(Shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy of the Year)
Bella has given up on men since - on a mini-break to New York - she discovers her current one has a wife he'd forgotten to mention. Back at home, her ex-husband turns up with plans to sell the family home he'd abandoned many years before and in which Bella and her teenage children have been happily living. Added to this, her column on a weekend newspaper magazine is cut from weekly to monthly, horribly diminishing her income.
A chance meeting with a TV executive for a new makeover show called Fashion Victims offers Bella a chance to rent out her house as the setting for the programme. What she hasn't bargained for is the enormous upheaval, for becoming one of the Victims herself, nor for her effortlessly stylish mother being accused of shoplifting and coming to stay or for her seventeen year-old daughter to be up to here in her own love-life angst.
There were two triggers for this book. The first was seeing the most stylishly dressed woman out at lunch with her family at a smart restaurant. She must have been pushing 80, had fabulously well-cut white hair and was wearing the most elegant, simple dress, fabulous shoes and gorgeous chunky jewellery. I immediately wanted her in a book and she morphed easily into Bella's mother, Shirley. I've given her a lovely man and - so rare for an older woman in a novel - an actual Sex Life. The second trigger was watching Gok Wan on TV leading a woman round a department store in search of the Perfect Skirt. At first viewers only saw the top half of her, but as she and Gok skipped off to look at clothes, the camera showed she was actually skirt-less, clad in jacket, boots and big beige knickers. I thought: how cruel. Why do that to someone in the interests of an amusing TV shot? So I thought I'd write about all these fashion dictators, do my best to give the victims the upper hand for once. Of course once I'd done more research (ie watching more programmes, always good to work from the sofa..), I felt enormous admiration for the lovely Gok and his colleagues. They KNOW what they're talking about and are pretty much always right. I shall never wear trousers (am just wrong shape), horizontal stripes or a high round neck ever again: thank you Mr. Wan.