The perfect place to fall in love this summer…
Tori Graham is in need of a holiday. Trying to piece her heart back together after losing the love of her life, she escapes to Blossom Cottage, with its picturesque views of the sea. And plans to spend the summer in gorgeous Sandcastle Bay, where her best friend Melody Rosewood lives.
Tori’s not expecting her summer by the beach to be eventful, until she meets handsome and mysterious Aidan Jackson…
Aidan looks after the holiday cottage Tori is staying in. Healing from past hurts, he wants to avoid any further chance of heartache. But could this newcomer be the breath of fresh air he needs?
Finding herself embracing life in the coastal community, Tori starts to fall in love with Sandcastle Bay and its welcoming cast of residents. But that’s not all she begins to fall for, as Tori is swept away by Aidan’s genuine heart and mischievous sense of humour. The attraction between them is undeniable, but will a simple holiday romance be enough?
As Tori’s stay in Sandcastle Bay comes to an end she has a tough decision to make…. Has her heart found a new place to call home?
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Not since I read Holly Martin's Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky, a book I would call one of my all time favourite Christmas reads, have I been this excited about a book from this author. The Holiday Cottage by the Sea is the first in a planned trilogy, The Sandcastle Bay series, and from the moment I started to read just so many good vibes and feelings oozed from the page that I couldn't bare to leave it out of my hands. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed the Hope Island series which came between the aforementioned series but it didn't have me as hooked as I was in the story of Tori Graham as she arrives in Sandcastle Bay for a two week working holiday picking heart berries at Orchard Cove. There wasn't one fault I could find with this book and I just got this overwhelming sense that the author loved writing this book and wanted her readers to too. Everything was just perfect, from the cover, to the various characters, the locations and all the little minor details that sometimes I find unnecessary but here they all enhanced the story. Sandcastle Bay seemed like such an idyllic place where you could seek refuge even if every body would know your business considering how small it was. I wished it was a real place as I have done many times with some of Holly's previous settings.
Tori needs the tension heaped upon her shoulders to ease away especially considering she has spent more or less a year and a half locked away in a stop motion animating studio working on a film. She has a deep passion for her job but now needs a rest and to reconnect with her friends. So when best friend Melody Rosewood suggests she come and visit Sandcastle Bay for a holiday how can Tori refuse? Melody had been her flatmate in London and ran a successful jewellery business but the needs of family called her back to her home town and since then the two friends haven't seen much of each other. I could already tell that Melody and her sister Isla would be the focus of the next two books in the series. Whilst I was loving Tori's story I was also reading into the subtle hints and teasers dropped in with regard to the two sisters and I am eager to see how their story lines will develop in the future.
We do get to know both Melody and Isla and I think they are two very selfless people who when tragedy struck and they lost their beloved brother Matthew they stepped up to the plate. Isla is now the guardian of Elliott, Matthew's son, a tough task to take on but she would do anything in a heartbeat for her family. Melody is now Isla's support system but there are two men they have their eye on that could fulfil that role each sister has for each other at the moment. Elliott was such an innocent and provided so many laugh out loud moments in the story with his guilt free observations and quips. I felt for him having lost his dad at such a young age but he was in very good hands who wanted the best for him and his future.
The humour and wit as mentioned above is what makes this book so special apart from the wonderful way the romance element of the story was written. From the moment Tori glimpses the dusky pink thatched cottages with the views of the sea the laughter kicks in as a flock of sheep block the road and she is then chased by Dobby the turkey all the way to the Cherry on Top Café overlooking Sunshine Beach. Here she meets the owner Emily Breakwater, whose family own the fruit farm where she will be working in exchange for accommodation at Blossom Cottage. I loved Beast the dog that 'came' with the cottage, such a lovely inclusion with his own little story line too that in fact helped unite others. Emily's brother Aidan Jackson runs the farm as his brothers Parker and Leo have other occupations within the town.
Admittedly, there were a lot of introductions made in the first few chapters and normally I would find this too much too soon and would become confused making connections and keeping things straight in my head. In this case the opposite turned out to be true as I really just couldn't get enough of everything, I quickly built up a clear picture of Sandcastle Bay in my head and of the various residents and their little quirks. One thing Holly Martin sure has a knack for is having brilliant names for places in her books and also the occupations her characters have. Here she excelled herself especially when it came to the legend of the heart berry and the heart berry love festival. It was so ingenious and incredibly romantic. So what if some people thought it was a load of old rubbish where as others set so much store by it. Tori herself would have been forgiven for some slight optimism in relation to the legend that the man who first reached the island in the middle of the River Star on race day in his home made boat and received the first slice of heart berry cake would then profess his underlying love for a woman by giving her said cake. It brings luck to anyone who eats eat. It's all a bit of fun really but so romantic behind it all.
Tori was a person who was exhausted both physically and emotionally when she reaches Sandcastle Bay and initially I thought it was down to having worked so hard in recent months. But as the story progresses and Tori settles in and reconnects with Melody and Isla and makes new friends too especially Aidan it's clear she has been deeply affected by the loss of Matthew. Guilt is eating her up and she declares to herself that love is no longer an option for her. I could understand where she was coming from as connections and reasons became apparent but I thought the situation was out of her hands and that she shouldn't be forever weighed down by things left unsaid.
Fate had a different road in sight for Tori and I fervently hoped she could throw off the shackles she had surrounded herself with. Agatha, the aunt of Emily, Adrian, Leo and Parker was a stand out character and she thinks fate and her predictions are always correct. I thinks she even engineers things just to make her assumptions come true. She was such a brilliant character who came across as a bit batty but beneath it all she was very very clever. She had me in stitches countless times for her interference but it is all done with good intentions at the centre of her plotting. Her idea of the tattoo was inspiring but oh so mischievous.
The overall outcome was clear to see right from the beginning but that doesn't matter at all. You know that the chemistry and banter shared between Tori and Aidan when they first meet is going to lead to something more and you want this to be the case. It doesn't matter in the slightest that this is the case because really it's more about the journey as to how they reach that point. How can they push things in their pasts aside and reform opinions they may have made with regard to love and relationships? Tori was beginning to suffocate in grief and guilt and sh e wouldn't give into this new feelings because she felt it was all wrong to do so. But this didn't sit well with me and I thought she should have felt able to go with what her heart was saying and not be lead by things in the past.
Both Aidan and Tori had so much to give each other and I wanted to see happiness for them but god I loved seeing how they went about this. Aidan was just drop dead gorgeous but had a personality to match. Normally the male lead in books can be stand offish and never want to express opinions or feelings or just generally they beat around the bush too much and don't expressly say what they think directly to the girl. Here Aidan wanted to take a risk on love and was doing his best to work his magic and charm on Tori. I loved how they bonded at night time whilst picking the berries and when they did give into temptation it showed how Holly Martin can certainly write a steamy scene but it never ventures down the seedy route. Instead it felt real and genuine and had you rooting and saying at last. I thought the pair were so in tune with each other and were meant to be but still fear and doubt always nags away at Tori. Things aren't all smooth sailing though and as disaster needs to be averted in relation to the heart berry harvest it shows how a community can pull together and how people will always help the one they love in times of need.
The Holiday Cottage by the Sea was a joy to read from start to finish. Tori and Aidan's story captured my heart and gave me all those warm, good feelings I want from a book featuring romance. The boy meets girl story has been told countless times before but Holly Martin provides such a refreshing, innovative, exciting voice to the time old theme and makes you believe and hope that true love is out there for everybody to find. This was a brilliant, dynamic story where I felt instantly at home and Sandcastle Bay provided a perfect package of a story in which you could readily loose yourself in its embrace for several hours. The Cottage on Sunshine Beach arrives in June and will follow Melody's story as she searches for the one thing missing in her life and I will certainly be there to journey with her as she seeks it.
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