Today’s book review of a women’s contemporary novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
A Cottage by the Sea by Carole Matthews
Synopsis: Grace has been best friends with Ella and Flick forever. The late-night chats, shared heartaches and good times have created a bond that has stood the test of time. When Ella invites them to stay for a week in her cottage in South Wales, Grace jumps at the chance to see her old friends. She also hopes that the change of scenery will help her reconnect with her distant husband. Then Flick arrives; loveable, bubbly, incorrigible Flick, accompanied by the handsome and charming Noah. This is going to be one week which will change all their lives forever…
This novel is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Cottage-Sea-Carole-Matthews/dp/0751545538 or http://www.amazon.com/A-Cottage-Sea-Carole-Matthews/dp/0751545538.
Things don’t start well for our protagonist, Grace, and her 12-year-senior snob of a soak… er, husband, Harry, as their sat nav plonks them in the middle of nowhere. There’s a fair amount of backstory before the novel gets going when they find Ella’s cottage and we meet the other characters.
The description of Ella is lovely and I liked her before really getting to know her, although I warm to Grace more and more as the novel develops and she helps her friends, and struggles with her marriage.
I can relate to Grace as she’s the more sensible of the trio of girls but Harry is even more sensible and being solid and dependable isn’t the attraction it used to be. I can relate to that too. Harry doesn’t like Flick and I can see why.
The meeting between Grace and Noah is poignant and I couldn’t help judge her… while still liking her.
As the summer heat and testosterone increase, so does the pace and had it been a physical book, I would certainly have been turning the pages, eager to find out what happened next.
Names are very important and I always recommend avoiding those with the same first letter or which look similar on the page. Carole has chosen wisely (we also have Art, Callum and Brian).
There are a fair number of clichés including ‘spinning on my heels’, ‘kicking up our heels’, ‘punching his lights out’, ‘at breakneck speed’, ‘drunk as a skunk’, ‘my heart in my mouth’, ‘life in the old dog’, ‘watching us like hawks’, ‘stops in his / my tracks’ (three times), ‘out of the car in a flash’, ‘burnt to a crisp’, ‘beating about the bush’, ‘rabbit caught in the headlights’, ‘knocked everyone for six’, ‘packed like sardines’, ‘frozen to the spot’ and ‘a dream come true’. Surplicities are fewer and include ‘shivers with cold’ and ‘completely forgot’.
A novel packed with charm and humour, there are some great phrases including ‘a Mexican yawn’ (as opposed to a Mexican wave), ‘a Brit abroad lobster’, ‘one side of me more chargrilled than the other’ and ‘two halves of one person’.
It’s funny that the previous audiobook I’d listened to (Ali McNamara’s Step Back in Time) also had an account main character whose partner was Harry (albeit at different times in the novels), and a mutual Notting Hill.
A Cottage By the Sea is read by Clare Corbett who has a soothing voice, not too dissimilar to Judi Dency, which works really well until she came to the male voices but that can be tricky for female narrators.
It’s quite a long book but it felt as if went quicker than its 79 chapters (which ranged from 2.57m to 16.28m). From the start it’s a delightful – and often poignant – novel, intimate in first-person narration and a perfect getaway from the freezing January morning I was enduring.
Rating: 4 out of 5 – losing a point only for the clichés and because I’d guessed the final twist early on in the novel.
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.