Brief synopsis: Rachel Phillips, mid twenties, a little naive, rather gullible, has fallen for a married man. The thing is, he’s also fallen for her. In too deep, Rachel and married man Steve, begin an affair and develop intense feelings for each other, knowing what they’re doing is wrong. But after nine months of lies and deceit, Steve’s wife Olivia finds out and gives him an ultimatum. It was inevitable that someone’s heart would get broken, but Rachel truly believed it wouldn’t be hers and certainly not twice within a matter of days.
Seventeen years later, Rachel has been married, widowed and moved on to a new life in a little Scottish village in Perthshire. But one day her life comes crashing down around her when she spots Steve and Olivia in a nearby town, looking happy and very much together. So sure she’d got over Steve, she soon realises she’s never been able to move on since falling in love with him and when Steve sees her and follows her home, Rachel has to make it clear that she’s no longer the naive twenty-something he once knew.
But is she? Does the flame reignite when they meet again after seventeen years? And is Steve still in love with Rachel, or has he moved on?
Kathryn is a fellow blogger (You can find her blog, Crystal Jigsaw, here) and someone I consider to be a friend these days, so I thought it was only right to honour her hard work and read Nightingale Woods. I bought it from Amazon on my Kindle and got stuck in. Right from the off, it was one of those books that really gets its claws into you. I try to read as often as I can, but on a good day that can be limited to
reading on the loo a couple of minutes here and there, but I really didn’t want to put Nightingale Woods down. It’s definitely what you’d call a ‘page turner’. Kathryn artfully gives you enough to keep you intrigued without giving it all to you on a plate, which for me is the mark of a great author.
I must say, the premise of Nightingale Woods was something new for me as, if I’m honest, I didn’t really like either of the main characters. Rachel comes across as naive and a little bit selfish and Steve is a philanderer who wants to have his cake and eat it, but their story is still irresistible in its way. You do get the feeling that there’s a love between them, even if it’s not the most traditional form of love, and that in itself leaves you aching to know how it all turns out. As the first half is written in diary form, you really get an insight into the personal feelings of Rachel and I think that’s part of what makes it so addictive.
Even when we skip forward seventeen years, despite Rachel having had life experience and being a middle-aged woman, the spell that Steve casts over her is clear to see, you get sucked into her excitement and the passion that she feels for him is palpable. If I’m completely honest, I’m not usually a fan of raunch in books – I tend to find that the authors use patronising words like “womanhood” when they really mean vagina or make it a little bit too ‘candles and rosepetals’ so that it’s adequately homogenized for the delicate female reader *rolls eyes* but the sex scenes in the book didn’t make me cringe at all, which may not sound entirely positive, but believe me, that’s a huge compliment!
The real stars of this book, for me, are the supporting cast. Rachel’s friends are great characters and even though they only feature in a small way, they offer a sense of stability and success to the story which is much needed. They’re probably the only thing that stop the book from being a truly tragic lovestory as Rachel is, essentially, a very solitary and lonely person, but her friends even out the balance somewhat.
I don’t want to say too much else as I don’t want to give any of the plot away, but I can highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the work of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Maeve Binchy and the like (it holds it’s own against any of these well-established authors, in my humble opinion), though this has a slightly more grown-up and less sugar-coated feel to it, making it accessible to just about everyone. Kathryn is as brilliant as I hoped she would be and I’ve already downloaded Discovery at Rosehill for my Kindle to read next!
I give ‘Nightingale Woods’ by Kathryn Brown FIVE stars
(As a footnote, I know we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I absolutely love the cover art for the book too, pictured above)