Vita’s gift shop would do better if she ran it as a business, not as somewhere to daydream. But she’s not one to tell herself off–she leaves that to Tim, her ex, who still co-owns the shop. He cheated on Vita and broke her heart. Could she ever give him another chance?

Oliver, an experienced and successful tree surgeon, runs his home as calmly as his business. However, his heart is still with the mother of his child, even though it’s been three years now. He won’t take a chance on love again.

Then a pear tree brings Oliver to Vita, and as spring turns into summer they are given choices and chances. Will they grab them or walk away?

‘Chances’ begins with leading lady Vita trying unsuccessfully to get over her cheating ex-fiancé Tim, the pair having separated almost a year ago. She isn’t helped by the fact that they own a shop together: as neither is financially able to buy the other out, they’re stuck as business partners.

Our heroine has recently moved into Pear Tree Cottage and is just beginning to feel settled when the fruit of the house’s namesake begins to grow. Grow and attract parakeets. Not only do these birds wake Vita up early each morning, they also cause the fruit to fall drawing a multitude of angry wasps. Vita’s terrified, and in desperation calls upon the services of Oliver Bourne, a widowed tree surgeon. She finds herself falling in love with Oliver, but is she destined to be hurt again, as she once more falls for a man with another woman on his mind- even if this time the lady in question died three years ago?

Oliver’s sorrow over his deceased wife is treated very compassionately: he’ll never forget his wife but is doing his best to move on with his life, something he’s not finding easy. Freya North does a beautiful job of describing how it’s often the simple, everyday things, which can cause the biggest waves of grief.

I liked both the main protagonsists, although I did find Vita a little childish – the woman needs be more decisive and stand up for herself! Childish, but very kind, as we see illustrated by her dealings with the delightfully dotty old lady who regularly pilfers things from her shop.

The character of Oliver’s son, Jonty, was wonderfully written; I really got a feeling of the love and support he gives him father, and of the gap left in his life by the loss of his mother. His encouragement of Vita and Oliver’s romance is very sweet. The scene where Jonty and his dad are cooking their ‘chops and chips’ dinner for Vita is a wonderful example of the great relationship between father and son.

All in all, I do have to say though that I’m a little cross with Ms North at the moment: I had a busy day planned before my copy of this book dropped through my letter box, but thanks to this engaging and compassionate story, my poor children and loving husband were somewhat neglected for the best part of a day and my house remains unhoovered. Thank goodness Freya’s not able to produce a book a week, else my home really would fall apart!

4 stars

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