Now and Then Friends by Kate Hewitt

Now and Then Friends by Kate Hewitt
Publisher: New American Library
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: Full Length (336 pgs)
Heat: Sweet
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

Childhood best friends Rachel Campbell and Claire West have not only grown up, but after fifteen years, they’ve also grown apart…

After her father left, Rachel had to dedicate her life to managing her household: her two younger sisters, her disabled mother, and her three-year-old nephew. When Rachel’s not struggling to look after all of them, she makes her living cleaning the houses of wealthy families—inclulding the Wests, where a surprise now awaits her. . . .

A lifetime of drifting in other people’s currents has finally left Claire high and dry. First it was her parents, then the popular crowd in school, and finally her fiancé. Now she’s returned to Hartley-by-the-Sea to recover. But running into Rachel brings back memories of past mistakes, and Claire wonders if she now has the courage to make them right.

Soon Claire’s brother, Andrew, asks Rachel to keep an eye on Claire, which is the last thing either woman wants. But as their lives threaten to fall apart, both Claire and Rachel begin to realize what they need most is a friend. The kind of friend they once were to each other, and perhaps can be again. . . .

Slow and steady, but not plodding, the characters make every page of this book worthwhile.

I struggled with a rating for this book, and I’m struggling a bit with the review. It’s hard to categorize, exactly, why I enjoyed it and why I kept happily returning to it after I’d put it down for a moment. This isn’t an edge-of-your-seat thriller, or a heart- warming romance. It’s more, rather, a day (or a few weeks) in the life of two women whose lives are at a pivotal moment and how the choices they make, even little ones, may affect their total future.

Claire was my favorite of the two … oddly, she felt more human and actually stronger than Rachel, despite outward appearances. Rachel’s constant irritation with life in general wore on me a bit, and there were times I wondered why Claire and Andrew even wanted to be around her. She goes through changes as the book progresses, thankfully, and by the end I really enjoyed her.

Claire has been treated as if she is fragile and utterly breakable her entire life. She finds just a little spine when she leaves a stint in rehab that she didn’t even need, and goes against her parents’ wishes for her to live with them, instead returning to the home of her youth. It’s there her journey truly begins.

Rachel is trapped in a life she hates. Her mother is an invalid, her father left when she was just eighteen, and her sisters do little to help her with keeping them afloat. Home life is a constant battle, and it gets worse as time goes on. More, suddenly her friend from school, the same friend who up and dumped her without any warning, shows up in town again and acts as if nothing was wrong.

There’s a solid cast of secondary characters to back the girls up. Dan, Lily, Meghan, Mrs. Carwell, Andrew, and others make Hartley-by-the-Sea a real living, breathing place.

I admit to tripping over some British slang and phrasings (like A-Levels … I had to go find out what grade that was in reference to), but I’m sure the reverse is true with the folks from over the pond read books written in the US.

Thing is … nothing much happens in the story. I mean, stuff happens, but nothing earth shattering. It’s really just watching the girls figure out some things in their lives. I still, even after thinking about it more while writing this review, can’t put my finger on what made this book so charming. However, I really, really hope the author visits the town again. I can’t wait to see what’s happening with Claire, Dan, Rachel, Andrew, Lily and others. I’m really quite hooked!

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