Grab a glass of chilled white wine, find an English cottage garden to relax in (preferably your own) and enjoy reading reading this lovely, lovely book.
‘Summer of Love’ is, quite possibly, the perfect summer read. Set in a quiet, rural community and with plenty of cups of tea, homemade cakes and clinking of wine glasses thrown in for good measure it really is a book to savour.
The main character Sian, is a thirty-something single mum. She has recently moved from the city to the English countryside to find a better school for her little boy Rory and a new life for herself and her furniture restoration business. From the very first lines of the book when Sian’s neighbour Fiona, a stalwart widow and divorcee in her fifties, welcomes her to the village with a jam jar full of flowers, a bottle of wine and a no-nonsense attitude to life, you know you are in for a treat.
Although on the outside her new life appears idyllic, Sian is anxious – about how Rory will fit in at his new school, about the annoying Melissa who is trying to buy the house she is now renting, and about her feelings for Richard – perfect husband material, if only she could make herself fall in love with him. And then, to complicate matters even further, Fiona’s son Angus arrives back from his latest travels and sends Sian into a spin – Sian has met ‘Gus’ before: he is the father of her son.
From this point in the book, we are taken on a delightful romantic romp through the English countryside as Sian and Gus try to deny their inevitable feelings for each other while Sian tries to discover her true feelings for dependable Richard. When Sian mistakenly assumes Gus is sleeping with the dreadful Melissa, she finally decides to make a go of things with Richard and his huge mansion. Unknown to Sian, Gus is left devastated.
The characters in ‘Summer of Love’ are brilliantly written – they are ‘real’ people who are easy to identify with and to like instantly. There are so many books written with characters who are far-fetched and stretch our realms of belief and reality, but there is something very compelling about Katie’s characters who have real problems like what underwear is appropriate for a dinner date which may lead to something else or whether to have white or red with dinner! Her characters have problems and make mistakes and sort it all out over the kitchen table with a mug of tea and/or a bottle of wine.
Katie’s trademark wry humour is present throughout the book and there are some laugh out loud scenes with the sub-plot of Fiona and her disastrous attempts at internet dating. The scene in the garden centre when she is trying to escape from creepy Evan is comedy gold. Fiona’s romantic liaisons with book shop owner James are excellently written and portray a more mature woman’s outlook on romantic encounters brilliantly.
There is plenty to keep the reader guessing throughout the book as we are never entirely sure what Gus’s intentions are or what Melissa is really up to or whether Sian will ever tell Gus that Rory is his son.
This is far from just a breezy summer read. It is a well-crafted, intelligently written book which delivers a satisfying, happy ending. I would definitely recommend this book for the beach, although I can’t help feeling it would be best enjoyed lazing around in a sunlit garden with the bees buzzing around and fairy lights in the trees at dusk.
This is a book you will be recommending to your sisters, friends, aunts and mum so get the kettle on, cut an extra large slice of cake, put your feet up and start reading.
I spoke to Katie about ‘Summer of Love’ and her writing life.
When did you start writing – and why? I started writing when my youngest daughter was two. I had wanted to write for a while but had assumed I’d have to wait until my children were bigger. My mother had other ideas and gave me a writing kit for Christmas. Paper, dictionaries, Tippex, it was all packed into a box file. I started in the new year.
With so many successful titles behind you, how do you keep yourself motivated to write – do you ever struggle to come up with ideas, or does it all come naturally? Keeping motivated isn’t often a problem. I love my work and so far, fingers crossed, I have lots more books I want to write. That said, we all have days when we don’t want to work. Usually when I’ve got started I wonder why I messed around so long.
What is the most amusing comment you’ve ever received about one of your novels? I can’t think of anything particularly funny but someone did once accuse me of stalking her and writing her life, although she knew we’d never met.
Yikes! So, what is the best part of life as a writer – or is it really a terribly lonely existence in a fusty old attic with cold cups of coffee for company? The best part is meeting readers at events and festivals – although it’s more fun than glam. The loneliness of writers has been hugely helped by Twitter and organisations like the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) which has newsgroups for writers so you don’t feel so alone.
What is the strangest ‘research’ experience you’ve ever had for a book? Going on a Ray Mears bushcraft course for ‘Summer of Love’ was definitely the strangest thing I’ve done to research a book. I also went up in a helicopter which I knew would terrify me – it did! I was going to make a heroine a bee keeper, but when I went with a friend to look at his bees, that scared me too. I made my heroine’s friend the apiarist.
Which three words best describe your writing style? Quirky, upbeat, romantic. Very hard to think how to describe my writing in just three words!
Other than your own novels, which book would you love to have written? I’d love to have written a really sweeping novel, with a heartbreaking romance (but happy ending) that everyone would remember. I don’t think I’ll ever manage it though. I’d be very happy to have written any of Georgette Heyer’s novels.
Have you ever spotted anyone famous reading one of your novels? I have never spotted anyone, famous or otherwise, reading my books, although my friends tell me they have. I long to see someone reading one! I would most like to see a celebrity who wants to star in a book reading one, so they could get it made into a TV programme.
Are you working on your next novel and if so, can you tell us anything about it? I am working on my next novel. It’s based round a television cookery competition.
Thank you to Katie for her time in answering my questions. ‘Summer of Love’ is published by Century priced £14.99’. You can contact Katie at www.katiefforde.com or on Twitter @KatieFforde