Thursday, 1 March 2018

Emma's Review: Spring on the Little Cornish Isles: The Flower Farm by Phillipa Ashley

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Jess has lived at the idyllic flower farm on the Isles of Scilly her whole life, but when her boyfriend Adam leaves without explanation, Jess discovers that even her little slice of Cornish heaven can be lonely.

For the first time in Will’s life, he’s met someone he can’t stop thinking about. But nothing is simple when the woman of your dreams is working for you.

Gaby is running away from painful memories, and where could be more perfect than a remote island off the Cornish coast? But to put the past behind her, she must keep moving … however much she might want to stay.

Amazon Affiliate Link: Kindle

Many thanks to Avon Books UK via NetGalley for my copy of Spring on the Little Cornish Isles and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

What an absolutely fabulous continuation in the Little Cornish Isles series this book turned out to be. All the charm and warmth and of course the glorious setting that had been evident in The Driftwood Inn was once again here in abundance. Phillipa Ashley has done it again and in The Flower Farm has written a story where you instantly feel at ease and at home. The characters come to life on the pages and in no time at all they feel like firm friends. You are constantly rooting for a positive outcome for everyone you are reading about and of course there has to an element of romance and here it was once again conveyed to perfection. I loved everything about this book and had been dying to get my hands on it as soon as I had finished The Driftwood Inn in the latter months of last year, fortunately the wait wasn't overly long and I was able to sit down and read to my hearts content following the story of Jess and Gaby.

Phillipa clearly loves the Scilly Isles on which she has chosen to base this series and that devotion is apparent with every turn of the page. I had mentioned previously how it felt like I had visited the islands even though I had never been there before and that was thanks to such vivid, beautiful descriptions of the setting that has such stunning landscapes that helped bring the story to life. Again I felt the same here. I know we were on St. Saviour's Island this time and focusing on different characters but it didn't feel like it was an entirely new setting rather it was just a continuation/a catching up with island life. At the same time we were given snippets as to the contents of the previous story regarding Maisie Samson whilst never giving away too much as it would ruin the first book for those who may have not had the opportunity to read it yet. If you haven't you really should rectify that immediately.

In book two our attention turns to St. Saviour's Island where Jess and her twin brother Will run the flower farm with their mother Anna taking more of a back seat and tending to a small herd of goats and cattle. Will and Jess had to grow up quickly and take over the business or face financial ruin over 15 years ago when an incident with their father left them no other choice. Years of hard work, resilience and dedication have now led to the flower farm being a success story but that's not to say they ever rest on their laurels. They love their jobs with Jess tending to focus more on the administrative side although she is not adverse to getting stuck in in the fields when needed. Will loves being outdoors at the forefront of everything, seeing the daffodils begin as bulbs and ending up ready for transportation to the mainland or wherever their final destination might be.

To some reading of a flower farm might not seem like the most exciting of topics to feature in a book and admittedly I did have very minor reservations what exactly could the author write about regarding the flower farm that would keep me hooked? But the author certainly did keep me interested and eager to read on. It was fascinating to read that given the climate and location of the Isles of Scilly that some varieties of daffodils starting making an appearance in September and the season goes right through until Easter. To be honest I'd say how many of us have given scant thought as to how the flowers end up in the shops to buy? But here I found the whole process fascinating to read about and Phillipa conveyed just how much Will and Jess valued the flower farm and the various opportunities it afforded them.

A new arrival in the form of seasonal worker Gaby Carter sets in motion the chain of events that unfold throughout the story. Gaby has a PHD in poetry and has worked in garden centres so what brings here to a windswept rugged isle that has such magic? Clearly she was hiding something and attempting to run away when really she was just best to confront her issues instead of bottling everything up. At first she didn't seem like she was cut out for the job, the work in the fields entails long hours and backbreaking work. I think Will felt the same when he first laid eyes on here but over the course of the book, Gaby proved her metal, time and time again she always did as she was asked and even went that extra mile.

Gaby wasn't my favourite character featured but I loved how she was always able to stand up to Will. They sparked off each other and were able to toss back and forth comments and retorts. Their banter was enjoyable to read about and one wondered was it just friendly talk or was there something else behind it all? She really did give as good as she got. At times I felt Gaby got involved in things as in the gig racing without really knowing what was ahead of her and it really wasn't something she wanted to do and in partaking she allowed a different side of her character to emerge. One who when given a challenge takes it on and runs with it full throttle determined for success. I wondered throughout the book would Gaby be the one to crack the tough exterior Will liked to portray? I felt she had to deal with her own personal problems before she would be open enough to maybe venture down the road of exploration pertaining to the feelings that were niggling away at her with regards to Will. As the book progressed I did think they would make a good couple but the questioned remained - were there too many obstacles in their way and was Will willing to soften a little bit and admit whether he had feelings or not?

I can't say I warmed to Will when we first met him as Jess brings Gaby to the farm for the first time. I felt a lot of the characters we encounter and other workers at the farm seemed to be walking on eggshells when they were around him. People seemed to be in awe of him and I wouldn't say in the sense that they feel at his face in reverence. They appeared tentative and never wanted to confront him for fear of upsetting him. They tiptoed around him never wanting to upset him and I got the sense that if he was riled up he could explode. I wanted to know what made him this way as this genuinely was the initial impression I perceived of him. I felt Jess knew the real Will who although dedicated to his work and always wanting the best in the long term for the flower farm did put up a stubborn front. He needed someone else to come along to understand him, who could read his body language and see beneath the quirks that may have put others off for good. I did love the passion and excitement Will showed when it came to the island sport of gig racing. He seemed to come alive and shine, his eyes lit up and he wanted desperately to win. It was really enjoyable to read about this and I am glad the author wrote about this unique aspect of island life.

Undoubtedly my favourite character was Jess. She goes through so much in this book and I felt for her every bit of the way. To all intents and purposes when we first meet her, she really does have it all. The flower farm has come back from the brink of financial run and is now successful and a labour of love. She has found love with her boyfriend Adam, the local postman and really life couldn't look any sweeter. So you would think and then everything is turned on its head. The author through a few chapters built up such a lovely picture of the love Jess and Adam shared and then suddenly this was all gone. Jess' future and the certainty she felt regarding her love for Adam was gone in an instant. Adam leaves the island with scant thought to how Jess will feel. Their relationship is over and Jess really is left floundering and heartbroken. My god I wanted to throttle Adam, he never gave any specific reason for his departure and I felt Jess was left in limbo. How devastating to be caught up in a romance, to feel so secure and looking forward to the future and then to have it so abruptly taken away from you.

It's the way that Jess deals with everything that is so admirable and the reader hopes that faced with the same situation they would do the same. Internally she finds it difficult to get through the days and find light at the end of the tunnel. It's an uphill struggle, a battle but one she must overcome. Where on the outside a positive front is always presented and she would hate to let her true feelings be known. Friend Maisie can see she is hurting but I think the only way for Jess to emerge stronger was to attempt to put Adam to one side and see who else could be out there that would make that sparkle reappear in her eyes once again? As one character said 'Sadly the world doesn't owe us happiness. We have to go out and find it'.

If it was me I would have first gone and found Adam and confronted him and gotten answers. He seemed to have rather easily given up a good thing but Jess wasn't that confrontational kind of person. It really was a mystery as to why a seemingly sound and loved up couple split up so suddenly. I enjoyed following Jess' storyline and I felt it developed perfectly. A new arrival to the islands may just be what she needed or did fate have further plans in store for her? Well you'll have to pick up this beyond delightful book to find out.

More often than not the follow on books from the d├ębut of a series tend to be weaker or go off track but not so in the case of The Flower Farm it was equally as good as book number one. Was it my favourite? Well, I am reserving judgement until I have read all the books in the series but one thing for sure this was an excellent read which has left me wanting more. If only July would hurry up and arrive so I can delve into Summer on the Little Cornish Isles: The Starfish Studio, I can't wait to see who we meet next.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, thank you so much for this in-depth review of The Flower farm. Personally, I don't think there's a bigger thrill for an author than sharing characters' lives with readers. It's why I do it and why we all do, I think. :)