Eve Carpenter had a seemingly idyllic life with a career she loved as a head teacher, a good husband, and a bright future, but one fateful mistake led to tragic consequences and brought it all crashing down around her. Now in the midst of a divorce, she's been burying herself in work to avoid the pain of losing everything, but a sudden health scare opens her eyes to her desperate need of a break. As an only child whose parents are distant, both physically and emotionally, she has nowhere else to turn except to her beloved Aunt Mary. Eve has fond memories of visiting Mary as a child in her little seaside village of Conwenna Cove in Cornwall, but in the busyness of life, she's regrettably neglected her aunt for the past several years. She has no idea whether Mary can forgive her, but with nowhere else to turns, she rings her up and finds the same loving woman she's always known, offering a place of respite from the storms life has thrown at her. Eve eagerly heads for Conwenna Cove where she discovers a surprising sense of peace and an equally surprising connection with her aunt's new tenant.
Jack Adams is a former British marine and a wounded warrior in both body and soul. While searching for peace in his own life, he found himself in Conwenna Cove, where he serendipitously met Mary, who offered him in a place to stay in her extra cottage. He's been there ever since and has also found a sense of belonging in working with the rescue dogs at a shelter for Greyhounds. Knowing that Eve has neglected such a kind woman like Mary makes him disinclined to like her when she first arrives. But the more time they spend in each other's company, the more he realizes that she's actually a nice person and something of a kindred spirit. However, Eve comes with a lot of baggage and she's insistent that once she's recovered she intends to return to her job in Bristol. Although this makes Jake afraid to let himself truly care about her, he can't seem to help himself. Neither Jack nor Eve had any designs on falling in love again, but despite their best intentions, it finds them anyway, leaving only the question of whether Eve can put her demons to rest in order to find a permanent place in her life for Jack.
I'm fairly certain that Darcie Boleyn is a British author, and as such, I might not have discovered this lovely story if not for a British book blogger who was kind enough to feature one of my own books a while back. I'd been following her ever since, and when I read her post about Summer at Conwenna Cove, it sounded like the kind of book I would enjoy, so I immediately put it on my TBR list. This is the story of Eve, an over-achieving workaholic who has always been driven, but she's been working even harder ever since experiencing a miscarriage followed by the dissolution of her marriage. Finally her body rebels in a spectacular way with a near-complete physical and mental breakdown that leads her to reevaluate her life. In order to sort out her issues, she takes leave from her job and heads to the little seaside village of Conwenna Cove in Cornwall to visit a beloved aunt. There she begins to find peace and also meets her aunt's neighbor and tenant, Jack, who stirs her interests in a more romantic direction. Unsure if she should be getting involved with someone new in her current state, she tries to keep their relationship as just friends. But it becomes harder and harder for her to resist this handsome man's charms, especially when she finds out that he works at the Greyhound rescue and loves animals. However, she still has to decide whether she can leave behind her old life and the job she loves to start fresh.
Eve is a very driven woman who loves her career as a head teacher. But after losing her pregnancy and her marriage crumbling as a result, she's been pushing herself even harder in an effort to forget. However, it all catches up to her one day when she suddenly develops a migraine, has a panic attack, vomits and passes out, all while in a meeting with her coworkers. It's a humiliating experience for a woman who's always tried to be strong, but after a trip to the hospital, the health crisis scares her enough that she realizes she needs to take a break for a while. Unfortunately she's an only child who's never been close to her parents who now live in Italy, and the only other relative she has is her Aunt Mary. Eve has fond memories of spending summers at her aunt's house as child, but lately she's been neglecting her aunt because of her crazy busy life. Feeling guilty about it and unsure whether Mary will still welcome her, she reluctantly rings her up and finds that Mary is thrilled to have her come for a visit. Eve heads for Conwenna Cove and in that quiet, unhurried environment, she gradually starts to unwind, but she still has a great deal of soul searching to accomplish. While trying to figure things out, she meets Jack and forms an easy friendship with her aunt's tenant that she'd like to turn into something more. But demons from her past haunt her, along with all the decisions she has to make, leaving her reluctant to pursue a deeper relationship. Eve is a very relatable character who's been living life in the fast lane, and just simply needs to slow down. She's a good person who has lost a lot and hasn't really given herself time to grieve and find closure, but the magic of Conwenna Cove helps her to find peace so that she can move on with the love of good man.
Jack is a former British marine and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. In the midst of doing some soul-searching of his own, he ended up in Conwenna Cove where he met Mary, who rented him her extra cottage. Having no family of his own, she became a surrogate mom to him, and in return, he's pretty protective of her. That's why when he hears that Eve is coming for a visit, he's not very friendly to her at first, because he's seen how she's neglected her aunt. His bad feelings toward her don't last long, though, once he realizes what a kind person she actually is despite her not coming around for a long time. He's also quite attracted to her, but she comes with a lot of baggage. However, after being wounded in the war and having his wife leave him, Jack has some issues of his own that makes it easier for him to relate. He's very patient with Eve, even though he's afraid that if he allows himself to care, she might go home to Bristol and never come back. Despite his military background, Jack is much more of a beta hero, who's never pushy or possessive. He's very kind, sweet, and sensitive toward both Eve and Mary. I absolutely loved his artistic side and that he loves animals and works with the Greyhounds at the rescue. He's just an all-around great guy that any woman would be lucky to have.
There are some memorable secondary characters in this book as well. Even though she never had children of her own, Mary is a wonderful motherly figure to both Eve and Jack. I thought it was sweet that she got a romance of her own with Edward, a local fisherman. It shows that romance isn't just for the young, but also the young at heart. I love a well-written animal character, and there are several in this book. Mary has two cats and two rescue Greyhounds that Jack and Eve often take on walks. But it was Gabe, a Greyhound at the shelter who takes a shine to Eve, that really captured my heart. He was just too cute and made me want a Greyhound of my own.:-) There are also a number of villagers in more minor supporting roles, two of whom get books of their own. One is Oli, the veterinarian, who is widowed with a couple of kids. He becomes the hero of Book #2, Christmas at Conwenna Cove. Then Nate, a surfer who works at a local diner, becomes the hero of the third book, Forever at Conwenna Cove.
In my opinion, Summer at Conwenna Cove is a cross between contemporary romance and women's fiction. A large part of the story is about Eve figuring out her life and what she wants to do moving forward, which leans into the women's fiction genre. However, the romance between her and Jack is prominent enough that I have no trouble categorizing it as contemporary romance, too. That said, though, the romance is definitely a slow-burning one that takes its time developing, starting as a strong friendship before turning into something more, but I still felt that all-important emotional connection between Jack and Eve. They fit together well, and their relationship is a pretty sweet one. They share a bit of flirting and innuendo, but there's only one fade-to-black love scene at the very end with limited details. Although the book deals with some emotional topics, there are several humorous moments to lighten things up as well. I think that fans of small-town romances, such as Robyn Carr's Thunder Point series, will really enjoy this one. Darcie Boleyn did an excellent job of bringing the village of Conwenna Cove to life in a way that makes me want to visit this charming seaside locale if only it actually existed. There were also a few elements of the story that reminded me a bit of one of my own books, which was a treat as well. My only small complaints are that the story could be a little slow-paced at times, and I thought the characterizations could have gone a bit deeper. Otherwise, though, this was a lovely read. I'm quite happy to have discovered this new-to-me author and series, and I very much look forward to reading Oli's and Nate's books soon and checking out Ms. Bolyen's other works.
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