This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Cressida McLaughlin
Carole Matthews’ new book starts with a familiar scene; a couple unable to find their holiday destination – an idyllic cottage by the sea in South Wales – and the Sat Nav being less than helpful. It is a scenario that I’m sure most people have experienced, but for Grace and Harry, bickering and sniping is becoming the norm. They both work long hours at gruelling jobs in London and, with Harry drinking more and more to wind down, Grace feels like he’s slipping away from her. She’s hoping a week at her best friend Ella’s cottage, which was left to her after her parents died, will give her and Harry the time and space they need to sort out the problems in their marriage.
When they arrive, the house is all Grace imagined. Rustic and charming, it is only a few feet from the beach, and Grace couldn’t be happier. Beautiful, elfin Ella and her band manager boyfriend Art welcome them with open arms, and Grace feels herself begin to relax – even if Harry is frustrated by the lack of phone signal and recompenses by sinking into a bottle of wine as soon as they get there. Then Flick arrives. Grace and Ella’s university friend, she is glamorous, beautiful and an unapologetic man-eater, though this time she has brought her new, potentially long-term boyfriend Noah with her. None of them were sure that Flick would make it to the planned getaway, but it is Noah’s presence that throws the close-knit group of friends into confusion.
I loved the premise of this book. Three couples flung together for a week in a beautiful, seaside location, with tensions already under the surface and only set to bubble harder in the unfamiliar surroundings. As the week progresses and the group are drawn into two camps – those who want to enjoy the sunshine and the scenery, and those who want to go to the pub – Grace and Noah get to spend more and more time together. It becomes clear that it is not just Grace and Harry who are having problems, and things begin to unravel for the three university friends and their respective relationships.
The characters are well drawn and believable, from gentle artist Ella with a kind, generous heart, to wildly outrageous but obviously insecure Flick, to Grace’s husband Harry with his flash car and his Twitter obsession. I really felt for Grace, who wants to see the holiday as a new start, a time to reassess and rekindle her romance with Harry. She is honest and committed to her husband, but is thrown into turmoil by Noah’s arrival. And speaking of Noah, he is a kind, handsome, knee-wobblingly delicious specimen of a man, with a dusty old Range Rover and chocolate eyes to sink into. Ahem. Anyway…
I loved A Cottage By The Sea. For me, it had just the right blend of tension and laughter, an idyllic setting, an even more idyllic hero, and a frustrating but enchanting tangle of a love story. I realised what a couple of the secrets were a while before Grace did, but I think this was because she was so caught up in her worries about Harry and what she was going to do about her future, and wanting her to discover them made me keep turning the pages.
Actually, everything kept me turning the pages. I read this over a weekend while we had friends staying, and I hope they didn’t notice how bleary-eyed I was each morning, after returning to this book for at least two hours after I’d packed them off to bed. I don’t really know what else to say to convince you to read A Cottage By The Sea. Oh, yes I do! Noah. There you go. Read it.