This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I’m not a huge fan of the celebrity-writing-a-novel trend that seems to be blossoming, and so I approached Hidden Treasures by Fern Britton with some trepidation. After years of putting up with adulterous husband Gray, Helen finally makes the decision to do something for herself, files for divorce and escapes her London life to move to idyllic Cornwall village Pendruggan. Buying the beautiful ‘Gull’s Cry’ cottage, she finds that not only does she have a chance at independence and a different pace of life, she also has the opportunity to become part of a community.
Polly and ‘Simple Tony’ live next door – Tony in a hut at the bottom of Polly’s garden; Don and Dorrie run the pub; Queenie is a feisty old lady who owns the village shop, Simon is the vicar and Piran is the local historian. As Helen begins to settle into a new way of life, she begins to develop strong friendships. Tony helps her to convert her weed-strewn patch of grass into a beautiful garden, and Simon is thrilled that ‘Gull’s Cry’ Cottage has such a lovely new owner.
Helen cannot fully escape her London life, however, as grown children Chloe and Sean are always keen to visit, and her best friend, film producer Penny, decides that Pendruggan would be the ideal place to film her upcoming detective drama. Gray is also an added complication and continues to get in touch, unable to accept that Helen has finally let him go.
Hidden Treasures is a pleasant read, with good characters and a great sense of idyllic countryside living. Helen – though confident she has made the right decision – sometimes struggles to adapt to her new found freedom and, after years in an unhappy relationship with Gray, finds singledom difficult to unpick. Hoping to build close, platonic friendships, she isn’t always able to spot when someone is attracted to her, and this causes complications. There is also the tension between her and Piran, each finding the other equally intriguing and infuriating.
I found that Hidden Treasures took a while to get going. After Helen’s initial move to Cornwall, there is a lot of time spent on her settling in, being visited by her children and making new friends. While there are interesting relationship dynamics, I did feel it was more a snapshot of Helen’s life rather than a plot-driven story, and so sometimes found it hard to keep turning the pages. When Penny turns up with film crew and diva-actors in tow, the pace picks up and things get interesting, but it felt like a long time coming. There is also a mysterious / historical storyline which, while intriguing, appears, disappears and then is resolved very quickly, giving the whole thing a slightly lopsided feel.
While Hidden Treasures was definitely readable, it didn’t really capture my imagination. Some of the set ups felt contrived, some of the outcomes to plot threads were fairly predictable, and there were a couple of continuity errors that I found irksome. I also didn’t warm wholly to Helen as a main character; I found her a bit self-centred, and either deliriously happy with her new life or sobbing into a bottle of wine.
Hidden Treasures is a fun novel with lots of good elements, but for me it just didn’t come together in a satisfactory way. It’s a cosy book for a dark night by the fire, but not a totally gripping, fire-has-gone-out-and-I-didn’t-even-notice read. Though I suppose, in a way, that’s a good thing, as it means your feet won’t get cold.
6/10Hidden Treasures by Fern Britton is out now!