It’s a real pleasure today to be helping launch the blog tour for Starting Over At Sunset Cottage by Lisa Hobman, and to share my publication day review. Published by Boldwood Books, it’s now available for kindle, in paperback, and as an audiobook. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
It was so very lovely to rediscover Lisa Hobman’s writing with Dreaming Under An Island Skye, her first book for Boldwood, published in February this year (you’ll find my review here) – a lovely story so well told, excellent characters, and the perfect setting (and Skye added to my “must visit” list for next year). Her next book, Under a Sicilian Sky, was a particular treat – Sicily and Skye, a chance to revisit my friends at Glentorrin, and an unfolding mystery and developing romance set against the backdrop of that warm and wonderful community (you’ll find my review here). Not Skye this time, but I’m more than happy with a “beautiful Highland village” – and I’m always a pushover for any mention of “starting over” and second chances. Let’s take a closer look…
Do you love someone enough to let them go?
It was love at first sight when talented art student Felicity “Flick” Johnston-Hart and Jim MacDuff’s worlds collided at Oxford University.
However, after years of blissful marriage, everything crashes down when their marriage comes to a painful and abrupt end, thanks to Flick’s interfering mother Penelope.
Finally succumbing to maternal pressure, Flick falls into the high-flying career her mother believed she was destined for.
However, she soon realises life without Jim isn’t all she’d hoped, and that some decisions, once made, cannot be undone.
Meanwhile, Jim is settling back into life as a single man in the beautiful Highland village of Shieldaig, when an unexpected visitor brings painful news. A letter from beyond the grave leads him to do something he never imagined and takes him on a journey he didn’t anticipate.
Can either of them heal and truly move on? Or is it true that a broken heart can never be a blank canvas?
This book was previously published as Through the Glass.
It’s really unusual to come across a book that begins as a marriage ends – and in a particularly cruel way that builds total sympathy for husband Jim, and a really intense dislike for his wife Felicity. But as we follow the heartbroken Jim into his new life in the Scottish Highlands, the story revisits their lives from the point they met – a wonderful and passionate love affair that begins in their time at Oxford, when she’s a shy and blushing artist and he’s an out-of-place scholarship student. The romance between them is entirely beautiful – intense and believable – and many of their more tender moments really make your heart ache at the sheer perfection of their new relationship.
But they slowly begin to grow apart – he’s content to coast through life, wanting to be a writer, enjoying working in a friend’s bookshop, while Felicity’s life takes a quite different path as a career-driven high flying art dealer, her own artistic ambitions forgotten. Their love for each other just isn’t enough, however much Jim is quietly happy to support her – and that has a lot to do with her interfering mother, who never thought he was quite good enough.
Back in the present day, heartbroken Jim is making a new life for himself at Sunset Cottage – writing a book about their love affair, making new friends in the close community of Shieldaig, walking his dog in the surrounding countryside (the descriptions are quite beautiful), and running a small coffee shop that expands to become the village store. But as the snow falls, he has an unexpected visitor… and the story takes a bit of a turn, not just the second chance love story I’d rather expected, but an edge of the seat drama that brings changes to everyone involved.
The characters in this book are excellent. I really loved Jim, the author particularly takes you right inside his thoughts and feelings, and I so wanted him to be able to find happiness: Felicity too became a character I grew to like, although it remained difficult to understand how she could have changed so completely and been so influenced by others. The main supporting characters are particularly strong – especially bookshop owner Charles and Felicity’s lovely father Edgar – and their relationships really well drawn. And the book has an excellent sense of place – first Oxford and Hackney, then the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and the action later moves to Chicago.
The more dramatic story does rather come from left field – I’ll admit that the story of the couple’s relationship might just have been enough for me – but it certainly made the pages turn rather faster and the hoped-for happy ending considerably more uncertain, the tension and emotion particularly well-handled. And it’s the emotional content that I especially enjoyed about this book – I really loved the early days of their relationship and, by the end, felt entirely invested in the possibility of future happiness for both Jim and Felicity.
I really do like the author’s writing – her story-telling and her emotional touch – and this was a book I thoroughly enjoyed, even if it did take a direction I really wasn’t expecting. A lovely read, and definitely recommended by me.
About the author
Lisa Hobman has written many brilliantly reviewed women’s fiction titles – the first of which was shortlisted by the RNA for their debut novel award. In 2012 Lisa relocated her family from Yorkshire to a village in Scotland and this beautiful backdrop now inspires her uplifting and romantic stories.