Review of ‘Welcome to the Wallops’ by Gill McKnight
I jumped at the chance to read ‘Welcome to the Wallops’ when it was offered as an ARC. I’ve read the earlier version (published in 2016) twice and now Dirt Road Books is bringing out a revised version. I did notice a few small alterations but no major structural changes as far as I can tell.
I loved it back in 2016 and 4 years later it hasn’t lost any of its sparkles. Jane Swallow finding out who’s going to buy the next-door cottage on idyllic Rectory Row, is just the first of many things going pear-shaped for Lesser Wallop’s reverend. There’s a flood. High Wallop tries to usurp the annual Beer and Cheese Festival from the village, again. Her no-good father has been released from prison and is stirring up trouble in the village, again. She fears to lose her job and her flock if Saint Poe’s has to close in favor of the church in High Wallop. And why are all her friends so enamored with new arrival Renata Braak, famous writer of best-selling self-help books. Renata ‘long-ago-ex-lover-now-constant-thorn-in-her-side’ Braak awakens many feelings in Jane upon her return. Feelings she would like to forget.
Renata has been invited to Lesser Wallop by Jane’s boss, Bishop Hegarty, to write a promo piece on the festival and to do some research on the down-low. Research that will connect Saint Poe’s to the valley’s ancient history of ley lines, healing energy, and a Celtic deity. A connection the church direly needs to survive.
I won’t spoil why there exists so much old hurt and animosity between Jane and Renata. You will have to find that out while reading. Because they spend most of the book as adversaries, don’t expect a full-on torrid romance here. Oh, they will get there in the end, don’t worry, but stubborn Jane really takes her time to see the light. Where this lesbian comedy book really wins for me is on the humour, the small English village feels and Whistlestop, Jane’s neurotic greyhound rescue with a destructive streak. How McKnight wrote him had me in stitches.
Whistlestop sat on the couch in a curl of warm blankets and looked startled by Jane’s appearance.
“What have you got there?” She pulled away the silk scarf he was chewing on. “Oh, Whistlestop,” she said, dejected. “This looks expensive.” His eyes rounded into huge wells of guilt.
“Okay, let’s get you some breakfast.” She stroked his muzzle. “At least it wasn’t her hair.” Though that looked expensive, too. She smiled inwardly at the thought of Renata fast asleep on her settee with Whistlestop gently nibbling on her platinum blonde, hundred-quid hairdo.
The funniest scene of the book has to be what happens at that very important – and maybe Jane’s last – sermon in Saint Poe’s. If only the BBC could make this into a series. Gill McKnight writes like a dream and you certainly don’t want to let the Wallops series pass you by.
f/f the passion happens off-camera
Themes: The Wallop Valley, Rectory Row, quiz nights at the Winded Whippet, the Beer and Cheese Festival, the High Wallop – Lesser Wallop rivalry, trouble in Tinker’s Field, do I smell weed? PC Wendy Goodall for the win, more of her in book 2.
* ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review