By Olga Nuñez Miret
I bring you a lighter read than I have you accustomed to and another one from Rosie’s Book Review Team. Don’t forget to visit her blog!
When Emma Came to Stay: When family ties uncover family lies by Cheryl Waters
Emma’s just turned thirty. She’s just lost her job. And she’s just as single as she always is. Fortunately, her beloved Aunt Maude – a fun-loving septuagenarian – lives in the south of France. It’s just what Emma needs: time to swim in the sea that sparkles, let the sun kiss her skin, and to work out what she wants and where she’s going.
When yacht-owning Marc comes sailing into her life, Emma can’t believe her luck! But there is something she just can’t work out about him…
When her fun-loving aunt ends up in hospital Emma learns that Maude has her own secrets. Just how did her aunt come to have a masterpiece in her attic?
As this delightful corner of France wraps Emma (and us) up in its charms, we wonder if Marc is all that she wants – or is true love somewhat closer to home?
About the author:
Born in London, Cheryl grew up in Cheshire. Cheryl married Phil in 1991 and that same year they moved to Scotland where they both worked in Edinburgh & grew a family of two children. In 2011, with the young adults off at University, Cheryl’s dream of living in France became a reality.
Renovating an early 19th-century farmhouse, in 2014 Cheryl & Phil made the permanent move to the Creuse region of southwest France, opening their B&B.
Whilst Cheryl had talked of writing a novel for many years, between the demands of full-time work and all that comes with a young family, there never seemed to be the time.
Moving to France brought the opportunity of a (slightly) quieter lifestyle, and then Coronavirus arrived, pausing the world, halting the B&B and delivering long stretches of precious free time! So, one such time- led day, Cheryl typed an opening sentence into the computer. After eighteen months of writing, re-writing, and learning how to publish later the debut novel; “In My Mother’s Footsteps” was ready.
What was originally a dream to simply write a book “one day” had become a tangible result. Cheryl plans to continue, with the idea for a second book now well underway. If you would like to contact Cheryl, she would love to hear from you. www.facebook.com/cherylwaterswrites
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity, and, in this case, for providing me with an early paperback review copy of the novel.
I tend to read a lot of thrillers and heavy-going psychological novels, and I fancied something light and gentle, and this novel hit the right spot in that respect.
The description provides quite a few clues as to what to expect. There are a variety of elements that converge in this novel: we have romances (yes, more than one); we have second chances (for several of the characters involved); we have secrets, lies, and plenty of reveals (not impossible to work out, but they add interest to the story and keep it moving); we have a bit of the adult coming of age story for the protagonist, Emma (whose priorities change massively after losing both, her long-term boyfriend and her long-term job quite by surprise), but, for me, this is mostly a wish fulfilment novel. Not for everybody, of course, because some people would, perhaps, hate the lifestyle the protagonist chooses/finds herself thrown into, but many people will, at some point, have probably wished they could just leave everything behind, move to a different country, and have a go at making a living in a totally different way, in a wonderful setting, staying in a nice house, finding a (new) loving relationship, and acquiring a perfect (if somewhat unconventional) family. If you are one of those people, you are likely to enjoy this novel. There is no explicit sex, and although Emma’s aunt, Maude, can be a bit outrageous at times, the language used if fairly mild. I won’t say it is unlikely to offend anybody, because I know that is a very personal thing, and a few of the situations and behaviours in the story might not sit well with some readers. I definitely wasn’t offended and didn’t mind Maude’s funny banter, which I find good-humored and endearing.
My favourite things in this book were: the setting, although those who hate long descriptions don’t need to worry, as there aren’t many and they aren’t excessively detailed either; the upbeat attitude of Emma and most of the characters, who take things in their stride, and although they might experience doubts and hesitations, they eventually decide to take a chance and take risks to try to improve things; the characters, especially Maude, who is wonderful. She is youthful, colourful, has a great sense of fun and joy, and is determined to enjoy life and unwilling to slow down due to her age or her ailments. Some of the other characters are somewhat thinly drawn, as the story (other than when it comes to Maude and her past) is very much focused on what is happening now, and we only get rare glimpses of what life has been like for the rest of the characters. But I liked them all well enough, and the main protagonist, Emma, is kind, generous, and it is easy to root for her. This is not a heavy novel, as I have mentioned, and it doesn’t go into the deep psychological reasons for the characters’ actions, and none of them are depicted as particularly complex. There is the typical will they/won’t they situation regarding one of the romances, but the obstacles are not insurmountable, and this isn’t a heavy melodrama where suffering and tragedy play a big part, thankfully.
Was there anything I disliked? Although most of the events are told from Emma’s point of view, and the whole story is narrated in the third person, there are also parts of the story where we get to see what some of the other characters think and feel. That adds to the mystery and to the tension in some cases, as we realise what is going to happen but don’t really know how it is going to come about, but because the swap in point of view can happen from one paragraph to the next and without any clear separation or indication of the change, some readers might get a feeling of head-hopping and take issue with it. Due to the nature of the story and to the rhythm of the narration, I didn’t have any difficulty following the thread and didn’t get lost despite these changes, but I thought I’d warn readers, just in case that might be a serious problem for them.
The other issue I had, and I am aware that it might have to do with my book being an early copy and a paperback at that (and I know formatting can be a nightmare sometimes), was that there were a large number of typos and similar issues (dialogue apostrophes missing, the same or similar word repeated several times in a paragraph…) that could be easily solved by a further round of proofreading if that hasn’t happened already. The writing itself is easy to follow, and there is plenty of everyday life reflected in the story, which follows the rhythm and the chronology of the seasons, and the ending is… well, happy as it should be, with no ifs or buts.
If you’ve always dreamed of changing your life completely and finding the perfect adoptive family, in a beautiful setting, with a good dose of romance and good cheer thrown in, I would recommend you to check this book. It will make you smile.
Thanks to the author and her publishers for the novel, thanks to Rosie and her team for their support, and, of course, most of all, thanks to you for reading, commenting, liking, sharing, and keeping me going. Stay safe and never forget to keep smiling!