Whether you’re packing a bag or just escaping to a park bench, getting away has never been so important – but it’s good to have a bit of substance as well, and that’s why this Summer’s commercial fiction picks offer a bit more than froth, despite their friendly and uplifting style. Treat yourselves!
Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane, HarperCollins, 1st April 2021
Goth lookalike Eve has been in love with Ed for years. Hanging around in the same group and doing the pub quiz at their local, she feels haunted by the chance they missed when they left for University. Things feel like they'll never change, but they do, abruptly, when tragedy strikes the group. A slightly more subdued novel than usual from Mhairi McFarlane - but these are sad times, and some of that pensiveness seeps through to the book, though there are some good gags too. I loved Eve and Ed's friend Justin, who provided comic relief through lines like, 'I will drink champagne out of the bottle, like a tramp who's won the Pools.’
For fans of Lucy Vine, Marian Keyes, Hannah Sutherland, Lindsey Kelk and Sophie Ranald.
Until Next Weekend by Rachel Marks, Penguin, 29th April 2021
Noah Carlton is in a bad way. Since his wife Kate left him and took their two sons, he's been drowning his sorrows in pints of lager and glasses of Jack Daniels and Coke. He once fantasized about being a weekend Dad, but though he's now able to spoil his two boys with McDonald's meals and ice cream, it's not what he thought it would be. With the help of unconventional barmaid Mimi, Noah faces his demons and helps another troubled family as well as making amends to his own.
For fans of Tony Parsons, Nick Horny, Nick Spalding and basically all the Nicks.
The Wife Who Got a Life by Tracy Bloom, HarperCollins, 29th April 2021
A must-read for Why Mummy Drinks fans, this is the story of Cathy, a menopausal English housewife. Her husband wants to quit his lucrative management consultancy job, her son isn't sure where he fits on the LGBT spectrum ('U' for 'Useless' not being an option) and her dog is called Barbra Streisand. When her sister gives her a motivational diary, Cathy resolves to salvage her career, cut her carbohydrate footprint and get her husband to do his share of the housework – while ideally never having another period. Sharply written and with a surprisingly touching subplot, this book is a reminder that even small goals can get you somewhere.
For fans of Gill Sims, Alexandra Potter, Polly Williams and Jane Fallon.
The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall, 13th May 2021
Sophie Breeze is so familiar with being a bridesmaid that she's made it her career, going undercover to help hungover brides and stop grooms from (literally) setting fire to the dance floor. Sophie's wrangles with left-field wedding companies who provide naughty T-shirt slogans and doughnut walls are hilarious, as are the drunken text chats from hen dos and Sophie's banter with her cousin Cara. It seems like the unflappable Sophie might never meet her match, but when a former client introduces her to tough-as-nails aristocrat Cordelia, it's going to take more than Sophie's organisational skills to create the wedding of her dreams. A great, fluffy piece of escapism, with enough style to give you pure pleasure without the guilt.
For fans of Wendy Holden, Helen Fielding, Sophie Kinsella and Jilly Cooper.
Look out for: The Cancer Ladies’ Running Club by Josie Lloyd (13th May), Nothing I Wouldn’t Do by Sara-Ella Ozbek (July) and No Such Thing as Perfect by Emma Hughes (August). For more recommendations, follow me on Twitter at @sophiablackwell.