Reviewed by Emma Crowley
A Greek island solves all life’s problems…doesn’t it?
Winnie, Stella and Frankie have been best friends forever.
When their lives unexpectedly unravel, they spontaneously decide to buy a gorgeous B&B on a remote Greek island. Drenched in hot sun, Villa Valentina is the perfect escape from reality. But when Winnie meets Jesse, their brooding neighbour, she finds that Greece is full of its own complications – not least how attractive he is…
Meanwhile, Frankie and Stella are discovering that Villa Valentina has its own secrets – starting with the large supply of gin in the cellar and the arrival of a famous rock band. A band with one very good-looking member who just might distract Frankie from thoughts of her husband…
The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach was the first book I had read by Kat French but it won't be the last judging on how much I enjoyed this fun read which is perfect for the summer months. I'll admit there was a slight trepidation in reading this as it was my third consecutive book featuring a bed and breakfast at its centre. Although I love books with a certain theme I wondered what could Kat French bring that would make me love this book just as much if not more than the other two I had read? Well I loved it from start to finish as it was fresh and innovative and the fact it was set in a foreign hot country on the Greek island of Skelidos meant it added that extra something just that sparkle that made the story come alive on the pages.
I was mightily impressed by Kat French's writing, it was packed full of humour and laugh out loud/ cringeworthy moments. Yet when it needed to be paired back a bit and the more serious elements needed to shine the author allowed the storyline and characters to do just this. I was hooked from the prologue and raced through this book in a few hours. I could imagine so vividly Villa Valentina nestled on the beach, a bed and breakfast that just says come here, chill out, relax and forget all your worries. I don't suppose our three main female characters Winnie, Frankie and Stella knew exactly what they were in for when the initially turned up for a mini break, to say things take an unexpected turn is an understatement.
Honestly I thought this book was going to be a book about three women going on a holiday and over the course of a two week period there would be fun , laughter and a dash of holiday romance whilst at the same time they might find some closure on any problems ongoing in their lives. I couldn't have been more wrong. The prologue opens as the three arrive at Villa Valentina run by Ajax. They are here for a few days to seek sun and time away from all the things in life that had dealt them a rough hand. So far so good, I thought this is where the book is going. Next thing I know the prologue is over and the girls arrive back in England proud owners of the villa. I thought huh have I missed an entire section? How could a sunshine holiday have ended up with the women owning a property in a different country on a secluded Greek island? Ajax had worked his magic, plied them with gin and twisted their arms. Clearly he saw their vulnerability and he wanted out of the villa so he took his chance. I thought they were stark, raving mad to do what they did, clearly they weren't in the right frame of mind. OK so most of us at one stage or another could have this dream of getting away from it all and moving out to a warm country but to run a bed and breakfast with no previous experience that just seems totally crazy and more than spur of the moment to me. Winnie's half of the house from her divorce, Stella's redundancy money and Frankie's nest egg from an inheritance were all ploughed into this and for the women's sakes I hoped they could make a go of everything.
Once I got over my initial shock of what had happened and I became accustomed to who was who and their background stories I found I settled easily into the story. I was eager to see how everything would play out. Would it all just get too much and the three would return to England with their tails between their legs? Or when push comes to shove would the women prove their metal and make a go of the business and in doing so confront their demons and find some sort of fulfilment on the beautiful island. From the outset it was evident all three were out of their depth but some of the locals being friendly and helpful gave them the impetus they needed to make a go of things. After making such a big commitment they couldn't not give things a go after all.
Stella being made redundant from a job she believed offered long term security has lost all her confidence but yet underneath the persona she presents to the world there is still that hard nosed professional who wants to make a go of the business and won't take any problems lying down. When local resident Corinna needs a place for her brother to stay (as she really can't abide him) a place at the villa is provided. Immediately I could see Angelo had a huge chip on his shoulder. He was rude, abrupt, ill mannered and just not the kind of guy I would like to be stuck on holidays with. Maybe in Angelo, Stella had met her match. I loved the confrontations between the pair. Their fiery personalities were shown to full affect and it made the reader wonder could it spill over into something more given half the chance.
Back in England Winnie had been attempting to forge a career in jewellery design but events with her now ex husband Rory put a firm spanner in the works. She is now free and single but is she ready for romance? Will the villa and island be able to work its magic? When Winnie encounters neighbour Jesse whilst searching for their donkey a very hot and cold 'friendship ensues'. I really couldn't make head nor tail of Jesse and neither could Winnie. I've often read in other books that artists/creative people have strong tempers but it's not that Jesse was that way it was more the fact he was very afraid of revealing his inner self. He was hesitant to just let go and maybe explore the feelings he was experiencing. I felt sorry for Winnie that in ways she was led up the garden path and got some ideas in her head or feelings in her heart only for events to then overtake things. I was glad though that Stella and Frankie were her back up.
As for Frankie, out of the three women to me she seemed the most lost and at sea,not really knowing what to do with her life. She had become friends more than lovers with her husband and now that her twins were grown up she feels adrift and not knowing what her role/function is any more. Working front of house may make her feel safe and secure again and get some of her confidence back. She was a character who really needed to feel valued and worthwhile and that in whatever she was doing she knew she would be helping others as well as herself.
The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach proved to be a very entertaining read with characters and a setting you readily loose yourself in. I enjoyed how the three women learned to go with the flow and embrace everything the island villa were throwing at them. Unexpected guests arrive of course bringing their own troubles with them which in turn affect the women. Perhaps one of the strongest elements of the story as well as the bucket loads of humour was the discovery of a 'gin legacy' associated with the villa. I don't like gin at all but god all the mentions of it made me crave an alcoholic drink while reading this and while slapstick comedy ensued around this legacy there were also some more serious undertones which I thought gave great light and shade to the book. I'm so glad I finally took the plunge and picked up a book by Kat French. It's quite often the books you expect to be run of the mill and maybe similar to what you have read before that in fact throw up the most surprises in the nicest of ways. This book was packed full of warmth, human understanding and humour and I loved every minute of it. I'd love to hear more from the women in the future. A short Christmas novella would be lovely but in the meantime I wouldn't hesitate at all in recommending this delightful read.
Many thanks to Avon Books for my copy of The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.