It’s an absolute delight today to be joining the blog tour for The Country Escape by Jane Lovering: published on 1st September by Boldwood Books, it’s now available for kindle and as an audiobook, and the paperback should be fully available very soon too. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
It’s not very often that I read and review two books by the same author within a week, but for Jane Lovering (and for Boldwood!) I’m more than happy to make an exception. “Let Jane Lovering whisk you away with the most heart-warming, romantic and comforting read of the year” they said, and it would have been rude to refuse… and I do so hope that all the readers discovering her wonderful writing for the first time will go on to read that back catalogue that I’ve enjoyed so much.
Leaving London and her ex-husband Luc behind, Katie and her 14-year-old daughter Poppy move into their very own, very ramshackle cottage near the village of Christmas Steepleton on the Dorset coast.
Harvest Cottage has been unloved for many years, so the job of bringing it back to life is a slow and expensive one. So, with funds running low, Katie jumps at the chance when a film company asks to use the cottage as a location. But even as things are looking up, as harvest time passes and autumn chill starts to bite, the prospect of a cold winter in the country is daunting.
Some light relief comes from new friend Gabriel, so different from Katie’s exuberant but arrogant ex Luc. Will their friendship blossom into something more romantic, or will the reality of a tough country winter send her and Poppy scurrying back to the comforts of town?
Let Jane Lovering spirit you away to the perfect country escape, far away from the bustle of the city. Just right for fans of Emma Burstall, Fern Britton and Kate Forster.
There’s an awful lot of competition from her other wonderful books, but I think I just have to say it – this is my favourite book yet from an author whose books I’ve unfailingly loved. And I now have to try and explain why, don’t I – without entirely spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet…
We’re back in Christmas Steepleton again – if you haven’t visited before, it’s on the Dorset coast, with a very steep hill leading to a rather pretty harbour, a few shops selling knick knacks to tourists, a nice little community but also quite a few distinctly quirky residents. But Katie and daughter Poppy aren’t living in the village itself – they’ve found a neglected cottage in the depths of the countryside, complete with its own orchard (well, a few apple trees…), an interesting history, a bit of a damp problem, more than a few resident woodlice and a tree growing in the pantry. Katie’s a teacher – well, she would be if she could find a job, but until she does there’s not much chance of putting in proper heating or replacing the rattling windows. The perfect location for a film shoot maybe – and despite what it says about the place Katie calls “home”, it might just solve some of her money worries too.
Katie and Poppy aren’t alone in the countryside for long – a gypsy caravan is abandoned in the orchard, which also becomes home to Patrick, the rather lugubrious piebald horse, devouring the grass and watching them through the kitchen window. The caravan belongs to Granny Mary – and when we finally meet her, what a great character she is. She’s most definitely not what you’ll be expecting – not the cuddly grandmother you might picture, but with very sharp edges (just wonderfully written) and a few well-hidden secrets of her own.
And then there’s Gabriel, who I think might just be my favourite romantic lead that the author’s ever written – the problems with his failing eyesight figure large, but he’s a man with some big secrets too, quite a few issues from the past and a few surprises in his present that just made me love him all the more. His growing relationship with Katie is beautifully played – those wonderfully crafted exchanges that the author always does so well, those moments that make you laugh out loud, cringe in embarrassment, bring a tear to your eye and warm your heart.
Every single character in this book is just perfectly drawn – even minor ones like Katie’s persistent ex-husband Luc, Gabriel’s wonderfully eccentric sister, Karen (without filter) at the beachside cafe, even the wonderful Maisy who runs the cafe (or is it the estate agent?) on the hill in the village. I’ve mentioned Patrick already, but he’s a tremendous character too – and I thoroughly loved his moment of glory in one perfect dramatic sequence that has your heart in your mouth as you cheer him on. A word for Katie’s daughter Poppy too – the relationship between daughter and mother is wonderful, stroppy teen and overprotective mother, but with some of the loveliest “moments” in between.
If you’ve read the author’s earlier books – especially Christmas Secrets by the Sea – you’ll enjoy coming across characters you’ll recognise, and some nice small overlaps of the stories. But if you haven’t, it doesn’t matter a jot – this book is entirely complete in itself. It’s a fantastic story – and although it has a number of distinctly damaged characters (now something of an author trademark), it’s exceptionally funny for a great deal of the time. But there’s so much to it that’s immensely touching too – and the book’s ending is one of the most perfect I’ve had the pleasure to read.
This book was something very special indeed – I really loved it, and recommend it most highly…
About the author
Jane Lovering is the bestselling and award-winning romantic comedy writer who won the RNA Novel of the Year Award in 2012 with Please Don’t Stop the Music. She lives in Yorkshire and has a cat and a bonkers terrier, as well as five children who have now left home.