Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Emma's Review: Annie's Summer by the Sea by Liz Eeles

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

When Annie Trebarwith unexpectedly inherits Tregavara House, her much-loved family home atop the cliffs of Salt Bay, she begins to wonder: with all the good friends and warm memories she’s made in the village, could it be her forever home? 

Luckily her gorgeous Poldark-lookalike boyfriend, Josh Pasco, has exactly the same idea. High on the Cornish cliffs he gets down on one knee, and Annie has everything she’s ever dreamed of.

But when a summer storm causes catastrophic damage to the beautiful but aging house, Annie and Josh are faced with tumbling tiles and a massive repair bill – and a roof that’s leaked straight onto her wedding gown…

Can the Salt Bay community save Annie’s house and her wedding – and give Annie the happy-ever-after she’s always wanted?

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Many thanks to Bookouture via NetGalley for my copy of Annie's Summer by the Sea to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

Annie's Summer by the Sea is the third and final instalment in the Salt Bay series by Liz Eeles. It's a series in which I have loved simply everything about it as the characters and setting have found a place firmly in my heart. When I discovered towards the end that it would be the last time I would meet and follow Annie and co I was very disappointed. Yet I feel this book was a fitting end to what has been overall just such a wonderful series of books which allows you to simply sit back, relax and enjoy for several hours as you can take your mind off you everyday life.

A lot has happened since Annie Trebarwith first arrived in Salt Bay, under a cloud of duress it must be said, and for those only picking up Annie's story now they needn't fear in the slightest as there is enough filling in of previous events so new readers won't feel all at sea in following the story. Annie is a character who has been on such a journey and most certainly one who has matured greatly. That's partly in thanks to her Great Aunt Alice with whom she lives with in Tregavara House alongside her step sister Storm and Alice's carer Emily. Annie has been through an enormous amount in a relatively short space of time. She is not the same person who arrived in Salt Bay and thought what in god's name am I doing in such a small,backwards,coastal village where I can't even get a phone signal let alone wi-fi?

Annie feels life is now perfect for her as she is settled at the house and finally things with her boyfriend. and in this case soon to be fiancée, school teacher Josh couldn't be going any smoother which is a relief considering all the frustrations I experienced regarding their relationship in book two. The only niggle at the back of Annie's mind is that she can see Alice is beginning to fade before her eyes but surely there is life in the old dog yet? As for Tregavara House the roof is in a state of disrepair but fingers crossed the patch up will hold for as long as possible. Annie deeply wants her life in Salt Bay to remain the same and unchanged. If she could freeze frame this moment of perfection in time she would do so but she knows in her heart that this can't be the case. It's just the question whether she can overcome all the challenges, upsets and upheavals that are about to head in her direction.

The first trauma to befall her is the loss of Alice. Both Annie and the reader knew at some point this was coming given her declining ill health but still it is a shock to see a beloved character gone just like that. Alice was 'one of those people whose life force vibrates like an aura and seems inextinguishable'. But sadly that life force has gone and now the woman who had in some way slightly made up for the absence of her mother has left her and I feared Annie would simply fall apart. It was so lovely to see the deep love and admiration Annie had for Alice. she appreciated that she had been given a new start in life and the bond they struck up was unique and special. It was a beautiful relationship that developed between the pair and could never be replicated.

When Annie lost her mother she was alone and adrift but this time it is different. Of course she feels the loss of Alice deeply but now she has Josh by her side and she will need him every step of the way as cousin Toby, the enemy of previous books makes a reappearance. He claims the house is now his having left it by Alice in her will. What can Annie do? Herself, Josh, Storm and Emily will be out on the streets forced to leave the house and an area that mean so much. For Annie 'this marvellous old house is my anchor and the antidote to my lonely chaotic life in London'. Will she be able to let it go or does fate have plenty more in store for her? I always thought Toby had such bad intentions, he was never genuine although he put on a front and tried to be. All this pretence that he really cared for Alice when his long term goal was really to get his hands on the house and make money from it. I still don't like him now having finished the book and wished Annie was firmer and spoke some home truths to him.

Annie was completely different, she felt a connection to the house and Salt Bay in general. It's where she felt at peace with both the village and the people and where she has found true love. Through one thing and another Annie is left the house, you'd think that would see the end to the trouble but realistically it is only very much beginning. The problems with the roof only increase and cascading water destroying her wedding dress doesn't help matters either. Annie and Josh are faced with a choice sell the house and have enough money to get married or forgo their wedding and try and find funds for the roof. Not an easy decision to make and it sees the pair wracked with guilt no matter what they do. I didn't envy either of them faced with such a life changing choice and given the connections they have with the house what would they ultimately do?

When the main points of the plot had been established I enjoyed reading how everything was going to pan out. I felt Annie was once again faced with so much and none of her problems could be resolved that easily. Her loyalties to both Alice and the house played a huge part in her decision making process. If she sells the house she feels she would be letting Alice down but at the same time she had to take Storm and Emily into account too. The house had become like a refuge for various people and Annie didn't feel comfortable in taking that security blanket out from under their feet unnecessarily. As Annie says 'nothing stays the same however much we want it to'. But surely if she can have some elements of her life unchanged then that would make her happy and complete.

Before Salt Bay she was rootless, lost and unloved and now that she has found those things she is not about to give them up without out a fight. I was so glad Josh was by Annie's side through thick and thin in this book as before I felt at times he very much had his own agenda and didn't always make things easy for Annie. Whereas now he is very much her backbone, her advice and support system and the love they have for each other radiates from the pages. Clearly he wants to spend the rest of his life with her but the way things are going it doesn't seem like a wedding can happen any time soon.

I had mentioned previously that I felt there were characters mentioned in the first two books but very much left on the periphery. Well here I was delighted to see some of those having their moment in the spotlight before we left the charterers for the last time. Jennifer who runs the local newsagents/shop was very much a gossip and the font of all information. She knew everything there was to know about the residents of Salt Bay and was a prominent singer in the Salt Bay Choral Society as re-established by Annie. I really enjoyed her story as it was nice to see that the tables could be turned on her and that a little secret she had been keeping came to the fore. I thought it would work out one way but was pleasantly surprised when things for Jennifer went very much in a different direction. As for Storm, she is still the same typical teenager who beneath it all is deeply affected by the family situation between her parents. I think the only real source of love and affection she feels she can get is from Annie. Storm is not one of the characters I particularity like but her story is interesting.

Annie and Josh are very much in a conundrum for the majority of this story but the reader senses that if they can go the distance and work together then the end will be in sight and maybe a new found happiness can once again be achieved. Salt Bay is a very special place and so too are its residents and when the chips are down they will come together and help their fellow friends and neighbours. Community spirit is very much in evidence, Annie says 'Experiences change us. They either chip away at our defences or build them up'. Well everything she is going thorough will certainly test this statement to the max. I never throughout reading the entire story knew how everything would pan out.

As I came to realise this was the last in the series, I knew issues would need to be resolved as the reader can't be left dangling. The way in which Liz Eeles did this was a joy to read but she did keep me guessing. But she did highlight the friendship, love and camaraderie that exudes from every nook and cranny of Salt Bay. Alice looking down would have been very proud of Annie and co and this ending couldn't have been a more suitable conclusion to what has been such a brilliant series. My time with the amazing Annie and her life changing experiences is now over but the journey was so enjoyable every step of the way.

So now, my mind  turns to what Liz Eeles may write next. Will it be a standalone story? Or are a whole new cast of characters and a new different setting waiting in the wings for their stories to be told? Salt Bay will be very hard to replace in my affections but whatever Liz Eeles chooses to write next I for one will be there eager to engage and delight in another story as sublime as Annie's.

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