It’s a real pleasure today to be helping launch the blog tour and to share my review of Under One Roof by Samantha Tonge: published by Boldwood Books, it’s now available as an ebook and in paperback, with the audiobook to follow on 12th February. 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 was 2016 when I read and reviewed Samantha’s How To Get Hitched in Ten Days (review here), and I managed to fit in another of her lovely books, One Summer in Rome, in 2018 (you can read that review again here). And after a bit of a break, I rediscovered her writing last year with Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage (you can read my review here) – different and original, blending dark secrets and thriller elements into a light and lovely story that I really enjoyed. I was delighted when I heard that she’d been signed by Boldwood – I know how hard she works, and it looked like the perfect home for her – and I was very much looking forward to reading this one, the first book they’d produced together.
One forgotten discovery will change three women’s lives for ever…
Robin hasn’t been home for decades. After running away to London, she never expected to see her cantankerous mother, Faye, again. But when Faye has a fall, the two women are thrown together once more.
The years apart have not made their hearts grow fonder and the ground between them is unsteady. Then Robin finds an unopened scroll – the last of the treasure hunts her much-missed father used to take them on every Sunday. A hunt he believed might change everything.
Yet, not even this gift from her beloved father can smooth the way until Robin’s daughter, Amber, arrives to meet her grandmother for the first time. Amber is determined that the decades-old mystery be solved.
Can a 30-year-old treasure hunt really ‘change everything’?
The complexities of family relationships are often a rich vein of inspiration for a writer to explore – and a subject area I always rather enjoy reading about too. And my goodness, they certainly don’t come much more complicated than the relationships in this book.
Robin returns to her childhood home to provide support to her mother Faye, injured in a fall – driven by a sense of obligation and duty, certainly not by love, having never received any from her mother. They’ve been estranged for a considerable time – and it’s immediately clear that their time spent together is unlikely to be easy. They’re joined by Robin’s daughter Amber, a university student at a bit of a crossroads in her life – she’s never met her grandmother before, and Robin’s understandably concerned about them all living in close proximity.
But the tensions are eased a little by a gift from Robin’s late and much-loved father – one last treasure hunt, with cryptic clues to explore, and the promise that it will “change everything”. But as well as coping with the present, they also need to negotiate the past – the secrets, the fractured friendships, the distorted memories, and the elusive truths underpinning their lives and the deeper reasons for the problems between Robin and her mother.
This book did make me question a little whether it’s important to like and sympathise with its main characters – I must admit I didn’t really take to any of them, however much I wanted to, and the revelations about their pasts didn’t really change that. It’s extremely cleverly done though, and it certainly didn’t spoil my eagerness to become involved in their lives – I particularly liked the way we saw Robin making the same mistakes in her relationship with Amber that she so resented when she was a teen herself, replicating her mother’s behaviour while apparently entirely unaware that she was doing so.
And as well as watching their relationships unfolding, there was a lot I very much enjoyed about this book. Finding her bedroom in the attic unchanged since she left as a teen in the 80s, there are plenty of opportunities to revisit the clothing, the music, and the passions of that time through the posters on the walls – and the book is beautifully punctuated by the letters written to “Dear Debbie”, introducing some of the small concerns and more major issues that the teenage Robin was unable to discuss with her mother. She also has the unexpected opportunity to revisit the romance of her teenage years that ended so badly – a thread I very much enjoyed, a strong and convincing developing romance, as we also learn more about what happened after she fled from her home so many years before.
The storytelling is excellent, as is the character development – and the misunderstandings and upsets of the past are slowly disentangled and repaired. While it’s a story that frequently brings a smile, there’s a very satisfying emotional depth too – these are very real people, well drawn, making and perpetuating the mistakes and behaviours that drove them apart, moving steadily towards the reconciliation and forgiveness that comes from understanding. And I really loved the treasure hunt device, its progress and its outcome – it helps to make the story even more of a page-turner, although the family dynamics already make it a compelling read.
I really enjoyed this one – perhaps not entirely what I was expecting, but beautifully done, and the author’s writing has never been better. A definite recommendation from me.
About the author
Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK and studied German and French at university. She has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris as part of the Opening Crew, and has travelled widely. She enjoys family time, baking and walking and always knew that one day she would write. Samantha finally took the plunge seriously in her late thirties, and hasn’t stopped since. Under One Roof is her sixteenth book and she has also sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines.
Samantha’s uplifting stories are about identity and self-discovery, about friendships and communities. She enjoys creating diverse characters and writing about relatable issues that make the reader feel it’s not just me. Her books have hit the AmazonUK overall chart Top Ten position twice and she has won two awards.