#NetGalley #ARCReview A House Full of Windsor by Kristin Contino

From Goodreads: “Sarah Percy’s career depends on New Yorkers taking her household advice as gospel. “Sarah Says” used to be the most popular segment on the city’s top morning show, but ratings are down and it looks like Sarah might not have a tip for everything, after all… especially when her mother gets involved.

Debbie Windsor, Sarah’s mother, is a shopaholic and compulsive hoarder, a secret Sarah has worked tirelessly to hide her entire life. Debbie was always fascinated by royalty, but when her real-life love story started to parallel Princess Diana’s, she turned to collecting royal souvenirs to fill the void. Leaving her husband’s native England and relocating the family to her hometown in Pennsylvania doesn’t help the situation, and two decades later the house is a royal mess. Debbie’s safety is on the line, but she brushes off any attempts her family makes to help.

When Sarah’s brother gets a job on Stuff, a TV show about compulsive hoarding, he nominates their mother for an episode and promises his famous sister’s participation. Backed into a corner, Sarah and Debbie agree, but everyone has something at stake whether the episode does or doesn’t go off without a hitch. With both family and romantic relationships on the line–including the connection between Sarah and the show’s sexy host, and Debbie’s budding romance with a local shopkeeper –long-buried secrets and resentment must come to the surface for the family to move on. “

A House Full of Windsor (Amazon) was a good read. In the book, Debbie Windsor is at least organized with her mountainous piles of royal souvenirs (my brother’s ex-mother-in-law was an organized hoarder with one room where you could sit down and the rest of the house had piles of boxes of stuff lining each wall. Quite a shock to see from my 12-year old’s eyes). Told from two viewpoints, Debbie’s and her daughter Sarah’s, the subject of hoarding is explored through these two very different perspectives.

Debbie’s an American who studies in London in the late 1970’s. She’s about to go home because she’s graduated, right before Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding, but she meets a guy in a bar who convinces her to extend her stay. The two start dating and Debbie ends up pregnant. The guy comes from upper crust society (he grew up at a place called Percy Hall, a vast estate just outside of London). So the two get married not long after the royal wedding, and Debbie follows Charles and Diana’s life, happy to be pregnant at roughly the same time as the princess.

But Debbie is also isolated, with her husband working hard to build his business of night clubs with his brother. So he’s rarely home. What does Debbie do with her free time? She shops for any object having to do with the royal family. She’s unhappy and her husband doesn’t seem to understand her. They limp along in their marriage until they have another pregnancy, this time twins, at around the same time as Prince Harry’s birth. But more children doesn’t fill the emptiness Debbie feels in her marriage, and they finally split in the early 1990’s, the same as Charles and Diana.

Sarah is Debbie’s oldest daughter and has a lifestyle blog and segment on New York morning TV. Her younger brother, Will, gets a job as an associate producer on a reality TV show about hoarders. His pitch to his new bosses is to offer up his mother as a case for the show. He recruits Sarah to help, and her boss agrees to let her do the show. Sarah and Will’s sister, Anne, doesn’t want anything to do with the show and adamantly opposes to “airing the dirty laundry” of her family. It takes some convincing, but finally, Anne agrees to approach Debbie. It takes quite a bit of cajoling to get her to open herself up to doing the show, but finally agrees.

There are two romantic subplots for Debbie and Sarah. Debbie’s is with an antique dealer in her hometown of Philadelphia, where she decamped with the kids following her divorce. Sarah’s has this flirty thing with the host of the hoarding show, which didn’t add nor detract from the story; I didn’t find it necessary either way. And of course, Debbie has to come to terms with the kids’ dad if she expects any closure.

While I really liked the book because of the 1980’s flashbacks and duh, it glancingly has something to do with the royal family. But I felt that the dealing with Debbie’s psychological state and helping “cure” her of her hoarding wasn’t serious enough. It seemed a little too cookie cutter, Lifetime Movie type of solution You can’t cure someone of a hoarding problem in a few weeks. That’s the only time I felt the book fell flat.

Overall, though, this book is a hit for it’s nostalgia, for putting a different face on to hoarders and their families, and showing the strength of family ties. Four out of five stars. Although, to be completely honest, all that talk about Diana, Princess of Wales, made me pick up a few more commemorative books to go with the two I’ve had since 1997 to add to my collection. ๐Ÿ™‚

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. A House of Windsor will be released on July 13, 2021.

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