Jessica Beam is a girl who knows how to party. Only lately she’s been forgetting to turn up for work on time. Or in clean clothes. Down on her luck, out of a job and homeless, Jess seeks the help of her long-lost grandmother.
Things aren’t going well for Matilda Beam, either. Her 1950s Good Woman guide books are out of print, her mortgage repayments are staggering and her granddaughter wears neon Wonderbras!
When a lifeline from a London publisher arrives, the pair have an opportunity to secure the roof over their heads – by invigorating the Good Woman guides and transforming modern, rebellious Jess into a demure vintage lady.
The true test of their make-over will be to capture the heart of notorious London playboy Leo Frost and prove that Matilda’s guides still work. It’s going to take commitment, nerves of steel and one seriously pointy bra to pull this off…
The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance introduces us to party animal, pear-cider loving, twenty-something Jessica Beam. Her pastimes include casual sex and creating some of the funniest swear words known to man.
However, when her laid back attitude leads to her losing her job on the blog she works on with her best friend, Summer, she also loses her home at the same time. Being jobless and homeless is no biggie for Jessica Beam, though. It’s nothing a few pear ciders won’t cure, and anyway a plan soon comes together… Jessica intends to track down her long-lost Grandmother, Matilda Beam.
Matilda lives in a mahoosive house and surely won’t mind lending Jessica a few quid in order for her to go travelling and have a bit of a break from life. Right?
Erm, not exactly. Matilda was the author of a series of books back in the 1950s known as the ‘Good Woman’ guides. Although they were a huge success Matilda has since fallen on hard times after her husband left her with masses of debt. Shocked and appalled at her granddaughters appearance, seeming lack of morals and language, Matilda fears she is having some sort of breakdown and offers Jessica a place to stay.
Whilst Jessica is desperate to flee the junk-cluttered house and her bedroom full of creepy looking porcelain dolls, Matilda forms a plan and it just happens to be a good ‘un. Disheartened that her Good Woman guides have been turned down for re-publishing, Matilda wants to bring out a new book, in the form of an experiment. Can her guides from the 1950s turn wild, potty-mouthed, party-loving Jessica into a sophisticated, demure young lady? And so How to Catch a Man Like it’s 1955 is born…
I can safely say that The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance is THE book I was most excited about reading so far this year. I became a fully fledged Kirsty Greenwood fan after loving her debut novel, Yours Truly, and so I have been eagerly anticipating the release of her second book. There’s also the fact that I have been hearing hundreds and hundreds of good things about this story. Of course, I did have that slight fear in the back of my mind…what if it doesn’t live up to the hype? However, as soon as I had read the first three pages I knew that this novel wasn’t going to live up to the hype…It was totally going to SMASH the hype and be even more amazing than I originally thought.
Firstly I need to talk about Kirsty’s writing. Wowser. It’s just brilliant, so much so that you don’t feel like you’re actually reading a book. It feels like you’re sat cosied up with your BFF’s having a good old gossip. You get the same amount of enjoyment, excitement, laughs and pleasure that you would only in book format. Kirsty’s style of writing is down-to-earth, realistic, effortless to read and an absolute joy. The characters that she has created rank amongst some of my favourites and whilst Jessica might not start off at the most likeable of characters, I found myself kind-of loving her, even at the start. Yes, she could be frustrating, selfish and even slightly delusional at times but boy, oh, boy does this girl make for great reading. Her use of language is first class and some of the swear words that she creates I am TOTALLY adopting. Seeing her transform before my very eyes into a ‘lady’ was absolutely fascinating. Her journey navigating pointy bras, corsets and the art of glove dropping really does form the basis of a great story. Can tips from the 1950s really work in the modern dating world?
Then there’s the supporting characters; I adored Peach, hated Summer and of course, there’s the love interest…or should that be interest(s). I loved how Leo was portrayed throughout the story. To start off with I was in agreement with Jess (he was a knob-prince, definitely) but I found myself wavering along with ‘Lucille’ later on in the story. Eeek.
The other things I loved about The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance is how there is so much going on. There is never a dull page, its excitement, laughter, drama and intrigue all the way. I was particularly fascinated to find out what the deal was with Matilda and Jessica’s mother Rose (who sadly died when Jessica was eighteen). Something had obviously happened between them as they became estranged, but Kirsty only gives very slight clues as to what, and the more the story progresses, the more is unravelled…
I also loved how there were snippets from Matilda’s books at the start of each chapter and how they relate to what’s happening. The extracts from Rose Beam’s diary were also a fascinating extra and made the story that little bit more juicer as you become desperate to find out what happened.
The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance is a book that has EVERYTHING right, even the cover is delicious. I would give it a million, billion, trillion stars (or shoes in my case….) if I could because it is the perfect romantic comedy. Hilarious, touching, warm and an all round beautiful story. I’d raid the positive adjective bank and use every single one to describe this novel, but then my review would be even longer. So I’ll finish up by recommending this book to everyone (yes, you at the back there!) and also by making the rather bold claim that it is one of my favourite books EVER. Kirsty Greenwood, I love you and can’t wait to see what you bring us next…
A huge thank you to Kirsty Greenwood and to Lucie at Pan Macmillan for very kindly sending me a copy of The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance to review. ♥
Kirsty Greenwood was born in Oldham, Greater Manchester in 1982. She is founding editor-in-chief of Novelicious.com.