This British cupcake of a novel throws a wholesome nanny into the terrifying world of Hollywood agents, actors and hastily adopted African babies.
Holden, author of a number of light farces (The School for Husbands, 2007, etc.), assembles a large cast of, if not quite characters, at least punch lines, that gather in a slapstick climax under the Tuscan sun. Hollywood agent Mitch Masterson has convinced client Darcy Prince, scion of a venerable British acting family, to audition for Jack Saint’s latest sci-fi epic Galaxia. While Darcy’s star is on the rise, his other A-lister Belle Murphy, likened to a stick figure with balloons, is spiraling out of control. Teetering on stilettos with a growling Chihuahua tucked under her arm, Belle has been sent to London to revive her career by doing Shakespeare (and for good measure she’s adopted an African baby she’s named Morning). Enter Emma, a lovely, responsible young nanny—who has just been sacked from her last post when the scheming aristo-nanny Totty de Belvedere sneaks cocaine into Emma’s bag—whom Belle hires to do…absolutely everything. As plots would have it, everyone ends up in the Tuscan countryside—Darcy, Belle and gold-chained heartthrob Christian Harlow, to film Galaxia; Emma to care for Morning; Totty in care of the children she usurped from Emma; a paparazzi fed up with celebrities; and the Fitzmaurice family: father, an MP with a strangely randy constituency, mother, a batty social climber, and young son Orlando, who has had significant flirtations with Emma. Sex is on many a mind, but Darcy, the world’s only carb-consuming actress, would prefer a leisurely meal at hunky Marco’s hilltop restaurant, where the cheese is fresh, the bread crunchy and olive oil is drizzled over everything. She’s beginning to think the simple life of food and love is just what she’s after. In a smash-up finale of epic complications, all is happily resolved.
If Holden’s novel lacks a bit of depth, it is redeemed by the contagious pleasure had in skewering Hollywood hotties and coke-snorting aristocrats.