Julie Houston comes to the blog today with a story set in Yorkshire full of family, friends and an unexpected second chance in
A Village Affair
Cassie has it all, or mostly: she’s got a new job as Deputy Head at the local primary school, her son is a maths whiz, her daughter is a netball fanatic, her husband is adoring and her house is picture-perfect, unlike the disorder she grew up with. Everything is just as she dreamed, when at eight she made a checklist for her life that detailed every bit about it. And then the charity auction happened, and she, with her best friends Fi, Clare, and Tina and their partners are talking about bidding on a holiday in Portugal until Tina’s husband speaks out and shares that Tina and Cassie’s husband have been having an affair for the past 2 years (or longer) and everything falls apart.
See, at first Cassie’s smugness was a bit off-putting, but as I came to understand her upbringing with an activist mother who was more than a bit haphazard about cleanliness, social convention and fitting in, in a small village, her need to have both organization and ‘things’ made sense, as did her desire only to have him back in the home- not realizing until much later that he just ‘ticked all the boxes’ on the checklist that little eight year old girl made. With her position of Deputy Head at the school becoming Acting Head as the prior Headmistress died and there was no one lined up – school demands become her focus, and the way she avoids thinking (sort of) about Mark and the loss of her best friend Tina. But a development project is in the planning stages – one that will consolidate the little school (the last remaining CofE school in the north) into a pass through- where your entire schooling happens in one campus, plus 3000 additional homes, shopping centres and even a ski hill, the green space and farmlands are threatened – and the fight is on. Add in several chance encounters with Xavier, back to work with his father to develop the land, and the connection that she and he have that has her, for the first time in her life, feeling legless from love, and you’ve got a jam-packed plot with dramas large and small, daily struggles, friends good and bad, laugh out loud moments from the children and plenty of secrets that could have the power to blow-up lives, the story is fast-paced, surprisingly deep and emotional, and each character comes to show clearly who and why they are, and as Cassie finds her footing in new situations, she also finds her own self – strong, independent and clever.
For a first introduction to Houston’s work – this one was a winner. We don’t often see he aftermath of infidelity in ways that everyone can relate – from the grief and overwhelming anger, to the hours spent plotting punishments, the ‘wish’ to have it all back, and the mistakes and choices made on the way to rediscovering your feet. Add in the moments with the kids and the squirrel in the pudding and pink sauce (read it to find out) and I was hooked.
The countdown to the final week of term started with Little Acorns’ Nursery and Reception Nativity which, I knew from past experience, would go down a treat as parents and grannies assembled to see their little darlings on stage for the first time.
“Oo’s this ‘ere then?” George Sunderson, one of the local farmer’s sons executed his lines in a broad Yorkshire accent.
“It’s my baby,” Mary, a.k.a. four-year old Molly Dixon, simpered, showing her dolly to the audience.
“Wot’s ‘is name then?” George asked, accentuating every word in a wooden monotone.
“Beyoncé,” Mary said proudly, holding up a swaddled Jesus.
“Is it ‘eck,” George said loudly, frowning and looking offstage for reassurance that he’d got the right name.
“It’s Beyoncé,” Mary reiterated once again.
“It i’nt is it, Mrs. Beaumont?” George looked offstage, beyond the curtains once more. “It’s Jesus, i’nt it?”
“It’s my dolly, Beyoncé, George,” Mary said soothingly, “But we’re pretending she’s Jesus, just for today.”
Title: A Village Affair
Author: Julie Houston
Genre: British, Contemporary Woman's Fiction, Family Saga, Humor elements, Romantic Elements, Setting: Britain, Small Town
Published by: Aria
Published on: 6 November, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy head 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 that weren't enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the forefront 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...
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.