REVIEW: Christmas at Embthwaite Farm by Kate Hewitt
Welcome to Embthwaite Farm, a charming English home in North Yorkshire, belonging to the fractured Mowbray family…
With older sister Rachel home to help run the family farm and navigate their father’s terminal illness, Harriet Mowbray feels untethered, yet surprisingly free. She wants to embrace her future but continually trips over the insecurities and hurts from her fraught family relationships. When a mysterious millionaire purchases a derelict manor home to renovate into a hotel set to open before Christmas, Harriet pushes herself out of her comfort zone and approaches the owner to become a client for her fledging bakery business.
Former gaming entrepreneur Quinn Tyler has sunk everything into this new venture, and Harriet finds him utterly unexpected. Confident, impulsive and fun, he sweeps Harriet off her feet and their friendship blossoms to Harriet’s surprise and delight. As they work together on the hotel’s finishing touches, Harriet and Quinn battle their insecurities and demons and make surprising revelations as they build their fledgling relationship.
As Christmas looms, will they have the strength of conviction to fight for the hotel—and their newfound love?
CW/TW – parental emotional neglect, extreme MC self doubt
Dear Ms. Hewitt,
After finishing the first book in The Mowbray Sisters series, I was all set for book two about troubled younger sister Harriet. Plus there were still the issues with dying Peter Mowbray, the father, to be dealt with as he’d emotionally neglected his daughter for most of her life. How was all this going to be settled? I think my reading experience might have been helped if I’d realized this is only the second book in a
three four book series rather than expecting it to wrap things up. So heads up to readers, when the page count appears to be dwindling and you’re thinking “but, but …” there’s one last two more books to go.
Rachel Mowbray basically fled the family farm when she went to uni and rarely looked back. Her younger sister Harriet has stayed and endured, keeping the house, looking after their taciturn famer father, and not hoping for anything better. One of the reasons Rachel hated to visit was because of Hats’s sullen anger which simmered more than close enough to the surface for Rachel to see. When family friend Ben guilted Rachel into returning, the two sisters managed to clear the air a little and reexamine their viewpoints of the past ten years.
Yet Harriet’s relationship with her father is still fraught. She had always been a mother’s girl while their father favored Rachel. When their mother just walked out, Harriet was stunned and fell apart, skipping her A levels and her chance to escape as Rachel had. Now she’s tentatively starting a baking business. Baking has always given her pleasure and – she admits – been a way she tried to earn her family’s love. It’s hard, though, to silence the voice in her head which reminds her that everyone has always left her so she must not be worth anything. If she doesn’t try, she can’t fail.
Quinn Taylor also has life long family issues with parents who belittle him no matter how hard he tries. So his coping mechanism is to self-destruct before others can fail him. If he ruins it – whatever “it” might be – on his own, then he won’t be emotionally crushed when his dyslexia causes him issues or his parents and others don’t care. After flaming out of the tech business he started for Reasons, Quinn’s found something he really wants: to rehab an abandoned estate in rural Yorkshire into a family hotel. He’s got a vision of what he wants though it’s been hard to get others to see it. Now he’s poured all his millions into it and is increasingly worried as the opening deadline approaches.
When Harriet arrives with samples of her cookies in the hope that the Owner, known in town only as the Mysterious Millionaire, will hire her and give her fledgling business a boost, Quinn sees her. After sampling the goods, Quinn seeks her out. Slowly the two begin to relax around each other and discover similarities. But with each facing life long issues, and during the tight rundown to the hotel’s opening, is this enough to build a relationship on?
Fair warning to readers that this is not a typical light hearted book filled with Christmas joy. Both MCs also deal with a lot of self doubt and negativity.
I liked that Harriet and Quinn have both been given some weighty Issues and that the background and reasons for the Issues are handled well. It all makes sense to me that they act and believe the way they do. Yeah, some parents are just shit. Quinn’s father openly expresses his dismay at Quinn’s actions and repeatedly tells Quinn he’s a failure. Quinn hates the whole 1% attitudes and lifestyle and thought he’d found a fellowship in the American tech game industry only to realize it was just as fake and shallow.
Harriet’s father never openly hurt her but he almost totally ignored her, turning Rachel into the favored child. With Peter now dying from a brain tumor, Harriet sees that her window of opportunity to seek answers is closing. When she musters the courage to confront her father, he asks her if she really wants the truth which Harriet discovers is still beyond her. During Rachel’s attempt to have one last family Christmas experience, an Ugly Truth comes out – a truth that I had sort of guessed.
My problems with the story aren’t because I don’t believe that Harriet and Quinn are falling in love but rather due to the emotional baggage they’re still hauling around. Yes they seem to “see” each other – warts and all – and “get” each other but is that enough to base long term happiness on? Their about-faces in how they’ve acted and reacted to what has marred their life experiences up to now appears to be more a quick “this other person has changed how I react to things” and “I’m determined to break the old molds that have defined me.” It’s a good start for both but Harriet is still facing some tough revelations and I need more which I hope I’ll get in the next book. B-