Ultimately satisfying though I have to say if you are looking for a rah female friendship book, the two main characters have very little do with each other for most of the book which was funny. Instead both of them rely on people they have either just met and or have known for a while before circling back to their friendship. I found it a bit weird, but ultimately liked it. Rachel is still hurting from Claire turning away from their friendship when they were pre-teens and Claire is oblivious to the hurt she caused.
This is the second book in the Hartley-by-the-Sea books. We were introduced to one of the characters in the first book, Rachel Campbell. The second character we follow is Claire West.
Rachel has had a hard life. She gave up the chance to go to university and get a degree in chemistry. Instead she is forced to drop out after her father runs out on her, her two younger sisters, and her disabled mother. Rachel takes over her mother's cleaning business and cleans the homes of the residents of Hartley-by-the-Sea and wishes for better things for her younger sister who is about to take her O levels. Forgive me if I got that wrong since I did not grow up in England and always mess up the A and O levels in books. Though Rachel is not trying to, she is pressuring her younger sister to do what she didn't do which is to go to university and get a degree in biology.
Claire is hiding in Hartley-by-the-Sea. After her fiancee calls her parents and claims she's an alcoholic, Claire goes to rehab and then refuses to follow her parents to London. Instead she goes back to her childhood home where she hopes to find a job.
Rachel is surprised to run into Claire when she stops by to clean one day and it brings up all of her anger towards Claire dropping her when they were kids. Claire finds a job at the local store/post office and is doing her best to push her parents and her older brother, Andrew, out of always thinking they know what's best for her.
We have a lot of secondary characters in this one. We have Rachel's two sisters, her nephew, and Claire's brother Andrew, as well as the shopkeeper that hires Claire. We also get some nice sightings of Juliet and Lucy from book #1 as well as Abby Rhodes (who is the focus of book #3) and a few other characters as well.
Hewitt does a nice job with writing about two girls whose lives did not turn out the way they expected. They both get pushed in different ways which was great. Rachel has to learn to let go, and Claire has to learn to speak up for herself and do what she wants, even if it is hard. We do get some romance in this one, but not a lot honestly. Both of the women are the focus in this book and they have a lot going on from beginning to end.
Hartley-by-the-Sea sounds charming though cold and Hewitt does a great job with describing the village and it's inhabitants love of the weekly pub quiz.
The ending has both women on a different path and I hope that Hewitt keeps following up on them in future books.