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Blog Tour Review: The House Of Second Chances by Esther Campion

The House Of Second Chances
Esther Campion
Hachette AUS
2019, 389p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Can a house heal heartache? From coastal Australia to the rugged beauty of Ireland, an enchanting novel of starting over, in the tradition of Maeve Binchy and Monica McInerney.

Their grandmother’s stone cottage was always a welcome retreat in the childhood summers of Ellen and Aidan O’Shea. After a trip home from Australia, Ellen is keen to bring the neglected home back to its former glory and enlists the help of her dear friend and one of Ireland’s top interior designers, Colette Barry.

Aidan is already begrudging the work on the house he has avoided for nearly twenty years. The last thing the builder needs is an interior designer who seems to do nothing but complicate his life. With their own personal heartaches to overcome, will Aidan and Colette find the courage to give the house and themselves a second chance?

I didn’t actually realise that this book is connected to Esther Campion’s first book, Leaving Ocean Road. I haven’t read that and for the first little bit as I settled into this story, it was a bit confusing working out who was who and how everyone was connected. Once I had that sorted, it was easier to sink into the story and figure out what was happening.

Siblings Ellen and Aidan O’Shea are undertaking a renovation of a cottage left to them by their grandmother. As Ellen lives in Australia now, Aidan will be undertaking the bulk of the renovation, as he’s also a builder by trade. But Ellen has enlisted the help of her best friend, interior designer Colette to assist, much to Aidan’s chagrin. Although the two have known each other for a long time, given the friendship between Ellen and Colette, they’ve had little to do with each other since Ellen went to live in Australia. And when they are thrown back into close proximity to work on the house, it doesn’t exactly go smoothly. Aidan is skeptical of an interior designer’s role but he finds himself outnumbered and outvoted by Ellen and his father, which means that Colette’s role will be a prominent one.

Colette is six years out from a painful divorce and although she’s highly successful in her chosen career, moving from teaching into interior design, she hasn’t moved forward in her personal life in some time. She’s still living with her mother, where she went after her marriage ended and perhaps Aidan will provide an opportunity for something new…..if they can stop bickering.

I really like renovation stories – I watch quite a few renovation shows on television and I always enjoy their inclusion in books. However there wasn’t a huge amount of focus on the renovation, just enough to provide a bit of conflict between a skeptical Aidan and Colette, who didn’t understand Aidan’s somewhat hostile attitude. Aidan is not a particularly endearing character at first – he’s a bit rude, he makes no secret of the fact he thinks Colette’s inclusion is at best, a waste of time and at worst, something that will end up ripping them off. In fact there were a few instances where I may have put the book down and thought, “Aidan, what on earth is your problem mate?”

But he grew on me. It’s like he learned to swallow his pride, take a step back and stop being judgemental and actually look at what Colette was contributing and what her accomplishments were. Aidan also realises he needs to do something about his health – he’s pushing 40 or just over it, he’s getting a bit of that spread. So he changes his diet, takes up some exercise. This seems to help focus him as well, or mellow out his disposition somewhat! He becomes much more palatable and he and Colette actually find a way to have a conversation that doesn’t end in an argument which helps steadily build an attraction between them.

Meanwhile Ellen is in Australia, waiting for her partner’s visa to come through so that he can join her there permanently. She’s still dealing with some fallout that was addressed in the previous novel and learning to muddle through going from agreeing to be in a relationship with someone she was very involved with twenty years ago, to actually being in that relationship and learning the day to day sort of routine of it.

I enjoyed the snapshot of Irish life and also the snippets back in South Australia with Ellen as well. Aidan and Colette grew on me and I did find myself quite invested in them towards the end, even though there wasn’t really much in the way of actual romance in the story. The thing that did feel a bit left field for me was the case of a missing child, which comes up without warning and then dominates the plot in the latter parts of the book. It just felt like a bit of an abrupt change in tone and subject and I wasn’t expecting it to go in that direction at all, or have the effect that it did on numerous characters. One part that I did really think contributed to the story was that of Shane, the troubled nephew of Colette’s business partner who comes to work for them. He’s incredibly surly and reluctant at first but slowly he thaws and opens up and establishes a real bond with both Colette and his uncle. That was really great to read.

This was an appealing story that swept me away to Ireland and made me really want a little cottage in Cork. I’d happily revise this world.


Book #33 of 2019

Although born in Ireland, Esther Campion now lives in Tasmania, so I’m counting this title towards my Australian Women Writers Challenge. It’s book #15

The House Of Second Chances is available now!



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