I’m always nervous when I read a book by someone I know. Let alone someone I see as a friend. Thankfully every time I read one of Joanne Tracey’s books I come away a little agog – that someone I know could create something like this. Something magical. Something that makes me care. And something that makes me cry.
Escape to Curlew Cottage is loosely linked to Wish You Were Here, which I read in 2016. I spent much of last year in my self-absorbed little bubble so missed two books Tracey released in 2020, but her warm style of writing, her development of very real and likeable characters and yarn-spinning ability was exactly as I remembered. Although I didn’t remember that until I started reading…. if you know what I mean.
Escape To Curlew Cottage
by Joanne Tracey
Published by Self-published
Genres: Women's Fiction, Romance
Claire Mansfield is the host of the popular reality TV show Time For Tea, and possibly the nicest person on British television – until a secret from her past ignites a media storm. Someone, it appears, wants to see her career destroyed.
Seeking shelter, Claire runs to Brookford, the Cotswolds village she left behind nearly twenty years ago.
Also back in town is Owen Gallagher, the man who broke her teenage heart and who is now one of the hottest chefs in the country – and has reasons of his own to see Claire ruined.
Anyone who’s read Tracey’s books before knows they reflect her love of travel, food and cooking. For this series she’s created a fictional town of Brookford, and IRL has even got a blog called The Brookford Kitchen Diaries in which she features recipes and other culinary delights.
I also know that she loves cooking shows so it wasn’t surprising to see her feature one here. I really liked however that Tracey’s own values shine on through and Claire fronts a cooking show that doesn’t feature bitchy backstabbing contestants.
Rather the focus of Time For Tea is on good ol’ fashioned home cooking and community spirit. Similarly, when she (well, Claire) talks about reviewing restaurants she comments on the fact that she doesn’t attempt to curry (;-) ) favour with the owners. She’s committed to honest reviews, because – she asks – how else can readers trust that reviewer?
Although this book is about Claire at a pivotal time in her life, it also features four women in the Cotswolds (near Brookford), one of whom (Tallis) is our other very-likeable narrator. I’d like to think the next book in the series features her as the lead but I won’t make any predictions because there are potentially a couple of options.
I usually shy away from romance but (as with many of Tracey’s previous books), this is as much about the women themselves as their love lives. And here she features relationships faltering in a very nuanced and sympathetic way. I also appreciated the lack of game-playing in a potential new relationship.
There’s something really mature and pragmatic about Tracey’s story-telling. I’ve met enough authors to know that I appreciate those whose writing reflects them and their personality. As a storyteller Tracey tells it like it is. Her characters feel real. So real in fact that I suspect she grabs glimpses of those around her and melds them into creations of her own.
This book felt a little more about the food than the setting or location, and I must confess to loving the the snarky Alex Spooner food reviews and think Tracey’s got a future if she wants to go down that route. Anonymously of course.
I did think the mystery around the potential sabotage of Claire’s career was perhaps a tad predictable, although having said that I only guessed half of what was coming.
That aside this is another enjoyable book from Tracey, with real and likeable characters and a story that is welcomingly warm and satisfying.
Escape to Curlew Cottage by Joanne Tracey is now available.