A Year at the Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: 29th December 2016
Source: Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!
Number of pages: 3517
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
The perfect escapist read, for all fans of Cathy Bramley and Scarlett Bailey.
When sisters Nessie and Sam inherit a little pub in a beautiful country village they jump at the chance to escape their messy lives and start afresh. But when they arrive at the Star and Sixpence, it’s not quite what they imagined – it’s pretty much derelict, ruined by debts, and it’s going to be a huge job to get it up and running again. But they are determined to make the best of this new life and they set about making the pub the heart of the village once again. Their first year at the Star and Sixpence won’t be easy, though nothing worth doing ever is.
But when the sisters’ past comes back to haunt them, they start to think that the fresh start they needed is very far away indeed…
So guys, this time I haven’t read the story when it was published as series but patiently, verrrry patiently waited for it to come out as one, big, gorgeous paperback – even though I am not against novels being published in instalments. There was really no reason why I wanted to read it as a whole, I just felt I can wait. I’ve already heard many good things about this book and I was really looking forward towards reading it, and let’s be honest for a moment, I immediately fell in love with this gorgeous cover as well.
So the story introduces us to sisters Nessie and Sam who have just inherited a pub in the countryside from their father – father that they haven’t seen or talked to for many, many years. However, they both decide that it’s time for something new, they both had some changes in their lives and so they soon find themselves running an idyllic pub and everything it involves – first of all, learning everything about running the pub, that’s it, and then all the amendments, power cuts, staff problems, winning the villagers over but also dealing with their own skeletons!
There are plenty of characters introduced to us in this novel, and there is this lovely feeling of community there as well. This is Little Monkham, a little village, where everybody knows everybody else and there is always one lady keeping all the strings in her iron fist and knowing why, where, who and with whom, and it was brilliantly captured in this novel – I totally bought it, even though I must have rolled my eyes once or twice, I was more like Sam there, taking things more with a pinch of salt but eventually accepting that some things will be done whether she liked it or not. But let’s come back to the characters – there were many of them but with this being a relatively long book it wasn’t so confusing or overwhelming. I loved some of the names, for example Father Goodluck, it’s a lovely name, isn’t it? The blacksmith Owen, cellar – man Joss Felstead… All the characters had their own stories to tell and they were really great developed, full of details, happy and sad moments and it was great that the author here and there was taking a break from the pub and the central characters of Sam and Nessie – even if they were lovely heroines! I love books about families, going into details about relationships between – this time – two sisters. Sam and Nessie were so different but both brilliant women and despite all those differences they loved each other and they were there to support each other. The dynamics between them were portrayed in such an effortless and realistic way, it was not only bed of roses but the girls had their misunderstandings, which only made the read much more realistic.
The author has nailed it with all the seasons or events perfectly and I’d love to spend a Halloween or summer fest at Star and Sixpence. Especially when a sexy celebrity is an added bonus! The blossoming romance aspects were full of twist and turns, there were more of them as on a winding road to be honest. The never ending will they/won’t they between Nessie and Owen could be annoying, as it took so much time and their attitude needed a lot of patience from the reader, but it was also incredibly sweet and innocent and it worked for me this time. I think it is because sometimes you just know that the characters are DESTINED to be together, so you’re willing to give them this little more time, even though you want to bang their heads together most of the time. No hard feelings!
I loved the sense of friendship and community in the story – it was so overwhelming that I immediately felt a part of this book, a part of Little Monkham. For such a small village it offered so much, starting with games of cricket, through wedding of the year to pub quizzes, with the pub always in the centre, and it all sounded so down to earth and so idyllic. There is so much love in the detailed descriptions of the pub, the author brought this place to life so effortlessly and I could easily see in my mind the interior or make myself comfortable and warm at the fireplace.
My only “but” is that some things were started, mentioned and then forgotten, or only shortly mentioned again. I know it did probably work well when the book was published in parts but in a story like this I like all the ends to be wrapped up and to know how exactly the situations were resolved, like for example this with Sam’s unfortunate affair (it’s nice to know that the person was rightly punished but I’d love to know what exactly happened), or Nessie’s ex – husband Patrick who so tamely agreed to Nessie’s decision, even though it looked like there was still a lot of fight to be done. There were moments that it felt too chopped and the things that were big and significant for the plot felt reduced.
“A Year at the Star and Sixpence” was a lovely, romantic, humorous and heart – warming novel, a great adventure with some really well developed characters. The world created by Holly Hepburn was inviting and warm and the story of the supposedly haunted pub, its locals and two sisters facing challenges in restoring it and bringing back to its glory allowed me for a few hours of a great escape. All the holidays, seasons and the small traditions were so lovely and captured with so much feeling. It is really a perfect book to snuggle up with in front of the fireplace, with a mug of hot chocolate. I found myself involved in the sisters’ lives and adventures and rooting not only for them but also for all the other characters. There is all I am looking for in a book – laughter and sadness, lovely, awkward romances, suspense and tension, adorned by believable, easy – going characters. Looking forward to reading much more from Holly Hepburn! Highly recommended!