Saffron loves her life in London, so everyone is a bit surprised when she announces a surprise move to her mother's home in Churchminster, a very quiet and sleepy country suburb. Saffron is determined to finish her debut novel, and is sure that will be easier to complete away from the glitz and glamour of London. However, she doesn't count on the surprise arrival of her boyfriend's identical twin brother Rex to Churchminster, disrupting her peace and quiet, and something else too... Saffron's best friend Harriet is still living in London, but decides to volunteer at a community centre which needs all the help it can get. Harriet struggles to befriend the manager Zac and is sure he sees her a rich girl wanting to help the poor, and wants to change his opinion as soon as she can. Have both of the girls taken on more than they can handle, or will they be able to juggle their busy lives without burning out?!This is the fourth novel in Jo Carnegie's Churchminster series, and I have really enjoyed all of them so far. They certainly are "bonkbusters" in that they are a bit rude, there's lots of loud and brash characters but they certainly make for fun reading. The characters keep popping up in all of the books, so it's easy to get into them which is something I really like about reading a series. I have to say that when I saw the cover for this book, I was a tad disappointed as it looked a bit bland compared to the other books, in its shades of beige and certainly didn't stand out like the other covers. However, I put that to one side and decided to dive straight in back to Churchminster again!
Saffron has appeared in previous books but only briefly, and not as main player so it was nice to see her come to forefront of the book. If I am honest, she was a little bit shallow for me - all about herself, the sex with her boyfriend and looking good all the time - not my kind of woman by any stretch of the imagination. Even so, she was a really good character and is perfect for a lead character in a bonkbuster. In fact, the book opens with a pretty full on sex scene between Saffron and her boyfriend, so it certainly did start as it meant to go on. Harriet was the opposite in every way, and certainly a character I could relate to a lot more. Harriet is lovely, works in magazine and works hard, but is unsure she'll ever find a man to love her. Zac is another great character in the book, I liked him and the fact he was multi-dimensional, he wasn't what I expected at all and he was was a breath of fresh air for the book.
I really enjoyed the two stories running alongside each other, and they were easy to follow. On the one hand we have Saffron and her new lifestyle in Churchminster, getting used to her mother being around again, writing her book and organising a special charity event with Rex, then we are sent straight back to London and Harriet's volunteering at the Community Centre in London. Interestingly, we do also see Harriet back in Churchminster too as her father lives there, so it really is a novel that moves around a lot and has a lot going on all of the time. As I said, it is still easy to follow, and I found it was well paced. Carnegie describes the London scene very well, you can imagine in your mind Saffron's leaving party, Harriet at the run-down Community Centre, and equally you can picture the picturesque village of Churchminster easily too, and Saffron's humble abode while she is there.
As well as the more shallow plotline of Saffron and her love woes, there is a more serious story involving Harriet, Zac and the community centre. I liked the way Carnegie handled the gritty topic, it wasn't necessarily easy to read but it was well represented and it was interesting to see this sort of story in this book, it definitely wasn't expected. However, what brought the book down for me was Saffron and her lack of morals. I thought I could see what was coming but I was really hoping that I was wrong, because it just felt like the book would slip back a bit for me because of it, and just become a bit sleazy and cheap. Unfortunately, what I had anticipated did happen and I was annoyed Carnegie didn't choose another path for Saffron. I immediately started to dislike Saffron even more and it did taint the final third of the book for me.
While most of the things about the book were good, I just felt that to me, it felt like a very generic chick lit book, and not necessarily in totally good ways. I really didn't like the path that Saffron took and the somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion to that whole story (for me anyway), and as I said, I do feel it tainted the book for me. Also, I felt it was at least 100 pages too long, it did drag in parts and there was a lot of descriptive narrative that could have been left out. I did enjoy the book, just nowhere near as much as the previous titles in the Churchminster series which was a shame. Perhaps it might be time for Carnegie to move on to pastures new and show us what else she can do. A good read, but disappointing within an otherwise great series.