Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Welcome to beautiful Hope Island where the sea sparkles, the daffodils are blooming and a blossoming romance is just around the corner…
Bella has always had a sunny outlook and caring nature, despite recently falling on hard times. When she finds a handsome homeless man on her doorstep, her kind heart tells her she must help him. So, she invites Isaac into her cottage and into her life in ways she could never have imagined…
But Isaac is not what he seems. He’s keeping a huge secret from Bella, yet he never expected to fall for this open, generous and charming woman.
Bella can’t ignore the chemistry between her and Isaac, but she’s had her trust badly broken in her past. Will she run when she learns the truth about Isaac, or will he be the one man who can help Bella believe in love again?
So if the colourful and stunning cover for Spring at Blueberry Bay by Holly Martin doesn't immediately grab your attention and scream read me now, then the opening chapter certainly will. I was drawn straight into the story on the very first page as we meet Bella Roussel aged 29. She has grown up on Hope Island in the isles of Scilly and loves it there but recent events in her past have tarnished her outlook on life and she is at that breaking point where if a job doesn't materialise she really doesn't know what she can do. Even within the first chapter I felt we really got to know an awful lot about Bella and how she thinks and feels and how she has reached the point she is at today.
At the same time Holly Martin created such a lovely picture of Hope Island that I think every reader wishes it was real so they could go on holiday or if lucky enough to move there. With names like Buttercup Beach, Mistletoe Cove, Blueberry Bay and even the horse shoe shaped rainbow cottages where Bella lived with their unique names just seemed so magical and a place where all your worries would disappear. Sadly though this wasn't the case for Bella her worries only seem to be growing stronger as searching for a new job hasn't been as fruitful as she would have wished. An incident from her previous job that she has become tarnished with (even though she had been cleared of all blame) has prevented any of her applications being successful. But is this all about to change as an interview for The Umbrella Foundation – a charity working to help the homeless is on the horizon but will everything go to plan. Bella has almost been in a cocoon of her own making in recent months and now it may just be her time to emerge and shine and shoe everyone what an incredible woman she truly is.
I really felt there was no messing around here with the usual endless setting up that often is found in a book in this genre. The author really got straight down to business and slotted in the back-story where needed. It brought the story forward rather than pushing it backwards and it remained like this for the rest of the book. Instantly I loved Bella as our main female heroine, she was clearly going through so much and her childhood had clearly impacted the person she was today. She was kind, caring and always there for others putting their needs first but I loved how her family siblings - Rome and Eden and her parents were always there for her. Rome could see Bella was struggling and helped her out but in the most unobtrusive way possible as he knew Bella still had her pride and wouldn't want to be worrying others. But when someone has resorted to selling anything of value and is now down to her last bag of porridge as her only source of food you can't stand back and let someone go on like this and I'm glad Rome didn't.
If Bella gets this job hopefully it would turn her life around. On her way back to Blossom Grove with her cottage full of books which would never be sold ' Books also don't judge her for being different. They were loyal, steadfast and always made her feel happy' Bella sees a homeless man sitting outside and this is where her true nature shines through. Bella although she more or less has nothing herself invites the man in and offers him food and to have a shower and get himself sorted. My instant gut reaction was woah what on earth are you doing Bella? That is so dangerous and foolish? But I suppose given the nature of her previous job and the charity she now wants to work for Bella felt she could but do nothing else. This spur of the moment decision will change Bella's life for ever and I couldn't read the pages fast enough to discover would Bella find the happiness she so clearly deserved.
This man that was waiting at the door whose real name is Issac was instantly likeable. OK I'll go further than saying likeable he was drop dead gorgeous and had a personality to match. I had glanced through some reviews before reading the book and everyone was mentioning how Issac was 'the' book boyfriend and everyone would love him. I thought hmm I'm not sure of the use of the term book boyfriend, it seemed so clichéd and over used. How can a reader really fall that so much in love with a fictional character? Boy was I wrong and I'll admit it. I fell head over heels for Issac and I could see why Bella had similar feelings. It was just so unfortunate as to how they met and the fact that Issac had to lie to her. He had created a perfectly reasonable scenario and I wished he had come clean earlier to her but he seemed to dig himself into such a deep hole that it was difficult to get out of it. Bella wears her heart on her sleeve. She is honest and open and I could see why she was really hurt when the truth comes to light. Yet the intensity between the pair when they are at the cottage only gets stronger and stronger throughout the story that you know something will have to give.
There is such a connection between the pair it was oozing from the pages. It all felt so real and you could only wish that you would experience the same in life at one point or other. Given that Bella was so deeply hurt in her past, and now has little or no friends bar her family, and the scars of her past are still clearly visible you wonder whether she can let herself go and open herself up to such a deep what could be lasting love? This must have been really hard to even attempt and the reader can see there is always that niggle growing ever more persistent at the back of her heart and in her mind saying don't let yourself get hurt again, you're better off the way you are. Surely allowing love in is much better than the situation Bella finds herself in when we first meet her?
Spring at Blueberry Bay was packed full of humour as well as plenty of steamy, intense scenes. Don't get me wrong this wasn't overdone or could be likened to some of those books you see with covers of topless men. That's a whole other genre. These intense scenes needed to be there and they really did help the reader get a feel for the emotions and situations the characters were going through and in a way resistance was futile. As for the humour I mentioned it's not often I laugh out loud at a book but here I did several times over. Oh poor poor Bella when she goes for the interview a weaker woman may have just given up, sat down on the floor and cried but no she kept going. In a way I was mortified for her but it showed her strength of character and how she really wanted the job.
When Bella gets the job even though things are very complicated I loved how another side of her character came into play demonstrating just how much of a multi layered person she really was. Her ideas for raising money were creative and inspiring. That Pokemon Go type Easter Hunt was ingenious and really someone should jump on it and make it a reality. Towards the end this was used in such an incredible way that it couldn't fail to melt even the most hardened of hearts. I loved how everything began to unfold and how things weren't plain sailing. I was there with Bella every step of the way. I laughed alongside her and yes even shed a tear or two. As for Issac well I think anyone who reads this book will want an Issac in their lives. Why can't he be real and come waltzing into my life one day? His gesture with a dog was easily the most incredibly romantic thing I have ever read. It was so heartfelt and although some may think this was a simple gesture it was so much more than that and my heart melted when he did it. I sincerely wished Bella's fear of love, of letting people or even mixing business with pleasure wouldn't prove to be huge stumbling blocks in the path to find true love and happiness.
There were other characters mentioned and normally I would want more of their story but this was truly the story that belonged to Bella and Issac and so it didn't bother me in the slightest that there wasn't more people featured. The spotlight was placed firmly on a pair that you wished you could be friends with in real life and Holly certainly made me feel as if I knew every little detail of their lives. The characters were warm and lovable and that's the overall feeling I got from this book as well.
Spring at Blueberry Bay was utter perfection from beginning to end. In a genre where we are flooded with books on a daily basis and at times a genre which I think is becoming slightly jaded and the usual love story has been done to death Holly Martin is a breath of fresh air. It takes a lot for me to rave about a love story these days in the chick lit genre as I feel they have become too repetitive and predictable. This wasn't the case with Spring at Blueberry Bay. The author has written with such flair creating the fabulous setting of Hope Island and with characters you truly care about and only want good things for. Holly has that magic writing touch that will want you coming back for more time and time again.
I said Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky was the best Christmas book I have ever read and now Spring at Blueberry Bay is up there as one of my favourite Holly Martin books. It blew me away and I hope my return visit to Hope Island in the summer will do the same all over again.
Many thanks to Bookouture via NetGalley for my copy of Spring at Blueberry Bay to review and to Sharon foe having my review on the blog.