It’s a real pleasure today to share my review for Welcome to Seabreeze Farm by Jo Bartlett, the first in a lovely new series: published yesterday (12th April) by Boldwood Books, it’s now available as an ebook (free via Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback. No blog tour this time, so I don’t need to add my usual thanks to Rachel – this book isn’t technically a new one, previously published as two novellas, Give Me Your Answer Do and Second Chances at Channel View Farm. But I read this one just because I wanted to – and my thanks to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
I very rarely stick with a series of books, but I’ve been totally enchanted by Jo’s other series about the midwives of Port Agnes. The first in the series, The Cornish Midwife, was the perfect start – with plenty of drama, filled with warmth, lots of gentle humour, emotional moments and a lovely touch of romance (you’ll find my review here). And the second, A Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife, was equally perfect, and a wonderful summer read (you’ll find my review here) – as was the third, A Winter’s Wish for the Cornish Midwife, with a storyline that particularly tore at my heart (my review is here). I’m falling behind a little – A Spring Surprise for the Cornish Midwife came out in January while I was taking my break, but I’ll be sure to fit it in (I really want to catch up on Jess’ story!) before the fifth, A Leap of Faith for the Cornish Midwife, comes out in June. And now, a new series – and I found it impossible to resist…
Unhappy with life in London, and with her love life a complete disaster, Ellie Chapman desperately needs a change. So when she learns she’s inherited a farmhouse perched high up on the cliffs above the English Channel, it feels like the perfect escape.
But ramshackle and dilapidated, and ruled by the world’s naughtiest donkey, Seabreeze Farm is not as picture perfect as Ellie imagined. And then there’s brooding local vet Ben Hastings, who seems to make it his mission to make life on the farm even harder for Ellie!
With money tight, Ellie slowly rebuilds the tired old farmhouse. And as the farm comes to life under Ellie’s care, Ellie’s spark returns too. Because as every day passes, Ellie begins to realise that there is something special about Seabreeze Farm, and there’s no other place she’d rather be.
With a job in the City that she hates, and her life driven by the plans of the fiancé she’s not sure she ever really loved, when Ellie unexpectedly inherits her great-aunt’s farm on a Kent clifftop it comes at just the right time. But it’s not quite the idyllic place of her fond childhood memories – when she walks away from her former life and decides to move there along with her mum Karen, they find the farmhouse in a poor state of repair, an unwelcoming neighbour, work that needs doing that will drain their meagre savings, and a neglected rescue donkey who needs the immediate attention of the local vet. But the pair take it all on, and Ellie soon knows that she’s made the right decision – together both she and Karen build their new lives and take on new challenges, become part of the community, make new friends, and both find romance in unexpected places. But there’s a cloud over their future success and happiness, when Ellie’s past begins to catch up with her and threatens to derail everything.
I have to say that I absolutely adored this book – I read it in one glorious sitting, and when I reached the end set it aside with a satisfied sigh. There was so much about it that I loved that I hardly know where to start… but I’ll begin with the people, with Ellie and Karen as the two main and particularly likeable and sympathetic characters with their lovely mother-daughter relationship, the wonderful vet Ben who becomes part of their journey (and thankfully waives his exorbitant fees), neighbour Alan who turns out not to be the miserable curmudgeon he appears to be at first, and the whole cast of beautifully drawn supporting characters. And then there’s the motley collection of rescued animals – every one of them a real character with their own story – alongside Karen’s delicious baking and Ellie’s developing plans for a new business to change the farm’s fortunes.
The romance in this book is simply perfect, quite beautifully done, with all the emotion and obstacles to overcome that I love – and I particularly liked the fact that the book didn’t only focus on the slow steps forward for Ellie’s relationship with Ben, along with their stumbles along the way, but also very satisfyingly explored the lovely and unexpected relationship that developed for her mother Karen. But then there’s the villain of the piece who’s hell bent on destroying their happiness – really well done, from the initial threat and uncertainty through to the edge-of-the-seat drama that develops.
The writing is quite superb – the setting is vividly described (you can feel the author’s love for the location), the emotional content perfectly tuned, the light humour really well-judged, and the whole story unfolds at a pace that’s essentially gentle but had me entirely involved throughout. And don’t worry about this being the first book in a series, there are no major threads left untied at the end – but I’m already looking forward very much to my next visit to Seabreeze Farm.
About the author
Jo Bartlett is the bestselling author of nineteen women’s fiction titles. She fits her writing in between her two day jobs as an educational consultant and university lecturer and lives with her family and three dogs on the Kent coast. Boldwood published the first title in The Cornish Midwife Series – part of a twelve-book deal – in April 2021.