Back of the book :
They say you should never go back. But this is exactly what ravishing Ronnie Ledwell is about to do, twenty-five years after she scandalised the Cotswold village of Compton Magna by abandoning her husband and children former lover.
Here her father’s famous stud farm has seen better days. Faithful Lester, the gifted stallion man, has guarded Ronnie’s secrets for three decades. but can they both forgive and forget the past ? Meanwhile, charismatic Kit Donne can’t stand the sight of the woman who so reminds him of his beloved late wife.
Among the predators greedily eyeing up the estate is sexy Bay Austen, a man who usually gets what he wants. Now he’s after pretty Petra Gunn and the stud farm land. Can Ronnie stand in his way ?
In a village riven with affairs, rivalries and scandals, Ronnie’s unexpected return, with allies glamour and mystique, sets in motion a drama from which there is no turning back.
What I think :
Ronnie Ledwell has got to return home, which would be ok if many years ago she hadn’t of run off with her lover leaving her husband and children behind. But, her father has died and she’s needed back home. Nobody knows whats going to happen to his stud farm so its down to Ronnie to jump into the breach and save the day. Can she face all the people she let down and make amends to all the people she carelessly left behind ?
Then there is Petra, who is a middle aged married mum who has a SMC (a safe married Crush) on Bay Austen, will it stay a crush or will her feelings get the better of her ?
And Carly, who is a young mum, who’s husband has just returned home from the army and is having trouble settling back in after life on the battle front.
Lastly Pip who is a general dogsbody and housekeeper at the stud, will her efforts be noticed or will she be forever the ‘odd’ Housekeeper ?
This is another epic read ( when I say ‘epic what I mean is, this is a very long, thick book ! ) from the wonderful Fiona Walker. There are many characters that, I must admit, did slightly confuse me. Its a good job that there was a cast list or I really would have got lost. However, once you get past the massive cast list, there are some really impressive characters in there. I did feel quite sorry for Carly and her struggles with her veteran husband. Petra did, quite frankly need a medal, in my opinion, with the way she put up with her dreaded mother-in-law ! So all in all they all come together for a epic tale of secrets and lies.
Yes, I really enjoyed this rip-roaring romp through the countryside with Petra and the ‘Saddlebags’ and will be looking forward to Fiona’s next romp, that hopefully will be of a more manageable size !
I give this fab book 8/10 (four stars ) (Due to the unmanageable size of the book ! 😦 )
Published by Head of Zeus on 05/10/17.
A huge Thank you to Clare Gordon at Head of Zeus for the review copy of the book.
Here for your reading pleasure is a extract from the book.
The Bags’ conversations had got a bit prosaic lately, mind you. Petra wished something exciting would happen in the village to give them something new to talk about. A few scarecrows hardly measured up to the Bardswolds’ big-cat sightings, the transgender vicar or Eyngate Hall being used as a location for a Richard Curtis film last year. It was also a far cry from the intense era of hotheaded Bridge almost leaving husband Aleš on a weekly basis, or Mo’s dilemma when she thought her elderly parents were no longer coping as crisis followed crisis. Even dry-humoured Gil was usually guaranteed to keep them agog with tales from the equine clinic she ran with her cycling-fanatic husband Paul, a hub of local horse gossip and marital discord, but it had been a very dull summer.
The Bags had a rule: what’s said in the saddle stays in the saddle. It was why they could all speak about their marriages so openly, sharing secrets with unswerving support, understanding and gales of laughter. Petra owed it to them to liven things up a bit, especially as she’d been the one to introduce the idea of the Safe Married Crush, their way of cheerfully deflecting from those neglectful husbands. Emotional infidelity didn’t count, she’d told the Saddle Bags cheerily. Feeling attracted to someone other than one’s spouse was as healthy as reading an escapist novel – or, in her case, writing one; you were secure in the knowledge that it was all in the mind. Now that her marriage was nearing the end of its second decade and lovemaking had waned to high days and holidays, Petra always tried to keep at least one SMC on the go, an instant guilt- and calorie-free heart-warmer. She justified these innocent infatuations by thinking of them as research. Inspiration for historical erotica was hard to come by when one’s entire life sometimes felt like a never-ending rota of drop-offs and pick-ups, co-ordinating the complicated demands of her teenage and tweeny children, commuter Charlie, and their menagerie of animals, often at the expense of her own fading career. The Safe Married Crush unleashed something wild in buxom, smoky-eyed Petra, which helped her write steamy fiction, as well as immunising her against her husband’s indifference.
None of the Bags took the crushes seriously – Bridge’s on sleazy farrier Flynn was a cause of much hilarity, Mo’s on devilish lurcher-enthusiast and lamper Jed Turner more so, Gill’s on the oleaginous local MP an obvious smokescreen – but they were a source of fun during lean periods, comforters that helped them through the long weeks between Poldark series or anything starring James Norton, especially if one’s husband was only home at weekends, as Petra’s was. Until recently, her secret whim had lain safely with London theatre director Kit Donne but her eye had been drawn inexorably to Compton’s dishiest farmer. Bridge was right: she did have quite a big crush on Bay, but it was at a very delicate stage. The whole point of a Safe Married Crush was that it was innocent, and this one felt unnervingly reciprocal. The texts had been bouncing back and forth all summer, all the best Petra and regards Bay quickly becoming ‘Pxx’ and ‘Bx’. They’d be carving their names in tree trunks next.
Lusting after Bay Austen was hardly an exclusive gig. Many village wives were in Petra’s SMC team. The sexy, roguish agricultural entrepreneur had long been the local pin-up, a good-looking charmer, whose cool Dragon’s Den business head had breathed new life into the family farm, turning his parents’ large arable holding, with its fishery and shoot, into a huge moneyearner. Compton Manor Farm was now a Mecca for craftsmen, holidaymakers, yummy-mummies and foodies, with its business units, farm shop, micro-brewery, yurts and Wagyu cattle, while its small, exclusive shoot was legendary. Taking a gun at one of the
Austens’ cliquey invitation-only days had long been an ambition of shooting-mad Charlie; celebrities and royals were reported to be regulars, along with enough City hedge-funders to enclose the Square Mile in privet and – most importantly to Charlie, whose occasionally ragged career at the Bar relied heavily upon old school ties in the Legal 500 – a great many high-flying, crack-shot solicitors. His enthusiasm for an alliance between Bay and the Gunn family made her crush even more awkward: Charlie had even been overheard loudly encouraging the dashing farmer to buy Petra’s books for his very beautiful, very bored wife.
Bay had bought Petra’s entire backlist – Got one for all the family! B – then teased her when he found out how racy the plots were: Kept them all to myself. Up all night reading, I am officially your biggest fan. Bx. A handsome, bouncy Labrador of a man, constantly waggy-tailed and encouraging, he was hard to put on a discreet pedestal. It had been so much easier to harbour her longing for Kit Donne, who visited his cottage so rarely that it was like fancying a distant celebrity. He’d once owned the Gunns’ farmhouse yet had no idea who Petra was. Bay, by contrast, had her number on speed-dial, a terrible reputation as a flirt and a way of looking at her that made her feel sexier than she had in years.