A pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for Devon and Hell – Four Seasons by the Sea by Karen Wheeler, released in e-book format on 28th October by Sweet Pea Publishing, with the print version to follow in October 2020. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation and support.
This book is the omnibus version of a four-part series of mini e-books, launched earlier this year as Dream Cottage: Four Seasons in Devon and released in accordance with the seasons: all of the books were designated Amazon ‘Hot New Releases’ and made it into the top five in travel writing. I very rarely read or review memoirs, but I’ll admit I was very tempted by this one – unfortunately November proved to be rather a busy month, and I’m sorry I haven’t been able to fit in the reading. But here’s the blurb:
One woman, one dog and a disastrous move to Devon. Throw in an estranged mother who has just been diagnosed with dementia and the result is a brilliantly written comic memoir with more ups and downs than the South West Coastal Path.
This is not your usual tale of ‘I moved to a chocolate-box cottage by the sea and lived happily ever after’. Instead, it is a powerful and gripping story of relocation – and a maternal relationship – gone wrong.
Ultimately this is an uplifting, feel-good story as Karen triumphs over adversity and finds new peace following the death of her mother.
And let’s take a look at the synopsis for a little more…
After eight years of living in France, Karen Wheeler returns to live by the seaside near Budleigh Salterton on East Devon’s Jurassic Coast. Plum Tree Cottage, with its full set of cottagey credentials – climbing roses, old Georgian floorboards and a dove-grey Aga – is a classic case of love at first sight. But the disasters begin before she has even moved in.
Wheeler is left reeling when Plum Tree Cottage reveals a very unwelcome surprise. She then receives the shocking news that her mother – a cold and cruel woman from whom she has been estranged for most of her life – has been sectioned.
Living the dream by the sea rapidly descends into a living hell with each day bringing a new onslaught of domestic and mother-related disasters. Convinced that her cottage is unlucky, Wheeler consults Harsh Jain, a practitioner of vastu shastra – the Hindu equivalent of feng shui.
Back comes a report that would have most people not just moving their gas stove – which Wheeler discovers is ideally placed for ‘burning up blessings’ – but sticking their head in it. Harsh predicts that the cottage will bring a host of problems and ‘unwelcome surprises’. The doom-laden report finishes by warning the author – who is planning to walk the Jurassic Coast Path – to ‘Please be avoiding high places’.
One by one, Harsh Jain’s predictions come true – in surprising detail. Wheeler is forced to face up to the childhood she has long tried to ignore and is literally taken to a cliff edge before the book’s end. But then, in a heartwarming twist, she makes a surprising discovery that changes everything.
Intrigued? I might not have a review to share, but with thanks to Karen, I do have an extract to give you a flavour… it’s a little long for me to cut and paste, but you can read it here. Karen tells me that her book will appeal to fans of Eleanor Oliphant, the armchair renovators who enjoy watching Grand Designs and Homes by the Sea, and to the large number of Brits who are moving to the coast or taking ‘staycations’ in the UK. It might just appeal to you too…
About the author
Karen Wheeler is a former journalist and national newspaper fashion editor who has successfully published five comic travel memoirs about her life in France, starting with Tout Sweet: Hanging up my High Heels for a New Life in France, which made it to #1 in Amazon’s travel writing book chart.
She wrote for the Financial Times for over fifteen years and is a former fashion editor of the Mail on Sunday. She studied Modern History at Kings College, London University and worked briefly at Sotheby’s art auctioneers before embarking on a career in fashion journalism. During her career she has interviewed many of fashion’s top names including Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein. Her work has also appeared frequently in Vogue Japan, You magazine, the Daily Mail and Sunday Times Style.
Originally hailing from the north of England, Karen is one of the many ex-pats now returning to the UK – as she points out the food is much better here. She has run holiday cottages, knows the Farrow and Ball colour chart inside out, never turns down a glass of pink champagne and lives near Budleigh Salterton in East Devon with her boyfriend and her dog Biff.
You can read more about her life at www.toutsweet.net, the blog she started while living in rural France: follow her on Twitter at @mimipompom1. Additionally, earlier this year the Daily Mail published a moving feature on her relationship with her bipolar mother.
Review by Amazon Top 500 Reviewer Originalisa
“Karen Wheeler has written a four-part series guaranteed to grip you to the end. Reading this seizes the imagination, opens up a sense of wonder and excitement as this powerful page-turner sucks you in big time. I felt all of my emotions were supercharged in a way I never truly imagined when I first encountered this fabulously well written book. If I could describe my reading experience as an analogy it would be like the first time on a roller coaster, expecting a dreamy idyllic ride but ending up emotionally charged and exhilarated. Bring on the next three parts!”