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The Hidden Cottage

Tags Family Saga

  • Author: Erica James
  • Year of publication: 2012
  • Publisher: Orion Books
  • Fiction / non: Fiction
  • Recent / classic: Recent release
  • Primary Category: Family Saga
  • Additional categories: Family Saga, Romance

This book would appeal to you if

you appreciate the insights and realisations people achieve amidst the ordinary happenings of family life.

You probably wouldn't like this book if

you get bored when reading about mundane occurrences, or if you dislike romantic plots.

The key themes of this book are

Troubled family dynamics
Dealing with loss
Love and commitment
New beginnings
Rural idyll

The writing style is

simple and realistic, more flowery for the setting and slightly dramatic for romantic dialogue.

This book is recommended as therapy because

James’ characters are themselves undergoing a therapeutic process of confronting the frustrations, resentments and guilt which, for a long time, bubbled beneath the surface of their seemingly perfect family life. As readers who may see aspects of ourselves in these realistically portrayed characters, we are drawn into their journey of revealing, accepting and overcominguncomfortable truths. Requiring courage, this process allows the characters to renew their understandings of life and do what they never thought they could to find true love, happiness and freedom. At the very least, this promising outcome can inspire us to be more honest with ourselves

The other therapeutic aspect of The Hidden Cottage lies in its power to transport us to the beautiful English countryside, with its fields, paths, houses, flowers and rivers providing an ideal setting for the romances that unfold. The dialogue accompanying the romantic excursions is equally beautiful, allowing us to escape to the dreamy moments between lovers.

The intended audience for this book is

could be women who feel burdened by a relationship, but more generally, anyone attuned to the intricate balancing act of family life.


Through her third person omniscient narration, James lets us into the inner world of the Channing family, who live in the idyllic village of Little Pelham. Devoted and perpetually calm Mia, and confident yet egoistic Jeff, have a stable marriage with three grown children. Jensen, their sensitive, formerly confused son is now in a committed relationship with a cheerful woman, Tatiana, and her daughter, Madison. Eliza, their independent, workaholic daughter has recently given in to the pleasures of romance and possible commitment. However, Daisy, their headstrong and attractive youngest daughter, is Jeff’s favourite. When the Channings gather for Jensen’s thirtieth birthday, Daisy announces a life-changing decision she has mademuch to Jeff’s dismay. As everyone treads on eggshells, Mia finds herself in her typical role as the glue that subtly binds the family. 

Simultaneously, Owen Fletcher, a sentimental, wealthy divorcee, buys and moves into The Hidden Cottage of Little PelhamHaving lived in the village as a ten-year-old, he is giving into the long-cherished pull of the beautiful, mysterious house upon him. Upon familiarising himself with the community, he is instantly attracted to Mia. During the course of their interactions, Mia begins to reveal a side of herself she hides even from her closest friends. Is it possible, for once, to stake a chance at her own happiness?

In this poignant novel, James’lifelike characters drive the interactions and plot in an authentic way. We are invited to join Mia’s journey, which like her, plays out quietly and gradually. Whether enjoying their simple, playful family moments amidst the picturesque haven, or confronting their hesitations and doubts about pursuing changewe become empathetically embedded in the world of the Channings.


‘He watched his mother open the oven and take out his favourite dessert of apple crumble … He associated it with rainy Sunday afternoons, the two of them on the sofa, Mum reading to him, the light fading outside. Strange that he could still feel nostalgic for those days.’ 

    '”This idyllic lifestyle. It’s just so unbelievably perfect.”
    Jensen turned and kissed her. “Then maybe we should think about getting out of London. Together. You, me and Madison.”
… And standing there in the arms of the woman he loved, the sun shining down on them, Jensen had never felt happier or surer about a thing than he did right then.’ 

With the sound of birdsong filling the air, she closed her eyes and listened contentedly to the languid splish-splash of the oars 
    “What were you thinking just then?” he asked. “You looked very relaxed.”
    “I was thinking how wonderful this is. If I lived here I don’t think I’d ever want to leave.”’ 

    ‘He frowned. “Are you sure it isn’t you who needs your family? To hide behind?”
    “Why would I want to do that?”
    “To make life safe. It takes courage to change things, as I’ve discovered.”
    “Please don’t call me a coward. You have no idea how much strength it’s taken to live the life I have. Or the sacrifices I’ve made.”
    Owen thought of his mother and the many sacrifices she had made when she was married. Oh yes, he knew all too well the strength it took to stay in a bad relationship.    
    “Actually,” he said, “I can imagine it. Come on, I’ll take you home.”’ 

‘The birds had squawked their last notes of the evening now and in the shadowy indigo light, the silence wrapped itself around Eliza as tangibly as her brother’s arm.
    “We’re changing, aren’t we, Jensen?” she said quietly.’ 

    ‘”Here’s to us and The Hidden Cottage – may it always bring us happiness.”
    Gazing at his face in the candlelight – the face she had come to love so much – she smiled. “It will,” she said with great certainty. “It will.”’ 

The Hidden Cottage

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