The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor, Accent Press/Headline 2014 –
What a wonderful book. There’s Jenny, an orphan taken in by her aunt and uncle, despite her debilitating stammer and her ‘other problem’. Then there’s Thomas, the large golden horse that only Jenny can see or hear. Jenny needs someone to watch out for her, keep her out of trouble – make sure she doesn’t swallow all those pills. Thomas is a life-saver.
Along comes Russell – artist and ne’er do well. Jenny’s cousin Francesca dumped him, despite his adoration and her being his artistic inspiration. How can Francesca love anyone more than herself? Leaving Russell was easy when you can wed and bed a movie producer – somebody who can actually help her pursue her acting career. Russell is devastated, loses his passion for art and is generally moping about the countryside from the run-down country house he inherited but can’t really can’t afford to restore or maintain. What can the poor boy do but find a rich girl he can marry for her money? Jenny seems perfect.
It’s been quite a while since I started a book and just didn’t want to put it down. Jodi Taylor is a terrific writer – funny, witty and the exchanges she writes between Russell and Jenny’s aunt are a highlight of the book. It goes without saying that Jenny’s aunt and uncle are aghast at the idea of Jenny leaving the safety of their home to marry the bohemian Russell, despite Russell’s assurances that he’s really only marrying Jenny for her money. But Russell is charming and captivates her heart – one yearning for love after years of isolation and loneliness. They are married in a farce concocted in the best traditions of British comedy and settle down in the country home while Jenny attempts domesticity with an avoidance of ‘wifely duties’. She puts energy into saving a cat from hell and a donkey that could double as a foghorn.
Just when you think Jenny might be acclimatizing to married life and ready for a dose of romance, Taylor pulls the rug from under you. Jenny’s golden muse bids her adieu just as the story takes a dark turn and she realizes someone is trying to kill her. Could it be possible that the charming Russell is capable of murdering his bride for her money? The first part of the book is full of light-hearted charm and wit and it was rather surprising when the plot took its murderous turn. I found the two aspects of the story a bit jarring, but Taylor writes so splendidly that she pulls it off. Once you’re hooked, it’s a romp to the surprising conclusion.
A stuttering heroine, a jaded bridegroom, a ghostly horse, an evil cat and a deranged donkey mixed up in a murder mystery – what’s not to love?