Exactly eighteen months after her dramatic cook-off against nemesis Tommy McCoy, Jools Campbell’s endearing, down-to-earth approach to cooking and family life has won her many fans. Although she’s kept the world of celebrity at arm’s length, she is soon lured back in after the roof of her house collapses, and she finds herself signing a lucrative contract to be a judge on a family cooking show called Little Chefs.
Jools soon finds her decision challenged when she discovers her co-star and fellow judge is none other than McCoy himself, on a mission to save his name and reputation. On screen, Little Chefs is a surprise ratings hit with people drawn to the ‘chemistry’ between Jools and McCoy who has adopted a Simon Cowell-like approach to judging (mainly involving making children cry). Behind the scenes, Jools’ star rises but she battles with juggling all the relationships in her life with her new working parent persona. Will Jools succeed? Will she ever work out what quinoa is? Can she deal with Second Helpings of McCoy and the all too familiar media intrusion into her life?
1. Jools left Souper Mum thinking that she didn’t need celebrity to define herself but gets dragged back into the limelight? Do you think this is a wise decision? Do you understand her motivations?
2. Discuss Jools and Matt’s relationship. How are things different to where they were in Souper Mum? Are they happier?
3. Jools’ overwhelming need to help Tommy may seem bizarre given his treatment of her in the past. Why do you think she goes out of her way to help him? Think about Jools’ character but also her own situation growing up without a parent.
4. Jools encounters obstacles along the way: the panellist at Loose Women, some of the school gate mums. What emotion or feelings underpins how they treat Jools? Do you have similar experiences to relate?
5. Friendship is a strong theme running through the novel. Jools’ new friendship with Tommy and how she handles existing friendships with Luella and Annie. Is Jools a good friend? Think also about how friendship is present in the other relationships in her life: Ben and Matt in particular.
6. Souper Mum dealt a lot with Jools’ identity as a mother. How has she changed as a mum? How has the role reversal affected her confidence? Can you think how being a working mum has contributed to her feelings of parental guilt? Think about when Ted falls ill especially.
7. Second Helpings begins in a McDonalds and ends in a Nando’s. What are your thoughts? Are they the devil’s eateries or could a lot more world problems be solved with a Big Mac and a good dose of peri-peri?
8. Jools starts working on Little Chefs – a TV reality show where she is one of the judges. The novel ends with the show’s finale but the winner is not revealed. In your mind, who would you give the prize too? Do you have a favourite Little Chef?
9. My favourite item on a Chinese take away menu is...........
10. Would you like to see Jools back for a third instalment of the Souper Mum series? Where would you take her adventures next? Are you happy with how Second Helpings finished?
Thank you for taking the time to read Second Helpings with your book group and taking the time to discuss it. I hope you've had a wonderful evening, and that wine and laughing and nice nibbles like cheese straws have been involved. Please review Second Helpings if you like on Amazon/Good Reads and drop me a line if you want to ask me any questions or discuss anything further.