A Cornish Promise by Terri Nixon
Fox Bay Hotel is in Cornwall, run by the Fox family and their associates in 1929. Exclusive and run on a family basis, in the approach to Christmas everyone who works in and around the hotel is busy working on the traditional celebrations. In this book the youngest daughter, Fiona, acquires a friend who confuses many issues, but who she has promised to help. This is the second book in the series, but I am confident that it can be read alone as it is well explained and each character’s background sketched in. It is a well written and constructed book, with family members and friends’ lives all seen as progressing. As well as Fiona’s mysterious friend, there are some unusual guests from America, whose involvement with the film industry makes them celebrities. There are many twists and turns in this book, and the author maintains a good sense of tension throughout which leaves the reader wondering. It details the emotional state of the characters extremely well, where people are unsure of their feelings for others, and how they can express their affection. This book covers a few weeks before Christmas, and balances the various strands of individuals’ stories as they either work in or around the hotel. It is an engaging read, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this most enjoyable book.
The novel opens with Fiona being in the lifeboat station, observing a rescue at sea. A woman is not allowed to go to sea on the lifeboat, especially at sixteen, but Fiona is desperate to do more than help launch and land the boat, so she seizes the opportunity to sneak on board and help with the dangerous rescue of those on a small boat. A man dies, but what turns out to be a teenage girl is rescued alive. She spends a night in hospital, but asks for Fiona to help her. Claiming that she has lost her memory, she asks Fiona to help her, and Fiona duly promises. It only gradually emerges that “Amy” has several versions of her story, and several people are drawn into her situation. Meanwhile Bertie, Fiona’s elder sister who has suffered a life changing injury, is unsure what comes next for her; while romantically attached to a family friend, she has an ambition that may be difficult to fulfil. Helen, mother of the girls, is confused about her emotions, but takes refuge in her role at the hotel. A group from Hollywood scrambles the attention of several people, especially the beautiful and clever Daisy and the mysterious Freddie. The romantic lives of various friends of the family are vividly described, culminating in several revelations.
This book is extremely effective at describing the emotional confusion that several of the characters find themselves in, as affection and romance is realistically not straightforward. Nixon does an excellent job of establishing that while several people find themselves attracted to others, it is not always easy to express that feeling. When combined with the challenging behaviour of Amy and the curious secrecy surrounding the American party, this is a complex book which reflects the fact that it is part of a series. This is a warm hearted novel which I greatly enjoyed reading, especially as each character is drawn in a multi dimensional way. This is a very rewarding series of books, and I recommend it to everyone who is interested in the interwar period in Britain.