Jen Turano is the author I save for those days when I want a lighthearted read, something that’s going to entertain and amuse me without getting too much into the harsher side of life. Some days I want serious fiction with a message. Some days I don’t. Those are Jen Turano days. She manages to write funny characters and situations without ever crossing the line into cringey, and that’s a huge achievement.
It’s Long Island, 1882, and Mr Everett Mulberry has recently become guardian to three children who run every nanny off in days. Miss Millie Longfellow is his only hope, which is unfortunate for him. Also unfortunate is Miss Caroline Dixon, his almost-fiancé, who doesn’t like the children and wants to send them to boarding school. Despite the problems he’s having, that’s not an option.
In Good Company is well set up: the nanny who can’t keep a job and the man who can’t keep a nanny. Add a little mutual attraction, a determined almost-fiancé, three unruly children, a gaggle of peacocks and sundry other four-legged creatures and the stage is set. There’s even some suspense around the death of the children’s parents—and I have to say the resolution of that subplot was quite unexpected.
The characters were excellent. Millie was similar to other characters I’ve seen, in that she comes across as scatterbrained to the uninitiated, but has a heart of gold and her seemingly unconventional methods of childcare not only tame the children but serve a larger purpose in the plot. Everett was the somewhat foppish male who wants to do the right thing but doesn’t know how. And the children. Well. A lot of authors get children wrong, with characters and personalities inconsistent with their ages, but Turano nails them, even though the children are every bit as idiosyncratic as the adults, especially Rosetta and her unusual pets.
But it’s not all fun. There are some serious messages hidden within In Good Company, particularly around how we are all valuable and how we need variety to teach us about life. As one character tells Everett:
“You’ve been surrounded solely by like-minded individuals—and that has not given you a proper perspective on life.”
It wasn’t talking about the Christian “bubble” many of us live in, but it certainly applies. We are not called to be of the world, but we are most definitely called to be in the world. And we need to be to gain that proper perspective.
Recommended for a lighthearted read with a message.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
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