Monday, 10 August 2015

HI Readathon: A Cottage in the Country by Linn B. Halton

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

What do you do when your best friend has an affair with your husband of twenty-five years?

Well, you pack your bags, grab half of the equity in the house you've both lovingly restored and run away to an idyllic little cottage in the country.

Only, it’s not quite so idyllic when

1) Rustic charm sounds rather romantic, but the reality is something else …

2) The heavens decide to open on moving day and the rain just keeps on coming

Maddie Brooks grits her teeth and hires the highly recommended 'man who can', ex-soldier, Lewis Hart. As he rips out the very shabby, and decidedly not-so-chic kitchen, reality sets in. Not only is he the most abrupt person she's ever met, but the man is a Neanderthal!

As the flood waters rise, and the village is cut off, everything that could possibly go wrong, does.

Hitting the big five-o is the final straw. No presents, family or friends—just infuriating Lewis, who can’t leave because the flood has now cut off his exit. How on earth is she going to get through this and put her life back together?

Can Maddie Brooks become that ‘fifty-and-fabulous’ woman of her dreams?

Amazon link: Kindle

Harper Impulse certainly do fabulous book covers and yet again this is what attracted me to Linn B. Halton's A Cottage in the Country. After finishing this book I discovered a different cover on Goodreads which is equally as beautiful showing the cottage surrounded by snow, although what this has to do with the book I'm not that sure considering rain and flooding dominates a lot of the story. Most of the books I have chosen to read for the Harper Impulse Readathon all seem to feature a woman moving to the country and buying a cottage to do up. A chance to start over again in their lives. I'm not against reading similar storylines but some have had more success than others. For the most part I enjoyed this story from Linn and would like to read more of her books in the future. I definitely felt the book was split into two parts, the first half focusing on our main character Maddie's move to Ash Cottage and all the mishaps and troubles that befall her. Whereas the second half totally change in tone and became more character driven, at times some events were unbelievable and Maddie's actions infuriated me. But it all added some excitement and a bit more depth to the story.

When we first encounter Madeleine Brooks she is navigating the perils of the motorway single handedly on her way to view what she believes will be her dream new home Ash Cottage. Right from the get go there was humour galore and the incident with the man in the car on the motorway had me chuckling away to myself. I thought the book would be all humour from here on in but as I have mentioned the latter half took on a more serious note as Maddie weathers the storms relationships often present us with. Maddie is searching for peace and tranquillity, a place where she can get away from the recent hurt in her personal life. It is a time for change and to re-evaluate everything and to decide where does she go from here now that her cosy routine of domesticity has been shattered by her husband's affair with her best friend no less. I sensed Maddie had been a person who put everyone else before her own needs and aspirations and now that her sons were grown up she is at a loss as to what to do. She believed her future was secure with her husband but life does not always go the way we plan it to. Maddie immediately falls in love with the cottage and a part of me did too. Linn describes its setting and surroundings perfectly and although there is a lot of renovation work to be done Maddie feels she can make a go of it.  The house project will take her mind off recent events and help reassert her confidence after such a major knock down. No longer will she be walked all over and give so much and receive nothing in return. This is a woman who needs change. But Maddie can not do all the work on her own and in steps handsome, mysterious Lewis Hart. He is a closed book, angry at first but once he begins to thaw boy did I love him.

Lewis presented a stand offish, arrogant front but I just knew he was hiding things and it's not until way later in the book do we discover his past and I loved how everything tied together. Lewis is a complicated character that Maddie needs to unravel and in doing so might just find some happiness for herself. Lewis agrees to renovate the cottage for Maddie and he seems to love to wind her up and argue over things. Every few chapters we get Lewis's take on things. This was a great addition to the book to get the male perspective and to see how he viewed Maddie and everything she was trying to achieve with the cottage. It also helped the reader to understand a little bit more about him and why he acts the way he does. It helped endear him to me as only viewing him Maddie's perspective gave me the wrong impression of him altogether. The book moves along at a gentle pace as there numerous problems surrounding moving in day and deliveries etc. What becomes a dominant feature of the book is rain, rain, rain and flooding, I felt there was too much of this. There were endless chapters where it continued to rain and that's all that was described. I know it was essential to the plot line but I'd had enough. When the road closes and Maddie is cut off that's when I felt the book took a huge step forward and became more character driven but at the same time some of her actions seemed to go against her the character we had being reading up until this point. She angered me and I resented what she did. In fact it turned me off her a little bit.

Maddie's boss Ryan makes plenty of appearances throughout the book. His charcater only served to make Maddie more indecisive in terms of her personal life. I didn't like Ryan at all he seemed too good to be true with his only ulterior motives. After all Maddie was his employee yet he went out of his way to visit and help her. I knew who I wanted Maddie to find her happiness with and I was hoping for my desired outcome. In the later half I felt the character of Maddie went off track and she lost the run of herself altogether. I realise the thoughts of being alone scare her and so do the thoughts of setting put on a new path. But the way she went about she seemed to jump around too much and didn't follow her heart rather her head which to me was not always leading her to her intended destination. At the first sign of double attention she forgot her values and gave in which was not like the lovely character I had been reading about up until this point.  It annoyed me that she could treat people the way she did and the second surprise did not seem realistic at all. I wanted to sit her down and say cop yourself on look at all you have been through and achieved and then you do something wild and silly like this.

The second part of the book fell flat for me and the plot somewhat fell apart in my opinion. Towards the end I finished a chapter, clicked the page and felt hold on have I missed a chapter or two? It was like whole scenes had been missed out, I even checked with a friend who had read the book and she was in agreement with me. So to me the ending was rushed and tied up far too quickly.It needed more fleshing out getting inside the characters heads some more. As for Maddie's neighbours at Bay Tree Barn Joan and Terence I still can't figure them out. I'm sorry to say they came across as weirdo's. Maybe there was a part to their story that went over my head but to me they were surplus to requirements. Overall I enjoyed the first half of this book and most definite the chapters told from Lewis's point of view but the second half left me deeply unsatisfied. After so much promise the storyline filtered out. Yes I got some romance but I didn't get the warm feeling inspired by the cover or parts of this book the whole way through and I missed that. A Cottage in the Country is a pleasant enough read for a summer afternoon but sadly not my most memorable of summer 2015.

I'd like to thank Emma for reviewing A Cottage in the Country which we received from the publisher via NetGalley.    

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