New Book – The Lavender House by Hilary Boyd

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Publication year: 2016

I have read other books by Hilary Boyd, and I have always loved them. So it is with great expectation I started this new novel.

The prologue is quite powerful. We are introduced to Nancy, who is married to Christopher de Freitas, an important music director. That day as she is preparing supper, Christopher tells her he is going out as he needs to see Tatjana, his new soprano. Then he drops the bomb. He isn’t coming back as he is in love with Tatjana, and leaving his wife of twenty years. I love Nancy’s reaction. She acts calmly, telling him that he should have told her before she started making supper.

The next chapter is four years later. Nancy has moved closer to her daughter and her family. They live door to door, so she sees a lot of her daughter Louise, her husband Ross, who is a chef, and her granddaughter, Hope and Jazzy, who are lovely. That night she is going to her friend Lindy’s sixtieth birthday, and the woman is throwing a party with line-dancing. Nancy is uneasy because she doesn’t go out much. When she goes to the pub, the man leading the dance is someone called Jimmy, and it is clear that Nancy is attracted to him. It is the first time in four years she has thought of a man in that way. When the party is near closing time, Lindy asks Jimmy to have a drink with them. It is just Lindy, Nancy, and another friend Alison. Lindy is very drunk, and as she shamelessly makes passes at Jimmy, and then she falls from the stool. Nancy, Alison, and Jimmy have to help Lindy, who is in a bad way, vomiting, so Alison volunteers to take her home. When Nancy and Alison are left together, there is a moment brimmed with sexual tension, but as they bid goodbye, Jimmy tells her that she and Lindy could go and see him sing in his next gig.

Nancy knows she likes Jimmy, and we see that Jimmy is also attracted to her. Actually, he is almost giddy at the thought of Nancy. What I can see as a problem is his home arrangements. We know that he lives with his wife Chrissie, but theirs is not a marriage any longer. Chrissie left him for Benji, an acquaintance of Jimmy’s. It wasn’t the first time Chrissie had strayed, but this time she packed her bags and left. A year later Benji cheated on her and she returned home, expecting for JImmy to take her back. Yet, Jimmy’s love had died, and now they live together but just as house mates even though Chrissie would like something more.

Nancy and Lindy agree to go to Jimmy’s gig. Nancy thinks it is a bad idea because she thinks Jimmy is not interested in her, and what is more, Lindy keeps making lewd comments about Jimmy, assuming she would go for him. So Nancy assumes the night won’t end up well. However, she doesn’t get to go as her son-in-law had an accident in his kitchen with a knife and was taken to A&E to have the gash stitched, and Lou had to stay in the restaurant. So Louise has to ask her mother to babysit for her. On his part, Jimmy is excited because she knows Nancy is coming, but when the night comes to a close and Nancy doesn’t turn up, he is very disappointed and thinks Nancy doesn’t care.

Nancy and Lindy decide to go to next week’s gig, and this time nothing stops them. Nancy is very nervous, and when she sees Jimmy at the pub, her state of nerves doubles. Even Lindy notices. She is also uneasy because Lindy keeps hinting that she will carry on with Jimmy, and I imagine that Lindy is going to be bitterly disappointed when she realises that it is Nancy Jimmy wants. I hope this won’t cause a rift between the two friends, and Lindy could be big enough to step back and let her friend have a go to happiness.

Apart from this budding love story, Nancy has other fronts. There is her mother, Frances, who is a bit of a dragon, and who always takes Nancy’s ex-husband’s side against her own daughter. Nancy is worried about her mother because she thinks she is losing too much weight. The woman, though, won’t be told what she should do, and that’s what she tells her daughter.

Christopher, her ex-husband, is now getting married to the woman he left Nancy for. He calls Nancy because he wants his daughter and grandchildren at the wedding, and asks Nancy to pave the way for him. Nancy and Frances try to talk to Louise, but the youngest woman is stubborn and she thinks that her father only wants her and her family there for show, but he doesn’t care for her in any real sense. So she is determined not to go.

Interesting start. I like family dramas and dynamics, and I already love Nancy and Jimmy. I wonder how they will get together, and how their problems will be sorted out.

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