Letting In Light
Rowan Hill seemed like the perfect place for Ellie to escape and lick her wounds; a huge estate surrounded by a nice big wall and plenty of peace, quiet, and time to think ...
Will has a reputation for being a humourless grumpy loner, but it’s his estate and he doesn’t want anything to change; things would be perfect if everyone would just leave him alone. Maybe it’s not that he’s grumpy at all though, maybe it’s the big fat secret he’s keeping that makes him act the way he does …
Finn ran away from his past, but is now planning a return home to Rowan Hill. What he finds when he returns though is not quite what he was expecting …
The perfect solution for all of them is staring Ellie in the face, trouble is she’s been accused of meddling before; should she follow her heart or her head?
With old friends and new pulling together, the course of the year plays out amid the challenge of building an exciting new creative community project. As romance and friendships blossom however, the complications of the past are never far away, and a shocking revelation soon threatens their hopes for the future. Suddenly the beliefs they once held true become the biggest obstacle they have to overcome. Will they find the courage to learn from the truth?
After all, life, like art, is all about perception, and sometimes it just depends on your point of view …
Now, here’s a thing: romance is not my favourite genre, this book breaks some “writing rules”, you can tell it is a first novel, some important steps in the draft-to-publication process have clearly been side-lined, and it screams “self-published” … BUT STILL I REALLY LIKED IT.
I would prefer to call it a love story rather than a romance (with all that conjures up). It is a romance, but not your traditional read-and-chuck-aside type. It is a story about a number of different relationships, in which the main two characters are attracted to each other. There are two evil exes, one of which I would have changed to not evil, as they become a bit of a caricature, and this book doesn’t need that for the story to work.
Several of the characters, including the main ones, are damaged and fragile. We see how they act to overcome their inner demons and sometimes the reader will want to give them a good talking to, and sometimes will want to give them a hug.
The book has some dark bits (and a revelation that was both unexpected and shocking), some humour and some great description. Right from the start the story played out in my mind like a film. The descriptions of the houses, village and countryside were vivid and I could picture it all (except for the estate house). I loved the first-person point of view of Ellie and I loved how this was written. Just occasionally, though, we got a third-person viewpoint with no warning and this really jolted me out of the story.
The storyline was strong and quite beautiful on the whole. Ellie is a wonderful main character. The tone of the writing was in the main perfect (and this is why I love the book). If Emma could join forces with an editorial and design team, the book could be made much stronger, and then I would like it even more.
Emma Davies has some good books to come, I think, and will no doubt build up a loyal following. I’ll be one of them. I am really looking forward to your second book, Emma, and if you could find your way to working with an editor, I’ll even add the words “eagerly anticipating”.
Editorial Input & Design
Right. Clearly no editor, no copy-editor and no proofreader. This book is worth reading, even in its current form; after a bit of a polish, it would be well worth reading.
For a developmental edit I would suggest: moving around a few paragraphs that just seem slotted in to a convenient space; keeping everything from the point-of-view of Ellie (it can be done); expanding the time frame slightly (some things are rather rushed); changing completely the original meeting of the characters; not trying to hide so much in order to give “twists” (the Ben history was, at least in part, obvious from the get-go and the trying to hide it resulted in some clumsy text); not having a quite so stereotypical ex-wife; making sure that later parts of the story are set up earlier (I’m thinking Alice here). There is a theme running through the book (it would be a spoiler to say what) that left me with a few “why” questions (“That happened, so why did he think this?”), which need ironing out to avoid having to suspend belief; also I’d look at some of the text around this theme as it left me feeling a tiny bit uncomfortable. Although I loved Ellie’s character, I could never quite see her as a university lecturer (especially one at Cambridge), and I would have suggested changing her background (particularly since to be a university lecturer she would have needed a doctorate, not a teacher-training qualification, and there is no mention of her having done a PhD).
The book is quite long and some editors would probably suggest shortening it to fit with the standard length of the genre. I was happy with the page extent, though.
A copy-editor would sort out inconsistencies, clunky wording and incorrect punctuation. He or she would also question some of the research (or lack of), e.g. time frame for planning applications; use of wood in building; the length of time it takes to do various tasks; just how close is “next door”?
We discover that Ellie is 34 and that Jane is two years younger, yet they have known each other for nearly twenty years and met when Jane was working in a book shop while doing her degree. Really? No. This is the type of thing a copy-editor will point out.
A proofreader would have sorted out commas and quote marks and spellings.
Cover: The paperback cover chants “self-publishing” to me in such a way that I would not buy and read the book if this was my only exposure to it. The redesigned cover used for the ebook and shown above is infinitely better (and is the one I saw when I decided to buy it), but it does also shout out that it is not professionally designed: the picture is charming and appropriate (although maybe a bit “cosy” for some of the themes of the story?), but the frame and the typography let it down.
A developmental editor or marketer would, I think, recommend changing the title. It suggests to me (especially combined with the paperback cover) a Christian theme. There is nothing wrong with a Christian book, of course, but this book isn’t one and so potential readers might well skip over it in a line-up. The title does have a relevance to the story, but we don’t know about the more specific relevance until very near the end. I’d change it to something punchier.
I’d say the blurb is too long and gives away too much of the story (and I don't think actually quite matches the story). I would suggest rewriting it to give hints to hook the reader, and make it a bit more mysterious to leave the reader wanting more.
Internal design: This is another area that could do with the help of a professional. I haven’t seen the paperback, but the ebook version needs more of a design. It is quite legible and line endings etc. are fine, but there is no stylistic hint to show a break for a change in time or point of view, so the reader stumbles and has to back-track to get back into the rhythm. (Where there is a stylistic change, it isn’t consistently used.) Paragraphs are indented but with a space between them. The starts of new chapters and sections within chapters are indented (they should start full out) with a space above. There are no hyperlinks to individual chapters.
Book Clubs & Reviews
Possibly a book club would like it. The characters would be interesting to discuss – what breaks a person and what helps mend a person. Other themes would likely be what we will say and do to protect someone else (and whether that’s the right thing to do), how we’d react in a particular situation, rebuilding a life after trauma, and relationships in general. Happily, cake and red wine would be entirely fitting accompaniments to the discussion.
What others are saying: Amazon UK readers give it 4.8 stars (20 reviewers); Amazon US readers give it 5 stars (5 reviewers); Goodreads readers give it 4.5 stars (11 ratings).
Buy & Author
hive.co.uk (paperback £10.99)
Amazon (Kindle 99p/$1.52; paperback £10.99/$18.25)
Connect with the author:
Links of interest:
Romance Festival Interview with the author