What They Say
Childhood best friends Rachel Campbell and Claire West have not only grown up, but after fifteen years, they've also grown apart...
After her father left, Rachel had to dedicate her life to managing her household: her two younger sisters, her disabled mother, and her three-year-old nephew. When Rachel’s not struggling to look after all of them, she makes her living cleaning the houses of wealthy families—inclulding the Wests, where a surprise now awaits her. . . .
A lifetime of drifting in other people's currents has finally left Claire high and dry. First it was her parents, then the popular crowd in school, and finally her fiancé. Now she’s returned to Hartley-by-the-Sea to recover. But running into Rachel brings back memories of past mistakes, and Claire wonders if she now has the courage to make them right.
Soon Claire’s brother, Andrew, asks Rachel to keep an eye on Claire, which is the last thing either woman wants. But as their lives threaten to fall apart, both Claire and Rachel begin to realize what they need most is a friend. The kind of friend they once were to each other, and perhaps can be again. . . .
Now and Then Friends tells the story of two girls who used to be friends, Claire and Rachel, and their very different lives in Hartley-by-the-Sea. Claire finds herself there after an incident with her fiance in Portugal, and Rachel finds herself stuck there permanently due to family health issues, the two were best friends way back, but not any more, and it's fair to say Rachel holds a bit of a grudge about it all. In fact, Claire's brother Andrew, was spot on when he said Rachel had a chip on her shoulder. It was the size of Great Britain, in fact. Though I will say, for everything that Rachel went through, I could understand why she had a chip on her shoulder. I could understand why she nagged her sister's, Meghan and Lily to do better, to help her out, to tidy up.
This really wasn't a cheerful read. Rachel is downtrodden, rightly so, and I felt stressed on her behalf. Everything in her life was fraught with worry, and Meghan and Lily irritated the living daylights out of me, with their inability to just bloody help. Or for Meghan to actually take care of her son, Nathan. If I was Rachel my head would have exploded in anger, I'm not even kidding. It was Claire's story that I really enjoyed though, I mean I liked Rachel, but her chapters always had me fretting for her, whereas Claire's story actually saw her stand on her own two feet for once, and see how she liked it, including getting a job in the local shop-cum-post-office. After a lifetime of being told what to do, by everyone, it was really nice to see her do her own thing, and realise what she wanted in life.
I really enjoyed Now and Then Friends. It really wasn't the most cheerful of reads, at times, but it was nice to see Claire and Rachel's friendship re-blossom. It was also lovely to read a book set in Cumbria. This was such a good read, and I'll definitely have to go back and read Rainy Day Sisters, and here's hoping there'll be a third Hartley-by-the-Sea novel soon.