Eleanor Sharpley has been living a lie...
Needing to escape her London life quickly, Eleanor throws her things into the back of her car, and heads to her erstwhile best friend Charlie’s family farm.
But Charlie isn’t there. Instead she finds Charlie’s grieving brother Daniel, her eight-month old daughter Hope (a daughter Eleanor had known nothing about), and a crumbling and unloved Damson Farm.
Damson Farm lies at the edge of the village of Ferrington, with the river Maddon flowing at its heart. But Ferrington is a village divided by more than just a river - it is split in two by an age-old feud – between the Old Side and the New Side. Eleanor has run from her problems, straight into a family and a world that has problems of its own.
But Damson Farm has magic too, and as winter gives way to spring, the old farm starts to come to life under Eleanor’s love and care. The orchard starts to blossom with daffodils and bluebells, and the sound of bees busy in their hives fills the warming air. Can Eleanor bring Daniel and the feuding village of Ferrington back to life too, or will her secrets catch up with her first?
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This book is an odd combination of romcom and thriller. The romance is dominant throughout but many romcom authors would struggle to have genuine threat underpinning the love story. However, Beth Moran definitely pulls it off. I will confess to having a suspicion about who was behind the events that cause Eleanor to flee London, but was wrong about why it was happening. I like this because to me, it shows that there were enough hints dropped throughout for the conclusion to make perfect narrative sense, but not so many that it made the plot too transparent.
The characters are all very real and immensely likeable and I was genuinely rooting for all of them to get the endings they deserved. However, I think what impressed me most was the feuding villagers and the divided community. Having grown up in the north of England, I know how strongly the miners' strikes affected the local communities and what long arms they have in terms of the modern communities. Just as Bella Moran describes, those strikes are not past events to be forgotten - they still have a huge impact on the way people think and behave and I recognised the grievances aired in the book. I wasn't directly impacted by the strikes of the 1980s and was only very young, so don't have much of a memory of them beyond what was on the six o'clock news every night. However, in the past I've talked to those who were and the attitudes of the villagers rang true.
Ultimately, this is my favourite kind of romcom because it's one that goes beyond the superficial romance - there's a huge element of social commentary, which I love and the relationships between friends actually seem more important than the romances. In part, this is probably because they wouldn't have happened without the support of the friends.
I've been incredibly lucky with the summer reads I chose to review for Rachel and this is another author I will definitely be looking out for again, as well as hunting down her previous books.
Beth Moran is the author of three previous romance novels, including Making Marion. She regularly features on BBC Radio Nottingham and is a trustee of the national women’s network Free Range Chicks. She lives on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest. Beth’s first novel for Boldwood, Christmas Every Day, was published in September 2019.
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