A Seaside Affair- Fern Britton (2014)- A Female Fiction From A Male Point Of View Review

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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.

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A Seaside Affair was published by Harper in 2014

New Beginnings- Fern Britton (2011) – A Chick-Lit From A Male Point Of View Review

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From TV presenter with odd rabbit puppet Gus Honeybun on TSW (essential viewing for a time when I was at college in Devon back in the early 80’s) to host of “The Big Allotment Challenge” in 2015 on BBC2, Fern Britton has had some television career! Not on our screens as much as when she was a daily fixture on “This Morning” she has found time to branch out into writing and this was the first fruits of her labour (I’m going to stop this now in case the allotment puns keep coming!) She has kept herself on familiar territory as the main character has to juggle a television career with the demands of her family.

When her husband dies suddenly TV journalist Christie Lynch finds herself having to give up her spot on the television consumer programme and after a period of time, with money running out she needs to return to television, firstly on a daytime female talk show, the Loose Women-ish “Tart Talk” (fab title Fern) where she meets a formidable agent Julia Keen who signs her up. Julia is a great character, a high profile no-nonsense woman who has been tainted by scandal and Christie soon realises that having her as her agent does have disadvantages. Christie also has to deal with child-care, a teenage daughter not over the death of her father, a younger son who has found his father substitute in an ideal romantic proposition for Christie. She herself becomes increasingly paranoid by the trappings of fame and the realisation that her agent might not be totally on her side.

This is a well-paced, very readable book which remains likeable throughout. Fern has blended fiction with her experiences of life in front of a TV camera and dealing with fame, the press, a career and family. She has done a good job. It all feels plausible, there’s just the right amount of gloss and it never becomes over-sensational.

With a book a year since this debut Fern has joined the roster of good quality writers of this type of fiction.

“New Beginnings” was published in the UK in 2011 by Harper  Collinsthreestars.