I have enjoyed reading Holly Martin’s One Hundred Proposals, One Hundred Christmas Proposals, as well as Tied Up With Love (Holly Martin wrote this book under her pen name, Amelia Thorne) that I did not hesitate to buy The Guestbook on Amazon.
Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:
As landlady of Willow Cottage, the young widow Annie Butterworth is always on hand with tea, sympathy or strong Norfolk cider – whatever her colourful array of guests require. A flick through the messages in the leather-bound cottage guestbook gives a tantalizing glimpse into the lives of everyone who passes through her doors.
This includes Annie herself – especially now celebrity crime writer Oliver Black, is back in town. He might grace the covers of gossip magazines with a different glamorous supermodel draped on his arm every week, but to Annie, he’s always just been Olly, the man who Annie shared her first kiss with.
Through the pages of the Guestbook Annie and Olly, along with all the guests that arrive at the seaside retreat, struggle with love, loss, mystery, joy, happiness, guilt…and the odd spot of naked rambling!
Forget sending postcards saying wish you were here – one visit to Willow Cottage and you’ll wish you could stay forever.
The title of the book says it all. The content and the way the story is written vividly represent what a guestbook is all about. Visitors of Willow Cottage can write anything they want to express their thoughts and feelings about their experiences during their stay. Annie, then, would sometimes comment back or leave messages for the intended visitor to read. The guestbook eventually becomes a message note to some, while it also becomes a diary to others.
Turning the book to its first page makes me feel anxious at first. While the premise of the story looks promising, this is the first time I encounter a book with this kind of format. I find myself worrying how Holly Martin would deliver the story well – maintaining the consistency in the plotline while the story is being executed differently and written in multiple points of view.
The first few pages have been a slow start. I’m having a hard time getting into the story as I feel distant to the main characters. It is only after reading through the guestbook entries that I get to witness the growing relationship between Annie and Oliver. I guess I am looking for a show more than just telling. I want to be more involved than being just a spectator. Nevertheless, as I read through the book, I slowly get the hang of it and begin to enjoy the story. The people who write in the guestbook have their fair share of vulnerabilities and happiness. Despite expressing their innermost feelings and personal matters on a guestbook, it has been a fun experience to be allowed to get a glimpse of their lives. The Guestbook provides readers an opportunity to become open-minded as the entries show different opinions from people of various ages – be it old or young, or somewhere in between.
I appreciate the fact that Holly Martin manages to portray Annie’s character well and although her struggles and conflicts are shown in the book, her character development could’ve been progressed further. I yearn to be in Annie and Oliver’s minds and to be able to feel their emotions. On the other hand, I still enjoy how the other people perceive the couple as they encounter things beyond their expectations. Holly Martin’s impressive narration through the eyes of diversified characters has me laughing at one point and rolling my eyes the next. The Guestbook offers its readers a mixture of sadness, anger, humor, and giddiness. Surprisingly, I end up enjoying the book more than I expected. This will not be the last Holly Martin book I’ll read.