Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Country Loving by Cathy Woodman

The sixth book in Cathy Woodman's delightful Talyton St. George series, Country Loving is the story of Stevie, short for Stephanie, Dunsford, a successful accountant in London who receives a call that her father is about to lose his herd of cows, be prosecuted for the pitiful condition of his once prized animals, and most likely lose the farm that Stevie has always held tightly to her heart. Her contentious relationship with her father and the fact that he always valued her brother over her drove Stevie away even when her mother was alive but after her mother's death, Stevie hasn't really maintained contact with her father so she's completely blindsided by the fact that he's recovering from a stroke and has left the working of the farm to Cecil, a farm hand getting quite advanced in age and just not capable of keeping things going single-handedly. So Stevie and her citified boyfriend Nick make the trip down from London to check things out. Things are much worse than Stevie imagined and she decides that she'll have to stay and try to turn the farm around and come up with a way to make it turn a profit once more.

And so Stevie turns her back on her carefully constructed life in London and boyfriend Nick who is still patiently waiting for an answer to his proposal and mucks in on the farm. She butts heads with the summer locum vet, Leo, who is appalled at the state of the dairy herd but she is given some leeway by the Animal Welfare officer who gives her the chance to make necessary changes in order to spare her dad the indignity of arrest and the loss of his beloved cows. As Stevie struggles to right everything on the farm from caring for the animals to making needed repairs, she also has to work on her imperfect and fraught relationship with her father. In understanding where her heart actually lies, in the country, not the city, she breaks off with Nick. And as she immerses herself in the hard physical work of tending a dairy herd and the financial worry of how to make the farm profitable, she starts a tentative relationship with Leo, the temporary vet, despite their rough beginning. Knowing that he'll be moving on doesn't keep Stevie from committing her heart though and when she makes a discovery that could hasten the end of their relationship, she is devastated.

Characters from previous Talyton St. George books weave their way through the narrative of this one, allowing series readers to revisit some old favorites and see how their lives are progressing now. But even as a book well into the series, this stands alone just fine. As a character Stevie can be very frustrating and not very self-aware. Her relationship with Leo comes across as a bit immature, with neither one of them willing to forge the lasting commitment that successful adult relationships require. Each of them seems so transient in their own lives that it's almost hard to believe that they can overcome their own natures to be together. The picture of life in rural Devon and a small market town, the realities of farming and its hardships, and family tensions are realistically drawn here. And although I liked The Sweetest Thing and its love story better than this one, it was still lovely to spend time in Talyton St. George breathing in the country air, especially once Stevie figured out her priorities.

For more information about Cathy Woodman and the book, check her out on Great British Reads, visit her website, her blog, her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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