The House on Blackberry Hill
I love small towns. Even though I’m technically a city person now, walking purposefully down sidewalks and knowing almost none of the people I pass on the street, I still feel deep down that calm streets full of nosy neighbors are where I’m meant to be meandering. For this reason I find myself picking up a novel set in a small at least once every couple months. Some are outrageously unrealistic, unfortunately, but some, like The House on Blackberry Hill, remind me of the real world.
Abby Foster doesn’t know much about her family. Raised by a grandmother who kept her mouth firmly shut, Abby had no idea any other relatives existed until her great-aunt Marian died and left Abby a house. When Abby finally shows up in Jewell Cove to deal with her inheritance, she’s not at all prepared for the sort of community that is waiting for her. Although her last living relative was Marian, most of the people in Jewell Cove remember the Foster family fondly, and they’re eager to welcome Abby.
Among the first to greet her is Tom Arsenault, a local contractor. He’s been hoping for the chance to restore the house on Blackberry Hill (a.k.a. the Foster mansion, which Abby has inherited) for a good long time, and so he hurries up to meet Abby as soon as he hears she’s in town. Although Abby doesn’t think much of him after that first meeting—he definitely comes off as an arrogant know-it-all—it isn’t long before Abby realizes that Tom is a nice man. She soon hires him, and they strike up a friendship.
Throughout the story Abby is kept busy trying to juggle her relationship with Tom, her budding friendships with other people in Jewell Cove, and the mystery of her family’s past. She doesn’t know why her grandmother stayed so silent on the topic of their family, and being in Jewell Cove gives her a chance to finally figure that out. This little intrigue fits into the story well—it doesn’t take over, but it does make the plot a little more compelling.
Even though The House on Blackberry Hill seems to be written about Abby, I found Tom to be the more interesting of the two. Abby is a somewhat bland character—she’s nice, she’s curious, and she’s a little nervous about setting up in this new town. Tom has more going on—before the book began he was in love with his cousin’s wife, Erin, and when she died overseas he was put into the awkward position of grieving for someone, as a husband would, even though she was someone else’s wife. For all his outward confidence, Tom is pretty unsure about his relationship with Abby. On top of that, Tom’s family and friends are forever sticking their noses into his business, in a way that reminded much of my own family.
Overall, I would recommend The House on Blackberry Hill. Although it wasn’t the most compelling book I’ve ever read, I definitely enjoyed it. The characters were sweet and generally realistic, if a little flat sometimes. Best of all, Jewell Cove is a far cry from the overly cheery village found in some books—it sounds like an actual town, where people are friendly, nosy, and well aware that bad things do happen. I’ll probably end up reading the next book in the series for that reason alone.