Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Emma's Review: The Lovebirds by Cressida McLaughlin (The House of Birds and Butterflies, Book 2)

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

It’s winter at Meadowsweet nature reserve. Wildlife-lover Abby is busy trying to lure in the crowds, and although her event planning is a little on the whacky side, her creative efforts are helping to keep Meadowsweet afloat. She’s not having quite the same luck, however, in getting to know the elusive village newcomer, disgraced celebrity author Jack. It’s clear that Jack has mysterious reasons for staying out of the limelight, and the village rumour mill is in overdrive.

Abby’s passion for the great outdoors is nothing short of infectious and when Jack joins her on a special nature walk, sparks unexpectedly start to fly.

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

The Lovebirds is part two of The House of Birds and Butterflies series by Cressida McLaughlin. I had adored part one The Dawn Chorus but it did leave me wanting more so I was glad the wait wasn't too long until I could return to Abby's story and see how she was getting on from where I had last left her. In the opening chapter we revisit Abby as she enjoys a few well deserved days off over New Years, she is spending it with her mother Caroline who is divorced from Abby's Dad. Through general conversation, and also Caroline questioning Abby as to what has been going on in her life recently, the reader is brought right up to date as to events in part one and to the various characters that had been introduced.

I thought this was an ingenious way of recapping what had occurred previously. It provided a refresher but also avoided repetition and allowed the story to move on and start in the new year just like Abby was doing. Her mother still always puts pressure on Abby when it comes to romance wondering why isn't she involved in a relationship, surely she must get lonely? After all everybody needs to have a man or so Caroline thinks? But Abby is happy with her life and doesn't feel she has to give into the pressure from her mother with some nudges also coming from her sister Tessa. Tessa thinks Abby deserves a healthy, happy relationship and sees no reason why Abby can't find this. I sense Abby has been hurt in the past, or her experiences affect the way she thinks in the present, as she is reluctant to engage with any romance or feelings towards the opposite sex unless she knows it is for real and that the chances of getting hurt all over again are slim to none. But in life one does have to take risks and Abby needs to do this both in her personal and professional life as the nature reserve where she works is in serious trouble.

Once again the author brought Meadowsweet Nature Reserve owned by Penelope Hardinge to life through such beautiful descriptions and just genuine love for the subject matter radiating from each sentence. As this part was set in winter time one wondered what could possibly be described as to make the reserve appealing, how could Abby as events coordinator draw the people in at a time of year when all you want to do is curl up by the fire longing for longer sunny days and some sunshine? Yet Abby's enthusiasm for her job shone and through such lovely writing the reader can see that at any time of year nature and the countryside has such an awful lot to offer.

Abby was dedicated to her job and the passion she felt for all aspects of it was evident for the reader to see. At the back of her mind is the worry that she is not doing enough to bring people back time and time again. The pressure is ever increasing as Penelope has made it clear that things aren't running as smoothly as one would have hoped and unless something drastic happens the reserve may have to be closed. Abby won't let it go without a fight and together with fellow workers and friends Rosa, Marek and Stephan they will do their best to not see their beloved reserve and all its special residents gone forever.

Although saving the reserve is Abby's passion, I thought it did take more of a back seat here as her attention once gain turned to the newcomer to Peacock Cottage – Jack Westcoat. He is a thriller writer who has come looking for seclusion and peace and quiet in order to concentrate on writing his next book. Although we briefly got to know Jack in part one, I felt he was very much an enigma who blew hot and cold, we never scratched beneath the surface and got to know him better. Fair play to Abby she had tried but there was an air of mystery surrounding Jack, of things he didn't want to talk about. A reluctance to let things go and shed the barriers he had surrounded himself with. Now in part two I thought we got to know him somewhat better and Abby felt the same. I think she shared the same feelings with him of fear and loneliness but for different reasons. Abby because of what she experienced in the past and for Jack more so to do with recent events. I'm glad more was revealed about Jack, that a more softer side was beginning to emerge but at the same time he could clam up very quickly too.

I think Jack uses darkness and irritability as a cover when really underneath it all he is warm but just hurt and damaged by what has happened to him. Wallowing in self doubt and self destruct mode will only make even more miserable. Through the kind and caring nature that Abby possesses she may be able to work some magic and in doing so help herself too. I felt Abby was trying to peel back his layers, to understand everything about him. I could see she did have some feelings for him but fear and trepidation in doing anything about them was there as hurt and pain is something she can't bear. She wondered would Jack reciprocate how she felt or was she imagining everything? As things come to light about Jack, I felt I understood both his character and actions just that little bit more but still there is a lot more about  both Abby and Jack that need to be brought to light.

The mystery surrounding Swallowtail House, abandoned by Penelope upon the death of her husband is still throwing up many questions. To say I am intrigued would be an understatement and I hope the revelation when it comes will live up to my expectations. There were plenty of conundrums, questions and problems remaining at the end which guarantees the reader will be back for part three Twilight Song. Abby and Jack have a found a place in my heart and I hope they can work through the issues that surround them. I also want a positive outcome for the reserve but at the moment can't see how this will be achievable? As for Swallowtail House perhaps that is the greatest mystery of all. Overall, I can safely say I enjoyed The Lovebirds, it was a quick read that moved the story along and has left me eager to know what is next in store for all the characters.

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