Romance In Clare Ashton's 'Poppy Jenkins'
Delightful romance that will make you want to rush to Wales.
Everyone loves Poppy Jenkins. She’s sweetness and light, always seeing the best in everything and with a smile for everybody. She lives with her family and her cafe isn’t doing nearly as well as she’d like in her tiny hometown in mid-Wales, but she wouldn’t trade it for anywhere else (even if there aren’t any eligible women to date).
On a perfect spring day, she’s walking her little sister to school when her whole world is tipped on its head by a woman with lush curves leaning into an expensive car—Rosalyn Thorn is back in Wells. The best friend of her youth devastated Poppy when she cut her out of her life at 16 with no explanation, and now she’s back in the town that Rosalyn hates and Poppy loves. People in Wells still don’t like Rosalyn and the feeling is mutual as she tries to help the town revive, leaving Poppy torn between the two. Can she trust anything her old friend has to say, or what she feels when she’s around Rosalyn, especially when old memories and hurts are brought up to the surface?
Poppy Jenkins is gorgeously written, evoking the lushness and warmth of late spring, green hills, and love both old and new. The town of Wells is so vibrant that it’s its own character, waking up as spring turns to summer and coming back to life as Rosalyn shares her business knowledge with the locals. There’s a brightness to the language and writing style that reflects Poppy and her attitude, which is perfect as the book is told entirely from her perspective. There isn’t much in the way of plot, and yet it’s entirely satisfying because the characters are the book in the case of Poppy Jenkins.
Poppy bubbles over with joy and is deeply loyal to her family and town, and whether it’s a character in the book or the reader holding it, there’s no one who can resist her. That isn’t to say she isn’t complex, because she is, with a depth of feeling that many around her take for granted, if they notice it at all. Much like Wells, Poppy changes due to Rosalyn’s presence, demonstrating steel and grit where she may not have before, without ever losing that core of lightness. And as Poppy grows stronger, Rosalyn softens, her walls coming down, at least where Poppy is concerned. When we learn why she broke Poppy’s heart and left Wells without looking back, it’s so poignant, giving the book exactly the right amount of angst to keep it from being treacly or fluffy.
Poppy Jenkins is a joy to read and is not to be missed. You’ll smile, laugh, and occasionally clutch your chest in heartbreak, and the end of it you’ll be satisfied. Clare Ashton is a masterful author and Poppy Jenkins is her best book yet.