While reading yet another romance about a sweet young thing, have you ever wished that the heroine was a bit more wrinkled and a lot less perfect? If so, then look no further than Stella Sykes’ entertaining debut novel about the trials of a feisty fifty-something.
Finding herself divorced after thirty years marriage, Felicity moves to London intent on rebuilding her life. While she struggles to adjust to being single once more, her friends pitch in to help. Jane is determined to fix her up with an elderly version of Mr Right; Venetia masterminds Felicity’s physical transformation; while Rose provides her with a country haven where she can lick her wounds. And as for Felicity? Having spent most of her life as a wife and mother, she hasn’t a clue about what she wants to do – or with whom. But when her friends encounter their own crises, Felicity’s capability shines through, proving to herself – and those around her – that she still has a lot to offer.
When Stella Sykes stepped in at the last minute to talk to West Sussex Writers’ Club about how her book came to be written and published, her amusing personality guaranteed an entertaining evening. She told us that she was writing ‘boiler lit’, rather than ‘chic lit’ and enlivened her talk with a variety of funny anecdotes about her eventful life.
Sykes’ warm-hearted attitude informs her writing, reminding me – in places – of Maeve Binchey in her astute, but ultimately generous reading of human nature. However, I do feel there is a conflict within the book. It starts by being very funny, with a couple of set-piece scenes which had me chuckling aloud in the tradition of ‘chic lit with wrinkles’. But, as the story progressed, I became increasingly aware of the tension between the narrative and the humour, which became broader throughout the book in order to get around this problem. I get the impression that someone had been constantly nagging the author to be ‘funnier’. Which is a shame, because I think that insistence has sold this book short.
The plotline of the novel has sufficient narrative drive, enjoyable settings and memorable characters, without having to deliver laugh-aloud lines every few pages. And if you’re looking for a cosy, feel-good romance about an older woman, then I can thoroughly recommend it. I’ll certainly be looking out for her next book. As those of us who won’t see fifty again can testify, love still looms large on our horizons – even if the overwhelming majority of romantic fiction refuses to recognise it!