Scotland, 1950s Walter MacMillan is bewitched by the clever, glamorous Jean Thompson and can’t believe his luck when she agrees to marry him. Neither can she, for Walter represents a steady and loving man who can perhaps quiet the demons inside her. Yet their home on remote Loch Doon soon becomes a prison for Jean and neither a young family nor Walter’s care can seem to save her.
Many years later, Walter is with his adult children and adored grandchildren on the shores of Loch Doon where the family has been holidaying for two generations. But the shadows of the past stretch over them and will turn all their lives upside down on one fateful weekend.
The House by the Loch is the story of a family in all its loving complexity and the way it can, and must, remake itself endlessly in order to make peace with the past.
I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press – Two Roads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Walter witnesses a tragedy as a young boy at the side of the loch, close to his home. It haunts him, throughout his life, even though he could do nothing to stop it. Years later, his family gather at the loch, and once again it is the scene of a tragic event, this time personal, and he wonders if it is his fault and if his family will ever recover.
The setting is beautiful, yet unforgiving, an addiction for Walter, that threatens everything he holds dear.
A multi-generational story, Walter recalls his younger days, his marriage to Jean and their lives at the loch. Addiction and mental health issues irrevocably alter the family, and their effects resonate across the generations. The story’s ethos is predominately sad, but at its conclusion, there is a reckoning, a chance for redemption and a way forward for those left.
The characters are flawed, and therefore believable. Some are self-destructive, but whether the root cause is from nature or nurture, or both is part of what this story explores. The plot is complex, hiding its secrets until the end, The story is engaging and draws you into the family, how they interact and what it means to keep a family together.
Forgiveness, justice and understanding are all important themes. The emotional journey, the characters travel is poignant and often filled with a sense of hopelessness. Ultimately, it is the courage, love and tenacity of the family members, that gets them through the darkness, to survive and make the family stronger.
As the wind whipped around her, dragging strands of hair from beneath her bonnet and tugging at her skirt, Nettie left behind the only home she’d ever known…
London, 1875. Taking one last look around her little room in Covent Garden, Nettie Carroll couldn’t believe she wouldn’t even be able to say goodbye to her friends. Her father had trusted the wrong man, and now they would have to go on the run. Once again.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is the first Dilly Court romantic saga I’ve read, and I enjoyed it.
Set in Victorian England and Europe, it follows the adventures of Nettie and her father, as they flee from the law, in the wake of an art forgery scandal. The plot is gently paced with hardships, romance and mystery, all intertwined to create, an easy to read historical adventure. The historical setting is well- researched and enriches the plot with different lifestyles and cultures and iconic cities and countryside.
The characters are authentically written. Netties’ father is a particularly irritating man. Netties is courageous, intuitive and loyal. You want her to find a happy life, after the constant stress of looking after her father.
This is quite a lengthy read, but it is easy to pick up the story again if life interferes with your reading time.
Boskenna, the beautiful, imposing house standing on the Cornish cliffs, means something different to each of the Trewin women.
For Joan, as a glamorous young wife in the 1960s, it was a paradise where she and her husband could entertain and escape a world where no one was quite what they seemed – a world that would ultimately cost their marriage and end in tragedy.
Diana, her daughter, still dreams of her childhood there – the endless blue skies and wide lawns, book-filled rooms and parties, the sound of the sea at the end of the coastal path – even the family she adored was shattered there.
And for the youngest, broken-hearted Lottie, heading home in the August traffic, returning to Boskenna is a welcome escape from a life gone wrong in London, but will mean facing a past she’d hoped to forget.
As the three women gather in Boskenna for a final time, the secrets hidden within the beautiful old house will be revealed in a summer that will leave them changed forever.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
Set in the rugged beauty of Cornwall, a family drama, that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, unfolds through the eyes of a dying grandmother, a driven daughter and a dutiful granddaughter. Each woman loves the house on the Cornish cliff, even though it is the scene of tragic events that have marred their lives.
Joan has a secret, kept hidden for most of her adult life, but now she is dying, she wants forgiveness and understanding. Told from her point of view as a young, mother in 1962, her secret life and the terrible events of the last family holiday at the house are revealed.
Diana has never forgiven her mother for taking her away from the house she loved, and leaving her to a soulless boarding school when as a grieving child all she needed was her mother’s love and presence. In her mother’s final days, she returns to her childhood holiday home, wanting answers, but most of all wanting to make sense of her life.We learn her story in 1962, as she discovers the answers she seeks in 2018.
Lottie lurches from crisis to crisis, seeking something that only her mother could give her, but never did. She doesn’t understand her mother’s coldness, and is grateful for the love and support her grandmother gives her. Returning to the house where she spent many happy childhood days, she finds more questions than answers, and is determined to confront her mother, about the father she refuses to discuss.
The plot moves effortlessly between 2018, 2008 and 1962, as the love, pain and secrets are uncovered and revealed. The three outwardly successful women, all hide emotional pain, that has damaged the part of their lives that should be the most precious.
The parts of the plot set in 1962 are rich in historical detail and are notably atmospheric, the fear surrounding the escalation of the cold war is tangible, and adds to the family drama that unfolds. The plot has many twists and the complex characters are authentic. You become engrossed in their lives and as the truth reveals itself, the true poignancy of the situation is breathtaking.
‘ The Path to the Sea is enthralling to read, it takes you back to another world, but lets you see how the problems and fears are just as relevant today. The family dysfunction, and the events that precipitated it is very sad, it perfectly illustrates how personal sacrifice can facilitate a greater good. The ending is hopeful, speaking of forgiveness, and lessons learned.
The perfect Summer read.
Extract from The Path to The Sea – Liz Fenwick
3 August 2008, 11.30 p.m.
All was silent except for the sound of the waves reaching
the beach. ‘Happy anniversary,’ he said.
‘Anniversary?’ Turning, she tried to see his expression. ‘Are you taking the
He traced her mouth with his finger. ‘Would I do that?’
She felt rather than heard his laugh as his body was stretched out next to hers, thigh to thigh, hip to hip.
‘We’ve been together for a month and a
we’re celebrating half months as well as months?’
He kissed her long and
slow and she wasn’t sure what they had been talking about as his hand ran
across the skin of her back, just above her jeans.
‘I celebrate every day,
every minute, every second that you are mine.’
Her breath caught and
held, and she looked up to the sky. The
milky way stretched above, vast and mystical. She was captivated. The universe
and all its glory filled her. Here on
this beach, wrapped in his arms,
was where she wanted to be always.
It could happen if they wanted it enough and she believed they did.
His arm tightened around her.
‘Will . . . ’ Just then a shooting star sped across
the sky and seemed to fall into the sea. She wished
with all her heart that she
could be in Alex’s arms for the rest of her life. She rolled onto him. ‘Did you see it too?’
‘The shooting star?’ ‘Yes.’ He kissed her. ‘Did you make a wish?’
He nodded and pushed her hair back, tucking it behind her
ears. ‘I did.’
‘I wonder if it was the same thing?’
hope so,’ he whispered against her ear.
She brought her mouth to his, praying that he
would be hers forever. ‘Tell me.’
‘No, because if I do it won’t come true.’ He pulled her
even closer to him.
‘You are all my dreams come true,’ she said,
wrapping her arms around him.
He hummed Gramps’ favourite song, ‘A Kiss to Build a Dream
On’, and she knew then they would make it
happen . . . Alex and her and
I was born in Massachusetts and after nine international moves – the final one lasting eight years in Dubai- I now live in Cornwall and London with my husband and a cat. I made my first trip to Cornwall in 1989, bought my home there seven years later. My heart is forever in Cornwall, creating new stories.
A sweeping, evocative story of love, secrets and betrayal, set against the stunning backdrops of Karachi and Cornwall.
When Gabby’s husband accepts a transfer to Pakistan, she discovers a new world of heat and colour, of exotic bazaars and trips to the breath-taking Kashmiri mountains. It is an escape she didn’t know she was looking for.
But then a shocking letter from her sister reveals a devastating secret. Gabby is transported back to her childhood home on the Cornish coast, and as memories unravel, so too does her new life in Karachi.
Will Gabby find the courage to face the dark secrets and embrace a different future?
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I always enjoy reading a book written by a true storyteller, and this is the case with ‘In a Kingdom by the Sea’. The story flows beautifully, the characters are believable, complex, and draw you into their world. The settings are contrasting, but both are atmospheric and described using vivid imagery so that you can enjoy the sensory experience, as you become immersed in the secrets and mysteries of the plot.
There is a lovely balance of contemporary and historical as the family’s secrets are revisited and revealed. This is a journey of self-discovery for Gabby as she overcomes her emotional setbacks, and finally becomes her true self.
There are many important themes explored in this novel, the political situation in Pakistan, and the difficulty of day to day life there, contrasted against the freedom and relative safety of life in London, and the rural idyll of Cornwall, is most complex and absorbing. I love how the friendships made, and the encounters with individuals are portrayed in a positive, hopeful way. Its authenticity makes the whole book more realistic and enjoyable.
Gabby’s journey, both emotionally and logistically is the driving force of this story, and many women will identify, with at least parts of it. The role of women and the oppression they face underpins this novel, and the strength and resilience of these women resonate.
I will miss the characters and settings in this story, reading it, is a truly positive experience.
Theo Miller is young, bright and ambitious when he and his earnest younger sister Maud step off the train into the simmering heat of Nairobi. Both eagerly await their new life, yet neither are prepared for the pain it will bring.
When Theo meets American heiress Sylvie de Croÿ, he is welcomed into her inner circle – the Happy Valley set – rich, dazzling expatriates, infamous for their scandalous lifestyles.
Yet behind Sylvie’s intoxicating allure lies a powerful cocktail of secrets, lust and betrayal. As dark clouds gather over Kenya’s future and his own, Theo must escape this most unsuitable woman – before it is too late.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Theo moves to Kenya with his father, an engineer, who was instrumental in pioneering the railway in the colonial world. Now a director, he is to establish a rail network in Kenya in the late 1920s. Theo adores his younger sister, but has a difficult, bordering on an abusive relationship with his mother, who is much younger than his father.
The colonial establishment in Africa is well described in this story, as is the political unrest and the rise of right-wing nationalism, in the mid to late 1930s. The main focus of the story against this tumultuous setting of privilege and political unrest is the ‘Happy Valley set.’
They are rather like the spoilt, immoral group of people, in ”The Great Gatsby, only in Africa, rather than America. After the horrors of the ‘Great War’, and the financial crisis of the late 1920s, this hedonist group, who disdain society’s rules, and live for the moment, have an obvious appeal for a young boy on the cusp of adulthood. His work absorbed father, and seemingly uncaring mother, allow Theo to the freedom to be influenced by this group, which has a tragic effect on his teenage and future life.
The story is rich in historical details and full of vivid imagery, both in terms of the African setting and the clash of colonialism and nationalism. It is complex and absorbing and the characters resonate. Most are emotionally damaged and have dark natures, but even so, you are invested and want to know what happens to them.
Maud is the most courageous of all the characters and is a true pioneer, willing to break through barriers even at the risk of her own comfort and safety.
The story portrays the fear, prejudice and unrest in Africa, during the 1930s well. It is not easy to read in parts, because it jars with 21st-century beliefs and norms, but if you can accept this, it is a worthwhile read.
Posy Montague is approaching her seventieth birthday. Still living in her beautiful family home, Admiral House, set in the glorious Suffolk countryside where she spent her own idyllic childhood catching butterflies with her beloved father and raised her own children, Posy knows she must make an agonizing decision. Despite the memories the house holds, and the exquisite garden she has spent twenty-five years creating, the house is crumbling around her, and Posy knows the time has come to sell it.
Then a face appears from the past – Freddie, her first love, who abandoned her and left her heartbroken fifty years ago. Already struggling to cope with her son Sam’s inept business dealings, and the sudden reappearance of her younger son Nick after ten years in Australia, Posy is reluctant to trust in Freddie’s renewed affection. And unbeknown to Posy, Freddie – and Admiral House – have a devastating secret to reveal . . .
I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘The Butterfly Room’ takes you on an atmospheric, emotional journey full of memorable characters and sensual experiences.
Posy Montague spent her early childhood in Admiral House, her most cherished memories are catching butterflies and playing make-belief with her father. He is the driving force in her life, her mother fading into the background when he is around until she discovers something that shatters the illusion.
Moving between Posy’s often difficult childhood years, and her current life in Suffolk, Admiral House is a constant, but its crumbling glory means Posy has to accept, change is inevitable.
Posy’s life journey explores many themes, notably family life and dysfunctional families, women’s position and role in society, love, romance, relationships and money. Posy is a complex girl and woman, with a self-deprecating sense of humour and quirky personality, often associated with only children brought up in adult households.
This story is an effortless read. You are drawn in by the quality characterisation. What happens to the family matters, even though they are flawed, often selfish, and in some cases completely unlikeable. The plot is layered, revealing its secrets gradually until you are spellbound, yet completely unprepared for the final revelations. The last part of the book is suspenseful and poignant as the domestic drama intensifies.
The ending is hopeful and satisfying as Posy and her family finally realise what truly matters in life.