Beth Moran, Take Me Home
Take Me Home was a very enjoyable read, from an author I've started to regard as very reliable. The book fits into my invented category of "nest-building", which has become my favourite escapist reading (it's a broad category which includes almost any variety of moving to a new house - unexpected legacy, marital breakdown and relocation, returning to the family home, starting a new business etc).
Here, home is at first a very small space for Sophie, who shares her motorhome with Muffin, her dog. She has a rather specialised business, supporting people and their families at the end of a life and and she preserves her privacy fiercely between jobs. As we meet her she's just finished one such job and has a choice for what she'll do next. First, a complicated family probably about to fight over an inheritance, one of whom is allergic to dogs, so she'll be living in her van in northern England in winter; the other is an artist who wants help tidying up her affairs - she's a dog owner, there's a guest suite, it's a country estate... of course, Sophie chooses the latter.
Her arrival at Middlebeck is embarrassing for number of reasons. She finds herself crashing a therapy group, so the initial welcome is somewhat frosty. Then her new client introduces her as a historian who's come to write a book, a falsification which will later prove extremely awkward. But it turns out that the artist is someone whose work she loves, and she agrees to stay and after her first night in the house finds herself beguiled by its warmth and beauty.
Which is all I'm going to say about the plot. I knew by then that I was going to enjoy the book very much. I already liked Sophie and Muffin and Hattie seemed like an excellent addition - slightly scatty, but intelligent and interesting and apparently, very much alive and active. That her dog's name is Flapjack is proof of her suitability.
It's probably true that almost any fictional character who chooses to share their home with a dog (or a cat) is well on the way to endearing themselves to me, but Take Me Home was definitely off to a good start. The introduction of a man to the cast-list got us well on the way to a nest-building classification. I don't actually require a love interest, but this form of escapism does tend to go hand in hand with romance. I do, however, require the protagonist to demonstrate their autonomy before settling down to connubial bliss, even if they start out full of vulnerability. And this book meets that requirement too - Sophie has lots of baggage to deal with alongside Hattie's needs, and joining her while she does it is what makes it an absorbing read. Emotional and practical mess is examined and mended, order is re-established, and another contented reader turns the final page. Well done, Beth Moran, and thank you.
And thanks to NetGalley and Boldwood Books for a review copy.