About This Book
She had been looking for somewhere to stay, but instead Marion Miller finds herself on the wrong side of the reception desk at the Peace and Pigs campsite and, despite her horrible shyness, promptly lands herself a job. Marion came to Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire to discover her father’s mysterious past, but all she has to go on is a picture of her father dressed up, it would seem, as Robin Hood. It takes Marion all she’s got to come out of her shell and get to grips with life on a busy campsite, where the chickens seem determined to thwart her and an unfortunate incident with a runaway bike throws her into the arms of the beautiful, but deeply unimpressed, Reuben. Marion’s would-be boyfriend Jake, and Reuben’s stunning fiancée Erica, conspire to leave little room for Marion to daydream about the twinkling eyes of her rescuer, nevertheless . . . Can Marion really find peace, and perhaps even love, among the pigs?
This cover did catch my eye, though I thought it a bit cutesy at first. (N.B. Having now read the book, I love this cover. It suits the book perfectly!) But Holy. Cow. I had NO IDEA this was a debut novel until I read something about it after I’d finished the book. This novel truly blew me away. Simply brilliant! Written with great heart, lots of humor, and a vivacious author’s voice that I loved from the very first page.
A skillful blend of prose, conversation, and internal dialogue kept this story moving along from first page to last. The scenes always flowed smoothly and logically, even when dipping into pseudo-flashbacks to show Marion’s surprising childhood. The characters all had their own distinct voices, but it was the author’s voice that really shone throughout the book. Beautiful, descriptive imagery peppered with a lot of sass that still managed to tug on the heartstrings and move me to tears. Absolutely superb!
Marion is the only point-of-view character in this book, and it’s told in first-person. I usually prefer multiple POVs written in third-person, but the other characters in this book were so well developed, I never felt the singular POV was constricting. On the contrary, the secondary characters really brought the story to life. By the end of the book, I wanted to book a reservation at the Peace and Pigs holiday park! As a heroine, Marion was quite flawed, but also quite aware of her own flaws, and actively working to overcome them even before the story began. The end result was an immensely relatable and likable heroine you simply can’t help rooting for. And many of the secondary characters would make great heroes and heroines of their own stories someday!
The structure was a bit unusual in the way it incorporated Marion’s backstory as direct address without any “I remember when…” flashback lead-ins. It had almost the same effect as the dual-time-period works of Susan Meissner, as though we were simply seeing Marion at two different stages in her life, and I loved it. Very well done.
Women’s fiction is often weak on conflict and tension, as the story journey is usually one of internal, self-discovery. However, this story contains a suspense element as well as Marion digs into her father’s past that helped add a healthy dose of external conflict & action to the story, and the blend of both really keep the book moving along.
Everyone knows the legends of Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest, and the author brings the modern world of Nottinghamshire and Robin Hood reenactment groups to brilliant, hilarious life. American readers may struggle at first with some of the British vocabulary, but the overall story world is vivid and comprehensive, and sucked me right in.
Marion has a surprising slew of men in her life, both past and present, and though romance is not this book’s genre, there is a sweet romantic subplot woven into the greater story.
I was very pleased to see such a strong faith element in a novel from “post-Christian” modern Britain. One of Marion’s strongest childhood mentors was a kind Catholic priest, and in her present-day life, she attends church for social reasons and ends up discovering a vibrant, spiritually active community of believers living a noticeably different kind of life from the rest of their society—a life Marion realizes she wants to be part of. She turns to the local church pastor for advice, and members of the congregation rally to help her and other staff at the Peace and Pigs during a time of personal crisis. The theme of forgiveness is not only preached in the book, it is practiced by both Marion and several other characters. Many CBA novels do not do as well incorporating such simple yet powerful faith elements into their stories. VERY powerful and VERY well done.
This book is exceptionally clean for a general market/UK Christian novel. The most difficult content is the abuse revealed in Marion’s past, and with which she still has to deal. Otherwise, other than two explicit uses of the term b—-, there is no graphic or extreme content. Characters drink socially as is customary in modern Britain. A middle-aged married couple are frequently caught having sex in strange places, but nothing is described in detail. Marion ends up in two compromising situations with Reuben where is nearly or completely naked, but again, nothing is described in detail and it is used only for humor. One character, in fact, makes a point of teasing Reuben for being old-fashioned because he has traditional values where relationships are concerned. One scene near the end is somewhat violent when a trailer at the campsite burns down, but not gratuitously so.
I thought this book was very fresh and original, with its sparkling prose, unique setting, and strong characters, and a brilliant example of how good Contemporary/Women’s Fiction can be when it’s done right. This book will appeal to female readers who enjoy clean, contemporary fiction stories with strong female heroines overcoming obstacles to achieve their dreams, and who find themselves in the process. I would also recommend this book for teenage/young adult readers, though parents should read it first. With its themes of identity, self-worth, forgiveness and overcoming past abuse, this book could provide parents with several meaningful conversation topics for their teenage daughters.
I was completely sucked into this wonderful story from the very first page, and did not want it to end! I have already purchased a paperback copy for my Keeper Shelf, and I would absolutely recommend this book to all my friends and family, both Christian and non-Christian.
Do not be fooled by this book’s unusual, cartoon-esque cover: what may look like a lighthearted “chick lit” novel is, in fact, an astounding debut effort that packs a spiritual, humorous, and emotional wallop. I laughed. I cried. I swooned. Often all on the same page. It’s Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Steel Magnolias. And Beth Moran just vaulted to the top of my New Authors to Watch list! Can’t wait to read more from this gifted British writer.
Available June 23, 2014 from Lion Hudson