Sunday, 21 June 2020

Emma's Review: A Perfect Cornish Escape by Phillipa Ashley

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Summer in Cornwall is the perfect time for a fresh start…

Seven years ago, Marina Hudson’s husband was lost at sea. She vowed to love him forever – but when kind-hearted Lachlan arrives in Porthmellow, should she deny herself another chance at happiness?

Tiff Trescott was living life to the full as a journalist in London – until her boyfriend’s betrayal brought it all crashing down. Fleeing to her cousin Marina’s cottage, Tiff feels like a fish out of water. And when brooding local Dirk wins a day with her in a charity auction, she’s thrown headfirst into Cornish life.

This summer promises new beginnings for both Tiff and Marina. But are they too good to be true?

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Many thanks to Avon via NetGalley for my copy of A Perfect Cornish Escape to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

A Perfect Cornish Escape by Phillipa Ashley is the third book in the Porthmellow Harbour series which can be easily read as a standalone book and even more so than the first two I would say. This new story returns to a familiar setting and once again the author builds upon the fantastic picture she has painted of the small Cornish coastal village that is Porthmellow. I felt I got an even deeper appreciation of its beauty and the community spirit that thrives within it as the coast and the sea play an important role throughout the book.

This time around we have new characters to get to know. Old familiar faces from the previous two books do make fleeting appearances but it’s literally just in passing and, in a sentence or two told from our main character Marina’s perspective, we get an update on their situations. It didn’t bother me in the slightest that we didn’t get to hear more from characters I had previously been deeply invested in because in all honesty their story had been told and now it was time to get to know Marina and her cousin Tiff as a promised summer of new beginnings seems to be on the horizon.

I felt A Perfect Cornish Escape was a much deeper and more emotional book than I had become familiar with in this Porthmellow series. Some thoughtful and sobering issues, life situations and emotions were explored but all done so in a nice easy manner that meant the book didn’t stray into sombre, hard to read territory. This wasn’t a light and fluffy read by any means either. Instead the perfect balance was struck between joy and happiness and loss and coping with trauma and heartache. Seven years previously Marina’s husband disappeared whilst fishing in his newly bought kayak. His body was never recovered and for all that time the loss hangs over Marina and is something she cannot shake. She knows their marriage wasn’t perfect and many things have come to light since Nate left her life which have changed her opinion of him. But Marina has weathered the storm and got herself back on her feet, financially at least, but perhaps the same can’t be said for her emotional state.

To honour Nate, Marina established Wave Watchers on the cliffs above the village bringing the disused and run down lookout station back to life. Through sheer hard graft and a lot of fundraising Marina and her many volunteers have re-established the lookout and now her guilt is eased somewhat as she knows there is always someone there watching out for any boats, people or children in trouble and she knows herself or her volunteers can contact the coastguard and help will be on its way within minutes. If Nate couldn’t be saved many others can be. With the seven year anniversary fast approaching and the time upon her for Nate to be legally declared dead, is now the turning point for Marina and can she cope with a new stage in her life considering she always feels like the past is waiting to catch her out preventing her from moving forward?

Tiff, Marina’s cousin, arrives from London needing somewhere to stay. She is escaping from the rat race having been let go in disgrace from her job as a newspaper reporter after an expose went disastrously wrong. Her name is mud in the London newspaper industry and she hopes that time away will give her a fresh perspective and perhaps some ideas for her next move. Both Tiff and Marina had similarities in that they were both trying to figure out what their next life step should be but Tiff was a real city girl and Porthmellow was a small village with a slow pace of life. What could it possibly offer her in the long term? But I loved how Tiff adapted and made the best of a bad situation. She could have been all doom and gloom and just moped about the place bemoaning what had befallen her in London but no that wasn’t the case. I thought she began to show many sides to her personality and that she wasn’t a hardened reporter who was always out to get the scoop. She demonstrated genuine compassion, warmth and kindness towards Marina. She allowed herself to become a shoulder to cry on for Marina and in turn they began to discuss their problems and offer sound and practical advice. She gets a job on a small local newspaper and although writing articles on conservatories may not be the highlight of her career at least it is something.

The story moved along at a nice, relaxing pace, really quite perfect for a summer read when you just want to read in the garden and to let the hours drift by as you enjoy an uplifting, sweet, cosy read. There were times though that I felt nothing much happened and midway through I felt things kind of stalled for a bit. Yes, we had a great chapter or two set around the fundraising day for the coastguard and Wave Watchers, but I needed a little bit more excitement to occur. I thought there was just that little bit too much repetition as to how Marina was feeling. I knew from the start that she still couldn’t fully let go of Nate, I didn’t need to be told this several times. Her absolute guilt if anything went wrong with Wave Watchers or if things didn’t go to plan when watching out for people in the water just became too much at times. She really needed to ease up a little bit and not take every little single thing on board that might go wrong and blame it on herself. I understood her passion for the project and her reasons for establishing it but after seven years and the circumstances that Nate left her to deal with maybe this summer truly was the time to move on?

Of course we had to have some male characters feature and they were both expertly crafted and portrayed. For Tiff she gets off to a bad start when she meets local lifeboat mechanic Dirk Meadows as she is asked to bring something to his cottage literally upon the minute of her arrival. It was clear the sexual tension between the pair ignited the minute Dirk opened the door to Tiff but whether they would act on it was another matter altogether. As we get to know a bit of background story to Dirk and his personal life, his stand offishness at times and his reluctance to open up and talk became more understandable and I thought his own story tied in and connected up with Tiff’s very well. I became more understanding of him even if I just did want to give the pair a slap and say oh why can’t you get it together you are just perfect for each other?

As for Marina, the day she rushes from the watch tower to a small cove to warn an absolute god of a man that the currents are dangerous to go swimming is the day maybe she starts to allow a change in her emotions and opinions to come forth. Lachlan is newly arrived in the village and is working for Aaron at his security firm. Lachlan has physical scars and Marina wants to know his story. I was so glad there wasn’t this great big mysterious secret as to his background, that we weren’t left literally guessing until the very last minute. This wasn’t that kind of story instead it was more of a focus on the characters well being and emotional state of mind. Lachlan had an awful lot to deal with in his past and this is where the more serious issues I mentioned up above come into play. He was an interesting character who could say what had occurred with him but still in a similar way to Marina he hadn’t quite reached that point where he could safely move on with his life. I could understand why this was the case because he was so traumatised with everything. Would he be the key to unlocking the stance Marina has established for herself these last years and could Marina do the same for Lachlan? Only time would tell.

All the main characters featured in A Perfect Cornish Escape need to take steps into a brave new world and put the past behind them for good and with the help, support and guidance from each other they can perhaps achieve this. Whether they do or not you will have to read this delightful book to find out all the answers. I think this is the best book in the series so far. I enjoyed how everything came together and that twist in the tale I had wondered would the author venture down that route and all along I was hoping she wouldn’t but the way it was written she pulled it off and it didn’t seem too out of place.

I hope there will be another visit to Porthmellow in the not too distant future but I do know there is a lovely Christmas book to look forward to from Phillipa A Surprise Christmas Wedding and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for that.

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