Publisher: Tinder Press
Publication date: 27 February 2014
Jenn and Greg have been to the same villa on Mallorca for years but this year Emma, Greg’s 15 year old daughter, is coming for a week with her boyfriend. Jenn has vague memories of Nathan as a quiet and sulky teenager, far removed from the “shockingly pretty” boy who arrives with Emma one afternoon. When he makes his attraction to Jenn clear, she finds it impossible to resist, especially as Greg is being increasingly distant, spending much of his time on the phone to his colleagues. The consequences of letting desire overcome restraint mean that none of their lives will be quite the same again.
Helen Walsh has a real talent for creating a sense of place – the bustling markets, the busy tavernas, the secluded coves, these are all brought alive by lyrical prose. The heavy heat of the island in summer is everywhere in the novel, which seems to make Jenn’s actions almost inevitable – the sultry holiday atmosphere, and the abundance of bare sun-drenched skin, affects everyone, making them do things that they wouldn’t at home.
As much as I love Walsh’s writing, I found the sex remarkably unerotic. The build-up, with Jenn and Nathan glancing at each other, their hands occasionally brushing, was far sexier than the descriptions of the act itself.
I also didn’t find Jenn and Nathan the most interesting part of the story – Jenn’s relationship with Emma was more compelling. The step-mother/teenage step-daughter dynamic, coupled with Jenn worrying about Emma being hurt by Nathan even as she is herself betraying her, makes for a more complicated and absorbing narrative.
The ending is sneaky. I’ve read reviews from people who found it frustrating and non-committal, but I appreciated the subtle ambiguity of it.
The Lemon Grove is sure to be a big hit, especially this summer, but it’s more than just a beach read. It’s an intelligent, beautifully-written, and satisfying novel; I just wish it was a bit sexier.
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.