Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea by Liz Eeles/Annie’s Holiday by the Sea

Every now and again, you pick up a book (or your Kindle) and find a story that just seems so easy-to-read that it feels like coming home. Which, in the case of Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea, is quite fitting, really, since that’s one of the main themes of the story.

Annie Trebarwith is a real loner. Since the death of her mum, she has been living an independent life in London, sharing a flat in the capital, embarking on a series of temporary office jobs, and putting her failed romance with a lecherous ex behind her. Life with her mother was unconventional, and Annie has grown used to moving around, never settling, never putting down roots. She is all too aware that her mother’s Cornish family turned its back on her when she got pregnant and that her parents wanted nothing to do with her, or her baby. As a result, Annie is equally determined to have nothing to do with her extended family.

So it’s a bit of a shock when she is invited to Cornwall to visit her great aunt Alice, who has not been well and is in need of help. Finally meeting a member of the family is bad enough, but the culture shock of Cornwall in January, after the busy streets of London, is enough to make Annie decide that this visit will be very brief indeed. Her determination only increases when, upon arrival in the coastal village of Salt Bay, she has an unpleasant encounter with Josh Pascoe – a grumpy-looking chap who definitely isn’t someone she wants to get to know better, even if he does look like a cross between Poldark and Richard Armitage.

The dismal, wet weather does nothing to change Annie’s mind, but Aunt Alice turns out to be rather lovely, and new friend Kayla, who is Australian and great fun, makes the village more interesting. When Annie’s love of music leads her to revive the Salt Bay Choral Society, her bonds with the village and its past tighten, and she makes new discoveries about her own family’s past.

But events conspire to drive Annie back to London, where she is employed by her new found relative Toby. But are Toby’s motives for giving her a job entirely honourable? Annie frets about Aunt Alice, about the future of the choir, and – in spite of all her best attempts – about what exactly the devilishly handsome Josh is getting up to.

But an independent London girl doesn’t belong in a Cornish village, does she? And with Josh’s evident dislike of the Trebarwith family, there’s really nothing to go back to…Is there?

I absolutely loved this book. It’s written in such a deceptively easy style that I just found myself turning page after page, eager to find out what happened next. Annie is a wonderful main character – her vulnerable nature brilliantly masked by a great sense of humour. Josh is absolutely gorgeous, and yes, I did fall in love with him. Too right, I did!

Salt Bay is such a delightful village. Having holidayed many times in Cornish coastal villages, it felt very real and familiar to me. I laughed at the scene which featured a coastal path down to the beach. I totally related to poor Annie’s struggles with it. I’ve struggled  similarly myself. Those paths are horrendous! There were some real laugh-out-loud moments in this book, and yet it had an emotional pull, too. I will confess, I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye as I read the last page. Very moving indeed.

I would definitely recommend this book. It’s a great holiday read, and I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel and find out what Josh and Annie get up to next. 5/5

Updated to say the title of this book has been changed to Annie’s Holiday by the Sea.

You can buy Annie’s Holiday by the Sea here.

Moonshine by Deirdre Palmer

When I reviewed the prequel to Moonshine, Dirty Weekend, I said that it reminded me of one of those old black-and-white films that dealt with young, working-class people as they tried to make their way in a very different world to the one their parents had known. Moonshine is similar in that respect – although the film may now be in colour, as we have reached 1969, the year of the first moon landing.

Terry and Carol-Anne are now married and living in a flat above a greengrocer’s with their daughter, Donna. Carol-Anne works a few hours a week at a shop, and Terry is working hard to learn “The Knowledge” so that he can achieve his dream of becoming a cab driver, just like his dad and brothers.

When the young couple decide to go away for a two-week break in a caravan on the Devon coast, the idea is that they will have a second honeymoon. But Carol-Anne won’t leave Donna behind, even with her devoted gran, and then Beverly, Carol-Anne’s younger sister, pleads to be allowed to join them. Carol-Anne can’t refuse, which doesn’t exactly thrill Terry. He’s even more put out to discover that his best mate, Mark, and Mark’s girlfriend Vicki, have booked a caravan on the same park for the same fortnight. Some second honeymoon this is going to be! However, Terry soon cheers up. Being away with another couple might be fun, and at least there are babysitters on hand.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, as they say, and the much-longed-for holiday doesn’t quite go according to plan.

For Mark, the whole point of the holiday is to give him and his gorgeous girlfriend the chance to finally “do the deed”. With Vicki about to start teacher-training in Birmingham, the two of them face separation for many months. They need to make a commitment to each other before she leaves, because what if she decides that long-distance relationships don’t work? When a twist of fate means Vicki is unable to join them on the holiday, Mark considers dropping out, too, but is persuaded to go with his friends, while Vicki recuperates at home with her mum and dad. He can’t help worrying, though. He loves Vicki, but do they really have a chance of keeping their relationship alive when they will be living so far apart?

Carol-Anne is disappointed not to have Vicki’s company, but at least she has Beverly. Her little sister, though, has been behaving oddly lately. She’s developed a crush on some lad, and it seems to be having a weird effect on her. Maybe two weeks away from the object of her affections will help her to put it all in perspective. She may even have a nice holiday romance, which will help her forget all about this crush. At least, that’s what Carol-Anne hopes for.

Terry is hoping for some passionate encounters with his beloved wife. He wants this to be a holiday to remember. If only his own guilty secret wasn’t there in the back of his mind, nagging away at him and demanding resolution.

In glorious Devon, it seems there is nothing ahead of them except two weeks of  sunshine, lazy days on the beach, sightseeing, and nights out at the clubhouse.  But on the night of the Apollo landing, as the world watches in awe the momentous events happening in the skies, back on earth, in a little caravan park in Devon, events are unfurling that will have a greater impact on the friends than the moon landing ever could.

One bad decision will tear couples apart, threaten friendships, and force the four adults to take sides. With tensions high, the only way forward is for someone to tell the truth. But will that person have the courage? And will the pressure they’re under force Terry and Carol-Anne and Mark and Vicki apart, or do they have what it takes to weather the storm?

Full of gorgeous detail, and with a real sixties vibe, this novel is a treat. I love all Deirdre Palmer’s books, but Dirty Weekend and Moonshine are probably my favourites of hers. It’s a pleasure to hang out with her characters and wallow in nostalgia. She recreates the era so beautifully, it really is as if you’re watching an old film and can see it all playing out in front of your eyes. Great characterisation, wonderful writing, and a free trip back to the sixties. What more could anyone ask for? 5/5

You can buy Moonshine here.