Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick


Jude Warren is actually standing at the church door in her meringue-like wedding dress, with her bouquet in hand and flower girls all revved up and ready to go, when she takes to her heels and runs for it.

As we subsequently learn, she isn’t just running from commitment to her intended husband – she’s running from her life, her family, her dead sister and the weight of everyone else’s expectations. Belatedly, she’s decided to live her own life and not the one that other people expect her to live.

Unable to tolerate her parent’s silent disapproval, the neighbours’ curiosity and her ex-fiance’s hangdog loyalty she escapes to England where she takes up a temporary post  sorting out the chaotic paperwork and life of the owner of Pengarrock, an ancient and atmospheric house overlooking the Helford Estuary in Cornwall. The owner – the splendidly name Petroc Trevillion – has a son who apparently hates both the house and Cornwall, a library in a state of total disarray and an obsession with finding the missing family jewels.

The scene is set for an old-fashioned (and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all) romantic mystery with a feisty heroine, brooding hero, gorgeous setting and more mini-mysteries than you can shake a stick at …

  • What is the meaning of the child’s riddle about the buoy marking the notorious August Rock at the mouth of  Helford River?
  • Why is Petroc’s son so eager to get rid of Pengarrock?
  • What happened to his mother?
  • Why has Jude’s father disappeared, uncharacteristically, on an extended fishing trip?

It’s an entertaining mix that makes for the perfect holiday read – undemanding but engaging, with enough impetus to keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next.

It’s also a book with a tremendous sense of place: the distinctive countryside and coastline of the Lizard Peninsula is described so vividly (and, indeed, lovingly) that you can almost smell the sea and hear the scraping of the August Rock on the bottom of the boat that Jude takes out onto the water.

In one or two places the written style becomes a bit staccato and the plot more than a bit daft, but as I’m really quite fond of books that require the total suspension of disbelief for a while, and very much prefer brevity to long-windedness, neither of those things marred this entertaining journey through Daphne du Maurier territory for me.

Jude Warren is a terrific creation. She’s a believable, screwed up and conflicted young woman with a good heart and a better brain who has very little idea – at least to begin with –  why she bolted. Her faithful and endlessly patient intended spouse is depicted as irritatingly perfect (so WE know what the problem is, even if she doesn’t …) while Petroc’s son Tristan is nicely flawed, as every good hero should be.

Romance, a bit of intrigue, a wonderful location and a rambling old mansion with a glorious garden  – what more could you possibly want on a sunny summer’s day, other than a nice glass of Pimms and a hammock?

Orion. 2013. ISBN: 978-1409142775. 320pp.

3 comments on “A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick

  1. Jackie
    June 7, 2013

    This sounds like a very pleasant escapist read. I like that they add some mysteries in the story as well. Did I know that part of Cornwall was called the Lizard Peninsula before? How could I have forgotten a nifty name like that?
    That’s a nicely composed cover. Sets the atmosphere.

  2. liz fenwick
    June 11, 2013

    Moira – thank you for a wonderful review. This is a book that is near and dear to my heart as I tapped into my own experience of ‘falling in love’ with Cornwall.

    Jackie – Orion have done a wonderful cover. When presented with it I nothing to say except YES!

  3. Hilary
    June 13, 2013

    What a great book to help me hang onto Cornwall in my imagination, now I’m home from my lovely holiday – I must read this! I love the Helford River most of all, too. And yes, what an alluring cover!

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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