Sunday, 8 April 2018

Emma's Review: Spring at Lavender Bay by Sarah Bennett

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

A season for change…?

Beth Reynolds loved growing up close to Eleanor’s Emporium – a bric-a-brac shop full of wonders on Lavender Bay. Devastated to learn that Eleanor has died, she returns home from London immediately and is shocked to discover that the elderly lady has left the shop to her!

Vowing to restore it to its former glory, she only intends to stay until the end of the season. Although the longer she spends in the colourful seaside town, the more she falls back in love with everything she left behind…and quite possibly, with her best friend Eliza’s older brother, local chef Sam Barnes!

Why didn’t she notice he was quite this gorgeous before? And will their spring fling be enough to convince her to stay?

Amazon Affiliate Link: Kindle

Many thanks to HQ Digital for my copy via NetGalley of Spring at Lavender Bay to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

Spring at Lavender Bay is the first in a new trilogy from author Sarah Bennett. I read and enjoyed her Butterfly Cove series last year and it seems if the formula isn't broken why change things? By this I mean similar to the Butterfly Cove series these new stories will again follow three women, this time close friends rather than sisters, as they navigate the troubles and turmoil’s forced upon them by everyday life as well as seeking some love along the way. Whether they are actively looking for this love or whether it finds them remains to be seen?

Suffice to say this was nice, easy introduction to the series and I thoroughly liked our main character Beth Reynolds. Yes, there was a slight air of inevitability as to how everything would pan out for all involved but the journey to reach that point was pleasant. Spring at Lavender Bay is a very quick read and ideal for those that have a few spare hours and want something to take them away from the stresses of everyday life. It won't tax you in any way or require immense physical concentration as to keep on top of the story. Instead it provides you with a classic romance story with some worries and strains for all involved as the path to true love and happiness is never an easy one to overcome.

Beth has spent three years working in London in a project management company where she slaves away from dawn until dusk at her desk for very little reward or praise. She is overworked and constantly taken for granted by the 'men' in place above her. Any extra work always falls her way and she can't refuse it for fear of being overlooked if a promotion did arise. Clearly Beth has is a hard worker and in being so has let other aspects of her life slide. Most noticeably the romance element or this could be more to do with the fact she had been badly burned by a recent relationship experience which has turned her off love. But there is a very small part of Beth that clings to a glimmer of hope that true love could be out there for her. Either way Beth is reaching a crossroads in her life.

Having left Lavender Bay and her guardian Eleanor, who runs the emporium on the seafront, for London she can barely admit to herself that really she is lonely. She never thought she would miss everyone and although she keeps in close contact through Skype with friends Libby and Eliza it's just not the same. 'Lately she had come to the realisation that she was being used whilst others reaped the rewards. Demotivated and demoralised she was well and truly stuck in a cubicle shaped rut'.

With such a terrible boss, a more or less disappointing job and a single room in a run down house in a city where she feels alienated and lost this was not the future Beth had envisaged for herself when she left the bay. It was all 'such a far cry from the perfect flat, the perfect boyfriend, the perfect life she'd thought she had once. She was so far from her ambitions and expectations, and with no idea how to get out of the rut'. Unfortunately a way out of the hole Beth finds herself in does present itself but really not in the best of circumstances. Eleanor has passed away from a heart attack and Beth is left bereft, her guardian, her rock, her sounding board is now gone and guilt eats away at her that she didn't visit as often as she should have.

Eleanor took the place of her mother when she remarried and moved to America. She became a close confidant and the mother figure she so desperately needed and now that support system is gone for ever. But Eleanor was a clever person who could sense Beth needed motivation, a focus and a new goal. In her will she leaves Beth the emporium, at first little does Beth realise this is exactly what she needs to get her going again. Before she knows it she has quit her job and is back in Lavender Bay. The scene where Beth finally stood up to her boss was brilliant and it came across as if Beth was getting a huge weight off her shoulders ready to start afresh a new period in her life.

The emporium is very much what I would call a huckster shop, where a little bit of everything is sold and you see things you didn't even realise you needed or wanted but are powerless to resist them. The shop may have fallen into slight disrepair and the goods may not be in as keeping with the times but Beth after much indecision decides to give things a go. She wanted to do the same with regards to her friendship with Eliza and Libby. 'It had been so long since the three of them had been together. They'd been drifting apart, not consciously but life had pulled them in different directions. No more though, not if Beth could help it'.

Eliza and Libby are all she has left. Even if Eliza is living away with her husband Martin and Libby is run off her feet in the chip shop she runs with her father. After she made her decision I found the shop took more of a back seat, apart from a major incident near the end. Beth's personal life became centre stage and things seem to happen very fast and I thought there needed to be a little more fleshing out of certain scenarios. After all Beth had been through a lot and shouldn't have just jumped head first into things without thinking things through clearly.

Beth was certainly a character who needed her confidence to grow, for it to be encouraged and nurtured. This came in the form of Eliza's brother, chef Sam Barnes. Like Beth he had big dreams outside of Lavender Bay, he wanted to be a successful chef and had already trained in Paris but his fathers illness called him back to run the family pub. It was evident Sam felt stifled in the pub, that his creative talents around food weren't being stretched but yet he was selfless in that he gave p his dreams and aspirations to help his family when they needed him the most.

I loved Sam as a character, everything about him seemed to true and genuine. He didn't want to hurt anyone and I enjoyed seeing the feelings emerge between himself and Beth. He could see Beth wasn't always in the best of places emotionally and mentally and he provided her with time, care and attention. He offers her love and care but is she willing to accept it? On one hand I would say there was a lot of toing and froing between the pair, so much indecision and uncertainty but on the other elements of their story felt very rushed and it seemed as if some parts of the story were glossed over or as if I had missed out on conversations.

There was actually a significant part to the story where midway Beth receives some news that really throws her. Maybe it was the copy of the book that I was reading but it was as if three or four pages were missing and I kept re-reading thinking hold on why is she talking about this? One minute she is looking at her phone and then the next she is upset but I couldn't work out why, this proved frustrating for me. At other times it seemed the story jumped forward a bit and conversations and events took place and they read as if I had already meant to know about them when in fact I was reading them for the first time. If time is given into the setting up of the book and its setting and the various situations that evolve then surely the same should be expected throughout the entire story.

If I was to split the book into three parts, definitely the first and last third were the strongest. The middle felt a little too dragged out for me and nothing exciting happened before the pace picked up again towards the end. That said as we made our way towards the finish I could see how much I had left to read but thought there is so much more that needs to happen here or needs resolving and how will it all be fitted in? The last few chapters felt very rushed and the book ended quite suddenly when I thought I had a bit more to go. It would be best not to leave everything until the last minute and then pack things in and in turn the reader is left with a sense of abruptness and wanting to wrap things up especially if the reader had enjoyed Beth's story. Everything left me wanting updates from Beth in the next instalment. I know she won't be the sole focus of Summer at Lavender Bay but I hope we will see what happens for her next.

Spring at Lavender Bay didn't blow me away the way the first in the Butterfly Cove series did but still it was a good read despite some of the above mentioned issues I had with it. There was a lovely feeling of camaraderie, love and friendship where the girls would stick with each together through thick and thin and Beth was a character I could identify with and wanted the best possible outcome for. I'll be interested to see what Summer at Lavender Bay has next in store for everyone we have already met.

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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