The Real Katie Lavender – Erica James

What to Expect:
Katie Lavender has always thought she was pretty unshockable, until a year after her mother’s death she receives a letter from a solicitor telling her that the man she thought was her father, in fact wasn’t. Her real father, a man named Stirling Nightingale, has for years been building a trust fund for her. And now she’s of an age to collect it.

But Katie’s not interested in the money. She wants to know about the man instead. So decides to do some snooping. She tracks him down to a beautiful riverside home on the night he’s hosting a birthday party for his 90-year-old mother. And as she’s hovering outside, Katie is mistaken for a replacement waitress – an opportunity just too good to miss. And so Katie discovers that the Nightingales are far from your normal family … But what makes a normal family anyway?

I’ve read a fair few of Erica James’ novels, and most of them are more grown up than frothy. This one, however, seems to cross over into younger, frothier chick lit territory while still seeming like a grown up novel. Also impressive is how the author convincingly writes a younger heroine, something that not everyone can pull off.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– At the age of 30 Katie is used to coping with the spanners thrown at her by life; having lost both parents within the last few years she’s found a way to deal with it all in a very self contained manner. This comes in handy when she loses her mediocre job and is dealt shocking news from her solicitor all on the same day: Katie’s Dad was not her biological dad. Feeling a lack of family, Katie looks up bio-daddy and meets her whole extended family- but she doesn’t exactly catch them on a good day.

Kooks for your Kindle?– Katie’s only substitute family is her bestie Tess, her hairdresser and Tess’s brother Zac, and Tess’s boyfriend Ben. Tess strikes a nice balance of being there without interfering unless absolutely necessary. Katie has a bland boyfriend, Ian, who’s making hints about moving in with her at the house she inherited from her mother. Luckily Katie sees that she’s with him for the wrong reasons.

Katie’s new-found family are quite the soap opera, although to be fair we are meeting them as they go through a tragedy unrelated to Katie’s sudden appearance. Her dad Stirling is a self-made man with a wife who enjoys the lifestyle, and 2 grown up (slightly spoilt) children. Katie’s new grandmother Cecily is a formidable lady, but is warm to those she deems worthy. She’s also surprisingly switched on for a lady of her years and doesn’t miss a trick. Additional allies to Katie are her Aunt Pen, who’s not as daffy as she seems, and Pen’s son Lloyd- Katie’s furniture designing cousin.

Painting a Picture for your Paperback?– All the settings seem to revolve around gardens, it’s quite pleasant and summery.

Evaluation of your eBook?– The main plot concerns the Nightingale family tragedy/scandal and its consequences, and Katie’s acceptance by the various Nightingales, or not as the case may be. Some of them are fiercely opposed to her and will do anything to get her out of the picture. There’s a little romance in there too, albeit ill-timed, leading to a difficult decision. The focus is not just on Katie, it’s shared by some of the Nightingales too, which makes for a nicely balanced story. It’s well paced, gripping, and heartwarming as a lost woman finds her roots.

Frothy Ranking: 4/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Amazon for £1.49.

US: Kobobooks for $8.79, not on Amazon.