Category Archives: Romantic Comedy

The Keeper of Lost Things

The Keeper of Lost Thingsby Ruth Hagen

Ruth Hagen’s stunning debut novel is one of those books that really gets inside your head and your soul. It is a story of hope, of opportunities and self-discovery. But it is also a book about death and loss. The only certainty about life is that it has a sell by date, the only control we have is how we live the bits in-between and how we approach the inevitable end.

There is a thread of grief that runs throughout the book as the main characters each learn in their own ways how to come to terms with loss and regret. And although loss is at the heart of each character’s tale, there is also a great deal of love and hope as well. If I make the book sound in any way morbid that is not my intention. It is charmingly uplifting and full of optimism and joy. It is this conflict within the narrative I found particularly compelling.

In taking up a position as assistant to reclusive writer Anthony Peardew, Laura Darby hope to find some purpose and direction in her life. But Peardew is not your average writer or employer. His life is dominated by the tragedy of losing the love of his life on the very morning of their wedding. Since then he has spent his life collecting lost items and attempting to reunite them with their owners, including a biscuit tin containing what looks like cremated remains.

Running parallel to Anthony and Laura’s tale is the story of Eunice and Bomber. Theirs is a story that began back in 1974. Theirs is a story of unrequited love and mutual comfort. The worlds of Eunice, Bomber, Anthony and Laura are woven together by a single thread that will eventually bring the two stories together in an ending that is both moving and oddly tragic.

I read an interview recently with Ruth Hagen I which the book was described as “up-lit”. Whilst I have never heard the phrase before, I can guess what it means and suppose that it actually quite apt, although I am not sure that any label will fit this well constructed and beautifully written story.

The Keeper of Lost Things is a wonderfully uplifting book. I loved the characters and their stories and look forward to reading more from this very promising new writer.


dot.hommeby Jane Moore

The book follows a year in the life of singleton Jess Monroe. For her 34th birthday her friends set her up with an ad on an internet dating website. Despite her initial rejection of the idea she is eventually persuaded to give it go. After all, what could she lose? 

A humorous insight into the foibles of the world of internet dating. But that is not all there is to this story. As the book progresses Jess must face not only her fears of loneliness, but also of mortality. Alongside the warm humour Jane is so good at is the more serious look at a family struggling to cope with serious illness. Jane mixes the two with great skill and compassion.

There are plenty of interesting characters, driven by a plot that keeps the pages turning. Will Jess find the man of her dreams on the internet? Will she see though the half-truths and lies? Or has she already found her perfect partner out in the real world?

Perfect holiday reading. 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThis book was passed onto me by a work colleague who couldn’t recommend it to me enough. And almost immediately I could see why.

Even without the recommendation, the title alone would have attracted me to this poignant and touching story about life in German occupied Guernsey. Told through a series of letters between a young writer, Juliet Ashton, and members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. The book follows the highs and lows of life on the islands during the Second World War.

The book opens in 1946 with Juliet seeking inspiration for her second novel. When she stumbles across the Literary society shew soon finds herself on a ferry to Guernsey to find out more. Still suffering from the ravages of the war, the people of the island take her as one of their own and Juliet’s life begins to change forever.

The use of letters to tell the story makes it much more intimate than a normal narrative would have been. You get a much better understanding of each of the characters and how the two strands of the story impact on all their lives.

For Juliet, the islanders provide not just the inspiration for her own book, but also a new direction for her life.

Populated with beautifully portrayed characters, this is an inspiring, touching and compelling take. I found myself totally captivated by the members and their stories.

What really comes across is the author’s fascination with Guernsey, but what is not so obvious is that she was American. Mary Ann Shaffer wrote the book after prompting from her local book club, but due to ill health, asked her niece, Annie Barrows to help her finish the book.

It’s a totally captivating book. What a shame it was Mary Ann’s only novel. 

How To Fall In Love

by Cecelia Ahern

How To Fall In LoveIt is somewhat disingenuous to class Cecelia Ahern’s books as rom-coms, but I must admit it is something I have often been guilty of. True, her books generally have all the right ingredients: lonely young woman meets lonely young man in unusual circumstances; they become friends, things go wrong due to misunderstandings, they realise their mistakes, make up and live happily ever after.

In this case, even the title screams “rom-com” at you. But this book, like many of her other takes of romance has a sharp edge to it that cuts through the usual comedy.

In “How To Fall In Love” Cecelia Ahern brings the often taboo subjects of suicide and depression right to the fore. Finding herself confronted by someone attempting suicide, Christine Rose is determined to do something to keep the handsome (obviously) Adam from ending it all. She has her own motivations, not least of which is that it is the second time in a week she has found herself face to face with a man trying to kill himself.

Known to her friends and family as a Miss fix-it, Christine faces her toughest challenge to date: proving that life is worth living, even when everything seems too dark to continue. And she has just two weeks to do it in, whilst at the same time dealing with the breakdown of her marriage.

Throughout the book the characters of Christine and Adam are drawn closer to each other as they both begin to face their demons and re-discover what really matters to them.

If you take a moment to stand back and think about it, the plot is so fanciful and full of holes, you might wonder how it hangs together. But strangely enough, it does, and very well.

Depression is a difficult subject to discuss, but Cecilia Ahern deals with it with humour, compassion and skill.

“How To Fall In love” may not be a modern classic, but I found it strangely refreshing and heart-warming. Just what I needed to get me through the Christmas holidays.

I Should Be So Lucky

by Judy Astley

I Should Be So LuckySome books you read for pleasure, some to educate and some because you feel you should. Judy Astley’s books are very much a pleasure, albeit a guilty one. Her style of romantic fiction is just right for those occasions when you need something that won’t tax the mind and can be dipped in and out of easily. This is not to say they are not well written, because they are.

This kind of fiction is formulaic and predictable. But it’s that very predictability that I find so appealing at times. Almost from the word go, you know how the story will end. But it has never been about the destination, more about the journey. Judy Astley takes her readers with her on a journey through almost ordinary lives, but ones that have just enough of a twist and turn to make them interesting

In “I should be so Lucky”, the main character, Viola fights to some independence for herself and her 14-year-old daughter, one year after the death of her second husband. But as is often the case, her biggest problem seems to be her own brother and sister who for reasons of their own, want her to sell her property and continue to live with their mother.

Viola and her teenage daughter Rachael return to their old home and begin to rebuild their lives. Viola has a new man in her life (sort of) but he may not be all he seems.

This is actually the perfect summer read. It is light and frivolous, packed with humour. The twists and turns of the plot are predictable but no less enjoyable for being so. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but am ready now for something a little more challenging.


by Jane Moore

FourplayLet’s get this straight from the start. If you want a literary masterpiece, or an essay on the trials and tribulations of of the human sole, you will be barking up the wrong tree with this one. But, if like me, you want something light and “fluffy”, this one fits the bill with bells on.

“Fourplay” follows the rather mixed up love life of wife and mother Jo who, after throwing out her husband when she discovers his affair, finds herself embroiled in a love triangle with extras! Four very different men are competing for her affections, and she just can’t decide which, if any, deserve it.

Firstly, there is her husband, Jeff, who is thrown out after a dalliance with his secretary. Then there is Conor, her brother’s best friend who has held a torch for Jo since he first met her. A car accident introduces her to the sophisticated and confident Sean, whilst successfully businessman Martin wines and dines her in an attempt to make their relationship more than just professional (Jo has her own interior design company).

There is plenty of pace and humour, with some interesting and at time hilarious insights into relationships and how they can go so wrong.
For Jo, helped by her brother Tim and friend Rosie, finding the right man is proving to be a minefield, not helped her mother’s campaign to get her back with her husband.

I actually read the book in just a few days. It was easy to follow and kept my interest from the very beginning.

A great holiday read.

The Time Is Now

by Pauline McLynn

The Time Is NowHaving read several Pauline McLynn novels, I thought I knew what to expect and was looking forward to a warm and funny tale of rural Irish folk. That is not what I got.

The book started well, if a little out of character for McLynn, following the troubled new year of young Karen. Finding her best friend dead in the bath was just the beginning. Then the story jumped to appoint in the future. Same building but totally different residents. I struggled to get to grips with the plot but, when the story switched to following a Victorian scullery maid, I admit I gave up. 

I have read many books where the plot switches between time frames, such as Cloud Atlas, and usually manage to follow what is going on. But in this case, I found I didn’t want to know what was going on. Whilst I felt I could sympathise with Karen and her mixed up flat mate, the other two plots just left me cold ad uninterested.

A disappointing book.

Mad About The Boy (Bridget Jones #3)

Mad About The Boyby Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones is back! She is older, widowed with two young children and trying to rebuild her life. 

Helen Fielding’s much loved character has grown up, but is still the same, chaotic mess she was as a thirty-something singleton. Older, but not necessarily much wiser, Bridget is ready to start putting her life back together again. 

Mad About The Boy is a witty insight into the dilemmas of middle age, something I find I have some sympathy with. 

For anyone who has read the first two books, there are no surprises. Bridget Jones’ character is the same as she always was. Reading the book was a little like meeting with an old friend. It is a comfortable and unchallenging read. Hardly great literature, but a good read none the less.

If I’m being honest, it is not as captivating or funny as the original outings, but I enjoyed it anyway. 

It’s a Kind of Magic

It's a kind of magicby Carole Matthews

From the blurb and cover I took this to be just another chick-lit novel, and when I started reading it that is what I seemed to get. But there is much more to this book that that. For one thing, it follows the lives of two people, a couple – Leo Harper and Emma Chambers – with the story being told from each perspective. Leo we read of in the third person, but Emma tells her own story. The style switches between the two with each chapter, something I found disconcerting at first but it soon became very natural. 

Leo is a bit of a lazy slob, whilst Emma is exactly the opposite. Their on-off relationship has lasted several years, but it seems that by turning up late for Emma’s thirtieth birthday party then falling drunk into the cake, Leo may have just gone too far this time.

It is then that Leo meets the enigmatic and rather too-good-to-be-true Isobel. At this point the book became something very different from your ordinary rom-com, as the character of Isobel is not what she seems. 

Underneath the well observed humour and strange “magic” is a story of two very different people. They love each other, can’t live without each other, but who cannot seem to give each other what they think they need. Real relationships do not always come easily, they require a combination of love, hard work and compromise. And that is what Leo and Emma discover through this book.

I really enjoyed this book, although I wasn’t sure I was going to when I started it. The mix of first and third person suited the story perfectly, and the great humour helped to get the message about making relationship work across.

Summer of Love

Summer of loveby Katie Fford

I enjoy a wide range of genres and authors, and the books I chose to read often reflect my mood at the time. Sometimes I want to be challenged, whilst at other times I want to indulge my fascination with science or other cultures. There are also times when all I want is some light relief from everything else going on around me. When things get stressful at work or home, I often turn to romantic fiction. At such times, authors like Katie Fford offer humour, romance and above all predictability. 

“Summer Of Love” is suitably predictable with our heroin, single mother Sian, being the only person who doesn’t seem to know how the story is going to end!

Like Alan Titchmarsh, Celia Ahern and Marian Keyes, Katie Fford offers pure escapism through books with no challenges but well written, at time informative but always enjoyable, if you like that sort of thing.

I can’t help being a bit of an old romantic. Even my DVD collection reflects this with almost complete collections of Doris Day and Sandra Bullock films. 

Following the misunderstandings of Sian and Gus as they work out that they do in fact love each other provided some mucj needed light relief. Pure escapism, but there’s nothing wrong with that.