Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Emma's Review: Summer at the Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

When sisters Sam and Nessie left the city lights to take over The Star and Sixpence pub in Little Monkham, little did they realise they'd be taking on the villagers too... 

Thrown in at the deep end with a wedding to organise at the same time as launching their new hotel rooms, the last thing they need is Sam's past catching up with them.

As the scandal strikes, the only question is will the villagers stick their necks out for two relative newcomers? Or will Franny, the terrifying postmistress, see them gone for good... 

Amazon link: Kindle 

It really has felt like the longest of waits for the release of part two of Holly Hepburn's Star and Sixpence series but at last Summer at the Star and Sixpence is here. Yes I know there was a Valentine's story but it was super short and didn't have enough length to move the story on at all. So I'm viewing this new book as a continuation from where we left off all those months ago. Last November we were introduced to sisters Nessie and Sam who had recently inherited their dad's pub in the small village of Little Monkham. I would dare to describe it as sleepy but I can't because the residents all have their stories to tell and love helping people out even if it means getting a little too involved with things some others may wish best kept private. With it being six months since I had read the first part of this series I will admit to rereading my review of Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence to refresh my memory as I had read so many books since then and it was difficult to remember the finer details of the plot and the various characters. 

I know this book is titled Summer at the Star and Sixpence and we are following the sisters as they navigate their first year in a business they never expected to take on from an estranged father but still I think such a long gap between books is demanding a lot from faithful readers. It needs to be a special kind of book to capture readers hearts and make them want to return for part two and beyond. That atmosphere and sense of village community and spirit was there in abundance in part one and I was sincerely hoping the same could be said for part two. I was hoping that once again the book would be warm and inviting and that the story would move on a bit and give me some answers to the numerous questions raised previously. Will Sam and Nessie make a success of the pub and become part of village life? Just what exactly was the history the sisters had with their father that leaves them with so much resentment and with such a contrasting opinion of that of the villagers? Finally would romance blossom for the pair or would hesitancy still have its role to play?

We reunite with Sam and Nessie as they prepare for the busy Summer season in the village. A big wedding is on the horizon for JoJo and Jamie, and Sam and Nessie are hoping JoJo will give the pub a favourable review which will be seen by many of her followers and readers. The girls are slowly becoming accustomed to life in Little Monkham and how the residents like to deal with things but they still can't fathom why so many people got on with and respected their father. Obviously he was a completely changed man from the alcoholic father who abandoned them but sadly he is no longer there to justify himself to his two daughters. The pub is doing well enough but the girls feel it needs a change as they want to attract more business so they decide to renovate the rooms above the pub in the hopes of bringing more visitors to the village and pub. Their first guests being the newly-weds with their wedding only weeks away. The pressure is on Sam and Nessie to have everything ready and make sure the wedding is the event of the season. 

The two sisters are complete opposites of each other. Nessie is more wary and conservative and doesn't like to rush head first into things rather standing back and viewing things as a whole before she makes any rash decisions. She is getting on well with local blacksmith Owen Rhys and that spark from the first story is still there but overall I felt nothing much happened between them besides so much indecision and unwillingness to follow their hearts. You really just wanted to bang their heads together and shout at them forget the past and move forward. There is nothing holding you back except your reluctance to come straight out with the truth and express your true feelings. I know everything can't be solved so early on in the series with two more stories to come but they are a frustrating pair as everyone including Owen's sister Kathryn can see that Nessie and Owen are destined for each other.

As I mentioned Sam and Nessie are poles apart and it is Sam who is confident and together and can see the pub needs to change with the times to continue to be successful. But in this story it is Sam who discovers that things from the past no matter how well buried or the attempts to keep things a secret can always come back to haunt you. In the previous story we had been given tantalising teasers as to an event in her past which has deeply affected Sam but one which she wishes to remain hidden from her new friends and her new man Joss, the pub's cellarman. Things came to a head here and finally things got a bit juicy and there was something the reader could get their teeth into as I had felt the story was lacking something for the first half of the book. Nothing much had happened and it just seemed to miss that little bit of sparkle I had enjoyed in the previous story. 

Twists and turns started to appear and the reader saw a new side to Sam. I didn't like what was happening to her or the long term consequences/fallout of events but there are two sides to every story and I suppose if you do something like Sam unbeknownst to you or not things will always have a way of coming back to bite you when you least expect it. On the other hand Sam was admirable in the way she dealt with things. I liked how she just got on with things and knew she had to do everything in her power to stop things getting out of hand even if it meant upsetting some people. Sam put herself first and at last was beginning to see so what if the residents of the village including postmistress and formidable chairperson of the Little Monkham Preservation Society had an issue with herself and her sister. They were here to do their best and past events should not and would not hinder their lives in the present. The Star and Sixpence represents a new beginning and a chance for growth both personally and professionally for the sisters but there is still a long way to go.

Summer at the Star and Sixpence was a nice easy read but for me was slightly lacking in that warm, cosy feeling I had experienced in part one. I didn't get a sense of the story moving on only towards the end instead there was a feeling of filling in pages for the first half and then things finally started to happen towards the end. I realise there are two more parts to come and the author may be holding out and wanting to keep the readers guessing but a bit more life was needed in the story to recreate the magical feeling I had experienced previously. I'm not saying I disliked the story but for me it wasn't as strong as Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence. I feel we need to hear a bit more from other characters instead of having them in the background as they must have stories of their own to tell, maybe this will come in the future. 

The author did nail the descriptions of the village and pub and surrounding areas particularly the bluebell woods but overall for me a little more action was needed. I think you would be better to read part one before reading this to get a better overall picture of the characters and their story lines. Yes background information was supplied but to enjoy the stories both parts need to be read together. So despite not finding this book to be what I expected I'll still be on the lookout for part three – Autumn at the Star and Sixpence which arrives in September as I am invested into how the story will turn out and I look forward to returning to Little Monkham.

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for our copy of our copy of Summer at the Star and Sixpence to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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