Bella Osborne makes her first appearance on the blog today with her latest story, a four-part installment that was combined into one larger book and is available now. Please read on for my review of
Escape to Willow Cottage
Not entirely sure what I was getting into when starting this book, Bella Osborne has a wonderfully fluid writing style that allows readers to visualize and instantly connect to the events of the story. Unfortunately for me, the characters of Beth and Jack took a bit longer to warm up as their introduction was full of quick judgments and little communication. Sadly, the communication between Beth and Jack was constantly lacking with speedy assumptions and some harsh judgments that didn’t really get an explanation until far further in. But, the miscommunication, the rush to judge and the overall tentative decision making from Kate was completely explained as the story continued.
Beth is a single mum with a 6 year old son, his father was killed overseas while in the military. After making a life, she met a man that she believed was so invested in her and in love with her that she allowed him every bit of control. The warning niggles became big red flags one day when she found him terrorizing her child and when she stepped in to stop him, he hit her. She’s packed up her son and a handful of belongings and jumped into a cottage she bought on a whim at an auction. Disheveled and in great disrepair do not go far enough to describe Willow Cottage, and the tiny Cotswolds town is full of characters: some friendly, others less so – and all considerably different from anything Beth had ever experienced.
Through settling into the village to learning how to DIY, Beth’s balance is constantly being upset with her reactions to Jack, her own worries about her ex finding them, and her best friends relationship woes. And Carly is a bubbling pot of sky high highs and expectations followed by utter devastation and disappointment, much like a child without a favored toy at Christmas. Funnily enough, Beth is able to give her some sound advice and try to mitigate her expectations as they soar to outrageous levels, but their friendship is solid, caring and truly touchstone for them both. Adding intrigue, Carly’s partner Fergus is deaf, his hearing lost after a bout of mumps as an adult, and the frustrations (and joys) of dealing with someone who can’t hear you when you yell, and has simply to turn away to stop an argument often made me giggle – as you can see the action in Osborne’s description.
The story covers a span of about nine months: from late summer through the following June, with plenty of action and a wonderful surprise hidden within the depths. Familiar to many are the stories of women being subject to domestic violence, but here Osborne adds in Jack’s struggles with an alcoholic ex with a penchant for chucking china (and other things) as well as using her fists. Touching on the lingering aftereffects that result in second-guessing decisions, guilt, fear of other people’s perceptions and the fear (from Beth) of the abuser returning, the difference in how people react to such trauma was presented in several ways and helped to explain (and mitigate) earlier harsh judgments of behaviors that were less than admirable early on. There’s plenty packed into this story and with secondary characters that bring the village to life, an outsized mastiff named Dora and other characters – this was an engaging and clever read, perfect for a weekend.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: