Author: Alex Beecroft
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 4.5 stars
Type: Standalone Novel
Received from Publisher
Blurb: After a massive anxiety attack, Sam Atkins left his high-powered job in the City and committed himself to life on the road in a small van. Six months in, he’s running out of savings and coming to the conclusion that he might have to go home to his emotionally abusive family.
Review: Reading an Alex Beecroft story has always been sheer delight for me, and this one keeps the streak going. One of the elements I love best about stories by this author is the lovely regional words, phrases and slang she incorporates. I simply adore immersing myself completely in this way. With her usual gorgeous depictions and turns of phrase, Foxglove Copse explores the lives of two young men who are adrift in life for differing reasons, yet who come together at the perfect time to be of utmost help and comfort to one another. Their relationship set amid the elements of social anxiety, modern thuggery, ancient witchcraft, and family drama was a story I found hard to put down.
The Porthkennack series is one that is set in a windswept and somewhat wild Cornish village of that name, some stories are historical, some contemporary – this one is the latter. I enjoyed revisiting some characters from the other books, but it is absolutely possible to read and enjoy this as a standalone.
Increasingly unhappy and suffering staggering anxiety attacks, Sam has left his high-octanelife as a financier in his family’s business. He cashed out completely, settled with clients he felt were done wrong, sold his home and belongings, and set himself up in a well-kitted camper in which he set off cross-country. Being somewhat of a techno- wizard, Sam did keep his laptop in the passenger seat, always near. I felt a kinship with Sam immediately. He was trying his best to find his peace and with no help from his family. They were all horrid toward him, wanting him to grow a backbone, laughing at his anxiety. I despise when family are so cruel to their own. Sam was barely making it, thin and tired, when he was drawn to the seeming quiet of Foxglove Copse. Parking the camper, he’d no idea what he was in for. The good would be meeting Ruan. The bad would be entanglement in the dark side of Porthkennack.
Sam doesn’t get the quiet he was hoping for, rather, he stumbles upon a ritualistically killed sheep. Being a nomad who has just appeared on the scene – in every sense – suspicion falls on him. Ruan is the nephew of the sheep’s owner, and while initially skeptical of Sam’s innocence, he is also inexorably drawn to the enigmatic stranger. One after the other, Sam’s laptop is discovered missing, more sacrificed animals appear, and threatening cyber messages are directed at area teens. It becomes apparent that something sinister is happening in Porthkennack. Sam and Ruan mean to find out exactly what – or rather who – is responsible for the threats. As they work together – through Sam’s computer skills and Ruan’s local knowledge – to solve the puzzle, they find themselves falling into a harmonious and mutually cathartic romantic relationship. The relationship evolved quickly, in a manner which I found completely beautiful and captivating. The author beautifully presented Sam and Ruan as kindred souls from page one, so I had no issue with the ease in which they fell into romance. I want to point out that Sam demonstrated coping skills for his anxiety, so he had obviously been under care, sought treatment, in the past. This is always important to me when a character displays mental health issues!
Ruan is a local, part of a large and supportive family with whom he still lives. I knew Ruan was a keeper and a wonderful man right away, from how kind and fair he was towards Sam. Ruan had the talent and hope to be a tattoo artist, but apparently there was no room in town for more than one, and that was taken by one of the Lunsmoore clan. The local mafia types, as it were. Ruan’s backstory wasn’t spelled out early on in the fashion that Sam’s was; I enjoyed discovering it as he and Sam grew closer. The two men, while appearing on the surface to be lost souls, were actually quite strong, capable and very clever. Although there are dark themes, hello – ritual animal killings, bullying, threats, old tales – the story is a wonderful mix of mystery, romance, and suspense with a paranormal flavor. The setting along the windswept winter cliffs and miles of dark caverns of the Cornish coast is a character unto itself, and Beecroft paints the landscape vividly with her gorgeous words.
Beecroft weaves a lot of themes into this story, but they never feel heavy handed or preachy. Mental health issues, cyber-bullying, sexuality and gender identity, social disparity to name some. The resolution at story’s end was a bit of a twist, but I liked it. It suited the general mood and tone of the story. I’d love to visit again with Sam and Ruan, seated around the campfire out in the copse, or better yet, next to warm, solid cottage fireplace.