Nadia Knows Best
I freely admit that Ms. Mansell’s books just work for me. I love the combination of wit, humor, and absurdity that permeates her books. And, of course, with all that, she also blends in just enough angst to tug on your heartstrings. This book is no exception.
Nadia Kinsella knows that you are supposed to keep your foot off the brake and steer into the skid but doing it is a whole different ball of wax – which results in her car spinning out of control, and landing in a ditch after a surprise snowstorm. Discovering her cellphone is dead, she resigns herself to a long wait until her rescue. Still she does have a packet of Rolos, a half-empty bag of wine gums, a sleeping bag and the car radio. Singing alone with Sting’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” she is scared out of her wits by a knock on her window by someone who is actually standing really close.
After determining that Jay Tiernan is neither a nutter nor an axe-murderer, Nadia treks along with him to the nearest village. Of course, there they discover that the Inn only has one room. Nadia only agrees to share the bed after laying down the rules – they both will keep all their clothes on. Of course, she is tempted – Jay is dangerously attractive. However, it is such a relief when after telling Jay that she has a boyfriend he confides that he does too. Gay men are so lovely and safe.
After divulging everything about her gorgeous boyfriend, Laurie – he is a model, and flirting a little, Nadia orders Jay to tell her all about his boyfriend. Now it comes out that Jay is not gay – he only told her that so she would relax. Temptation strikes again, but Jay promised he wouldn’t seduce her, and he is a man of his word. The next morning with thoughts of, “If only…”, they go their separate ways.
A fortnight later Nadia is shocked when Laurie wants to call it a day. He states there is nothing wrong with the relationship. There is no one else, but with him off to America and her in England, when will they be together? It turns out he has been having these thoughts for a couple of weeks. He had hoped to keep it a secret until after their big reunion (and sex), and then tell her on the way to the airport. Hurt and angry, Nadia regrets not shagging Jay.
Fifteen months later Nadia is stunned when she runs into Jay. Over coffee she discovers that he is looking for a gardener to help with his business of flipping houses. Nadia jumps at the chance to leave behind her work at the garden center, especially since it involves selling gnomes. Even with Jay being her boss, temptation raises its head again, but before the relationship can get off the ground complications occur with the return of Laurie and Jay’s personality changes.
Nadia’s whole family is experiencing shake ups in their status quo, too. Her grandmother’s secret of fifty years is about to be exposed, her sister – a man-eater – discovers how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot, her father finally seems ready to move on after his wife’s betrayal, and her half-sister must decide who is truly her family. While there are many characters, most of the story still centers on Nadia. I can’t say that she is perfect, but she is fun. Next to Nadia, my other favorite story arcs are Tilly’s, Nadia’s thirteen year old half sister, and Nadia’s father’s.
If I had one criticism of the book, it is the fact that some of the author’s references are dated, like the mention of Madonna and Guy, or the song “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” from 1980. However even though these dated pieces of culture do pull me out of the story a little, I am easily pulled back in.
If you haven’t read a book by Jill Mansell, then think romantic comedy. Her books, as is this one, tend to be light on sex scenes but full of witty banter. Prepare to spend a pleasurable afternoon or evening immersed in British humor to the very last page.