Alice has a scrupulously organised, comfortable life in West London with Noel - her second husband whose main ambition in life is to sharpen his golf handicap in time for retirement. But Alice’s once-famous bohemian mother, Jocelyn, residing in shabby splendour in a crumbling house on a clifftop in Cornwall, becomes ill and Alice, with her daughter and stepson, goes to look after her. What she finds there appals her.
Stella works as an agony aunt for a teenage magazine. She lives on Pansy Island, a self-consciously arty community on the Thames, where her husband Adrian writes erotic novels in a summerhouse by the river, while her two teenage children prepare themselves for adult life in various ways not necessarily recommended in the pages of their mother's advice columns.
"I always enjoy Judy Astley"
Every July, the lucky owners of Cornish holiday homes set off for their annual break. Loading their estate cars with dogs, cats, casefuls of wine, difficult adolescents and rebellious toddlers, they close up their desirable semis in smartish London suburbs - having turned off the Aga and turned on the burglar alarm - and look forward to a carefree, restful, somehow more fulfilling summer.Clare is, this year, more than usually ready for her holiday.
Bella has given up on men. Happily divorced, her latest boyfriend just omitted to tell her about his current wife, so she’s back on her own again. Then her ex-husband turns up, wanting to sell the family home in which she and their two teenage children are well settled. But all their lives are changed when a television company rents the house for a reality TV fashion makeover programme.
After 20 years of marriage, Nina had offloaded serial philanderer Joe and was happy enough, thank you, coping alone with their two demanding daughters and her own hectic life. It felt like freedom, not having to wonder constantly where Joe was, who with, and up to what. But into Nina's new, carefree life some disturbing elements began to appear.
"Listen for Fun"
Melanie finds herself single again after years of being one half of a couple. Her friends predict loneliness, frustration, disaster. Her parents are convinced she’s a failure in life. But Melanie is overwhelmingly excited to be able to do her own thing – she plans a programme of behaving badly, after a lifetime of behaving properly.
It is almost a year since Sean and Thea met, and it's been a roller-coaster ride: they're getting married on Christmas Day! Neither Thea nor Sean wants a big fuss - a simple wedding, with Christmas lights and just a few sprigs of mistletoe for decoration is all they need. But before they know it, things begin to get complicated.
Funerals are strange things. Kitty hadn't really wanted to go to this one - a old school friend she hadn't seen for years - and she hadn't bargained for the way it made her think of the past. In particular, it made her think of the baby she had given birth to when she was eighteen, the baby her parents had insisted she give away for adoption. She'd called her Madeleine, and she remembered her every day, what she was like, if she was happy.
It was Heather's silver wedding anniversary. But this important milestone did not mark her marriage to Tom, her often-absent airline pilot husband and father of their two teenage children. It was for her first marriage - a wildly romantic, secret affair, when she and Iain - 12 years older than her and the heir to a Scottish baronetcy - had eloped immediately after her final school speech day. She was just 16 at the time.
Imagine – you’re in your early thirties, settled and sensible, and wanting to move up the property ladder. Your parents – approaching retirement – have an ENORMOUS house which is, let’s be honest, a bit tatty but worth squillions. Only your teenage sister Sorrel lives there now and she’s just about to go off on a gap year. So obviously there’s some money tied up there which your parents must be thinking of off-loading onto their children?Not a bit of it. The parents have every hope that they will grow old disgracefully.
Do the friendships you make on holiday have anything to do with real life? It might be sensible to hope that they don’t. For the last few years, Beth and Ned have gone to the same Caribbean island to the same luxury spa hotel. There they meet the same crowd, and take up where they left off last time. Real life, home life, family life, are all safely left behind. But not this time.
Jay has always envied her cousin Delphine. While Jay was brought up in a large, noisy and chaotic family, Delphine was indulged, perfectly dressed with a co-ordinated bedroom, an immaculate wardrobe, dancing lessons and monogrammed silver-backed hairbrushes. Now Jay lives happily with her architect husband and their three teenage children, while Delphine has long since disappeared to Australia with her second husband. But Delphine is about to reappear.
Nein, nicht schnulzig, sondern richtig schön romantisch! Schließlich ist bald Weihnachten... Theas Eltern wollen die ganze Familie zu Weihnachten nach Cornwall einladen, in ein großes Haus am Meer, dabei sind sie eigentlich dabei, sich zu trennen. Thea selbst ist gerade Single geworden, denn ihr Exfreund hat sich gegen ein Kind und für die Welpenzucht entschieden - was für ein Kotzbrocken. Während es draußen wie verrückt schneit, wird drinnen heftig Weihnachten gefeiert.
Thea’s parents decide to host a big family Christmas in a house by the sea… even though they are, in fact, about to split up. Thea herself is newly single - her sister and brother are both settled, with children, homes and a future. But Thea’s boyfriend has ditched her in favour of his pedigree dogs, and Thea can’t decide whether or not she minds. There will be copious food and drink, holly and mistletoe, lots of bracing walks and a wintry barbecue on the beach.
It’s 20 years since Miranda, then 16, holidayed in Cornwall and her life changed forever. Now she’s back again – with her mother Clare and the ashes of her stepfather Jack, whose wish was to be scattered on the sea overlooked by their one-time holiday home. The picturesque cove seems just the same as ever, but the people are different – more smart incomers, fewer locals, more luxury yachts in the harbour.
Viola hasn't had much luck with men. Her first husband, Marco, companion of her youth and father of her only child, left her when he realised he was gay. Her second, Rhys, ended his high-octane, fame-filled life by driving his Porsche into a wall. No wonder her family always believes she needs looking after, and her friends think she really shouldn't be allowed out on her own...Which is why, at the age of thirty-five, she finds herself shamefully back at home, living with Mum.
"Warm and fuzzy feeling!"
Have you ever wondered what your ex is up to? When Nell was a student, she and Patrick were a serious item. They were inseparable, and she really thought he was The One. But then Alex came along…the safer, more restful option, and thanks to her over-controlling mother she opted for him instead. Now nothing is going right. Alex has left her to live in New York with a younger, blonder woman.
Jess has just waved goodbye to her darling son, off backpacking to Oz. She's left with two teenage daughters and husband Matt - all of whom find themselves regularly featured in her popular and lighthearted newspaper column in which she conveys to her readers an enviably cheery muddle of family life.Things become less rosy when Matt, after twenty years with the same firm, is made redundant. Only Jess sees the potential calamity in this.
A Proper Family Holiday was the last thing Lucy was expecting to have. But as a penniless and partnerless house-painter with an expired lease on her flat and a twelve-year-old daughter, she could hardly turn down her parents' offer to take them on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Caribbean.
Sara’s mother told her that she shouldn’t marry Conrad – that the twenty-five-year age gap between them would tell in the end. The end is now (apparently) approaching fast. Conrad, a famous painter, has decided that it would be good to die before he gets seriously old and so spends his time sorting out his chaotic life. Sara, teaching art at a local college, finds that she has plenty of male company – other people’s husbands, ones she tells Conrad all about, who are just good friends to her.