I loved this book and devoured it in one and a half sittings.
Kate Hewitt is a prolific category romance writer, and this series seems to be one of her first outside of that tightly knit sub-genre. It tells the story of Ellie, who moves to country England in the hopes of starting a new life with her daughter Abby who is being bullied at school.
They move into the cute and newly refurbished old stables turned apartments at Willoughby Close. They’re the first family to move in, and arrive with little else but the car they drove in and flatulent dog. Ellie has to start her new job at the University earlier than originally planned and soon gets caught up in a crazy life. The professor (Oliver) she works for is, of course, hot. And he’s a little emotionally stunted. His world is thrown into disarray the minute Ellie steps into his office. I love how this relationship develops, and while it’s nothing new in terms of the romance genre, it’s certainly a cosy, heartwarming read that made me smile many times and also avoid my grumbling tummy just so I could flip to another page. And another. And another.
My favourite line in the book is from the old, rich spinster, Lady Stokely, who lives in the manor on the estate that these cottages are situated on. She tells Abby: “Girls who peak in primary school tend to live rather disappointing lives. Far better to be interesting from the start.”
The only downside I could think to this story was that the ending felt a little rushed. The main romance part was done wonderfully, but the relationship with the new neighbour (who I think will be the focus of the next book) went suddenly from nothing to their daughters being best friends and we didn’t really get to see why. It was just ‘she’s not as bad as I thought’. I would’ve liked to see a little more there.
And I would also like to read the rest of this series. Thank you to the publishers and Netgally for providing an ARC for me to read.
From a writer’s point of view:
I learned a simple romance technique in building that sense of attraction between the main characters. It seems so simple when I think about it, but I don’t really do it myself. You need to make the protagonist daydream about their love interests love life. There is a point where Ellie is wondering whether the professor is in a relationship where as a minute ago, she couldn’t have cared less. It shows her internal feelings have moved into relationship territory. Another technique Kate Hewitt also plants the seeds for the next characters to be focused on in the book early, so that when we do get to the next book, we’re already a little emotionally invested in the story.