When I stumbled across A Secret Scottish Escape by Julie Shackman, it was a book I really wanted to read – but when the ebook was published on 21st May, no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t find any space on my reading list. But it was a real pleasure to welcome Julie as my guest (you’ll find that post here), and I did promise I’d be sharing a review on paperback publication day (and that’s today – congratulations Julie!). It seems that there were many others who’d spotted this book too, and decided it was one they’d enjoy – over 1500 reviews on Amazon already, and 85% of them four stars or above. It’s a pleasure to share my own review today – and if you’ve been waiting for the opportunity to get your hands on a paperback, you can now buy it at your favourite high street or on line book shop including Amazon.
Let’s take a closer look…
Escape to the beautiful Scottish Highlands for the perfect heartwarming and feel good cosy romance this summer!
When Scotland’s sleepiest hamlet becomes the centre of hot gossip, Layla Devlin finds herself caught in a mystery…
When Layla’s fiancée has an unexpected heart attack and dies – in another woman’s arms, no less – Layla is determined to pack up and leave Loch Harris, the village she’s always called home. But an unexpected inheritance and love for her quiet corner of Scotland send her down a new path.
Now Layla finds herself facing a whole new kind of drama. Rumours swirl that a celebrity has moved into Coorie Cottage and Layla is determined to have him headline her opening night at local music venue The Conch Club. But the reclusive star is equally determined to thwart Layla’s efforts. Rafe Buchanan is in hiding for a reason, and soon his past comes to Loch Harris to haunt him…
I was really drawn into this story from the very beginning – Layla’s obviously stricken by grief at the death of her fiancé Mac, but that turns to anger when she finds out that he died in his ex-wife’s bed and that there were layers of secrets that he’d been keeping. She’s so very angry that she initially refuses to accept his generous bequest, and decides that she must leave her home at Loch Harris and start again – but that changes when she discovers that a large boatshed is up for sale, and instead decides to stay, using her inheritance to turn it into a music venue that might change the fortunes of the village she loves.
There’s a lot of music in this book – Layla’s love of cranking up the volume was always a bone of contention between her and Mac. Her father (and they have a really lovely relationship) is an ageing rocker, the band he played with having died some years ago, amid the usual fallings out and recriminations – but they’d be the perfect act for the opening night at The Conch Club, if they could set aside their differences. And then there’s Mask/Rafe – Australian, newly arrived in the area, living as a recluse in a remote cottage with a particularly beautiful garden, making waves with his music but adamant that he won’t reveal himself and wanting nothing to do with the new venue.
The narrative is driven by all the work that’s needed to convert the boatshed into the venue of Layla’s imagination, and I found all the detail quite fascinating – the setting is gorgeous, on the shore of the loch (with some wonderful descriptions), and I loved seeing it taking shape. But the story diverts in a number of different directions before the long-awaited opening night – Layla becomes increasingly intrigued and involved in Mask’s life and his reasons for wanting such an extreme level of privacy, and the reuniting of her father’s band members brings about issues that turn her life upside down. Through it all, she has the support of close friend Faith – and perhaps gets a little more involved that she should in trying to sort out her love life and find her some happiness.
I really did enjoy this book, but will admit that I did sometimes wonder whether there might have been a sub-plot too many – but the threads are very well managed, every one never less than engaging, and certainly make the story considerably more than the “Beauty and the Beast” story I’d been rather expecting. It’s certainly a strong and convincing romance, but there are a number of other elements that take centre stage at times – family drama, mystery, and a few really edge-of-the-seat moments as Layla becomes dangerously embroiled in a few situations she doesn’t fully understand. There’s a strong sense of community about the book – something I always enjoy – and a substantial cast of interesting characters, their interactions sometimes opening up additional threads to the already engaging story.
I enjoyed this one – it kept me on my toes throughout, the story took me in directions I really hadn’t expected, I enjoyed the characters and the surprises, and the author’s story-telling style was a pleasure to read. This is the first time I’ve read one of the author’s books, and I’ll look forward to seeing what she does next.
About the author
Julie Shackman is a former journalist from Scotland, who has always wanted to write feel-good romance. As well as being an author, she also writes verses and captions for greetings card companies.
Julie admits to having an obsession with stationery and handbags. She is married, has two sons and recently adopted a Romanian rescue puppy, who she named Cooper.
A Secret Scottish Escape is Julie’s fifth novel, out in e-book from One More Chapter on 21 May and released in paperback on 19 August.