Be careful what you kiss for…
Esme Posorsky is an enigma. For as long as people can remember, she has been part of community life in the quaint Cornish fishing village of Tremarnock, but does anyone really know her? She is usually to be found working in her pottery studio or at home with her beloved cat, Rasputin. But when an old school friend turns up with a secret from the past, nothing will ever be the same again.
Meanwhile, teenager, Rosie, is excited to find a bottle washed up on Tremarnock beach with a message from a former German prisoner of war. While the rest of the village is up in arms about a new housing development, she sets out to find him. Little does she know, however, that her discovery will unleash a shocking chain of events that threatens to blow her family apart. Tremarnock may look like a cosy backwater, but some of its residents are about to come face-to-face with tough decisions and cold reality…
Liz had left Lowenna’s pushchair at the bottom of the fire escape, and once the little girl was strapped in, they made their way down narrow winding South Street towards the marketplace, in search of a loaf of bread. But they didn’t get far; as they passed Seaspray Boutique, its owner Audrey came dashing out, waving a copy of the local newspaper, the Tremarnock Bugle, above her head.
Audrey, in her fifties, was tall and eye-catching – even more so today, dressed in a bright pink tunic top that had been on one of her shop-window mannequins only days before.
‘Have you heard?’ she said slightly breathlessly, thrusting the paper into Liz’s hands before turning back to lock the door of her shop, which had a closed for lunch sign on the inside.
Liz stared at the paper as if she wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.
‘The council’s agreed to sell the play park,’ Audrey exclaimed. The paper was upside down, so she turned it around and jabbed at an article on the front page with her index finger. ‘They approved it last night. Look. It’s all here.’
‘Wha-at? How could they?’
Liz started to scan the report, and her mouth dropped open. The issue of the children’s playground was hardly new. Developers had been sniffing around the village for months, with their clipboards and smug expressions, and she’d already signed countless petitions and written objection letters.
More active locals, who’d been making a bigger noise, had warned that their concerns seemed to be falling on deaf ears, but she’d never actually believed that developers would get the go-ahead to build one hundred brand-new homes, most of which would be out of the reach of local people’s pockets. Yet here it was, in black and white:
COUNCIL APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL TREMARNOCK HOUSING ESTATE
A little further down, she read:
Outline plans were eventually given the go-ahead by a single vote during a tense meeting of the council’s district planning committee last night.
Residents had pleaded with councillors to reject the proposals, raising concerns over highway safety and the impact on the countryside and local services. However, chairing the meeting, Lucinda Graham (Lib Dem, Langowan) reminded members that the council had, just one year ago, voted to approve the site for development.
‘If we are to refuse this application, I think there are half a dozen applications which will have to be refused. We have a requirement to provide so many houses, and there’s nothing we can do about it.’
Agreeing, Laurence Nares-Pillow (Con, Porthraden), said, ‘If we can’t provide those houses, the government’s planning inspector will rule on the matter, not where we want to have them but where the inspector wants them.’
Putting the decision to the vote resulted in five votes for and five against the application, with Mrs Graham ultimately casting the deciding vote in favour of the development.
The proposals from Bedminster New Homes will see a mix of three-, four- and five-bedroom homes built on the 0.95-hectare site. The plans also include seventy-five parking spaces and two access points on Fore Street and Cardew Avenue, which would be widened in an effort to improve safety.
Once she’d reached the bottom, Liz exhaled loudly.
Audrey gave a grim nod. ‘Shocking, isn’t it?’ She ran a hand through her dark hair, which was tipped with platinum streaks, cut pixie-short and artfully mussed, before giving Liz a firm push, which sent her and the pushchair bowling slowly down the hill. ‘We’ll go and find Barbara,’ she said bossily. ‘She’s sure to have some ideas.’
Liz sighed. Barbara, landlady of the Lobster Pot on the seafront, was a tremendous source of information as well as an arch organiser. Liz was very fond of her, but she’d been hoping to grab an hour with her book while Lowenna had an after-lunch snooze. As it was, the little girl would probably drop off in her pushchair and wake up hungry and out of sorts. Still, the playground was a major issue; children adored it, and no one wanted an ugly new estate on the doorstep, least of all Liz. If there was a fight to be had then she, for one, was up for it.
They didn’t get far when Barbara herself came bustling up the hill in the opposite direction from the Lobster Pot, her dark blonde hair, normally stiff with lacquer, sticking up untidily. She was in black trousers and a low-cut red top that revealed quite a lot of tanned cleavage, and her face was flushed.
‘The marketplace,’ she said, nodding in the direction of the turning that led to the square, and Liz and Audrey followed obediently. The sound of Barbara’s high heels clopping on the cobbles seemed to act like a muezzin’s call to prayer, as more and more folk appeared from doors and alleyways and trailed after her.
‘It’s a scandal,’ Liz heard behind her. ‘Shouldn’t be allowed,’ muttered someone else.
Emotions were clearly running high, and she wished that Robert were beside her, but he’d be busy with the lunchtime shift at A Winkle in Time, and she didn’t want to bother him.
Word travelled fast in Tremarnock. A sizeable crowd had already gathered in the square, which had a stone cenotaph in the middle bearing the names of local men who had died in the Second World War, and was lined with shops. Liz spotted Ryan, the fishmonger, still in his white overalls streaked with blood; Rick Kane, who owned the gift shop, Treasure Trove; and the couple who ran the popular little bakery. Jean the childminder was there, too, with her husband Tom and two toddlers in a double buggy, as well as pensioners Ruby and Victor, and Jenny and John Lambert, who had a fishing tackle store on the seafront.
Someone had thoughtfully placed an upturned crate in front of the cenotaph and Barbara pushed her way through the throng and climbed onto it. Before she had the chance to speak, however, someone else dug Liz in the ribs, and she turned to find Robert’s niece Loveday grinning at her, with two rather extraordinary buns perched on either side of her head and a glittery blue parting running down the middle. Behind her was her boyfriend, Jesse, and beside him, Liz’s friend Tabitha and her boyfriend Danny.
Liz was surprised that Robert had allowed Loveday and Jesse, his sous-chef, to leave the restaurant. She was about to ask what had happened when Barbara cleared her throat and shouted, ‘Welcome, all!’
A hush descended.
A snapshot of life in a Cornish fishing village that captures angst, camaraderie, gossip and scandal against a picturesque coastal background. The fourth in the series about Tremarnock took me awhile to get into this story having not read any of the previous three books. There is little backstory, and so it is hard to empathise with the characters if you aren’t familiar with them from reading the previous books. Despite this, I enjoyed my visit to the village and the adventures of its inhabitants.
Esme, an artistic person, is an enigma, no one knows much about her, but she is one of the community stalwarts. Caroline, an old school friend, becomes her holiday companion when the two decide to meet after years apart. Their story’s poignancy resonates.
Rosie finds a ‘message in a bottle, that has implications both for her family and the village, not all of which are pleasant and make Rosie questions whether she should have read the message at all.
The prospect of an unwanted housing estates draws the village community together and provides some comic moments for the reader. The three subplots are easy to follow and well-drawn together by the end.
The coastal setting is well-described, and the characters have authenticity and depth. Reading this makes me want to read the previous books in the series.
A perfect beach read whether you’re visiting Cornwall or not; if you haven’t read the previous three books make room for them in your beach bag too and get the best from this series.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Emma Burstall was a newspaper journalist in Devon and Cornwall before becoming a full-time author. Tremarnock, the first novel in her series set in a delightful Cornish village, was published in 2015 and became a top-10 bestseller.