After my kids dragged me to the library again to renew my books, I am almost compelled to have a quick look at the "new releases" and the "just returned" sections, in fairness that in itself is interesting, it's like curtain twitching without the curtains!
After a quick perusal I came across this book, being the type I enjoy but don't read very often.
The book I will now review is - "Recipe for scandal by Debby Holt".
Not being familiar with this particular author I literally have to go on what the blurb states on the back, this in itself was enough for me to borrow it.
The story starts with the wonderful character of Alberta. After losing her husband in a car accident when her daughter was three years old, she was one day walking in the park two months later, and got taking to a young dad who was at the time going through a messy divorce.
A couple more months on and she is now living with the man from the park, Tony, her daughter and on the weekend his son Dylan.
Flash forwards 15 years and the scene is about the same. Alberta and Tony are still living together, though not married, with the daughter Hannah and now a son between them, they have a flat on the side of the house that Tony's mum and dad live in, and they are blissfully happy in everyway.
Then a coupe of things happen that could potentially destroy the life they have built together, one of them being Alberta's father and her idol, dying in a particularly unbecoming manner for a Lord.
Will the family hold true, or will the revelations and secrets that many families are built upon, rip them all apart?
According to the blurb on the back of the book, this story is supposed to be a life changing and affirming tale of three generations of the women in this particular family, with this being Alberta, her mother and wife of Lord Trussler, who after dying in such a manner is thrown into the limelight and many revelations about both of their private lives are splashed across the papers.
Finally the third woman is Alberta's daughter Hannah, who is one of those people who is clever beyond believe, but isn't really worldly wise.
After a succession of the wrong men, will she finally sort her life out and will "mr right" be right in front of her nose?
I have to say this book was reasonably slow going when I first started reading it. There are so many characters that have to be introduced to the storyline, and they all seem to be introduced at once, this is also the case for the storyline's themselves, with the impending marriage of Tony's ex-wife and his apparent jealousy of her new partner puts the seed of doubt in Alberta's mind, couple this with the death of her father and revelations about her late husband, and I have to say the way the author has wrote her reactions to each one, was just as you would expect making the story more than that, but more like looking into someone's life (remember I love curtain twitching!).
The story is written beautifully, but what I would deem as "chick lit", not necessarily to be enjoyed by woman alone, but more containing the stuff that woman enjoy!
That said this is politically based, but more from the family side of things, with Lord Trussler being a politician in his day, thus actually explaining more about the revelations Alberta discovers about her late husbands "real" personality and not the almost fake side he shown to his wife!
Price wise this is available from www.amazon.co.uk for the sum of £4.18.
This is a quite good read, that once you get past the initial introductions really is worth reading.
Thanks for reading x
There's evidently a market for scandalous tales, or else many a women's weekly would have gone out of business by now, but this book, though full of scandal, is slightly different. This isn't council estate scandal or even trashy celebrity scandal, it's juicy, firmly middle class scandal of the type Zoë Heller might write about, and it's wickedly captivating.
Even from the start, it's clear Alberta, or Bertie, has a slightly unusual family situation. She lives with partner-not-husband Tony and his parents in Bath. Her precocious teenage son still lives at home, while her older daughter, Hannah, and Tony's son of the same age have flown the nest. The daughter of a retired but still prolific politician, Bertie was widowed when her own daughter was young, while Tony's ex-wife is still kicking around somewhere, but not really in their lives. Still, with a nice career as a caterer, and an unusually good relationship with her in-laws, on the whole Alberta has a rather nice life, thank you very much.
With a set up like that, not to mention the title of the book, you can guess that the only way is down, and indeed as one scandal after another hits the extended family, Bertie is left reeling from the aftershocks, and the knowledge that life will never be quite the same again.
The one thing I found confusing about this book was the way a few characters were introduced, but then rather unceremoniously dumped by the wayside as the story progressed. The new teacher from Bertie's son's school is a prime example - it seems at the start that she might be quite an important person in the story to come, but really her role is quite minor. It was hard to know when reading who to pay close attention to, and who really was just passing through.
I was surprised, but in a good way, by the way the story developed, especially following the initial scandal as I had assumed that this might be it in terms of gossip-worthy news. In fact, it is just one of various indiscretions, some milder than others, that engulf the different family members throughout the course of the book, providing an abundance of twists and turns to keep you on your toes. Think gone-but-not-forgotten teenage crushes, marital problems and rather compromising positions, not to mention handsome strangers and it's no wonder the tabloids and chat shows are interested.
The story is told from the viewpoints of three generations of women: grandmother Philippa, her daughter Bertie and Bertie's daughter Hannah but the chapters are spread out quite unevenly, and Bertie takes centre stage for most of the time. Though it's clear who has the focus at any one point, I didn't think there was sufficient contrast between the women, and their age differences weren't as apparent as you would expect them to be (the life of a 20-something being notably different from the life of a 70-something, for example).
Despite my criticisms, I enjoyed the story immensely and found it engaging and entertaining, not to mention intelligent and intriguing. It's an easy read but has a certain depth to it. I loved the writing style and the neat observations of the peculiarities of the various characters, especially Bertie's brother and his wife. The book has a lovely tone to it, packed full of lilting language and shrewd observations. It is not your standard, fleeting chit lit thanks to the superb character descriptions, the juicy storyline and the quirky insights into the life of different generations, and for this I can forgive it the odd blip described above.
If you like the sound of this, 'The Cookie Club' (also reviewed on here) is another read worth a look as it too combines various different women's stories into a simply delicious tale.
Buy it on Amazon who have many copies, used for a few pennies or new for a few pounds.
An earlier version of this review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
Twenty years after her husband Ed dies in a car accident, Alberta Granger finally feels as if her life is stable. She has two fantastic children and has been with Tony for almost twenty years. Alberta's daughter, Hannah, also feels as if her life is great: she has a fab job in London, she has great friends and an even better boyfriend. Phillipa, Alberta's mother, has an idyllic life, living with her former Government minister husband and the only thing that concerns her is the greenfly on her roses. However when Phillipa's husband dies in dubious circumstances, all three womens lives are about to change. As scandal upon scandal comes out of the woodwork, do the three women have what it takes to come out of the whole thing stronger?
Until I read Recipe For Scandal, the only other Debby Holt book I've read was Annie May's Black Book which I quite enjoyed. I was looking on Amazon for other Debby Holt titles and saw that her newest book would be Recipe For Scandal. The cover really caught my eye, so I eagerly had a look at the synopsis and liked the sound of it. Having a lot of spare time over Christmas I decided to give it a read.
The opening of the book seemed to be very distant. For the first 70 or so pages I didn't feel anything for the characters and it was written in such a style that I couldn't learn anything from the characters themselves apart from what I was told. I persevered with the book as it wasn't bad and I found that as the book wore on, I did feel more for the characters and I did find the plot more interesting. It takes just over 100 pages for the main plot to start so that could be what attributed to my dislike of the beginning of the novel. After Alberta's father dies, the plot picks up the pace and I found myself really getting into the book.
As I mentioned, it took 100 pages for me to really get into the characters. The only character I remotely liked before Alberta's dad died was Jacob, Alberta's precocious son. I found his insights interesting and he was an enjoyable character. It was a pity he disappeared after that, off travelling with his girlfriend. His insights as all of the scandals broke would have made for very interesting reading indeed! Alberta for most part of the book was our main character and the book was mostly narrated from her point of view. It took me a while to really like Alberta, but I did feel so sympathetic for her after her father dies and all of the scandals start coming out. The book is also told from Hannah and Marma's points of view, Alberta's daughter and mother respectively and I really liked both Hannah and Marma. A lot of secrets are revealed about Marma, some not so pleasant, but I liked her the entire time. The only other main character was Tony, Alberta's partner who seemed nice enough.
The scandals in question aren't so scandalous in this day and age - after all, there are scandals coming out left, right and center about politicians and their dirty little secrets every single day. I can, however, see how they were scandalous to Alberta and her family. Debby Holt's books are seemingly about well-off-ish families who seem to have an air about them, so Alberta and her family would find the death of Lord Trussler rather scandalous. I also suppose that how scandalous the revelations are depend on your interpretation of the word scandal and how something like Lord Trussler's death ranks on your scandal scale. Debby's writing is really quite good. After Lord Trussler dies I was sucked in quite easily and I was eager to see how everything would settle once the scandalous revelations died down. The book was a little slow-paced at times but that wasn't really a huge problem. It suited the style of the book.
The ending surprised me. I figured it was going to end one way and it ended a completely different way. I think I preferred the ending that happened rather than the ending I thought I wanted, it was quite cleverly done by Debby to make me change my mind about how I wanted the book to end. Recipe For Scandal was a very enjoyable read, and you really should persevere for the first 100 or so pages, however it's probably one you can only read the once. I don't think it could be one I'd read again and again. It is well worth a read though!