Phil: When I read this on the back of a book, I wondered if Erica James had nicked our main character for her book. Apart from the new boyfriend, she’s sounding like our Kate.
Fortunately, when you get in to the book, Harriet turns out to be a computer programmer who exhibits many of the traits of people in that profession. She likes problem solving, finds empathy difficult and gets as much pleasure out of code as she does from people.
Everything changes when her sister dies in a car crash and Harriet finds herself ward to a niece and nephew. The flat and boyfriend have to go as she moves back to her parents. Suddenly she’s responsible for 2 very young children and has to deal with all the problems this involves including first days at school, bullying and a bucket load of feelings around their parents deaths.
Along the way there is romance, this is chick-lit after all, another significant demise, a new life and an awful lot of discovery. It seems that her sister wasn’t the person she thought and in some ways, neither are her parents.
Harriet is an interesting character in that she could very easily be a man. Psychologists might suggest that she exhibits many traits of someone on the autistic spectrum, very rare for a female. This makes it odd when we find the lover and it’s suddenly no holds bar bedroom, lounge and kitchen action. This is a big, fat book but I couldn’t help feeling that we leapt in a bit here.
The running thread is the sister’s death and how everyone deals with their feelings – made worse as they also need to keep life going for the children. Father has to face up with the loss of his favourite daughter. Mother copes better but we discover that she’s coped with loss for most of her life. Harriet resents the sudden change of life forced upon her even though she knows there is no choice.
Love and Devotion is one of those books that makes you think, “What if this happened to me?”. You can’t help but sympathise with Harriet as she finds herself in a situation not of her own making and I’m very glad I’m not in the position where I’m likely to have to make the same decisions.