On Thursday the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association presented the RoNA to Jane Lovering for Please Don’t Stop the Music, published by British independent publisher Choc-Lit.
On Friday I read it. It had previously won the romantic comedy section of the awards, so I thought I knew the ball park. I was wrong.
It has the tightly knit cast of friends (and the odd foe) that we have come to expect from romantic comedy, some of which is sometimes called chick lit. It is witty, perceptive, with some very good one-liners, including the opening sentence: ‘You know you’re in for a bad day when the Devil eats your last HobNob.’ And at that point it waves goodbye to Bridget Jones and her mates.
The important thing is that these girls have no safety-net. You look in vain for the aged Ps, who need to be placated or avoided but ultimately may provide a refuge in the shape of childhood bedroom and in-before-midnight. There’s no flinching away from the smug marrieds, no partner hunting, not a randy boss or backstabbing colleague in sight, no alcoholic clubbing after work. These people are self-employed and hanging on by their fingernails to a roof over their head. Welcome to Cameron’s Britain. They’re problem solvers, they help each other out, but it’s not an easy life and they don’t know everything there is to know about each other.
You feel that, even as your guide and heroine, first person narrator Jemima Hutton, takes you on a brisk, witty, courageous tour of her life. That’s her life now. Because Jemima has secrets and she’s not the only one.
The plot, and it is a good one, is rooted in those secrets and I’m not giving them away. I’ll just say that the hero is gorgeous — and it takes Jemima a surprising amount of time to notice. I got there the moment she mentioned his jeans. And he’s got a lot of baggage. Jemima herself could give the Duchess of Malfi a run for her money in the tortured backstory department. The local habitation is York, brilliantly evoked. And the happy ending resolves really big issues believably.
Jane Lovering’s voice is lively and the book positively swoops along.
I read it in a sitting. Enjoy!