It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of Summer at my Sister’s by Emily Harvale: you might remember seeing the publication day post here on Being Anne, and the book is now available both for kindle (free with Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the author for my advance reading e-copy.
When I first signed up for this tour, I thought this book was going to be a standalone – but I was delighted to discover that it’s the first in a new series of standalone novels set in Seahorse Harbour, with Christmas at Aunt Elsie’s to follow on 30th September (now available for pre-order). Because although I’m a relative newcomer to Emily’s writing, I know she has a particularly special touch with a series – I thoroughly enjoyed all the Wyntersleap books (pop her name into my search box, and you’ll find my reviews), and I’ll look forward to following this one too.
So, did I enjoy the first book? Oh, of course I did – but let’s take a closer look…
Twin sisters. One scorching summer. A bucketful of secrets.
Diana’s life is perfect. Her twin sister, Josie’s – not so much.
Diana has a rich and successful husband, two talented youngsters and an adorable dog. She always looks as if she’s stepped from the cover of a magazine. Her immaculate second home by the sea, for idyllic summers with her perfect family, was actually featured in one. Josie has a messy, compact flat, dates, but not relationships, and she can’t even keep a houseplant alive. She moves from job to job, goes clubbing with her friends and often looks as if she’s fallen through a hedge.
Although Josie loves Diana deeply, each year she declines the invitation to spend the summer with her sister. Or any other family holiday. Because Josie has a secret. But is Diana’s life so perfect? Or is she also hiding something? When secrets are revealed this summer, everything will change. Josie could finally have the life she’s always wanted … if she’s brave enough to take a chance.
What a wonderful way to start a series – I knew I’d be in safe hands with Emily Harvale. Although I will admit that when Josie first arrives – rather reluctantly – in Seahorse Harbour to spend the summer with twin sister Diana and her family, I really thought I wasn’t going to like her at all. The two sisters couldn’t be more different, and Josie’s sassiness really put my back up – she’s the sort of woman I’d cross the street to avoid, with her appetite for “fun” and total disregard for the consequences. But I really couldn’t have been more wrong – as the focus for this story, with one of the best bits of character development I’ve seen in a while, I grew to love her, and to really hope she’d get a happy ending.
At first, the three rather tasty men in Seahorse Harbour are laid out rather like a tasting platter for Josie to work her way through. First there’s Viking Mikkel at the village pub – jaw-droppingly attractive, a nice line in banter, and he owns a restaurant and nightclub on the seafront too. Perfect for Josie, I thought. But hang on, there’s dishy vet Asher too – yes, I really rather liked him. And then there’s Liam, a sad past, struggling to be the best possible dad to his daughter, setting pulses racing as he raises a sweat in his ceramics studio. I was really so intrigued to see where the story would go – romance in the making with one of them, or just a lot of summer action for Josie?
But then the author layers in the back story, all the characters becoming fully rounded and with real depth – and so many secrets and echoes from the past come to the fore and make this a great story. And it’s not all Josie and Diana, although the dynamics of their relationship are central to the story: the whole cast is wonderful, drawn from across the generations (I loved Aunt Elsie!), even the very minor ones so wonderfully drawn. There’s a particularly characterful dog called Henry too – a source for a lot of the humour (although much of that comes from Josie too) and a few of the more dramatic moments. All the family relationships are so well done – but so are the friendships, and the casual encounters.
And does the romance work too? Oh my goodness, it most certainly does – although it really did have me on the edge of my seat at times with all the stumbles along the way.
I must say that the location of Seahorse Harbour is an absolute triumph – it’s clear that the author’s put a lot of work into its creation, and she really breathes life into it too. I love a book with a real sense of community, and she’s most certainly done a fantastic job with that – but it’s geography is so well done too, the descriptions and the small details, and you find yourself walking around it as if you’ve lived there all your life.
I really enjoyed this book – and, although this book is complete in itself, this is a series I most certainly plan to stick with. In fact, I’m looking forward to my next visit to Seahorse Harbour already…
About the author
Emily writes novels, novellas and short stories about friendship, family and falling in love. She loves a happy ending but knows that life doesn’t always go to plan. Her stories are sure to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.
Emily loves to connect with her readers and has a readers’ group in which many have become good friends. To catch up with Emily, find out about the group, or connect with her on social media, go to her website at www.emilyharvale.com.
Having lived and worked in London for several years, Emily returned to her home town of Hastings where she now writes full-time. She’s a member of the SoA and the RWA, an Amazon bestseller and a Kindle All Star.
When not writing, she can be found enjoying the stunning East Sussex coast and countryside, or in a wine bar with friends, discussing life, love and the latest TV shows. Chocolate cake is often eaten. She dislikes housework almost as much as she dislikes anchovies – and will do anything to avoid both. Emily has two mischievous rescue cats that like to sprawl across her keyboard, regardless of whether Emily is typing on it, or not.