Saturday, 1 July 2017

Emma's Review: The Little Bed & Breakfast by the Sea by Jennifer Joyce

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Mae loves running her little Bed & Breakfast, it’s the perfect place to raise her adorable four-year-old daughter! And no matter how persistently local vet, Alfie, chases her, she just doesn’t have time for men in her life.

Willow is busy building her dream home with her husband, Ethan, but with every month that passes she secretly worries that her happy ever after will never come true…

Melody only intended to stay in the bustling seaside town for a few days to capture the perfect photo. But when she meets Hugo – the charming man in the ice cream van – she decides to stay a little longer!

One thing is for sure, summer at the little Bed & Breakfast by the sea certainly has a few surprises in store…

Amazon link: Kindle

Jennifer Joyce certainly hasn't kept us waiting long for a new book as it was only back in February that The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts was published. I had really enjoyed this book so was thrilled when I saw the cover for The Little Bed and Breakfast by the Sea which again turned out to be charming, heartfelt read that I flew through as I found it so enjoyable. I've said it before but bed and breakfasts seem to be this Summer's theme for books published in the lighter end of women's fiction and to be honest I don't have any problem with this and feel there is plenty of room on the market for books with said theme. They really are the ideal reads for this time of year when you can hopefully sit out in the garden or on a beach and just relax with a nice, light, easy read that will capture your imagination, have you rooting for the characters and most importantly it has to have that special setting that one can picture so vividly. This little gem of a book provided all that more and proved to be a lovely read and highlighted what a talented author Jennifer Joyce is.

The book centres around three women who are all connected through the bed and breakfast run by our central character Mae. Mae has always dreamed of running her own b&b and when she inherited the house from her grandmother four years ago, she knew it was the time to turn her dreams into a reality. The house may be small but it has its charm and allows Mae to get to know her guests. Life isn't easy for her as everything is a constant juggling act as she raises her 4 year old daughter single handedly as well as working in a local pub.

It was evident from the outset that Mae was a worker, she was someone who had ambition and nothing was ever handed directly to her on a plate. She worked hard and earned everything she received. She wanted to achieve things on her own steam but still she was not adverse to asking for help with child minding from her mother Eloise or Hannah's godparents Frank and Corrine who run the pub Mae works in. I loved how Mae was interested in vintage fashion and her sense of style shone through the book but yet on the other hand I felt and she probably would have admitted this herself that she presented a front to the world. I think quite often most of us to some extent do that for one reason or another so in a way I could identify with Mae. On the outside she came across to others as confident running her own business as well as juggling rearing Hannah and her shifts at the pub. But on the other hand inside she was holding things back and not allowing herself to live life to the full.

As we delved deeper it became apparent not having a good relationship with male figures in her life has made Mae so hesitant in accepting the advances of local vet Alfie. To this end she was frustrating to me at certain times, I could see there was a chemistry between the pair. I wouldn't call it a sexual tension but there was a spark there that could have grown into something bigger given half the chance but Mae just wouldn't commit or even accept a date with him. It became a running joke throughout the story that Alfie constantly asked Mae on a date even though the answer would always be a firm but polite no. I wanted to shake Mae and say despite what we may be battling with internally sometimes we really do have to throw caution to the wind and go for it. Explore that little bit more, take a leap into the unknown for who knows what happiness it might bring us in the future. I could see Mae had her daughter's best interest at heart and she was always to be admired for the way she conducts her professional life but I thought she should have  thought about herself and her own personal happiness and fulfilment. I was more than interested to see how Mae's storyline would play out.

Of course this book wasn't all about Mae and in a way I'm glad the b&b wasn't the dominant feature of the story. If it had been a story all about trying to get it up and running etc I would have grown tired of it quickly. Instead it became the focus that bound the women together and gave them a place to develop their friendship and offer each help, support and advice when needed. Without the b&b the three women would never have met and probably be still stuck in the same situations we found them in at the beginning of the book.

Willow St.Clair is married to Ethan and they are currently restoring their dream house. They have been living on site but disaster has struck and now Willow needs to find somewhere to stay until the full extent of the problems with the house have been revealed. Being the summer season everywhere is booked up but an unexpected cancellation means Mae can take Willow as her husband is away working. To be honest there was nothing wrong with the writing of Willow's character but I didn't really warm to her very much and I can't quite put my figure on the reason for this. I did find the descriptions of her job running her own restoration/up cycling shop really interesting but I felt there was a little lack to the depth of her character until towards the end when her secret heartache was revealed. Then I suppose my attitude towards her changed ever so slightly but still she wasn't my favourite character that title is reserved for Mae. I did find it odd that wee didn't hear much from Ethan, I understand he was working away from home but in a time f need I presumed he would have come rushing back to help Willow out. Clearly all wasn't rosy in the garden for the pair and the testing times ahead would either make or break them. I thought Mae and our last female character Melody offered Willow the support and solace her husband should have been there to give to her.

Melody Rosewood is the final piece of the puzzle brought together with Mae and Willow as she needs a room to stay in. Melody was to me the most vulnerable character and I think she was this way because she seemed to be running away from something or was afraid to move on in her life. Something had happened to her that deeply affected how she lived her life on a day to day basis. She seemed on a mission and until she had completed this task she would always be raw and hesitant and not sure of her capabilities until she found the answers or closure she was looking for. Melody has spent time going from seaside town to seaside town photographing the institution that is the British seaside. She is searching for that elusive photo that will capture a moment in time. As the reader discovers the real reason for this idea Melody has taken on, it seems so bittersweet yet so worthy.

It did come across though that Melody was putting herself under enormous pressure and could never fully let go and accept maybe she was good at photography and that what she was doing was so worthwhile and valuable to her healing process. I felt she was very down on herself and she had no reason to be. It's not until she meets handsome ice-cream seller Hugo that a smile comes on her face and I felt he really was the catalyst for the beginnings of a change for her. Hugo was so bubbly and enthusiastic. He could see Melody was a special person and he wanted the world to see that too. If he couldn't bring her out of her shell then no one could. I loved his positive attitude towards everything, his ambition to expand his ice-cream business and his overall zest for life. Melody had built a wall around her and lacked trust in people and hopefully Hugo and even Mae and Willow can make her see things in a new more positive way. He helped Melody see the world through different eyes and once she was opened up to something there perhaps would have been no stopping her.

In The Little Bed and Breakfast by the Sea all three women - Mae, Willow and Mae have their own struggles which perhaps they would prefer to be kept secret but through this wonderful story it proves a problem shared is a problem halved. There were numerous lines that I stopped and re-read because everything that Jennifer Joyce was writing was so true and it really was advice I would find very helpful. I enjoyed seeing how the friendship developed between the three characters as they allowed their masks to slip and their true natures to emerge. There were three distinct separate storylines which all stood very well but when needed I felt these came together at just the appropriate time and in doing so the developing friendships never felt forced or stilted but instead had a natural flow and companionship. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent reading this book and hope others will do to as the story that awaits you between the covers was a pleasure to read.

Many thanks to HQ Digital for my copy of The Little Bed and Breakfast by the Sea to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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