On arriving home after a friend s posh wedding, launderette worker Harriet, finds her life irrevocably changed when she discovers her flat ransacked and her boyfriend missing. In a matter of hours she is harassed by East End gangsters and upper crust aristocrats. Accepting an offer she can’t refuse, Harriet, against her better judgment becomes the fiancée of the wealthy Hamilton Lancaster, with dire consequences. What she had not bargained on was meeting Doctor Brice Edmunds. The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties is Lynda Renham’s funniest novel so far. A cocktail of misunderstandings, three unlikely gangsters, a monkey and a demented cat make this novel a hysterical read. Follow Harriet s adventure where every attempt to get out of trouble puts her deeper in it.
Harriet Lawson is my kind of gal. Feisty and with a great sense of humour, she has some fabulous one liners and is a great main character for this book. Unfortunately she is partnered with a bit of a smarmy loser, Julian, who has done the dirty on her big time – but not in the way you might think.
Having given up on her dream to nurse in underprivileged areas abroad in order to support Julian in his new venture, and having to work in a launderette whilst trying to keep up with her studies, Harriet is frustrated and just trying to make the best of a bad situation – a situation that is going to get a whole lot worse.
In the mean time the very rich and pompous Hamilton Lancaster is in a fix as he is desperate to inherit his grandmothers shares – but has to show himself to be responsibly settling down as soon as possible in order to do so. After all, his grandmother only has six months to live….
A chance meeting at a mutual friends wedding leads to Harriet receiving a very interesting proposition and while she feels uncomfortable with it – it could solve her increasingly mounting problems. What could go wrong? And who is the very gorgeous guy she also met at the wedding who caused her to tingle in all sorts of places?!
This was an hilarious read. Harriet’s character is brilliant and she had me in stitches. She is very much your normal average girl thrust into a ridiculous situation and trying to muddle her way through it. Just when you think things can’t get any worse – they do. Initially I felt sorry for her as she is seemingly blinded by her love for Julian – but thankfully as events transpire she comes to realise that what she thought was love, really isn’t at all. More a relationship of convenience – and mostly convenient for Julian.
There is a delightful selection of characters from the faithful and ‘all over the place’ best friend Fi and her stuttering boyfriend Alistair who is the butt of many a joke, to the bumbling wannabe East End gangsters and the very upper class family to which Hamilton belongs – and who are all hiding secrets of their own.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A carefully written story with many intricacies woven in and yet told in such a witty and relaxed style that as the reader I was pulled in and kept there – wanting to keep turning the page to find out hat was going to happen next.
Verdict: I was already a fan of Lynda Renham having read and enjoyed ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’, ‘Wedding Cake to Turin’ and ‘Coconuts and Wonderbras’. Her latest release therefore, ‘The Valentines Present’ has firmly established her as one of my favourite authors.
‘The Valentine Present’ has to be my favourite book of yours to date. I loved the combination of working class, upper class and gangsters all being brought together. What inspired you towards this particular plot line?
Thank you so much. I am thrilled you enjoyed it. I was so worried about this book. I started three different stories to begin with and found myself drawn to Harriet. The inspiration came from the building work we had done on our house. We had no kitchen or bathroom for almost six months and had to go to the laundrette. I remember watching everyone in there and thinking what a great character could come out of this. Now you have her. The plot unravelled as the book progressed. But was influenced by the film ‘The Long Good Friday’ I am influenced by everything. I enjoyed writing about the stuttering Alistair. The book is dedicated to all stutterers of which I was one. I had a terrible stammer as a child. It is better now and only surfaces when I am excited or angry. But I believe you have to laugh at everything.
Which has been your favourite book to write and why?
I think possibly this one. It was great fun to write and I enjoyed creating the gangsters very much. I also loved ‘Pink Wellies’ and especially the research. I was far from a country girl when I researched the book. Even though I live in the country my Essex roots are still with me. You can read the fun story of my research forthat book on my blog here. Mud, dung, and the real Molly are funnier than the book. Alice’s fear of spiders is very much my own. I’ve been known to stand on a chair for hours because a spider was sharing the same room J
Who is your favourite author?
I have many. I read an assortment of Genre’s. I love Kimberley Chambers, Iris Murdoch and I have just finished Graham Rawle’s ‘Woman’s World’ which was sheer brilliance.
What/who was inspirational in getting you started on the road to being a successful author?
People who make a difference inspire me. My husband Andrew has been my greatest inspiration. I actually stopped writing many years ago. It was him who got me started again. If it hadn’t have been for him I would still be working in the health sector. The stepping stone to comedy was watching ‘The Holiday’ and wondering can I write a novel that gives you the same feel good feeling. I hope I have achieved that.
What favourite drink/nibbles to you keep close at hand whilst writing?
Oh, my goodness. This is my biggest procrastination. I swear my head is in the fridge more than anywhere else. Popcorn and biscuits. I love oatcakes. My keyboard is bunged up with the stuff J I eat copious amounts of yogurt too. I swear I eat constantly. I’m a grazer. Worse than a cow, that’s me J
Lynda Renham has been writing for as long as she can remember and had her first work published in a magazine at age nine and has continued writing in various forms since. She has had several poems published as well as articles in numerous magazines and newspapers. Recently she has taken part in radio discussions on the BBC.
She has studied literature and creative writing and has a blog on her web page: www.renham.co.uk
Lynda lives with her second husband and cat in Oxfordshire, England. She is Associate Editor for the online magazine The Scavenger and contributor to many others. When not writing Lynda can usually be found wasting her time on Facebook.
Review and interview by Lesley