“Or we could live in it!”
Lara’s heart went thuddity-thud. “You mean here in Bath?”
“I was thinking we could maybe attach it to five million multicolored helium balloons and float it to wherever takes our fancy.” Gigi rolled her eyes. “Yes, Mum, of course here in Bath.”
(from A Walk in the Park)
I think I say this every time I read one of her books, but Jill Mansell is the master of British romantic comedies, and she’s the only contemporary author I read who time after time creates secondary characters that are just as captivating as the main characters. Although it’s not my favorite Mansell novel, A Walk in the Park was the perfect book for me following a busy week of cooking for Thanksgiving and decorating the house for Christmas. It was a charming story and a quick read.
When her father dies, Lara Carson returns to Bath for the first time after leaving suddenly 18 years prior at the tender age of 16. She takes up residence in the family home and realizes there’s so much she doesn’t know about the mother she lost when she was 13. Lara falls easily back into her friendship with Evie, who needs a shoulder to cry on when her wedding doesn’t go as planned, and she reconnects with Flynn, the boyfriend she’d left behind all those years ago. While Flynn deals with a shocking revelation, Lara does her best to deny her feelings for him.
At the same time, Mansell introduces still more secondary characters, including Gigi, a spunky teenage girl wise beyond her years; Harry, an old-fashioned, kindhearted shop owner who is catapulted into the spotlight by American hip-hop artist and womanizer EnjaySeven; Nettie, Lara’s feisty aunt; and Don, a jewelry store owner with a big (but bad) heart. Harry and Enjay are complete opposites, and their banter was the highlight of the book for me. Just picture a superstar rapper who gets everything he wants standing next to a straitlaced British man who brings a book to a nightclub. Hilarious!
A Walk in the Park seemed to have more secondary characters than other Mansell novels. I think she does a great job juggling so many unique personalities, and while their stories were resolved satisfactorily by the end, it felt like some of them were rushed. I also had a hard time feeling the passion between Lara and Flynn, maybe because the only glimpse we get of them together as teenagers is during a fight. However, neither of these issues prevented me from thoroughly enjoying the book.
Mansell amazes me with the unique and embarrassing situations she puts her characters in, and she never fails to make me laugh. She also does a great job weaving in more serious storylines that threaten to bring a tear to your eye. A Walk in the Park is a lighthearted novel about reclaiming your life, figuring out who you are, and never settling for less than what you deserve. It’s a pure escapist read, with plenty of drama and romance to make you forget your own troubles for a little while.
Disclosure: I received A Walk in the Park from Sourcebooks for review.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.