Mia Channing appears to have an enviable life: a beautiful home, a happy marriage, a job she enjoys and three grown-up children to whom she's devoted. But appearances can be deceptive...
When the family gathers for her son's thirtieth birthday, he brings with him his latest girlfriend, who, to their surprise, has a nine-year-old daughter. Then, before the birthday cake has even been cut, Mia's youngest daughter Daisy has seized the opportunity to drop a bombshell. It's an evening that marks a turning point in all their lives, when old resentments and regrets surface and the carefully ordered world Mia has created begins to unravel.
As mentioned in the post for Emma's review this morning, as part of the blog tour celebrations for Erica James' 20th book Song of the Skylark it was suggested that each stop also review an older Erica James book as well as her new book. Like so many other bloggers and reviewers my own personal TBR gets sadly neglected due to never having enough time to reading them so this was the perfect opportunity to do just that. When I looked at what Erica James books I had, there were two to choose from The Hidden Cottage or Summer at the Lake, so it was agreed that I would finally read and review The Hidden Cottage which I'd actually won on Goodreads nearly 3 years ago so long overdue to be read!
Set in the village of Little Pelham we are introduced to Mia Channing and her family, newcomer Owen who brings with him an air of mystery, an entertaining cast of villagers, and who could forget the village peacock Putin who patrols the village staking his claim. I love books with a sense of community feel to them, so the descriptions of Little Pelham sounded picture perfect especially those revolving around The Hidden Cottage and the lake.
From the minute Owen purchased The Hidden Cottage without even viewing it, he set tongues wagging as to who he was and why he bought it. It's a place with happy memories for him as he first discovered the cottage and its original occupants over thirty years previously when he'd lived in the village as a child and he'd always wanted to return. Is The Hidden Cottage everything that he remembered and will he find the peace he's looking for?
Mia has always put her family first but she finally put her foot down when husband Jeff took a job in Brussels without even telling her about it, so she now stays in the village on her own during the week whilst he does a weekly commute returning home at weekends. As her children have all flown the nest it's now her time to shine and do what she wants to do, setting up and making a success of her own business selling hats for special occasions. And who knows she might one day be able to wear one herself soon especially as all three of her children are now settling down themselves.
It was clear that each of the Channing children, Jensen, Eliza and Daisy, had difficult and complex relationships with their father but the one thing they had in common was that it was always Mia who has had to be the peacemaker or the go-between. So it's hardly surprising that when the family gets together to celebrate Jensen's 30th birthday, they are all relieved that Jeff couldn't make it but Mia finds that she's still got that role to play as announcements are made that will have a major impact on all of their lives.
I will admit that there were parts of this story that left me with mixed feelings but I can't really go into why without giving away spoilers but putting aside my misgivings about certain elements of the storyline, The Hidden Cottage turned out to be a completely different read than I first expected. I was expecting romance to be at the heart of it, which there was for quite a few of the characters, but there was so much more on offer in this drama-filled story with love, loss and heartbreak at the heart of it. Overall a pleasant enough read for a dreary bank holiday weekend.