When it All Went to Custard, by Danielle Hawkins.
Ms Hawkins writes Chick Lit – and she’s very good at it. Two years ago, I reviewed ‘The Pretty Delicious Café’, full of seriously predictable characters and situations, but so funny that I swooped on her latest effort with great enthusiasm, and amd very pleased I did. Even though ‘When it All Went to Custard’ could be classified by some people as lighter-than-air reading, Ms Hawkins has a way with words that most writers would envy, and a big plus is the Kiwiness of her setting: this time it’s beef and sheep country somewhere south of Waikato, and farmer’s wife Jenny Reynolds is shocked to find out in the most public possible way that her husband has been caught with the next-door farmer’s wife - and they weren’t making daisy chains.
The messenger (don’t shoot!) was the farmer himself, who discovered them ‘at it’: he immediately felt the need to appraise Jenny of the situation at her part-time job as a building control officer for the town council, and just like that, Jenny’s family life changes from mum, dad and two kids to solo mothering with defiant (‘it’s all your fault, Jen!’) hubby having the kids every Wednesday and every second weekend. In the meantime, she is left with a farm (leased from her parents when they retired) to run, and no clear idea about how she can make a future for herself. There is the added complication of her sister, who wants their parents to sell the farm so that she can be advanced money ‘from her inheritance’ enabling her to buy ‘the house of her dreams’ in Wellington: a rock and a hard place is where Jenny’s fetched up, and it doesn’t feel good.
But faint-hearted chickies never get anywhere, as we all know: Jenny rolls up her sleeves, girds her fruitful loins and flings herself courageously into the Great Unknown – and an affair (can’t you see it coming!) with wronged next-door neighbour farmer who’s a grumpy bugger, but he loves indoor plants and has a heart of gold – and a gay brother who is deathly afraid of emerging from the closet. Endearing minor characters (and some nasties, too) fill the pages most satisfyingly, but Ms Hawkins writes about children best of all, especially their conversations: I defy anyone not to recognise their own children in Lily and Nathan, not to mention fat dog Tessa, who is a very important dog indeed! FOUR STARS.