Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Emma's Review: Love Among the Treetops by Catherine Ferguson

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Can love flourish amongst the tree tops?

When pastry chef Twilight Wilson was a young girl, she would hide from school bullies up in the treehouse at the bottom of her garden in her family home in Sussex. It was her special place, and even as an adult she still loves it.

So when her family tell her they can’t afford to live there any more, Twilight is devastated. Not only will they lose their home – but the treehouse too!

She comes up with a plan to save the family home – she’ll start up a cafe in the treehouse! It’s a brilliant idea, and excitement builds as she starts planning the menus, with the help of Theo – a rather attractive man from the gym. But when former school bully Lucy finds out the plan, she starts plotting – and opens her own rival cafe in the village!

Can Twilight save her family home? Will her friendship with Theo ever be anything more? And who will win the cafe wars?

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Many thanks to Avon Books UK for my copy of Love Among the Treetops to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

'Can Twilght's Café save the day?' so reads the tagline for Catherine Ferguson's new novel Love Among the Treetops. With a gorgeous cover and an intriguing question I was keen to get going and discover just what the problem was that Twilight was having and would she be resilient and resourceful enough to solve it?

The prologue although brief really did reveal a lot as to the Twilight's state of mind throughout the majority of the book. When we meet her she is aged 6 and describing being chased home from school by the resident bullies who always seem to have it in for her. She uses the treehouse high up off the ground that her beloved father built for her as a sanctuary.  It is her safe place, where she can put her demons at bay even if only for a short while. Fast forward many years and Twilight is 32 and still the threat of bullies is ever present, always lingering away. Clearly the damage done in childhood extends its reach right through to adulthood.

Bullying is such an ever present issue for everybody. Sadly, I don't think anyone could say they were never affected in some way or other by some form of bullying at a time in their lives. I was glad the author choose to include this topic in her book because no one can evade bullying even as an adult, it's not that we go searching for it for. I am sure Twilight would not have wanted such hurt and pain to come knocking at her door. It's almost like it seeks us out, maybe the people who are slightly weaker than others, those who can't cope with what it will bring.

Coming back to her home village of Hart's End stirs up many memories for Twilight and she questions whether she has made the correct decision? But needs most and pressing personal issues with regard to her small family take precedence. She tries to push the memories to a corner of her mind where they can't be accessed. But will returning to the scene of the crime so to speak just bring everything rushing to the surface? Plus when you encounter the bully and cannot avoid her will it just be history repeating itself once again? If so has Twilight the courage, grit and determination to overcome this once and for all? Maybe she does but certainly not without a battle on her hands?

Twilight's Dad is away in London receiving treatment, whether it will be successful or not remains to be seen. His shop at the end of the garden is shut up and financial issues are starting to make themselves known. Twilight deeply loves her parents and knows now is the time she needs to be there for them, to do anything to help out be it big or small. Her passion is for baking as, just like the tree house, she can take comfort and refuge in the baking process. She knows a huge responsibility lays on her shoulders that she is the one who has to try and keep up the mortgage payments to alleviate the stress her parents are going through.

Throughout the book Twilight deserved nothing but admiration. She wanted a positive outcome for her family and always did her best even when it seemed to me as if one bad thing after another was constantly happening. I thought she was creative and had good ideas but at times lacked faith and confidence in herself. So much happened to her that if it had been me I would have given up and just cured up in a ball and cried. But not Twilight she kept on wading her way through the obstacles even if at times she doubted herself and the love for her family kept her going through many horrible, unjust times.

I loved how Paloma, Twilight's best friend, was always there for her in the darkest hours. When everyone else seemed to be abandoning ship she stayed right by her side and was determined, honour, truth and positivity would win out. When they hit upon the idea of converting the shop into a café it seems through hard work all Twilight's problems will be resolved. But really the issues that have plagued here are just begin to rear their ugly heads once again. This problem comes in the form of Lucy, the bully from Twilight's childhood. She has to have been one of the most despicable characters I have ever read about. I don't often use the word hate in relation to a character but that is exactly how I felt about her. She was full of spite, malice and always wanted to exact revenge on Twilight. For what I didn't know but there would have wanted to be a good reason for the suffering and pain she put Twilight through.

Lucy did not in any way enamour herself to me instead my dislike for her grew and grew. On the outside she portrayed that she was all sweetness and light and that no one would see through her façade. She was full of venom and would do anything to hamper any success that may come Twilight's way. But the question remained does a leopard ever truly change its spots? I never took anything she said as gospel. My gut was telling me this is one person not to be trusted. I just hoped Twilight wouldn't be gullible enough to walk into the arms of apology no matter how big the olive branch that was being extended. Lucy felt she had one up on Twilight as she was now living with Jason whom Twilight always had feelings for ever since they were teenagers. I thought Lucy was better off without him as he was a wimp who should have put a stop to Lucy's harsh words and actions.

There were many trials and tribulations, and ups and downs, for Twilight to attempt to overcome especially when Lucy plays her ultimate card in opening up a rival café. This was just so mean, she knew the game she was playing and what the outcome would be but she forges ahead and did so in the most sneaky and underhand way. Twilight only ever came under increasing pressure and I questioned whether given her history with Lucy how could she emerge stronger or else would she have to slope off into a corner and admit defeat? But really we shouldn't ever let the bullies get the better of us. We should stand tall and keep going even if it is the most difficult thing we have to do. I admired Twilight for her changing, emerging attitude even at her lowest point she wanted to keep going. Theo, a man she had encountered on the train as she travelled home makes appearances every now and again and I thought he was a lovely character. He offered sound advice and perhaps had the most brilliant idea of all. But would they be able to pull it off?

Love Among the Treetops was a really enjoyable read, one that you would fly through in one or two sittings. You find yourself rooting for Twilight and firmly hoping that by the end Lucy would be sloping away with her tail between her legs. There was lots of humour and funny moments dotted throughout the book to counter act the awful experiences and sneaky tactics that Twilight endured. The scenes in the gym were very funny and also the charity run. There was the perfect balance between dealing with a serious topic and then offering some light relief. The café topic may have been done numerous times before but here it had slightly more depth given the nature of the various other issues being dealt with and that made for a good interesting read. It had been quite some time since I had read a book by Catherine Ferguson but I think I definitely choose the right one to reacquaint myself with her writing. I won't leave it so long the next time as Twilight sure had lots of life lessons to teach us all.

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