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“Passions flare, secrets unravel and love blossoms in the heart of the summer season.

As summertime flourishes, it’s time for new beginnings…

Heartsease House is in desperate need of renovation. Its owner, widower Joel, is struggling to come to terms with life as a single dad. His plans to refurbish the house and garden suddenly seem like one burden too many.

Mum to twin girls, Lauren’s life is a constant juggling act. When her ex Troy turns up she’s determined to keep her distance while he gets to know his daughters. But it’s a lot harder than she imagined …

Then erstwhile guerrilla gardener Kezzie bursts into their lives with her infectious enthusiasm to restore the gardens of Heartsease. But who is Kezzie? And what is she running away from?

As the warm days of summer draw closer, Heartsease House and its beautiful love-knot garden are transformed. But will Joel, Kezzie and Lauren be able to restore their own hearts”

Joel’s wife died suddenly a year ago leaving him to bring up their baby by himself, a job which he finds far from easy. Thankfully he’s got himself a great friend, and childminder, in Lauren, who is a single mum living in Heartsease, the village close to Joel’s home. The one thing that Joel really hasn’t been able to face is completing the renovations on his house and gardens – a massive project which he’d started before his wife passed away.

Kezzie is escaping London in a bid to mend her broken heart and ends up staying in Heartsease. Having done a fair bit of ‘guerrilla gardening’ in the past, she just can’t help herself when she sees the state of the previously beautiful knot garden at the bottom of Joel’s property. She sneaks in one evening and begins work on it. When Joel discovers her, she manages to get him to agree to allow her to carry on restoring the garden, and he even offers to help with he can.

Whilst working together Kezzie and Joel find a plan of the original knot garden, as well as diaries of the designer and his family which help them in the restoration and encourage them to sort out their own lives.

Heartsease sounds a delightful place to live: a quintessential English village, complete with the all important busybody! Kezzie was very different to anyone else living there and it was heart-warming to see how welcome she was made to feel; her gardening skills are put to good use and she really becomes part of the community. I must admit I wasn’t too sure about her at the beginning of the book: she seemed very immature for her age, but I grew to like her as the story progressed.

Lauren was a great character: such a strong individual bringing up her twins by herself and working two jobs to be able to provide for them. I was so, so cross with her for even contemplating getting back together again with the awful Troy (the father of her children) when he waltzes back into Lauren’s life hoping to be forgiven for walking out on her when she was in labour.

I liked Joel, although he was a wee bit useless to begin with. Williams writes about his wife’s death and Joel’s feelings of guilt regarding it very sympathetically, but I couldn’t help but feel that as it was only a year since he’d lost his wife, it was a little soon for him to be considering a relationship.

Although no gardening expert, I thought the horticultural theme of the book was a brilliant idea, especially the way that the whole community was benefiting from the gardening projects. It was very clever to intersperse the history of the knot garden into the narrative as Kezzie and Joel slowly discover more about it, and I loved how reading about the history of the knot garden inspires Joel to carry on the work he’d begun before his wife died.

Williams’ flashbacks to the lives of the original designer of the knot garden, Edward, and his wife Lily, were fascinating, particularly when contrasted with the modern day lives of the residents of Heartsease. The descriptions of what Edward’s family went through during the First World War were very moving and the author stayed true to the period in her writing.

Although this is Julia Williams’ fifth novel, it’s the first I’ve read so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. In ‘The Summer Season’ she’s created a cast of warm, endearing characters, who I couldn’t help wanting the best for, even if they’re behaviour did drive me a little crazy at times (yes, Kezzie, you know I’m talking about you!). The underlying gardening theme worked beautifully with the setting and was a brilliant device to bring the protagonists together. I thought the flashback scenes in particular were very well done and I’m very much looking forward to reading the author’s back catalogue.

4 stars

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