‘No thanks. I’d rather walk.’
So much for largesse. Enraged, Marcus demanded, ‘Why?’
‘Don’t you remember?’ Nell hoisted the bulging, end-of-term haversack containing far too many textbooks on to her shoulder. ‘People like us shouldn’t accept lifts from people like you. If we did,’ she added sweetly, “we might start getting ideas above our lowly station. And that would never do.’
(from Open House)
Jill Mansell’s Open House begins with a spat between 15-year-old Nell O’Driscoll and the Earl of Kilburton’s arrogant son, Marcus. The O’Driscolls have a reputation in the village and almost enjoy being the subject of local gossip. Fast forward a decade, and Nell finds herself working for Marcus, the new earl, as he prepares to open the family’s castle to the public. Marcus sees Nell in a different light, but old hurts and secrets force her to keep her distance. Meanwhile, Nell’s best friend, Hetty, is struggling to rebuild her life since her husband left her for a successful novelist — who has no qualms about parading her sex life through the media, even if it means hurting Hetty and Tony’s teenage daughter, Rachel, whose crush on Nell’s younger brother, the suave Derry, pushes her down the wrong path.
The myriad characters Mansell worked into this novel — from Hetty’s ex-husband’s obnoxious mistress Vanessa to Marcus’s over-the-top, whiny sister Jemima — were all thoroughly entertaining. There was a lot going on in this novel, but it never felt like too much. Mansell even describes various people in the village who hardly make an appearance, but doing so paints a richer portrait of life in a small town, where everyone’s business is known by everyone and where gossip runs rampant. Even when I have a pretty good idea of how it’s all going to play out, Mansell always manages to throw in a few surprises.
Open House is an utterly charming, feel-good novel from start to finish. Mansell never lets me down, always providing an enjoyable novel with plenty of humor, romance, and even some weightier moments. She perfectly balances the numerous subplots and secondary characters, which I usually find just as interesting as the main story. Her characters are endearingly flawed, and I can always relate to them in some way. Like the many Mansell books I’ve read before, Open House had me laughing out loud and never wanting it to end. Mansell is my go-to author when I’m in need of a pure comfort read.
Disclosure: Open House is from my personal library.
© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.