Monday, 20 April 2015

Guest Book Review: Helen Rolfe - The Friendship Tree

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Is running away ever the answer? 

Tamara Harding left the UK to join family in Australia, but more importantly, to put ten thousand miles between her and her ex, Bradley Cox. She is soon drawn in to the small community of Brewer Creek where she becomes the coordinator for an old fashioned Friendship Tree – a chart telling people who they can call on in times of trouble.

 As she vows to start over, she meets Jake Manning – and life gets more complicated than she could ever have imagined. Jake is the direct competitor for the family business, and a man with a dark secret, and Tamara struggles to fight her attraction to him as she deals with secrets of her own and an ex who refuses to give up. 

When danger descends on Brewer Creek in the form of Jake’s own past, Tamara soon realises the Friendship Tree does a lot more than organise fundraising events and working bees; it has the power to unite an entire town. But will Tamara see past the complications and allow herself a happy ending with Jake? 

Or will she run away again? 

Amazon link: Kindle

The Friendship Tree is the début novel from Helen J. Rolfe. Having spent some years living in Australia she is well placed to write about this warm, exciting country. This comes across very well throughout the book, you feel as if you are right there with all the characters even though the country is thousands of miles away. Tamara Harding our main protagonist is visiting her mother and stepfather in the small town of Brewer Creek. She is a P.R executive living in London but something has made her run away. Has her high powered job gotten too much for her? Is there something more sinister at play? Well thankfully it didn't take the entire length of the book to find out. Instead we are subtly dropped hints which the reader can easily put together but it is how Tamara deals with her issues is what makes this an interesting read. Tamara is at a crossroads in her life and this trip will help her evaluate everything and see what direction her life must now take.

A whole host of characters are introduced and I felt this took a long time but on the other hand it did help develop the small town community feel. The reader could easily sense how small Brewer Creek was and that everyone had to look out for each other as they were miles away from any large city. Here is where The Friendship Tree of the title comes into play. Set up by a long term resident, Tamara takes over the job. It is a list of all the people living in the town, their contact details and various information about them. Tamara brings it bang up to date with modern technology and fund-raising events and social gatherings are held. This was such a unique idea and it was a great focus for the novel as events unfolded the residents used The Friendship Tree as a source of communication in good times and in bad. It also helped form bonds and the storyline with dear Mr. Wilson was just so heart-warming.

Having taken time to adjust, as Brewer's Creek is the polar opposite to big city London life Tamara meets new vet Jake Manning and his girlfriend April. She feels he is muscling in on her step dad’s patch as Bobby has been the town's vet for as long as she can remember. So Tamara is obviously reluctant to appear so friendly with him. From the moment we met Jake and April I knew something wasn't quite right and it was too easy to guess what was going on with them. In fact this storyline just proved frustrating as there was so much miscommunication when I just wanted Jake to admit the truth. Tamara was quite ridiculous in that she didn't find out the true facts before making rash, harsh judgements. She needed to remember that Brewer's Creek was a place where people stood by each other and would also defend themselves through the rough and smooth times. You could see a spark developing between Jake and Tamara and I wanted them to give in to it. I understand they both had issues from preventing them taking that further step but I found most of their actions annoying.

When we learn further about Tamara's relationship with ex boyfriend Bradley is when the book started getting a bit more edgy for me. It needed this element as up until this point the story was nice and pleasant as we watch Tamara adjust to Aussie life and heal her soul but some action needed to happen. It was a bit too much sweetness and light and I get that this was not a thriller or rom-com for that matter but the storyline needed to be pushed on a bit. The first part of the book had too much setting up even if we did get to know the characters well. This could have happened side by side with the main storyline. The description of the daily routines etc did become monotonous. Fortunately the last quarter of the book had a bit more action and helped bring the story together well.

Does the past come back to haunt Tamara? Do Jake and April resolve their problems? Well if you want to find out pick up this book and give it a try. The Friendship Tree was a real light, easy read, I can see the huge potential in the author but I can't say this was the best book I have read so far this year. A good story when reading at the time but not one that is overly memorable. That said I'd like to see how Helen J. Rolfe's writing style develops as there is definitely stronger things to come from her.

I'd like to thank Helen for sending us a copy of her eBook to review.

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