The Country Set by Fiona Walker
Published: 5th October 2017
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Available in Hardback and on Kindle
BlurbCompton Magna sits high in the picturesque hills where the golden Cotswolds meet half-timbered Shakespeare country. At its heart is the stud farm owned by Captain Jocelyn Percy, as fierce as he is unforgiving. Twenty-five years ago, his only child, ravishing Ronnie Ledwell, abandoned husband and children for her lover. She's about to return, and sparks are set to fly.
Amateur sleuth and baker Pip is determined to keep her position as the stud's house-keeper, even if it means stirring things up with her wooden spoon. Glamorous theatre director Kit Donne can't forgive Ronnie for letting down his late wife, less still for reminding him of her. Taciturn stallion man Lester still guards the secret he and Ronnie have shared for three decades. Young horse-loving Carly Turner juggles jobs and her lawless in-laws, unaware that the stud's future might rest in her hands. Sexy Bay Austen usually gets what he wants and now he's after pretty, married Petra Gunn and the Captain's land. Will Ronnie's return thwart his plans?
In a village where passionate love affairs, bitter rivalries and dark secrets delight gossipy horse riders, only one woman has the full set, and she's taking the reins...
The Country Set is the latest novel by Fiona Walker and it sees the return to her infamous setting of Compton Magna. The Compton Magna Stud Farm is the main setting for this story and serves as the base for which much of the plot evolves.
The stud farm’s owner Captain Percy has been found dead stuck on the stairs in his cellar. As his relatives and friends gather for his passing and subsequent funeral the future of the stud farm comes under fire. The Captain has left his beloved but failing stud farm in trust to his grandchildren Alice, Tim and Pax, to be overseen until her death by disappearing daughter Ronnie.
Ronnie’s return to the village after twenty-five years leaves the village gossipers tails wagging and her children reluctant to forgive. But with bizarre allies in nosey parker housekeeper Pip and bored housewife and romance writer Petra can Ronnie save her family and the stud farm.
At 869 pages this is a huge book and one which initially I found hard to get in to as there are so many characters and sub-plots that I was left confused as to how everything would pull together. After the first 100 or so pages the story began to gel together and form a cohesive story centred around four of the villagers women, including the returning Ronnie Ledwell.
Ronnie is portrayed by her remaining family members and older villagers as the villain of the story but I found her to be one of the nicer and more agreeable characters in the book. She may have left her family to escape with her lover but it’s obvious from she’s felt trapped in her marriage to stud farm hero Johnny and has felt regret at leaving her children ever since.
Petra is a newer member of the village having only moved to Compton Magna seven years early. She’s balancing bringing up three children almost alone with her writing career, while nurturing her safely married crush on local farmer Bay Austen. With Charlie her husband spending more and more time away from the family home it’s becoming harder for Petra to resists the advances of gorgeous hunky Bay.
Married with three young children ex-army wife Carly is finding life with the Turner family in Compton Bagot hard and longs for the friendship and security of army life. Her only relief from the headstrong Turner’s is her love of animals particularly rescue dog Pricey and stud farm super foal Spirit.
Pip Edwards the Captain’s house-keeper comes across as sweet and slightly aloof but there is more to Pip than she first lets on. She is on a sneaky mission to ensure her position at the stud farm and goes about plotting to ensure Ronnie stays in the village. She’s the village busy-body who spends her time gathering information from the internet and using it to her best advantage.
Apart from Ronnie, Petra and Carly I found this book lacking in likable characters, they all seemed sneaky, overbearing or just down right awful. Even the three main women were not characters I adored, which left me a little disappointed as I loved Tash and Hugo and the gang from Fiona’s previous books French Relations, Well Groomed and Kiss and Tell.
The Country Set is a book which despite Fiona Walker’s humorous writing and satirical one-liners I found to be quite a sad read as death, grieving and long standing vendetta’s feature strongly throughout the book. It’s a book full of family feuding, deep hidden secrets and or course horses. With many plotlines being woven together with the numerous characters it has made a good start to a new series based in Compton Magna. I hope it’s the start of a series anyway as the ending was left very open with not everything being tied up complexly. As a standalone book I found it a struggle in places and feel it could perhaps been a lot shorter, however I did enjoy it and will definitely be picking up Fiona’s next book.
Thank to Head of Zeus for sending me a copy to review and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for The Country Set.