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  • Writer's pictureClaire Wong

Review: The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

That's right, the third instalment of the Issy Smugge series is here. And I was delighted to be offered the chance to read The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge ahead of its publication date.

If you've not yet met Isabella, she's the creation of author Ruth Leigh, who first introduced us to her in The Diary of Isabella M Smugge, followed by The Trials of Isabella M Smugge. The series centres on this memorable social media influencer who leaves London in favour of village life, and whose life is not as perfectly polished as it appears on the grid.

The Blurb

Now in her third year of living the rural dream, starry Instamum Issy Smugge is up against it.

A single parent of four with an award-winning brand, a gin-swigging mother convalescing

upstairs and a distraught relative craving a shoulder to cry on, her diary and listed Regency

home are bursting at the seams!

Of course, she can count on lively support from the colourful playground mums – and then

there’s always Tom, the startlingly good-looking vicar, and his angelic wife, Claire. But as pressure begins to mount, long-buried memories surface and difficult decisions need to be made. How will our heroine cope with painful emotions? (Clue: no filter!) And when the influencer needs influencing, who will show her the way?

My review

Fans of Isabella can look forward to more of what has made this series so much fun: a larger than life protagonist, comedic mishaps and occasionally explosive drama, with contributions from kind-hearted characters and a continued exploration of what it means to be authentically yourself in a world where appearances seem to matter so much.

If you've not read the first two books already, I do recommend starting with them, so that you're up to speed with the cast of characters and their backstories. In this book we focus more on Isabella's family and, while her friends from the school gates and the local church are ever on hand for support, it's the relationships with her relatives that take centre-stage this time. It was lovely to see Issy enjoying a much healthier relationship with her sister, and an unexpected twist (for me, at least!) when she began to see her mother-in-law in a different light.

And what of the changes to Isabella herself? There's no doubt she's on a character arc to greater self awareness and kindness to others. Hats off to Ruth Leigh though for making her main character's journey realistically and at times frustratingly non-linear. Isabella still makes mistakes. She still has a comic habit of name-dropping every product she's using, as though you, the reader, are a warm up for her next interview. She takes two steps forwards and one step back, and isn't that just how people change in real life too – a bit at a time, and not without the odd relapse into old thought patterns or tempers? We see her dig into her past and begin to deal with traumas and old rivalries.

Ruth Leigh writes, as ever, with great humour and warmth. I found this to be the most fast-paced of her books so far, racing along through family crises, chaotic nativity plays and of course Lavinia Harcourt's snarky commentary. It's an entertaining page turner with a colourful cast of characters and some truly moving moments.

The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge comes out on 22 October 2022.

About the author

Ruth Leigh is a freelance writer, novelist and book reviewer. Married with three

children, a cat, one husband and assorted poultry, she is a recovering over-achiever.

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