- Island setting – tick
- Remote Scottish island – tick
- Christmas – tick
- Cold, frosty weather – tick
- Grumpy, handsome man – tick
- Gin – tick
- Family mystery – tick
- Written by Jo Thomas – tick
Let’s face it, with all those ticks, I was always going to love this book wasn’t I?
On the face of it, Coming Home to Winter Island is an odd title. Singer Ruby has never even heard of Winter Island, let alone been there so how is she coming home? She is on the verge of being signed by a record company when her voice just goes, leaving her distraught and a band without a singer in the lead up to Christmas. About to head off to a yoga and voice retreat in Tenerife, she gets a call which changes her plans and she finds herself on a stormy boat ride to the remote island of Geamhradh, which is Gaelic for winter, hence Winter Island.
I cannot imagine having lost touch with family to the extent that Ruby has. I am lucky to have always had most of my close family living nearby. But Ruby’s late father had been estranged from his father Hector and, living so far away in Bristol, Ruby didn’t even know he was still alive. As Hector’s next of kin, she is the one who legally has to make decisions about his welfare which is difficult when she doesn’t know him or anything about him. It was only natural I suppose that the islanders looked on her with some suspicion and thought she was on the island to see what she could get!
Lachlan is the rather grumpy fly in the ointment I mentioned above. He obviously cares for Hector and has his best interests at heart. He too is suspicious of Ruby at first, but as they begin to work together to rediscover the mystery ingredients needed to produce the Teach Mhor gin, they begin to understand and trust each other. This was a part of the book I really enjoyed and thought that Jo Thomas wrote about their growing friendship particularly well. Both have secrets and issues in their past which they need to resolve in one way or another.
I thoroughly enjoyed spending time on Winter Island with Ruby, Lachlan and Hector. Once again Jo Thomas has created a fantastic sense of place and characters who are perhaps flawed, but no less endearing for that. The portrayal of caring for an old man with dementia and trying to work out what was in his best interests was sensitively done and made for some poignant moments. This is a warm-hearted book to enjoy on a chilly winter’s day with a hot chocolate or, perhaps more appropriately, an island gin. (I recommend Harris gin by the way!)
From the back of the book
Do you need to find out where you’ve come from before you can know what the future holds?
Ruby’s singing career is on the verge of hitting the big time, when her voice breaks. Fearing her career is over, she signs up for a retreat in Tenerife to recover.
But an unexpected call from a stranger on a remote Scottish island takes her on a short trip to sort out some family business. It’s time to go and see the grandfather she’s never met.
City girl Ruby knows she will be happy to leave the windswept beaches behind as quickly as she can, especially as a years-old family rift means she knows she won’t be welcome at Teach Mhor.
But as she arrives at the big house overlooking the bay, she finds things are not as straightforward as she might have thought.
There’s an unexpected guest in the house and he’s not planning on going anywhere any time soon .
About the author
Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.