Published by Zaffre on June 10, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Women, Cozy, Family & Relationships, Fiction, Love & Romance
Source: the Publisher
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A feel-good, uplifting summer read for fans of Heidi Swain and Cathy Bramley.
Emma Patrick's life is spiralling out of control. On the cusp of her 50th birthday, she suddenly realises that she doesn't have many meaningful relationships in her life. She's single, successful, living alone and thinks she's loving it, but being so focussed on work and always online means she's lost any real connection to people.
When Emma gets a call to say her ageing father is becoming increasingly confused, she decides that she should go back home to the countryside to spend some time with him. But returning to Little Bramble, the village she grew up in, after all these years, is filled with complications of its own and people she'd rather avoid.
As Emma starts to settle in to her childhood home, she finds herself loving village life - much to her surprise. When the opportunity to get involved in the running of the summer fete comes her way, before she knows it she's embracing jam making, cake baking and bunting. And with romance brewing, Emma begins to doubt the glamorous life in London that she worked so hard to build . . .
I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Country Village Summer Fete
Who hasn’t dreamt of leaving the rat race for a cosy, quaint cottage in the country? Well in Cathy Lake’s latest from Little Bramble, The Country Village Summer Fete, you can live vicariously through Emma. On the verge of 50, she’s given a huge wake-up call after finding herself in her jammies wandering around a 24-hour supermarket at 2 am buying vodka. Detached from the real world thanks to her working from home lifestyle, it takes a call about her ailing father to force her into making a much-needed change.
Make no mistake, it’s very clear after the first 50 or so pages where the plot of The Country Village Summer Fete is going, but it’s a nice ride getting there. Emma is full of regrets but is burying them in her hectic publishing job. Although working from home, her life is still full of deadlines and commitments. Sleep doesn’t come easy to her, and her late-night supermarket visits emphasise that. No matter her hard-earned wealth and privilege, Emma is not in a good place. A sudden call about her father’s health concerns forces her to take a break. But while Emma is eager to help and support her father, there’s a past in the village of Little Bramble that she’s not keen on revisiting.
That ‘past’ takes the form of Connor, her first, and biggest love. A strong partnership from their teens, Emma and Connor were the village darlings, destined to spend the rest of their lives together. But soon came a fear of the unknown for Emma and the pressure of being in a relationship, bound to small village life proved too much for her. Fleeing Little Bramble, breaking Connor’s heart and falling out with her beloved parents in the process, seemed the only recourse for Emma.
Initially, Emma hides away once she returns to Little Bramble, focusing solely on her father and his possible dementia. Gradually though, village life and its inhabitants begin to bring Emma out of her hard shell, forcing her to reevaluate not only her current life but the one she left behind. Soon, busy working to restore her late mum’s treasured workroom, the garden and helping her dad, she soon loosens up and begins to embrace the village life. And at some point, that means facing Connor.
Within the novel exists some well thought out characterisation, especially concerning Emma’s interactions with her dad Greg. Their relationship feels genuine – the situations they find themselves in are familiar to many finding themselves caring for older parents. Emma herself is portrayed well, and the changes she goes through, while heavily romanticised, come across naturally and unforced. Connor is very much a mirror image of Emma but very much a ‘village boy’ at heart. His narrative I felt had less impact and his treatment of his ex-wife Sadie came across as a little cruel. Her daughter Grace tells it to him straight and makes him reassess his actions. I just wish she’d done it sooner. Connor’s intentions may have been good, but the treatment of Sadie just comes across as gutless. Ultimately this didn’t make me warm to him as I think was intended. In fact, I just thought he was a bit wet.
The Country Village Summer Fete is Lake’s second novel set in Little Bramble (check out her first here) so this is undoubtedly a series in the making. As a result, there are some minor characters whose backstories have already been told, and others who are yet to be fully fleshed out. Overall, there’s nothing surprising about the inhabitants of Little Bramble and it does feel a little twee at times. In 2021 I would expect a little more diversity in village life than a lesbian best friend and her wife.
While the novel brings a few hours of light escapism, there are issues that jarred for me at times. Lake has a tendency to expound on subjects regularly interrupting the narrative flow. This is especially prevalent towards the end of the novel. It is ok for a writer to state that a character got into a car. However, it isn’t necessary to state the make, model and colour. When discussing rehoming greyhounds, a potted history of how the dogs are treated doesn’t add anything to the plot. The novel also suffers from repetition; I lost count of how many times at the beginning of the story Emma placed on her ‘big sunglasses’.
Hopefully, these are new author issues that can be ironed out because Lake does have a deft touch when it comes to writing about grief. As someone who lost their own mum 3 years ago, I could totally relate to how Emma felt when clearing her mum’s workshop. As she reorganised, cleaned and set it up for her to follow in her mum’s jam-making footsteps, her agony and heartbreak were palpable. These moments (as with the times with her father) were so well-written and felt so real that they often left a lump in my throat.
Little Bramble has a true feel of a small village about it, and Lake writes about it in a way that enables the reader to truly visualise the surroundings. The latter part of the novel is really where the village comes to life. As with the characters, there’s obviously room for Lake to expand upon her Little Bramble universe.
The Country Village Summer Fete is a gentle countryside based romance that touches on many issues. Lost opportunities, grief and fear of overwhelming change drive a cosy narrative that hits all the right spots for this genre. A satisfying ending awaits you in Little Bramble, and I’m sure it won’t be the last one.
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Tour organised by Tracy at Compulsive Readers. Do check out her website below for other tours and her own reviews.