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A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott

(Penguin, $40)She may not be a household name here, but Catherine Alliott is one of a group of British writers who've found great success writing chick lit.Like Fiona Walker, Jill oansell and Wendy Holden,

(Penguin, $40)

She may not be a household name here, but Catherine Alliott is one of a group of British writers who’ve found great success writing chick lit.

Like Fiona Walker, Jill oansell and Wendy Holden, when it comes to writing books about hapless heroines who find the path to true love is anything but easy, Catherine has hit on a winning formula.

Unfortunately, sticking to a tried and tested format may be why her 12th book, A Rural Affair, is not as riveting a read as previous efforts. It just feels a little too formulaic.

It’s a shame because the premise is intriguing. Young mum Poppy Shilling is freed from the shackles of a loveless marriage when her cycling-mad husband Phil is killed in a freak accident. He’s barely in the ground when secrets from his past are revealed, leaving her shaken.

But for the sake of her children she has to get on with life and it’s not long before she’s attracting the attention of several men while trying to make the most of village life.

It’s obvious straightaway which bloke she is going to end up with, but sadly the romance just doesn’t ring true, largely thanks to the fact that she spends hardly any time in the man’s company.

There’s a big cast of characters – some more likeable than others – and although Poppy has her irritating moments (just like people in real life) she does have some endearing qualities.

The best-drawn character is Poppy’s hard-drinking, big-hearted dad, Peter. Catherine’s skill in writing about him and his relationship with his daughter shows why she’s become a bestselling author.

She has a flair for comedy and, despite the tragic theme, there are some funny scenes. However, a chapter in which a hunt turns to chaos ends up being rather farcical.

Her faithful fans will probably forgive her these few flaws and enjoy the book anyway.

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