Review: Now and Then Friends

Now and Then Friends
Now and Then Friends by Kate Hewitt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Now and Then Friends can be summed up in one word:  BRILLIANT!!  Book 2 in the Hartley-by-The-Sea series, it has become my favorite book thus far in 2016.  It’s the first book this year to make me cry intermittently, and one in which I was sincerely disappointed to see end.  I have loved all of Kate Hewitt’s books, but she really outdid herself with this one. All of the characters, main and secondary, were so well developed and beautifully flawed with such admirable, redeeming qualities, that I was majorly interested in each of their stories.

In it we find two women, Rachel Campell and Claire West, best friends in primary school but who after four years drifted apart when Claire, the shy but financially privileged one, seemingly abandoned Rachel for the “in” crowd of girls that embraced her. It’s about 16 years later and Rachel stumbles upon Claire in her parent’s house, which Rachel cleans, presenting a very awkward reunion between the two.  Claire has been living and working in Portugal with her now ex-fiancé, Hugh, but has returned to her childhood home in Hartley-by-The-Sea to reclaim her life and start over on her own terms, without everyone else’s interference as to what’s the best course for her to take.  Rachel’s dreams of procuring a University education dissolved after a mere two weeks when her mother had an accident while on a cleaning job rendering her bedridden, and relegating Rachel to the tasks of caring for her, the cleaning business and her two younger sisters since her father took off shortly after their mum became incapacitated. These are the predicaments of the two women when they come face to face after 16 years. What ensues after that is stubborn pride, resentments, and misunderstandings that initially hinder a proper reconciliation.  However, as circumstances in life cause both women to converge and grow, there’s the hope that with some compromise everyone involved can see a brighter future.

The vivid setting, superb depth of characters, deeply emotional dialogue, complex relationships and wry humor kept me planted to my seat in eager expectation of each pursuant chapter. There are so many astonishing moments to relive in my mind’s eye that this book will have a lasting favorable impact on me for many days, weeks or even months to come. I await Book 3 in the series with eager anticipation.

Thank you Penguin Random House for a free copy of this amazing book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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Review: The Lost Garden

The Lost Garden
The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💜💜💜💜💜 The Lost Garden is Book 2 in the Tales from Goswell series, and like the first in the series, The Vicar’s Wife, it is set in England. (The Vicar’s Wife was my favorite book of 2013.)  Although The Lost Garden is book 2 in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone.

I relished The Lost Garden!  I shrieked with delight when characters from The Vicar’s wife appeared. It was like catching up with beloved old friends. The Lost Garden covered two time periods, the present day and the early 1900’s. Both stories were poignant and involved women who were affected by loss, guilt, and unrequited love, along with the desire to reinvigorate a garden that had been neglected and abandoned as a way to bring a little bit of joy into their grief-stricken lives. The garden is the same in both stories.  Marin Ellis, the woman of the present day, is trying to start a new life as guardian to her 15-year old half-sister, Rebecca. Their father and Rebecca’s mother were killed in a car accident. Having had no previous relationship, the two are trying to adjust to one another while struggling with feelings they secretly harbor against their respective parents.  While on holiday they fall in love with a little house on a vicarage property, called Bower House, and Rebecca convinces her half-sister to purchase it. They soon begin to settle in to their new lives and in time Marin becomes mystified by a photograph she sees of a young, unidentified woman who was standing in her little home’s walled garden with a butterfly on her fingertips, a yearning man in the background.  Who were these two people of over a century ago with the odd expressions, she wonders, and what was going on in their lives?

Eleanor Sanderson has lost her brother to war and she’s devastated. She so loved her brother Walter, and the news of his death is almost too much for her to bear.  Her brother’s friend James has returned physically unharmed by the war, but emotionally he’s a different man, a man who no longer seems interested in her sister, who he’s promised to marry.  Injured soldiers and dashed hopes permeate everyone’s existence in Cumberland, and Eleanor struggles with feelings of hopelessness. She makes up her mind to have the vicarage garden recultivated, along with the walled garden by the little house on the property where her grandmother Elizabeth resides, Bower House, to especially inspire blind soldiers with fragrant blooms that will hopefully lift their spirits; and the gardener, Jack Taylor, is just the man to help her do it. Jack has experience with the war, but Eleanor is intrigued by the way he seems able to cope, not like her brother-in-law James.  As a forbidden relationship begins to develop, secrets are uncovered and Eleanor’s life will change even further.

The two stories ultimately converge since the houses in both time periods are the same. This is referred to as a time slip novel, and I don’t know how Katharine Swartz does it every time, but she’s masterful at writing this type of novel.  I’ve enjoyed all of her stories in this particular format, and The Lost Garden was no exception. Both stories held my interest and the setting was one that I always enjoy, England.  I highly recommend The Lost Garden, and I hope there will be a book 3 in the Tales from Goswell series.

Thank you Library Thing and Lion Fiction for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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Review: The Other Side of The Bridge

The Other Side of The Bridge
The Other Side of The Bridge by Katharine Swartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️  The other side of the bridge is a beautifully written time-slip novel (a novel that covers two different time periods) that tells the story of two women,  Ava Lancet and her grandmother, Sophia Paranoussis.

Ava’s story –

Takes place in our current day. Grieving over her failing marriage and the loss of her newborn child, Ava makes the impetuous decision to leave England and travel to Greece where she has inherited her grandmother Sophia’s farmhouse, which has sat desolate for decades. Ava hadn’t even been aware that her grandmother owned a house in Greece. Nevertheless she is determined to travel there and stay in the farmhouse for an indefinite time in the hopes of sorting out her life. Her dreams of a fresh start in her grandmother’s native land are quickly shattered when she arrives to find the house in a delapidated state and practically uninhabitable. Alone and without an interim place to stay, Ava has to depend on local residents for help, and to come to terms with her spontaneous decision to move to Greece.  Fortunately for her the village of tight-knit residents are willing to lend a helping hand, especially in light of the fact that her grandmother was known to some of them. Although one particular older resident, Parthenope, becomes highly agitated when she sees Ava, as though her resemblance to her grandmother, Sophia, stirs up bad memories. But what bad memories? As Ava continues to dwell in Greece her curiosity about her grandmother’s legacy is kindled, and many secrets about Sophia are slowly revealed. And amidst it all she learns vital lessons about herself that will assist her in piecing her own life back together.

Sophia’s story –

Begins during WW2 with the German and Italian invasion of Greece. Sophia, her sister Angelika and their  father live a modest life in Iousidous, a small village in rural Greece. The girls’ mother is deceased, and discreet, sensible Sophia works hard both inside and outside of the home to keep the family safe and in tact during the perilous times in which they live. Her younger sister, Angelika, is more of an adventure seeker and foolishly becomes involved with a Greek resistance member to Sophia’s utter dismay. The resistance groups don’t all work together, and can be as much a nuisance and threat as the Nazis themselves. How could her sister be so careless? Soon Sophia is conscripted to aid the resistance and her life is changed forever.

The alternating narratives of Sophia and Ava’s stories was enthralling. Seeing how each of their lives was transformed by very different circumstances made for an interesting read. Katharine Swartz is, to me, Queen of the time-slip novel.  She is very adept at this type of storytelling.  I became acquainted with her books when I read The Vicar’s Wife, one of her other time-slip novels, which instantly became one of my favorites. I can always count on her for a good story, and that’s what I got with The Other Side of the Bridge. I enjoyed this book very much and would certainly recommend it. I only wish it had been longer.

This book was part of my Kindle Library.

You can find out more about Katharine Swartz and her books here:

http://www.amazon.com/Katharine-Swartz/e/B001JAO47U.

She also writes under the name Kate Hewitt. You can read more about her here:

http://www.kate-hewitt.com

 

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Review: Rainy Day Sisters: A Hartley-by-the-Sea Novel

Rainy Day Sisters: A Hartley-by-the-Sea Novel
Rainy Day Sisters: A Hartley-by-the-Sea Novel by Kate Hewitt
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 Half sisters Juliet and Lucy Bagshaw, practically estranged from one another, with a mother who seemingly exists for the sole purpose of irritating them, are brought together when the younger sister Lucy loses her boyfriend, career and reputation back in Boston.  Meanwhile in England her older half-sister Juliet who runs a small B&B at Tarn House invites her to come and stay with her for a few months until she can get her life together.  Polar opposites, Lucy is youthful, easygoing, free-spirited, and affable.  Juliet is uptight, subdued, austere and bitter.  Things get off to a rocky start and Lucy questions her decision to live in England with her sister at Tarn House in the cold, rainy Hartley-by-the-sea. But when both sisters begin to co-exist amicably, secrets involving their mother Fiona eventually come to light, and hard decisions in their lives must be made.
From the very first few pages of Rainy Day Sisters a warmth enveloped me that is a hallmark of Kate Hewitt’s books, along with an atmospheric quality that I love.  I could immediately envision the bucolic, remote English village overlooking fields of sheep and fells while reading.  I could feel the tension between the two sisters, and could sense the varying natures of the village’s secondary characters that enlivened the story. There was a nice, mellow flow of events with an ending that left me satisfied and then hungering for a continuation of Juliet and Lucy’s story, particularly as it relates to their love lives, their mother and their relationship with one another. A very enjoyable read that I would highly recommend.
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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