Three generations of the Winslow family gather one Spring as they go through joys, sorrows, and many decisions to find healing in the home that’s been in their family for generations. Add mystery, romance, and a manipulative, self-centered cousin, and you have the makings of a promising series set in the fictional New England village of HOPE HAVEN on DUNE ISLAND. The picture painted by the author of the sunsets, ocean waves, the surf, the smells, and more make the fictional setting come to life.
ZOEY has been staying with her elderly AUNT IVY and Aunt Sylvia after Sylvia developed pneumonia. Out of a job and her savings all but depleted by an ex-boyfriend, Zoey dedicates herself first to nursing Sylvia, until her passing (in the prologue), then to Aunt Ivy while she copes with the loss of her sister-in-law, Sylvia.
Then another bombshell drops when Zoey’s asked to assume responsibility for her niece GABI, the daughter of her sister, JESSICA, who was lost to cancer several years earlier. The girl’s step-mother and father hope Zoey will let her finish the school year wherever Zoey ends up living. With Gabi’s mother gone and now her dad in a rehab program for alcoholics, Zoey says yes.
On top of that, Zoey’s cousin MARK, the next in line to inherit Aunt Ivy’s house, is doing his best to get her to move into a retirement facility so he can renovate the house and lease it out for an income. If this happens, what happens to Zoey?
But there is one light in it all, NICK, the local contractor. Or is his light too bright to be believed?
If you read the blurb/book description on Amazon, it isn’t accurate to the book’s story. I think if I read the book, after reading that description first, I would be disappointed because the suspense and anticipation it promises is not quite what’s delivered. Even some imagery given isn’t what you get in the book. But don’t let that stop you from reading AUNT IVY’S COTTAGE after reading this review. Because I’m just pointing that out in case you read this review and then the Amazon description and wonder what was this book blogger talking about.
If the blurb is not accurate, then what do you get?
A story with more substance, more emotion, and more heart than expected. And I enjoyed it better than I would have if it had been what the blurb described.
KRISTIN HARPER does a great job of painting a wonderful picture of what the Hope Haven area of Dune Island looks like. It’s a nice job of giving the imagery as part of the story and not just throwing it in to fill up the page. Harper really knows what she’s doing. It’s not over the top, just enough to give you what you need. I love it when that happens. And as a writer, I can tell you it’s a balance not easily accomplished.
Each character has their own unique personality and problems. This is something I enjoy in any book, but in this type of book in particular there is a tendency to have too many characters that serve the same purpose and clutter the story. When that happens, you end up wondering which character someone is talking about. Harper nails it with just the right number. One living great-aunt, one aunt in her thirties, and one teen niece. The niece, Gabi, has friends that are unique and fleshes out her character nicely, but they aren’t cluttering the reading. For instance, you read about one boy early on, and the next time you meet him, you have no problem visualizing him again walking with the girl down the hall her first day of school to give her a tour. Honestly, I could see the kid. It surprised me. (Maybe I knew a kid just like him.)
The emotions of the story are not overdone, and they aren’t always about the same things. Yes, the same emotions happen about the same things at times, but I expect that when a story involves grief. If the story didn’t include those moments, it would come across to me as unrealistic.
You have the tears, but they are usually warranted, not filler or lack of a talented writer’s ability to come up with something better to say. They are timed at the right moments in the story where they belong rather than pulling you out of your escape into the sounds of the surf on a New England island in spring. (Zoey’s moments on the beach and in the ocean had me wishing I were there.)
There are laughs as well, which include multi-generational moments that aren’t contrived. Some of those moments include characters that might surprise you but ultimately don’t.
Harper does great with not making any of the characters one-dimensional. I have to say that surprised me. A lot of times in books of this genre one person has a role to play and they stick to that stereotype/trope with no variation. Harper doesn’t do that here. Some of the roles do play to type where they need to but then there is much more to each person. Very nice.
There are only a couple of places in the book I thought could’ve been different, but in no way do they take away from the reading of the book or diminish the enjoyment I had. Nor would they change the story or outcome of the book.
I really like books that have a sweet, emotional family story, be they mysteries, romances, suspense, or whatever. There is no profanity at all in the book. Also, there are no intimate/sexual situations that would keep a teen from reading this book.
Summing it up: It’s a tight story with no fillers and some little learning moments about life, love, and family. You’ll enjoy it, as I did.
I’m horrible at comparing one author to others in this genre. Why, because I pick up a book to read based on the title, cover, description, and reviews. I do like reading the same authors but if the reviews are bad, I’ll skip the book. Plus, when you read over a hundred books a year, you get kind of get lost in your own little world of words.
All I can say is this was a well-plotted and well thought out story. The world-building Harper has done makes for a four-dimensional feel (fourth being the senses included) reading experience.
When you have a book that is put forward as a Clean & Wholesome Romance, you often think of those painfully awkward almost-moments of intimacy the two leads go through until the ‘finally’ moment happens. I am so pleased to say this book does not put you through that. Of course, you have moments, but reasonable and nothing like what I’ve read so many times before. There are very few cliché moments in Aunt Ivy’s Cottage. Nicely done.
I said all of that to tell you how Kristin Harper’s efforts stand out from others.
A solid 4 out of 5 Stars. I would read more in this series. (One other title currently available, Summer at Hope Haven.)
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$.99 for ebook.
Ever since she was a young girl, there were few things Kristin Harper liked more than creative writing and spending time on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with her family. Eventually (after a succession of jobs that bored her to tears), she found a way to combine those two passions by becoming a women’s fiction author whose stories occur in oceanside settings. While Kristin doesn’t live on the Cape year-round, she escapes to the beach whenever she can.
For more reviews and the other stops on Kristin Harper’s Book Blog Tour:
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