The Garden of Forgotten Wishes By Trisha Ashley: Dazzling new summertime odyssey - book review -
When Marnie Ellwood takes a job as gardener at a Tudor hall in the tiny Lancashire village where her late mother grew up, she hopes that it might be a place where she can finally put down roots.
After years in an abusive marriage, green-fingered Marnie needs space to blossom but when she starts to dig into the past, she unearths a hotbed of secrets and discovers why her mother had warned her never to go there.
Much-loved rom-com author Trisha Ashley may now be living in North Wales but her wonderfully entertaining books would seem to confirm suspicions that her heart still lies in the countryside of West Lancashire.
Her enchanting new novel, The Garden of Forgotten Wishes, has been carefully and lovingly seeded out of the rural uplands of the corner of the county where Ashley was born, an area which has become the inspiration for many of her gorgeous, feelgood stories.
A beguiling blend of dark Lancashire humour, heart-melting romance, and characters so lovable, quirky and real that you want to live next door to them are just some of the many reasons why Ashley’s clever comedies always fly off the bookshelves.
And this delightful new confection of a budding love affair, family feuds, horticultural delights, a dollop of mystery, and a show-stealing oversized cat called Caspar, is brimming with Ashley’s signature warmth, wisdom and wit, and her irresistibly wry observations on the frailties, fears and foibles of humankind.
After living and working in France for the past five years, thirty-six-year-old Marnie Ellwood is heading back to England and taking up a gardening post in the tiny West Lancashire village of Jericho’s End where her mother spent her early years.
Marnie has been running away from her marriage to her controlling and emotionally manipulative ex-husband Mike Draycot but when she learned that he has now remarried, she felt the ‘final shackle’ holding her to the past has broken.
Her disastrous marriage wrecked her ambitions to be a head gardener and left her with a deep feeling of insecurity and even though her mother mysteriously warned her never to go to Jericho’s End, Marnie couldn’t resist the lure of a rent-free home at Lavender Cottage and the prospect of helping to restore Old Grace Hall’s rose garden and walled apothecary garden.
For Marnie, who loves ‘grubbing about in compost and mulch,’ this is a dream job but what she hadn’t reckoned on was Ned Mars, the owner of Old Grace Hall, whom she knew in her younger years when they were both students at horticultural college.
Ned was the easy-going, good-natured and kind student who found fame as a TV chef but a disastrous relationship which ended in scandal has left him prickly, disillusioned with women, and with a heart as bruised as her own.
Can a summer spent gardening together help them heal the wounds of the past and recapture the forgotten dreams which they thought had been lost forever?
This dazzling new summertime odyssey – with its colourful and fascinating horticultural flavour – sees Ashley at her best as we join Marnie on her journey of self-discovery and follow her rollercoaster battle to restore both the gardens of Old Grace Hall and her faith in (male!) human nature.
Along the way, we enjoy rambles through the Lancashire countryside, taking in scenic river walks and visits to waterfalls with their soul-soothing sense of calm, and watch rose gardens blossom with such descriptive power that we can almost inhale their scent on the summer breeze.
But, of course, what makes Ashley’s books such a joy is getting to know another memorable cast of vibrant and (mostly) lovable characters, with the now trademark bonus of a few welcome faces from earlier books thrown into the mix.
Add on fascinating snippets of local history and folklore, and some super-cool recipes for delicious home-made ice creams, and The Garden of Forgotten Wishes is guaranteed to leave readers hungry for more.
(Black Swan, paperback, £8.99)