The House in the Clouds – Victoria Connelly

As I started to read this book, just the name, ‘Edward Townsend’ had a certain ethereal feel to it, so in fitting for the tale I anticipated coming. WinfieldHall, AKA ‘The House in the Clouds’ sounded equally idyllic. The descriptions of the house were wonderful and the atmosphere that built up in my mind, as Edward and Abi counter bid on Winfield Hall was strangely compelling. I almost felt myself wanting to bid on the property at auction myself!

I loved the way that the author contrives a  meeting between Edward and Abi and their initial contact is such that immediate sparks of sexual chemistry make the atmosphere quite electric. I found myself drawn to finding out whether or not the couple could have any potential for a future together. I was also intrigued by the mystery that started to build up regarding Edward and his family/love life. An additional puzzle is to why Edward sometimes needs a walking stick, when he comes across as a young man. He is suffering badly with pain, but why? Has he been ill, or had an accident?

I think the blooming relationship between Abi and Edward is verbalised really well and I enjoyed their banter, for example when they are talking about the demise of thistles in the garden.

I adored the portrayal of Abi; I loved her flamboyance and her joix de vivre, and how she grasped any situation and the chance to be creative, with both hands. She very much reminded me of how an artist friend of mine is, with her children and so I found the character impressively realistic.

I loved Abi’s Nieces, Bethanne and Rosie and I thought that the author had captured the essence of the inquisitiveness of a young child, perfectly. I could almost hear the children in my head, asking questions. I never cease to wonder at that inquisitive, questioning nature of small children and I felt certain that the author must personally have/have had similar young children in her life, for her to have captured their personalities and other qualities, quite so perfectly on paper.

Nobody likes to see vulnerability in another person. The utter vulnerability of Abi shone through in some really powerful writing, when Rosie asks Abi if she wants to have children. Whilst this clearly hits a nerve with Abi, I was astonished at the author’s ability to lay bare so much emotion, in so few words. In my opinion, there is no doubt as to Victoria Connolly’s gift as a writer.

This book was like the perfect dish of lasagne, full of the most delicious layers of unctuous deliciousness. Just when you think you have eaten the last layer, you come across a new layer of complexity – in the same way that the author introduces us sensitively to the fact that Edward is not the only character with hidden ‘issues’. As a reader I must confess that despite being blindsided by this revelation, I was simultaneously delighted at being ‘fed’ a new, unexpected plot twist.

I was both sad that Edward lied to Abi, yet so very curious as to what is so awful that he doesn’t speak to his family. I found myself oozing with anticipation, to find out the truth about the matter, and wondering whether or not his Brother would turn up at the House In The Clouds. Indeed, at times I had to gently remind myself that none of this saga were real, owing to the fact that I was finding myself so involved in Abi and Edward’s lives!

I found Abi’s Sister Ellen to be awful, with her demanding, egotistical attitude. It’s terrible to think that people do exist that are like her, doing things like forcing their children on relatives and making demanding phone calls. All very entertaining for the reader, whilst hoping to never actually be in close proximity to anyone so obnoxious! Goodness knows how Abi came from the same family – I think Abi got all the ‘normal’ genes, whilst Ellen the objectionable ones! I struggled to see how her Husband coped with Ellen – the way he was described made him come across as a wholesome likeable chap – worth of a spot in anyone’s life, and the perfect character for this book and his family. To be honest, Ellen initially comes across as a bit of a nightmare, but I guess that adds spice to the whole story.

I adored the description of Danté and was feeling as though I could fall for him him too; he just felt so fresh and real; as if he was standing next to me. Indeed, as the author suggested the name ‘Dante’ has echos of some kind of great expectation – or perhaps it is portent of some kind of massive let down?

Wild water swimming was one of Edward’s favourite pastimes and I loved the way his swim with Abi was described; It felt as though the scene was basking in the reflected glory of himself, to the extent that I momentarily felt like jumping into some fresh cold water myself. Note to self – ignore the reflected glory!

I started to feel as though Edward and Abi had more in common than both they and I thought, with their torrid family pasts. I felt that full credit should go to the author, when talking about their pasts, as it seemed so real and current, however unpleasant the thoughts it might provoke. I thought that Abi’s fledgling relationship with Ronnie was adorable – like the most idyllic granddaughter/grandfather relationship; almost a celebration of all those beautiful relationships with grandparents, past and present. This was all in sharp contrast to the memories shared with the reader about Abi and Ellen’s Auntie Claire, who brought the two girls up. The descriptions of the two women’s relationship with her were brief, but narrated so well – to the point that Abi’s relationship with Auntie Claire felt as vivid to me as my own relationships. I had to keep telling myself that it ‘was only a story’ such was the testament to the author’s writing! I just couldn’t help but think of the people in life for whom these kinds of toxic relationships are a reality. Indeed toxic relationships expose another way in which Abi’s and Edward’s lives mirror each other.

Edward and Abi seemed to be getting on so well by the end of the book – I just can’t wait until the next instalment gets published.

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