The USA Today bestselling author of Rainy Day Sisters returns to Hartley-by-the-Sea...
Childhood best friends Rachel Campbell and Claire West have not only grown up, but after fifteen years, they've also grown apart...
After her father left, Rachel had to dedicate her life to managing her household: her two younger sisters, her disabled mother, and her three-year-old nephew. When Rachel’s not struggling to look after all of them, she makes her living cleaning the houses of wealthy families—inclulding the Wests, where a surprise now awaits her. . . .
A lifetime of drifting in other people's currents has finally left Claire high and dry. First it was her parents, then the popular crowd in school, and finally her fiancé. Now she’s returned to Hartley-by-the-Sea to recover. But running into Rachel brings back memories of past mistakes, and Claire wonders if she now has the courage to make them right.
Soon Claire’s brother, Andrew, asks Rachel to keep an eye on Claire, which is the last thing either woman wants. But as their lives threaten to fall apart, both Claire and Rachel begin to realize what they need most is a friend. The kind of friend they once were to each other, and perhaps can be again. . . .
About the Author
Kate Hewitt is the USA Today bestselling author of more than forty novels of romance and women’s fiction, including the Emigrants Trilogy, set in Scotland and North America; the Hartley-by-the-Sea series, set in the Lake District; and Tales from Goswell, written as Katharine Swartz. Raised in the United States, she lives in England’s Lake District with her American-born husband and their five children.
Reading Group Guide
A Conversation with Kate Hewitt
Q. In what ways did the Cumbrian setting inform these characters as you were writing Now and Then Friends?
A. Having lived in an isolated village like Hartley-by-the-Sea, I know the impact of such a place on your psyche, both for good and bad. When I first moved to Cumbria, I struggled with some of the aspects of the region that the characters in the book also struggle with—the rainy weather, the lack of anonymity, the sense of remoteness. I learned to see the benefits of all these things, and I think my characters do as well—with time and effort!
Q. As an American living in England, did you experience any “outsider” moments that helped you relate to how Claire might have felt returning to Hartley-by-the-Sea after so many years away?
A. Yes, I have had many outsider moments, whether it is simply using the wrong word or not observing a traditional British custom (such as not eating birthday cake at a party—you wrap it in a napkin and put it all squashed in the party bag!). I’ve learned to laugh about it, and when I’m not sure what the protocol is, I say so up front. Just recently I had a funny conversation with friends about the differences between British and American English, and we all laughed a lot at the differences that seem minor but still matter.
Q. The theme of sisterhood is so rich in this novel. Do you expect that Claire’s personality would have been different if she had had a sister to share things with growing up, as Rachel did with Meghan?
A. Having a sister myself, I well know the joys and difficulties of that sibling relationship! I think Claire felt very isolated by her partial deafness and many illnesses during her childhood; in some ways Rachel acted like a big sister to her, helping and protecting her. Perhaps if she’d had someone at home to do that, she wouldn’t have become such good friends with Rachel.
Q. Do you feel that early-childhood friendships can last well into adulthood? How do the changes we experience as we develop our adult selves impact these friendships?
A. I think childhood friendships can last when the people involved keep in touch and grow together. This didn’t happen for Rachel and Claire until they reunited; even though they feel they were always friends, I think they had to develop a separate friendship as adults.
Q. How was the experience of returning to some familiar faces from your previous Hartley-by-the-Sea book in this novel? Did you enjoy giving readers another glimpse into Lucy’s and Juliet’s lives in Now and Then Friends?
A. Yes, I feel quite at home in Hartley-by-the-Sea, and the characters seem more real, their lives richer, with each story. It’s always nice to follow up with characters from previous books, and I hope to include Lucy and Juliet (and Claire and Rachel) in the next book.
Q. Do you have any rituals in your writing day?
A. Grabbing as much time as I can! As the mother of five young(ish) children, it can be hard to find time to write. I find it most efficient to write in short bursts and then take a five-minute break before starting again. A cup of tea does not go amiss, either.
Q. As an author, what things most inspire you?
A. I’m inspired by what I see around me, whether it’s a simple human interaction or a crisp sunny morning. I tend to get ideas while I’m walking my children to school or the dog in the local woods, and then let my subconscious untangle the knots. I think inspiration is everywhere if you are of a mind to look for it.
Questions for Discussion
1. What did you most enjoy about Now and Then Friends? Who was your favorite character? To whom could you most relate?
2. Why do you think Claire and Rachel were drawn to each other as children? Does Rachel’s response to Claire upon meeting her again seem understandable to you?
3. Claire struggles with feeling adrift in life and allows other people to manage her life. Can you relate to her predicament at all?
4. Rachel’s relationship with her sister, Meghan, is fraught, due to the family struggles they had growing up. Have the issues your family had while you were growing up affected your adult relationships?
5. Why do you think Claire and Rachel stopped being friends in primary school? How did they both contribute to the end of their friendship?
6. Now and Then Friends has a colorful cast of secondary characters, including Andrew West, Dan Trenton, Abby Rhodes, Emily Hart, Rob Telford, and Eleanor Carwell. Which of these characters did you enjoy reading about the most? Who would you like to read about in his or her own story?
7. Is Rachel justified in her actions toward Lily regarding her choices of subjects?
8. What do you most like about Hartley-by-the-Sea? What would you find the most challenging about living there?
9. Do you think Rachel made the right choice in leaving university to come home? Do you understand her reasoning about not wanting to “settle”?
10. How does Claire help other people in the village, such as Dan Trenton and Eleanor Carwell?
11. How do you think Rachel and Claire both grow and change through the story? How do they help each other to do this?
12. Which part of Now and Then Friends resonated the most with you? What will you remember about the book long after you’ve read it?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Rachel and Claire were best friends when they were children, but something caused a rift between them. Rachel was never able to leave Hartley-by-the-Sea, she's been stuck taking care of her family for years. Since her mother became disabled Rachel has been looking after her younger sisters. She also has a three-year-old nephew to partially raise, so her days are always filled. She supports everyone by cleaning houses of wealthy people. One of those houses is being owned by Claire's family. The house hasn't been used as a permanent residence for years, but now Claire is back. What does that mean for Rachel? Claire always did what she was told. Other people made the decisions in her life and she just went along with everything. Because of this she now has nothing left, she doesn't have a job, she isn't together with her fiancé any longer and she has to start over completely. She's back in Hartley-by-the-Sea friendless and alone. She could use a shoulder to lean on and her brother Andrew asks Rachel to keep an eye on his fragile sister. However, after everything that happened between them, Rachel isn't happy to spend time with her former best friend and is feeling hurt all over again. Will she and Claire be able to find their way back to each other eventually or is it too late for them to make up? Now and Then Friends is an impressive story about two former friends who could use a second chance together. Both Rachel and Claire are struggling. Claire has never had a true identity. She let other people direct her and never made any decisions for herself. This was quite shocking at first. She's sweet, but doesn't know how to live and she doesn't have a backbone. I enjoyed witnessing her grow and turn into the woman she's supposed to be. For me that was one of the best parts of the story. Because of Claire's behavior Rachel was hurt and those feelings keep resurfacing. Rachel is quite bitter because of the unfairness of her situation. She's incredibly smart, but can't follow her dreams because she has to provide for her family. She tries to remain in control and sometimes becomes too much because of this. I could easily feel her pain and think Kate Hewitt has done an amazing job describing the feelings of both of her main characters. Now and Then Friends is set in Hartley-by-the-Sea, which is a beautiful place with interesting inhabitants. I had a lot of fun reading about it. She combines this with a gorgeous moving story about friendship and family. I loved this combination and think it worked out very well. Now and Then Friends is a fantastic book, it has many emotional layers and there are plenty of surprising twists and turns. Kate Hewitt's writing has a wonderful warmth that always manages to pull me in straight away. I love her books and highly recommend them.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings The second in a series, this story centers on Rachel and Claire who were friends in primary school, but grew apart before they ever left their small hometowns. Rachel stayed there and has been the backbone of her family as her father left, her mother had a tragic accident and her sisters aren't quite stepping up. Claire returns after a stint in rehab and a potential break up with a fiance and is trying to decide what is next for herself. Just as in the first book in the series, this book is told in alternating perspectives and both Rachel and Claire have the opportunity to tell their story. And just like the first book in the series, the female friendships are the foundation of the story and of course there is romance involved, but the drama of their friendship is the center.
Thursday, July 21, 2016 Now and Then Friends: A Hartley-by-the-Sea Novel by Kate Hewitt, © 2016 A Hartley-By-The-Sea Novel Series, Book 2 She'd grown up here, walked down this street a thousand times during her five years at the primary school, but it felt unfamiliar to her now. The years at uni, and then in London and Portugal, had separated her from the life she'd once had in Hartley-by-the-Sea. She felt as if she were looking through the wrong end of a kaleidoscope when she recalled her years here. --Claire, Now and Then Friends, 82 Coming "home" ~ does it ever happen? To truly find where you are is home? Claire West has returned to her childhood home as a respite against all she has known; overcrowding family, a lost relationship that likely never was anyway... Can relinquished friends be returned? Can offenses be forgiven, however unintentional? Days crowded into days and life moved on once separated. A bused to private school put a hedge between those in the village. Returning to Four Gables she has forgotten, or perhaps never realized, the outcome from those left behind. Rachel Campbell has her hands full with her cleaning contracts. Caring for her bedridden mother and watching out for her siblings and her hours are pretty occupied. Used to being responsible for her younger sister, Lily, Rachel wants her to succeed at Cumberland Academy, ready for her future schooling at Durham University, seeing to her studies. Cue in sister, Meghan, and her young son, Nathan, adding a mix to the household. Having to "parent" with her dad not in sight for years, Rachel's life has pretty much been sorted out for her. Until coming smack into her earlier days remembrance. Down the beach road and up the steep lane that led to Four Gables, her next cleaning job...Claire West. Memories submerged, long hidden and kept in control, begin to surface. "If you leave here, no matter for how long, it's not the same as staying," she said as they descended from the coastal path to the beach on the far end of the village. The tide was out, and the beach was a lovely long stretch of wet sand that glimmered under the evening sunlight, the rocks smoothed to shining darkness. Claire breathed in the salty, sea-damp air, every part of her reveling in the purity of the moment. --Abby, Ibid., 202 Stretching out, making friends, new to Claire, she finds it isn't so awkward as she suspected it would be. Even with Dan, her employer at the Village Shop/Post Office was edging in toward unexplained comfort; an extension of who she could be, emerging. Now and Then Friends is conversational as daily activity is sorted out in new ventures of trust. The author has brought out lifelong habits changing, bringing newness to those around, placing them in a new response. Seeing lives from different perspectives ~ Claire's, her brother, Andrew; Rachel, her sisters, Meghan and Lily, and their view of their lives intermingle upon the page. ***Thank you to author Kate Hewitt for sending me a print copy of Now and Then Friends for review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***
Life hasn’t turn out the way Rachel Campbell or Claire West expected. They were both best friends when they were in elementary school many years ago. Now, they meet anew when Claire West returns to Hartley-By-The-Sea and the awkwardness between the two is obvious to everyone else in the small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. But no one knows what the problem between these two characters is and the two women really can’t put their finger on the problem either. Suffice to say that both women are “empty and a tad angry” inside. Rachel’s Mom broke her back years ago and is an invalid; thus, Rachel must care for her family as her father has been gone for years as well. She cleans houses to make a small living and it’s obvious hers is a hard life. Claire West, on the other hands, grew up as a rich girl who could have anything she wanted. But now she’s returned, she has to honestly admit her life has been one big “show” run by her family and then fiancé. Now she’s seeking something new but excessively timid as she’s never learned to function alone. While this sounds like a dour story, it isn’t that bad at all. There are enough snarky comments to add some humor to Rachel and Claire’s situations. Obviously, from the title, these two women might have a chance as good friends again, but first they have to get over their bitterness, fear and animosity toward anyone who reaches out to them with compassion. One can see how these chronic attitudes can wear on other characters, but the chemistry between the two women just might thaw enough to make a different future. Ironically, even though there are brief, bleak scenes, there’s a magic in this story that keeps the reader hoping for something better than what these two women have at the beginning of this novel. Life is as hard as one makes it. Those who know Rachel and Claire also know that still waters run deep and turbulent, and the reader gets to see the unwinding of some rather nasty background junk. Stuff sometimes only friends can unfreeze. Very nicely written and recommended contemporary fiction!