Reviewed by Emma Crowley
There's an old Cornish saying: 'Save a stranger from the sea, he'll turn your enemy...'
When her reclusive grandmother becomes too frail to live alone, Gabriella Blythe moves into the remote waterside cabin on Frenchman's Creek which has been her grandmother's home for decades. Once a celebrated artist, Jaunty's days are coming to a close but she is still haunted by events in her past, particularly the sinking of Lancasteria during the war.
Everything is fine until a handsome stranger arrives in a storm, seeking help. Fin has been left a family legacy: a delicate watercolour of a cabin above the creek which leads him to this beautiful stretch of Cornish water. As Fin begins to pick at the clues of the painting, he is drawn into the lives of Gabe and Jaunty, unravelling a remarkable story of identity and betrayal...
A Cornish Stranger is the third novel from Liz Fenwick where once again she returns to the setting of Cornwall which played such a prominent role in her previous novels The Cornish House and A Cornish Affair. This novel tells the story of Gabe and her grandmother Jaunty. Gabe is forced to return home when her grandmother Jaunty becomes too old and frail to live alone in an isolated cabin near Frenchman’s Creek. The creek, water and various elements of nature appear to be a character all of their own in this novel and create a tense atmosphere throughout.
Gabe was once a promising star in the music world with a stunning voice but something happened just as she was on the cusp of success. Something that made her abandon her career .Now instead of international success she is forced to write music for commercials to eek out some sort of living. Returning to look after her grandmother gives her a chance to reassess her life, to heal and to come to terms with where her life should go and also opens her heart up to love once again without getting hurt.
In the first half of the novel Gabe is a shell of the person she once was but through a chance encounter with Max, a local man who is trying to create his own opera and Hannah a local young singer Gabe begins to relax and let music become her love and main focus again. A daring night time rescue in a dangerous storm brings Fin into Gabe’s life .His ship is wrecked in the storm and soon Jaunty invites him to stay in his cabin while his boat is being assessed by insurers. But is there more to Fin then meets the eye?
The other main character in A Cornish Stranger is Jaunty an artist who at 92 is nearing the end of her live having spent many years living in an isolated cabin painting and trying to come to terms with a major loss in her life. I have to admit the name Jaunty really bothered me at first, I didn’t really like it and it was repeated endlessly on each page but by the end of the novel the name Jaunty had taken on a great significance and I realised why the author had picked that name.
The novel only really picked up halfway through (I’ve felt the same with Liz’s previous two novels) as the first half I found all over the place jumping from one period to another one character to another taking me several paragraphs to become more familiar with the setting and who was talking but then all of a sudden it would jump to another character and era. Jaunty is old and writing a diary which she wants Gabe to read upon her death which will explain everything in her past and how she came to live such a reclusive life on Frenchman’s Creek and why. I can understand that a 92 year old woman would have difficulty writing a diary and gathering her thoughts into one piece but it was very disruptive flitting from one minute to wartime Paris then several years back to Jaunty’s pre-war life in England.
I love time slip novels but feel it’s much better when whole sections are devoted to the past and not every few paragraphs. Lucinda Riley, Rache Hore and Kate Morton do this so well to name but a few. In this book I felt I was only getting used to Jaunty telling her story and then it was back to present day .It didn’t help the first half of the book to flow well it was quite disjointed but in part two the story came together much more and I raced through a satisfying conclusion in the end.
When we learn about Jaunty’s lost love and the sacrifice she had to make during the war we come to understand what she gave up for love but ultimately suffered a huge loss. When Gabe rescues Fin on the night of the storm little does she know that he will change her life forever and ultimately help her to heal and overcome the awful event she experienced in her past. Fin was a great male character strong, determined, kind and a man any woman would love to have as her support system and shoulder to cry on. Towards the end of the book Fin’s true character is revealed and he helps Gabe come to terms with the loss of Jaunty and to resolve the secret Jaunty has left behind. I don’t want to reveal too much of Jaunty’s secret but the I have to say the twist towards the end of the book made the earlier parts of Jaunty’s story much more clear. The end of the novel wraps up nicely and every character gets the ending they deserve.
I did enjoy A Cornish Stranger, it wasn’t my favourite Liz Fenwick book but I’ll still be looking out for her next release.
I'd like to thank Emma for offering to review it for me.