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Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Heart of the Garden by Victoria Connelly - Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

Emilia Morton is a mystery. She never leaves her house and lets her garden grow wild, except for the maze, which gardener Cape perfectly maintains. Even though Morton Hall is a private property Anne Marie often walks around the gardens. She's unhappily married and her husband and stepdaughters treat her with coldness and contempt. The garden is her sanctuary. When Emilia dies she leaves her home and the gardens to the community and she's selected a small group of people who are supposed to look after the house and its beautiful gardens. Anne Marie and Cape are part of this strange will and their shared love for the gardens of Morton Hall brings them closer together.

Cape's girlfriend isn't happy with her life. They have a beautiful girl together and Cape loves Poppy more than anything. His work is his passion and he's happy where he is, but his girlfriend would love to move to the other side of the world. This causes friction. Working on Emilia's legacy gives him a perfect chance to escape the oppressive atmosphere at home. Anne Marie feels the exact same way and they have more in common than just that. Will Emilia's plans bring the group of people she's chosen to take care of her house and gardens closer together? Will they find out more about both themselves and the enigmatic woman who never showed herself?

The Heart of the Garden is a beautiful romantic story. I was immediately captivated by Morton Hall and its history. It's an intriguing place filled with secrets, hidden gems and weird family history. Victoria Connelly alternates between the past, describing Emilia's younger years, and the present and I was equally fascinated by both parts of the story. Emilia is an interesting character and I was curious to find out why her life was so secluded. I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough to find out what happened to her.

Anne Marie is a kindhearted woman. She's taking care of people who will never do anything for her and reading about her life was heartbreaking. She deserves to be loved instead of being treated as a convenience. She loves Morton Hall and its gardens and there she truly feels at peace. It was interesting to see how forming friendship with the other people Emilia named in her will enriches her life and makes her come out of her shell. The same goes for Cape, even though Poppy is adorable and he's a great father, he's missing something at home and he finds happiness in the gardens. I really liked how each member of the group contributes something and enjoyed reading about all of them a lot.

Victoria Connelly has written a wonderful story. Her writing has a lovely easy flow that makes it hard to put The Heart of the Garden down. I read the book in one sitting and loved every single page. I'm a big fan of stories about old houses and the secrets behind them and gardens with mazes always fascinate me, so the setting instantly put a smile on my face. The Heart of the Garden is an amazing story filled with surprising twists and turns. I especially loved the sense of community, the heartwarming friendships and the healing powers of working together. Victoria Connelly has written a fantastic spellbinding book.

Advice

If you love romantic stories about old houses and beautiful gardens you should definitely read The Heart of the Garden.

About Victoria Connelly



Victoria Connelly grew up in Norfolk and started writing her first novel when she was fourteen. She studied English Literature at Worcester University, reading the tragedies of Shakespeare and the novels of Thomas Hardy and knowing that she wanted to write stories with happy endings.

Her first novel Flights of Angels was bought in a bidding war between five publishers and was made into a film by Academy award-winning Ziegler Film.

Molly’s Millions quickly followed and was a Top Ten bestseller on Amazon. A Weekend with Mr Darcy, the first in her Austen Addicts series, has sold over 100,000 copies. The second in the series, The Perfect Hero was featured on Channel 5’s The Vanessa Show and was a hot pick in The Sun.

The Runaway Actress – a romantic comedy about a movie star who swaps Hollywood for the Highlands – was shortlisted for the RNA’s Best Romantic Comedy of the Year in 2013. Her novels, Wish You Were Here, A Summer to Remember, The Rose Girls and Love in an English Garden have all been Amazon bestsellers.

She is also the author of three collections of short stories as well as two children’s novels, and the Mulberry Cottage series. She has sold over 500,000 copies of her books worldwide and is one of the few English authors on the Romance Writers of America’s Honour Roll.

She lives in a 200-year old cottage in rural Suffolk with her artist husband, a springer spaniel and a flock of rescued hens.

Links

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Amazon

Interview

1) Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

I live in a cottage in rural Suffolk with my artist husband, my springer spaniel, Hattie, and a garden full of hens, fruit trees and roses. I’ve always written stories. I started my first novel when I was 14, giving it to my friends to read at school (usually during maths lessons!) My first published novel, Flights of Angels, was turned into a film in Germany and my husband and I got to be extras in it which was incredibly exciting. As well as writing and reading, I love films, walks in the countryside, exploring old buildings and growing lots of vegetables and flowers.


2) Morton Hall and its gardens are special. What’s the inspiration behind this mesmerizing place?

The Heart of the Garden is the third novel in my English Country House and Garden series, following on from The Rose Girls and Love in an English Garden. The three books explore the healing powers of gardens and how they can bring families and communities together. Morton Hall with its maze was inspired by lots of different gardens including Somerleyton in Suffolk which has a wonderful maze, old greenhouse and secluded wild areas. Bridge End Garden in Saffron Walden helped to inspire the walled garden in my book. It was restored by a wonderful team of volunteers just like the one at Morton Hall.


3) What’s the most fascinating thing about old buildings and how do you use that for your stories?

I love the romance of old buildings and how many generations can add to the beauty and atmosphere of a place. I’m constantly inspired by art collections particularly from the Arts and Crafts period and I love the paintings of Rossetti, the textiles of William Morris and the ceramics of de Morgan. I knew I wanted to use these in The Heart of the Garden and visited the unique Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton. Old buildings are just so beautiful and I love writing about them whether they’re medieval castles, Benedictine priories or Elizabethan manor houses. There are always plenty of secrets to uncover inside them!

4) You have a dog and hens. How did your love for animals start and can you tell a bit more about them?

I’ve loved animals for as long as I can remember. I became a vegetarian when I was fourteen and I’m now a huge supporter of Compassion in World Farming and The British Hen Welfare Trust, and have a garden full of ex-battery hens. I love rescuing these amazing creatures. Each one has its own distinct character and, when they come to us, they’re often in very poor condition with feathers missing, pale floppy combs and a nervous disposition. Watching them grow new feathers as well as grow in confidence is one of my greatest pleasures, and seeing them free-ranging for the first time is a total privilege. I often pause by a window to watch them sunbathe or scratch around in the flower borders. They give me so much joy. I name all our girls after literary characters. A recent flock was named after Shakespearean heroines so we had Viola, Rosalind, Beatrice and Hermia.


5) What are your plans for the future?

To write more books! I’m currently writing this year’s Christmas novella – The Christmas Rose – a sequel to The Rose Girls. After that, there’ll be the fourth novel in my Book Lovers series – One More Page Before I Kiss You. This will be Josh Nightingale’s story and he’s got a really unusual love story. I’m so looking forward to writing that this summer. Lake Union will be publishing Our Last Summer in 2019, and I’d really love to start a new series set in the beautiful Sussex Downs, so there’s plenty to keep me busy for a while yet!

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a signed paperback copy of The Heart of the Garden by Victoria Connelly.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.

25 comments:

  1. The Heart of the Garden sounds like a charming tale that shows how gardens can heal people, bring them together and give them a sense of belonging.

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  2. Just a lovely cover Victoria
    jan

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  3. Sounds like a wonderful estate and garden in the story!

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  4. Love the book cover! Would love to win this book for my Mum who reads a lot.

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  5. Beautiful cover! It sounds like a very interesting read.

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  6. Rien que la couverture invite à découvrir le livre !! :)

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  7. this looks like my kind of book, would love to read it!

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  8. I'd really love to read this novel. I love beautiful gardens though I'm not keen on mazes, having a horrible sense of direction I'd be sure to get lost in one, lol. I have my fingers crossed. :-)

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  9. I love Victoria's books. We have chatted before and she is lovely x

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  10. I loved reading all about you as I too started my love of keeping chickens,with 6 ex battery girls for my 40th birthday! Ten years on and I still keep chickens and we also have dogs and cats and a vegetable garden. I love the cover of the Heart of The Garden and look forward to reading that and your other country garden titles.

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  11. I love gardens and gardening and would love an extended vacation in the English countryside. So this book might be a good one for me.

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  12. Sounds good, thanks for the review & giveaway!

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  13. The cover immediately draws me in!

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  14. What a great interview and review!

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  15. I actually like reading books set in beautiful lands and houses, even though gardening doesn't interest me at all in 'real life.'

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  16. Thanks for the great prize and competition. Good luck everyone!

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