A Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: 27th December 2018
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 480
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
The brand new novel from bestselling author Holly Hepburn, perfect for anyone who loves Jenny Colgan, Veronica Henry and Lucy Diamond.
Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester’s bustling streets.
They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn’t think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there’s support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Seb‘s cocktail bar on the third floor!
In “A Year at Castle Court” two main characters, best friends Cat and Sadie, make their dream of owning and running a business together come true and start “Smart Cookies”, a shop specialising in selling hand – made biscuits. However, not all of the other businesses at Castle Court welcome them with open arms. There is a secret scandal, an almost ex – husband and many other troubles and challenges on the girls’ way to happiness.
I loved the friendship between Cat and Sadie, with all its ups and downs, supporting each other but also with the little conflicts, which only made it feel more realistic. They were both strong women and life was not a bed of roses for them. However, I think that I could relate more to Sadie, no particular reason why, just because. I wanted to give her a standing ovation for the way she has proceeded with the situation with her husband, not immediately jumping at the chance and making her life comfortable again, oh no, she’d rather followed her intuition and decided to give it time, which, let’s be honest, doesn’t happen often, right? Cat and Sadie were going from strength to strength, deciding to set up their own business, overcoming the reluctance of some of the neighbours from the close – knit community of Castle Court, and generally dealing with many, many challenges that life decided to face them with. They were strong and independent and I liked that they didn’t look for a man at any cost, that they were ambitious but also they weren’t afraid to ask for help when they needed it, and in the end their successes were their own.
The setting in this book was simply brilliant. I adored Castle Court, with all the little shops and businesses, and as much as I’d love to stop there by, it would be dangerous for my shape. As opposed to many, many other books where the characters open either a bakery or make cupcakes, Sadie and Cat specialise in biscuits, wonderfully decorated biscuits. I have to admit, after reading the book, I’ve spent a lot of time watching blogs or films on YouTube and incredibly admiring the art of icing. The things people can create, it’s simply amazing, and Sadie was exactly like that. Now I can even better imagine all those little wonders that she concocted, although they were of course so vividly described by the author – the colours, the ideas, it was simply fabulous and delicious.
The thing that didn’t sit so well with me was the fact that all the twists were solved in few sentences, at least in the same chapter. I like when there is a little tension and not knowing what’s going to happen, when the events stretch out through the story. I understand that the book was initially published as a four – parts series so probably it needed the quick action, but in a full – length story it just simply doesn’t work so well for me. And there were moments that I really missed the plot to develop, just like with the restaurant next door for example and the way the character just got away with it – it was as if the author simply didn’t have an idea how to continue this thread, which is a pity to be honest.
The story is full of little dramas, that usually happened so quickly and unexpectedly, keeping the pace aloft but also small wins and successes. You could really say that it was action packed and the characters have more than enough on their plates, and sometimes I simply couldn’t stop thinking, oh no, not this, please let them take a breath! Altogether, “A Year at Castle Court” was a lovely story about having confidence and courage and not giving up. It was a light – hearted read and I really enjoyed reading about the close – knit community, about the friendship and the dramas. Holly Hepburn’s writing style is so bright and optimistic, eloquent and colourful and it’s a joy to read her books, so I can only recommend this book to you – go an treat yourself!