Author: Katie Fforde
Published: April 1st 2004 by Arrow
Nel Innes thinks of herself as an overweight and unattractive widow. With all her three children grown up and almost leaving the nest, Nel is content to be with Simon, her real estate boyfriend. Everything changes when she was kissed by a very handsome stranger under the mistletoe who turns out to be a solicitor named Jake Demerand. Unfortunately for Nel, he is working for the couple who inherited the Hunstanton Manor and who are also planning to turn the water meadows into a building site. Nel, horrified by the very prospect intends to prevent that from happening at all costs.
I had no idea what to expect when I first took this book off the shelf. I was initially attracted to reading about Nel and Jake and probably about what made the water meadows, Paradise Fields, something so important to the community. Turns out, it was the farmers’ market that is organized in those very fields that was important; not only to the farmers but to the hospice as well.
I admired Nel’s tenacity to really fight for the hospice, although she couldn’t actually prevent the water meadows from being built on. But then again, at least the hospice didn’t have to be torn down. I like that she has a friendly personality which allows her to get along with almost everybody in the community. She’s really likable although sometimes I feel that she is too kind. Especially towards Simon.
From the first time he entered the book till the end of the story, I just couldn’t bring myself to have a kind thought about him. I agree with Fleur, Nel’s daughter and Viv, Nel’s best friend, that Simon is a little too uptight and arrogant. Throughout the whole story, I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that he was always looking down on Nel and he sounds patronizing when talking to her. Which makes me all the more impatient with Nel each time she stands up for him and tries to look for positive things to say about him.
Nel seemed to be able to cope with three children alone and she did a great job of it; treating her children as friends instead of always breathing down their necks. Their relationship with one another is something to be envied since Nel could always count on her children when she needs them. Interestingly, although she gives them what they want, they are nowhere near spoilt or pampered which shows that Nel is really a good mother.
If there’s anything I didn’t like about the Paradise Fields, I suppose it would be the many plans that Nel hatched out to prevent first, the meadows from being built on and second, the hospice from being torn down and relocated to another site. Not to mention that she had to juggle organizing a farmers’ market almost single-handedly. I enjoyed reading her plans but I found her methods of approaching them a little boring at times. There were so many things going on at the same time and with her in the middle of it all, not only Nel, but I too got overwhelmed.
Not to mention that Nel was a little susceptible to listening to gossips especially when it involves Jake. She seemed to be a twenty-year-old in a forty-year-old body. She is too innocent for her own good and I just can’t understand why she can’t just follow her heart to just be with Jake especially when she was in love with him since page one? She keeps giving one excuse after another and to be honest, I was quite fed up with it. I didn’t particularly feel there was a heart-stopping climax to the story either but maybe that’s just me.
Other than that, I find that I enjoyed reading the beginning and the end of the story and I was glad that everything turned out well enough.