Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
Title: A Village Affair
Author: Julie Houston
Published: November 6th, 2018
Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy head teacher at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being ‘outed’ at a village charity auction – he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends.
As if it weren’t enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the front of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape.
But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet…
Well, what a brilliant story this turned out to be- so full of surprises and shocking revelations from the start to the end. Told in the first person by Cassandra Moonshine, it is a heartwarming story involving a wide range of well developed characters and a village community.
Just days before Cassandra is about to start her new job as Deputy Head at the village primary school, she discovers her husband has been having an affair with the person she thought was her best friend. That’s just the first of many shocking revelations in this engaging story.
With an eccentric Mum, a teenage son with his own dilemmas, a rebellious teenage daughter and builders wanting to build on green belt land as well as all the shenanigans of settling into a new role in a new school, life is definitely changing and challenging for Cassandra! I loved escaping into this story, the author brings the scenarios to life in your imagination as you read.
There are some tear jerking moments, others to have you laughing out loud (especially one involving a squirrel), times when you wonder just how much more can go wrong for her and a superb ending to round it all off, leaving you with a smile on your face. I have no hesitation in highly recommending this brilliant read and I’ll definitely be looking out for more by this talented author in future.
I requested and was gifted a copy of this book via NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion after choosing to read it – and thoroughly enjoying doing so!
‘Hi, I’m Fiona, pleased to meet you. Friend or family?’
We’d been allowed, finally, to leave the interminable photo session outside the church where an unseasonably cold shower had left white streaks in over-the-top fake tans, and sent guests scurrying for umbrellas and waiting cars to head to the reception.
‘Are you related to Davina or Luke?’
‘I’m Davina’s cousin. Mum and Linda are sisters.’ I knew I was gaping at this rather large woman, who couldn’t have been much older than me, easing herself into one of the twelve chairs decorated with jaunty pink and white balloons and chocolate-box bows in pink netting. They reminded me of the starched pink net tutus I’d dreamt of wearing in the ballet class I never got to go to. Mum was away at Greenham Common, if I remember rightly, and although Granddad had said he’d take me along to the village hall class, it never actually materialised. I knew I was being rude but I continued to stare at Fiona. She was hugely pregnant and blue. Literally. Blue lines, crosses and something that looked remarkably like the outline of a map of India were etched randomly on her face.
‘Fell asleep before we set off,’ she grimaced. ‘I’m so knackered…’ she rubbed her lower back in the way of all the pregnant woman I’d ever met ‘… and the two-year-old found the blue felt marker pen. He also, little sod, decided to eat the green colouring I’d left out for the minute I had the energy to make his elf birthday cake and now he’s shitting Martians. Oops sorry, shouldn’t say shit at a wedding. Do you suppose the alcohol mafia will descend if I go for a glass of wine?’
‘When’s the baby due?’
‘Last week.’ Fiona rubbed her back once again. ‘I’ve carted Van Gogh – obviously in his blue and green period – off to Matthew’s mum so I’m free to go into labour as from this minute.’
A huge dark-haired giant of a man was in the process of finding his name on the table and once he did so he sat down heavily and looked at his watch. He must have been six-foot-four at least, and broad with it. His white shirt strained across his massive chest and he fiddled uncomfortably with the button at his neck.
‘Matthew, my husband,’ Fiona indicated with her glass of wine. ‘He hates wearing a suit, collar and tie.’
‘Doesn’t he have to wear one for work?’ I asked, smiling at the other guests on our table as they began to take their seats.
‘The cattle might appreciate some sartorial elegance every now and again but getting cow shit out of his overalls is bad enough. Don’t fancy trying to get it out of a pin-striped suit.’ She laughed at the very idea.
‘He’s a farmer?’
‘Yes. Adores everything about it. Farming’s in his blood. I’m a city girl myself – from Leeds. Never understood the point of the countryside really.’
I laughed. ‘So how do you know Luke?’
‘Matthew and Luke were at school together. Known each other years.’
The rest of our table were settling themselves in, making introductions, taking off too-high heels and headache-inducing hats, and I suddenly felt a bit shy, wishing, as I so often did, that I had a partner of my own to pull out my chair and give me a knowing wink when it was time to go home.
A tall and very elegant blonde, wearing a hat almost as big as Mum’s, sat herself on my left and immediately re-applied lipstick from a nifty little mirrored case she deftly flicked open. I made a note to buy one for myself. She offered a hand. ‘Hi, I’m Tina. Davina said she was going to put any singletons together, and to look out for you.’
‘Oh?’ I had an awful feeling Davina must have told Tina to look after me in the same way Auntie Linda had always made a reluctant Davina include me in the many outings, parties and sleepovers arranged for her as the spoilt princess she undoubtedly was, and I could feel embarrassment rising.
‘Yes, she thought you and I would get on. Davina and I are both in the same law firm in Leeds, at the very bottom of the slippery career pole.’
‘Oh God,’ Fiona sighed. ‘What I’d give to be at the bottom of a slippery pole, inching my way up the career ladder instead of heading for another bout of displaying my bits and pieces to all and sundry.’
‘What did you do before you became a mum?’ I was curious. ‘Can’t you go back to it once you’ve had this baby?’
‘Don’t believe a word she says,’ Matthew interrupted, laughing. ‘Fiona was temping – spending her days filing other people’s invoices as well as her nails – when I met her. She was more than happy to be whisked off to the country to play at “The Farmer Wants a Wife”.’
‘You continue to think that if you must,’ Fiona said loftily. ‘Once I’ve popped this one out I think I’m going to apply for a place at Leeds University. I quite fancy law…’ She beamed across at Tina. ‘You’ll have to give me some tips.’
‘Now, aren’t all single girls promised a bonk of some sort at weddings?’ Tina turned to survey the rest of the tables, straining her neck for a better view of any possible bonkers. ‘Can’t see any promising candidates at the moment…’
‘What about the best man?’ Fiona suggested, turning her bulk awkwardly in the general direction of the top table.
‘Yes, have to admit, he’s in the running. Although—’ Tina broke off, ducking down in her seat. ‘Sorry, I’m just trying to avoid that woman in the huge purple hat. She cornered me in the loo and asked me, if I was local, if I might be interested in joining her Astroshamanic workshop at some point next week.’
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
‘Any bonking involved?’ Fiona asked hopefully.
‘Apparently, it’s a practice that – hang on, what did she say – “involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with a spirit world in order to channel these transcendental energies into this world.”’ Tina laughed. ‘I told the purple hat that I’d already been known to lose consciousness after an interaction with spirits on a Friday night out in the middle of Leeds and to give me her card.’
‘You got off lightly.’ A devastatingly pretty girl dressed in yellow, whose pert behind had caught the attention of every male at our end of the hotel dining room, took the one remaining empty chair at the table. ‘I’ve just spent fifteen minutes trying to escape from some guy determined to sell me Personal Breakdown Cover.’
‘I could do with some of that,’ Fiona sighed, massaging her bump. ‘I think I’m on the point of a personal breakdown myself.’ She began to laugh. ‘I remember one of my first boyfriends, when I knew absolutely nothing about, you know, sex and all that goes with it, asking me about mutual orgasm…’ She broke off, holding on to her bump as she continued to giggle. ‘I was convinced he was trying to sell me some sort of insurance cover and I said, “Oh, no, it’s fine, thanks, I’m more than able to sort that kind of thing on my own.”’
The girl in yellow laughed, downed her entire glass of champagne and grinned round the room at the rest of us. ‘Hi, I’m Clare. I think I’m down for the singles table so I’m assuming that’s all of us?’ She raised her huge brown eyes questioningly and pushed an escaped strand of glossy chestnut hair behind one ear.
‘Not me,’ Fiona said. ‘But this is Cassandra and Tina, and I think the chap next but one to Matthew is by himself.’
I took a closer look at the fair-haired man whom Fiona had pointed out and who was now deep in conversation with the girl on his left. He must have realised he was under scrutiny because he lifted his head and looked in our direction, meeting and holding my gaze until I felt myself redden.
Julie Houston is the author of The One Saving Grace, Goodness, Grace and Me and Looking for Lucy, a Kindle top 100 general bestseller and a Kindle Number1 bestseller. She is married, with the two teenage children and a male cockerpoo and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.
Twitter handle: @juliehouston2