British author Cheska debuts stateside with a competent tale of marital discord.
Now in their 40s, with daughter Sophie just off to college, Jess and Felix Newman move to a small village on the Dorset coast. Though the incentive for the move is the relocation of Felix’s exclusive jewelry firm, the two hope that it will be a new start for them, revitalizing their saggy marriage. Felix, having spent his entire wedded life as an adulterer, is apparently counting on the sea air and the impending wedding of his mistress to set him straight, while Jess happily (and blindly) throws herself into the restoration of their charming cottage. Mixed in with this are daughter Sophie’s affair with a married man and the return of Louisa, Jess’s sister, who has been bumming around Europe for the last 16 years, afraid of commitment. The cheaters, the faithful, the frightened—Cheska has all the romantic bases covered, though she thankfully uses a light touch in exploring the fear and loneliness that steer their decisions. Though coastal living doesn’t do much to improve Felix (he begins an affair with his business partner’s wife), Jess loves it, becomes empowered, takes design classes, and decides to make a career as a professional decorator, thus allowing descriptions not only of her own new home’s refurbishing but of her first client’s as well. And it’s this first client, the quietly engaging Matthew, who inspires Jess finally to consider the state of her marriage. She always suspected her husband of cheating, though now, with Felix demanding she quit her new business and Matthew waiting in the wings . . . .
Cheska offers it all for this breed of novel: scenes from the British coast, Brittany, even Venice, lovely homes, and characters with just enough depth to keep the pretty pictures moving.