Disclaimer: I was given an eBook ARC copy of this book in return for writing an honest review as part of the blog tour for this book (including an author interview).
A proposal, a break up and a visit to the village she grew up in, returning to a place and people that she was once so close to, that’s where the story starts for Faith. This is a lovely story of two people being brought back into each others lives after being torn apart by circumstance many years earlier, can they really find their way back to one another now though after spending so long apart?
I loved the magicalness that was Hollyhock House, the way Cathy told the story really brought the grounds around it to life. This book made me want to visit somewhere like Hollyhocks in real life. I loved Faith and Rik’s outdoor biking adventures as well as they explored the area around there.
The story really makes you think about decisions you make, how one moment can change everything and that it’s good to always find out all the facts before making a decision or you could end up making a drastic mistake.
One of my favourite elements of the story was the fact that Faith was such a keen gardener, I could really relate to that because I love gardening so much as well. It’s actually made me think I want to document the plants I’ve been putting in this year. The little plant references throughout the story were great.
My least favourite character was Rob (is that really a surprise?) he was so stifling. Minel was great though as was of course Faith, Rik and Sara. All the characters were very well written. Lucinda was a bit of a love to hate character too.
The ending was absolutely wonderful, I won’t give away any spoilers here but it was the perfect ending to the story… I would love to see what happens next!
This was a book I very much enjoyed reading and would recommend it to others, especially if you’re like me and love the outdoors and gardening. If you would like to buy it you can find it at Amazon.
My rating: 5/5
Hi Cathy, in a sentence or two could you describe the book to my readers?
Summer At Hollyhock House is a quirky, charming and funny coming-of-age story meets happily-ever-after, set in the gorgeous English countryside with added bikes and dogs.
What inspired you to write this story?
I was really interested in the connections and relationships we form in our teenage years and how deeply they shape us as the people we go on to become. I had arrived at a place in my own life whereby my teenage experiences became relevant once again, and as I thought about them and the people I knew, and wondered where they were now, I started to think also about what might have happened if I’d made different choices. And from that premise, the idea for a story about two people who were once best friends and meet again a little later in life came about.
I always knew anything I wrote would be heavily influenced by my own love of nature, the outdoors and the English countryside, I was never going to write a sharp comedy about slick city-dwellers!
Have you ever known a place as magical as Hollyhock House in real life?
Like the characters in my book, I grew up in a small village. I was pony-mad and spent a lot of time cycling around looking for ponies that might be suitable candidates for me to ride, and knocking on the door of the houses around finding out who the ponies belonged to and if they would let me loose on them. There were lots of rambling, sprawling country manors and grandiose dwellings scattered about and most of these had ponies attached, so by great good fortune I got to spend a lot of time exploring and enjoying places like Hollyhock House. But you will probably notice from the book we don’t spend a great deal of time in the house, it’s more the garden and outbuildings that feature, and that also reflects my experience. I was way too scruffy and mucky for the main houses!
Which character(s) did you enjoy writing the most?
The lead character of Faith was a delight to create and write. She is not based on me and the book is not autobiographical – more’s the pity – but Faith and I share things in common, like a love of the outdoors and a whimsical sort of view of the world. That said she’s far more competent and practical than me and it was a pleasure to write somebody with those characteristics. I also enjoyed writing the lead male character in the book, Rik, because I have a socking great crush on him. I think all authors should have crushes on their lead characters when they are writing romance!
Have you always wanted to be an author?
Always, since I knew what an author was. I’ve been a professional writer in one form or another my entire working life. I don’t think I would know how to do anything else.
Which authors inspire you the most?
Growing up I devoured pony books, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I was particularly influenced by the My Friend Flicka trilogy by Mary O’Hara. Her writing had a depth of emotion and intelligence to it that I hadn’t come across in the usual pony romps, and I found her work dreamlike and almost otherworldly at times. I felt similarly about Patricia Leitch, who wrote the Jinny series.
I have always been hugely and unashamedly inspired by Jilly Cooper, I adore the worlds she creates and the flawed but hugely likeable characters she portrays, and really who doesn’t love horses and dogs and lots of shagging and general high jinks? Marian Keyes is another massive inspiration, I adore her intelligence and humour and how she writes so openly and beautifully about the issues that affect so many women. Outside of my own genre of women’s fiction I’m a huge fan of nature writing and I really admire John Lewis-Stempel, Miriam Darlington and others in the genre who do narrative non-fic so brilliantly.
When you’re not writing what do you enjoy doing in your downtime?
I ride bikes, and I do a bit of everything on them – from road riding to mountain biking and BMX. Recently I’ve got back into aggressive inline skating – which is stunts and skate park not street and speed skating – I skated a fair bit in my mid 20’s and rediscovered it when my daughters started rollerskating.
While I’m recovering from such sweaty pursuits I love taking photos, nature journaling, general nature nerdery – yep I own binoculars, I’m not ashamed to be a twitcher – and of course reading. I will read just about anything, and frequently do.
And finally, do you have any other writing projects in the pipeline right now?
I am keen to tell the stories of more of the characters we met in Summer At Hollyhock House, so hopefully there’ll be more to come from the gang there. I also have a beautiful story set in Streatham in South London – old Streatham, all redbrick buildings and wide tree-lined avenues and hazy autumn days on the common – and hopefully one day this will see the light of day, or rather publication. I also have vague thoughts of something around BMX – think Jilly Cooper style storytelling but with less political incorrectness and posh people, and more bikes! And at some point I plan to work on my own nature writing. I have so much I want to do – hopefully I’ve got time to write it all!
Cathy is an author, journalist and hopeless romantic who wrote her first book at the tender age of six. Entitled Tarka the Otter, it was a shameless rip-off of the Henry Williamson classic of the same name, and the manuscript was lost after she sent it to her pen-pal and never heard a jot from her since.
Fortunately reception to her writing became more favourable and she spent ten years working for a range of newspapers and magazines covering everything from general elections and celebrity scandals to cats stuck up trees and village fetes. She has been freelance since 2011 and written for The Telegraph, Red Online, Total Women’s Cycling and other lifestyle and cycling publications and websites.
She is the author of three non-fiction books and her debut and thankfully non-plagiarised novel Summer at Hollyhock House has been published by Sapere Books.
Cathy lives on the leafy London/Surrey border with her husband, two children and a dog with only two facial expressions, hungry and guilty. Her hobbies include mountain biking, photography, wandering around outside getting lost, fantasising about getting her garden under control, reading, looking at pretty things on Instagram and drinking tea. You can find her there @cathybussey, on Twitter @CathyBussey or visit her website www.cathybussey.com.