The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew by Milly Johnson - book review: This is a story to warm the cockles of your heart, to uplift and entertain
When it comes to politicians, John F. Mayhew is the ‘full package’… charm personified, absurdly handsome, moneyed, intelligent and refined.
So when he makes a ‘stupid mistake,’ John assumes that his ever-loyal, ‘trophy’ wife Sophie will play her part and save him from a scandal that could engulf his promising career. How wrong can you be!
Warm, wise and witty Barnsley author Milly Johnson, the ingenious queen of feel-good fiction, is on her very best form for another Yorkshire-flavoured romantic odyssey that moves from the malevolent milieu of Westminster politics to a quaint village nestling on the faraway North East coast.
The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew is Johnson’s sixteenth novel and it’s another fun-filled, uplifting and heartwarming read from an author who won the RoNA for Best Romantic Comedy Novel of 2014 and 2016, and whose wide-ranging experiences as a columnist, joke-writer, poet and after-dinner speaker have made her a consummate ‘people person.’
Johnson’s entertaining, perceptive novels – packed with the kind of characters we all recognise – seamlessly blend heartfelt emotions with laugh-out-loud humour, gritty reality with gorgeous romance, and moments of sheer magic with the downright prosaic.
Here, she turns her talents to the captivating story of a young woman, primed from birth to be a politician’s wife, who turns the tables on her cheating husband and flees to an isolated Yorkshire hideaway to lick her wounds and contemplate her next move.
Sophie Mayhew appears to have the perfect life. Wife of rising political star John F. Mayhew, a man who is one step away from the top job in the government, her cool, understated glamour matches his looks, power, breeding and money.
The daughter of ambitious parents, Sophie was only eighteen when she met her future husband – convinced even then that he would one day be Prime Minister – when they were both students at Cambridge University and she soon became ‘ensnared in his net.’
Since they married, Sophie has ‘sacrificed her own wants and needs on his altar’ but now John, currently the Secretary of State for Family Matters, is in big trouble as some sordid secrets are threatening to emerge.
Even so, all this can still be swept under the carpet as long as Sophie ‘the trophy’ agrees to back her errant husband in front of the cameras and publicly ‘mend her marriage.’
But the words that come out of Sophie’s mouth one morning on the doorstep of their country house are not the ones the spin doctors put in there. Bursting out of the restrictive mould she has been in since birth, Sophie flees incognito to a place that was special to her as a child… a small village on the Yorkshire coast where she intends to be alone.
There she quickly becomes part of a community that warms her soul and makes her feel as if she is breathing properly for the first time, finding friendship with local divorcee Tracey Green, her handsome-but-don’t-know-it brother and vicar Elliott Bellringer, better known to all as Ells Bells, and his enchanting four-year-old son Luke.
Despite finding solace at last, Sophie knows that she won’t be left in peace for long… and must decide where her real future lies.
The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew is a triumph… a fabulous and ultimately joyful journey that explores some topical social issues whilst delivering intrigue galore, exquisitely drawn characters, gorgeous romance, moments of heartfelt emotion and lashings of Johnson’s trademark Northern humour.
Sophie is undoubtedly the shiniest star in the book’s firmament; the dutiful wife who turns out to have a mind of her own when she breaks out of her wedded torpor and emerges strong, brave and determined to discover the independence she has secretly craved for many years.
Prizes for second lead have to be shared between the redoubtable, down-to-earth Tracey, the drop-dead handsome and hilariously named Ells Bells, and his adorable, lovable young son Luke.
This is a story to warm the cockles of your heart, to uplift, entertain and to ensure that despite the world containing some very bad apples, there are still plenty of good eggs to keep our faith in humanity not just alive but well and truly kicking!
(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £14.99)