Thursday 19 January 2017

Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell

Published by Headline on January 12, 2017 

(This extract follows on from the one over on Books, Life and Everything)

His voice, beautifully modulated but not off-puttingly posh, was the kind you’d never tire of listening to. Better still, now that he’d stopped being completely dismissive, it was warm and confiding, with a dash of humour. Clemency felt herself falling under his spell; was he as interested in her as she was in him? It was too soon to tell, but the faint possibility that he might be was sending little zings of anticipation down her spine.

‘Well, everyone at school thought it was hilarious, but Belle and I were mortified. Belle was extra angry because she was convinced my mum was only marrying her dad for his money. Which drove me insane, because I knew my mum wasn’t like that. And once you’d seen the two of them together, it was obvious how happy they were.’ She shrugged. ‘So that was that; we ended up having to be bridesmaids in matching dresses, which was a laugh. And after the wedding, me and Mum gave up our flat and moved into their great big house with the swimming pool in the garden and the Bentley on the driveway. Not to mention the stroppy stepsister who went ballistic whenever I borrowed her clothes.’

‘Which, let me guess, just made it all the more fun to do.’

‘Well of course it did! Because it was such a thrill when I got away with it. Who could resist a challenge like that? And her clothes were so much more expensive than mine,’ added Clemency. ‘Which made it better still.’

‘So you were . . . what, sixteen by then? And both still at school? Weren’t the two of you given the same amount of money to buy clothes?’

‘Oh yes, we were. Her dad insisted on that. We got the same allowance, but at that age I was going through a surfing craze, so all my money went on wetsuits, traction pads and board wax. Out of the water, everything I wore came from charity shops.’ She grinned. ‘Which of course meant Belle would rather go out stark naked than wear any of my dreadful clothes. So that was a win-win situation for me.’

Sam said, ‘And did you both slightly enjoy having a go at each other?’

Ha, he knew.

‘A bit. Sometimes. Me more than her,’ Clemency admitted. ‘What with us being the interlopers who moved into the house she’d grown up in. You can understand that, I suppose. And it was only for a couple of years, until we both left for university. How about you? Do you live on your own?’

OK, maybe not the subtlest way of asking the question, which presumably accounted for the brief moment of hesitation before Sam said, ‘Yes, on my own.’ He took a sip of his wine before continuing. ‘But you should have seen the house I shared with six other students while I was at university. Actually, you can thank your lucky stars you didn’t. What a health hazard that place was. There were real live toadstools growing in the bathroom.’

Clemency felt herself perk up like a meerkat. ‘We had water dripping from a light fitting for months in our living room.’

‘We used to have competitions to see who could eat the most out-of-date food.’ Sam shook his head at the memory of just how gross it had all been.

‘We once found a dead mouse in our fridge.’

The highlight of January coming around is of course that it brings with it a new Jill Mansell book. Jill Mansell has become one of my favourite authors in recent years and Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay reminded me of all the reasons why. My favourite part of Jill's books other than the silly smile they put on my face is discovering what links all her characters together. The ties between the characters in this book were really simply lovely to read and had me engrossed in every strand of the story. Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay is a warm and inviting story about family and romance and the secrets that come between them.

The story begins like the perfect rom-com movie scene involving Clemency meeting and falling for a highly attractive man on her flight, plus a red wine disaster. The chemistry between her and Sam is evident almost right away and they both feel it too. But once the flight is over, Sam wants nothing more to do with Clemency, and then the book moves forward three years…

Present day Beachcomber Bay focuses on, at least at first, Clemency and Ronan who work together at an estate agency. Clem is a lovely character who I warmed to straight away. She’s kind and considerate, putting other people’s needs before her own whilst still being comfortable within herself. It’s nice to meet a women’s fiction heroine who isn’t afraid to be who they really are and one who can manage to survive without a man. Even if the hunk on her flight has never been forgotten…

I loved Clem’s dialogue and interactions with Ronan. There was so much humour between them and their friendship and working relationship was a delight to read. They were upbeat characters who had me smiling and laughing throughout the entire novel. Whilst they were the best of friends, the belief of everybody on the outside was what a wonderful couple they would make. Ronan has a reputation of a being a ladies’ man, but if he ever wanted to settle down… I really enjoyed following their friendship and their reactions whenever anybody suggested they should get together. Ronan was a gorgeous character and you could see where his way with women had come from. Like Clem, he was always willing to go that extra mile to help somebody, especially when it came to finding them their perfect home. He became one of my favourite characters in the book but as for choosing an absolute favourite… that became an impossible task as there were so many characters to love in this book.

One of my favourite parts of Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay was the relationship between Clem and her step-sister Belle. There was a lot of sibling rivalry there which added many entertaining scenes into the book. Of course there were times when you could quite easily want to bang their heads together too… Belle’s character felt like the complete opposite to Clem. She was more judgmental, harsher with her words and a far more self-obsessed character. Yet getting to know Belle was probably my favourite part of the book.

Jill Mansell’s latest novel is every bit as good as what came before. You may have seen enough of a Cornwall setting but once more never hurts, not when Jill is writing it. St. Carys is a beautiful seaside town with masses of secrets and plenty of love to go around. It was the perfect, dreamy setting for Jill’s uplifting storytelling which is romantic and full of heart. There are a few surprises over the course of the book and there is a character for every reader to fall in love with. Whether this is your first book by Jill or you’ve read all the brilliant ones that came before, you won’t regret picking up this book or the smile it puts on your face from the first page to the last.

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