Saturday, 20 June 2015

Guest Book Review: Cressida McLaughlin - Sunshine and Spaniels

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Cat Palmer’s dog-walking business, Pooch Promenade is taking off. It hasn’t been plain sailing but with the help of her flatmate Joe, she’s taken on some more new clients from Primrose Terrace. But when she meets boisterous puppy Olaf, who is owned by harassed single mum Frankie, she wonders if she has bitten off more than she can chew! Cat’s also getting to know her sexy neighbour Mark and his Collie, Chips, a little better, but is there more to him than meets the eye? Perhaps sorting out her best friend Polly’s love life will be easier than her own…

Amazon link: Kindle

To say I was excited about the release of Sunshine and Spaniels by the incredibly talented Cressida McLaughlin is a huge understatement. Normally if at all possible I wait until a series of novellas are published as one whole book as in Cathy Bramley's Ivy Lane series. The reason simply being I am impatient and hate being left waiting for the next instalment with the story ending on a cliff hanger. So to make me buy each novella on release day it has to be special with a unique loveable cast of characters that become firm friends. That is what I found in part one of the Primrose Terrace series Wellies and Westies. So I was more than eager to revisit Cat and co to discover how the dog walking business was going? Was Disco as cute as ever? Was Joe still a bit on the grumpy side at times? Would we meet new characters both human and canine? Well all these questions and more were answered in this fabulous story that once again left me wanting to read more, more, more about the lives of the residents of Fairview.

There was no setting up here at all, enough of that had been done in part one. We were taken straight back to Cat Palmer as she is running an event in Fairview Park to raise awareness of her dog walking business Pooch Promenade alongside best friend Polly. Instantly I felt Cat was more confident in herself the business was beginning to take off and she knew where she wanted her future to go. Well at least on the professional side of things. Gone was the girl feeling sorry for herself having been fired from the local nursery over an incident with lovable rogue Disco. Here we have someone who is determined to do well in life whilst helping others out in any way she can. All the old characters we have previously met made a welcome reappearance with Frankie and her children Emma, Lizzie and Henry being newly introduced. I never thought there would be a dog who could rival Disco for my affections but young spaniel puppy Olaf has found his way into my heart. Totally adorable and always up to mischief and this balance between the dogs and the human stories are what make these novellas so successful and a pleasure to read. Cressida does such a fantastic job of describing all the dogs and their owners and how Cat deals with each individual personality that dog lover or not you couldn't fail to become lost in this wonderful story. I was surprised to read at the end in the author bio that the author doesn't even have a dog of her own. I loved how she described the dogs as fur kids - as important as children to their owners because my fluff ball would be exactly like that to me.

Ok so the author had the canine element of the story covered to perfection but what about the human side, well for me there were no problems here. If possible it was even stronger than part one. Joe (Polly's brother and fellow housemate) still gives Cat the cold shoulder at times but then you see his softer side starting to emerge. He tries to help Cat by drawing cartoons for her to promote the business. But underneath his rough exterior you sense there is a vulnerability and that something from his past is still haunting him and this in turn affects how he can deal with the present. I'm hoping Cat and Joe may eventually get together they seem to me destined for each other if only she could unlock what is eating away at him. At the moment though Cat's eyes are firmly set on Mark - owner of Chip and recently arrived to Primrose Terrace. He didn't feature as much in this book but I'm not all that drawn to him and I couldn't exactly say why. There is just something a bit sinister about him and maybe there is more going on with him than meets the eye.

When Cat meets Olaf's owner Frankie and her children she realises they are under enormous pressure, being a single mum is starting to take it's toll. Cat steps in his and shows her admirable qualities in wanting to help out. To me this shows Cat is kind, generous and always puts others first. She is trustworthy and loyal a bit like her canine companions and is now feeling inspired and supported by her friends and the people who employ her. If only her love life could reach the same successful heights as her business. To find out if this happens we'll have to wait for the next instalment Raincoats and Retrievers when it will be Autumn in Fairview Park. I have this on pre order already and only wish I could read it now. This series is simply the best novella I have read in a long time, I loved every minute of my time spent with Cat and co and am annoyed with myself that I read Sunshine and Spaniels so quickly. Thank you Cressida for another marvellous story. Roll on September for part three.

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