Life hasn’t been a bed of roses for Londoner Molly Taylor lately. Newly divorced and struggling to find a new home and a way to support her three boys, she’s stunned when her beloved Aunt Helena dies and leaves her Harrington Hall, a three-hundred-year-old manor house on the Devon coast, where Molly grew up. But does Molly really want to run a bed-and-breakfast in an old house where the only thing that doesn’t need urgent attention is Aunt Helena’s beautiful rose garden? Or care for Uncle Bertie, an eccentric former navy officer with a cliff-top cannon? Or Betty, his rude parrot that bites whomever annoys it? Yet Molly’s best friend Lola is all for the plan. “My heart bleeds. Your very own beach, the beautiful house, and Helena’s garden. All you have to do is grill a bit of bacon.”

But with Molly’s conniving brother running the family hotel nearby, the return of a high school flame with ulterior motives, and three sons whose idea of a new country life seems to involve vast quantities of mud, this is not going to be easy. And then Harrington Hall begins to work its magic, and the roses start to bloom…

Warm, witty, and chock-full of quintessential British charm, A GOOD YEAR FOR THE ROSES is a story for anyone who has ever dreamed of starting over…with or without bacon. (Synopsis from GOODREADS ( http://www.goodreads.com/ )

Richard’s comments and review

Gil McNeil has written about a dozen books. So one would expect a polished writer as no publisher would keep a horse in the barn if it can’t race. She writes the way I talk when etiquette and political correctness do not restrict my forthrightness and frankness. She reminds a reader of high school when conversations were spiced with ‘fuck’ and ‘twat’ as freely as salt in pepper in a beef bourguignon.

Not my kind of book

Within the first fifty pages, I concluded this was not my kind of book. I’m not a parent, let alone a mother. I am a male who eschews tea unless sick or coming down with something. Fashion design, fabric selection, wallpaper patterns, knick knacks and such are as near to my interest as drying a camel by a desert watering hole after passing through the oasis camel wash. I don’t do renovating and am pleased as punch my wife has no itches to change any paint colours, room furnishings or undertake any serious renovation. Finally, the only interest I have in B&B’s occurs when I am on a holiday and the urge to meet locals is sparked by my curiosity about the natives of the region in which I am holidaying. Thank goodness this spark is very infrequent.

I finished the book

However, as reluctant as I was in continuing my reading of the book, I ploughed onward. I felt obliged or responsible to my fellow book club members. I am happy that I read on. 

McNeil writes in a style that is light and airy, catchy and fresh like traipsing through an open field of wild springtime blooms. She intersperses her soap opera of family activities and day to day living with lively language and catchy phrases that lighten the mood on every page. The style is entertaining if not outright magnetic. Still, it entertains and interests, almost making the reader feel that they are actually standing within the scene itself.

The author has her ‘villains’ and her hero(ines) in the likes of her father, Roger, Pete the ex, and the architect who advises her about her B&B project versus Ivy and Lola, female support to the tale. The threads that tie the story together are: her sons and their antics, their growing up and doing all the normal things done by boys that age; and Harrington Hall itself, the ‘estate’ she inherited from her aunt with all its renovation and refurbishing endeavours. The threads suture the reader to the anatomy of the book.

I have no interest in roses beyond my nostalgic memory and admiration for my father’s pride and passion, his own rose garden. I skipped the rose descriptions that prefaced each chapter after reading ONE which made me feel I was reading a wine review.

Bertie with his cannon was a bit of comic relief as was his partner in crime, the yellow headed parleying parrot, Betty. Ivy and Dennis were stalwart employees who carried out the necessary maintenance and upkeep of the estate but more importantly, gave invaluable support to the story as narrated by our primary protagonist, Molly.

Recommended reading?

If you are romantic, enjoy light, gossipy conversations which border on ‘The Young And The Restless,” “Days Of Our Lives” or maybe even “Downton Abbey” then  this book is for you. If you are into “Coronation Street,”  tea sipping and accompanying gabfests, this is your book. The book has humour, light trippy conversation, true to life anecdotes, romantic tidbits and British rural life experiences, written in an entertainingly light and frivolous style. If those kind of things are your cup of tea, then this book is for you. Otherwise, give it a pass.

It is not my kind of reading.


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