Published: 8th October 2015
Where do you run when your heart’s breaking all the rules? When pillar-of-the-community Harry Stewart dies of a sudden heart attack, the whole village is devastated – except for his wife Karen, the only one who really knew the abusive alcoholic Harry had become. Suddenly freed from this oppressive marriage, Karen is nonetheless wracked with guilt about the circumstances of her husband’s death, and sees the presence of her spoiled step-daughter, Sophie, as a suitable purgatory. Her only comfort in her grief and isolation is William, the sympathetic local vicar. As Karen shares her secret, William’s listening ear soon becomes a shoulder to cry on, and before long Karen realises she is falling in love. But William has a wife and teenaged daughter, not to mention a parish to watch over – and be watched by. As the pressure becomes too much to bear, Karen flees to the seaside and to Mike Best’s beach café. But when William suddenly turns up again in her life, can they persuade each other to take one final leap of faith together?
Thank you to Quercus for kindly sending me a review copy.
Hilary wastes no time in introducing her characters and their problems. Karen’s husband Harry is a drunk; he has been for quite some time and quite frankly, she’s fed up of it. The plot was already explosive and the first chapter hadn’t even finished. With alcoholism comes violence and with violence comes fear; that’s exactly what was brought to the narrative very early on and it pulled me right into their upside down lives. But it didn’t stop there, Harry got his justice very early on and despite the quickness of the event occurring in the plot, Hilary timed it perfectly.
“Get the lecture over with then, woman. Tell me I’m a drunk, tell me the booze’ll kill me, tell me you can’t stand the sight of me any more.”
With Karen left with her step-daughter, she tries her best to pick up the pieces after Harry’s departure. Her frustration really did come across on the page clearly, especially when it came to continually cleaning up after her bratty step-daughter. I liked the fact that Karen eventually warmed to the William, the vicar, after a while as despite having a small group of friends, she needed all the support she could get. There was most definitely a connection between Karen and William, but what exactly could they do about it? He was a servant of God and most of all, a happily married man.
“For a moment they just stood still in the March sunshine, looking at each other. She wanted to smile, but a smile wouldn’t come.”
As the cold January days fade away and into a lukewarm March, Karen finds herself agreeing to host yet another Summer fête despite Harry no longer being around but then again, it’s a way to get closer to the vicar without being suspected. But it’s when Part Two opens that Karen has a change of heart completely and decides that going away for a little while is best for herself and so, to the beach she goes..
“But the other night… Just being beside you in the theatre, on the beach, not even talking, it felt like it was where I ought to be.”
It soon becomes clear what the beach symbolises; freedom and lust. I liked the fact that it became their place where they didn’t have to talk, walking was enough for them both. It becomes their little place of sanity where they do and say exactly what they wish. Of course, nothing ever stays a secret for long; the drama seemed to kick off and fade away within a matter of pages but it didn’t surprise me as 50 year olds aren’t really up for arguing. However, the plot isn’t just about a forbidden romance – there are very strong themes of depression, suicide, hope, death, loss, family, friends and community. It’s been completely jam packed with so much going on here, there and everywhere but Hilary did the clever thing of breaking it up for readers so it wasn’t all at once which I really appreciated.
“You can’t tell me something like that and expect me to cheer.”
The ending was not what I expected. The vicar, William, told Karen a piece of news which I just didn’t think would have come out of his mouth in a million years. It was a painfully sad ending, one which made me sympathise towards Karen in a way I never expected. Hilary’s writing style is always captivating with her elegant descriptions of the beach, the beautiful home, the countryside surroundings and the shaken up lives of the characters. It’s a book which you can enjoy during any season as they’re all mentioned in one way or another. It’s just beautiful.