REVIEW: Foxglove Copse (Porthkennack #5) by Alex Beecroft
A standalone contemporary novel in the Porthkennack universe
After a massive anxiety attack, Sam Atkins left his high-powered job in the City and committed himself to life on the road in a small van. Six months in, he’s running out of savings and coming to the conclusion that he might have to go home to his emotionally abusive family. Needing time to think, he takes a walk through a copse by the Cornish roadside, only to stumble upon the body of a ritualistically killed sheep. As he’s trying to work out what the symbols around the animal mean, the sheep’s owner, Jennifer, and her nephew, Ruan Gwynn, come upon him. Ruan is a kind-hearted young man with a large supportive clan, and since he and Sam feel almost instant attraction, he doesn’t want to believe Sam is a sheep-killing cultist. In fact, the moment he lays eyes on Sam’s miserable solitary life, he wants to rescue the man. But as the killings escalate, he and Sam need to stop whoever is actually to blame before they can concentrate on saving each other. Word count: 66,700; page count: 245
Dear Alex Beecroft,
I always enjoy your writing and usually buy your new books confident that I will enjoy the new story. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.
As blurb tells the reader, this book is set in the small town of Porthkennack and is part of another series that Riptide Publishing seems to be fond of releasing – each book is a stand–alone, but it is set in the same city and sometimes characters from previous books make a very minor appearance.
I have not read (and am not planning to read right now) any other books in the contemporary Porthkennack universe and I was not confused reading this one at all.
Let me just get this out of the way – I thought the book was beautifully written and I liked two main characters a lot which is a big deal for me in Romance novel.
The book’s description reveals that Sam had an anxiety attack at his previous job, which paid the bills well but was not bringing him happiness. His family is not very supportive of him and are emotionally abusive (and still are when Sam calls his mother couple of times in this book). After several years of therapy, he manages to leave them and his past life behind. Since he gave away almost all his savings and code writing was not paying much, he found himself in dire financial straits and is now living in his car in the town of Porthkennack.
Sam didn’t kill Jennifer’s sheep, but Jennifer and her nephew Ruan found him nearby examining it after the fact. I understood the desire to blame somebody who is the most convenient to blame but, frankly, I thought Aunt Jennifer was being an idiot for accusing Sam of the crime. I am not even sure why she did it because she didn’t seem to really believe that Sam actually did it (no blood on him should have been a big clue).
In the meantime, Ruan discovers that other bad things are happening in town. His niece Tegan reveals that somebody is engaged in online bullying of teenagers. One of her classmates committed suicide and Tegan and a friend think that the bullying may be related to, perhaps responsible for, the tragic incident. Tegan wants help from Ruan to catch the bastard who may be bullying teens. Ruan enlists Sam’s help as Sam is good with the computers, which oddly was revealed during a disconcerting meeting. I personally thought that Ruan had a lot of nerve to ask Sam for help after his Aunt brought charges against him, but it is soon made clear that Ruan is attracted to Sam and never believed that he really was the villain.
I have to admit that I really liked our heroes together – they have that quiet, gentle chemistry I enjoy so much in this writer’s books and for that reason I am all the more disappointed that the story didn’t take its time to develop their relationship. Yes, they were very sweet together. NO, I do not have a clue as to why they decided to get together so quickly, especially because I didn’t get any hot sexual attraction vibe from them either. NO, I am not complaining about the absence of hot sex – there were a couple of modest sex scenes, which would have been perfectly fine for me – but I got the impression that the reader was supposed to see that the boys fell in love, that the attraction developed because they liked each other as people, and I just don’t get how one person can like another that much when they just met.
I am not sure how I feel about the “let’s catch the bad guy” storyline either. Initially I liked it very much because I had no idea where it was going and how all the horrible things were connected and whether the occult was involved or not. It was suspenseful and interesting, but I thought that at the end it just fizzled out. Motivations for the bad things happening made perfect sense, but it seemed to me that the only family the villain could come from was revealed to us early enough in the story and, sure enough, that’s where the villain came from. Much to this reader’s dismay, the villain was a completely new person. I was disappointed.