As soon as I saw the ‘Family Tree’ at the beginning of the book I knew there had to be family history involved and I wasn’t disappointed! In fact the story begins with Joel’s great, great grandparents Edward and Lily in 1890. Heartsease House is the family home and Edward had created the knot garden and was quite well-known for his botany and his contributions to the village community.
In the present day, Joel’s mother had inherited Heartsease House from her great Uncle Jack but due to her illness it was impractical for her to live there so Joel and his wife had brought the cottage and moved from London to the Sussex Downs.
Joel knows very little about his family history but as he and Kezzie work their way through a discovered trunk and Edward’s diary, a few secrets come to light.
Besides the journey through the present day grief-stricken hearts, Edward and Lily’s story is also woven through at key points. Their love story is very poignant.
I liked the way Julia Williams introduces us to her characters by giving us brief details at first …………. where they’re at in their lives but not why. We are left to infer what may have happened to bring them all to Heartsease. We get to know a little bit more about their circumstances as the story unfolds until it all comes together for Joel, Lauren and Kezzie.
The thing I did find annoying (which is only in the first part of the story) is where certain things are repeated and quite close together. For example, Joel’s job is harrowing due to planned cutbacks, which adds to his distressed emotions. A few times the author tells us the same thing using similar words. I thought there could be another way to emphasise how exhausted he was at the end of the day – and similarly for Lauren’s grief for her best friend. This didn’t put me off though as I assumed it was for emphasis in relation to the deep emotions the characters were feeling.
Community spirit is a theme running through which I felt started with the arrival of Kezzie to the village. Kezzie has the motivation not only to renovate the knot garden but also other important areas in the village. For me, the community spirit and reviving it was one of the most enjoyable parts of the story. The tangled emotions and misunderstandings are always a part of this genre so this gave it added interest. Also, looking back in time to Edward and Lily and relating it to the present day made it a much more interesting read.
My favourite character has to be Kezzie as I felt that Joel and Lauren were too wrapped up in their separate grief whereas Kezzie had spirit and motivation despite being heart-broken. I thought Troy’s character was portrayed really well – exuding all that charisma but not engaging with life on a deeper level.
The epilogue had me crying ……………….. I thought it was a great way to end!
I would like to thank Avon Books for sending me a copy to review.