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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

'Eliza's Gift' Cypress Hollow Yarn #1 by Rachael Herron

From the BLURB:

When Abigail Durant inherits a cottage from her friend, the world famous knitting guru Eliza Carpenter, she sees it as her chance to start anew after the distressing end of her last relationship.

Only problem is, the cottage is slap-bang in the middle of a sheep ranch owned by Cade MacArthur, Eliza’s tall, dark and infuriating nephew.

Cade’s a man’s man, a cowboy through and through, and he’s none too pleased there’s now a young - albeit very pretty - woman living on his property. And that’s before she tells him she plans to turn her new home into a knitting shop ...

With battlelines drawn, city girl and cowboy go head to head. But soon, with the sexual chemistry fizzing between them, both start to question the real nature of Eliza’s gift...

Abigail Durant has discovered a light at the end of the tunnel and might just be starting to appreciate the silver lining. Her dear best friend and knitting partner, Eliza, has passed away . . . but left a cottage and a parcel of ranch land for Abigail in her will. This is just the turn-about that Abigail needs, after a disastrous break-up and no place to call her own.

Things are decidedly less peachy for Eliza’s nephew, Cade MacArthur. He thought Eliza’s land would be entitled to him following her death . . . but now this city-slicker madam comes barrelling onto his land, intent on the rundown cottage his aunt promised to her and even talking about turning it into a knitting shop.

Abigail and Cade butt heads almost instantly. He thinks her to be a gold-digger who leeched onto his aunt on her deathbed. She thinks him to be a hot-headed cowboy who didn’t treat his dear old auntie right.

But Eliza’s will dictates that these two have to live together, side-by-side . . . so that’s what they are going to (reluctantly) do.

‘Eliza’s Gift’ is the first book in Rachael Herron’s ‘Cypress Hollow Yarn’ series. In the US the book is titled ‘How to Knit a Love Story’, and has a decidedly different ho-hum cover.

I saw this book reviewed in an issue of Cleo magazine. It was touted as being decidedly ‘chick lit’ summer reading, but I was intrigued by the woven romance of a city-slicker knitter and a hot-headed cowboy . . . so I gave it a read, and was absolutely delighted.

The original title, ‘How to Knit a Love Story’, encompasses the big tied-together theme of the book. Knitting. Abigail may be a hot 20-something, but she is also a celebrity in the world of knitting. She met Eliza seven years ago and they struck up a friendship over mutual appreciation of a good cross-stitch. Eliza introduced Abigail to the benefits of book-writing about her passion, and launched her career. Now Abigail is a celebrated pattern-maker, selling her samples to magazines and writing best-selling novels on the subject of knitting. In the little niche market of clickety-clackers, Eliza and Abigail were infamous. Now Abigail is intent on carrying on Eliza’s legacy, and opening up a wool shop, knitting club cottage on the parcel of land left to her in Eliza’s will.

It’s just a shame that Eliza’s nephew, the Cypress Hollow Lothario, doesn’t care two figs about knitting and is fuming over the beak-up of his land.

And it’s just a crying-shame that Abigail is such a fine-looking woman. If she hadn’t swooped in, and set alpacas free on his land, Cade might just have been attracted to her . . . as it is, he's determined to curb his libido and push Abigail off his (rightful) property.

While Abigail sets up her knitters cottage, she and Cade try (unsuccessfully) to ignore one another. But impromptu skinny-dipping and Cade’s hero act keeps throwing them into hot and lusty situations . . . until both of them break under the pressure of trying to ignore their feelings.

I loved the romance in this novel. Cade and Abigail had a great push-pull relationship that had plenty of sparking chemistry and just enough ‘will they or won’t they?’ to keep their romance taut with delicious tension. Of course, it helped that Cade was a lovely swaggering cowboy – all gruff and manly and my kinda hero. Abigail was a lovely balance to him – she’s very sunshiney (without being sickening) and delightfully endearing. Herron has written her as a bit of a klutz, doing stupidly eye-rolling things like accidentally flooding Cade’s bathroom and getting her ankle sprained on an alpaca-trek. I thought Abigail was a little bit hilarious, and I loved her enduring loyalty to Eliza and her determination to carry out her mentor’s wishes.

But what surprised me about this novel was the loveliness of the knitting. Each chapter begins with a knitting-tip from one of Eliza’s best-selling books. It was lovely how things like persevering with the yoke or believing that nobody will notice your mistakes on the finished product translated to good life lessons. I may not have understood all of the knit-jargon, but there were some lovely words of wisdom amidst the instructions on sleeve-measurements and button-picking.

I also found the whole knitting-fame thing a nice angle too. It makes sense – pattern books can always be found in bookstores, libraries and craft stores. I just never stopped to think about the people who would have to create those patterns to make the books . . . let alone that those people would be ‘rock stars’ in their world – followed by bloggers, pestered for autographs and hailed as revolutionaries of their craft! And the knitting community provided many chuckles throughout ‘Eliza’s Gift’. My favourite scene occurred at a knitting launch party, when Cade was wrangled into trying on a sweater-in-progress, and ogled by little old knitting ladies;

She worked the neckline over his head. He was naked from the waist up again. During that moment when the sweater was in front of his face, their eye connection was broken.
She tried to catch hold of herself, of her racing heart.
For God’s sake, they were in a room full of women, could she at least prevent herself from behaving like a teenager? All giddy and red and blushing. Were her hands shaking?
As he reached for his original sweater, she thought she saw his hands shaking, too.
“Wouldn’t you love a sweater like that, huh? What would you do for a sweater like that?” said someone from the back of the parlour.
Another woman called out, “I know how to knit, baby. I’ll make you a sweater. I’ll help you put it on. And take it off!”
Cade shook his head, as if to clear it. . .

Everything about ‘Eliza’s Gift’ worked for me. From the tension-filled odd-couple romance to the infamous side of knitting. There’s a side-story about one of Abigail’s crazy stalker boyfriends which is a touch outlandish, but by the time that plot was in play I was well and truly invested and uproariously delighted with this gem of a yarn (ha!). I’ll be happily diving into the second book ‘Lucy’s Gift’ (or ‘How to Knit a Heart Back Home’, to US readers).


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