It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for Coming Home to Hope Street by Marcie Steele: the second in her Hope Street series, this lovely book was published on 18th September, and is now available for kindle (free with Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback. My thanks to Sarah Hardy at Book on the Bright Side for the invitation and support, and for providing my advance reading e-copy.
I’ve never read a book by Mel Sherratt – I just don’t think they’d be quite my personal cup of tea – but it’s really taken me far longer than it should have done to catch up with a book by her alter ego, Marcie Steele. No, I’ve never been to Somerley before (I know, I know…) – and I was really feeling quite left out. I couldn’t help noticing how almost every early review of this book starts with everyone saying how much they enjoyed the first in the series, The Man Across The Street – second in a series isn’t always the best place to start, but I’d noticed the author saying that each book would feature a different character, with a standalone story, and can be read in whichever order you like. So I really thought it was about time I spent some time in Somerley, and got to meet the residents of Hope Street…
Step across the cobblestones, pull back the curtains and peek behind the doors in the second instalment of The Hope Street Series. Catch up with old friends and fall in love with new ones in a story of friendship, second chances and new beginnings.
Livvy has no choice but to return to Hope Street, the childhood home she left over twenty years ago. Along with her sixteen-year-old daughter, Pip, she turns up on the doorstep, hoping for forgiveness from her sister.
Hannah thought she’d never see Livvy again. She’s overwhelmed with emotion but locks away her real feelings. How could Livvy stay away without any contact? And why has she come back now?
It isn’t long before the charm of the market town of Somerley begins to work its magic. Hannah is opening a book shop in the square, adjoining The Coffee Stop, and Livvy’s offer to help out brings the sisters closer together.
But when someone from Livvy’s past arrives unannounced too, he threatens everything she’s built up since her return. Can Livvy convince her sister, and her new friends, that her intentions to return were good ones? Or will her dreams of settling down and being happy again become nothing but a closed book?
Things have changed a bit in Somerley since Livvy left 20 years ago – the corner shop’s now a supermarket, the pub’s been gutted and modernised, the Coffee Stop serves a wide range of coffees. But things have perhaps changed rather less in Hope Street – the landlord might be rather more caring, there might be new lighting and a few benches that weren’t there before, but this is a community where people have lived all their lives, supporting each other and looking after their own, involved in each others lives, one of strong friendships and suspicion about incomers, one where people have long memories and sometimes hold grudges.
At one point, a character says “Hope Street gets more like Corrie every day”, and it was a comparison I’d already made in my head (and not only because of the cobbles): but it has more in common with the Corrie of Ena Sharples and Minnie Caldwell than the one of today, and it’s sometimes quite a surprise to find its characters using mobiles, watching Killing Eve and reading the latest book from Lisa Jewell.
It’s a well created world, and the story’s a strong and well-told one too. When Livvy left Hope Street, she disappeared, leaving Hannah to look after their mother – and when she turns up on the doorstep twenty years on with her suitcases and teenage daughter Pip, there are many who make her feel unwelcome. But Hannah’s pleased to have her sister home again, whatever the reasons for her return and the heartache that’s gone before, moves them into her house, and begins to rebuild their relationship. Moving on after the loss of her mum, happy in her new relationship, Hannah’s about to open a book shop next to the Coffee Stop, and Livvy helps out both in the cafe and getting the book shop ready for its opening. But there’s a bit of a mystery about Livvy’s life when she was absent – a husband she doesn’t want to talk about, a bit of a question mark over why she’s decided to come home – all slowly disentangled as the story unfolds.
The characters in this book are excellent – if you read the first book, many will undoubtedly already be familiar, but I didn’t find the fact that this was my first visit any obstacle to quickly feeling very much part of the community. I loved Hannah – it’s impossible not to – and Livvy’s a character with secrets it’s fascinating to watch being uncovered. Daughter Pip is well drawn too – although I’ll admit there were times she seemed rather younger than almost-sixteen, and I did struggle a little to understand why she’d been so protected from life’s realities when a little more openness might have made life rather easier (but it wouldn’t have been quite the same story!).
I really liked the writing – the reading was smooth and easy – and I enjoyed the story itself, the relationships and interactions between the characters, and the community on which it was centred. There was a lot about this book that felt saga-like, but with a contemporary setting – it has an old-fashioned feel, a strong focus on family, and that was something I really rather liked. And these are people I now feel I know really well, and the street feels like “home” – if this series continues as planned with different individuals as each book’s focus, it’s one many will thoroughly enjoy.
About the author
Marcie Steele is the pen name of Mel Sherratt. For as long as she can remember, she’s been a meddler of words. Born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, she’s a romantic at heart and has always enjoyed writing about characters that fall in and out of love, have good friends to hang around with, and live in communities with great spirit.
She can often be found sitting in her favourite coffee shop, sipping a cappuccino and eating a chocolate chip cookie, either catching up with friends or writing on her laptop. Whether she writes crime or women’s fiction, she loves making up things for a living.