When Josh Strachan, newly returned to his home in north Cornwall from sunny California, first meets Sophie Wells, he’s immediately smitten. Sophie’s pretty, she’s funny, she has lots of friends and she clearly loves her job as a photographer, despite the sometimes tricky clients. There’s just one problem: Sophie has very firmly turned her back on love. It’s nothing personal, she tells Josh, but she just doesn’t do dates. And no one – even Sophie’s scatty best friend Tula – will tell him why. Josh is sure Sophie likes him, though, and he’s just got to find out what’s put her off romance. And then put things right…
The last time I reviewed one of Jill Mansell’s books – Don’t Want To Miss A Thing – I told you all a very long shaggy dog story all about how I lost my love of reading, but Jill Mansell cured me. I won’t go through all that again, but I just wanted to say what a truly perfect writer she is. The blurb makes this book sound very ordinary – but this really is an extraordinary book, and I absolutely loved it.
The central character is, I guess, Sophie – working as a photographer in St Carys, interested only in work and certainly not looking for romance after a traumatic experience that put her off men for life. That’s particularly bad news for Josh – he’s just returned to St Carys to manage a hotel with his grandmother Dot, turning his back on the high life managing a boy band in LA. Then there’s Sophie’s friend Tula – very much a good time girl and immediately targeted by love-them-and-leave them Riley, but she doesn’t want to become just another notch on his bedpost.
But for me the real joy of this book lay in the supporting characters – lovely Dot and her French admirer, and her ex-husband Lawrence targeted by larger than life writer Marguerite (a magnificent creation…) but still in love with his ex-wife. They were all wonderfully drawn – it’s quite unusual to come across such an engrossing story line involving older characters, and this older reader really appreciated it.
This book was quite wonderful, a read equally perfect for a drab winter’s afternoon or an afternoon in the sun – there are episodes and incidents throughout that will always stay with me (I absolutely adored one photography session with a lady on the beach in the rain… brought a tear to my eye). The way in which the various stories played out – with all their twists and turns, laughs and real sadness – against the vividly drawn Cornish setting made for quite engrossing reading. And I just love Jill Mansell’s writing style – you find yourself so comfortably swept along by the story, it just envelops and cuddles you to the very last page. This is the sort of book that the expression “feel-good” was made for – I loved it.
P.S. You’ll love the dog too…
The Unpredictable Consequences of Love is Jill Mansell’s twenty-fifth novel, and was published by Headline on 30 January. The paperback edition will be published on 19 June. My thanks to netgalley and the publishers for my advance reading e-copy.
Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol, and writes full time. Actually that’s not true; she watches TV, eats fruit gums, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the internet Tweeting and marvelling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she’s completely run out of displacement activities does she actually write.