In this sequel to Hens Dancing, author Raffaella Barker continues Venetia Summers’ story, picking up the fairytale ending wherein our heroine gets the guy. Now Venetia’s boyfriend David is away in the Brazilian rain forest for work. The long distance challenges their relationship as does Venetia’s technophobia (i.e., impossible for her to email him) and bad phone connections. The wedge is driven further with the appearance of a new bachelor neighbor. Can't you see where this is going? Hijinks ensue. Not just with the neighbor either—Venetia has three very active children, including a four-year-old spitfire, simply referred to as The Beauty. There’s the ex-husband, his wife, and their twins; Venetia’s wild brother, newly settled down with a wife; and their eccentric mother, prone to drinks at any time of the day.
Here's one of my favorite passages because of the way it sums up Venetia's little family. She has taken her children—Felix, Giles, and The Beauty—"camping" (they're staying in a rustic cabin on a remote island):
We have become savages in less than forty-eight hours. The Beauty has gone back to nature in a big way and refuses to wear any clothes, just a pebble with a hole in it on a piece of string round her neck and a tea towel on her head. She has not used a knife and fork since we arrived here, which save on washing up but adds to her cavewoman demeanor. I think she has also forgotten how to speak, as all I have heard for a day now is high-pitched squawking as she emulates the gulls, or roars of rage at Felix, who keeps trying to remove her tea-towel hat. He and Giles are halway through the standard summer holidays malaise. This is the same every time, no matter where we are or with whom, and involves a week of whining "I'm bored" and "I hate you" at everyone in their path. There is usually a bit of fighting too, and The Beauty, who likes to be part of everything, has taken to pulling their hair if they sit down anywhere near her. Torpor is a big part of the daily routine, so being here and not having to wash is great, while not being able to watch television is truly ghastly.I read Hens Dancing over the summer and found it very entertaining. Barker presents a fresh voice in the chick lit genre—one British blurb compared the story to Bridget Jones "cooled out" and grown up. Both of the novels were written as a journal, which I like even though the narrative thread is sporadic. As a result, it takes a lot to hold my attention so I’m still reading Summertime months after I started it. It's so easy to set down the book after a few journal entries and not feel very compelled to pick it up again. With fewer than thirty pages remaining, the end is in sight. I think we’re meant to root for Venetia and David as a couple, even though David isn’t much in the picture, and Venetia seems to get on well enough without him in her life. I suspect—but have no evidence—that we’ll have a happy ending.
~ Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith
Last night, I devoured the first forty pages of Friends, Lovers, Chocolate, the follow-up to The Sunday Philosophy Club. In no time at all, I have refamiliarized myself with Isabel Dalhousie, the star of this character-driven, Edinburgh-set detective series by Alexander McCall Smith. As a philosopher and the editor of the Journal of Applied Ethics, Isabel has the luxury of devoting vast swaths of her day to moral dilemmas. Not so much a mystery, but possessing an occasional drama, this series offers a welcomed coziness as we head into crueler fall days.