I have had a strange reading month and after Call the Midwife, which I adored, I had difficulty deciding on my next read. I did begin something else, but I just could not get in to it, so settled for a light hearted chick lit read instead. Fiona Walker is an author I have not read before, but I picked Tongue in Cheek up in a charity shop last summer so decided to give it a go.
Tongue in Cheek is set in the fictional Lodes Valley and begins on Boxing Day Night in the early 1980s where the beautiful and rich Diana Henriques is celebrating her 18th birthday. However she has plans to ditch the large family party and run off her lover, Amos, who in typical ‘star-crossed lover’ fashion is of a different class and deemed not suitable for her. Whilst enjoying a passionate meeting in a secret garden, the lovers are discovered, and confronted with a shotgun.
Fast forward twenty years to sweltering summer day and the residents of Oddlode Valley are eagerly anticipating some new arrivals: Anke, a Danish ex-olympian, her flirtatious husband and three children, Mo and her charming, but promiscuous boyfriend, Pod, and a recently divorced Diana and her two children, returning to the village for the first time since her mysterious flight twenty years before. Not everyone is pleased to hear of Diana’s return, and when the local pub falls prey to suspected arson that evening it is not long before the villagers are accusing her of awakening local ghost and village legend, Firebrand.
Soon the romance and bed hopping begin, which I expected anyway, but there are also more arson attacks, and constant allusions, yet no explanation as to why Diana left so suddenly in the first place, creating an unexpected mystery that was a pleasant surprise. Although I found the novel slow to start with, I was soon intrigued and wrapped up in the lives of these three women and those they love. I loved the passionate, yet volatile relationship between Mo and Pod, and could see why she hated, yet loved him at the same time. Anke did annoy me to begin with as she was portrayed as a cold and unfeeling woman, but I soon began to empathise with her and the struggles she faced with a father who refuses to accept that he is suffering from dementia.
Arguably it is Diana’s story that forms the lynchpin of the novel and her journey to face and make sense of her past is tragic, yet moving. It is clear that she has struggled to come to terms with leaving Oddlode and Amos all those years ago and that she still loves him. Their relationship is a constant reminder about the importance of understanding the whole story and not just assuming that someone has done something or acted in a certain way (I hope that makes sense, because I am not sure how else to word it at the moment). They obviously regret leaving questions unanswered all those years ago.
The secret garden at the start of the novel and the mystery of the ghost and the arson attacks speed the novel along and for me made the novel more than just a typical chick lit romance. I was eager to get to bed each night and read more of the lives of the characters and although I did figure out the identity of the arsonist, it wasn’t until the novel was drawing to a close, so I appreciated the fact it wasn’t an obvious case of ‘It’s them!’.
Tongue in Cheek is the first Fiona Walker book I have read, and from this experience I can safely say it won’t be my last; I know exactly where I will be heading when I next need a new light hearted read.