Published by Pan Books
ebook and paperback 11 August 2016
This little island has some big secrets…
Isla’s got her dream job as head stylist at the most exclusive salon in Edinburgh. The fact that she’s been so single-minded in her career that she’s forgotten to have a life has completely passed her by – until disaster strikes.
Out of options, she heads to the remote island of Auchenmor to help out her aunt who is in desperate need of an extra pair of scissors at her salon.
A native to the island, Finn is thirty-five and reality has just hit him hard. His best friends are about to have a baby and everything is changing. When into his life walks Isla . . .
I’ve previously read and very much enjoyed Rachael’s previous book, Coming up Roses (reviewed here on the blog) and when this unexpectedly arrived in the post, I was more than a little excited.
When we first meet Isla Brown she seems a rather cold character; with few friends she prefers a solitary lifestyle. Brought up by her widowed father, she has personal issues stemming from her unhappy schooldays and feels she has to prove herself to everyone. Working at an exclusive hair salon in Edinburgh, she loves her job and has just bought her dream car. However when she unexpectedly finds herself at a loose end, her father ‘volunteers’ her to take over at her aunt Jessie’s salon for 2 months whilst her aunt attends to family matters. The trouble is, Aunt Jessie’s salon is not in Edinburgh, nor on any other part of the mainland. It’s on a remote island of Auchenmor and Isla, who is used to the busy city life, gets a shock when she arrives and her favourite coffee shop chain is nowhere to be seen. Even worse, she is dismayed to find that the salon hasn’t really changed for decades and caters more for pensioners’ shampoo and sets than the modern hair styles she is used to. Faced with young staff who are not best pleased at having a newcomer telling them what to do, Isla is determined not to stay a moment longer than she has to and counts down the days until she can leave.
It may be a small island but people still have their secrets and Finn MacArthur’s family are no exception. Finn, an affable chap but with a reputation for being rather fond of the ladies is taking stock of his life when he realises his friends are settling down with families of their own and leaving him the last man standing at the bar. It’s inevitable that his path will cross with Isla’s but she has no intention of remaining on the island once her aunt returns and it looks as though he is wasting his time.
This was a lovely story with some interesting characterisations. The touches of romance and humour (often provided unintentionally by the antics of Lily the hippy, owner of the Retreat (an alternative therapy centre) both add a lightness to the tale. When Finn and Isla are roped in to attend Lily’s sessions, they spark off each other very well and I too would have done a runner at the thought of Lily’s lentil stew! Friendship is an important part of this story. Isla finds it hard to trust people and although there are decades in years between their ages, she finds a real friend in elderly Ruth and the elder woman’s wise words seem to soften Isla’s edges.
It’s a small point but there was one strand in particular that I felt could have been expanded on a little more – the school reunion. From the very beginning, there was this big build up to it, with Isla dreading the event whilst at the same time wanting to impress her school tormentors but when it finally happened I was left with a “…well was that it?” feeling.
The fictional island of Auchenmor has a remarkable sense of place. The remoteness – the only way on and off being by ferry, is well described as is that small town character. It may be the kind of island where everyone knows everybody else’s business but there is a realistic feel of community which is particularly prevalent in this engaging story.
Wildflower Bay was originally released in three parts, however this book is the complete story. Although this seems to be a publisher trend now, I’m not a fan of stories by instalments and usually avoid them and prefer to wait until the complete book is published. Those who have read Rachael’s debut novel, Sealed with a Kiss, will no doubt be pleased to be reunited with some of the characters from the Isle of Auchenmor. I haven’t yet read this but look forward to doing so. Don’t however think that you have to read Sealed with a Kiss first to enjoy Wildflower Bay. I happily read Wildflower Bay as a standalone.
Wildflower Bay has that heart-warming feel where new friendships are formed together with the realisation of what is important in life. It’s not all sunlight and roses, but the appropriate amount of light and shade make this a recommended read.
My thanks to Lucie and the publisher for the paperback copy to review and for the invitation to take part in the tour.
About the author:
Rachael juggles working as an author, coach and freelance writer with the aid of quite a lot of tea. She and her partner (also a writer) live by the seaside in the North West of England with their six children.
She is the author of Wildflower Bay, Coming Up Roses and Sealed With a Kiss.