Two nice Englishwomen recover from failed relationships, then begin good ones.
Droopy Grace and energetic Ellie meet when Ellie (a jobless ex-art student) passes by Grace’s lovely old Georgian home, Luckenham House, and offers to paint its portrait. Arranged around them are various not-so-nice characters: Ellie’s boyfriend, Rick, who wants her to bring to an end her recently discovered pregnancy; Grace’s husband, Edward, who has divorced her and taken all the furniture; Ellie’s heartless parents, who won’t give her a home when she leaves Rick; and Grace’s pushy sister, who is jealous that Grace inherited Luckenham House while she only got some paintings. Grace soon invites Ellie to move in, and also offers shelter to Edward’s troubled teenaged daughter Demi. Suitable men swiftly present themselves—stalwart Irish property-developer Flynn Cormack for Grace, and suave picture-restorer Randolph Frazier for Ellie, who turns up during the search for an advisor to help Grace evaluate two old painted panels recently found in the house. Selling the panels provides Grace with the funds to pay off the vast bills arising from the discovery of dry rot in her home. Fforde (Paradise Fields, 2004, etc.) blends interior design detail, traditional values and many cups of tea into a smooth and perky story, in which the romances and revelations are as clear as can be, although slow to come forth. Too much dithering on the part of Grace is resolved in a late-coming and unconvincing burst of decisiveness, but by the end, everyone has turned nice, helped along by a good dollop of money.
Boilerplate chick lit.