My edition: Paperback, published on 10 September 2015 by Sphere, 336 pages.
Description: When Rosa and Bee get together in the run-up to Bee's wedding, they reminisce about the holiday they took together as teenagers to the beautiful Greek island of Paros. They remember the sandy coves, the guest house in the converted windmill where they stayed with their friend Iona, and the gorgeous local men.
As memories of that long-forgotten holiday resurface, they are forced to confront the turns their lives have taken - and the guilt they both feel about letting Iona slip away from them. When they learn that the windmill guest house is going bust they form a plan: why not go back to the island and take it over themselves?
And so begins a life-changing journey - because it turns out that opening a guest house and reliving their teenage dreams isn't that easy ...
More than three years ago I read utterly charming debut novel The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene, which was charming and inspirational read about new friendships and vintage teacups. I loved it so much that I still find myself frequently recommending it to people, so you can imagine my delight when I had the opportunity to review the author's latest book; The Beachside Guesthouse.
The action has moved from Britain to the more exotic location of Greece, the island of Paros to be exact. Bee, Rosa and Iona used to be best friends and after finishing high school they spent a magical summer together on the island, enjoying the sunshine, food and the scrumptious men that cross their path that holiday. It is one of the best times of their lives and the three friends are inseparable yet after the trip they each go their own way and while Rosa and Bee still see each other, they haven't spoken to Iona in years – and they really miss her. Now a decade later, Bee is gearing up to get married to the man she started going out with as soon as the friends returned from Greece, when she comes across an ad showing her that the windmill they stayed in during their holiday is on sale.
Bee starts to reminisce about the past and not only does it make her doubt that she is making the right decision by marrying Stuart, she also talks to Rosa about the ad, planting a seed in her friend's brain that leads to Rosa putting an offer in for the place. The purchasing of the windmill is the start of a brand new adventure for the two friends, but one that comes with a lot of challenges and more than once they feel as if they've been defeated. It is not until Iona comes back into their lives that the friends start to feel more complete, but Iona carries a dark secret with her to Greece and it takes all three women working together to overcome the difficulties on their paths.
The Beachside Guest House may look like a beach read containing nothing but sunshine and smiles but it's actually a far more complex and compelling story than you might think from the outset. Each of the three women central within the novel have their own battles to fight; from trying to escape an emotionally manipulative relationship to discovering what they are really meant to do in life, and I haven't even mentioned all the valuable lessons they learn once they return to Greece and try to start up their own business, which provides plenty of exciting and often frustrating moments in itself.
There was a lot going on within the novel to keep me captivated from start to finish, and while I did really enjoy each moment set on the island of Paros, I found that Iona's story in particular was very well written and engrossing. It was a difficult read at times as from an outsider's point of view it was so very obvious that she was making the wrong choice for her well-being, but I do realise it wasn't as straight-forward as it seemed and the struggle she was facing was a very realistic and honest one. Vanessa Greene captures this complex internal conflict incredibly well, and even weeks later Iona's story still haunts me as it could so easily happen to any woman, regardless of how strong or rational you may think you are.
Biting cold and miserably wet autumn days may be just around the corner, but when you open the pages of The Beachside Guest House you'll believe it is still the height of summer. Though if you are looking for some mindless fluff to transport you to an exotic location where the characters do little else apart from sipping cocktails, shopping and enjoying lazy days on the beach, then this probably isn't the right book for you at this time. However, if you're interested in an equally sunny setting but with characters that go through a compelling journey throughout the story, while meeting some handsome men to boot, then this is the perfect novel to pick up.
You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk or your own preferred retailer.
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This review first appeared on Novelicious.com.