Fforde (Restoring Grace, 2006, etc.) presents a chatty, feel-good romance filled with antiques and numerous cups of tea to get her gang of Brits through the tribulations of modern love.
Young, slightly flighty Flora Stanza has just inherited 51 percent of Stanza and Stanza, a country auction house. She sublets her London flat, packs up a few summer dresses and cages the very pregnant cat Imelda for a sojourn in the country. She’s not sure for how long, or for exactly what, but . . . why not? The stiff Charles, Flora’s very distant cousin, and his equally patrician fiancée, Annabelle, run the business, and they rudely tell Flora to head back to London. But our spunky heroine decides to stick around and learn the antiques trade (building on admittedly spotty knowledge gleaned from the telly), if for no other reason than to spite them. Kindly old Geoffrey, a porter at the company, takes Flora under his wing, and soon her London marketing savvy has multiplied the company’s revenues. She dines out with Henry, the town Lothario, and befriends the slightly odd William, a poet/painter/naked-tai-chi enthusiast who pops into her cottage from time to time to bake a quiche. Flora even smoothes things out with Annabelle, giving her a Trinny-and-Susannah–style makeover and arranging for William to paint her engagement portrait. Everything would be perfect but for the nagging uneasiness Flora feels when around Charles. All the signs are there: She’s in love! But what to do? Charles and Annabelle have been together forever, and the wedding is in just a few months. How can Flora stay with the company when Charles doesn’t reciprocate her love? It’s not exactly a surprise when things work out beautifully, but Fforde moves the plot along at breakneck speed, with enough charm to entertain the most discerning fans.