The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop by Cressida McLaughlin – Ollie moves to Cornwall for a bookshop – but is she aiming too high?

The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop by Cressida McLaughlin

At this time of year, a Christmas themed book is a good read – and this book does include Christmas scenes – but it could be read at any point with enjoyment. Those people who have been fortunate enough to read some of this author’s other novels set in the fictional Cornish village of Port
Karadow will recognise some of the places referred to in this novel, but it is definitely a standalone book. The characters make it stand out as an extremely enjoyable read, and as they reflect on the setting of beautiful views and places it is a lovely book in so many ways. The element of mysterious legends adds an extra dimensional to a tale of a newcomer trying to settle into a village where people are not always easy to read. This is a book about a young woman who has a lot going on, and has had recent struggles, so while she presents an optimistic front she is not so sure in her own mind about what she is doing. It is a lively and exciting book that I found an impressive read, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

Ollie Spencer has had a rough time when this book begins. She has had an injury, found it impossible to continue with her job and her best friend is moving away. It is a time for a new start, and fortunately she has now got the means to make it. A relative of her best friend would like her to go and type up his memoirs, so accommodation could be arranged in a small Cornish village. There is a new independent bookshop opening in the village which may need an events organiser, and to top it all, a well-trained labrador dog is included to keep her company. There are many reasons to move out of London, and it seems fortunate that she has a positive place to go. This being a well written novel nothing turns out to be straightforward. Ollie finds that there are challenges to be met even in the most welcoming of villages; there are those who seem to think she has taken on too much, expects everything to fall into place, and possibly a small village is not the same when it comes to attracting celebrity writers. Certainly, Ollie is to find that she needs to get used to a lot in a place where gossip travels fast and her issues are well known in the community. Not everything goes to plan in the bookshop either, or there is always the possibility that she will not live up to her promises. She knows that despite all her efforts to embrace a new way of life she may still be alone at a significant time. There is an attractive man who seems charming, but when he seems to charm everyone he encounters, how can she hope to be special?

This is a very special book which I greatly enjoyed reading. Ollie’s problems and challenges are many and significant, yet the author writes so warmly of the place and the legends associated with it, it is so easy to be drawn in and feel that her progress is completely relatable. This is a lovely book in which handles her characters and situations with great skill, and I recommend it as a lovely book to read, especially in the festive season.

The Staycation by Cressida McLauglin – A novel of holidays from a different perspective with a romantic background

The Staycation by Cressida McLaughlin

A lovely book of a sort of holiday in a hotel experience, this book takes having to stay in one place to a different level. I have read some of these author’s books before, but this one is certainly a bit different, in a good way. It features two people who have had difficulties in their lives with interesting effects. Hester is a successful travel agent who sets up dream holidays for people all around the world. Her stories of resorts and unique experiences are wonderful. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been to any of them in person. Jake usually lives in New York, and travels around the world to organize the sale of coffee. He has had an accident, and much against his will is stuck in a luxury hotel suite. In this romantic and unusual comedy written in an enjoyable style Hester and Jake encounter holidays that can only be taken virtually – but will that be enough for them, even though money is no object? I found this book to be very entertaining and was glad to have the opportunity to read and review it.

As the book begins, Hester is approaching a door in a luxury London hotel. In one way this is familiar territory; the sort of holidays that she arranges are way beyond the means of most people, including all the special touches that are extremely expensive. She does not visit these wonderful places herself. Since she was eleven, she has been unable to board a plane, running terrified from the airport when she has tried in the company of her two good friends Amber and Glen. Not that her boss Cassie is aware of her problems; thus far she has managed to fend offer all the offers of research trips with excuses. Now she has been asked to visit a young man who is staying in a luxury suite to recover from his injuries sustained in a road accident. Jake jumped into the path of a car to save an older lady, Rosalie, who has insisted on paying for the expensive hotel for him to recover enough to fly back home. He is very close to his sister Beth, who has contacted her good friend Cassie to organize a holiday for Jake to Thailand. In sending Hester to the hotel Cassie is assuming that she will be able to show him all the possibilities of hotels and resorts that will inspire his recovery. However, it becomes obvious that Jake is still feeling battered and bruised, and just wants to go home to New York. Hester matches wits with him, and he requests that she return and create evenings of virtual holidays for him in the hotel suite. On one level this should be easy, as a hotel employee called Marty will provide all the props, the chef will provide approximations of local food, and a screen can be rigged up to show virtual tours. What Jake is asking for is a problem because Hester has only effectively been abroad once and must use the stories of other people to make the holidays sound convincing and real. As the sparks of attraction begin between them, can Hester come to terms with her fears, and will Jake be able to accept less than the truth?

McLaughlin has a light touch with characters and a reassuring ability to draw the surrounding friends and family in such a way to give real depth to their portrayal. In a book that depends on convincing stories, she is able to conjure up places and experiences for the characters as well as the main narrative. This is a great story to emerge from a period when many have been unable to travel in reality, and perhaps inspires new dreams.