A Walk in the Park – Jill Mansell

Lara Carson is thrown out of home at 16 by her cold father & vindictive stepmother. She’d just had a fight with her boyfriend, Flynn, & she was afraid she was pregnant. Lara goes to live with her Aunt Nettie in Keswick & has no contact with anyone in Bath for 18 years. She returns, with her daughter, Gigi, for her father’s funeral. Her appearance at the funeral causes a minor sensation but she is reunited with Evie, her best friend from high school & learns that the house she grew up in is now hers. She hadn’t known that the house belonged to her mother &, after her mother’s death, Charles Carson was only allowed to live there until his death. Now, it belongs to Lara & she takes great delight in removing every trace of her stepmother Janice’s perfume along with the magnolia-painted walls.

Lara & Gigi decide to stay in Bath. Lara finds a job in a jewellery store owned by the campest straight man in Bath, Don Temple. Inevitably, Lara runs into Flynn & she tells him about Gigi. After his initial fury with Lara at depriving him of 18 years of his daughter’s life, Flynn & Gigi get to know each other. She’s soon calling him Dad & he gives her a gap year job in his wine business. Lara & Flynn are still attracted to each other but Lara doesn’t want to take the risk of falling for Flynn all over again if the relationship doesn’t work out – especially with the added complication of Gigi’s feelings to consider. Meanwhile, Evie is about to marry her boyfriend, Joel, when she discovers on her wedding day that he’s been unfaithful to her – with the makeup artist who she’d employed for the day. Evie leaves Joel at the altar & Lara whisks her off to Keswick & Aunt Nettie.

Returning to Bath has brought back memories for Lara, not just about Flynn but about her miserable childhood & her mother’s unhappy marriage & she decides to try to find out more. With Flynn’s help, she tracks down a friend of her mother’s & discovers clues as to where the money for her house might have come from. Evie continues working in the fancy dress shop owned by Joel’s parents & is dismayed when Joel’s mother, Bonnie, pushes her into going out to dinner with Ethan, who Evie met at the Ellison Hotel on the day she left Joel. Evie’s dinner with Ethan is a great success but when she overhears a conversation that shows Ethan in a very unflattering light, Evie decides not to see him again. Meanwhile, Joel is determined to get her back & he’s not used to resistance.

A Walk in the Park is a funny, romantic book & I loved it. I’ve known of Jill Mansell’s books for ages but this is the first I’ve read. I read an enthusiastic review in The Bookseller &, on a whim, downloaded it because I couldn’t get hold of a copy at work. She reminds me of Katie Fforde, one of my favourite contemporary writers. Lara & Flynn’s romance is sparky & tender &, although it’s not hard to see how their story will end, it’s lovely to see their relationship move from the hurt feelings & explanations of Lara’s return to friendship & love, despite all Lara’s best intentions. Lara & Gigi’s relationship is a delight. It’s so nice to see a mother-daughter relationship that’s easy & loving. Aunt Nettie, Don & Evie are all gorgeous characters that I enjoyed getting to know. I wasn’t as excited by the Harry & EnJaySeven subplot, it just all went on a bit too long &, frankly, it was pretty unbelievable. I’m glad Jill Mansell has written more than 20 books, it’s comforting to know I have another writer to reach for when I’m in the mood for a funny, romantic story.

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