Somewhere in the mountains of Peru is an illiterate llama herder who has never heard of Charlotte Lamb, let alone read “Kingfisher Morning”, yet who has guessed THE TWIST more quickly than its heroine does.
THE TWIST is so obvious that I actually thought we had been told it early on. When we learn that the Old Bloke in the Big House is the children’s grandfather, I took it as read that he was Ross’s and his sister Judith’s father. But no – for some reason the heroine, and thus the reader, is supposed to come up with the tortuous logic that he must be Judith’s husband’s father.
Plot in summary: Emma is supposedly an artist (she never does any painting). She fancies her friend Guy. He falls for her flatmate Fanny at first sight. Emma flees to the country and crashes her car into Judith. She feel guilty and offers to look after Judith’s kids while Judith and Judith’s nanny are in hospital. Emma and the kids stay at Judith’s brother Ross’s house. Ross, a chauvinistic asshole, is the supposed hero.
This book is full of blondes. Literally everyone is blonde and absolutely gorgeous in this book, except the hero and heroine. It’s like the Hitlerjugend meets the Midwich Cuckoos:
- Guy – the heroine’s ex-boyfriend who is “tall, fair, energetic”with a “smile in his blue eyes, his curly fair hair and firm chin”
- Fanny -the heroine’s friend who is “tiny, delicate, her head a mass of soft golden curls. Her skin was a glowing peach colour, warmed by golden suns far away” – are you gagging yet? There’s more: “Tracy was rapt, staring with eyes wide with admiration at Fanny’s beautiful golden curls, her delicate heart-shaped face and enormous eyes. ‘You’re just like the fairy on our Christmas tree!'”
- Amanda – the “other woman” who is “exquisite… her pink-and-white complexion assisted by cunning artifice but nonetheless clearly based upon real beauty, her delicately moulded features framed between the smoothly brushed wings of silvery blonde hair”
- Edward – the hero’s business partner who is “the most strikingly handsome man she had ever set eyes on… six foot tall, as blond as his wife, with lean, bronzed features of film star good looks. His blue eyes were set between thick dark lashes. His nose, mouth, cheekbones all finely modelled.”
- Chloe – Edward’s wife, who along with her sons is “fair and round and friendly”
Whereas the heroine Emma is a dull brunette. So dull that the most encouraging thing anyone can say is that “a pretty primrose colour” suits her. So dull and plain that she has a “solid, reassuring look about her”. So dull and plain that when she jokes that Ross loves her for “her pretty face” he quickly counters with: “There are other things about you…” So dull and plain that we get this exchange:
He pretended to study her, his grey gaze thoughtful on her glowing pink cheeks, warm brown eyes and windblown hair. “The good fairy?” He shook his head. “You look more like Brown Owl.”
“Hoot hoot” offered Donna helpfully.
They all laughed.
You won’t laugh. I didn’t.
There’s an awful narrative running throughout this book about women being good mothers and housewives and giving up their careers after having a family. Emma herself, supposedly an artist with a commission to paint Hardy country, doesn’t pick up a paintbrush from start to finish.
Three other mysteries:
- Why is Judith in hospital for weeks on end with nothing more than a cracked rib? I know the NHS isn’t what it was, but seriously. This book is set in 1985, not 1935 when people spent six moths in a sanitarium for a bruised finger.
- Guy and Fanny have set a date for their wedding after knowing one another for about two weeks.
- We never hear of Judith’s nanny again. Did she die? Run away from this excruciatingly awful book?