The Boy Next Door
By Cathy Woodman, Headline, £ 19.99
Cathy Woodman’s new novel, The Boy Next Door, is the story of a love-lorn, single mother who is reunited with her teenage crush as she leaves her somewhat stagnant life in Devon and plunges into a medley of exciting events in Addiscombe, south London. Terri Mills is a bankrupt florist, who still devoutly believes in the power of love and undertakes all for love. Since her childhood, Terri has been passionate about flowers, and, while growing up, about Martin Blake, the boy next door, the only child of florists, George and Val.
Her parents, Len and June, had a difficult marriage. Apparently, there was an illicit affair between George and June. Which was why the Millses wound up their news agency at Addiscombe, upped and moved to Devon to live Len’s dream of running a bed-and-breakfast by the sea. Both Terri and Martin longed for one another, but their mothers managed to keep them apart, and, with time, they gave up and drifted from each other.
Meanwhile, Len passes away and June marries David from the Redsands Holiday Park, twelve years her senior. Terri’s one-night-stand with her date, rugby-enthusiast Robbie, gets her pregnant, and Martin has a whirlwind romance with Letitia (Tish), who eventually moves in with him. They have two children, Cassie and Elliot, both born out of wedlock. At the other end, Robbie leaves Terri, knowing nothing about the birth of Sasha.
By the time Terri returns to Addiscombe, her grandmother, Lilian, has arranged for an accommodation and found her a job at Posies, the flower shop run by the Blakes.
Initially, Terri is hesitant about renewing her relationship with Martin, her boss at Posies, who is as good as married. Gradually, she settles in as Martin reaches out to her whenever she needs his support. Martin needs a hand to help him out in catering to the needs of his discerning clientele until Letitia returns from Spain where she has been busy in finding a buyer for the bar they own on the Costa del Sol.
She returns to Posies, only to find her decade-old love life with Martin is almost over as he prefers a handy housewife to a fickle hussy. Meanwhile, Terri learns the shattering truths she never knew; the infidelities of her mother, and of her grandmother, and, over a period of time, puts the pieces of her life back together. And, like her grandmother, she gets to marry the boy next door.
Woodman is an honest storyteller. Apart from dealing with minute details of the art of floristry, she also tackles issues such as the follies and foibles of modern times, rehabilitation of single parents, family secrets and culture shocks, adultery and its consequences and so on. Woodman is particularly interested in symbolism and in the psychological depths of the characters she has created. The book is not without its flaws though. The quality of editing is poor and there are quite a few instances of misprints — Cassie has become Carrie on page 131.