Book Review of The Cottage at Plum Tree Bay by Darcie Boleyn

Book Review: The Cottage at Plum Tree Bay by Darcie Boleyn

Title: The Cottage at Plum Tree Bay

Author: Darcie Boleyn

Publisher: Canelo

Publication date: July 25, 2019

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Summary: Catherine is thirty-four, works as a teacher, lives with and takes care of her needy mother, and has only had one romance, which she gave up in order to stay with her mother. Mark is recently out of a very long-term relationship and has gone to stay in Penhallow Sands to recover and fight through writer’s block. Neither are looking for romance, but neither can deny the attraction between them.

If you’re looking for romance, you’ll find it in spades. If you’re looking for women’s fiction, you’ll sort of find it. Overall, this book follows the formula for the typical romance. Yet it’s also categorized as women’s fiction, and we do get some of that. Catherine has never left her mother or Penhallow Sands and there are some issues with being abandoned by her father at the start of her adolescent years. Over twenty years later, her encounters with Mark have brought out a yearning to know if there’s more to life, and what her life could have been and could be. I would say this is about three-quarters romance and one quarter women’s fiction. Perfect if you’re looking for romance, not so ideal if you’re looking for women’s fiction.

As a rule, with very few exceptions, I don’t enjoy romance. It’s too formulaic to me. I’m glad to say most of this book was cleverly disguised with women’s fiction themes, so the fact that it is also a romance didn’t hit me until the end, when that oh so typical element in romance where something breaks up the hero and heroine popped up and felt almost like a non-sequitur. Honestly, I wish it had been left out. Other than attempting to add some tension and throw in a usual romance element, it felt very flat, and made me question Catherine’s character and everything I had learned about her. I was so disappointed in her character and stopped caring about the couple, who are far from the typical twenty-somethings figuring out themselves and their relationships. I did love that both Catherine and Mark are in their thirties.

One thing I absolutely loved was how some of the characters were portrayed. They were fun, sassy, and had a great deal of flair. Of course, they also felt stereotypical, but I loved that, instead of having a girlfriend sidekick, Catherine had a gay couple. I mean, what girl doesn’t want a gay best friend? I loved them, and wanted to take them out of the book for myself. What I didn’t love were Diana, Catherine’s mother, and Lucy. Neither felt fully developed despite playing important roles. Come to think of it, though, I could have done without the Lucy subplot. She was more of a vehicle to showcase Catherine and Mark as little more than angels. While I’m on this thread, Mark’s character was surprisingly lackluster. He was very stagnant despite having his heart shattered and discovering an attraction to Catherine.

If you like dramatic events, there are plenty here. They were a little over the top for me. Overall, I don’t feel they added much to the story, other than to knock Catherine over the head with what a catch Mark is and she would be stupid to cling to her mother instead of taking a chance. They did, though, add color to the relatively quite Penhallow Sands and the inhabitants.

Overall, this is more typical romance than typical women’s fiction. It was a decent read with plenty of charm and a relatively heartwarming romance that could be seen a mile away. Not bad for an easy summer read.

How many cups of tea will you need?

3 should be good.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Canelo for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

For more of my book reviews, stop by the Bookshelf.

3 Comments

  • Autumn

    I’ve been composing my own romance stories for so long, I completely forgot that the genre is badly riddled with formulas and stereotypes, so my first reaction was, “What’s wrong with romance? … Oh wait, that’s right.” I hate the formulas and stereotypes too.

    Can’t say I’ve ever read women’s fiction, but I have the strong feeling that it wouldn’t be to my tastes anyway.

    • kat

      I’d love to read a romance if someone would break it out of the mold and write what romance is really like. I enjoy women’s fiction once in awhile, but most of it is kind of lackluster.

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