Having enjoyed Emma Hannigan’s previous book The Summer Guest I was delighted to be offered a copy of The Heart of Winter. Only on finishing the book did I realise that the Craig family previously appeared in Driving Home for Christmas which was published last year. Although this is a perfectly good read as a stand-alone book I think the early chapters would have read a little smoother if the author hadn’t had to try so hard to cement the characters personalities to allow for those of us who hadn’t already met them.
The Craig family are in the final stages of turning the family country house, Huntersbrook, into a party venue, the whole family has pulled together to keep the house in the family, well nearly the whole family as Pippa the youngest daughter of Holly and Paddy focus is on partying her way through life and leaving others to do the hard work.
Lainey the eldest daughter lives close to her parents with her husband Matt and father-in-law Jacob but it’s clear that she feels that she was hard-done because Holly had suffered from post-natal depression after she was born and she was cared for by her Grandmother Maggie while she recovered. Following Maggie’s death Lainey has thrown herself into the family project as well as looking after her young son Ely.
Joey is the only son and very ambitious, he and his girlfriend Skye are also working hard to get the house ready for its first guests but when Joey gets a promotion he seems to think Skye should change to reflect his new role. He didn’t really impress me very much!
The plot is fairly predictable, with many family dramas including those of the old family retainer Sadie, who at eighty years old is still running after the younger members of the family, whipping up food at the drop of a hat or babysitting little Ely, a real marvel! This is a book about family relationships so there are moments of tension that are eased by a few well-chosen words which put the world to rights. The story is told in alternate chapters by Lainey, Joey and Pippa which is easy to follow as each chapter is headed by the character involved and has the added bonus of giving glimpses of their lives away from Huntersbrook.
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as The Summer Guest mainly because many of the characters appeared a little flat, possibly because there were so many of them. Of the three children, the only one with any spark was Pippa, and as a consequence her story was by far the most interesting of the three. Lainey was just a bit too whiney in her constant harping back to her childhood while Joey came across as a bit of a jerk who did little except think a lot of himself. As family dramas go this is a heart-warming read which serves to underline the importance of family especially during the bittersweet ending.
I’d like to thank the publishers, Headline, who gave me a copy of this book through Bookbridgr in return for this honest review.