Summer at sea – Katie Fforde


Emily is a midwife, struggling against the local medical authorities and the preconceived ideas that home births are extremely dangerous. After butting heads with the local GP, Derek, once again she decides she needs a break. This couldn’t have happened at a better time as one of Emily’s oldest friends, Rebecca, needs her to help cook on a tourist puffer boat that Rebecca and her husband, James, run, because she’s heavily pregnant. James just so happens to have an attractive, widowed brother Alasdair, who is another local GP and has a young daughter named Kate. There are a cast of other characters which makes this book a sweet read, from Billie the lovestruck, lazy assistant chef to Maise, the old woman who knits.

Let’s just start by saying that this was a sweet, relatively easy read with a happily ever after. However, it is not one of Katie Fforde’s best works. This book felt older than her other works, with a huge focus on knitting, baking, having babies/not having babies, home births vs. hospitals  and as a result was a bit slow in parts. It was well written, and at times perhaps a little formal. It seemed odd to have well spoken people interject with ‘mate’ and ‘bro’ at certain times when they hardly ever even use contractions, instead using proper English the majority of the time. The same went for the job scene when she said she loves old people, surely she would have said ‘elderly’ given how she talks otherwise?

I also enjoyed the descriptions of the puffer boat, it was very detailed and interesting. It’s clear that the author has done research and found it very interesting herself because it shows. The same goes for the cooking in the novel, with the fresh bread, cakes and various fish dishes – it was almost mouthwatering. Let’s just say I definitely have a hankering for shortbread now. The descriptions of Scotland were also very beautiful and the added localities and nuances Katie added were brilliant.

However, I found that the main characters were a little weak. There was little description of the man (Alasdair) who picked Emily up at the beginning of the book until Rebecca starts matchmaking between her friend and her brother-in-law. He obviously didn’t make an impact on her until Rebecca started pushing and as a reader I felt like that too. I honestly thought when I started reading the first few pages that she was going to fall in love with the first GP because their hatred gave them a certain element of chemisty. But with Emily and Alasdair it felt a little flat, at times the things he said were just a little intense – like spilling about his deceased wife, also his bitter snide comments about her didn’t match with the overly concerned father who doesn’t try and date for fear of upsetting his daughter image. I felt the same again when he tried to blame Emily for Kate’s disappointment even though it was him who told her she would be staying until Christmas, when Emily said she was leaving at the end of the summer. He was horrible saying that she put her job before others happiness and I felt like she should have given him a giant f*** off pill then and there. He took no responsibility for what he said to his daughter, was horrible to Emily and I felt like her reaction was too passive for me. Basically, I didn’t feel they had much chemistry and while I was happy that it ended happily, I was also a little dubious about their relationship.

This also feeds into how I feel about the ending. Who gets engaged after a few months and two nights (well one night and one afternoon) of passion? They were even talking babies and a puppy! It goes back to being intense, rushed and also feeling a little forced by the writer.

On the other hand the books is redeemed by the characters of Rebecca and Kate. They were the strongest characters for me in the novel. I especially loved Kate and her childlike curiosity but also the little details that show that she spends a lot of time around adults, like the making of the focaccia bread. Rebecca is strong, stubborn and even heavily pregnant yet is also a determined matchmaker, keeps her customers and friends happy and tries her best not to worry her husband. I wanted Emily to be more like Rebecca, she needed more of a spark.

Overall I did enjoy this book, I think that because I’m a huge Katie fan I was expecting more from the book, like Highland Fling or Thyme Out. But instead it felt a little flat and there was no sizzle there for me. I think as a stand alone book though, it’s a nice easy read with a happy ending which is perfect when you have some time free and don’t want to read anything too heavy.

*When I emailed Katie Fforde’s team about a short interview, I was offered a copy of her latest book to review. I did not buy this book, it was sent to me for free. *


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