Devon and Hell
Four Seasons by the Sea
by Karen Wheeler
Today I am so pleased to be starting the blog tour for Devon and Hell by Karen Wheeler.
Thank you to Random Things Tours and the author for a copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly.
After eight years of living in France, Karen Wheeler returns to live by the seaside near Budleigh Salterton on East Devon’s Jurassic Coast. Plum Tree Cottage, with its full set of cottagey credentials – climbing roses, old Georgian floorboards and a dove-grey Aga – is a classic case of love at first sight. But the disasters begin before she has even moved in.
Wheeler is left reeling when Plum Tree Cottage reveals a very unwelcome surprise. She then receives the shocking news that her mother – a cold and cruel woman from whom she has been estranged for most of her life – has been sectioned.
Living the dream by the sea rapidly descends into a living hell with each day bringing a new onslaught of domestic and mother-related disasters. Convinced that her cottage is unlucky, Wheeler consults Harsh Jain, a practitioner of vastu shastra – the Hindu equivalent of feng shui.
Back comes a report that would have most people not just moving their gas stove – which Wheeler discovers is ideally placed for ‘burning up blessings’ – but sticking their head in it. Harsh predicts that the cottage will bring a host of problems and ‘unwelcome surprises’. The doom-laden report finishes by warning the author – who is planning to walk the Jurassic Coast Path – to ‘Please be avoiding high places’.
One by one, Harsh Jain’s predictions come true – in surprising detail. Wheeler is forced to face up to the childhood she has long tried to ignore and is literally taken to a cliff edge before the book’s end. But then, in a heartwarming twist, she makes a surprising discovery that changes everything.
Devon and Hell: Four Seasons by the Sea is the omnibus version of a four-part series of mini e-books, launched earlier this year as Dream Cottage: Four Seasons in Devon and released in accordance with the seasons.
Karen’s story begins as she returns from France to live in a chocolate box cottage close to the sea. I loved how she describes the beautiful Devon countryside with the winding roads, amazing sunsets, beach huts and cottages with names like ‘Sea Glass’
She also reminisces about her childhood growing up in the 70s, remembering salmon paste sandwiches, reading Enid Blyton and lemonade flavored Spangles. I also found myself relating to Karen because we share the same phobia (you will have to read the book to find out what it is!) and some childhood memories which are painful and raw.
The cottage was not exactly the dream residence that Karen imagined. In fact, the rodent infestation, dry rot, and woodworm would have most people running for the hills. However, she showed great strength and fortitude to get the cottage habitable and restart her return to England.
This is an easy read, which I found hugely relatable. I loved Karen’s honesty when it came to admitting how she felt about the relationship with her mother. Despite the horrendous turmoil she went through with a sick parent and dilapidated home she retains a quirky and dry sense of humour. Like myself, she is a dog lover and I really enjoyed the antics of Biff, Karen’s canine companion who remained by her side and provided a constant shoulder to cry on.
I thoroughly enjoyed Devon and Hell and look forward to reading more from Karen Wheeler.
(I’m so glad that it’s not just me who Googles EVERYTHING !!)
Karen Wheeler is a former journalist and national newspaper fashion editor who has successfully published five comic travel memoirs about her life in France, starting with Tout Sweet: Hanging up my High Heels for a New Life in France, which made it to #1 in Amazon’s travel writing book chart.
She wrote for the Financial Times for over fifteen years and is a former fashion editor of the Mail on Sunday. She studied Modern History at Kings College, London University and worked briefly at Sotheby’s art auctioneers before embarking on a career in fashion journalism.
During her career she has interviewed many of fashion’s top names including Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein. Her work has also appeared frequently in Vogue Japan, You magazine, the Daily Mail and Sunday Times Style.
Originally hailing from the north of England, Karen is one of the many ex-pats now returning to the UK – as she points out the food is much better here. She has run holiday cottages, knows the Farrow and Ball colour chart inside out, never turns down a glass of pink champagne and lives near Budleigh Salterton in East Devon with her boyfriend and her dog Biff.
You can read more about her life at www.toutsweet.net – the blog she started while living in rural France; and follow her on Twitter at @mimipompom1
Contact her directly at Karenwheeler1@gmail.com
Devon and Hell: Four Seasons by the Sea will be released in e-book format on 28th October 2019, £9.99, by Sweet Pea Publishing. The print version will be published in October 2020.