Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
Title: Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage
Author: Samantha Tonge
Publisher: Aria and Aries, Aria
Pub Date 15 Apr 2021
What a riveting read! Family, secrets, broken memories and dreams all play key roles in this moving family drama. It is a fabulous story of love and loss, momentous events and family history, skilfully weaving flashbacks of past events alongside current ones as Elizabeth (Lizzie) Lockhart discovers that the parents she thought she knew so well had secrets but, following their untimely death, it is up to Lizzie to uncover them if she can.
Lizzie has been estranged from her parents for several years and the reasons for this are slowly revealed through the story. When both parents are killed in a tragic accident, their legacy includes several properties which Lizzie knew nothing about, including Streamside Cottage in the small village of Leafton. Traumatised by her parents’ deaths, Lizzie rents that cottage in an attempt to find out what was so special about it. She feels strangely at home there, especially as the local postman, Ben, proves to be so helpful. However, the close-knit community seems reluctant to share information regarding her parents but, like pieces of a complex jigsaw, the revelations start to build into a picture of the past, a picture that has Lizzie rethinking everything about relationships and family as well as her possible future.
This is another fantastic, emotive page-turner from this highly talented author. There’s a lovely kitten in need of rescuing, new friendships and rekindled memories all adding to the mix, making this an unputdownable read. Personally, I just had to keep reading to discover the family secrets and just what the mystery was – and I really hadn’t foreseen it! I have also learnt about tattoos and tattooists through reading about Lizzie – I’d not considered many of the reasons shared for having them, either. If you enjoy family dramas with mystery and romance, make sure you don’t miss this superb read.
Thank you to Aria and NetGalley for my copy of this book which I have voluntarily read and honestly reviewed.
A new start can come from the most unexpected places…It’s been years since Lizzie Lockhart spoke to her parents. But she was safe in the knowledge she knew everything about them. Once upon a time, they were as close as could be. Until they weren’t.
After receiving the earth-shattering news of their passing, Lizzie decides it’s time to unearth some family secrets and find out just who her parents really were… starting with Streamside Cottage. A cottage Lizzie never knew existed, in a place she’s never heard of: the beautiful English village of Leafton.
Leaving behind London, and the tattoo parlour she called home, Lizzie finds herself moving to the countryside. Faced with a tight-lipped community, who have secrets of their own, Lizzie is at a loss for what to do, until her rather handsome neighbour, Ben, steps in to help.
As Lizzie finally begins to piece together the puzzle of her family history she realises she has to confront the truth of the past in order to face her future.
Google Play: https://bit.ly/3dCuQdU
An open birdcage symbolises independence and freedom
With a last backward glance at The Pen Pusher, I hurried to the end of Leafton high street and the post office within a supermarket. I shivered as a gust of air conditioning blew my way, before picking up a shopping basket and looking for essential items – milk, bread, cheese, coffee, biscuits, air freshener, cleaning products… definitely chocolate. A young woman with a name badge saying Neve sat behind the black conveyor belt. The navy-rimmed glasses looked too big for her delicate frame and pixie face, circled by a short blonde bob.
What a beautiful tattoo,’ she said and stared at the top of my arm.
‘Oh, um, thanks… open bird cages are a popular theme.’
‘Are you a tattoo artist?’
‘That must be such a satisfying job.’
The manager walked past and she and him exchanged glances. His name badge said Alan. From behind, the athletic body contradicted the bald head. He must have been around thirty.
‘I only mention it because I love history books,’ she continued, in a bright tone, ‘and am currently reading about Otzi the iceman. He was born around three thousand BC and found in an Austrian glacier. He had over sixty tattoos – made by incisions filled with charcoal. They weren’t on parts of the body that would show so experts decided the tattoos were therapeutic and not for decoration.’
I couldn’t help smiling at her enthusiasm.
‘Imagine getting to touch someone who had walked this earth so long ago.’ She went on to ask me why I’d become a tattoo artist and how long I’d been doing it. I mumbled a couple of short answers before swiping my card.
‘Sorry, I’m always getting told off for too much talking. It’s just so lovely to see someone new in the village. You’ll call in again?’
My phone ringing meant I couldn’t answer and I went over to a nearby chair. I realised it was a wrong number, but then I shouldn’t expect Ash to call.
I put the rucksack on my back, glad for the bottle of water in the front pocket, and decided to explore a little more before going back to the cottage. The church was Tudor style surrounded by a well-maintained cemetery. On from that was a tarmac car park with a sign saying Churchgoers Only. I pushed forwards into the forest and a breeze ruffled my hair and caught the perspiration – I never even thought the word sweatas Mum had hated it. A small bird flew past with a bluish head and orange chest. The smell of bark and soil accompanied me as I trod on twigs that snapped, and a floor of decomposing leaves. Trees creaked conversations to one another as I headed towards a sunny clearing. I sat on a log and admired toadstools growing up its side like stacked meditation stones. Trees towered around boasting a variety of soft-shaped and pointed leaves and a mouse scuttled into the undergrowth.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been somewhere so secluded. Ash and I visited London parks but often their signature was noisy ice cream vans, passing traffic and the pounding feet of fitness fanatics. My mind turned back to the loud house clearance van in Devon. It was run on diesel and rock music belted out of it. I’d sold off most of my parents’ belongings on the cheap. When I got home, I didn’t eat for two days. Instead my stomach was full of memories as I sifted through clothes I recalled them both wearing.
I’d let Aunt Fiona select personal items. She took bits of jewellery, a few ornaments and the photo albums. I took a bottle of perfume and one of aftershave. Sniffing them was the only thing that took me back to happy places, like nights out at the theatre and my proud Mum and Dad attending my Duke of Edinburgh award ceremony. I’d lain in bed, back at the flat, hugging their clothes, rueing the fact they’d died before things had been resolved. It all felt so unfair.
That’s the thing with funerals. You’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead. It’s an unwritten rule. So where was I to go with all the anger? I’d gone to my drawing book – except this time to write not sketch. I scribbled into the night, asking the questions, listing recriminations. I should have gone down to Devon sooner, to sort things out whilst they were still alive. They’d been forty when they’d had me, their careers having always come first, and had been approaching seventy when the accident happened.
Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely. When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines. She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award