I don’t normally read that subsection of commercial women’s fiction known for its pink covers, happily ever afters and Cecilia Ahern, only because I generally like my genre fiction dark, to involve an authority of some kind (the cops, the Feds, a feisty female pathologist) and to have a high body count. (That’s crime, if you’re not familiar.) But three things conspired to convince me to seek out a copy of From Notting Hill With Love… Actually – so if you’re trying to get me to buy your book, take note.
First, I followed Ali on Twitter and watched the wonderful video diaries she made on her blog, which took us along for the ride on Ali’s countdown to the publication of her debut novel. Second, I’m a sucker for a nice cover, and From Notting Hill With Love… Actually has a gorgeous one. Thirdly, the plot is a brilliant idea – one of those ones that make wish you’d thought of it yourself:
“Scarlett loves the movies. But does she love sensible fiancé David just as much? With a big white wedding on the horizon, Scarlett should really have decided by now. When she has the chance to house-sit in Notting Hill – the setting of one of her favorite movies – Scarlett jumps at the chance. But living life like a movie is trickier than it seems, especially when her new neighbor Sean is so irritating. And irritatingly handsome, too. Scarlett soon finds herself starring in a romantic comedy of her very own: but who will end up as the leading man?”
I was really looking forward to reading this book, and I wasn’t at all disappointed. It’s funny, it’s sweet and laugh out loud funny. Scarlett’s dilemma is one many of us have faced at one time or another: do you settle and play it safe, or chase your dreams and risk losing everything? Surrounded by family and friends who think that the exciting and romantic lives the stars live out in the movies should stay where they are – on the screen – and that those in the real world have to make do with the mundane, Scarlett sets out on a quest to prove them wrong: life can be like it is in the movies.
Side note: I especially loved how Scarlett had got an education in things like opera, art and ancient history thanks to her repeated watching of the Hollywood movie version of events!
This novel is a love letter to the movies we all know and love (An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Holiday, Notting Hill, Pretty Woman – just to name a few!) and encouragement to not settle for anything less than the life you dream of having. And just like in those movies, the ending had me reaching for the Kleenex – I could practically hear the theme music (I was imagining Hans Zimmer’s The Holiday soundtrack, if you were wondering) swelling up in my head as events raced towards their – perfect! – conclusion.
As “the world’s first ever rom-com-chick-flick-novel” if you love a bit of rom-com fun and have ever considered doing a house-swap just on the off chance you’d end up with Jude Law and/or a mansion in Beverly Hills, From Notting Hill With Love… Actually is the book for you. Now all we need is Richard Curtis to make the film based on the book that was based on the films… Those opening credits would be a bit complicated, wouldn’t they?