Saturday, 22 May 2021

Emma's Review: A Letter to the Last House Before the Sea by Liz Eeles

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Lettie Starcross makes her way along the cobbled streets of Heaven’s Cove, clutching a little key and searching for answers about her kind, twinkly-eyed Great Aunt Iris, whom she misses terribly. With no job back home, and no-one in her family understanding how adrift she feels, Lettie wonders if her aunt was lonely just like her – is that why she fled this pretty seaside village years ago and never returned?

Staying at Driftwood House where Iris lived, now a cosy B&B, Lettie can almost hear Iris’s laughter on the breeze. And when she locks eyes with brooding fisherman Corey as he’s singing a haunting sea shanty in the local tavern, the sparks that fly between them are a welcome distraction from her grief.

But everything changes when Lettie meets Corey’s grandmother. Hearing the name ‘Iris Starcross’, her wrinkled face turns pale. Then she tells Lettie a devastating secret: seventy years ago, a choice Iris made tore apart this tight-knit community.

Heartbroken, Lettie questions if she ever really understood her beloved aunt – and if Corey knew about this shocking rift all along. So when her sister calls begging her to come home, Lettie is torn. If she stays to find what the key unlocks, can she discover the truth about what Iris did – and fight for her own fresh start? Or will she be the next Starcross woman to run from Heaven’s Cove forever? 

Book Link: Kindle 

Many thanks to Bookouture via NetGalley for my copy of A Letter to the Last House Before the Sea to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

A Letter to the Last House Before the Sea is the second in Liz Eeles’ Heaven’s Cove series and I have to say I really enjoyed this story even more so than Secrets at the Last House Before the Sea which at the time of reading I loved. This is easily read as a standalone book but when you finish it I assure you will want to go back and read the first story. This book had an interesting plot full of mystery and character. The setting was once again perfect and somewhat idyllic although despite the coastal village of Heaven’s Cove being a beautiful place to live in, its residents are not without their own issues and troubles despite the stunning surroundings. I think what really made me enjoy this book is that I felt the book established its pace and themes far quicker than when I had read about this setting before and it was like returning to old friends and catching up. Rosie once again features as she is now running Driftwood House as a guesthouse but she is not as prominent as before as Rosie has told her story and now it was time for some new characters to step into the spotlight who all provided much drama, angst, misunderstandings, humour and of course some romance. 

Our heroine this time around is Lettie Starcross who is a bit lost in life following the death of her beloved Great Aunt Iris. During Iris’ final days Lettie was by her side as she knew Iris was preparing to leave for one last final time, Iris leaves her a key and a letter in order for Lettie to find out things. She says ‘Keep this safe and find out for me darling’. The letter is brief and written by someone who clearly loves Iris – ‘Sit where I sat, darling girl, with the key to my heart and all will become clear’. Just what does this mean and what does the key which Lettie now wears around her neck open? Lettie has a keen interest in history and the past and this will serve her well as she joins dots together and delves back many years. Lettie is left bereft and confused but I think Iris was so very wise she knew her great niece inside out and was really giving her the shove she needed in the right direction. Not to mention there was something in Iris’ life that had remained unresolved for so long and perhaps sending Lettie on this quest would provide so many answers and resolution and also she would maybe find her true self. But the path in doing so would not be without its struggles and opposition.

Lettie was a character who you instantly felt for and knew that you would enjoy seeing the transformation she would undergo on all different levels. She was likeable and not without her faults and I could really identify with how she felt she was being treated by her family. Her world is upside down. She has just lost someone she deeply loved and respected then she is fired from her job, which really wasn’t enthralling her all that much anyway, and therefore she is left unsettled and sad which is becoming difficult for her to shake. Perhaps taking in the quest bequeathed to her by Iris will help her get rid of these feelings and find some new life experiences which will steer her in the right direction. A direction which she is finding difficult to find in order to even begin navigating it. There is an increasing sense of loneliness and exasperation surrounding her. She refuses to tell her family she no longer has a job as the expectations they heap on her would only increase. She is always the one who is expected to do everything for all family members at the drop of a hat. Bring her mother shopping, look after her sister’s children, the list goes on. Of course her family are close and careless but this can really tip over into micro managing and suffocating. But you can only be taken for granted for so long before something has to change.

I did initially question how Iris was connected to Driftwood House considering it was Rosie and her family who had lived there for many years but I loved how the author made the connection clear instantly and this in turn provided the basis for the journey of discovery the reader was taken on. As Lettie settles into the village she becomes much more than a tourist and soon becomes like part of the furniture. It was like a natural progression for her and I loved all the interactions she had with characters old and new. She had her own agenda in trying to solve Iris’s mystery but at the same time her helping and caring nature shone through particularly when it came to Claude even though resident gossip and busy body Belinda really tries to get in on the action a bit too much but I suppose she does have a good heart behind it all. 

Claude was the enigma of the book and having an archive of the village including old documents, photos and letters etc. he was the key Lettie needed to get started on seeking out the answers. But to many he is cold, eccentric and aloof preferring to keep to himself. I think when someone is portrayed as being this way they must have a genuine reason for not wanting to socialise for fear of being over whelmed and not being able to interact as many people do. Lottie engages tentatively with Claude and I loved the subplot that developed surrounding him. It was heart-breaking and heart-warming in equal measure and will bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face.

But despite Claude’s storyline having a significant impact on the overall book, it’s really Lettie and her delving back into the past that will grab every reader’s attention. When she meets Corey, a local fisherman and volunteer for the local lifeboats, she doesn’t bank on him being part of the puzzle that will potentially help her to solve her problems. To say much more regarding Lettie and how she keeps looking for the answers would ruin the book but trust me I loved how all the little hints and clues started to join together and things made sense. Miscommunication and misunderstandings are certainly two words that spring to mind and maybe heartache and bitterness could have been avoided. But Lettie certainly wants to right any wrongs that were done so many years ago.

Corey was grumpy, aloof and wary initially and I would say over protective but there was something about him that just drew both Lettie and the reader to him. I loved the way the pair sparred back and forth with each other and yes they may have rubbed each other up the wrong way numerous times but it was interesting to read about and it added another layer of drama and I suppose passion to the story. Similar to Claude, I thought Corey must have had something going on with him personally that meant he was so defensive but I loved how Lettie broke down the barriers and wanted to work with him to resolve the quest. Along the way sparks intensify and you do wish they could both find some happiness and wonder will it ever materialise. 

Overall A Letter to the Last House Before the Sea was a really enjoyable read and a worthy follow up to book one. For Lettie time slowed down in Heaven’s Cove, she connected with Iris once more and learned a lot about herself in the process and came to have a certain affinity with the village. I really do hope Liz Eeles is busy working away on another Heaven’s Cove book because they really are engaging, delightful and entertaining reads.

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