Summer in San Sebastian by Joy Skye – A new start in a holiday resort for Abigail

Summer in San Sebastian by Joy Skye

A summer in Spain is the only option for Abigail after a disastrous few months. This is a novel of contemporary life in a wonderful setting as a young woman travels to stay with her aunt in a sunny resort where she swears off men and follows the opportunity to organise events and work for the Sublime Retreats organisation, offering luxury holidays for the most wealthy. Someone who notices the new holiday venue is the extremely wealthy property developer Gabe Xavier, a usually driven man who nevertheless has secrets. This is a romantic comedy of a very readable type, with some interesting points about women’s lives in the twenty- first century. There is plenty of entertaining dialogue, especially from the eccentric Aunt May, artist and activist. As the days proceed Abigail is challenged by the friendly people of the area, indulges in trying the wonderful food in the restaurants, and even becomes involved in the ongoing protest against the development of a local wildlife space. This is a lovely read of  holiday jobs which promise to affect many lives. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this lovely book. 

The book opens with Abigail travelling solo to Spain using the last of her funds. Having lost her job and discovering that her boyfriend has been cheating on her, she flies to see the only relative she is in contact with, her late mother’s sister May. She has always been close to the older woman, despite May choosing to live and work in the idyllic San Sebastian which inspires her colourful paintings. May welcomes her troubled niece and invites her to share her difficulties, but Abigail has realised that she must rebuild her life and that she cannot just enjoy even more aimless time, albeit in the sun. Meanwhile Gabe in New York has pulled off another financial deal,and casually dismisses another relationship. There is only one person he truly listens to, the elderly Father Thomas, with whom he obviously has history. Instructed to enjoy his wealth and take a break from working, Gabe plans to visit the latest Sublime Retreats apartment in Spain. Meanwhile Abigail has discovered that she has the opportunity to help her aunt by organising a party to launch her new exhibition. There is at least one man that shows an interest in the newcomer to the area, but Abigail is not keen to get involved with anyone else. Indeed the arrival of the attractive Gabe before his official stay in the apartment disturbs her, but she is still suspicious of him and unwilling to trust any man again. As she organises activities for him, she discovers that he is an intriguing person, but are her suspicions really to be proved true in a stunning revelation?

My favourite character in this enjoyable novel is undoubtedly the eccentric May, who muddles up sayings in a very funny way, is obviously talented, and offers some keen insights into Abigail’s life, past, present and future. The novel is full of local foods, sights and experiences, and those who love travelling for pleasure in Spain may well appreciate some of these descriptions. This is a lovely read, full of sunshine and revelations, which I enjoyed for its positivity.     

Falling in Florence by Joy Skye – a novel of finding Sublime Retreats in beautiful Florence

Falling in Florence by Joy Skye

Sofia Marino loves her large Italian family and their restaurant, but wants to get her own job. Her interview with Peter at Sublime Retreats has an interesting beginning, but she soon lands the job as his P.A. which means helping to track down select apartments in various cities. Adam is a young man who has been traumatized by the lost of his mother, and he is close to his retired police officer father. He always wants to be in control, so meeting his boss’ new P.A. is disturbing on several levels, not least because there seems to be a connection between them. Sofia’s family is complicated, but they broadly welcome her bid for independence. Unfortunately, Adam’s father Jack has a theory about the Marino family and an alleged involvement with a crime years before. When an accident means that Sofia must accompany Adam on a working trip to Florence, their relationship is tested in many ways despite the beauty of the city.

This is the second book which I have read which is loosely based on the idea of Sublime Retreats, but both novels are very much standalone. It is a lovely concept for novels, as describing apartments for the wealthy gives a good reason for describing some immense and impressive settings. The beauty of Florence is well described in this book, especially restaurants with balconies and terraces that afford good views of the scenery. The characters of Sophia and her family, featuring her rather bulky brothers and traditional parents are well drawn, especially when contrasted with the rather austere Adam and his father’s quiet relationship. The mix of character and setting is a good one in this novel, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

Sophia is described as a small young woman, with a prodigious appetite for food. Her family is very important to her, and her track record for romantic relationships has been limited by the understandable fear that no one would come up to her brothers’ standards. When she travels to Florence her genuine charm and her knowledge of the language and culture means that she copes so much better than Adam. He has high hopes for the trip, to make his mark within the business, but having denied himself enjoyable food and drink for so long he finds it difficult to allow himself to enjoy the amazing food and relax into the experience. Sofia’s spontaneity is difficult for him to cope with on many levels, and the trip seems to be out of his control as well as his feelings.

This is an entertaining and engaging book which enjoyed reading on many levels. It has a real sense of place even for those of us who are not so familiar with the city of Florence, and it luxuriates in the descriptions of the sights and landmarks. The descriptions of the food alone makes it a memorable read! The character of Sofia is lovely, as she encompasses some clumsiness with genuine charm and her ability to influence people at first meeting as well as family links. I recommend this book as a satisfying read for its characters, sense of place and genuine interest in how people react to opportunities.  

Clueless in Croatia by Joy Skye – a television detective finds new challenges during a publicity event.

Clueless In Croatia by Joy Skye

Leonard Lupine is an actor who lives a double life. His television persona is of a grumpy detective who lives in a mess while drinking too much. In reality he keeps his house immaculately, only occasionally drinking a little too much, and is happiest when strumming his guitar and writing love songs. When he takes a holiday as part of a publicity drive, he meets someone who makes a difference to everything. This is a romance novel that has much to say about old problems and new situations, celebrity culture and the reality behind assumptions. A lively story well told, it has much about the attractions of Croatia, and some of the realities of looking after children. The characters are well drawn, from the main players to the minor mentions, and there is a consistency in their behaviour. The dialogue throughout is lively and funny, and contributes to an enjoyable read. This is a contemporary romance with lots of twists and certainly does not follow a predictable path, especially given his contact with Isabella who knows little about his fame. This is a lively book which I enjoyed and found easy to read. I was pleased to have the opportunity to review it.

The book opens with a message from a company called Sublime Retreats to Angelica, Leonard’s agent, offering a cottage to any of her clients in return for publicity. Leonard is very fed up with his role in the very successful series, frustrated with not being able to have a private life. He was briefly married to a singer who is enjoying a publiclicy boost because of her latest relationship, which is one thing, but they had two sons. He knows that allowing his television persona to take over his private life is a costly bargain, that DI Fierce makes headlines for his awful behaviour, and Angelica is keen to prolong his notoriety. Meanwhile in Croatia, Isabella is a Local Concierge and single mother, a young British woman whose son Luka holds her in the area as her late partner’s parents help to look after him. She is completely unaware who Leonard is, but soon discovers his bad reputation . Meanwhile Leonard collects his sons, and begins to establish a good relationship with them. He begins to discover there is more to life than fame, acting and everything else. Isabella begins to get glimpses of the real Leonard, but too many other things begin to get in the way. 

I found this to be an unusual and enjoyable story, with believable characters and  well described setting. The cottage sounds delightful, and the writer has obviously had some experience of the countryside that the characters visit. It is a well thought through book with some interesting layers and twists. Isabella is not a typical young woman looking for romance, but a person with commitments who has a strong sense of responsibility.  Leonard’s sons, Ben and Alex, are well portrayed as bright and talkative, and the author has a good ear for what children are capable of at those ages. I recommend this book for those who enjoy a complex story with more than a hint of romance.