At the center of Struth’s (Sweet Life, 2017, etc.) second Sweet Life novel is Willow Armstrong, a woman at a crossroad.
Willow is the founder of the Pound Busters weight-loss franchise (think of a more militant Weight Watchers). Her husband has ditched her, and her longtime business adviser has embezzled her personal and company funds, and she falls off the dietary wagon. The “queen of weight loss” gets caught on camera shoving a slice of pizza into her mouth, and her place at the company she founded is in jeopardy. Salvation beckons when Willow goes through an envelope of her late mother’s things and discovers she has inherited a house in England’s Cotswold region. She travels there to escape her scandal, fix up and sell her ancestral home, and get back on her financial feet. Struth cleverly underscores the point that life is what happens while you’re busy making plans. Willow is soon adopted by Owen Hughes, the caretaker of her new property; his young daughter, Jilly; and their dog, Henry, who live in a cottage on the grounds. Naturally she falls for Owen, and soon the people and places of the Cotswolds have Willow questioning all that she formerly found important. Struth has created a likably human protagonist. She was the chubby girl denigrated by her ex-model mom and stepfather who found her own well-received method to reach the societal standard of beauty. But Struth shows how, despite fame and fortune, the old insecurities lingered: “Deep inside of her, though, lurked the same person. The one who let dark demons in the pantry lure her to comfort.” Through her leisurely narrative pace, Struth allows the people and places of rural England to work their magic on the uptight Willow.
Another impressive entry in this series featuring strong women in transition.