You can tell from the cover with its gorgeous pink flamingo, that this book is going to be fun – and it is. One of those curl up on the couch, cosy, light-hearted romantic comedies that is warm and frothy with enough going on just below the froth to give it soul and to make you care.
While it’s always a tough act to follow a successful debut like Overend’s The Dangers of Truffle Hunting (‘Bridge Jones meets Nigella Lawson’), this popular new author has done just that and more with her thoroughly likeable heroine, the angsty Apple March and the alluring, pacey plot – fashion meets love (with complications, of course). Not to mention the stylish Melbourne backdrop, with visits to glamorous hotspots, Paris and New York and the gorgeous (sigh) clothes.
Snappy, whip-smart dialogue and a smidgen of intrigue plunge the reader headlong into the story as we embark upon the adventures of Apple who is hiding away as a retail assistant in a high-end boutique that has known better days – as has Apple who was once one of Australia’s most promising young designers.
While learning to live with your mistakes and not judge yourself so harshly are undercurrents, lively characters with fizz and fabulous insights into the world of fashion inject this novel with lots of chutzpah. Overend cleverly flips our view of fashion from the luxury, the glamour, the lush fabrics, the parties and the extravagance, to the hard work, sweat, occasional exploitation, tears and creative talent that goes into designing and making the beautiful clothes we all admire on the catwalk.
Apple is an interesting character and her struggles with career and romance is a vivid snapshot of a 20-something’s life. Without going too much into it and to avoid spoiling the trail of intrigue that leads to finding out exactly what terrible thing Apple did to make her walk away from a promising career and hide away in a dress shop, let’s just say a very private mistake is made public in a way that Apple feels has ruined her reputation in the gossipy fashion industry forever.
As Apple eventually finds out, nothing lasts forever, least of all gossip, but it takes her determined younger sister Poppy to liberate her from her sad life and feelings of shame. After much pleading and a little deft manipulation, she talks Apple into designing her wedding dress, thus nudging Apple back into the world of fashion. Once there, Apple is forced to meet her demons. But her path is not straightforward, especially when she falls in love with a gorgeous man who although unmarried, is not exactly free, either.
Aside from Apple’s romantic adventures, a cast of interesting characters enrich and enliven the story. Poppy and Apple’s quirky mother Ginny is lovely, ditzy and ineffectual at times but good-hearted – we’ve all known a ‘Ginny’ at some stage in our lives. Apple’s snooty boss at the dress shop is a vibrant stand-out – over the top, annoying, full of hauteur and with an eagle eye for the finer things in life (including younger men). She made us laugh.
And did we mention the beautiful clothes? And that while you’re reading you feel like you’re out shopping for new clothes?
All in all, The Rules of Backyard Croque, is a funny, sexy, sassy read with fascinating insights into the fashion industry and a lovely touch of quirk. Perfect for devouring on the long-haul flight, the deck chair – or the sofa.
Sunni Overend has an original voice and it will be heard.
About the author
Sunni Overend is a graphic design graduate, and the daughter of the late, award-winning children’s author Jenni Overend. Sunni worked briefly in creative advertising before building an online fashion store and concurrently wrote several contemporary fiction manuscripts. In 2015, she signed a two-book deal with HarperCollins Publishers and now lives with her architect husband in Melbourne where she writes full-time.