REVIEW: Christmas at the Edge of the World by Kate Hewitt
When Laurel West discovers her estranged sister Abby has checked herself into rehab and wants her to take care of her fourteen-year-old son, she doesn’t hesitate to step in. Abby was there for Laurel a long time ago, and she longs to be able to offer the same. However, as a single woman who still dreams of the fairy tale, Laurel isn’t prepared for teenaged Zac’s sullen moods or silent rage. When he’s expelled from school, she decides to take drastic measures and temporarily relocate them to her great aunt’s cottage on the windswept hills of the Orkney islands north of Scotland… about as far as she can run from their problems, but will it be far enough?
From the moment they step onto the island’s shores, everything seems to go wrong… including a run-in with eccentric sheep farmer Archie MacDougall. When Zac gets in trouble at the village pub and is rescued by Archie, Laurel thinks things are only getting worse. But Archie’s suggestion of putting Zach to work on his farm might be the change he needs, and Laurel strikes up a surprising friendship with a man who is about as far from the fairy tale as she can imagine. Can such an unlikely and impractical love bloom in such a brief moment out of reality? And will two lost and lonely souls find each other at the edge of the world?
Dear Ms. Hewitt,
It’s to the point that if it has your name on it and is a romance, I’ll get it. I figured that this would be a nice holiday story, with some angst (but not too much) and hey, it’s in Scotland and has sheep. I’m not sure why the thought of an eccentric sheep farmer hero enticed me so much but it did.
There’s a lot going on here and I’m afraid I’d feel as lost at sea as Laurel does when she suddenly has to take over care for her fourteen year old nephew whom she barely knows. Then he does something that gets him kicked out of school and all she can think of is safety and comfort. For Laurel that means her aunt’s cottage in the Orkney Islands. But when she and Zac arrive, everything goes wrong and nothing is quite as magical as Laurel remembers. Being confronted by an unknown man with a gun in the freezing cottage sets the seal on “this sucks.” Her aunt’s email to her neighbor about Laurel arriving must not have been read yet.
Let’s be honest, without Archie’s help the stay in Stromness would have sucked a lot more as he basically takes these two by the hands and saves them. Plus he makes Mary Berry worthy cakes. Laurel certainly finds him safe as she finds herself confiding hopes and fears and dreams to him which he calmly listens to. He even provides the “tough love” that Zac needs. But when Laurel’s un-examined and unresolved past arrives, who will she decide needs her most?
Laurel’s got tons of baggage as do Zac, his mother, and even Archie. As Archie reminds Laurel, no one’s life is perfect and we make do with what we have. Dreams are fine but when they are used in place of taking a chance on life, well that’s all you’re left with – dreams. Archie does come off as more of a Perfect Guy as we see none of his POV and he always seems willing to drop everything to help Laurel and Zac. His face is expressive and through Laurel the readers see his emotions but I would have liked to have heard what he really thought about Laurel tearing up as she spilled her life story to him.
Fourteen year old Zac is also seen only through Laurel’s eyes but sullen teenager isn’t hard to figure out. He shapes up fairly quickly (too quickly?) though once he’s required to put some hard work in. When it’s revealed just what turned him extra specially sullen before Laurel comes into his life (and I figured there was something lurking) his attitude makes sense.
The loose threads and painful things in Laurel’s family’s past are resolved, though perhaps just a tad too quickly and easily especially in the case of Laurel’s sister. But it’s Christmas and this is a category length book so – okay. I did enjoy the bold step that Laurel took and kudos to her for doing so. The epilogue is sugary sweet but heartfelt for all that. C+