A Perfect Proposal
Like the foam on a high priced, overly sugared cup of fancy coffee, this book is fluffy and sweet. It has no real substance but the lightness of it (and the fact it knows that it is light) works for it rather than against it. On the other hand, the overly-indulgent length leaves you in a bit of a diabetic coma.
Sophie Apperly may not be as intellectually gifted as the rest of her family but she feels she is the glue that holds them together. She is an excellent cook, cleaner, and handyman, something that is desperately needed in the rambling old home in which they live. She is a wizard at keeping children entertained during grown up parties and a pro at helping those parties go off without a hitch. She is also talented with a needle, turning charity shop finds into haute couture with ease. She is also unemployed, underappreciated, and soft hearted, which leads to her letting the family send her off to take care of Evil Uncle Eric while his regular caregiver goes on holiday. The hope is he will be so charmed by helpful Sophie he will hand over some of his excess cash to the rest of the clan.
Sophie finds Uncle Eric far from evil and the two get along quite splendidly. While he refuses to give her family any money, Eric is happy to pay Sophie for her services. He also gives her a mission – through him, she learns the family owns oil-drilling rights in America. None of them have ever done anything with the rights since the oil was too expensive to reach several decades ago. Sophie is confident modern technology makes it likely that the rights could pay off now. She determines that when her time with Uncle Eric is done, she will go to America, visit an old school friend, and look up the distant relation who wrote Eric regarding the rights.
She does just that, putting her plan into motion by getting a temporary nanny position in the States enabling her to afford the trip. As luck would have it the job falls through at the last minute but the family graciously reimburses her for the ticket, leaving Sophie to enjoy her trip to New York on a very limited budget. Luck intervenes once more when Sophie saves the extremely wealthy Matilda Winchester from taking a fall. Sophie sits with Matilda while she recovers from her dizzy spell and the two instantly bond. The bond is somewhat broken however when Luke Winchester, Matilda’s grandson, scoops Matilda up to go to the doctor and makes it clear to Sophie that he has no intention of letting her take advantage of kindly Matilda.
In spite of her grandson’s disapproval, Matilda pursues a friendship with Sophie and invites her to spend Thanksgiving at the family mansion. Luke makes it clear that Sophie had best not take advantage of Matilda and then promptly takes advantage of Sophie by having her play his fiancé at a fancy brunch. Because she gets some lovely clothes and a pretty ring out of the deal Sophie reluctantly complies. She is surprised by the fact that she actually enjoys spending time with Luke, who is funny and charming once he lets his guard down. She is quite sad to leave both him and Matilda when she heads back to her rather humdrum ordinary life.
Of course our story doesn’t end here. Luke meets up with Sophie again in London, the two have several wild adventures based on inexplicable happenings and after a bit of interference from two third parties – one positive, one negative – they finally get their HEA. At this point in my review I would normally talk character development, plot points and authorial writing style. Unfortunately, there is no character development. Sweet, daffy Sophie stays that way throughout the novel. Luke “changes” in that he learns to appreciate her sweet silliness. The plot points are actually painful to discuss since they border on the ludicrous. This leaves us with writing style and for some reason that really, really works here.
Somehow Fforde takes her underdeveloped characters, her ridiculously serendipitous plot twists, and her rambling storyline and turns it into a rather sweet confection. It is sprinkled with a bit too much sugar and implausibility and is almost ridiculously light but it works. It makes a fast, easy read that delivers the requisite HEA. It helps that Fforde doesn’t aspire to greatness. She doesn’t try to reveal hidden depths to her characters or attempt to take the whole thing seriously at any point. It’s an amusement park of a book, intended purely for pleasure. Look too deeply, peer behind too many curtains and you will ruin the magic.
Do I recommend it? Certainly if you are a fan of Ms. Fforde’s other works you will enjoy this one. If you are someone who enjoys their English Chick Lit on the extremely light and breezy side you will also enjoy it. I found it a good read for a time when I didn’t really want to have think too much and I think others will too.