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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Secret Garden by Katie Fford

Title: A Secret Garden
Author: Katie Fford
Publisher: 23 February 2017 by Random House UK
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, chick lit
My Rating: 3.5 crowns


'What I want to know', said Lorna, 'is what lies behind those ash trees at the back of the garden?

Lorna is a talented gardener and Philly is a plantswoman. Together they work in the grounds of a beautiful manor house in the Cotswolds. They enjoy their jobs and are surrounded by family and friends. But for them both the door to true love remains resolutely closed.

So when Lorna is introduced to Jack at a dinner party and Lucien catches Philly’s eye at the local farmers market, it seems that dreams really can come true and happy endings lie just around the corner.But do they?

Troublesome parents, the unexpected arrival of someone from Lorna's past, and the discovery of an old and secret garden mean their lives are about to become a lot more complicated...

My Thoughts

Cooking and gardening are the central focus of this latest Katie Fford book. You always know what you are up for when you get a Katie Fford book - and I like that. Her writing is always light, sweet and a gentle read - rarely any surprises. So when you are in this kind of reading mood, you know Fford will fit the bill.

Funny old thing, love, Lorna thought, pouring a second glass of wine. It was like a disease. You caught it, and then it went away, or it didn’t. But there was no logic to it. You couldn’t turn it on and off according to the suitability or otherwise of the love object.

With a focus on garden renovations and culinary delights, this book is sure to please many. It’s about taking time and appreciating the little things in life and getting creative. Yes, there are romances involved, and what I particularly liked was the wide age in the characters; from young Philly, to Lorna in her fifties to Grand in his seventies - something for everyone! It takes a light approach to everything and is a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

‘It’s lovely to know that you can fall in love at any time in your life, or at any age.’

I do think, however, that this is not as good as the other Katie Fford books I have read. There is nothing distinctly wrong with it, yet it seems to lack that sparkle that I have found in her previous books. The two main leads love interests appeared as total ‘insta-love’ and therefore there was no real investment in their relationships. Also, the title and blurb will lead you to believe that there is a whole story surrounding a ‘secret garden’ - well if you want to wait until three quarters the way through, you may be rewarded with a taste of it, but certainly and in no way, the main focus of this tale.

Having said that, sometimes you just need something light and ‘fluffy’ (as I like to call it) and if you pick up this book expecting nothing more, then Katie Fforde never fails to deliver. No other pretext is need:

‘What are we celebrating?’
‘Nothing,’ declared Anthea. ‘Life is a pile of horse droppings for you just at the moment. What better reason to drink champagne?’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, March 17, 2017

Daughter of Mine by Fiona Lowe

Title: Daughter of Mine
Author: Fiona Lowe
Publisher: 20 February 2017 by Harlequin Australia - MIRA
Pages: 512 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary
My Rating: 4.5 crowns


When your world falls apart the only person you can depend on is your sister.

The three Chirnwell sisters are descended from the privileged squattocracy in Victoria’s Western District — but could a long-held secret threaten their family?

Harriett Chirnwell has a perfect life — a husband who loves her, a successful career and a daughter who is destined to become a doctor just like her.

Xara has always lived in Harriet’s shadow; her chaotic life with her family on their sheep farm falls far short of her older sister’s standards of perfection and prestige.

Georgie, the youngest sister and a passionate teacher, is the only one of the three to have left Billawarre. But is her life in Melbourne happy?

Despite all three sisters having a different and sometimes strained bond with their mother, Edwina, they come together to organise a party for her milestone birthday — the first since their father’s death. But when Edwina arrives at her party on the arm of another man, the tumult is like a dam finally breaking. Suddenly the lives of the Chirnwell sisters are flooded by scandal. Criminal accusations, a daughter in crisis, and a secret over fifty years in the making start to crack the perfect fa├žade of the prominent pastoral family.

A thought provoking novel about family expectations, secrets and lies.

My Thoughts

‘I really don’t think anyone in my family is okay today .... I paid a high price for secrets and lies and I’m paying it still.’

With an easy going writing style and an engaging story, ‘Daughter of Mine’ proved to be a most enjoyable novel. Here you will find past and recent complicated family secrets and lies, loves come and go and a range of emotions from the young through to serious mental issues are covered. What I truly embraced with this book was the realistic and authentic dialogue, not only between family, but also those extending beyond that.

‘Ask me. I’m an open book. I’ve lived with the damaging effects of secrets all of my life. I don’t want any to exist between you and me or between me and your sisters.’

Here Lowe will provide you with an array of characters that face obstacles and heartache and there is sure to be at least one character that you unwittingly nod your head at, either in agreement or frustration. Still, it goes to demonstrate how well Lowe captures a range of relatable characteristics and how everybody can deal differently with a conflict or family problem. I appreciate the detail and time Lowe invested in each of the main characters so that you could try to appreciate how it looked coming from their side of things.

‘Confident he wasn’t going to ask, she’d let down her guard. Now, all snuggled up in her cocoon of bliss and totally unprepared, the question hit her like a sniper’s bullet. It tore through her, ripping, burning, brutal.’

Set in a small town it all comes across as very believable and you will find yourself cheering for some and hoping that fate delivers its blow to others. For a longer book, it moves at a good pace and I was readily engaged throughout, eagerly turning the pages. I can genuinely recommend this as a good family drama/saga.

‘Life isn’t perfect. God, I worked that out years ago. It’s messy and complicated and disorganised. People do things that hurt you. People disappoint you and let you down. Family lets you down and that one hurts the most.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release