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Summer at Hollyhock House by Cathy Bussey: flowing writing and courageous characters

Synopsis

One long summer changes Faith forever…

Faith Coombes should be over the moon when her long-term boyfriend proposes to her. But instead, she breaks up with him. Rob is safe, reliable, nice and … boring. Nothing like the only person who has ever broken her heart…

Unable to afford the rent on another flat and desperate for a new start, Faith takes the plunge and moves back to the village she grew up in, returning to the house that holds so many memories for her. Hollyhock House, the family home of her best-friend Minel, also belongs to the boy who meant so much to her all those years ago…

As Faith falls back in love with the sprawling surroundings at Hollyhock she also finds herself falling all over again for the only person who has truly hurt her.

Can Faith come to terms with her past? Did she make the wrong decision in breaking up with Rob? Or does her heart really lie at Hollyhock House?

 

My review

There’s been a mass blooming recently of romcoms in settings with flower names – bluebell hills, rose cottages, primrose bays and so on. And why not! Everyone loves flowers, and who doesn’t love a romcom. And flowers and romance go hand in hand. But this book, Summer at Hollyhock House, for me is the cream of the crop, the brightest bloom in the meadow.

Two things make it stand out: the flowing writing that’s just so easy to read and filled with marvellous descriptions and imagery, and the courage of many of the characters we meet. Several of them are in unsatisfactory relationships or positions but they have the resolve and strength to break out of the rut they find themselves in. As many of us might know from experience, that is a difficult and frightening thing to do. There’s an atmosphere of positivity and self-belief in the novel which is very uplifting.

Faith is a wonderful heroine. She’s down to earth, genuine and very empathetic. She knows the now Rob-free path ahead won’t be easy, at least initially, but she grits her teeth and gets on with it, ignoring the disapproval from her mother. Fortunately she has supportive friends, and the chance to sink those gritted teeth into an exciting new project: redesigning the garden at Hollyhock House. This brings her into contact with her ex, Rik, and his flighty new girlfriend Lucinda. However, Faith copes well, on the whole, but her heart is heavy.

We get the ending we want, which is de rigueur in romcoms, of course, but the twisting path we have to follow we get there is clever and tantalising. A truly enjoyable,  rewarding and, appropriately, heartening novel.

 

Author Cathy Bussey is a novelist, non-fiction author, journalist for The Telegraph, cycle commentator and editorial consultant. She has a website at www.cathybussey.com.

Summer at Hollyhock House is published by Sapere Books and is available at all Amazon stores.

 

 

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The French Adventure by Lucy Coleman: a perfect summer read

Synopsis

Genre: Sweet romance/cosy mystery

Release Date: 1 February 2018

Publisher: Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus)

Packed full of French flavour and idyllic settings this is a romantic, heart-warming and unputdownable new novel about life and love, perfect for anyone who loves Milly Johnson, Lucy Diamond and Debbie Johnson.

Suddenly unemployed and single, Anna escapes to her parents’ beautiful house in France for a much-needed recharge – and to work out what she wants to do next with her life now her carefully mapped out plan has gone out the window.

Anna gives herself 6 months to recuperate, all the while helping renovate her parents’ adjoining gites into picturesque B&Bs. But working alongside the ruggedly handsome Sam on the renovation project, she didn’t expect for life to take an unexpected, if not unwelcome, twist…

 

 

My review

Everything about this book makes it a perfect summer read from its pretty, perky cover to its happy ever after ending.

We follow Anna from England, where she ends her relationship and job on the same day, to France where she seeks sanctuary with her parents who are working together contentedly to build themselves a new life abroad. Anna allows herself time to mend and re-prioritise her own life. She’s in for some surprising and unforeseen changes!

Back in England Anna worked alongside Karl in a strained atmosphere where it’s all about getting the right results, but in France she works alongside Sam companionably. She made what Karl called an ‘unbeatable’ team, but also an unhappy one. In England, Anna’s experience was that language deceived. People said what they didn’t mean. Karl said he loved Anna, but he didn’t mean it. He also lied when challenged over his relationship with her. In France, she finds that life is less about appearances and impressing others. People are true to their feelings and to their word. Can Anna learn to be true to herself?

The book is divided into months with further chirpily named subdivisions – for example, New Day, New Me and Getting Down and Dirty. The use of the present tense makes the writing crisp and immediate, and the author’s style is flowing and easy to read. I especially love how the author’s own cat Ziggy stars in the story!

Something that surprised me is that, as far as I can make out from her bio, the author’s never lived in France, although she’s obviously visited. She seems to have soaked up the French rural atmosphere so easily and in such detail I was sure she must have spent a lifetime there.

Don’t hesitate to treat yourself to this lovely novel. It will transport you to France in an instant, and introduce you to some fascinating characters and places, and warm the cockles of  your heart at the same time. 

 

Excerpt

The L Word

Two weeks today will be the first anniversary of our first real date. Being wined and dined in a chic little French restaurant was a gigantic step forward; it signalled the beginning of a new era in my relationship with Karl. Even though at least half of the meal was spent talking about work, his intentions were clear – we were no longer simply colleagues and romance was in the air.

Since then, Karl must have told me that he loves me more than a thousand times. You might think I’m exaggerating, but I can assure you that’s not the case. He usually manages to slip it into the conversation at least three times a day. The first time he said the L word to me, it slid off his tongue so easily I could almost have missed it. It wasn’t a staring into each other’s eyes moment of discovery, just a casual ‘love you, babe’.

As the months rolled by, I pushed aside my growing fear that it was only a word to him. Because it means so much more to me, I freeze whenever he tacks it onto a sentence.

And, yes, I’m very aware that my air of disapproval does make me sound ungrateful and undeserving. But it’s all about self-preservation, you see. I’ll never utter that word again until I’m one hundred per cent certain that the man I’m saying it to believes I’m their soul mate too – the perfect fit.

The last time I uttered the L word, was six years ago. It was to a guy I’d known since childhood and the man I genuinely believed I would marry when the time was right. He was handsome in a rugged way, fired up with ambition and exciting to be around. Sadly, everyone we knew thought we were the perfect couple too, except the guy in question, as it turned out…

 

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GOODREADS

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ABOUT LUCY COLEMAN

Lucy Coleman always knew that one day she would write, but first life took her on a wonderful journey of self-discovery for which she is very grateful.

Family life and two very diverse careers later she now spends most days glued to a keyboard, which she refers to as her personal quality time.

‘It’s only when you know who you are that you truly understand what makes you happy – and writing about love, life and relationships makes me leap out of bed every morning!’

If she isn’t online she’s either playing with the kids, whose imaginations seem to know no bounds, or painting something. As a serial house mover together with her lovely husband, there is always a new challenge to keep her occupied!

Lucy also writes under the name Linn B. Halton.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/LinnBHaltonAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LucyColemanauth

Goodreads Author Page: http://ow.ly/mk3H30atV5h

Website:  http://linnbhalton.co.uk/

 

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