Life is stressful.
There are few narrative themes that resonate with me more than starting again. Having quit my job to start over, a year and a half ago, I’ve come to firmly believe that there is very little that’s more important than self-belief.
Jen Heath goes one step further than I did, and leaves her entire life behind her in Seattle and moves out to the delightful town of Icicle Falls.
And it’s when she moves to the tiny cottage in the middle of nowhere, that she begins to appreciate everything once more, declutters her life and falls head over heels for her delicious landlord.
And she’s not the only one who’s decluttering. There’s Stacy, whose incredible collection of trinkets appears to have taken over her family’s home and Jen’s sister Toni, who wants to declutter her family’s life of all electrical appliances as quickly as possible!
Idyllic utopias and the “turning your life around” saga can be problematic; particularly if the characters aren’t believable, but that’s where Roberts succeeds. The novel doesn’t just focus on one woman, it focuses on all of the women in the book group, and simultaneously makes us question the way that we over clutter our own lives.
The book they read at the beginning – before Jen arrives – is about simplifying their lives. And anyone who’s tried to do it knows that simplifying your life is never as simple as the words might suggest.
There’s something very clever and almost brave about the way the Roberts dissects this. All of us have our own idiosyncrasies; aspects of ourselves that are cluttered. I’m addicted to books. I’ve nearly filled an entire kindle (in less than two years) and I’ve about twenty boxes of books at my grandparents’, waiting to be unpacked when the fiancé and I move into a place that’s big enough. (NB. There is never going to be a place big enough to hold all of my books)
But the message of The Cottage on Juniper Ridge is that sometimes we need to stop. We need to look at our life and – more than simplifying or decluttering – we need to make sure that it fits us.
Each of the women in the novel have to face up to the fact that they do things on a regular basis that don’t make them happy. Whether that’s a job that stresses them out, running children’s activities even though they’ve no time for themselves, or hoarding stuff that they can’t seem to let go of.
Sometimes the hardest thing is stopping and deciding to change.
But as summer reads go, this also has a corker of a romance. Namely because of Garrett.
I mean, he’s everything a romantic hero should be: handsome, a firefighter (wahey for uniforms!), sensitive enough to be attractive (he’s the sweetest when with his adorable son) but manly too. He fights fire. What could be – excuse the pun – hotter?!
Plus there’re loads of crossed wires between him and Jen. He’s already entangled with someone else, there’s an ex-wife who’s less than lovely, and then there’s the plain fact that they clash. But there’s something that continually draws them together, and it’s this something that makes us smile.
This isn’t Roberts’ first outing in Icicle Falls, with the next book in the series (The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane) also out this month. In some ways, I fell in love with the community of the town, just as much as I fell for the book itself; I can’t wait to fall back into the next tale of Icicle Falls…
Join me next Wednesday for a review of RaeAnne Thayne’s Wild Iris Ridge…