Book review: A Summer at Sea  by Katie Fforde

A Summer at Sea byKatie Fforde
A Summer at Sea byKatie Fforde

Draw the curtains, throw a log on the fire… and escape into summer!

The cold days of winter are the perfect time to cosy up with one of Katie Fforde’s warm and welcoming novels, gorgeous books that serve up love, fun and home-spun wisdom in the most delightful ways.

And A Summer at Sea is a truly tasty dish, a sea voyage on a captivating ‘puffer’ steam boat – in its new life as a floating hotel – as it sets sail around the beautiful west coast of Scotland with an eclectic cast of lovable characters.

On the way, there is the enticing prospect of romance, drama, breathtaking scenery and plenty of delicious food as midwife Emily Bailey says goodbye to the Cotswolds for the summer and takes up a temporary job as ship’s cook to help out an old friend.

Of course, it won’t all be plain sailing but then life at sea can never be entirely shipshape…

Emily Bailey is happy with her life just as it is. She has a career as a midwife that she loves and enjoys living on her own as a single woman in Gloucestershire. But there has been some unsettling opposition to her working practices and she is in desperate need of a break.

So when her old friend Rebecca, who is pregnant with her third child, asks whether she would like to spend the summer cooking on the family’s ‘puffer’ boat hotel just off the Scottish coast, she jumps at the chance and takes a sabbatical.

Perched next to the sparkling blue sea, the attractive village of Crinan seems to Emily the most beautiful place in the world but she barely has time to get to grips with the galley before she finds herself with a lot on her plate.

For a start, she is going to have to squeeze into a tiny cabin every night, learn how to make her own bread and, to make matters worse, her young, competitive kitchen assistant Billie thinks she should be head cook, not Emily.

There are compensations, of course, like getting to know this special part of the world and the handsome local doctor Alasdair who Emily is desperately trying not to notice. Because if she falls in love with him, as he appears to be falling for her, will she ever want her old life back again?

With her trademark vivacity, affection and warmth, Fforde embellishes her feelgood, sunshine story with a colourful and engaging crew from Emily, the caring, career midwife who has always put work before her own desires, to brooding widower Alasdair, adorable pensioner Maisie and truculent ‘galley slave’ Billie.

The fun, romance and action are fast flowing like the tides that wash in and out of the picturesque harbour at Crinan as we share Emily’s experiences and explore with her the hidden gems of this stunning coastline.

So take a seat… and enjoy a taste of life on board the love boat!

(Century, hardback, £12.99)