Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

The Chalet Girl by Kate Lace

“You SHALL go to the ball … !”

I don’t know one end of a pair of skis from the other. Actually – I lie. The front is the end that sticks up – right?

The Chalet GirlKate Lace’s first book for Headline’s Little Black Dress imprint – is not therefore a title that would normally have attracted my attention when I was looking for some recreational reading. It came highly recommended however, so I gritted my teeth and … well … therein lies a lesson that I really should have learnt years ago. It’s a tired and clichéd lesson involving books and covers, so I won’t bore you with it.

The Chalet Girl is in fact a modern fairy tale. To be precise, it’s Cinderella. Millie Braythorpe (the eponymous chalet girl) and her mother Hannah both get a shot at being Cinders, Luke Hastings is Prince Charming, there’s a veritable gaggle of Fairy Godmothers and an interesting piece of cross-gender casting in the role of The Wicked Sister. There’s even a ball, a pair of glass slippers (oh – all right, they’re actually strappy sandals …) and a fairytale ending.

The ending, I have to say, is never in any serious doubt. From the moment when we – through Millie’s eyes – see Luke’s orange-waterproof clad back, it’s a dead cert. As is nearly always the case with the best romantic novels, the plot is almost secondary. It’s how much fun the journey is that keeps you reading … and this journey is a real winner. In fact, I’d even go so far as to use another well-worn cliché and say that it’s a page-turner – because it truly is.

Written with a surprising amount of grit, The Chalet Girl isn’t always completely comfortable reading. The language is robustly unflowery in places and the characters talk the way people really DO talk in the real world. The chapter where we learn why and how Millie became a chalet girl is written with a poignancy that frankly startled me.

Knowing nothing at all about the skiing scene, I was fascinated by the whole business of ski holidays, chalets, ski passes and chalet girls. The descriptions of the community that circulates around the alpine villages in winter are vivid.

There’s a big dose of humour to help the story along, too. Kate Lace has a truly wicked way with a one-liner. I splurted coffee over the tablecloth in a genteel tea room in the Lake District because of it – doing very little for my standing in the local community.

Refreshingly, there’s an interesting second storyline too, involving Millie’s mother, who starts as a cold, distant and unseen presence, then half way through is unexpectedly fleshed out to become a main player and a rather engaging character for whom I guarantee you will be cheering.

The Chalet Girl is a thoroughly enjoyable read … even if you don’t know one end of a pair of skis from the other. (Just remember – “up”.)

Little Black Dress. 2007. ISBN 978 0 7553 3831 3. 312pp.

(Vulpes interviewed Kate – both in her persona as author and as Catherine Jones – Chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association – in February 2008. You will find the interview here.)

10 comments on “The Chalet Girl by Kate Lace

  1. sequinonsea
    January 25, 2008

    “the characters talk the way people really DO talk in the real world.” Very much like the sound of this. Interesting what you say about uncomfortable reading too.

    I know nothing about the ski scene (skiing looks like a lot of hard work to me, with great potential for leg-breaking), maybe this will tempt me onto the pistes….

    Great review – sounds like a good fun read.

  2. Jackie
    January 27, 2008

    What exactly is a chalet girl? A servant type or something less savory? It would be interesting learning more about this setting, as I’ll never experience it, not only am I not rich enough, I’m way too clumsy. So it could be fun reading about it. Quite a bouncy review. Looking forward to the interview next month.

  3. Mhairi
    January 27, 2008

    I didn’t know about them either, Jackie. When you go skiing you can, if you choose, hire a ski chalet – a fully equipped, all-mod-cons job, which comes complete with a young woman to cook, clean and generally act like a housekeeper/hostess.

  4. Jackie
    January 27, 2008

    Ah, I see. Thanks for explaining. Can you imagine having enough money to do such a thing? Though if I had that kind of money I’d do something else with it, but still…..

  5. RosyB
    January 28, 2008

    Really entertaining review!

  6. Leena
    February 1, 2008

    Thanks for this review, M. I love the sound of this book and am looking forward to the interview.

    (Actually, I’m attracted to the wintry cover too… is there something wrong with me?)

  7. Pingback: An interview with Catherine Jones of the Romantic Novelists’ Association « Vulpes Libris

  8. Pingback: Thursday Soapbox. Catherine Jones: Pride in the Face of Prejudice « Vulpes Libris

  9. Pingback: The Movie Girl by Kate Lace. « Vulpes Libris

  10. Pingback: How was it for you? … #1 « Vulpes Libris

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This entry was posted on January 25, 2008 by in Entries by Moira, Fiction: humour, Fiction: romance, Fiction: women's and tagged , , , , .

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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