Guest Post & Review: Having a Ball by Rhoda Baxter

Ten tips for the perfect ball

Stevie, the heroine in Having a Ball is a party planner, which meant that in order to write the book, I had to think a lot about that sort of thing. I’ve organised small scale events to raise money for Charity, but never really anything so big as a ball. As always, a lot of the research doesn’t make it into the book, so I was delighted to be able to go and rummage through my notes again.

So, here we go. My comments on how to plan the perfect ball.

1. First pick a date. Make sure you write it down. Don’t , for example, book the venue for Friday the 14th of February and the food for Friday the 14th of March. This isn’t normally a problem for other months because the days of the week differ between dates. It’s only February and March that are trying to trip you up, the rascals.

2. Book a venue. Having a decent location for your ball makes a world of difference. The house in Having a Ball is based rather heavily on a lovely old house I lived in for a while when I was a student. The place has a personality all of its own. We held some big fundraising parties there from time to time. And we used the WW2 blackout blinds to turn the front room into a disco, just like Stevie does in the book.

3. If you’re going to have a disco, you’ll need music. If you go for the cheesy disco with the tunes that everyone knows, then you can get a student or someone’s nephew to do it for cheap. It’s nice to also have a separate room where there is low or no music, to give people somewhere to escape to when the noise becomes too much.

4. Food! Unless you’re having a sit down meal as part of your event, you need to provide food that is easy to pick up and wander around with. I don’t recommend trying to cater for a whole ball all by yourself. You’ll end up stressed out and there’s all the food hygiene certificates and things to worry about. So order it in. Pay someone to slave over the finicky nibbles. Once the food is out though, do assign someone to keep an eye on it – just to make sure that empty plates are removed and supplies are replenished. There’s nothing more forlorn than a single canapĂ© left on a tray. I tend to eat these, as an act of mercy.

5. You’re going to need drinks. Lots of em. Get a selection to cater for different tastes. Best not to try them out before the party though… pardon?... no, really. I don’t drink alcohol this early in the d-… oh, okay, just the one then.

6. If you’re selling tickets, try and make sure you have a list of people you sold the tickets to. Don’t rely on people showing up with their tickets in their hands. Most people don’t remember that they left the tickets on the kitchen table until they’re halfway there and then their husband refuses to drive back to get them. If you have a list, you can check guests off against it. The alternative is having to decide whether the shifty looking character who rolled in at 11pm and said he was a friend of Mr Smith is a genuine guest or not.

7. Select a wotsit… you know… thingy….like pirates or famous people or something. You can decorate the place according to it. And make cocktails with funny names. There’s hats… Theme. That’s it. Select a theme.

8. If there are people snogging in the coat cupboard – just leave them alone. They’re not doing anyone any harm.

9. Get drunk people out quietly and discretely. If that’s possible. Some people hold their shrink…I mean, clink… drink… better than others.

10. Have fun. I mean it. I say, this is rather nice wine. Got any more?

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*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review*
Stevie has always relied on her brother to bail her out of trouble. Now she needs to prove to him that she can be independent and mature. When she takes on a job organizing a charity ball for some slightly barmy retired academics, she's not expecting to fall in love with the rambling old house, the even more rambling family that lives there and Tom, the boss's son. If she can make the ball a success she could show the world, and herself, that she's her own woman. She doesn't need anyone else. Nope. Not anyone. Not at all.
Stevie hasn't had the most conventional life, she lost her parents when she was thirteen and afterwards she was raised by her brother. From the first she regularly has nightmares and the other is now starting his own family. Feeling abandoned by her brother, who is pretty much the father figure in her life, she decided to prove to him and the world she will be fine on her own.

So in a moment of "clarity" she quits her dead-end job (the third this month) and tries to make a real go at it as a event planner. Her first job is organizing a charity ball in Oxford, for some older retired female academics. This would take place in Evelyn's house, who's planning to opening it as a bed and breakfast later in the year. The house is huge and the garden has a certain wild and overgrown element to it. With practically no budget, Stevie is ready for the challenge.

What she did not expect was running into Tom again. He's Evelyn's son and used to be good friend of Stevie's brother, who she might have had a major crush on. That was ten years ago and Tom has gotten even more handsome. Definitely some very nice tension between these two. They are bot attracted to each other, but he still sees her as a little girl and isn't in to commitment. Stevie tries to fight his appeal, by focusing on the charity ball and giving it her all. It's just a matter of time before something happens between these two.

I liked Stevie, though not in the beginning. When her brother announces that his wife is pregnant, Stevie sees this as the beginning of the end. She feels she no longer is a priority for her brother and even feels abandoned by him. To me this translates as childish behaviour. There was a couple of more times in the book where Stevie showed this character trait. This just proved to me how young she was and how much she still had to learn. The event planner thing was to show everyone that she is independent and mature. Which becomes void when you don't behave like that of course.

The moments she did show that maturity I really liked her and made it easier to connect with her. Certainly towards the end she took me by surprise a couple of times.

Now Tom is quite a different story, I didn't really know what to think of him. He is hot and can be charming, but the appeal wasn't always very clear to me. The guy is a workaholic, millimetres away from a burn out, who doesn't do commitment and kind of plays it hot and cold when it comes to Stevie. One moment he looks at her like he wants to ravage her and the next he is insulting her. Though I do like his family values. He loves his niece, who mostly stays at his mom and he often visits them. Also he doesn't mind helping out with the charity ball. There were a couple of moments where we get to see this other, sweeter side of him and I really liked that.

The other secondary characters were simply brilliant. Tom's thirteen year old niece has got just enough attitude to keep you on your toes. Evelyn and the other retired academics each have their specialty they bring to the table. Then there is Olivia, she's a childhood friend of Tom (no romance there) and they mostly communicate through emails during the story. Often what she had to say to Tom had me cracking up.

Having A Ball was simply a wonderful read, with well rounded characters and plenty of humour.

Total Book Geek


  1. If you're hosting the ball, don't forget you'll need comfortable (and stylish) shoes - you'll be doing a lot of walking (and dancing).

    1. Oooh yes Margaret - OUCH!

  2. So glad you enjoyed Having a Ball Athena. Loved your review.

    Thank you for taking part in Rhoda's tour.

  3. Loved your review, too. I love the sound of Rhoda's book. I love books with romance and well rounded secondary characters who add an extra dimension to the story.