Welcome to Willow Cottage – throw open the shutters, let in the sea breeze and make yourself completely at home. Oh, and please do leave a comment in the Guestbook!
As landlady of Willow Cottage, the young widow Annie Butterworth is always on hand with tea, sympathy or strong Norfolk cider - whatever her colourful array of guests require. A flick through the messages in the leather-bound cottage guestbook gives a tantalizing glimpse into the lives of everyone who passes through her doors.
This includes Annie herself - especially now celebrity crime writer Oliver Black, is back in town. He might grace the covers of gossip magazines with a different glamorous supermodel draped on his arm every week, but to Annie, he’s always just been Olly, the man who Annie shared her first kiss with.
Through the pages of the Guestbook Annie and Olly, along with all the guests that arrive at the seaside retreat, struggle with love, loss, mystery, joy, happiness, guilt…and the odd spot of naked rambling!
Forget sending postcards saying wish you were here - one visit to Willow Cottage and you’ll wish you could stay forever.
I love it when an author looks for a new, unique way to tell a story and in The Guestbook Holly Martin has done just that. I imagine it was a challenge to develop a plot in the way Holly has here (through a series of entries in the guest book for Annie Butterworth's holiday cottage) but it works incredibly well, giving the reader the opportunity to see the story from multiple viewpoints. Each character has an entertaining voice and the humour I've come to expect from this author is generously sprinkled throughout the book.
However, although there are moments I laughed out loud, it's not all plain sailing for protagonist Annie. Since her husband Nick died she's thrown herself into running Willow Cottage as a holiday retreat. She's given her heart and soul yet for some people that will never be enough. There's also the added complication of the return of Olly, Annie's old flame...
Through the pages of the guest book, which is more like a diary of notes between Annie, Olly, Sophia (who cleans the cottage) and the guests, we are introduced to an array of colourful characters and are able to watch the relationship between Annie and Olly develop. The plot naturally shifts with each change in characters, but that kept me interested - the mini subplots kept my interest up, and that along with the chatty writing style made this a very readable book.
The only problem for me was the cliffhanger ending - you can't leave it like that, especially when there's no follow up/sequel! I'm hoping the author will share what happened next because I'm desperate to know!
This was a fun, fresh read which might appeal to fans of humorous women's fiction.
The Guestbook is out now, published by Carina.
With thanks to the publisher who provided me with a galley copy of this book in return for my honest review.