Friday, 30 June 2017

Emma's Review: The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse by Cressida McLaughlin

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Robin Brennan has come home to Campion Bay. Now her parents have retired, she’s set to become the new landlady of The Campion Bay Guesthouse.

Bookings have been as thin as the hand towels, and it doesn’t take long for Robin to realise that the place needs a serious makeover. Perhaps throwing herself into the task will help to heal her sadness at the tragic end to her dreams in London.

As she gives the guesthouse a new lease of life, Robin encounters old friends and new, including old flame Tim, who’d clearly like to reboot their romance. But what about Will, the new arrival at No. 4, who’s rocked up with the cutest dog ever?

Caught up in a flurry of full-English breakfasts and cream teas, Robin’s never sure what, or who, the next check-in will bring…

Amazon links: Kindle or Paperback

I don't know how I did it given how much I have loved Cressida McLaughlin's previous two books but somehow I managed to hold on until her third story The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse was published in its entirety. I'm certainly glad I did because I don't know how I could have beared to finish a part only then to have to wait months for the next instalment. I loved this new book with it's brilliant setting and wonderful characters just as much as her Primrose Terrace and Canal Boat Café series.

Cressida writes in such a way that has you instantly drawn into the story and soon rapidly turning the pages to discover what happens next. Each section always ends on a cliff hanger and it was with relief that I was able to keep reading on. All the warmth and charm I have come to know and love from the author's writing was once again here in abundance and this time the story focuses on a guest house. The settings of guest houses or bed and breakfasts seem to be the in theme this year for books in this genre just like cafés may have been in the past. Not that I am complaining as this is the third book I have read with a guest house at its centre and I am loving them all. The Campion Bay Guesthouse is the focal point for Robin Brennan as she returns from London to Campion Bay to get away from everything and in doing so she hopes to push her own personal problems/demons firmly to the back of her mind.

Robin's parents have run the Campion Bay Guesthouse for many years and now they feel it is time to retire to France and enjoy the fruits of their labour. Bookings are way down from what they used to be and they believe they have done all they can. What's needed is something fresh and innovative and Robin may just be the person to continue on her parents legacy but in doing so can bring her new ideas to the fore. In London Robin had run the Once in a Blue Moon luxury events company but things have fallen apart and she feels by returning home she is coming back to familiar ground, some sort of security and safety will be there but her parents news provides Robin with decisions to be made or maybe the challenge and push she needs to get back out there and get her creative juices flowing and her talents put to good use again.

I can see why Robin felt at such a crossroads in her life given the circumstances surrounding the events in London leading to the closure of her business. Her energy levels both mentally and physically were low and there comes a point where one thinks do I carry on? What is the point? It was almost as if her parents planned their timing to leave to perfection as Robin couldn't let such an opportunity go as to turn around the fortunes of the guest house with an overhaul, redecorating and re-branding with the new name. I felt the further we got into the story we could see a spark ignite once again within Robin and I enjoyed how she was determined to see her big idea through to the end. She came across as someone who needed something to get her teeth stuck into and throughout the journey or process of achieving her goals she could achieve some sort of happiness.

Two things this author does so well with her writing is setting and of course characters. Campion Bay proved to be a charming coastal village that had a lot going for it and I enjoyed how various characters were brought into the story. Even if they were just mentioned in passing or featured more prominently. Those that got one line made me think could there be more to come in the future from them? Molly from the beauty parlour played a pivotal role. It was great to see her as the backup and support system to Robin when things didn't always go to plan and when a positive end never seemed to be about to materialise. As Robin redecorates the rooms in the hopes of many guests to come I thought the connection between the rooms and her old job was just so poignant and perfect. The themes of The Rockpool Room, Sea Shanty, Wilderness Canvas, Andalusia and Starcross just fitted in so well with the overall themes of the book and made me wish the guest house was real and that one day I could pay a visit. Cressida certainly nailed the imagery and connections throughout the book and more than once they brought a smile to my face and had me nodding along and thinking these sentiments are so true and so real.

Of course a book by Cressida would not the page turner they always are if there wasn't some ups and downs both in terms of the business and of course some romance and here was no different. Robin's ex Tim, a real estate agent, appears back on the scene and from the outset I didn't like him at all. He had ulterior motives and hidden agendas. I hoped Robin wasn't foolish enough to think his charms could win her over again, I wanted her heart to rule over her head. Tim in my mind only wanted the sale of the house next door so he could further his career. Tabitha had lived in number four Goldcrest Road for years and now she has gone the house has been left to her nephew the delectable Will Nightingale. Unfortunately the house is a wreck so Will has to take a room in the guest house. So ensues plenty of twists and turns and frustrating misunderstandings and miscommunication. Time and time again things were taken the wrong way or blown out of proportion. Of course Robin and her friends didn't want a house with a blue plaque sold for redevelopment but I think Will overheard things he shouldn’t have and presented the cold shoulder instead of discovering the truth. Of course if he had done that we wouldn't have had the engaging story this turned out to be. Robin showed her caring, nurturing side with regards to Will and I loved how she was willing to help him out with the house. It was interesting to see a bond slowly develop but then for events and words to turn everything on their head.

The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse was an utter joy to read from start to finish. I became fully invested in all of the characters and wanted nothing but good to happen to them. It was great everything wasn't all plain sailing as that wouldn't have been very reflective of true life. It really did come across that the author was enjoying the writing of this story and really wanted her readers to love it too. Long time readers will delight in this story but also new readers to Cressida's work will love this book. It's the perfect summer time read. Not to heavy going that will leave you needing to put the book down but instead it has just that edge to it to give the reader something to get their teeth in to whilst at the same time achieving a nice balance of lightness and romance and of course fun and mishaps and mayhem. With such a bright, inviting cover this will catch plenty of people's eyes on bookshelves in the coming weeks it's just brilliant to be able to say the content lives up to the cover and title. I read somewhere Cressida is working on something Christmas based which is great news as it won't be too long until my next fix of her brilliant writing.

Many thanks to Harper Collins for my copy of The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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