and because the moments were long gone they didn't have any impact, only relief that I hadn't been left completely in the dark and that some of the needed information was given, I hated this writing style.

Also, it was supposed to be about Katie Lavender but everyone else in the family had shared the spotlight equally with her, the only thing that you could say that story was about her was that it was her family and it was her impact that changed things for her family so dramatically, that at least it revolved around her and the story began and ended with her but as I said before, apart from that she had shared the spotlight, you would have expected to see things much more from her point of view and so in not having that made her somewhat strangely insignificant as the supposed protagonist.

On the plus side, we got to really see the whole family's true colours, we didn't just see Katie's clouded vision of the characters, this way we got more depth which was great. The characters were very human and questioned your morals, which again ok sometimes you can't help but think how awful and outrageous some were, but we are reminded they are only human and people make mistakes, plus there are those characters who are completely the opposite and amazingly reasonable, forgiving, wise and held everything together and stopped the other more unstable volatile characters from falling apart, this really is a family at its worst and it's finest, a fantastic read.
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on 11 March 2014
This was not really what I expected - and although this is not my favourite genre - I have enjoyed Erica James novels in the past. I found it a little tedious and predictable. The bulk of the book is spent circumnavigating the disparate lives of the interwoven families as they lurch from one sordid affair or crisis to another. Then after a long drive and a cup of tea ... all is resolved and they all live happily ever after.
Not a very challenging read. Would I recommend to friends - probably not.
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Really enjoyed this book. It held me captivated right to the end. Had great trouble putting it down. Yet again Erica James ha not disappointed me, I just wish she could write quicker!
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