Thursday, 15 March 2018

Emma's Review: The Dawn Chorus by Cressida McLaughlin (The House of Birds and Butterflies, Book 1)

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Abby Field is living the dream. As events coordinator at the Meadowsweet nature reserve on the idyllic Suffolk coast, every day is an adventure with the birds and the butterflies, and she couldn’t feel more at home. When another local nature reserve is chosen as the hot location for a new television series, however, Meadowsweet looks set for seasonal hibernation – unless Abby can whip up a creative plan to keep the visitors flocking.

With the help of the Meadowgreen villagers, and her cute rescue huskie, Raffle, can Abby rescue the nature reserve from oblivion? Or will she be distracted by the arrival of a brooding – and annoyingly handsome – new neighbour…

Amazon Affiliate Link: Kindle

Many thanks to Harper Collins UK via NetGalley for my copy of The Dawn Chorus to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

The Dawn Chorus is the first in a new four part serial, The House of Birds and Butterflies, by Cressida McLaughlin. This is the fourth series from the author with Primrose Terrace being my firm favourite so far but I think this new series may just rival said series for my top spot, the minute I started reading this part I felt the same buzz and excitement as I did with Primrose Terrace. I couldn't put it down once I had started to read and I know it is only a novella but it felt much longer than that, in no way was it rushed and I thought so much was packed in. The ending didn't have too much of a cliff hanger, more a sense of contemplation for all involved as major changes are about to occur on both the work and personal side of things.

But still I am keen to return for part two and I'm kicking myself that I didn't have the patience to wait until the full length edition of the book is published as I just wanted to keep reading on and on so lost did I become in the world of Abby Field and the nature reserve called Meadowsweet where she works and holds so dear to her heart. From the first page a sense of mystery abounds as Abby makes her way to work on the reserve. There is an elegant Georgian building on nearby land which has been left vacant for many years. The garden and trees have run rampant - Meadowgreen House is becoming lost to nature. Abby wonders why her boss Penelope Hardinge left the house so abruptly after the death of her husband? Why not stay on in such a special and beautiful place?

Penelope for the most part came across as a cold fish who wanted the minimum amount of interaction with her employees. At times I thought Abby and co were in slight fear of her as they loved their jobs and didn't want to see the closure of the reserve due to lack of visitor numbers and couldn't often say what they felt. Then at other points in the story there was a glimmer of a softer side to Penelope who maybe was more caring than she would have liked to let on. I think there is a lot more to come out regarding Penelope, I have no idea as to what it could be. Maybe it connects back to Meadowgreen House or maybe not but I sense it will be in the later parts of the series that we will discover all. After all revealing too much too early on would only ruin the story.

I loved Abby right from the first time we met her. She clearly loves her job with every fibre of her being and finds it incredible that she goes to work everyday to a place where she can indulge her passion for birds and wildlife. She does have a challenge on her hands as the reserves popularity needs to be improved. Visitor numbers need to be increased or else Reston Marsh Nature Reserve will become the go to place and Meadowsweet despite how special and unique it is will fall by the way side. Abby won't allow this to happen and as activity co-ordinator the pressure falls on Abby. That's not to say Stephan in the café or Rosa in the gift shop won't play their part. So too will Gavin and Marek who are the head warden and ranger respectively.

Abby feels a sense of duty to the reserve as she feels she has finally come home here. The past is put behind her and she doesn't need love to feature in her world for her to be happy. Her sister Tessa thinks she has to have a man in her life but I just loved Abby's response. I thought she was right - why does she need a man to complete her. There are millions of us women all over the world who are single and utterly content in our lives. Why shouldn't Abby be any different? That's not to say that romance may creep up on her when she least expects it but that is the stance she is taking at this point in the story and I for one see no problem with that.

The stunning descriptions of the reserve in the Autumn/Winter season were just spectacular. I have built up my own picture of the reserve and all its natural residents in my head. I do love nature but there was a danger describing various birds in detail as well as other animals may have become boring but I'm delighted to say it never felt like this at all. I found myself sucked into the magic of the place just like Abby was and I could truly understand why she wasn't about to give up on a place that has come to mean so much to her. It was evident the author undertook lots of research into reserves and the various birds and animals that could live there but it never came across as if I was reading a science or nature book. Instead passion for the subject matter just flowed from every page as did the peace and tranquillity that exuded from the different areas dotted throughout the reserve.

A lot of setting up and introducing was covered in part one and at times in previous serials I thought there was too much too soon. That the readers brain becomes crowded and confused but here everything worked on an even keel and it made for a very much relaxing, thoroughly enjoyable read. As well as the issues with Meadowsweet, the arrival of a stranger to Peacock Cottage sets tongues wagging especially Octavia, Abby's next door neighbour, who loves to gossip and know what is going on behind every door. Abby is curious too and soon it is discovered a celebrity so to speak is amongst their midst. But will said person want to remain anonymous behind closed doors to get on with their job in hand? Or will they have to start interacting with Abby and the others and become engaged in a lot more than they bargained for? Lots of questions arise from this and I am very intrigued as to how this aspect of the story line will further develop.

Suffice to say I absolutely loved part one of The House of Birds and Butterflies. It wasn't too long or too short but offered enough to more than whet the appetite of the reader. I hope the further three parts to come are just as good. Do yourself a favour and download this beautiful story as soon as it is available, curl up and enjoy Abby's story and the wonderful setting of Meadowsweet. I just wish the beginning of April would hurry up and arrive because as soon as it does I will be eager to get my hands on part two – The Lovebirds.

All book titles in bold are Amazon UK Affiliate links which will earn me a few pence if anyone clicks through and makes a purchase - any money earned will go towards buying books or gifts for giveaways.

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