A pleasure to be part of Bookouture‘s Books-on-tour again today, this time sharing my review of The Little Shop in Cornwall by Helen Pollard: published on 15th June, it’s now available via Amazon for kindle and in paperback, and in other e-formats via Apple Books, Kobo and Googleplay. My thanks to the publishers for inviting me to join the tour and for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley), and to Sarah Hardy for her ongoing support.
It’s quite a long time since I’ve read one of Helen’s books – but I can still remember how very much I enjoyed my visit to La Cour des Roses when I read The Little French Guesthouse back in 2016 (you’ll find my review here). Two other books followed in the series – Return to the Little French Guesthouse and Summer at the Little French Guesthouse – but, particularly frustratingly, I just couldn’t fit them into my reading list. Helen’s kept us waiting a little for her latest – but I did thoroughly enjoy her short stories in both the Miss Moonshine anthologies. So, I was really delighted to see her return with this latest book – a shop this time, rather than a guesthouse, and a Cornish location.
Let’s take a closer look…
Claudia thought she knew how this summer was going to go. Turns out, she didn’t have a clue…
It’s been two years since Claudia arrived on the beautifully rugged Cornish coast with nothing but a suitcase to her name. She’d walked out on the husband who had never loved her, ditched the corporate job she’d never wanted and vowed that no gym membership card would come within ten feet of her ever again.
Swapping boardrooms and cocktails for a little shop right at the end of the beach road should have been a bit of a shock. But from the moment she first laid eyes on the empty, run-down store, Claudia knew this was where she was meant to be all along.
After all that upheaval, Claudia was looking forward to a quiet summer, full of the usual holiday makers and long walks along the clifftops. But life in her patch of paradise is about to change in more ways than one.
Enter recently widowed Jason, dragging his sullen teenage daughter Millie in tow. Millie and Claudia immediately hit it off. And while Millie loves everything about Claudia’s free-spirited way of life, practical architect Jason is less than thrilled about his daughter’s new interests. He doesn’t shy away from telling Claudia exactly what he thinks and sparks fly every time they meet.
But as circumstances throw Claudia into Jason’s path in increasingly unexpected ways, she begins to glimpse what lies beneath his fiery temper and sharp tongue. Claudia was sure her new life was perfect in every way. But was there something missing after all?
The perfect summer holiday escape, full of warmth, humour and heart. Fans of Sarah Morgan, Cathy Bramley and Phillipa Ashley will be charmed by this seaside romance.
A well-drawn setting is always something I love, and the author does it just perfectly with Porthsteren, a Cornish coastal village beautifully brought to life. I’d love to walk on the beach, write my concerns on the sand to be washed away by the tide – or to browse the books in The Porthsteren Page Turner, chat with the friendly ladies behind the counter, then sit for a while on the mismatched furniture on the terrace with a cappuccino and a cake, enjoying the sunshine.
Then I might just pop next door and take a look at Claudia’s new age shop, Healing Waves, maybe buy some of her home-made soap, perhaps a crystal – and if I’m staying a little longer, I may go along to one of the workshops she runs, try some meditation. I’ll avoid the village shop though – too much gossip and rumour in there for my liking. And I’m as intrigued as everyone else by the new shop that’s about to open…
Porthsteren was Claudia’s escape from a toxic marriage, her opportunity for a new start – surrounded by good friends, living above the shop with characterful cat Pudding, becoming part of the community, finding out what makes her happy. Jason and daughter Millie are starting again too, after a particularly difficult time in their lives: Claudia’s drawn to the troubled teenager, and Millie’s enchanted by everything about Claudia’s shop and lifestyle. Jason isn’t quite as keen – he’s definitely not a fan of “all that woo-woo crap”, or the woman who’s selling it.
The story is very much “enemies to friends” in the way it unfolds – but my goodness, they do make it hard for each other as he raises his walls, repeatedly shouting and apologising, and it looks doubtful for a while that they’ll ever get beyond the scrapping and bickering stage. And then the new shop opens, and Claudia’s life becomes very difficult indeed – a tight community is the perfect place to be until it begins to turn against you.
There was a lot I liked about this book, and not only the well-drawn location. I particularly liked the female friendships, the warmth and support – and the relationship between Claudia and young Millie was really well done too. I did struggle with Jason a little – his volatility made him difficult to warm to, however “damaged” he might be or how challenging his parenting was proving, and it was difficult at times to see why Claudia kept coming back for more. But we do see his viewpoint too, and his softer side slowly emerges – and if anyone’s going to uncover it, it’s Claudia. When her life begins to go awry, the whole situation is extremely well handled – helplessness around what’s happening, the threat to her future, a mystery about the source, a few moments of real drama.
I very much liked the book’s themes too – its elements of grief and loss, that letting go of negative feelings, the healing power of relationships. And the author’s writing is as good as it ever was – well drawn fully-rounded characters, a naturalness to the dialogue, a deft emotional touch along with lovely descriptions of the Cornish setting. The new age – and more – elements of the story were fascinating too: I’ll admit I learned a little!
I enjoyed this one, a nicely light and feel-good summer read with a bit of a difference: it was a lovely escape, a story I was happy to immerse myself in, with a satisfying conclusion and a few surprises along the way.
About the author
As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading (long past her bedtime!) so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.
She still prefers fictional worlds to real life and loves infusing her writing with humour and heart.
Helen lives in Yorkshire with her husband, two grown-up (in theory) kids and a Jekyll and Hyde cat. She enjoys reading, coffee with friends and indulging her nostalgia by watching old seventies and eighties TV shows.