This is the second novel by TV favourite Fern Britton I have read. Her debut “New Beginnings” I considered to be well paced, very readable and likeable throughout. I’ve skipped to her fourth novel where I can see development as a writer and a confident settling into a niche of producing writing with a high likeability factor. This time, the plot is more complex, it moves away from her “television” comfort zone and she is working well with a larger cast of characters.
This is the tale of The Pavilions theatre in the fictional seaside town of Trevay, which after years of dwindling audiencs faces being sold off to a coffee chain. Readers of Fern’s 2012 “Hidden Treasures” would be familiar with the setting and a number of the characters as the vicar’s wife Penny from neighbouring Pendruggan and their friends Piran and Helen were the focal point of that novel. For me, they are the least successful aspect of “A Seaside Affair”. They chug along in a minor plot strand as part of the committee to save the theatre. I did not have a history with them as characters and it seemed to me that they became very much side-lined by mid way through – I had almost forgotten about them.
This novel is dominated by the performers who come on board to save the theatre. Brooke is chosen to front the coffee company campaign and falls in love with the memories contained within the building and has to change sides. Ollie is a local actor made good having an on/off relationship with Red, an X Factor winner who has managed to become a huge pop star and there is also Jess, an actress in the shadow of her Hollywood bound husband. It is these three characters who make “A Seaside Affair”. Under the direction of Jonathan, an old flame of Penny’s, and with the draw of the theatre’s original impresario known as Colonel Stick (a lovely character who I think Fern has under-drawn somewhat) a show is produced to reverse the theatre’s fortunes.
It’s a tale of local politics, friendship and of pooling together as a community and it all works rather well. I do feel, however, that it is overlong and that Fern does not need to explore every potential plot permutation. Tightening things up by losing 100 pages or so would have resulted in something really rather good. As it is, I can see definite progress from Fern as a writer from “New Beginnings” (and I had also enjoyed that- probably more than some of the Amazon reviewers I stumbled across). I would certainly read more by her.
A Seaside Affair was published by Harper in 2014