Book review: The Perfect Retreat by Kate Forster

Need an escape from the unseasonably cold spring weather? Take a leaf out of Kate Forster’s warm and lively new book and head for the most sought-after postcode in London.

Thursday, 4th April 2013, 12:27 pm
The Perfect Retreat
The Perfect Retreat

There you will find Willow Carruthers, British Oscar winner, style icon and mother of three, who is facing a crisis of mega proportions – she’s broke, her rock star husband has done the dirty on her leaving her a single mother and, if the banks have their way, she’s about to be homeless.

Yes, we’re back on the fun-filled, sun-drenched and vastly entertaining home ground of Kate Forster whose witty, sparkling novels are starting to leave other chick-lit authors in the shade.

Forster transfers the bright sunlight of her base in Melbourne, Australia, to this very contemporary and compelling story about life in the more artificial limelight, and the unlikely friendship between two women as they head off to a heaven-sent rural haven.

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The Perfect Retreat opens up a world of celebrity with its portrayal of wealth beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals, but it also peers into the darker corners of life – messy divorce, the fear of loneliness, the troubling aspects of autism and the impact of parental separation on children.

Willow and husband Kerr were rock star royalty but, looking back, her first big mistake was not signing a prenuptial agreement. Now he’s walked out on her and the money has all gone... on cars, homes, castles, a vineyard, an olive grove, a luxury yacht, works of art and, of course, bucketloads of jewellery.

The best Willow’s lawyer can suggest is to get a job and the tabloid press is having a field day. And as if things weren’t bad enough, her eldest child, Lucian, is five and still not talking.

Thank goodness then for her loyal nanny Kitty MIddlemist who has been her rock for three years now and is adored by the three children.

But Kitty, a down-to-earth girl with shadows in her past, is facing problems of her own and is desperate to keep her job so she offers a despairing Willow the perfect hideaway – Middlemist House, her crumbling ancestral home on a hilltop in the Bristol countryside.

To both women in their hour of need, the Victorian mansion proves to be the perfect hideaway and a welcome balm for troubled souls... until Kitty’s older brother Merritt, a garden designer and writer, returns home unannounced and turns their cosy lives upside down.

Forster takes us on an enjoyable and emotional rollercoaster ride in this captivating story about the price of fame, the importance of family and the joys of friendship. There’s fun and action aplenty but there’s also Forster’s own special brand of good, old-fashioned, heart-warming romance.

(Avon, paperback, £6.99)