Jenna Freemont has had a terrible Monday. She loses her job as a feature writer & arrives home to find her boyfriend, Patrick, in bed with another woman. Jenna packs up her things & goes to stay with her brother & his family. Suddenly she finds herself without a job or a home & heartbroken into the bargain. Jenna’s family decide she needs to find a job that’s like a holiday & she is persuaded to spend a few weeks with a distant relation, Kitty Everest. Kitty lives in an almost stately home, Holtby House, in the country. She’s a widow, living on a limited income & reluctantly planning to sell the house because she can’t afford the upkeep. Jenna’s job is to help catalogue the contents & get the place ready for sale.
Jenna & Kitty hit it off immediately & Jenna becomes determined to find a way to allow Kitty to stay in her home. Kitty’s godson, Alexander (known as Xander), also lives in the village & makes a living restoring furniture. He’s immediately suspicious of Jenna’s motives & his reception is frosty. Xander’s girlfriend, Caroline, known to Jenna as the Ice Queen, is also hostile to Jenna, though whether because she cares about Kitty, is jealous of Xander or for some other motive, isn’t clear. Caroline is very keen to foster Jenna’s relationship with her young step-brother Harry which makes everyone suspicious.
Jenna soon settles in & relaxes into village life – walking with the dogs, riding with Xander whose attitude veers between hostility & cautious friendship, & meeting the locals. Jenna’s idea for saving Kitty’s home involves a lot of work & commitment from everyone & her yearnings for Patrick & London life begin to fade away.
Country Plot is a lovely, romantic book for lovers of English country novels. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is one of my favourite contemporary writers. I love her Bill Slider mysteries (the newest book, Blood Never Dies, has just been published) & I’ve also read several of her stand alone romantic novels. There are definite echoes of Pride & Prejudice in the relationship between Jenna & Xander (his girlfriend’s surname could easily be Bingley rather than Russell) & their friendship grows gradually in spite of misunderstandings. The supporting characters are also a lot of fun. The garrulous Mad Enderby at the farm shop, Bill, Kitty’s loyal gardener & tenant & his wife, Fatty & the dogs, Watch & Barney. If you’re a fan of Katie Fforde or Jill Mansell, I think you’d enjoy Country Plot.