The Cornish Guest House (Tremarnock) by Emma Burstall

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The Cornish Guest House (Tremarnock) by Emma Burstall

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Gossip abounds when a new couple move into Tremanock to open a guest house.
Buy? maybe Borrow? yes
Pages: 384 Date: October 2016
Publisher: Head of Zeus
ISBN: 9781784972493

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The Cornish Guest House is the sequel to the best-selling Tremarnock which introduced us to hard-working Liz and her disabled daughter Rosie who were adjusting to life in a small Cornish village by the sea. The sequel begins six months after the first book, and Liz and Rosie are happily settled in their new lives and enjoying the warmth of the close-knit community. The village is soon abuzz with gossip, however, as a new couple have just moved in and are planning to open a guest house. The affable and good-looking Luke soon charms the neighbours by immersing himself into village life. His wife Tabitha, on the other hand, seems aloof and reserved. Could she be hiding a secret?

Burstall has a skill for storytelling that keeps the reader hanging on every word. The book has two plot threads: the first concerns a spate of fraudulent crimes targeting elderly residents in the area. The second revolves around the arrival of Tabitha and Luke and the impact that they have on the locals. Both plot threads are intriguing and the author keeps us hanging by dropping juicy morsels of information and just the right time to keep us hungry for more. There are plenty of secrets to be revealed and plot twists to be uncovered and the pace really picks up near the end as one of the characters makes a poor decision that could put her life at risk.

The Cornish setting, of course, is as idyllic as ever and I liked the way that the story was set after the busy summer season when all of the holiday makers had gone home and a peace and quiet descended. The village finally belonged to the villagers once more for a few, precious months. I appreciated the map at the beginning of the book which shows the layout of the village and locations of the residents' houses.

If I were basing my review on setting and story alone, I would have given it a solid five stars. However, the book, like its predecessor had a serious flaw that affected my enjoyment considerably; there were just too many characters. For example, take this scene at 'The Lobster Pot' where the villagers have congregated after a winter swim:

She could see Robert in the far corner, talking to Pat and a now wig-less Rick. A younger crowd was hovering by the door, including Loveday...Jessie, Ryan, Alex, Nathan and Annie. Over by the fire, Tony was holding court with Felipe, Tom, John Lambert and Audrey's aged mum, while Barbara and her son Aiden were busy serving at the Bar. In the middle of the room...were Sylvia, Audrey, Esme, Jean and Jenny and right in the centre...was Luke.

The reader has the monumental task of trying to remember each of these people, and how they relate to the other characters in the book. It is hard. Most of them only pop up once or twice and add nothing to the storyline. At one point, Liz even has a flashback and gives a long list of the characters in the previous book. It was all very frustrating.

As a result, I had mixed feelings about the book. I absolutely loved the story, but the sheer amount of extra characters who had no relevance to the plot was overwhelming. I hope that Burstall considers this when writing the next book in the series. Thanks to the publishers for my review copy.

To get the most out of this story, we recommend reading the first book in the series.

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