The Harrison family gather for Christmas in their historical family home in the Sussex countryside. John and Pamela have been married for forty years and this aura of love and security extends around their four children and their various offspring. But the inevitable march of time and the same problems extended to less affluent families is destined to catch up with all the characters and looks set to disturb the most solid of foundations: Peter, being the eldest male is set to inherit the family home and is itching to look after it all to the best of his ability. Given his ageing parents reality is closing in on the idea but his wife, Helen, is a London career girl and dreads the prospect. More suited to rural life with Labradors is younger son Charlie, and his wife Serena, who appear to have a good handle on family life, for now. Eldest daughter Elizabeth, is struggling with her second unsuitable marriage while her sister, Cassie, is embroiled in an affair with a married man.
Don’t be fooled by the light-hearted cover art. This is a big, meaty novel with a demanding cast of diverse characters. The structure moves along a month at a time so plenty of time to become invested in each and every one of them. As tragedy unfolds and dilemmas increase, the family dynamic ebbs and flows, testing that relative love to the max. I absolutely loved this book and immediately purchased the next in the series; The Simple Rules of Love.
The Simple Rules of Love
A few years on from the first book and the Harrison family have seen many changes. Pamela is widowed and struggling to make sense of the domestic world of Ashly House she once revelled in. There’s Cassie’s impending marriage to an author to look forward to, but is he as solid as he appears to be? Peter and Helen make a decision about the inheritance of Ashly House which delights Helen, Charlie and Serena, but deeply upsets Peter’s eldest son. Helen also becomes estranged from Peter but for a reason one could never have imagined. Elizabeth finally finds the strength to speak to Pamela about her buried feelings, and Pamela finally finds a way to move on to the final chapter of her life.
As with the previous book in this series the writing is engaging and compelling. The grandchildren feature a little more as their lives begin to grow, sometimes in an undesirable direction. It’s a wonderfully realistic multi-generational sequel to Relative Love, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.