Return to Port Agnes by Jo Bartlett

Return to Port Agnes is the first in The Cornish Midwives series of novels

The last thing Ella Mehenick wants is the fifteen minutes of fame she’s found herself landed with. After all, who wants to star in a viral video of the very public ending of their relationship?

Newly single, and desperate to get as far away from her former fiancé as possible, Ella heads back to the Cornish seaside town of Port Agnes, where she grew up.

Working as a community midwife keeps her busy and, even if some of the locals seem to have an unhealthy fascination with the breakdown of her relationship, the other midwives soon make her feel like one of the team. Despite her disastrous dating history, Ella manages to play matchmaker to her new best friend and even dodges her parents’ attempts to get her to settle down with the boy next door.

Her only problem is Dan Ferguson, who seems hell bent on destroying a local landmark, which will tear the heart out of Port Agnes. When Dan turns out to be the one person who can help Ella, after a high risk pregnancy puts a patient in danger, she discovers he’s not the man she thought he was. But getting to know the real Dan is not as easy as she’d like it to be…

Someone in Port Agnes is determined not to let her move on from the past and will stop at nothing to make sure no-one forgets why Ella is back in town, even if that means breaking the law.

Will she ever be allowed to enjoy her return to Port Agnes, or are some things just impossible to leave behind?

You only have to look at that series title to know you’re going to be in for a treat. As a huge fan of series like Call the Midwife and Doc Martin, I knew this was going to be a pleasure to read when I saw it was the first in the new Cornish Midwives series. I wasn’t wrong.
Following a major personal embarrassment that went viral on social media, Ella returns to her home town of Port Agnes in beautiful Cornwall to take up a position as a midwife at the local unit. She is soon making her rounds, getting to know the expectant mothers in the Port Agnes area, sharing in their joys and fears and becoming part of their lives at one of the most important times they will ever experience.
Not all the mums-to-be are having an easy time. With phobias and unexpected pregnancies, some of them need Ella’s help more than others. Then there’s Tara, whose husband seems to be the most selfish and uncaring of fathers-to-be. When Ella spots him in a compromising situation in a local pub, her opinion of him sinks even lower. But is there more to Dan than she realises?
The Cornish countryside and the rural community comes alive in this novel. A sense of place is always important to me, and I could quite picture myself on the Cornish coast, eating pasties and listening to the cry of the gulls, as I read.
There’s a strong cast of supporting characters and I’m sure many of them will feature in future books in this series. There’s plenty of scope for more stories, as the midwives not only go about their work, but deal with all the twists and turns in their private lives, too.
Jo Bartlett is a lovely writer, and I always know I’m guaranteed a good read when I pick up one of her books. I’m looking forward to the next instalment in this delightful new series and can’t wait for my next trip to Cornwall!

You can buy Return to Port Agnes here.

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.

The Island Legacy by Ruth Saberton

island-legacyWhen Ness Penwellyn unexpectedly inherits a Cornish island it isn’t long before she encounters property developer, Max Reynard. Wealthy and wickedly handsome, Max is accustomed to getting his own way but Ness is unimpressed. His assumption she’ll sell her inheritance to him makes Ness determined to go it alone – even while bitter relatives plot revenge and circumstances begin to spiral out of control.

Max Reynard is a rich and powerful playboy. Used to winning, in matters of business and the heart, he’s shocked to meet a woman able to resist his money and good looks. And when he realises he wants Ness even more than he wants her property, Max knows he’s in big trouble.

Before long Ness and Max are locked in a battle of wills. And when love’s involved, the rules of engagement are soon broken …

I discovered Ruth Saberton some years ago, when she released Katy Carter Wants a Hero. Having holidayed several times in Polperro, I could picture the scenes she was describing in that book so clearly, and I loved the style of writing.  Some years later, having read Escape for the Summer, I decided that had replaced Katy as my new Ruth Saberton favourite. However, I’ve just finished The Island Legacy, and I can say, hand on heart, this isn’t just my favourite of Ruth’s books so far, but it’s also one of the best romantic books I’ve read in the last few years.

I was completely hooked from the start. A hint of mystery kicks off the story, and the scene is set…And talking of scenes, oh my word! The book is set in Cornwall, and it’s so obvious that the author lives in that glorious county, because she describes it so magnificently that I felt as if I was right there with the sun in my face, tasting the salt spray, hearing the lapping of waves and the cries of the seagulls, gazing across the causeway to the magical St Pirran’s Island and staring in awe at the ruins of Pirran Castle.

As a fan of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, I couldn’t help but think of Kirrin Island, but that only added to the magic for me. Clearly, St Michael’s Mount is the inspiration for St Pirran’s, and it’s made me want to head over there and visit for myself! There is something quite special about islands, after all, and there’s something very special about Cornwall, so a Cornish island was inevitably going to produce something extraordinary, and this story really is outstanding.

Every character was a joy to spend time with: the fragile Fern with her mysterious past; handsome and cheery Merryn, who transports the tourists to the island on his boat, when the causeway is covered by the sea; gifted, grieving Adam and his musically-talented little boy, Josh; Merryn’s unusual gran, Rose; the wonderfully kind and caring, but terribly put-upon Lucy; strong-willed, determined Ness; and equally stubborn Max, a man who dabbles in the shallow waters of flashy boats, trashy girlfriends, and showy buildings, yet dives the depths of kindness, charity and compassion.

Then there are the characters who are no longer alive, but whose story threads through the lives of the island family. Why did the famous, talented composer Armand stop making music? Why did the three brothers fall out? What really happened to Ness’s mother, the beautiful but tragic Beth? And, perhaps most puzzling of all, why did Armand leave St Pirran’s Island to Ness?

Ness wants answers to all these questions, and she is determined to find them, in spite of the best efforts of her cousin Jamie, whose fury at being denied what he considers his birthright knows no limits. In spite of Lucy’s attempts to defend her brother, Ness knows Jamie is not to be trusted, and the fact that he appears to be in league with Max Reynard only confirms her suspicions about both men. But Max is a complex man – certainly not the sort of person he initially appears to be. He certainly meets his match in Ness, who is far from impressed by money or reputation, but is frighteningly vulnerable to a pair of grey eyes…

Max is equally enthralled by long, red hair and sea-green eyes, so, as the two begin a relationship that is, outwardly at least, purely a tug of war for ownership of the island, below the surface passions flare and desire smoulders.  But Ness is determined to hang on to St Pirran’s Island one way or the other, and Max is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants most in the world is that island. Or is it?

As the summer unfolds, both Max and Ness have to think carefully about what really matters to them, and the answer may not be what they thought at all.

With three gorgeous romances unfolding, a villain that the reader will love to hate, a mystery to solve, an ancient castle, a beautiful island, a fabulous Cornish setting, and a hero and heroine who are absolutely compelling, this is a novel to treasure. I really can’t praise it enough, and, although I was turning the pages as fast as I could, to find out what would happen, I was so sorry to finally reach the end and leave St Pirran’s behind me. I suspect it will be a book I return to again. Like Cornwall itself, it’s something I just can’t bear to say goodbye to forever. 5/5

You can buy The Island Legacy here.

A Holly Bay Christmas by Jo Bartlett

Jo Bartlett certainly knows how to tell a good Christmas story. A year or two ago, I read and reviewed her lovely novella, The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come (which, by the way, is being reissued by Accent Press with an absolutely gorgeous new cover) and I thought then that she really knew how to fill her readers with Christmas spirit. A Holly Bay Christmas, is, I’m delighted to report, just as enjoyable, and just as festive.
Holly Bay is an absolutely charming little village nestling on the Cornish coast. It’s full of those delightful little shops and businesses that you find in Cornwall, and it’s populated by a community of people who really pull together and care for each other.
Maddie’s entire world revolves around her bookshop/teashop, Basil’s Adventures, which is named after her beloved grandfather. He was the biggest influence upon her life, teaching her the wonders and delights of reading, and how to escape into the magic of a book. Although he rarely travelled outside the town, he had a whole lifetime of adventures in his imagination, and so, when he died and left Maddie an inheritance, she used it to fulfil her dream of opening her own business, naming it after him. She is devoted to her work, has a cosy flat in Holly Bay, and plenty of friends. She can’t help wondering, though, if it’s time she gave some thought to finding romance. Not that there seems much chance of that, when she’s so busy, particularly now that it’s almost Christmas and Holly Bay is a hive of activity.
So when the attractive and friendly Ben Cartwright arrives in town, it seems like fate. Ben seems very interested in her, in her business, and in her friends. Could he be the man of her dreams?
When he helps out with raising funds for a charity that is close to her heart, and even dons an elf costume to help out, she begins to think that, just maybe, he actually might be just that. But dreams don’t always come true, and secrets have a habit of being discovered, often at the most inconvenient times. What is Ben really doing in Holly Bay?
As a storm sweeps in, bringing destruction in its path, the residents of this little town must work together to help each other, and to make one little boy’s Christmas dreams come true. The key to it all is Ben, but can he be trusted? Is Maddie about to lose everything she holds dear, or is it going to be a happy Holly Bay Christmas, after all?
A heartwarming, cosy festive story that will really put you in the mood for the festive season. Merry Christmas! 5/5

You can buy A Holly Bay Christmas here.

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