Another one from the pile of books Mary had prepared for me to take home when I went visiting her in Yorkshire last month, "Head Over Heels" by Jill Mansell would not have been my personal choice, had I seen it in a shop or at the library.
A sex-crazed village, that's what Upper Sisley is! At first glance, your typical Cotswolds village, complete with Big House, village green with duck pond and bench, cottage-lined high street, Old Vicarage and pub. Your typical cast of village characters: nosy and self-righteous Eleanor, mysterious "spinster" next door keeping to herself, pub barmaid who does more for the men than just pull pints, single mother who still hankers after the love of her life 20 years on, three young vets sharing a house and unkempt garden, perfect couple who leave their little daughter in the care of a childminder so that they can pursue their careers, said childminder whose husband works in Dubai and has not been home in weeks, and the newcomers who have just moved in at the Big House: a famous actor, his too-good-to-be-true wife and two teenage children.
As the stage is set and the curtain rises, a merry-go-round of affairs starts; all in all, three marriages come to an end, at least two new ones are in store, and when the characters are not having sex, they are talking or thinking about it. Secrets are spilled, fatherhoods revealed, anonymous letters are written, and while it is all quite entertaining, the main plot is a bit too predictable.
Can you tell this was not quite my kind of book? Yes, entertaining, as I said, but not gripping; again, I did not find myself caring much about any of the characters. I found my suspicions confirmed too many times, and did not find the "witty" bits witty; in fact, I do get rather annoyed when an author seems to think the (female) characters have to be drinking all the time in order to have some "fun", and then wake up the next morning, trying to remember what was going on and whether they still want to see the bloke in question.
Read it, if you like this kind of story; maybe I am unfairly judging this book because I wasn't in the right mood for "a jaunty summer read" and "frothy fun" (acclaim for Jill Mansell's novels, taken from the back of the cover). It certainly did not make me "come away feeling strong, powerful - and all woman", as another acclaim reads.