Reviewed by Sarah Brew
It seems a perfect afternoon in the Highlands.
Standing at the door of the lochside castle that has been his family's home for generations, Charlie Stuart welcomes his guests to the annual summer drinks party. Conversation, laughter and the clinking of glasses soon fill the air as friends and neighbours come together to toast the laird's happiness and prosperity.
But Charlie sees the truth behind the façade: the sacrifices made to safeguard the estate; the devastating losses that have haunted him for decades; the guilt that lies at the heart of it all.
And in a few hours, he knows, the perfect afternoon will come to an end. The past, with its dark secrets of love, death, loyalty and betrayal, is about to catch up with him. And it could finally tear his family apart...
It’s June 2000 and a celebration is in progress in the idyllic setting of the Sottish Highlands… but Charlie is harbouring a secret that could shatter his family’s world.
What is the secret? Enticingly, having dropped in the suggestion, the author then takes the reader back to the past to find out how events unfold and you just have to read on, having got hooked in by the suspense of the first chapter. We follow Charlie’s life over 40 years – happily, in sequence not by flashbacks which is a technique I personally dislike. As events unfold, we gradually see how the threatened situation has developed, as well as being able to understand exactly how Charlie has ended up in the situation he has – I enjoyed this gentle unfolding of his life.
The relationships are well developed and the reader can identify with the family situation; add the well depicted Highland setting and you have an eminently believable storyline. I enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter – they are varied and thought-provoking but I couldn’t always see the relevance of them and to some extent found them a distraction. My reservation is that I feel some of the storylines could have been more fully developed, leading to an even more satisfying read.
A perfect beach read, this undemanding yet engrossing story gets the reader involved from the start and, as the story develops, I engaged with the characters, most of whom are likeable and those who are not are still convincingly portrayed, and was keen for the outcome to be all that they could wish.
I'd like to thank Kerry at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of this book to review, and Sarah for reviewing it for the blog.