Publisher: Sphere (28 Mar 2013)
Carole Matthews’ A Cottage by the Sea is a heart-warming tale about long-term best friends Grace, Ella and Flick. The trio, now in their 30s, have shared all the heartaches and good times over the years. But lately Grace has been disappointed by how little time they spend together, so she is delighted when Ella invites them all to stay in her cottage in South Wales. She also hopes this getaway might help her reconnect with her husband, but Harry isn’t as enamoured with Cwtch Cottage as she is… When loveable Flick arrives at the cottage, accompanied by the extremely charming Noah, the week takes a confusing turn!
A Cottage by the Sea begins with Grace and husband Harry’s journey to the cottage. We find out that Harry is not pleased to be spending his holiday in Wales and from Grace we learn the history of the girls’ friendships … and where her relationship is with Harry. Safe and predictable in the past, Grace is questioning herself and the expectations of others … and also comparing Harry now to how he used to be.
Art and Ella are the artistic couple. Ella is an artist and Art a Band Manager. Ella wants to settle down but Art is often on tour and still has one-night stands.
As soon as Flick arrives with new partner Noah, tensions and attraction come into force.
During the week at Cwtch Cottage, as well as the friendships and romance, the reader gets to go on some exciting water sport adventures and walks. Coasteering is definitely something I will only ever experience vicariously!
We see everything through Grace’s point of view as she is our first person narrator. An only child, her thoughts are littered with ‘should’ and ‘ought’ (stereotypical of trying to please others and be what they want you to be). During the week we see her beliefs tested time and again yet she stays true to her values. Grace provokes admiration! It was so right that she made a decision that was based on her own needs.
I loved the close bond and acceptance Grace, Ella and Flick have for each other. They knew each other so well and didn’t make judgements, acknowledging and accepting the shadow side. It was so easy to be a part of their friendship!
The underlying currents of tension and the electricity of attraction takes us on some terrifying and exhilarating paths. There is crises and secrets but alongside this is Matthews’ indomitable humour. I was curled up with laughter at the bin bag couture! My favourite scene has to be with the umbrella in the surf, eccentric but oh so romantic!
Of course the weather plays a part. I have a couple of favourite sentences that portray the emotion of the moment:
“A rumble of ominous thunder rolls across the sky and the black clouds scowl down at us. But I’ve never felt lighter.”
“The clouds are dark, shouldering into each other just above our heads, weeping.”
Love the personification!
Once again, Matthews takes us on an emotional ride. She has such an understanding of human nature – the reality of our emotions. It’s unusual for us to feel an isolated emotion and the rawness and tangle of emotions is shown really clearly through Grace.
A Cottage by the Sea will definitely entertain you. I have laughed, I have cried, I’ve sighed with longing. I’ve sat on the edge of my seat a few times with tension and gasped in shock. This has to be another Matthews book that is on my ‘keepers’ shelf.
At the end of the story, readers will find Carole’s summer holiday memories followed by a Q & A (readers questions) plus the first two chapters from Carole’s October novel Calling Mrs Christmas
I would like to thank the publishers for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.