Ally Bunbury's debut novel, The Inheritance, was a hit with its themes of love, jealousy and intrigue set in a world of old money and a more brash jet-set drawing favourable comparisons with Jilly Cooper's writing.
Infidelity, her second novel, is peopled with a host of lovable and not so lovable, eccentric characters and picks up some of the same themes. At the age of 27, Elodie Gold leads a life of luxury. With her own flat in her mother's fabulous house in London and a hefty allowance, she is free to spend her days designer shopping. But a chance encounter leads her to reassess her aimless life. She ditches her rich, controlling boyfriend and, having made a mess of every job, she begins to help out in her friend's cafe, where she meets the handsome Luke Hamilton. However, fate intervenes before romance can even blossom.
When her younger brother Max returns from LA, things get complicated. Her self-obsessed mother, Julia, cuts off Elodie's allowance following a row, leaving her penniless. Max announces he has a baby daughter, Fleur, who comes complete with a very exacting nanny, paid for by wealthy friends. To escape Julia's wrath, they all decamp to Bellamore, their grandfather's sprawling mansion in Ireland where they spent every summer until the year their father died. After that, Julia cut off all communication with her father.
'Gramps' has acquired a busty Dutch girlfriend, who is not too pleased at the invasion, and Aunt Tess, who lives in the gate lodge, is also hostile. The beautiful house they remember is now dilapidated, leaking and damp with Gramps having to sell off most of the heirlooms to pay for the upkeep. Baby Fleur has a softening effect on everyone, especially Tess, while both Elodie and Max begin to realise how much their allowances kept them dependent on their mother and unable to make their way in the world. But a web of secrecy surrounds the family history, much of it based on infidelity.
Why is Julia so wealthy while her father languishes in penury and will Elodie ever see Luke again, stuck in the middle of Ireland with no means of support? It takes a few disasters before secrets are revealed and Elodie can leave her poor-little-rich-girl persona behind and start a more productive life.
Ally, who is married to historian Turtle Bunbury, was interviewed by Dave Fanning recently and revealed that she grew up in a similar old mansion to the one in the story. She also worked in the glamorous world of PR, so she draws from experience writing this funny, escapist novel full of quirky twists and turns that leaves you wanting more.
The Inheritance opens in the London townhouse of Sofia Tamper, spoilt Hollywood princess, whose momager is hell-bent on generating positive publicity for her protegee in advance of her appearance in Violet Tiger, a much trumpeted new TV series.
To this end, the venue is crammed with beautiful and influential people, none more so than George Wyndham, renowned art dealer, heir to a Tudor mansion in Scotland, and one of the country's most eligible bachelors. Also there, albeit at the insistence of her PR maven boss, is Irish-born Anna Rose whose brief is to rub shoulders with the right people and drum up new business for Winterbottom PR.
Having failed to connect with the jaded and peevish Sofia Tamper, Anna is planning her exit strategy when her bikini strap snaps. And voila! Out of the blue comes the dashing George Wyndham to preserve Anna's modesty with a silk kaftan. Of course the pair fall instantly in love, and Anna duly brings her new beau home to meet her delightfully eccentric parents, Harry and Freddie, at their idyllic Georgian pile in the west of Ireland. They too are charmed by their daughter's new man, as is Mrs B the housekeeper, Bernard the gardener and Dharma, the live-in yogi master. It seems nothing can come between the happy couple.
But back in Scotland, all is not well. George returns home to discover that his estranged father, Robert Wyndham, has sold George's beloved late mother's favourite painting - a Titian - and is busily squandering the proceeds. Furthermore, Sofia Tamper, whose scheming mother Blaire was born and reared in the shadow of the Big House, has wheedled her way into Wyndham senior's affections.
With his inheritance under threat, George is forced to make a choice - one with devastating consequences.