The Holiday Home, Fern Britton’s third entertaining novel, has all the trademark warmth and charm that we have come to expect from the popular broadcaster who has found fertile ground in funny, feelgood fiction.
This time she sets her sights on fraught family relationships and sibling rivalries, and the hidden secrets that can rock the foundations on which carefully constructed lives are built.
Set amidst the beautiful landscape of Cornwall and filled with an eclectic cast of characters, plenty of sharp observation and some bitter home truths, this is a story packed with drama, tensions and more than a few surprises.
Henry Carew, owner of a successful family board games business, and his wife Dorothy fell in love with Atlantic House, high on a Cornish cliff, about 25 years ago and bought it as a holiday retreat.
Their two daughters, Prudence and Constance, were only teenagers when Atlantic House became the jewel in the family crown and have since spent every summer holiday there at war with each other.
The two women, now in their forties, are as different as vinegar and honey. Pru, the eldest by two years, likes to get her own way and is happy to scheme and connive to make sure that she does while Connie, always second best, finds herself almost permanently outmanoeuvred by her big sister.
Pru is a hard-nosed. combative businesswoman, mother of 16-year-old Jem and married to meek and mild house husband Francis who has dedicated his life to caring for his wife and son. What she doesn’t yet know is she is about to get a shock reminder that you should never take anything for granted.
Meanwhile, Connie, mother of teenager Abigail and loving wife to philandering, arrogant Greg, is tired of always being outwitted by Pru and determined that this year’s holiday will be different. Henry and Dorothy have moved into a bungalow nearby and suspecting that Pru wants to get her hands on Atlantic House, Connie won’t take things lying down.
When an old face reappears on the scene, years of simmering resentments reach boiling point and a long-buried secret returns to bite them all where it hurts.
Is this one holiday that will push them all over the edge, or can Connie and Pru leave the past where it belongs?
An enjoyable blend of comedy, mystery, romance and drama, The Holiday Home is wonderful escapist reading and the ideal book to slip into your suitcase as you head off to find your own holiday sunshine.
(HarperCollins, hardback, £12.99)