Book review: How Not to Fall in Love, Actually by Catherine Bennetto

How Not to Fall in Love, Actually by Catherine Bennetto
How Not to Fall in Love, Actually by Catherine Bennetto
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Love can come into your life at the most unexpected time… rather like a baby!

Emma George, a 27-year-old recently-sacked, would-be film director, knows that only too well. Labelled by her despairing mother as ‘unemployed, knocked up and single,’ the expectant mum has just fallen for her dishy ‘accidental’ tenant Joe.

But can a man – particularly one as sexy and desirable as Joe – truly, madly, deeply fall in love with a woman carrying her ex-boyfriend’s child?

Get ready to laugh out loud and cosy up with Emma’s gregarious, fun-loving family and friends in a gorgeous debut from Catherine Bennetto whose real-life experiences, and work in the film and television industry, helped inspire this wickedly funny, warts-and-all romantic comedy.

Emma’s job in television was supposed to have brought with it exotic locations, inspiring scripts and a luxury pad; instead she works in a squat 1970s building, her role as Second Assistant Director is distinctly less glamorous than it sounds, and her flat in Tooting smells of drains.

She lives there with boyfriend Ned, a red-haired, unemployed, eternal optimist she met on her 22nd birthday and who fancies himself as a man of invention but whose ideas have, unfortunately, never got beyond ‘the scrawled-notes-on-the-back-of-the-water-bill’ stage.

The truth is they don’t own their home and, after telling her tedious boss in no uncertain terms to stick his job, they don’t earn a penny between them.

When Emma finds she is accidentally very pregnant, she knows things are going to have to change and so she dumps the feckless father of her child-to-be. Luckily, she is also accidentally the heir to a lovely little cottage in Wimbledon, with a crazy Doberman-owning octogenarian called Harriet as a neighbour.

And when hunky gardener Joe almost literally falls into her new life as her accidental ‘friend-slash-lodger,’ and Emma takes on an unexpected part-time job, things seem to be looking up.

But this baby is coming and Emma must learn to become the sort of person who can look after herself, let alone another human being…

Bennetto has her finger firmly on the pulse of both family life and contemporary society in this warm, witty and emotion-packed saga which succeeds brilliantly in keeping us smiling, guffawing – and occasionally shedding a tear – from first page to last.

Emma is a terrific and original leading lady… easy-going but quietly determined, strong but vulnerable, and as susceptible to love while lugging around her baby bump as any teenager on the lookout for her first boyfriend.

Wry observations and a supporting cast of adorably hilarious characters – with special mention for buxom, straight-talking best friend Helen, batty next door neighbour Harriet and four-year-old cousin Archie savouring his first stab at swearing and acting – help to turn this quirky, clever, feel-good novel into a rom-com tour-de-force.

The perfect read to beat the January blues…

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)