Saturday, 29 September 2018

Emma's Review: Coming Home to Maple Cottage by Holly Martin

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Isla Rosewood is creating a new life for herself and her sweet nephew Elliot in their cosy, yellow-brick family cottage, brimming with special memories. Living in Sandcastle Bay was never part of Isla’s plan but, after her brother Matthew’s tragic accident, her whole world changed as she unexpectedly became a mother to the little boy she adores so much.

Leo Jackson was always known as Matthew’s fun-loving and wild best friend. But now Matthew is gone, it’s time to put his colourful past behind him. His role as Elliot’s godfather is the most important thing to him. And even though Leo and Isla are two very different people, they both want to give Elliot the childhood he deserves.

As the three of them enjoy time together watching fireworks, baking cakes and collecting conkers, Isla begins to see a softer side to charming Leo, with his twinkling eyes and mischievous sense of humour. And, despite herself, she begins to fall for him.

But does Leo feel the same way? Isla knows their situation is complicated but is it too complicated for true love… or will the year end with a happy new beginning for them all?

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Many thanks to Bookouture via NetGalley for my copy of Coming Home to Maple Cottage to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

Coming Home to Maple Cottage is the concluding book in the Sandcastle Bay series by Holly Martin. This really has been such a brilliant series of interconnected love stories from Holly packed full of warmth, love, affection, friendship, community spirit and lots of laugh out loud moments which add such light and shade to each couple's story. I can't say which story I preferred the most because truly each one was unique and special in their own little ways. Usually when it comes to a series from this author I love the first book and find the subsequent two just OK but here each book was just such a fantastic read and that's thanks in part to the wonderful characters she has created but also the setting.

Through such visual descriptions I really felt Sandcastle Bay came alive and leaped off the pages into my heart. The entire concept of following a man and women on their journey to establishing themselves as one unit, as a couple has been interesting and engaging and really you are rooting for them from page one. Yes the eventual outcome is more than obvious from the start but it's the journey that the author takes us on in order to reach that point of affirmation is what has made me thoroughly enjoy this series from beginning to end.

Coming Home to Maple Cottage had such a lovely autumnal feel to it, just perfect for this time of year as the leaves change colour on the trees and we enjoy the outdoors as much as we can before those long, dark days of winter draw in. It was also refreshing to see a book set during this season as so many now tend to focus on Christmas, not that there is anything wrong with that. I enjoy a good Christmas read as much as the next person but change is also welcome too. Those new to this series needn't worry in the slightest that they would not be able to follow the trials and tribulations of Isla and Leo as Holly so effortlessly weaves in the back story of the various characters we have met before. I love the way she does this whilst at the same time she is canny enough in giving fans snippets of new information and we get to see how things are  progressing along with Melody and Jamie and Tori and Aidan.

But now our attention focuses solely on Isla and Leo and perhaps this was the story I was waiting for most of all. We have seen in books one and two how an exceptional bond has grown between the pair as they care for Elliot following the death of his father Matthew who was brother to Isla and Melody. Isla has adjusted to her new life in Sandcastle Bay leaving behind the bright lights of London where she was a window dresser. She has grown to love her new lifestyle but the worry always remains at the back of her mind will she be able to adopt Elliot or will the mother who abandoned him return before said adoption can be completed?

Leo has been Isla's backbone and strength, he is kind, wonderful, generous and funny. He is a man who really stepped up to the plate and given he wouldn't be known for this as his past with women leaves a lot to be desired, Isla appreciates every minute of the time he spends with herself and Elliot. Leo truly is taking his godfather duties seriously and his loyalty to his friend Matthew can clearly be seen by everyone. What also can clearly be seen especially by his aunt Agatha and also his brothers Aidan and Jamie is that Leo does have strong feelings for Isla. He wonders are these reciprocated? Can the ladies man be tamed? Yes he may have proposed to Isla every week since she came to the bay but she doesn't believe he is genuine rather that he feels obliged given the situation they find themselves in.

Leo has previously said he doesn't do marriage or happy ever afters. He feels he ruins things and things never work out for him. To be honest as much as I loved Leo and admired him so much for all that he did for Elliott, at the same time he needed a good talking too. Why oh why can't people see what is right there before their eyes? Why do they put themselves through so much angst, confusion and upset before the clouds part and everything becomes clear? Yes if this would have happened earlier on there would have been no story to read but someone did need to sit down and say Leo, get a grip and take a leap of faith. Complicated love is not the word and the reader does question at times will things just get too much and everything backfire and explode just like the fireworks displays Leo puts together?

Isla is my favourite of all the women characters. On the face of it she is strong and would like to be independent but underneath it all she has a vulnerable, soft side where she is reluctant to let her heart fully open to love for fear of getting hurt. She would love nothing more than cementing the family unit she has established with Leo with the fun and loveable Elliott at its centre but that fear and anxiety rears its ugly head time and time again. Similar to Leo I wanted Isla to just go for it and see where the wind would take her. On both Leo and Isla's part there are a lot of guilt and worries they need to work through and by being open and honest is the only way of achieving this and emerging on the other side stronger and united. But there are certain forces begin to rear their heads which will test Isla to the max. Can she cope with these as well as deal with Leo?

I loved how every now and again Isla really let her inhibitions, beliefs and viewpoints fall by the wayside and caution was throw to the wind. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was roaring laughing at one or two of the unfortunate, compromising scenes that featured at just the right times. Oh how I cringed for her but Holly Martin always provides her readers with such humour bound up in a feel good romance that just adds so much to the overall story. On the opposite side of the coin to this I thought the scene where Isla speaks to Matthew in the graveyard was so poignant and brought a smile to my face yet it really struck a chord with me and I admire the way Holly wrote this so sensitively and honestly.

This wouldn't be an autumnal book if Holly had mentioned some autumn celebrations and festivities. I'm always amazed at the events she comes up with, be it set during Christmas or summertime. So mentions of acorn hunting, pumpkin carving competitions and Halloween fancy dress parades were so apt for this book and added that little bit of extra sparkle and magic. The acorn hunting scene in particular was just brilliant. The pure innocence of Elliot spilling forth everything he had seen and heard was hilarious but oh so mortifying for the characters involved. Talk about taking literally everything on board and bringing it up at the most inopportune of times.

Coming Home to Maple Cottage was a joy to read and the perfect conclusion to a lovely series which got better and better with each book. It showed how a couple navigate through a world of uncertainty in search of reassurance and love. Their journey was a memorable one filled with lots of people I won't forget in a hurry that's for certain. This is a book I would definitely recommend. It's an ideal read to curl up with on the couch and lose yourself in the captivating, sweet, cosy and uplifting story. Make sure you don't leave it too long before you read it.

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