While I greatly enjoyed the first Hartley-by-the-Sea novel, and loved the characters and setting of the second, my nitpicky brain had issues with some of the background details in that one that didn’t quite feel right for a UK-set story about born-and-bred Brits. We’ve met one of the main protagonists in this third novel as a background character in previous books, but the other is new to regular readers, although a returning former resident of the village.
Abby Rhodes was brought up by her grandmother, after her mother – very young herself – left Abby to make a career for herself, first in Manchester and then in the US. Abby was a student at Liverpool University, but returned to her grandmother’s flat and café following the death of her partner and the birth of their son. Abby has featured as a secondary character in the previous novels, and regular readers have seen her struggle to keep the café going in the wake of her grandmother’s health problems. Although this isn’t the life or career she had planned for herself, Abby has made the best of things and is starting to feel settled in her situation. All that changes, however, when her mother unexpectedly returns to Hartley-by-the-Sea.
Laura Rhodes has made a success of her life after leaving school before taking her GCSEs and having a baby when barely sixteen. A change of owner for the nightclub she manages results in her losing her job, and so she reluctantly returns to her former home in order to consider her next move. Although still in her early forties, Laura feels too old to get another high-powered job in the entertainment industry, but has no real idea what other uses she can make of her skills. When her mother – Abby’s grandmother – has a catastrophic heart attack, Laura and Abby find themselves running the café together and making plans to revive the flagging business.
I loved all the main characters in this book, with the obvious exception of the two antagonists, Laura’s brother and Abby’s father, and enjoyed revisiting this charming village. Sadly for my nitpicky brain, however, there were a few points in Abby’s backstory that didn’t add up. It could have been worse: I’ve read books that got the logistics of obtaining a UK veterinary degree even more wrong than this book managed – and it’s not a difficult topic to research in the age of Google. I’m sticking with this series for the love of the setting and the people, but I really hope the next book avoids the issues of the two most recent instalments.
Abby Rhodes is just starting to get her life on track. After her fiancé’s unexpected death, she returned with her young son to the small village where she grew up and threw herself into helping her ailing grandmother run the town’s beach café. Then one evening, her mother, Laura, shows up in Hartley-by-the-Sea and announces her plan to stay. After twenty years away, she now wants to focus on the future—and has no intention, it seems, of revisiting the painful past.
Laura Rhodes has made a lot of mistakes, and many of them concern her daughter. But as Abby gets little glimpses into her mother’s life, she begins to realize there are depths to Laura she never knew. Slowly, Abby and Laura start making tentative steps toward each other, only to have life become even more complicated when an unexpected tragedy arises. Together, the two women will discover truths both sad and surprising that draw them closer to a new understanding of what it means to truly forgive someone you love.
Read an excerpt.