by Laura Greaves
Published by Penguin
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Anna has a TV-star boyfriend, a lovely house, and a job amongst the glitterati as a muck-raking gossip columnist in London. Does she ‘have it all’? (Is there such a thing?) She seems to have a bafflingly large amount of trouble getting parcels delivered to her house instead of to her grouchy neighbour Luke.
She is also a rather reluctant godmother to baby Ivy, who lives in Australia with her best friend Helena.
“‘And in the meantime you’ll be the fabulous London godmother who sends her tiny Ralph Lauren twin-sets and sparkly Dolce & Gabbana party shoes. But you won’t have to be here to watch her throw up on them.’
Her tone is upbeat but suddenly Helena sounds so far away, so frightened, that I want to cry for her – and kick myself for being so callous. Whatever my own feelings about children may be, they’re no justification for abandoning my best friend.
‘Of course I’ll be her godmother, Hel. I’d be honoured,’ I say, valiantly ignoring the little voice in my head whispering, What are you thinking?”
Anna’s world is shaken when Helena turns up on doorstep from Australia, badly underweight and not responding to her baby. Helena leaves Ivy with Anna and Finn in London, and flees to Scotland to a great-aunt she’s never met. Anna’s sudden child-caring role shakes up her relationships with the men in her life, and helps her realise that first impressions are not always accurate. People surprise her, for good and for ill, and in some ways she surprises herself.
We also see the story from Helena’s point of view, as she lobs in to a tiny Scottish village where she knows no-one, feeling depressed, afraid, and guilty. Her journey back to health does involve another romance, so this is a two-for-one book! It’s not exactly Magickal Healing Penis, thankfully, though her postnatal depression is resolved a little too quickly and easily for my tastes. Romance novels don’t always have to be super-realistic, do they? Do they?
And then there’s Finn’s point of view, as he racks off to Ireland, continues to be a knob, and attracts similarly unpleasant people. The less said about him, the better. Yes, we spend a fair bit of time in the heads of people who are variably unlikeable and/or flawed, but I can sometimes like that in a book, if there is enough balance. I liked it in this one.
This book manages to somehow be cute and fun, while also tackling issues of adoption, abandonment, abuse, motherhood, breaking up, workplace sexual harassment, and the damage done by paparazzi, without trivialising any of these issues. There is no sugar-coating of what it’s like to be parenting a small child, and don’t just expect Anna to be somehow “cured” of her childfreeness by caring for a baby – that’s not how the world works, and there’s nothing wrong with being childfree. I like it that some unpleasant cliches like this one are avoided!
I did have a couple of issues with the book. One was the multiple POV changes, which I hadn’t expected, so I found them a bit head-spinning at first. Now you know about them, so you won’t have this problem! The second was the use of the term “Parcel Nazi”, which is a pet peeve. (Any trivial use of the word “Nazi” is.)
But overall? Yes! I liked it, a lot.
Content notes: postnatal depression, sexual harassment, sexual assault (woman on man), domestic abuse, violence against pregnant woman, accidental injury to child.