Phil: According to the Mail on Sunday, Katie Fforde books are “A cross between Joanna Trollope and Tom Sharpe”. Quite a lot like our style of writing, so having been passed the book by my sister, I thought it would be an enjoyable read.
Instead, I wanted to throw the thing out of the window,
Jenny Porter is a “Virtual Assistant”. She works for several clients, communicating by e-mail and never meeting them. Her biggest client, Mr Grant-Dempsey asks her to got and visit a Scottish mill he has lent money to. She is to write a report on which he will decide if it’s time to pull the plug on the business. The mill is run by the Dalmain family headed by the matriarch mother of the clan.
On the way she stops off at a roadside cafe where she encounters Meggie, a twig on the Dalmain family tree. Meggie is heavily pregnant and within a few pages, Jenny is serving at the cafe and her first customer is Ross Grant. She takes an immediate dislike, throws his coffee over him and generally behaves like a petulant 12 year old.
Some of you will have guessed that Ross Grant and Mr Grant-Dempsey are the same person. My computer has, as it keeps auto suggesting the name. Jenny takes half a book to make the connection.
Part of the “problem” is that she fancies the pants off Mr D, which she shows by continuing to behave like a child at every opportunity. Convinced that he plans to close the mill despite her efforts to find a way for it to make money, every single encounter is marked by him being reasonable and normal and her throwing a huff.
The high, or low point, comes when she and the office manager present their report on the future of the mill. She throws a strop and runs off to the loo for the entire meeting.
It doesn’t get any better after this either. Jenny goes for a Christmas walk in the snow and is rescued by Ross. They shag in a snow hole but by Hogmanay she’s spitting like a wildcat despite her spending the intervening time bedridden with flu and not talking to him. In spite of this, he asks her to marry him.
I nearly binned this half way through. Only the completionist within me made me push on to the end. This is one book that isn’t going to be passed on to Candice. She’d be punching the pages in frustration.
When we wrote “Kate vs The Dirtboffins”, the female lead was never going to be some winsome girl whose only interest in life was finding a man. As I read this, all I could think was that Kate might have fancied Ross, but she’d have been icily efficient in all the business dealings. He wouldn’t have been wearing his coffee and the big meeting to save the mill wouldn’t involve any hiding in the toilet.
And you know what? She’d still have got her man, if she wanted him. Ross Grant is a very rich businessman. Are we really saying that he’d be chasing someone who kept throwing tantrums every time they met? Assuming he is a self-made man he’d be much more impressed with someone who showed she had brains and determination.
OK, I’m not really the target market but surely I can’t have been the only one reading this wishing someone would grab the lead character, give her a good shake and should the something including the words “get a grip”. For the sake of our book, I just hope that there are plenty of people out there who prefer their leads strong.