Book review: The Surprise Party by Sue Welfare

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A day is a long time in family politics, particularly when a bombshell discovery is just waiting to explode.

Throw in three generations of sisters, all bristling with resentments and rivalries, and an anniversary party that will unlock the key to the past, and the scene is set for a funny, painful, whimsical and utterly beguiling 24 hours.

Sue Welfare’s clever take on domestic dilemmas and feuding families has a piquant charm that crosses the generations and puts the lives and loves, hopes and fears of everyday folk firmly in the spotlight.

Each of the well-drawn characters has their own story to tell, all neatly interlinking into a wise and warm morality tale guaranteed to win hearts and appeal to girls young and old.

All the action takes place in one day - and what a day it turns out to be for the Binghams as they prepare to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of Jack and Rose with a surprise party at their Norfolk cottage.

Elder sister Suzie is stressed after months of subterfuge, stealth and planning for the big event which she feels she has organised almost singlehandedly whilst managing her fruit and veg business, running the home and caring for her two growing daughters.

Husband Sam has been there to help out but his increasing frustration and moods are making spending 40 minutes together look impossible, never mind the 40 happy years her parents have notched up.

Younger sister Lizzie, golden girl of the TV reality show Starmaker, doesn’t have time for a husband and family, and getting stuck into party preparations is just not her scene. There are trips to the beautician, manicurist and hairdresser, Botox treatments and sessions with her personal trainer to fit into a busy schedule.

Meanwhile, Suzie’s teenage daughter Hannah is hanging out with new girl Sadie who both frightens and fascinates her. Mum says she’s a bad influence but Hannah thinks she’s different and funny. Younger sister Megan is caught in the middle of all the shenanigans and it’s not a good place to be.

Finally, there’s Rose, who is blissfully unaware of the party taking shape at her home and is spending the day rubbing up her sister Fleur the wrong way. It can only end in tears.

As the celebration kicks off and the champagne flows, this is one surprise party that could be the worst idea ever.

Welfare’s entertaining book keeps up a lively pace as the revelations come thick and fast, and one big juicy secret gets set to rock this seemingly ordinary family to its foundations.

A treat for romantics of any age.

(Avon, paperback, £6.99)