When Penny Meadows decides to rent out her annex, she is pleasantly surprised when Henry Travis moves in with his daughter, Daisy. Penny is immediately attracted to Henry, and soon discovers that the feeling is mutual. However, Penny's ex boyfriend left her heartbroken, and she is reluctant to attempt any sort of romantic relationship again. After learning about Henry's past, will Penny be able to trust Henry to not break her heart?
Before I start writing this review, I feel the need to apologise for what is to come. As anyone who has read my review policy will know, I do not enjoy reading adult romance books. However, this months book club read showed up at my door in the form of a festive, glittery and aesthetically pleasing, you've guessed it, adult romance novel. Although I immediately fell in love with the cover, I knew I would not be falling in love with the book, but as someone who loves to try new things, I decided to give it a go anyway.
The book follows Penny Meadows, a woman who is fast approaching her 30's. Penny lives alone in a small cottage by the sea, but as she longs for company, she rents out her annex. Enter Mr. tall, dark and handsome in the form of Henry Travis. Penny is immediately attracted to Henry, but as she believes he is married, she doesn't act on her feelings. Although Penny was a sweet and likeable character, she seemed a little slow at times. It was actually quite laughable that she believed Henry's sixteen year old daughter, Daisy, was his wife, and although I did feel a little sorry for her, I felt as if this was a silly thing to assume.
Henry Travis literally had me rolling my eyes. He was your typical tall, dark and handsome guy with a tragic backstory, who clearly should be praised for raising his daughter. I feel as if there is a bit of a double standard when it comes to teenage parents. Teenage mothers are often seen as stupid, and are ruining their futures by having a child before going to university, while teenage fathers are often commended for it. Although Henry is clearly a good father, I felt more as if he did what needed to be done, and although he did the right thing, I saw him more as a decent parent rather than the hero all the female characters seemed to see him as. Although Henry was likeable overall, he had anger problems, and although it was clear that he would never physically abuse Penny and Daisy, he does verbally abuse them. As the book would have been extremely boring without conflict, I felt as if conflict was being added for the sake of conflict,and it seemed as if the author hadn't put too much thought into the reason why they were arguing. I also felt as if it was resolved too quickly, as I know that if I was in Penny's position, I would not have forgiven Henry so easily.
One topic that came up that I thought was handled quite well was Henry being sexually harassed by his female boss. We often see males abusing their positions of power to influence females, but it is rare that we witness the opposite. The truth is that anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment, and all genders are capable of sexually harassing someone. It is often the case that men do not come forward about sexual harassment, as they feel as if they will not be taken seriously, so I loved how well it was dealt with in this book, and that Henry was able to come forward about it instead of allowing himself to be manipulated.
I found the sexual encounters to be quite cringy, and not sexy at all. However, my favourite was the car scene, as I loved that it was intentionally awkward and not sexy, as it showed that having sex in a car is not the hot, steamy exchange that we are used to watching in movies. However, the one thing that probably made me cringe the most was that Henry opened a condom with his teeth. One of the most basic things we are taught in sex education classes is not to open a condom with our teeth so that we don't accidentally tear it, so I was pretty shocked that despite having had several sexual partners, Henry did not seem to know this. Rather than thinking that Henry was a hot hunk of a man, I just wanted to sit him down and give him a lesson in how to correctly open a condom.
Henry's sixteen year old daughter, Daisy, was a sweet and likeable character. However, I did feel as if she was a little immature for her age at times, such as when she freaked out and told her dad to come back home because of a power cut. I also felt as if she was trying to control her dads life too much, such as telling him that he wasn't allowed to date Penny.
Something that annoyed me was the idea that a woman can't possibly be happy if she is single and has no children. Although Penny initially argues against this, she eventually succumbs to the norm by the end of the book. As a single 25 year old who has no intention of having children any time soon, I always feel as if this is a damaging mindset. As is mentioned in the book, you tend to get judged by others if you don't have a family by your mid twenty's. Although I am not the intended audience for YA novels anymore, one of the reasons why I tend to stick to YA instead of reading adult novels is that I am in no way interested in reading about marriage and babies, and I doubt that I ever will be. Until I find an adult book about an independent single woman who isn't interested in reproducing, then I think I will stick to YA.
Probably the thing that I most hated about this book was the instalove. As I've said countless times, I honestly can't stand instalove. As my favourite types of relationships are slow burners, I was disappointed that there was immediate mutual attraction between Penny and Henry, and they started dating within a few days. I hated that they were hiding their relationship from Daisy, and I felt sorry for her, as they broke her trust. I also felt Henry to be extremely hypocritical over Daisy having found a boyfriend in a week, and telling her she was moving too quickly, when he was doing exactly the same thing with Penny. I felt as if too many problems were being created that could easily have been avoided, and as it happened so quickly, I didn't care about Penny and Henry's relationship at all.
Although this book wasn't for me, it was a very light and fluffy read, and if you enjoy lighthearted adult romance, then it is the perfect book to curl up in front of the fire with. However, if like me you don't tend to enjoy romance novels, and you hate instalove, I would suggest you avoid this one!
Christmas at Lilac Cottage is now available to purchase!