Thursday, 3 September 2015

Guest Book Review: Cressida McLaughlin - Raincoats and Retrievers

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

It’s autumn and Primrose Terrace has never looked lovelier. But things are far from rosy for the Barker’s at No.6. Cat’s been walking their pair of gorgeous Golden Retrievers and she’s noticed that things are distinctly chilly between owners Juliette and Will. For Cat, things are coming to a head with Mark, but is he the right man for her? Especially as she is getting closer to flatmate Joe. Cat thinks she must be able to do something to stop autumn falling on the Barker’s marriage, but is there anything she can do to resolve her feelings about Mark?

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As Summer draws to a close and once again the Autumn nip is in the air we make our third visit to Fairview and the residents of Primrose Terrace in Cressida McLaughlin's Raincoats and Retrievers. This series is chock full of fantastic characters, both human and canine, and it was no surprise that Cressida drew me back in immediately to the increasingly interesting goings on in the lives of Cat and co. Yes these novellas can be read as standalones (but you really should start with Wellies and Westies so as not to miss out on any of the fun) and normally I would hold out until the release of the full length edition but not in this case as soon as I finish each episode I am just longing for more, more, more. Cressida's writing is engaging and keeps me gripped from beginning to end and just like the novels of Alexandra Browne they have that special something that gives you that warm glow inside.

Fairview and Primrose Terrace is just the most perfect setting for this series, I can picture it all clearly in my head – the park and beach where Cat walks the dogs, the ice cream and also each residents house. At this stage I feel these characters are old friends and it came across in this story. There was less setting up to do. The author just got on with things and more or less continued the story from where we had left off in book two. For those who are new to the ups and downs that follow Cat Palmer everywhere there a few lines slotted in here and there in the beginning which will bring you bang up to date. But for me I just dove straight in. There were numerous questions left unanswered when last we left Cat and after reading this I feel there are even more. I did enjoy this book as is evident I read it in an hour or two one evening but I did feel it lacked just a small amount of the charm from the first two stories. It was as if the author was holding back slightly for the final installment and everything that has been put into place will be unleashed/resolved in a big way come the release of Tinsel and Terriers.

Cat's professional life is going from strength to strength with her dog walking business Pooch Promenade. It allows her to get away from things that may be going on at home or in her romantic life. But Cat's inquisitive nature really comes to the fore here as new clients Will and Juliette Barker with their adorable golden retrievers seem to be having marital problems. Cat being the kind of girl she is just can't help but stick her nose in and try and solve the problem. The same goes for her flatmate Polly, she wants to set her up with hunky Owen but Polly is tired and stressed after her recent exams and maybe might want to sort out her own love life. 

I can see Cat has such good nature in her and only wants the best for everyone and I hate saying this but unlike in the other novellas she did begin to frustrate me a bit. She almost became a bit too nosy as per the reaction of Juliette when she discovers Cat has been meddling. I wanted Cat to start thinking more about her own romantic endeavours. She needed to be honest and truthful in this department and confront Mark. Mark has been featured in each book along with his dog Chips. Cat professes to have strong feelings for him but we seem to be no further along with this relationship. Mark comes and goes from London where he is working on a film script (or so he says) and promises he will bring Cat on lots of dates as he says he really does like her. Yes we read of one date but he disappears then for most of the book. Being honest I really don't like Mark and can't for the life of me see the traits that made Cat like him. He seems too good to be true and smarmy and in a way has such high expectations of Cat whereas she is just a down to earth pleasant girl. He seems to be leading her up the garden path and toying with her emotions. Cat can do so much better and I believe there is someone lurking in the wings who would fulfil that role very nicely.

Raincoats and Retrievers features an abundance of canine characters and for me Paddlepuss was the star of the book. Just too cute for words. Cressida has such love for all her characters and the dogs themselves are almost human like in their qualities and storylines, Although Mr.Jasper doesn't seem to be a fan of dogs and Cat has only to be admired for the actions she takes if only she could be as gutsy with Mark. Admittedly this may have not have been my favourite of the series so far it still is a really enjoyable read that I know people will love.

From the ending we are certainly left on a cliffhanger and everything is set in place for what promises to be a fantastic conclusion to the series. I'm hoping we'll finally find out why Joe is so against dogs and I have my fingers crossed that Cat will find some happiness with the man that I believe is meant for her. Not long to wait until I discover the answers to all my questions as October 22nd sees the release of the concluding instalment. I'm patiently waiting already.

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