Judy is a lovable and grounded heroine, brilliantly drawn and full of British can-do spirit. She must contend with all manner of obstacles throughout the novel: a kitchen fire, a missing dog, several rooms in need of decorating, a visit from the police, a smitten neighbour, the dreaded hotel inspector, scuba divers and even an gang of morris dancers. These challenges keep the story moving at a nifty pace and will keep the reader turning the pages.
White Oaks was originally published as a serial and this is evident from the episodic nature of the chapters. Readers could digest the chapters as a series of short stories which makes them perfect for reading during a commute.
The cast is vast but McCulloch ensures each character is recognisable and fully-realised. We are introduced to Judy's family, friends and staff, which makes for a rich ensemble and provides plenty of opportunity for bickering, banter and bust-ups. Particular highlights include Mavis, the chambermaid with a tough exterior but a heart of gold, and Judy's son Tom, who is part-layabout and part-genius. It takes all of the characters to get White Oaks up and running and their camaraderie provides a feel-good factor that will leave the reader smiling.
In some respects, White Oaks is reminiscent of the television show Gavin & Stacey: a dysfunctional family, adapting to a new region, plenty of humour, the aforementioned feel-good factor and there is even a wedding to bring everyone together.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning the semi-autobiographical nature of White Oaks. McCulloch runs her own B&B and this has clearly informed her writing. White Oaks therefore offers a behind-the-scenes look at B&B management which is often quite fascinating.
White Oaks is a delight and will certainly invite you to dream of your summer holidays, especially at this time of year. As such, there is no better time to purchase White Oaks and it is a true bargain at £1.99 for Kindle.