I have long been a fan of Catherine Alliott. I don't remember exactly how I discovered her books but I do know that I have been reading them so long that I used to have to buy them online from overseas and have them shipped here. And they were and are the kind of delightful Brit chick lit that made the extra effort well worth it. Alliott's latest, A Rural Affair, is the same kind of entertainment that her previous books were and as such was a fun and frothy way for me to spend a day.
Poppy Schilling is a married mother of two and if her marriage isn't perfect and her husband is demanding and distant, well whose life is everything she's ever dreamed? But Poppy isn't one to walk away from her less than fulfilling life. She just fantasizes sometimes about Phil the paragon's untimely death. So when she finds two men at her door telling her that Phil has in fact been killed while out on one of his incessant cycles, crushed by a chunk of frozen pee that detached itself from the underside of an overhead jet, well, she is understandably gobsmacked and maybe just a little bit relieved.
Poppy mourns more for the loss of a father for her children than she does for her husband, despite the fact that Phil was never much of a father for their kids anyway. As Poppy is trying to adjust to her new life, she starts getting more involved in the life of her bucolic little village, mainly at the behest of her worried friends, joining the local church choir, helping start a book club, and going out with the local hunt (each of these to generally hilarious effect). But when her doorbell rings and the woman standing there tells her that she was Phil's long-time mistress, it causes her to examine everything she thought she knew about herself, her marriage, and Phil himself.
As a character, Poppy is kooky and often times off-balance. She is a complete klutz and gets herself into entertaining and giggle-worthy situations. The death of Phil and his stifling influence allows Poppy to spread her wings and be herself. As if she's not got enough on her own plate coming to terms with widowhood and the revelation of Phil's other life, she is a supportive and devoted friend and gets embroiled in her friends' complicated lives as well. Add to that a bit of a burgeoning crush on the solicitor handling Phil's will and you have the makings of a first-rate romantic comedy. The pacing is even and the pricking tension of what will happen with Phil's mistress contesting his will keeps the reader turning the pages as much as Poppy's embarrassing and crazy situations and the slight whiff of a potential romance do. Good fun all the way around and if the ending is a bit rushed and more than a little predictable, it is exactly the sort of ending the happy reader wants to see so it is entirely forgivable.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.