Veteran chronicler of the travails of the British house-and-garden set (Life Skills, 1999, etc.), Fforde now wryly details the often-incendiary relationship between a young woman who runs an upscale market garden and her former husband, now a celebrity chef.
While delivering the usual order of salad greens, herbs, and exotic vegetables for the restaurant at nearby Grantly House, Perdita Dylan is appalled to discover that her former husband, Lucas Gillespie, is suddenly the chef-in-residence. She’s spent nearly a decade trying to get over the heartbreak she suffered when Lucas, then an aspiring stockbroker in London, left her for an older woman. Now, living in a rundown but picturesque cottage and raising vegetables on land behind the house of Kitty Anson, the 80-something wealthy woman who looked after her while her parents—in the diplomatic service—were abroad, she’s thought she was over Lucas. Married at 18, she had been too young perhaps, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling angry now as she finds herself having to see him again. Even if it’s initially just for business, Lucas is soon back in her life as he befriends Kitty and involves Perdita in a TV cooking show that will feature them both. Sparks fly every time they meet, but Perdita is also still sexually attracted to him. She pretends to have a boyfriend, a ruse unmasked when Kitty suffers a succession of strokes and Perdita has to see even more of Lucas, since he insists on helping her out as she struggles to nurse Kitty and keep her business running. When Roger, a designing nephew of the now-dying Kitty, arrives all set to claim his inheritance, Perdita fears she will have to give up her business, since most of her land belonged to Kitty. But good things are ahead this time round.
One of those beguiling stories that charm and engage with wit and sparkling prose rather than depending only on an energetically churning plot.