The Stationmaster’s Cottage (Rivers End #1), by Phillipa Nefri Clark

The Stationmaster’s Cottage by Phillipa Nefri Clark

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The Stationmaster’s Cottage (Rivers End #1), by Phillipa Nefri Clark

A literary letdown of epic proportions: a painfully banal narrative filled with annoying characters, questionable dialogue, unending melodrama and a failed attempt at blending mystery and romance in the most abysmal way imaginable.

This was a thoroughly, abysmally and disgustingly bad book. The worst book I’ve read in a very long time. I picked it up because it was shelved as Romance and Mystery, two genres that I usually enjoy and I was intrigued how this would play out.

Little was I prepared for the almost unbearable banality of the “mystery” that turned out to be a silly family drama and the extreme levels of melodrama.

»“How could you have done it?” Christie cried. “I will never forgive you. Never!”«
(On a graveyard, towards a dead person, during a thunderstorm.)

Basically, in the past Martha and Thomas were engaged but due to meddling by family and friends were never married. In the present, film and TV makeup artist Christie Ryan, Martha’s great-niece, is also engaged. In her case to cliché “evil land developer” Derek who bullies her and becomes violent if he deems it necessary.

The problem is: The past engagement drama is supposed to play out in 1967/1968. Martha and Thomas, each in their early twenties at the time, seem to be stuck in an earlier era:

»“You need someone to curb your wild nature. Someone with a firm hand,” he whispered.
Martha opened her eyes. “You can’t tame the wind. Or the ocean, except in your paintings.” Her expression dared him to disagree.

Taming of the shrew? Yikes. Thomas behaves like that and Martha doesn’t run…

Christie is not much better in her interactions with her fiancé Derek.

»Christie went numb. “Why don’t you understand?”

“I do understand. That’s the problem, Chris. From the day we first met, I knew you needed a man who would guide you through life. You’re too trusting and generous. I mean, those are admirable qualities, but it doesn’t get you anywhere, and you’ll end up being badly hurt.”

But you’re hurting me now! What did he want her to say? Apparently, nothing, as he was happy to continue.

That’s pretty much the same Thomas said and Christie hardly ever ceases to find excuses for this kind of behaviour. Excuse me while I vomit.

When Christie’s grandmother, Dorothy the meddler, dies, Christie travels to River’s End to attend the funeral alone because Derek prefers to visit a luxury resort alone instead of supporting Christie.

Once there and somewhat settling in her newly-inherited cottage, the eponymous “Stationmaster’s Cottage”, Christie finds and reads a lot of unopened letters from Thomas to Martha, her grandmother’s diary and finds some revealing items and, like that, discovers what’s behind the “mystery”. Those letters which we get to read in full as well, also read like they’ve fallen out of time. They’re also just plain annoying and page-fillers.

After half of the book I strongly considered DNF’ing but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. That’s when Martin, Thomas’ grandson and Christie’s new-found love-interest comes fully into play – and things go further downhill. Martin behaves arrogantly, patronisingly and is extremely and excessively dominant towards Christie whom he’s interested in but collectively tries to punish for her major original sin:

»If only she were not Dorothy’s grandchild.«

Christie feels that but nevertheless falls in love pretty much immediately and, just like that, picks up the next abusive guy:

»Martin stopped. He half-smiled at his dog and Christie, still cuddling on the sand. “We need to talk. Walk with me.”
It was a command, not an invitation. It took all of two seconds for Christie to get back to her feet and jog after him, Randall in tow.

(Randall being the real dog here…)

I guess Christie likes him for his generosity towards her, though…

»You only ever need to tell me what you want to, Christie. Just because I ask a question, doesn’t mean you have to answer.”«

The moment that broke the proverbial camel’s back, though, came a bit later. Read carefully now and maybe, like me thrice, till you understand what the author of a novel published in 2017 (!) seems to find ok, if not condone:

»“I’m not coming to your rescue anymore today. What are you going to do when I leave?”
– “Lock the door.”
“Lock the door. Didn’t I ask you to do that last time I left?”
Wide-eyed, Christie nodded. Martin slipped an arm around her waist and pulled her close against his body, forcing her to look up at him.
– “The day for a discussion about respect, and now, about putting yourself at risk, is getting close. Before you leave this door unlocked again, think about how much you value sitting down to eat dinner.”

I get the author probably thinks Martin is just being protective and internationally-travelled Christie, successful in her career, is a damsel in distress who needs rescuing. Excuse me, though: Threatening, even as a “joke”, physical violence? That’s just a total deal breaker and completely unacceptable. At that point, Christie should have kicked Martin’s pompous and overbearing arse out and locked him out forever.

(To boot, that happens immediately after Christie had already been threatened and physically hurt by Derek…)

Of course, everything gets resolved as if by magic and, within a few weeks, Christie moves from one abuser, Derek, to a new one, Martin, but at that point, the novel is so far beyond redemption that none of that really matters anymore.

I’m just glad to get rid of this novel. One out of five stars.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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