Hattie Goes to Hollywood

Caroline James

Not that Hollywood, the one in Cumbria. For that matter, it isn’t the famous Hattie , Hattie Jacques either. Although, Hattie Mulberry is a larger, voluptuous and sexually aware lady of a number of years life experience too. She has been married twice, once to an Italian and then more recently and, all too briefly, to Hugo. Hugo had a massive heart attack, Hattie was sat at the Captain’s table on a cruise with him at the time.

Hattie comes to Hollywood to collect on an inheritance, Holly Cottage, which has been left to her by an aunt. The day she arrives there is a funeral next door at Holly House, preceded by a loud argument between two female voices.

The next day with her furniture in the cottage and Alf, and his dog Ness, set to work tidying the dilapidated garden, Hattie decides to call at the big house. Where she meets the recently widowed Daphne, a far from merry widow. Daphne’s husband, a popular man with the gang at the pub, apparently committed suicide. Daphne describes him as a happy man. A man who wouldn’t have left her in a parlous financial state by breaching the terms of his life insurance.

Alf is a gardener and handyman who worked at a ‘hotel’ a short distance from Hollywood. Hattie had met Alf when she been employed at the ‘hotel’ before marrying Hugo. There is much more than a bacon sandwich and a roll-up to Alf and the ‘hotel’ might deserve the inverted commas!

Stop her from getting bored in her new rut, it is Alf who suggests that Mrs Mulberry should become the village Miss Marples. Her first case awaits.

The cast of village characters are nicely drawn, pencil outlines where that is all that is needed, watercolours where colour is needed and just a few detailed portraits. It is a well-balanced piece of writing in this respect. Just enough to make the difference between the vicar’s hippy-dippy second wife and the nosey shop keeper very clear.

The randy pub manager is one of Hattie’s big fans, although it would appear that most of the pub regulars are victims of her undoubted charms. As you would expect from a village crime story, the pub, the shop and vicarage are all frequently visited locations.

The plot is a simple vehicle to enable the likeable and less pleasant characters to interact with Hattie. Only the out and out baddies are not redeemable in this light story.

All you have to do is get yourself a nice cup of something, a packet of your favourite biscuits, sit in your favour fireside chair and turn the pages while smiling at these delightful characters. Well, that is what I did.

Oh, and did I mention Drake? I should have mentioned Drake, too late now you’ll have to read the book to find out!

5 Stars

Books for January 20

Slim to None

Jenny Gardiner

Abbie is the Restaurant Critic for the New York Sentinel and she has the body to go with it, after a life time of indulging in the finest food available. So much so she is no longer able to go ‘undercover.’ The restaurants know her and she is starting to get special treatment!

As a result, she is replaced by Barry and demoted to a once a week column until she loses some of her identifying weight.

Why is she so addicted to food? Her Grandmother, Gigi, who taught her to cook to keep her away from her warring parents? Her parents? Social pressure?

Supported, sometimes indirectly, by the males in her life she sets about rebuilding herself.

A pleasant read, however I found the detailed recipes that ended many chapters an affectation that cost the book a whole star and her girlfriend, Jess just disappearing…

4 Stars – 1 for the cookery lessons.   

Love Lost in Time

Cathie Dunn

The stories of two women living centuries apart, but through the actions of others, in the same region of France.

It is apparent from the very beginning that both of the women are trapped. Only one has the power to set them both free and she doesn’t know it.

The older story set in the time of Charlemagne offers a tale of blood, violence, and feuding. The heroine, although loved by father and her future husband, is treated as a chattel battered to please the King. Forced into an arranged marriage to man she hardly knows sent across the country from Vaulun to the citadel of Carcassonne to marry the Count.

The other contemporary woman, Madie, has been left a house by her estranged. Francophile, mother. Not that she wants to keep it, do it up and sell it; get back to Newcastle and her life as an academic, that’s her plan. Her mother it transpires had other ideas. Trapped in the house, she finds herself the focus of attention from the locals, in more ways than one.

Then there is the mystery of her father …

Although she is best known as a writer of historical romance, the story set in contemporary time is an elegantly written and realistic romance.

5 Stars

Time to Time

Paul Kater

Paul Kater his written a delightful piece of time travel fiction. The main character Cordelia Brown used to (or is it, she will?) work for a company that makes time machines. Until, it all goes to pot one day and she escapes in an unfinished time machine. When we meet her she is building a new life in the past, has a boyfriend in a different country but in contemporary time.
All is going well until, agents from her time appear and … the rest you will have to read for yourself.
A fun uplifting tale, cleverly plotted.

5 Stars

The Real Story Of The Boat That Rocked

Ray Clarke

The story of Radio Caroline, written by someone who was there, for part of it. A well written book sprinkled with dozens of amusing, scary and totally mundane anecdotes collected from former DJs, the Owners, office workers and supporters of Britain’s first commercial radio station.

The book covers the heady early days of the Station in the 1960 through the low times, the shipwrecks being impounded, to the modern day.

Radio Caroline still transmits to the East of England, 24 hours a day- everyday,  on the medium wave and to the rest of the world via DAB and the Internet. They use the Radio Caroline ship, the Ross Revenge (a record breaking trawler before she became a broadcast ship) for a monthly broadcast under the guise of Radio Caroline North.

The book is illustrated with a selection of photographs, many of which unless you are a transmitter-mast nerd, look much the same.

I found it to be an interesting read.

4 stars

Soulfarm

David Toft

Two worlds are suddenly linked, ours and one where the Church has developed mental powers. Powers that they need tortured souls to sustain. Guess who’s souls they are after.

A Murder and a spate of disappearances bring Detective Chief Inspector Seamus Brogan to a remote part of the countryside outside Dublin. Where he finds himself driving off the road, literally the road has disappeared. He has crossed into the other world.

Can he save himself, the rather attractive woman who was with him and the rest of our world?

A cleverly constructed tale. I enjoyed turning the pages.

4 Star

A Friend in Need

Elizabeth M. Hurst

A second story set in the same village and involving characters we met in Siren Spirit.

Once again we have a well written and engaging story of spirits trapped in a place beyond their time, while people try to deal with the issues in their own lives.

The representation of Selena’s depressive illness and behaviour is one of the best I have encountered in fiction.  

A likeable story, a good fireside read for a cold winter’s evening … or maybe on a sun lounger by the pool.

4 Stars

A Wife and a Bisexual Husband

Martin Brant

A novel, written in a woman’s voice, about her coming to terms with her husband’s admission that he is bisexual. Not only is he bisexual he is also impotent, which of course brings, Kate, the wife’s sexuality into play.

This is a patchy exploration of the doubts and uncertainties Kate experiences along the way to her new life. Some of her internal conversation repeats several times, others are almost glossed over. While in her life she struggles with some small steps and at other times she makes huge bounds almost without thought.

For the patchy nature.

3 Stars

Who Kills a Nudist

Paul Whybrow

A complex story of interwoven crimes in the English county of Cornwall, a spiritual home of smuggling of all types.

The trigger for the tale is the death of rather gentle pensioner, a man who was found naked in the sea. He had been sexually assaulted and violently killed. (That is about it for nudists as far as this story is concerned!)

Enter Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle, a man with enough on his plate already. Widower of 3 years, his only real friend his father-in-law who was also a heroic thief taker in his days in the police.

A plot that has more elements than the periodic table (not really but it is a busy story) the Cornish Detective could be a series to follow.

4 stars

A Village by the River

Martin Brant

A story from the Nudist Series that Marin Brant has created.

Jonathon, a born hiking enthusiast, decides to abandon his damp, clingy clothes, one afternoon when out hiking and has an epiphany.

The rest of the book concerns his relationship with Patricia, a girl he encounters while on a naked ramble and trying to get his friend Timothy, to join him.

A very American book, many of the cultural references … factory dormitories, for instance, are outside of British experience. So learnt something as well as enjoying a gentle stroll through Americana with out my clothes.

4 Stars