Monday, July 30, 2007

Nicola Davies reviews A Girl’s Guide to Kissing Frogs

A Girl’s Guide to Kissing Frogs is an enjoyable stroll amidst the tumultuous romantic exploits of prima-ballerina in the making Marigold Savage. However, the epaulees and sissones are left behind after the first few chapters as the ballet world is substituted unceremoniously for society life in Northumberland, when our heroine returns home with a broken foot. This is a bit of a disappointment after being captivated so early on by the gruesome depiction of Marigold dancing both agonizing acts of the ballet Giselle with this injury, although this certainly provides a successful hook.

The eventual backdrop lends itself to the grandiose; in language and expression as well as characters and settings. In fact during Marigold’s train journey before she has even arrived at the destination which is to become her home for the ensuing months, she describes the look on the porter’s face when she gives him a tip as “though I had handed him something phosphorescent with putrefication.”

As the title suggests, this is a humorous take on Marigold’s clumsy attempts to fit in with the Northumberland upper classes and survive her slapstick romantic encounters. Plenty more wordy descriptives are employed, and both the choice of language and the pace of the plot err on the side of taking the scenic route, but it’s certainly an agreeable amble.

It’s frightfully twee throughout, and there’s a lot of mileage in quietly mocking the mother of one potential suitor, who once ferociously shunned an acquaintance for filling her garden with red hot poker plants.

‘”You will inherit my collection of first class Worcester,” said Evelyn, with some emotion.’

An ominous choice of mother in law, and unyielding obstacle in the path of true love.

So how many frogs does one have to kiss in this fictitious world? Although there is a slight sense of the inevitable regarding who will be our heroine’s prince charming, how it will come about and whether it will work out between them is a mystery up until the very (cockle-warming) end, and in the mean time we’re treated to a catastrophic romp (quite literally) along the journey to meet Mr Right. In fact it was when our heroine went beyond kissing that were the undoubted highlights:

“Once he reached the peak of excitement he fairly barked out instructions. He must have been an excellent officer.”

“Rafe tore off my knickers and before I could galvanize myself into enthusiastic action, everything was over much quicker than he had originally proposed.”


A Girl’s Guide to Kissing Frogs by Victoria Clayton, published by HarperCollins, £ 6.99

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