Back in September 2014 I reviewed the first book in this family saga trilogy, “Mixed Emotions – an Oxfordshire Affair” by exciting new novelist Antonia Abbott, and made my feelings known about her irritating yet utterly riveting heroine – or perhaps anti-heroine – Susie Rowlands.
“Novel writing experts often say your protagonist in a story should be a likeable character. However most of the way through this entertaining book I wanted to grab the beguiling young Susie Rowlands right out from the page and slap her for being such a spoilt, featherbrained little bitch.
She is the classic Trust Fund babe who messes up in almost everything she does, but because she is pretty, appealing and knows how to flutter her eyelashes, gets away with quite a lot … until she pushes her indulgent parents one step too far. Then she gets the lessons she needs to learn, none of which she bargained for.”
So here we are in book two. And guess what?
Our Susie hasn’t learned her lesson. Far from it. Despite becoming engaged to the handsome and long-suffering David and seeming to have calmed her fun-loving libido down a bit, it isn’t long before she is cantering off, trampling all over everyone’s corns, feelings and egos once again.
She really does have the common sense of a 7-year-old in a 25-year-old body, unfortunately for her new fiancé and everyone else around her, including her equally long-suffering parents.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the skeletons rattling in some of the other characters’ closets.
Robbery and extortion with the gin-and-tonics
In Antonia Abbott’s almost Miss Marple-esque, genteel and restrained style, we uncover some hideous and horribly realistic villains emerging from prison gates, under magnolia trees, flashing nude photographs and lurking in the bushes to expose some of the characters’ less than squeaky-clean pasts.
In the sub-plot about a wayward brother, in particular, we see Abbott’s brilliant skill in how she highlights the terrible conflict between someone’s faith in blood being thicker than water, and how that faith can be mocked unashamedly. The pain and pathos here emerges quite clearly, although Abbott skips over it before we have time to get too depressed.
The wedding – ah, yes
All the way through this book in the trilogy we share the Rowlands family’s experiences in organizing a lavish British upper-middle class wedding, with all the the attendant frustrations, stress, hysterics and more.
(Having written 5 books about how to organize weddings and done all the research, I can sympathize. My own first wedding was an all-singing, all-dancing nightmare. The second one was 4 people in a registry office which I would heartily recommend to Susie Rowlands or anyone else like her.)
But how does the wedding work out?
Aha, that’s for you to judge. As they used to say in World War One (I was quite young at the time…) “no names, no pack drill.”
Suffice it to say that anyone who has already read this book is absolutely gagging to read Part 3 of the trilogy…talk about a cliff hanger!
I’m told that the third part of the trilogy will be out later in 2015. I’m counting the days.
And let’s keep everything crossed that this talented novelist goes on writing more books – whether about the champagne-sipping Rowlands family or other even more intriguing examples of upper-middle class British quirks…
Heightened Emotions – An Oxfordshire Wedding
By Antonia Abbott
Raven Crest Books