I've lost count of the number of times I've clicked 'like' on Jenny's posts about her work writing or editing this book and I've been eagerly anticipating the release of the last of the Mill Grange series. Anyone who reads my blogs regularly will know that I'm a huge fan of Jenny's writing, her creative writing courses and her general person! Not only does she write books I love reading, but she also runs writing courses that are incredibly useful and is one of the most supportive and encouraging people I've ever met.
So, it was with very high expectations that I opened this book. I've got it on pre-order but if I'm being totally honest, half the attraction of agreeing to review the book was that I'd get my copy earlier!
Often, when you've been so keen to start a book, the reality isn't as good as the plot you've built up in your own mind. I'm happy to say this is definitely not the case in this, the last in the Mill Grange series. It's a knockout of an final book and what I like most about it is that it's an ending the characters have really had to work hard for. There's relatively few of the 'happy coincidences' that often make rom-com books feel out of touch with reality - Jenny's characters are all grounded in the real world and they all have to fight (against the world and themselves) for their happy ever afters. Therefore, whilst I'm sad that we've reached the end of the Mill Grange story, the characters have all been left exactly where they should be and I will confess to the odd tear at the end because the ending is just beautiful.
There were some moments of genuine tension in this book however. The theme of overcoming one's fears is something that runs through the whole series and in the part describing Sam's claustrophobia, I could feel my own throat closing in sympathy with him. The plot also perfectly captures teenage angst about relationships and the whole 'do they like me or are we just friends' section really reminded me of both my own teenage years and also my own teenager. The parallels drawn between this 'relationship' and the beginnings of the relationships between the other characters was also interesting, as it shows that what we often dismiss as the troubles of teenagers, actually never goes away for some people and that it takes effort and trust to overcome those feelings of self-doubt.
I usually race through these books in an afternoon, but circumstances forced me to take my time a little more with this one and although in some ways it was frustrating because I wanted to know what happened, at the same time, the pace of my reading was more in keeping with the gentle nature of the plot than it usually is. Nothing truly terrible happens in this series, but it is full of the usual trials and tribulations of normal life, except that it's a life filled with the magic of Mill Grange and it is this magic that makes the books what they are. The whole series is like a bowl of stew on a cold winter's evening: heart-warming soul food that leaves you feeling satisfied and comforted. Northmoor is a special place and it's given birth to a very special series of books.
I can't wait to see what Jenny's new series will bring!