I had the pleasure of meeting Stephanie Harte over on Book Connectors and offered to review her book in exchange for an honest review.
Book Description (taken from Amazon)
"The tree-lined street in the affluent suburb of Chigwell, Essex was made up of extravagant mansions. Peppermint Park looked picture perfect on the outside, but behind closed doors, it was a different story. It concealed a life of torment, where family secrets were hidden from public view. In the swinging sixties, Violet boards a plane bound for San Francisco with her boyfriend Bradley, to start a new life at Happy Acres, a hippie commune. Once they stepped inside the boundaries, they entered a different realm, one without clocks and calendars. Where naked yoga sessions and howling at the moon were compulsory activities, and people experimented with marijuana, magic mushrooms and moonshine as a daily pastime. Violet and Bradley were having the most amazing time of their lives. They were living the dream. But was their amphetamine-fueled existence about to come crashing down around them? Surely you can never have too much of a good thing, can you? Join Violet and Bradley on their journey as they take a leap of faith into unknown territory in search of a new beginning, set against the stunning backdrop of Northern California."
My Review of Peppermint Park
Firstly I have to say that I enjoyed this book, although it was very different to how I had anticipated it to be from looking at the cover (which I think is lovely). From the very first page I was drawn to Violet, and was so happy when she finally escaped from her abusive home in Essex to start a new life and adventure with her boyfriend in California.
We are very quickly thrown into the hippie commune that is to become their home and I loved this aspect of the book. Learning to live off the land and eating a vegetarian diet with hilarious consequences. This early part of the book quickly introduced us to the simple way of life for its inhabitants and is described beautifully, as are the many colourful characters that we meet along the way.
It is over the course of the book that this idyllic lifestyle that they are living is soon threatened, and we begin to see the cracks slowly appearing around them. Relationships are explored with the emphasis very much upon loyalty, responsibility and faithfulness.
What makes this book so very special is that these very issues, plus some very taboo subjects, are dealt with in what I thought was an incredibly sensitive manner. This is by far no mean feat. The text was also not overly dramatic, but very simply told with the facts laid out before us, allowing us, the reader, to draw our own conclusions. Although I did find myself shouting at Violet for some of the decisions that she made, I respected them.
One aspect I did struggle with was the dialogue between characters, as it did appear a little unnatural at times. However, Peppermint Park is very much a plot driven narrative, it is fast paced and you find yourself being swept along for the ride, so this did not take away too much from the enjoyment of the book. I just wanted to keep on reading, as I needed to know what would happen to all of the characters. Most importantly I found myself rooting for Violet and wishing her that happy ending.
This is the first novel I have read by Stephanie Harte and I look forward to reading more of her books. If you want to read something that is a little bit different from the norm, and wish to escape back to the hazy days of the late 60s and early 70s, then this is the book for you. I really enjoyed it.
Stephanie Harte was born and raised in North West London where she still lives with her husband Barry, daughter Sarah, son James and Cairn terrier Ruby.
She was educated at St Michael’s Catholic Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school, she trained in Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy at London College of Fashion.
She worked for many years as a Pharmaceutical Buyer for the NHS, based at Barnet General Hospital purchasing medicines and related supplies for North London hospitals including, Edgware General, Finchley Memorial, Napsbury & peripheral sites. Her career path led her to work for an international export company whose markets included The Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
Since 2007 Stephanie has been teaching regular beauty therapy workshops at a London based specialist residential clinic that treats children with severe eating disorders.
She is the author of Kitty Murphy's Ticket to Paradise, Wight Christmas and Peppermint Park.
You can buy Peppermint Park from Amazon here