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Review : A Secret Garden Affair by Erica James

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts about A Secret Garden Affair by Erica James.

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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HQ (30 Mar. 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 416 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0008413770
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0008413774

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…

A Secret Garden Affair Review

It was so easy to feel emotionally attached to the three lead women in this story.  All are very likeable – actually, that goes for the siblings of Elfrida and Bess and Libby’s mum too – even though they are harridans (and yes, they are cold and emotionally unavailable for a reason).

Elfrida’s character is brilliant!  She says it how it is and doesn’t let the class hierarchies or expectations of the past hold her back or pigeon hole her.  She does exactly what she wants (without hurting others) and breaks the mould.

I loved the sparring between Elfrida and Bess.  Despite Bess being a servant, their bond of friendship is enduring.  They’ve been through so much together!  They have each other’s backs and care deeply for each other.

Sometimes with a dual timeline story you get nudged out of your imagination/concentration but the timeline flipping back and forth through the sixty years in A Secret Garden Affair is done so seamlessly.  The hook is related to what is happening in 1981 and fits perfectly with what we need to know to understand Elfrida and Bess’ experiences that have brought them to where they are in 1981.  And how that effects Libby.

In 1981, Libby has the space to step back and reconsider her life.  She’s surrounded by love and makes unexpected friendships.  I enjoyed seeing her take a stand and grow in confidence.

As you can imagine, the secrets all have emotional punches so be prepared to feel a host of emotions!

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I loved travelling around the world in the past with Elfrida (and Bess) as she designs the gardens  – the glitz and the glamour and the olde world feel.  At home, during the war and afterwards, life is harsh but their indomitable spirits get them through.  

Larkspur House felt like a character to me.  It wrapped its magic around me (much like it did to Libby and Daniel) and I felt sad when I had to say goodbye.

I feel as if I’ve walked through history in A Secret Garden Affair.  This family drama is full of surprises with relatable characters and fabulous settings.    

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.

Twitter @TheEricaJames

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