by Jo Thomas
by Jo Thomas
This is my third culinary adventure in the company of Jo Thomas and was everything I expected it to be: a fun, easy read and a perfect counterbalance to the stress and strains of everyday life.
If, like me, you read as much for pleasure as enlightenment, then writers like Jo Thomas are a perfect choice. In “Late Summer in the Vinyard” we have all the right ingredients: downtrodden heroin (Emmy Bridges), a captivating location (a French vineyard)and a couple of unlikely suitors (Isaac and Charlie).
Emmy is single, living at home with her widowed father and facing the prospect of eviction from the family home. She works (very badly) at a call centre and is on the very of losing her job when circumstances place her in the right place at the right time and she finds herself flying off to France to work with a new client, winemaker Charlie Featherstone.
In some ways, once the scene has been set and the characters set in motion, you can probably work out most of the plot yourself. What makes Jo Thomas’ so interesting is her obvious love and knowledge of food and drink. She manages to weave so much information into her narrative that I am beginning to wonder what comes first: the characters or the food.
Here we learn a little about French cuisine and a lot about winemaking. Each element of the book – the characters, the plot and the wine – are woven into a delightful tale. Jo Thiomas’ books have become something a guilty pleasure or would if I were in the least guilty about it.
by Jo Thomas
It is 18 years since fiery red-head Nell fell in love on and with the mountains of Crete. Now, with her daughter working in London and her job on hold due to a fire, Nell decides it is time to return. Can she find and rekindle her teenage romance? Will Stelios even still be there and if he is, will he want to see her, let alone still love her?
From the moment she arrives on the island it is clear that a lot has changed over the intervening years. She has signed up as a volunteer to help on a honey farm situated in the mountains. She immediately throws herself into helping restore the farm to its former glory.
It soon becomes clear that beneath the idyllic setting there is something vaguely sinister going on. And what about the mysterious and enigmatic neighbour Georgios? What is his role in the goings-on up in the mountains?
Nell soon learns not only the truth behind these things but also about what really happened when she fled the island all those years ago.
The Honey Farm On The Hill is a perfect holiday read. It has the inevitable romance mixed with a little mystery and adventure, something that Jo Thomas always manages to weave into her books. Her passion for food is apparent as she tells us all about Greek herbs and honey.
If I have one criticism it would be the all too predictable ending. I felt that the story and it’sm characters deserved something a little less formulaic. I would have prefered a less clinical and Austenesque, but that is just personal preference. It is a light, easy read that is guaranteed to entertain.
by Jo Thomas
The story begins with young Fiona Clutterbuck emerging from a police station somewhere on the windswept Irish coast shortly after crashing her hired camper van into the sea wall. Not a very auspicious start to her honeymoon, particularly as she was alone at the time, her erstwhile husband having left her before the ink was dry on the marriage certificate. It is fair to say that this was not the way Fiona, or Fi as she prefers to be known, had planned to spend the first few days of her married life. So, here she is, stranded heaven-know-where with no money, no transport and no clothes. Could things get any worse?
The answer has to be yes, or there wouldn’t be a story to tell. Fi’s salvation comes in the shape of the local oyster farmer Sean Thornton. When he offers her a job as his “girl Friday” she leaps at the chance, seeing a way to put a roof over her head and earn the money she needs to move on from this back of beyond town. But it is not as simple as that. Life on an Irish oyster farm is not what she is used to at all and the locals aren’t the friendly bunch she might have hoped for.
However, over time, attitudes change and she soon finds herself very much at the heart of the community, much to the annoyance of her new employer who’s relationship with the rest of the town is just one of the mysteries Fiona has to unravel.
The Oyster Catcher is a light and easy read. It has all the elements you expect of a modern romantic comedy – the initial animosity that slowly but surely becomes something much deeper; the misunderstandings and unspoken desires that lead to an inevitable separation before disaster strikes, bringing our two erstwhile lovers are thrust back into each other’s arms where they can at last open their hearts and come together at last.
And whilst the formula is predictable, the story of Fiona and Sean is told with a gentle wit and skill that mark Jo Thomas as a writer to be watched.
The book is about more than just the budding romances of the characters involved, it is a journey of discovery, of facing fears and learning to trust in others. Through each other, they face their pasts and are able to shed some of the excess baggage that they have carried with them for far too long. The Oyster Catchers is an encouraging debut that introduces a promising storyteller. I look forward to reading more.