An aging yet charming B&B attracts guests with similar qualities in this follow-up to The Ex-Wives (1993).
When Buffy, a retired actor, leaves London to embark on a second career after inheriting the dilapidated Myrtle House in rural Wales, his optimism is endearing. Inspired by conversations with lonely visitors, Buffy decides to offer “courses for divorces,” from cooking to auto maintenance, to fill more beds. The courses never quite take off, but the guests pick up other life skills at the newly dubbed Heartbreak Hotel. Postman Andy gets his chance to be a hero after leaving his brave but patronizing ex-girlfriend. Amy, a makeup artist whose boyfriend left her for another woman, coaxes her handsome instructor away from his clingy mother. Buffy’s love life is so complicated that there's a character guide in the front of the book for keeping track of all his ex-wives and their adult children. Harold, a writer who mines the fictional small town for story material after staying at the inn, admits, “There were just too many characters jostling for space.” But the details are hyper-real enough to be memorable—the breakups are sad, the backsides are saggy, and no one looks good for their age—without being bleak. Most touching is the fact that Buffy, who reminisces about his exes as fondly as he does his acting roles, has never given up on love: “There’s a lot to be said for it. The deep peace of the marriage bed, tra-la, after the hurly-burly of the chaise longue.” It’s hard not to love a rusty lothario who paraphrases Shakespeare in the face of loneliness.
The theme of love at any age is well-worn territory; here, it’s worn in all the right places.