I picked up this book as a bit of a bargain a few weeks ago and it has been serving as my bath time reading since then as I only like to read my own books (rather than library books) for this purpose in case the book inadvertently takes a dunking. I almost always enjoy Sheila O'Flanagan books and this was no exception.
Ash makes her living as a freelance chef, which suits her perfectly as she prefers not to be tied down too much. This outlook extends to her love life and it's fair to say that she's not good with commitment thanks to things that happened in the past. Having drifted from relationship to relationship for most of her adult life, can she ever be persuaded to ditch the single life and settle down?
Dan works at a company for which Ash frequently does business lunches and the two regularly cross paths and become friends. He's besotted with the ambitious Cordelia and plans to marry her. He knows exactly how we wants his life to be and this makes Ash wonder whether her chosen path is the best one after all?
As is quite typical of Sheila O'Flanagan's work, the plot may appear paper thin but her strength is in the characterisation. Both Ash and Dan are likeable characters who I could take to immediately and while it's not the most thought-provoking of books, it's perfect for dipping in and out of for a relaxing read. Having read some much darker books by Lesley Pearse in my lunch hour and on the bus in the last few weeks, I enjoyed being able to reach for something fluffier to break things up. It's a fairly predictable read but then I don't read books by this author expecting twists and turns so that is no real disappointment if you're familiar with her work.
Up until now, most (if not all) of the books that I've read by this author have been set solely in Ireland but there is a slight deviation from this here. Most of the book is indeed set in Ireland as usual but there is a detour to Italy for a small part of the book. On the face of it, this might sound unnecessary but for me, it worked quite well in the context of Ash's torn feelings about her attitude towards relationships to date but I can't say any more without spoiling some of the plot so I'll leave that part there!
In terms of characters, I've already mentioned that the two main characters were likeable but I was less enamoured with Cordelia. She came across as too ambitious and self-centred for the most part and there were some moments when I felt sorry for Dan and wondered where he really fit in her life plan. She has her own narrative (third person as is the case throughout the book) from time to time so we get to know her as a person more rather than just seeing her through Dan's eyes (which would be much more favourable!).
The one downside for me is the length. At almost 600 pages (paperback), it did feel at times that things were being dragged out too much, although I can't pinpoint anything specific that should have been cut out.
Aisling O'Halloran is happy with her futon, her flat, her cat and her job as a party caterer. She doesn't do impulsive. She is absolutely, perfectly in control of her single woman's life. And if she can't have relationships without complications - then she's content to carry on as she is. Ms Self-Contained. But when she's employed to cook the supper over which Dan Morland plans to propose to his girlfriend, suddenly she becomes party to someone else's relationship.