Evie is heading away for a summer holiday in Devon with her husband and three children. They are sharing a big country house with two other families – her closest friend, the gorgeous Shen who is married to a wealthy older man called Clive, and another school mother, Paula, who worries far too much and appears to have a distant relationship with Jon. Evie needs to come clean to husband Mike about an important life decision but it seems she’s not the only one keeping secrets. And with teenage hormones on the rampage and adult inhibitions set loose, they are all set for a drama-filled holiday. This is an amusing story with endearing characters and plenty of plot complications to keep you turning the pages. Pack it for your own summer getaway.
Marie Dunwoody's children have signed her up to make a cake for the school fete. But not just any cake, the show-stopper! And they've just informed her ... on the day of the fete. This might not be so bad if she was Lucy Gray, Stepford wife, model mother and resident Nigella, but Marie's idea of cooking is something mass-produced and ready-made. Her store-bought fondant fancies are definitely a show-stopper, but for all the wrong reasons and once again Lucy Gray is on hand to show her up. So Marie vows to learn to bake and she turns to the authority on the subject - English TV chef Mary Berry. From Victoria sponge to croquembouche, Marie follows Mary's wisdom culminating in another attempt at the show-stopper a year later. The writing in this novel is effortless and enjoyable. The author has both a natural humour and an ability to draw a wide array of different characters convincingly. Although the story centres on Marie, we also see and hear from her twin daughters and their older brother Angus as they cope with their own issues outside of Marie's remit as well as husband Robert. I must admit I did get a bit frustrated with Marie for abandoning her family at times to bake, and her complete ignorance of Angus' lot and the subplot with the twins only reinforced this. But it was refreshing to see a family that stuck together, that didn't fall out and implode at the first sign of change and a husband who supported his wife unerringly. For me, the resolution of Marie and Lucy's relationship felt too premature, Robert's baking too superfluous and the subplot with a rival dentist too contrived but the plot is held together wonderfully by the changing tides of family life, friends and work across the year. This book is bursting with warmth and joy and is a pleasurable way to spend a few hours ... perhaps with a cake (or two!) on hand. (JC)