Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Alistair Ellis is the proud gardener for beautiful fifteenth-century Whitecott Manor, in England’s West Country. His life changes forever following a gas explosion at the manor, in which his boss—and love of his life—dies. However, his boss hasn’t exactly gone for good and Alistair still finds himself involved in conversations with the deceased.
Circumstances improve when he meets Noah, the handsome dog groomer for the manor’s new owners. Although there are some issues: Noah is already engaged and Alistair suffers from cynophobia—an acute fear of dogs!
Whitecott Manor by Emma Jane is a prime example of a novel that has so many elements to it that they overwhelm the central romance and swamp the characters under a flood of narrative far too heavy for one book to carry. Honestly, this could be a really adorable romance as it has all the makings. It could also be a slight cosy mystery that could have been tilted into a murder/mystery story, could have been a suspense/policy tale (lots of that here) and then there’s the paranormal spooky element here with a ghostly ex-lover who hangs about almost the whole time. And did I say there are dogs here too? Cute dogs, big dogs….so a doggy tale as well.
It’s as if the author loves all those various genres and when it came to writing this story, couldn’t let go of any of them so she smashed them all together with the result that this story never really flies laden down with its heavy burden of too many themes and exposition.
If you cut everything away to just the romance of Alistair the gardener and Noah the groomer, it’s cute and the ending sweet and heartwarming. Alistair has to learn to grieve, move on and into a new love. Done and wonderful. Even gets to love a pooch! Perfect.
But there’s stuff about a brothel, and too many characters you couldn’t care less about, and even the ghost gets tiresome after a while. You want to call for an exorcist and some pruning shears to weed away all the stuff keeping you from Noah, Alistair and the HEA. I think the word I’m looking for is cumbersome. Sigh.
So, yes, I really enjoyed parts of this novel. But at 250 pages, other parts felt every bit 400 pages long. I kept thinking, why is Alistair not using his phone, making a vid and calling his beloved employer? Oh, right because that would mean all those pages would be gone. Some things just didn’t make any sense to me. So I’m just not sure I’d recommend this one. Not unless you’re an absolute fan of the author.
Cover art is glorious. Love everything about it. Perfection.
ebook, 250 pages
Published September 11th 2017 by NineStar Press