Friday, July 02, 2010

A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware

A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware
Copyright 2010
Sourcebooks Landmark
Orig. Publ'd 1997
529 pages

Blythe Barton Stowe has heard tales of her Cornish ancestry all her life. When her divorce is finalized on the same day her ex-husband, Christopher Stowe, announces that his new lover -- Blythe's sister, Ellie -- is pregnant, her lawyer's suggestion that she leave the country to avoid the paparazzi makes total sense.

Whisked off to a remote cottage on the Cornish coast, Blythe finds comfort in the tiny Painters Cottage on a crumbling estate and finds herself falling for Lucas Teague, the landed gentleman who is trying to save the Barton Hall estate despite pressure from the Inland Revenue.

When Blythe touches a carefully scripted family tree and utters a name, she finds herself transported in time, able to view scenes from the tragic history of Barton Hall. Is she relieving the centuries-old tragedy? Or, is it possible for Blythe to find new love and purpose in the home of her ancestral past? Each time Blythe is transported in time, she finds out new details of her family's shocking history and each day brings her closer to true love. But, handsome Lucas Teague, a widower, is distant and cold with his own child and there is nothing Blythe wants more than a family. Can they reconcile their differences and deal with their own difficult pasts in order to make things work, or is Blythe destined to relive the tragedy her ancestral namesake suffered?

A Cottage by the Sea is a book I've found myself struggling to describe, hence the lengthy description, above. It's a little paranormal, a little historical, but mostly a contemporary romance. Blythe grew up on a ranch and has been told about her Cornish ancestry all her life, but she's not actually certain that it's factual. Maybe her beloved grandmother made the whole story up. Regardless, it's important for her to get away from the public eye because her ex-husband is a famous film director and the paparazzi is going nuts over their love triangle story.

Blythe is not only wrestling with her husband and sister's betrayal and her own frustration at no longer having the chance to have a baby, but also is still dealing with the grief from the loss of the grandmother who reared her. I don't want to go into anything that will spoil the storyline, so let's just say she makes herself right at home in Cornwall and quickly finds a purpose in helping Lucas Teague save his estate.

The most interesting parts of this book, to me, were the references to Daphne Du Maurier's books and the location. I believe the paranormal aspect is patterned after the time travel in Du Maurier's The House on the Strand. Du Maurier lived 1/2 mile from where the real cottage fictionalized in the novel exists and the rest of the setting was based on actual buildings and a National Trust path. The author did an excellent job of describing time and place, both in the present and the past.

I disliked the details of the business Blythe and Lucas created in order to save the estate because they bored me just a bit -- always a funny thing to find myself bored by business details, given the fact that I have a business degree. Maybe I went into the wrong field. At any rate, I liked the book but I didn't love it. I liked being transported in time, expected and enjoyed the romance and found the conflict a bit overwrought. Toward the end of the book, I thought it became a bit repetitious and predictable but the conclusion was satisfying. Still, the whole "Is Blythe reliving the tragedy of her ancestors?" bit was practically mined to death. I think fully 100 pages could have been chopped from this chunkster without harming the storyline one bit.

Bottom line:

An enjoyable escapist romantic read that is a bit too long and repetitious but nowhere near the point of abandonment. Ciji Ware is an excellent writer. I can't say this book compares to the first of her works that I read, the historical Island of the Swans. At times, I even visualized myself happily scratching out certain sentences with a red pen. But, it was a good vacation read and I definitely recommend it, particularly to those who like an unusual blend of romance with paranormal and historical facets. Slight family warning: Some sex scenes run from PG-13 to R. I don't believe anything would warp a youngster for life, though.

The mail has arrived!

And, holy moly . . . the book pile was a doozy. This is what happens when you go away for a week, I guess. I received:

Vanishing and other stories by Deborah Willis - short story collection from HarperCollins
The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway -YA from Razorbill received via Shelf Awareness
The Case of the Crooked Carnival by Torrey & Johansen Newman - surprise from Sterling Kids
The Outer Banks House by Diann Ducharme and
The King's Mistress by Emma Campion - from Random House, both via Shelf Awareness
The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart - from Doubleday via Shelf Awareness
A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron - from the author (just started reading this one)
In a Heartbeat by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy - for FirstWild tour
Someone Like Me by John W. Quinn - unsolicited, from History Publishing Company -- love this publisher and will definitely read it
Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan - from Simon & Schuster, and
31 Hours by Masha Hamilton - surprise from Unbridled Books

I have, in fact, already read 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton. You know how some books that you gush about when you close them disappear from your mind right away and others that you don't particularly love or maybe even like end up rolling around in your head and really stick with you? Well, 31 Hours is one that I initially wasn't thrilled with, at the time I closed it, but it has totally stuck with me and the more I think about that ending I disliked, the more perfect it has become in my mind. So, if you look up my review, bear that in mind . . . it's better now than it was when I closed it. I assume I was sent a promotional copy because it's coming out in paperback, but that's just a guess.

Speaking of looking up reviews . . . my search feature appears to be totally malfunctioning, so that I have to guess when I read a book or look it up in my "books read" lists in the sidebar and then page back to find reviews and create links to them. I wonder what's up with that? Maybe my first experience as an empty nester should involve taking a class so that I can learn how to create my own self-hosted website. There are times Blogger doesn't seem worth the angst and a messed-up search feature is a very, very bad thing, in my opinion.

Just snapped a pic of Fiona, so I should have a Fiona Friday image up by this evening. Happy, happy Friday!


  1. I had a horrible (or wonderful depending on how you look at it ;) mail day today too! I really have to get a bad bloggers post up....may do that tonight. I have 11 books to post up :/ Can't wait to see how Miss Fiona is doing :) Happy Friday to you too my dear!

  2. Chris,

    At least I can say that was a week's worth, but it was definitely one heck of a big week and I certainly don't need that many books arriving in such a short time span . . . not that I don't appreciate them. ;)

    Miss Fiona is a little needy, right now. I need to load my latest photos and post in a bit. I think, given her history, it's understandable that she's extra clingy and a little bit on the whiny side. She was probably afraid we'd abandoned her for good, poor thing. It's not like it would have been the first time that happened to her. I wish we could find her a catsitter, instead, but I just don't have any willing friends.

    Hope you have a fabulous holiday weekend, Chris!

  3. I found myself wanting to read a du Maurier novel whilst reading this one too!

  4. Marg,

    I really think that was the best thing about A Cottage by the Sea -- all those Du Maurier references. I need to dig for one of her books, now. :)

  5. I was happy to see you mention House on the Strand because that's immediately what I thought of! I'll have to read this, I do love time travel books.

  6. Carrie,

    There's less time travel than modern tale, but I really enjoyed those time travel bits. Ciji Ware is pretty terrific at historical writing and I thought it was pretty clever the way she took du Maurier's idea and ran with it. I really thought she explained the concept better than Dame Daphne.


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