==Synopsis of the book:==
The Second World War has just finished and Steven Caraford is really looking forward to returning home to Scotland. He was just 18 when he was called up to fight leaving his older brother Fred to work with his father on their farm. However when Stephen returns he gets a nasty reception from his selfish brother who wants him no-where near the farm and sees it has his birth right to take over it when their father calls it a day.
However for Stephen it is only a brief visit as his unit are being sent to Palestine for 18 months. In one way he is pleased as his confrontation with Fred makes him realise that they can never work together and if he wishes to go into farming, which he always has dreamt about, he must apply for a homestead when they become available. This 18 months will allow him to save a little more money towards a place to farm for himself and all the cost associated with buying livestock.
Stephen is surprised as the little sister of his best friend Megan Oliphant is now a beautiful young woman. She is just about to start a three year teacher training qualification at College. When he visits her before his posting abroad it wakens feelings in both of them. They had always been friends but now there feelings are stronger and they seem to get on really well together. They keep in touch by letter regularly and while they are both keen to pursue their careers they both would like to develop their relationship too. Time passes quickly and Stephen not only returns but gets offered a small run-down free-holding near his parents home. However with his being so busy trying to make this pay and Megan with 18 months left training away from the area, does love have a chance?
==My thoughts on the novel:==
If I'm honest I have to say I don't know where I bought this piece of romantic fiction. It is certainly different from my usual reading matter. I can only assume I bought it at a Car Boot sale as my copy had certain not new. I thought this was on the whole a good, well written story and it certainly exceeded my expectations. Mind you that was not difficult, as when I picked it up I did question my own sanity as this is not something I would usual read.
Added to this Gwen Kirkwood is not an author I have read or knew anything about before I read this book. She was born In Yorkshire and married a Scottish Farmer, following studying Agriculture at College. So far in her writing career she has written 18 novels and her work has been compared in style to Annie Groves or Catherine King. The book I am reviewing was first published in 2009. From my reading of it I would describe it as a gritty chic lit.
Initially I was impressed by the title and I thought it was conjured up an image we all can relate to of home. So I took a look at the summary to see what the writer had in mind by this. This was a good length three good paragraphs long. Although now having read the book I would say the author gave too much of what happens in the book in this. Although I must be going a bit soft in my old age as I liked the concept of Stephen returning to his home and meeting up with his young women Meg and the obstacles they would encounter if they were meant to be together.
The story starts with Megan and her Mum and Dad celebrating VJ day. While Stephen is looking forward however brief his visit to returning home from the War. It was certainly not the best start to a story and I found I needed to concentrate as initially I found little in common with the characters. But I did like to concept of Stephen realising that there was no way he could return to work on his Dad's farm and he would have to go in alone as soon as he finished his latest commission.
I found it quite touching the way Stephen and Megan wrote to each other and shared doubts about their respective futures, but through this sadly now dated form of communication they grew closer and learnt about the others dreams, thoughts and feeling about latest developments in their lives. What the author did really well for me is share with the reader more of the deep down feelings that both were afraid to share in their letters. The doubts and insecurities they had about a future together and what the other really felt about them was it friendship or something deeper.
For me my interest in the story really started when Stephen started working on his own in his new small farm. I found I could easily relate and respect this man who was hard-working and very keen to make a success of his new venture. The author had a really good understanding about how tough it can be starting out and how hard life can be on a farm when things don't always go you way. For example when a jealous older brother decides to put your livelihood at risk buying on his behalf livestock that could bring in disease because of its unknown origins.
I really liked some of the challenges the author created within the story for Stephen and Megan. Initially with a couple of unpleasant characters in the story I had a picture of how the story would develop but I'm glad to say the author did not go down the predictable route I imagined. As I result all these twists that did happen within the story were a surprise and I enjoyed the way they had to be dealt with or resolved. It was certainly a gritty read full of highs and lows that where described in good levels of detail that helped you imagine the scenes in which the characters featured.
And while I would have preferred a longer story I did think it was enjoyable. I do think the author could have included more incidents affecting Stephen, Megan or their families. I just felt there could have been more detail about how different life was for both of them since Stephen came back home. Because while the author covered his life on the farm in great detail, I did not feel she covered Megan's life at College in enough detail. As a result I always felt I knew Stephen better than I did Megan.
The story I felt had a real purpose and I found the pace was good. At no point did I not look forward to my next instalment and while I did not share with all my friends that type of book it was it did pleasantly surprise and impress me. I particularly enjoyed the exciting ending to the story, which certainly took me by surprise. For me it was a fitting end to a book that seemed to get better the longer it went on. And while I had not expected an exciting end it allowed the story to reach a wise point to end it following this climax.
Stephen and Megan I felt where excellent lead characters because they were quite different personalities. I liked the fact they both wanted their relationship to develop but both had doubts and worries about if it would or cold ever happen. And while in some respects it was an old fashioned love story I always felt there was more to this story than that and to say that isn't doing it justice.
With support characters I found easy to remember because of there very distinct characteristics and role within the story.
Having read and enjoyed this story, I even feel that the author could write at least one more story featuring these characters. I think she could easily easily focus on Stephen and Megan or even the support characters such as Natalie and Fred and what happened next to them. As these where good characters and I for one would be interested to know what they did next. My only disappointment is the book I read was a hard cover and when I looked on various web sites to find the price of it, I found it was only available in this format which if you purchase it new would make it expensive.
While I will never be converted to this style of romantic fiction, I do think this story is well worth a read and gets the thumbs up from me. It was basically a good if somewhat simple story that took the reader back to life after the war and a Britain still suffering from rationing. The only thing I would have liked was a slightly longer story that focused as much on Megan as it did Stephen. That said I will be looking out for another from this author in the near future as it was a good well thought out and interesting read.
Price: 4.99 Used at Amazon
Publisher: Severn House
Year first published: 2009
More about the author: wwwgwenkirkwood.co.uk
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS August 2012.