I am a good library user. I do not mind spending months in the hold queue for a much-anticipated book by a favourite author. In fact, there is something rather satisfying and even exciting about a long wait, especially since you never know exactly when the book is going to become available. But when it does finally appear, I refuse to wait any longer to read it. After months of waiting, Katie Fforde’s newest book, A French Affair, arrived at my library branch last night. I started reading it early this morning (don’t you love waking up early in the summer, when it is bright and warm even at five o’clock?) and had it finished before breakfast.
I have a muddled relationship with Katie Fforde’s books. I adore a few of them –Flora’s Lot and Thyme Out are two of my very favourite comfort reads – and like most of the others, but some make such a minor impression that I forget about them completely. I am afraid A French Affair is destined to fall into that third category. It is not bad it just lacks the energy and sense of fun that usually make Fforde’s books such enjoyable escapes.
Gina Makepiece and her sister Sally have inherited their aunt’s small collection of antiques and her stall at the French House, the antiques centre in the Cotswolds where she used to sell the items. Neither woman knows anything about antiques – Sally is a stay-at-home mother and Gina is in PR – but it isn’t long before Gina is throwing herself fully into this new world, eager to learn and to help the French House (and its handsome but grumpy owner, Matthew) thrive.
I am used to Fforde’s flat male characters and Matthew remains predictably distant throughout the story, though he is a marked improvement on many of Fforde’s heroes. What I had not expected was how slow-moving the rest of the story was and how uninteresting I found Gina. Usually, Fforde’s heroines have a chaotic blend of family and business interests that keep them absorbed and active for the course of the novel. Here, that energy was missing and as a result the whole book fell a little flat for me.
I wasn’t precisely disappointed by this book but I had hoped, after Fforde’s excellent last novel (Recipe for Love), that she was back on form after a series of lacklustre recent efforts. Apparently not quite yet. A French Affair is still an interesting read for any Fforde fan but not one of her books that I’m eager to return to.