REVIEW: Welcome Me to Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt
Welcome back to Willoughby Close, with four new residents and happy endings to deliver…
Emily David didn’t want to move to Willoughby Close. She was perfectly content in London, but when her boss, Henry Trent, asks her to relocate, she’s left with little choice. Emily prefers living on her own and finds comfort in her routines. But the well-meaning residents of Wychwood-on-Lea are determined to include her in their friendly circle—a prospect Emily finds utterly alarming.
When sparks fly with local pub owner Owen Jones, Emily’s safe and fragile world threatens to shatter. She has too many secrets to keep, and Owen’s gentle understanding could be her undoing. But as Owen persists, Emily’s heart softens, and she begins to discover the wonder of trusting friends—and falling in love. That is, until she discovers Owen has a secret of his own…
Can Willoughby Close work its charm and magic once more? And can someone who has been determined to stay lonely find—and trust—love right on her doorstep?
Dear Ms. Hewitt,
A few years ago I started at the tail end of the “Willoughby Close” series. This time I decided to begin at the beginning of the next one. Like the others, this short novel is packed with all kinds of stuff from humor to anger to angst. And cats.
From the start we know that Emily David is out of her element. From the anonymity of crowded London, where she feels safe and able to slip into the background, she’s been requestold to move to rural Wychwood-on-Lea where her boss, formerly uptight Henry Trent who we watched fall in love, is now living with his new bride, Alice. Emily isn’t thrilled to be in this “chocolate box” Cotswold village. She’s also worried about her mother going off her meds. More on this later.
Sweet Alice (not the tender young Alice of Elton John’s song) is obviously eager to be a friend but Emily doesn’t “do” friends. Emily has shouldered the burden of responsibility in her family for years and done it alone. She doesn’t need people poking and prying into her life. But in Wychwood-on-Lea it doesn’t appear she’ll have a choice. Soon she’s surrounded by people taking her out to a pub in which she had a run-in with a rude man who nonetheless stirs something in Emily. Well of course he does, he’s the hero. He just needs to figure that out.
But then Emily also needs to figure out that friends can help as well as gently pry into your life and that she’s worth a relationship with someone she’s coming to care for. Owen has dark corners in his own past that he’ll have to shine a light on and examine before he’s ready to commit. And the people of Wychwood-on-Lea and Willoughby Close will shove them together, back them up, and cheer them on while they accomplish these tasks.
Emily, it’s soon clear, has some organizational as well as cleaning OCD. She’s also, for reasons that become clearer along the way, not had many outside people in her life. The rush of people jostling to become her friends startle and alarm her at first. Readers need to be patient with Emily as she works through the issues in her life. She initially appears prickly and stand-off-ish but is hurt when she overhears one of the Wychwood crowd call her that. As she discovers, it’s not that she necessarily doesn’t want friends or change in her life, she’s just wary of it and unsure how to accomplish these. Making friends as an adult isn’t easy and I felt for her.
Owen and Emily also realize that they aren’t the only ones in life who have had problems. A few at a time, the others reveal the things in their pasts that they’ve learned from and offer words of wisdom which might help. Since I haven’t read most of these books, the past problems were new to me but timely for what Emily and Owen are facing. After an initial crush of introductions, these characters appeared in places to help this book’s plot and I didn’t feel lost with who they are or that their books were being pushed at me.
There is a fair amount of build up to the reveal for Emily’s family issue so there is a little of my dreaded nemesis “repetition.” There didn’t appear to be as much – though there was still some – repetition for Owen’s angsty past. Both of these are treated with kindness and the issues are major and not always pretty. Both Emily and Owen feel some guilt, which seems totally natural, for being angry about how their lives were impacted by stuff. They also don’t initially act on the insta physical attraction they feel for each other.
Spoiler (Mental Health): Show
This one goes down to the wire before Emily and Owen realize how their pasts have forged the armor that they use to keep people at bay and that while no one can save them, they can be seen as worthy of saving themselves. I was a bit worried about that last issue but glad to see it discovered and acted on. No one can change another person or save another person but love can help you see that you are worthy. Now on to the story of the tall jitterbug dancer who’s just moved in. B
I read one or two of this series after reading your earlier reviews, Jayne, and I liked them a lot. Time to revisit. Hewitt does a great job establishing a world and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the characters. I also started in the middle of the sequence and didn’t have any problems. It did make me want to go back to the beginning, though!
@Sunita: For me, Hewitt manages the balance between humor and drama without letting one or the other get out of control.