Erica James’s Mothers and Daughters was one of my favourite reads of last year so I was very excited to read this new one. Isn’t the cover of A Secret Garden Affair just gorgeous? I wish my garden looked like that! I’m pleased to share my review today.
About the book
July 1981. As the country prepares to celebrate Prince Charles’ wedding to Lady Diana, Libby wants to be as far away from royal wedding fever as possible.
Having caught her own fiancé in bed with her best friend just weeks before they were due to marry, she’s fled London for the comfort of the Suffolk countryside.
At Larkspur House, with its magical garden created by renowned garden designer and one-time socialite Elfrida Ambrose, and its comfortingly familiar kitchen presided over by Libby’s great-aunt Bess, she hopes to find a way to put her life back together.
But for lifelong friends Bess and Elfrida, Libby’s arrival has stirred up the ghosts of the past. And before they can help her rebuild her shattered future, they must confront their own unspoken secrets, lost loves, and tragedies…
The author mentions in her acknowledgements at the end of the book that she is a keen gardener herself and that most definitely comes through in this book. Elfrida is a renowned garden designer and you can tell that the author has put a lot of her own love of gardening into the character. Elfrida is also a tribute to famous female gardeners from past and present such as Gertrude Jekyll and Norah Lindsay. These women were exceptions from the norm as they didn’t just potter about their gardens as well brought up ladies were expected to do, but broke with convention and became celebrated for their garden design. You should have a look at the author’s own garden transformation on her website. I’m very impressed! Erica’s Garden Makeover
Elfrida is certainly a character who didn’t conform to society’s expectations but carved her own path, whether in the parts of the book set in the past or the relatively more modern 1980s. I thought she was a terrific creation and I loved her feistiness and refusal to do what others expected of her. I particularly liked her friendship with Bess who worked for Elfrida originally as a ladies’ maid. The women had shared many life events and were the keepers of each others secrets. They had become so much more than employer and employee over the years and were a huge support for each other.
I really enjoyed the way the book was structured. There were sections set in the very early 1980s when Bess’s great niece Libby has come to stay following her fiancé’s betrayal just before their wedding. In these parts, we follow Libby as she starts to come to terms with what happened and to look forward again. Part of her recovery is trying to create an archive, a legacy of Elfrida’s work in gardens over the years. As she does this, it stirs up memories for both Elfrida and Bess and the story moves back over the years to such glamorous places as the south of France and Italy. Although I enjoyed following Libby and her blossoming friendship with young doctor Daniel, I have to admit that it was reading about Elfrida’s past which really captivated me.
This is a book with strong female characters, long-kept secrets, friendship, drama and love. With this engaging story taking place over 60 years, A Secret Garden Affair really deserves the title ‘a sweeping epic’. With plenty of well developed characters, excellent storytelling and more than a few twists to hold your interest, A Secret Garden Affair is a compelling read.
My thanks to the publishers, HQ Stories, for my digital review copy from Netgalley.
A Secret Garden Affair is available now in hardback, digital and ebook editions.
The paperback will follow later this year.
About the Author
Erica James is the author of twenty-four internationally bestselling novels, including most recently Mothers and Daughters, which was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller. Her books are loved by readers looking for beautifully drawn relationships, emotionally powerful storylines and evocative settings.
In 2020, Erica received the Nielsen Silver Award for sales of over a quarter of a million copies for both Love and Devotion and Tell It to the Skies. She has previously won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award for Gardens of Delight and is a Number One bestseller in Norway.
A keen gardener, Erica lives in Suffolk and has a growing obsession for doll’s houses. She is also a keen follower of F1 motor racing and, when possible, loves travelling to Japan and the US to see her sons.
Facebook – @EricaJamesAuthor
Twitter – @TheEricaJames
Instagram – @the_ericajames
Website – http://www.ericajames.com
4 thoughts on “A Secret Garden Affair by Erica James | #bookreview | @TheEricaJames @HQStories”
Gorgeous garden indeed! I went to the link you gave and was gobsmacked over the lushness and spaciousness. The only other garden I’ve seen that is so impressive is Manet’s garden. I have to admit, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a “garden designer”. One of the pleasures of reading fiction is learning new things. 🙂
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I’d like her to come and redesign my garden 😊
Such a beautiful cover!
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It’s gorgeous isn’t it?