The Summer Job is going to be guilty of many a ‘lost’ hour of pure, unapologetic escapism this spring/summer. Not since the heady days of Bridget Jones’s Diary have I developed quite such a crush on a rom-com novel … and like the beloved Bridget, this wonderful book demands an accompanying glass of wine …
‘Engaging, heartwarming and so much fun. I bloody loved it.‘
what it says on the cover …
Have you ever imagined running away from your life?
Well Birdy Finch didn’t just imagine it. She did it. Which might’ve been an error. And the life she’s run into? Her best friend, Heather’s.
The only problem is, she hasn’t told Heather. Actually there are a few other problems…
Can Birdy carry off a summer at a luxury Scottish hotel pretending to be her best friend (who incidentally is a world-class wine expert)?
And can she stop herself from falling for the first man she’s ever actually liked (but who thinks she’s someone else)?
PUBLISHED: 15th April 2021
AUTHOR: Lizzy Dent
PUBLISHER: Viking (Penguin imprint)
FORMATS: Hardback | Kindle | AudioBook
‘Perhaps you must find somewhere to put your roots into the earth? A little water, a little sunlight, a little time and space? Like a vine? You cannot hope to debut the perfect vintage if you do not take the time to grow and nurture and love.‘
my review …
What a fabulously fresh, distinctly quaffable book this is. If I were to pair it with a wine then its ideal partner would be lively, zesty, and effervescent with a seriously moreish fruitiness, and delicate but irresistible complexity.
Why all the wine references?
Well, The Summer Job tells the rather lovely, and refreshingly original, story of Elizabeth ‘Birdy’ Finch and her foolhardy exploits as she attempts to pass herself off as her bestie, Heather Jones; a professional sommelier. Birdy and Heather have been best friends since they met in the school playground, at the tender age of six. Now, they’re both in their early 30s, and whilst Heather’s career is fizzing with potential, Birdy hops aimlessly from one dead-end job to the next. Heather is a serial romantic, and in a bid to cement a relationship with Cristian, she heads off to Rome, passing up a seasonal sommelier job in Scotland, at the Loch Dorn Hotel.
Two weeks earlier, during a rather boozy evening at the British Wine Awards, Birdy had the bright idea of taking the job in Heather’s absence … after all, she’s masquerading as Heather for the evening, and not one of the attending experts doubts she is who her name badge says she is. A quick google search shows the Loch Dorn to be a run down, tired old backwater with a small wine list and rather dated menu. It’s only a three-month role … how hard can it be?!
Within moments of arriving at the opulently grand Loch Dorn it’s clear the website was in dire need of updating – the menu has been recreated by a chef with two Michelin stars, the newly refurbished decor is super-slick, and the wine list boasts a whopping 160 vintages. Squeezed into a too small (Heather-sized) uniform Birdy couldn’t be feeling more uncomfortable … it’s at about this point the true hangover from her booze-fuelled brainwave finally kicks in.
Birdy is an immediately likeable character, and I quickly find myself swept up with her story as she tries to pass herself off as Heather. She has a genuinely charming affinity with people, a trait that spills off the page to captivate the reader, as well as endearing her to the eclectic staff of the hotel … but she hides a battered self-confidence, relying on her natural quick humour to deflect attention and avoid close relationships.
Armed with her Wine For Newbies book, the magic of Google, and the wine list from a trendy gastro-pub, Birdy lurches from one near-miss to the next, in a series of incidents that have me giggling and flinching with each passing chapter. I can’t help but applaud her as she fumbles her way through a nerve-wracking first few weeks, artfully dodging the caustic glare of executive chef Russell Brooks, whilst falling head-over-heels for the broodingly gorgeous James. As the weeks turn into months, Birdy’s self esteem is matched by her growing wine knowledge, and for the first time in her life she starts to feel pride in herself, and a sense of belonging …but her feelings of guilt about passing herself off as Heather are becoming harder to ignore.
The author teases out the chemistry between James and Birdy with a delicious will-they/won’t-they frisson. Whilst I’m loving every minute of their fledgling romance, I was on edge for the inevitable revelation of Birdy’s duplicity. Like one of those awful dreams where you can’t move, there can be no escaping it, with the real Heather re-entering Birdy’s story at the worst possible moment … the highlight of Birdy’s ‘career’ and of Loch Dorn’s social calendar – the Highland Wine Society’s annual bash. Whilst this particular plot line is familiar, the repercussions that spill out from it are not, and I hugely enjoyedthe chain of events that followed, bringing the story towards its wholly satisfying ending.
The setting for the Loch Dorn Hotel is distinctly atmospheric, with the seasonal fluctuations bringing beautifully misty mornings, hazy sunshine, vibrant landscapes, and glossy cool forests. Equally, the occasional trips made by James and Birdy to Skye are incredibly inviting; skimming the edges of lochs, catching glimpses of towers and croft farms, the gently rolling harbour waters, all romancing the best and the worst of Scottish weather. Honestly, I was itching to jump on a train and get myself up there, sharpish. If the Scottish Tourist Board don’t pick up on this novel and herald it heartily as its tourism brochure for the summer they really are missing a trick.
Having worked in the hospitality industry for over fifteen years, writing menus and flirting with our wine buyers, I can honestly say The Summer job was a literary dream for me. The observational details and personalities are pitch-perfect, and the mouth watering food added a delicious extra layer to the story. It’s a book with generous servings of feel-good levity, but artfully nestled in amongst them are some tenderly written moments of emotional vulnerability that keep the book expertly, authentically grounded.
From the very outset, The Summer Job is brimming with warmth and witty good humour. It’s a fun, escapist, easy-read that invites you to soak up the delicious food and wine, lose yourself in a glorious setting, and indulge in the unmistakable butterfly sensations of a developing crush. I devoured The Summer Job in two sittings … well I wouldn’t want to be greedy and guzzle it all in one.
Thank you to Viking Books UK for sending me an ARC of The Summer Job in return for an honest, impartial review. And thanks also #NetGalley for approving my request for a digital copy! There’s no such thing as too many books!
Lizzy Dent (miss)spent her early twenties working in Scotland in hospitality, in a hotel not unlike the one in this novel. She somehow ended up in a glamourous job travelling the world creating content for various TV companies, including MTV, Channel 4, Cartoon Network, the BBC and ITV. But she always knew that writing was the thing she wanted to do, if only she could find the confidence. After publishing three young adult novels, she decided to write a novel that reflected the real women she knew, who don’t always know where they’re going in life, but who always have fun doing it. The Summer Job is that novel.
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