Friday, 12 February 2016

Emma's Review: A Summer at Sea by Katie Fforde

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Emily is happy with her life just as it is. 

She has a career as a midwife that she loves . She enjoys living on her own as a single woman. But she’s also feels it’s time for a change and a spot of some sea air. 

So when her best friend Rebecca asks whether she’d like to spend the summer cooking on a ‘puffer’ boat just off the Scottish coast, she jumps at the chance.

But she barely has time to get to grips with the galley before she finds herself with a lot on her plate. 

Rebecca is heavily pregnant and is thrilled to have her friend on board doing most of the work. Then there’s Emily’s competitive and jealous kitchen assistant who thinks she should be head-cook, not Emily. 

And there’s Alasdair, the handsome local doctor who Emily is desperately trying not to notice. 

Because if she falls in love with him, as he appears to be falling for her, will she ever want her old life back again?

Amazon links: Kindle or Hardcover

So we may still be languishing in the cold, dark, gloomy days of winter but Katie Fforde's new novel - A Summer at Sea is here with its cheerful bright summery cover to remind us that the warm, glistening days of Spring and Summer are just around the corner. This cover was colourful and whimsical and gave the reader a real flavour as to what was in store for us between the pages of Katie's 22nd book (excluding short stories). This book was a welcome addition to my reading list as with any new book of Katie's a fun, good natured, enjoyable read is always guaranteed. I certainly got that and a whole lot more as this was the book that took me out of my reading slump. Katie had released a gorgeous short story at Christmas entitled 'A Christmas in Disguise' which I reviewed and so I was delighted to see she had not kept her readers waiting long until her next full length novel. A Summer at Sea was a feel good read with romance and positivity at its centre, I devoured it in two sittings and was sad to leave behind the characters and such a wonderful setting in Scotland.

In the majority of Katie's books she chooses a profession to focus on, in this case midwifery and weaves this seamlessly into the overall plot. For me this is what sets Katie's books apart from other authors in this genre. Clearly a lot of research goes into her chosen subject and this adds an extra dimension to her novels and makes for an interesting read as you may not know a lot about she has written about but by the end of the book you find yourself a lot more clued in and aware of a different occupation from yours. In A Summer at Sea we are introduced to Emily who is single and living and working in the Cotswolds as a midwife. She loves her job and is dedicated to it despite the long hours. She finds it very rewarding and strongly advocates home births although not all her colleagues in the medical profession may agree with her views. Initially Emily seems happy with her lot but an incident with the husband of one of her patients combined with a run with a doctor make her begin to realise she needs a change. Emily is becoming slightly disillusioned with the opposition she seems to regularly come against as most believe home births put the mother and baby in danger. Both a change in scenery and her profession may be just the thing Emily needs. Time away to have a rest and take stock and come to a decision as to what direction she wishes both her professional and personal life may be just the thing she needs. When a call comes from best friend Rebecca urgently looking for a cook for her hotel on board a puffer boat for the Summer months, Emily feels this is destiny and just what she is looking for. Before long she finds herself transported to Scotland and to a Summer which will change everything.  But will this be the change she is searching for?

Emily was instantly likeable right from the opening chapter, she was opinionated but in a good way and ultimately wanted the best for all her patients. She was kind and most helpful to people in all sorts of situations. In fact I think she put other peoples needs way before her own so when it came to looking after herself or looking for a nice man to marry, have children and spend the rest of her life with she seemed to stumble and become unsure of herself as she was so used to caring for others. In a way she had forgotten how to relax and find her own happiness. Certainly Emily was very brave to give up her routine with her job and lovely cottage even if it was only for a few months. Yet it showed  her caring nature and that she would always help a friend in need. Rebecca had long been a close friend even though her marriage and subsequent move to Scotland had kept them apart as soon as Emily arrives they reconnect. Rebecca is expecting her third child and can no longer work within the narrow confines of a puffer boat as the boats cook. Even though cooking may not be Emily's area of expertise she gives it a good go and soon adapts to life on board and finds to her surprise she quite enjoys it as life on board proves to be anything but plain sailing.

Katie Fforde did a brilliant job of writing about the hotel on board the puffer boat. Admittedly I hadn't a clue what a puffer boat was or what it had been used for and I had to google it. Which I am glad I did because it helped me to envisage even more the delightful picture the author was creating. What really made this book a joy to read was the fact we weren't bogged down in technical boat terms. We were given just the right amount of information written in the easiest way so the reader could create their own image in their mind. Also the story was not just a rehash of every day spend on board  the boat and the various guests. Although I did love elderly Maisie who introduced Emily to fair isle knitting. Instead we are treated to a wonderful exploration of the Scottish coast and countryside (with a little help from a real loveable male character) as Emily journeys on the puffer boat and sees her view on life and her job back at home start to change. I really started to feel as if I was there alongside Emily as these few months prove to be a turning point in her life. All the secondary characters throughout the book were really well written and added to the real homely, comfortable feel created by Katie. We have Billie who works on board the boat, she appeared a bit mean at first but mellows a bit after she realises Emily is not out to get her job. James is the owner of the boat and married to Rebecca and they did have a lovely little storyline towards the end.

The best character for me alongside Emily was Alasdair – local doctor and brother to James. Too often in books men remain cold and aloof and give mixed signals but Alasdair proved to be the opposite and I think this was because he had already married before but now was a widow raising the adorable Kate. Kate was brilliant, a little girl who was not afraid to speak her mind, she was forward and blunt and spoke as if she was the wisest person in the world. The relationship that develops between her, Emily and Maisie was a delight to read. Alasadair shows Emily all that the highlands has to offer and just like Emily I found myself falling for him just that little bit and now want to move to the highlands and spend days picnicking on islands whilst searching for otters. It all seemed such a magical time, that the summer days would last forever and reality would come crashing in. Should Emily give in to her ever increasing feelings or will a life changing offer from at home force her make some big decisions?  The later half of the book really saw Emily develop as a character and I warmed to her even more. I now understood why she was so forceful in her opinions relating to her job and home births and how she wasn't going to be put down. I felt for her as she was torn in two between the idyllic life she had experienced in Scotland and the need to continue on the good work she had started in the Cotswolds. I was rooting for her to make the right decision the one which would see her find ultimate happiness but as with any good book there was plenty to play out in the later stages of the book and it kept me hooked right until the last page.

Katie Fforde has once again succeeded in writing another delightful read that will not leave her fans in the slightest way disappointed. For new readers A Summer at Sea is the perfect introduction to Katie's writing and once you have read it will be eager to devour her back catalogue. Katie has created a heart-warming story combined with vivid, beautiful descriptions and coupled with a real community feel this book was just the perfect read I needed at the time. Emily is a character who proves you don't always have to have your head rule your heart. That every opportunity should be grabbed with both hands. Do the best with everything that comes your way because you never know what remarkable, wonderful things may spring from the most unlikely of offers. Do make sure and buy this wonderful read you won't be disappointed. Hurry up Katie and write number 23 this reader is dying to see what is in store for us next.

Many thanks to Random House UK, Cornerstone for my copy of A Summer at Sea to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

1 comment:

  1. I feel the same way about this book, it's wonderful. Great review!