Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Books: "Studies at the School by the Sea" by Jenny Colgan


Studies at the School by the Sea

By Jenny Colgan

Avon Books; hardcover, $30.00; paperback, $18.99; available today, Tuesday, March 26th

Jenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including Midnight at The Christmas Bookshop (please click here for our review from this past December), Little Beach Street Bakery, and Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe. 

This is the fourth installment of Colgan's School by the Sea series. Maggie Adair is a beloved literature teacher who loves her life at the prestigious Downey House boarding school on the gloriously sunny, windy English coast. This is the place she found her footing as a teacher, and fell in love with her colleague David. 

With the two anchors of her life secure, Maggie is feeling restless, lured by the promise of a different life back in her Scottish hometown. She is seeking how to follow her heart when it seems to be taking you in two directions at once.

While she is facing her own crossroads, Maggie's favorite students are abuzz at the thought of graduation and set to fly the nest to their next adventure. What will the future hold for mercurial Fliss, glamorous Alice, and shy, hard-working Simone when they finally finish their studies at the school by the sea? Will Maggie stay to welcome the next class of girls, or will she also, in her sense of the word, graduate to new adventures?

In this excerpt from a section called "Summer Holidays," Colgan writes: "There is a reason why people don't like answering the phone. Because ever since it was invented, it can pass on the worst news known to man.

It can come at any time of the day or night - although little good is likely to happen if it rings at four o'clock in the morning.

It can come out of the clear blue sky or a dark rainy one. It can come when things are already troubling, or it can come when you are happier than you ever dreamt in your life you could be.

Maggie Adair, an English teacher at the famous Downey House school, sat in the car next to David McDonald, and as they crested the hill, heading off on their first ever holiday together, she felt full with terrified anticipation. She was brimming with happiness, but nervous too. What if he wanted to visit old ruins all day? What if he didn't appreciate how much she liked to lie down and read on holiday? What if he was funny about local food or talked loudly to the locals in an exaggerated accent?

He glanced at her.

'You look,' he said, 'like a woman terrified she's made a wrong decision by agreeing to go on holiday with someone she doesn't know very well.'

'I know you,' said Maggie timidly. And it was true. She knew he was a wonderful teacher. A kind and decent man. A reader. A...well, she couldn't think about the rest without blushing. Her bare white shoulders. A trembling mouth on the nape of her neck. She closed her eyes briefly.

That had seemed like a lot at the time. Certainly enough to throw up her whole life; ditch her fiance, therefore upsetting her entire family back in Glasgow, both by throwing over someone they loved very much, and refusing to leave the Cornish boarding school she taught in to move back to Scotland to teach in what her sister Anne called a 'real school.'

She had given it all up to follow him, follow her heart. And here they were, and suddenly it felt - not an anticlimax, but rather, something terrifying. She had been in love with him for three years; or at least, in love with an idea of him - his broad smile, his dark, dancing eyes, his long lean frame...yes. All of that.

And on David's part, he had caused a scene at a railway station that had got him arrested and cost him his job; he had given up everything, including a fiance, and now worked at Phillip Dean, a badly rated school in the area that had trouble holding on to any staff at all.

But now - Maggie could barely believe it - they were actually here, driving away in his car."

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