Like the lovely aga on the cover, “Rainy day sisters” will leave you feeling warm and happy.
Set in the west of Cumbria, this novel features two sisters who are virtual strangers. They have the same mother, but they grew up on different continents and were rarely in touch. When Lucy, the younger sister, has a life crisis, she turns to her half sister Juliet. Unsure of her welcome, she travels across the ocean to stay for four months with her elder sister who runs a bed and breakfast in the seaside village of “Hartley-by-the-Sea”, population fifteen hundred. Her B&B hosts guests from far and wide, mostly people on walking holidays.Juliet is a very solitary person. Lonely, but seemingly unable to let her guard down long enough to make friends. The outgoing Lucy is very intimidated of her half-sister, who gives her a cold welcome without so much as a hug. They tiptoe around each other, both physically and emotionally.
Juliet has arranged for Lucy to take a temporary position as a primary school receptionist/secretary. Lucy, who is an artist, has no skills to take to her new position and finds the job challenging. The head teacher, though very handsome, is taciturn and chilly in demeanor.
The girls had very different upbringings. Their mother, Fiona Bagshaw, is a prominent artist and an outspoken social commentator. Lucy had lived under her mother’s shadow in Boston, Mass. whilst Juliet, eleven years Lucy’s senior, was on her own in England. Juliet was estranged from her mother, who treated her coldly and didn’t so much as acknowledge her birthdays and Christmases over the years. She felt unloved and unwanted her entire life.
As early autumn turns to winter, Lucy’s warm effusiveness eventually breaks the ice around Juliet’s heart and the sisters gradually warm toward each other, but not without some stumbling blocks along the way. This change in Juliet causes her to open up to other people, especially the sheep farmer up the road.
“Hartley-by-the-Sea” is in a part of England that I dream about. The friendly village and picture perfect views of the Western Lake District make for an idyllic setting for a novel. The charming Cumbrian customs and dialect add extra flavor to this excellent example of women’s fiction. I can’t wait to visit the village again in the next “Hartley-by-the-Sea” novel, “Now and then friends“.
The second novel in the series features different characters from the same charming village. We meet them only fleetingly in the first novel.
Quality women’s fiction, gorgeous setting, and a whiff of romance, make for escapist fiction at its finest.
I received a digital copy of this novel from Berkley/NAL via NetGalley. It was my pleasure to review it. Kate was born in Pennsylvania, went to college in Vermont, and has spent summers in the Canadian wilderness. After several years as a diehard New Yorker, she now lives in the lovely Cotswolds in England with her husband, five young children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever.
You can follow her musings on village life at her blog, http://www.acumbrianlife.blogspot.co.uk.
or on Twitter @katehewitt1