Are you looking for a good beach read this summer? If so, you can do no better than Jill Mansell's Rumor has it (Sourcebooks Landmark), in which the heroine, Tilly Cole learns that what you hear isn't always the truth. Having been dumped by her boyfriend, she decides to up sticks and move from London to rural Gloucestershire to be near her best friend, consignment shop owner, Erin. To support herself, she takes a job as a personal assistant to Max, an interior designer with a precocious teenager, Louisa and a devastatingly handsome best friend named Jack Lucas. Jack has a reputation as a ladies man and Tilly has no intention of adding herself to his list of conquests, but circumstances throw them together, allowing her to see a different side of him. Soon she finds herself fighting her attraction to a man everyone tells her will break her heart even as he proves himself to be more than a shameless womanizer.
There are several sub-plots featuring Tilly's friend Erin, her boss Max and his former wife and a hunky teacher at Louisa's school. They add depth to the story without overwhelming the main plot, while reflecting the overall theme of appearances not always reflecting the truth. Ms. Mansell's talent lies in her ability to create quirky, sympathetic and compelling characters about whose fate the reader cares and creating storylines for them that highlight their particular personal journeys. Serving as background, small-town life is portrayed in all its gossipy yet close-knit glory, with just enough physical detail to ground it in reality. I could see the pub, the country lanes and Jack's house in my mind while I read.
Ms. Mansell's accomplished prose strikes just the right balance of narrative and dialogue. North American readers will occasionally encounter British expressions they don't understand, though in general the context makes the meaning clear enough. The story moves along quickly, as Tilly's dilemma deepens and her friends find themselves equally challenged by life's unexpected twists and turns. Are some of the situations in which our heroine finds herself a little far-fetched? Sure! But that's the fun of fiction.
As with other works by Ms. Mansell, I read this one almost compulsively, always reluctant when forced to set it aside to tend to the more mundane aspects of my life. Here's hoping you get to lose yourself in it on a gorgeous sunny day, when you have nothing but time to indulge in a moreish book.