British author Mansell (Three Amazing Things About You, 2015, etc.) continues her franchise of pastel-covered books featuring the romantic lives of lovable characters in picturesque English locales.
On Lily Harper’s 25th birthday, she opens a letter from her deceased mother, as she has done ever since her mother’s death when she was a little girl. In this letter, her mother reveals the identity of her first love, Declan Madison, the one that got away. Lily decides to contact him and invite him to visit Stanton Langley, the village in the Cotswolds where she runs an architectural salvage business with her guardian and mother’s best friend, Coral. Outside of work, Lily’s active social life involves childhood friends Patsy and Dan Rafferty. Patsy, a hairdresser, has been braving the online dating scene since divorcing her gay husband, and Dan, a pilot, has had a string of beautiful girlfriends, none of whom have been Lily, much to her disappointment. Lily’s pleasant but ordinary life takes a turn, however, when she meets Eddie Tessler, a charming movie star hiding in Stanton Langley from a show-business scandal. Eddie fancies Lily, which is unbelievable to Lily and an unpleasant surprise to Dan. Though the characters are likable enough and the village of Stanton Langley is vivid and enchanting, there are few surprises in this mostly uninspired novel. The various storylines are either predictable or suspended before any real trouble can brew. Mansell’s fans might be disappointed to find some of her signature wit lacking in the clunky writing and insipid dialogue. Yet, despite its shortcomings, this novel continues to deliver an appealing brand: uncomplicated stories of ordinary lives taking extraordinary romantic turns in British settings. It can be enjoyed on a rainy afternoon with a pot of tea and some scones.
A painless read but with few rewards.