It’s a real pleasure today to share my review of the latest book from Jo Lambert, Shadows on the Water, the first in a planned series of three Cornish Coastal Romances: independently published, it’s now available for kindle (free via Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback via Amazon in the UK and US. My thanks to Jo for providing my reading e-copy.
I’m delighted to have the opportunity to again feature a review of one of Jo’s books here on Being Anne. In August 2015, she joined me with a lovely guest post to mark the publication of Summer Moved On, the first of her linked contemporary romances. I reviewed the book that November, and very much enjoyed it – and I went on to review (and enjoy every bit as much!) Watercolours in the Rain (you’ll find that review here). It was then a delight to share my review of Wicked Game when it was re-published in January 2019. And then came A Cornish Affair – a really well-told story of long-hidden family secrets with an exciting thriller edge (you’ll find my review here).
So let’s take a closer look at her latest…
After the tragic death of her fiancé, Ava Warren is slowly rebuilding her life. She has a supportive family, great friends and a job she loves, managing holiday letting company Estuary Escapes in her home town of Kingswater. Another relationship is the last thing she wants or needs. Until one evening she meets Alex Penhaligon.
Alex has just returned home from California where he has been working for the past five years. A case of mistaken identity gets them off to a bad start. But discovering his error, Alex is anxious to make amends and soon persuades Ava that he’s not quite as arrogant as she thinks he is. As their friendship begins to turn into something much deeper, Ava wonders whether she can at last put the past behind her and make a new future with Alex.
But someone is watching. A man who not only thinks Ava should be his but also holds a long term grudge against Alex. And he’s determined to get his own way irrespective of the lengths he has to go to or who gets hurt in the process.
Set on the south coast of Cornwall, Shadows on the Water is a story of family ties, lost love and tangled loyalties.
Something I really love about Jo Lambert’s writing is that she really does get better with every book, her writing gaining in confidence, her characters better developed – I declared her last book her best yet, but with this one I have a new favourite.
There’s a particularly dramatic start – we meet Ava’s fiancé Gavin only very briefly, feeling the strength of their relationship, before a tragic incident where he loses his life. That makes Ava a really sympathetic character from the beginning – supported by friends and family, making a real success of managing a holiday rental company while helping out too with the family catering business, getting her life back on course. At first, I did briefly feel there might just be too many characters – it was a little bit like being at a party where you weren’t quite sure who everyone was, and I wasn’t sure who was going to be important to the story – but the author soon very comfortably hits her stride and the reading becomes easy. And not only easy, but everything moves at a really nice pace too – with interesting interactions and relationships at work, well drawn family relationships (particularly with her mum), and the strongest of friendships.
The author really does draw excellent characters. Scott, new to the circle of friends, is rather like an excitable puppy – a bit of a liability maybe, his loyalties and choices distinctly flawed at times – but he does bring Ava into contact with his brother Alex, a little dark and forbidding at their unfortunate first encounter but the chemistry between them most certainly grows. As their relationship develops, it’s never less than strong and convincing – but fraught with challenges as secrets from their separate pasts cause some real misunderstandings. But there are greater challenges on their way – some pretty unpleasant characters, very well drawn indeed, who disrupt their lives and progress from being an annoyance to something considerably darker. And the way the story unfolds is never in any way predictable – the thriller edge that develops is so well handled, and really had my heart in my mouth as the pages turned faster and faster.
The story’s balance is just perfect – I loved the romance, I enjoyed the glimpses of the Penhaligons’ privileged (and moneyed) lives, Ava’s working life and the different relationships in the office, and the party lives of the group of friends. Themes of second chances and moving on are always a personal favourite, particularly when I feel so invested in the main characters. I particularly enjoyed the book’s strong sense of place – Kingswater itself is very real, vividly described, effectively becomes part of the story, and life on the estuary will be an excellent backdrop to the stories to follow. And the darker turn to the story was so very well done – the threat’s source quite unexpected, cranking up the tension with a satisfyingly dramatic change of pace.
I very much enjoyed this one – a really strong start to a planned trilogy. I understand the next book will focus on Ava’s friend Kiera, and I’m looking forward to my next visit to Kingswater to find out more about her personal story while catching up with everyone else whose lives I’ve been part of. An engaging and compelling read, and definitely recommended by me.
About the author
Jo Lambert lives on the eastern edge of the city of Bath. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. She has been writing since 2008. Her first five books, a set of linked romantic sagas following the lives of several families in rural West Somerset, were followed in 2015 by Summer Moved On, a contemporary romance set in South Devon. A sequel, Watercolours in the Rain was published in 2017. In June 2018 Jo signed to Choc Lit and her debut A Cornish Affair, set in North Cornwall was published in 2019 under their Ruby Fiction imprint.
Her latest novel Shadows on the Water was published end of July 2020, the first in a three book series. She is currently busy working on the second which will be published next year. When she isn’t writing she reads and reviews, and also has an active blog. Jo loves travel, red wine and music and long as it has a great melody and lyrics. Oh, and she often takes the odd photograph or two…