Review of 'Misty Mornings At The Potting Shed' - Jenny Kane
I've been looking forward to the latest instalment of the Potting Shed story for so many reasons, but mainly because the cast of characters is so diverse that I was intrigued to see not only the next stage in the lives of the main characters, but also who would be introduced in the next book. I can't say too much about the next relationship because it would give away too much of the plot, but suffice to say it didn't disappoint and it felt particularly poignant reading one set of characters think about the reasons why they shouldn't get together, because it was a very similar situation to the one my parents found themselves in. I know that they didn't always find it easy, but they made it work beautifully and I was desperate for the characters to do the same. Even the 'baddie' of the book is completely three-dimensional and a part of me still felt sorry them when they were unmasked at the end. Their upbringing forged them into who they are to a large extent and the only thing that made me less sympathetic was that through the Potting Shed team they were given the chance to reform and didn't take it. I do think this is one of the real strengths of Jenny's writing more generally as well - she has a real understanding of the depth of human emotions and the psychology of how people react to things and consequently, her characters never feel as though they are anything but real, living, breathing, people and this is why readers come back again and again to her books.
Possibly the most telling thing about my reading of this book is that two of my favourite characters weren't in it. I knew they weren't going to be and because I loved them so much in the first two, I wondered if I was going to enjoy this one as much without them. I can honestly say that as soon as I started reading it, I completely forgot that they were missing from the action. The other thing that really stuck with me when I closed the book was the relationship between Jo and his mum and Jo's continuing struggle with who he is (this is a massive oversimplification and I think it would be much fairer to clarify that it's Jo's understandable fear of how people will react to him, rather than his struggle. It is other people's problem, not his.) I loved that we were able to see how Jo's mum's reaction to being told he was male had given him the stability and confidence he needed to just be himself. So often in fiction we see trans characters being rejected, scorned, mocked or portrayed as little more than a victim and I LOVE that in this series we have a flawed, but utterly likeable character who is accepted by those closest to him. That's not to say it's all sunshine and roses - there is a healthy dose of reality scattered throughout the series, shown through different characters and how they behave towards Jo - but at its heart, it's a positive message and for me personally, it was important to show that many parents do indeed love their children unconditionally. As they rightly should.
In so many ways, this series is quite a departure from traditional books in this genre, which is precisely why I like it so much. However, Jenny still manages to stick to enough of the conventions to keep the story attractive to more conventional romance audiences and I admire the delicate balancing act she's achieved.
Let's see what Book 4 brings!