Summer is well and truly on the way, which means that bookshops will be filling their shelves with uplifting, fluffy, feelgood chicklit that people can pack in their suitcases along with their flip flops and their factor 50. Jenny Oliver's latest novel, The Sunshine & Biscotti Club, is the perfect poolside read, but it's so evocative of sunbaked, citrus grove-fragranced Tuscany that it is perfect for a slice of summery escapism if you're stuck at home too.
The story is set at the Hotel Limoncello, a dilapidated lakeside guesthouse that Libby has inherited from her aunt and that she is in the process of renovating with her husband Jake. In the opening chapter, she discovers that he has been doing the dirty on her via an online dating site and, if that wasn't bad enough, rather than begging for forgiveness and promising that it was all a big mistake, he walks out, leaving her feeling not only heartbroken and embarrassed but also in the lurch with the hotel nowhere near ready to be opened to the paying guests.
Luckily, Libby's gang of old friends are more reliable than her spouse, and they all reunite, determined to support their friend through her personal crisis and help finish off the renovations in time. Eve, usually totally focused on her kids, is glad of a break from her own faltering marriage, while workaholic Jessica is slightly more apprehensive about taking time out of her busy schedule, along with her friend and business partner Dex. When Dex reveals that he has invited along the missing members of the group, Miles and Jimmy, the cat is well and truly set amongst the pigeons because they were the ones-who-got-away for Eve and Jessica many years ago.
Is it best to let bygones be bygones or will the prosecco-fuelled, balmy nights spent reminiscing about their fun and frolic-filled flat-sharing days rekindle old romances? The girls (and the guys) have to look at their pasts and presents to decide what they really want in their futures, with some surprising but predictably heartwarming results.
As a blogger, I was drawn to the character of Libby, a food blogger who Photoshops out the less glamorous bits of life to make it all look absolutely perfect online. I smiled with recognition as she carefully edited her photos and hashtags to present an idealised view of things that didn't turn out quite right. (I'll admit it, the Madhouse kids aren't always as smiley as the photos would seem to show and there is grumbling and even occasional resorting to bribery behind the scenes if they're not in the mood to be review models as needed !). As you'll know if you're a regular reader, I love taking part in the #readcookeat challenge and unsurprisingly, Libby's baking school has given me some great dishes to try out - unlike Libby, I promise I'll share them with you, even if they go horribly wrong !
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £7.99
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.