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I am a big fan of the novelist Katie Fforde and have read many of her books. Although I generally seem to have kept up with her later books, I realised that there are a few earlier ones that I have not read. Stately Pursuits, written in 1997 was one that I had not read until recently when I managed to pick it up quite cheaply in a charity shop. Having now read it, I can safely say that her style really has not changed over the years and the only difference is that technology has moved on quite a bit. I couldn't help noticing that very few of the characters have mobile phones in the book and no one uses emails to keep in touch. How things have moved on in a few short years! At the start of the story Hetty is nursing a broken heart having discovered her boyfriend (who was also her boss) in bed with another woman. Jobless and homeless, she returns to her parents. They tell her about Samuel, a distant sick relation who is in hospital and needs someone to house sit his minor stately home. This seems an ideal solution for Hetty which is how she ends up at the rather ramshackle Courtbridge Manor. She is soon caught up with trying to restore the home to its former glory and making it pay for itself by opening it to the public. All is going well until Samuel's great nephew Connor turns up who has very different ideas for the house. There is a distinct loathing between the two but, as is often said, it's only a fine line between hate and love! In true Katie Fforde style there follow numerous misunderstandings between the pair of them and it's anyone's guess as to whether they will be able to resolve their differences. Stately Pursuits is a lovely light easy read that is perfect for lazy summer reading. Being set against the backdrop of a stately home definitely adds interest too. It is a bit like entering a different world and meeting some very interesting characters that you are not likely to come across unless you live in a small country village and have a lot of time on your hands. It is a nicely paced story but not too long at about 370 pages. It kept my interest throughout although didn't exactly hook me the way some of her later books have done. The characters are quite believable and Hetty is quite likeable too. As you read you can't help but hope that things work out well for her. She can be a bit frustrating too as she is not very good at communicating with the people around her and she also has the tendency to make some pretty daft decisions. It's all good fun though and if you are looking for something light and easy to read, you wouldn't go wrong with this book. I think it is slightly weaker than some of her later books, but then there are many authors that do seem to get better over time! If you are a fan of Katie Fforde it is definitely worth a read. Stately Pursuits is currently available on Amazon for £4.42 (May 2011).
I had never read anything by Katie Fforde before and was having real trouble in my local library trying to find something I thought I would enjoy reading. I saw this book and another book by her, Wedding Season on the recently returned shelf and decided to give them a go. What instantly attracted me was the cover, it was primarily purple with a cartoon design showing a gate and a hedge which I could only imagine belonged to a stately home. Reading the blurb I realised it was my sort of book-easy to read chick lit and promptly checked it out! Stately Pursuits introduces us to Hetty, a very normal down to earth girl in a loving relationship. She is due to meet her boyfriend, Alistair at his country cottage similar to how they do every weekend. Imagine her dismay when as she arrives, he calls to her that he is in bed and when she climbs the stairs she discovers he is infact in bed with another woman! He tells her that there was no other way to tell her and he believed this was the easiest way. As I'm sure you can imagine, Hetty is absolutely furious and makes a swift exit, after ruining his antique linen and damaging his much loved Porsche! Hetty then feels very much at a loose end and has no option but to go and stay with her mother, especially since Alistair was her boss in London. When she arrives at her parents she wants nothing but sympathy however her Mum already has a plan for her; she is to take care of an elderly relatives home whilst he is in hospital. Hetty is not keen on this option but soon realises that she cant stay with her parents forever and it is probably a good idea to go, even if its just to mend her broken heart. She understands she is not needed for long and that there is an heir to take over if her elderly relative, Samuel should unfortunately pass on. As soon as Hetty arrives at Courtbridge House she immediately falls in love with the place, despite its old and dilapidated state it is truely beautiful and has a lot of character. Her mother has succeeded in telling the entire population of the village about Hetty's broken heart (much to her dismay!) so they are all keen to welcome her and look after her. Shortly after Hettys arrival she comes across a letter addressed to Samuel demanding a large sum of money in reference to a loan. Hetty immediately panics as she, nor the estate has the money to pay for this. She sets about ways of making money for the house but her tracks are halted when the heir of the house, Samuels nephew Connor turns up and makes his feelings very clear-he wishes to turn the house into a theme park! Hetty is horrified and does all she can to save Courtbridge House, including opening to the public. Connor and Hettys relationship is rather rocky as they are complete opposites, however this changed over time and they soon realise they are far more similar than they would like to admit. Throughout the book I found myself beginning to love Hetty more and more. She seemed so down to earth right from the beginning and the reader will find themselves really taking to her and wanting her to succeed in her goals and targets. The introduction of Connor made me feel for Hetty even more due to the abrupt and hostile manner he first showed towards her. However, I also found myself warming to Connor as he became less abrupt and more human like! I found this book to be a very easy read and never needed to re-read anything in the fear that I'd missed any information. Although I enjoyed the book an awful lot I wouldn't say it was a gripping read and it took me a couple of weeks to get through it. The plot flowed well although there were a number of scenes in the book where you could easily guess what was going to happen next. I enjoyed reading a piece of chick lit where the main character had goals and aspirations for something she truly loved. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for an easy read or interested in chick lit. It is 384 pages long and was published by Arrow Books. It is currently available from Amazon for £5.99 or from 1p used from Amazon Marketplace.
Stately Pursuits is by author Katie Fforde who has also written bestselling novels Paradise Fields, Flora's Lot & Restoring Grace amongst others. The book follows Hetty Longden who has had her heart broken by her first ever love who has been cheating on her and her mother has decided she'll be perfect at looking after her Great Uncle Samuel's stately home which is in a state of disrepair and her Great Uncle is suffering financial difficulty so Hetty moves in to the house to look after it while her Great Uncle is recovering from ill health in a hospital and she begins to become part of the community and see how important the house is to everybody. While she is looking after the house she meets her Great Uncle's heir who is perceived as being awful but she develops a friendship with him at first that slowly becomes something more but they cannot see eye to eye on the future of the house or her Great Uncle's care and while she is fighting tooth & nail to make the house a success when it's open to the public her Great Uncle's heir, Connor, nicknamed Connor The Barbarian, is trying to be more financially astute and see the grounds as being profitable and he is constantly talking about selling off the grounds & the house being knocked down. Who will succeed in the end and what is the future for Hetty, Connor, Great Uncle Samuel & Courtbridge Manor? You'll have to read the book yourself to find out exactly what happens! I found the book to be very well written and I started reading it yesterday and finished it in less than a day because it was so engrossing, I almost missed an appointment I had because I couldn't bear to put it down and I ended up running for the bus! I always enjoy books by Katie Fforde and this one is no exception, it was also all the more enjoyable because I had paid just 50p from a charity shop that's just opened locally! I would definitely recommend this book for anybody who is a fan of the chicklit genre and loves a good bit of excitement and romance to keep the story going. I enjoyed the ending, as I usually do with this type of book and for this reason I am rating the book 5/5.
An irresistible novel from Katie Fforde, the bestselling author of Thyme Out and Artistic Licence.