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A Secret Garden Affair: From the Sunday Times bestselling author comes the most captivating new historical romance and family drama of 2023, perfect for fans of Sally Page!

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You really get a sense with these women that they're having to deal with losing trust in people and are fearful of being deceived again, which makes it very difficult to move on and trust new people that come into their lives. I really loved the setting as the house and gardens are very much part of them as people and a place where they feel safe to start the trust process and dealing with the personal tragedies that they have faced. Elfrida Ambrose has supported heself and the upkeep of Larkspur House designing gardens in England and overseas for many wealthy people , and over the years Bess travelled with her as her ladies maid.

Erica James does this by having the main story take place during the Summer of 1981 at a time when the then Prince Charles was marrying his first wife Lady Diana Spencer, which gave the novel a fixed period in time.Staying with her aunt Bess and Alfreda, she starts to mend her broken heart, deciding what to do with the rest of her life. The story is set in the summer of 1981 when the country was gripped by Royal Wedding fever, and also in the 1920’s moving forwards. We see the action in both the first and third person from alternating points of view. Elfrida is certainly a character who didn’t conform to society’s expectations but carved her own path, whether in the parts of the book set in the past or the relatively more modern 1980s. I thought she was a terrific creation and I loved her feistiness and refusal to do what others expected of her. I particularly liked her friendship with Bess who worked for Elfrida originally as a ladies’ maid. The women had shared many life events and were the keepers of each others secrets. They had become so much more than employer and employee over the years and were a huge support for each other.

July 1981. As the country prepares to celebrate Prince Charles’ wedding to Lady Diana, Libby wants to be as far away from royal wedding fever as possible. From the Sunday Times bestselling author Erica James comes a captivating story that sweeps through sixty years of history, love, and family drama. When Libby finds her fiance Marcus in bed with her best friend Selina three weeks before her wedding, she flees London for the sanctuary of Larkspur House in Suffolk where her Great Aunt Bess lives with her friend Elfrida. It was so easy to feel emotionally attached to the three lead women in this story. All are very likeable – actually, that goes for the siblings of Elfrida and Bess and Libby’s mum too – even though they are harridans (and yes, they are cold and emotionally unavailable for a reason).July, 1981. The country is working itself into a frenzy in the run-up to the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, but the last thing Libby wants to think about is weddings. Having just discovered, three weeks before their wedding, that her fiancé Marcus has been sleeping with her best friend Selina, Libby heads for the comforting presence of Larkspur House, the home of famous garden designer Elfrida Ambrose and Libby's great-aunt Bess - the only place where she has ever felt truly at home. Seeing these women grow together and Libby’s healing was quite therapeutic to read. Coupled with this, the writer’s descriptions of the gardens sounded amazing and I actually found myself having green-fingered envy! Yet, whilst the grounds that Elfrida has designed seem perfect, life has become the juxtaposition to this. I loved travelling around the world in the past with Elfrida (and Bess) as she designs the gardens – the glitz and the glamour and the olde world feel. At home, during the war and afterwards, life is harsh but their indomitable spirits get them through. Larkspur House felt like a character to me. It wrapped its magic around me (much like it did to Libby and Daniel) and I felt sad when I had to say goodbye. We are introduced to three strong women whose stories are all entwined, we have Libby who was a bride to be until just before the wedding she walked in on her fiancé and bestfriend. Libby needed to escape and she knew the one place she could find comfort and support would be at Larkspur House with her great aunt Bess and Elfrida.

We witness the passion for creating gardens that sees a character feeling at one with nature. And there is also a grande passion that not even death can break. Life is for living. We need to make the most of each day because we never know when life will be cruelly cut short. A Secret Garden Affair by Erica James is an enchanting dual timeline novel about love and life, guilt and grief, and memories that keep us warm at night. Erica James is an award-winning British author of romance, contemporary, and general fiction stories. She has written several bestselling single novels in her career, including Love & Devotion, Airs & Graces, Hidden Talents, A Breath of Fresh Air, Gardens of Delight, Act of Faith, etc. In addition to these, she has also penned an anthology called What A Woman Wants in collaboration with Maureen Lee and Donna Hay. In 2006, Erica won the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award for her book, Gardens of Delight. After that, she won a lot more success in her career as readers all over the world began noticing her work and reading her novels with more interest. Author Erica was born Erica Sullivan in Surrey, England in 1960. She was brought up on Hayling Island, Hampshire, where her family had relocated when she was 4 years old.

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The author lives in Suffolk and is a keen gardener and this is clearly reflected in her descriptive writing. This enticing cover had me excited to read this new release from Erica James. The books I have read by this author (so far!) have all been really enjoyable, but I found that this one didn’t capture my heart in quite the same way. I wonder if it is because it is a little similar to a recent book I have read: following a family over decades with secrets being revealed along the way. Secondly, I think I missed the magic that other stories from James have given. I really appreciated the Italian setting but wondered if this could have been expanded further. A lot happens at Larkspur House in Suffolk, but I think I craved something more exotic at times, to reflect how colourful Bess and Elfrida’s lives have been. I felt a bit trapped in Suffolk, a bit like Bess does when she falls ill. For me, this meant the story was not as immersive as I had hoped, even though it is still a strong narrative. I have not read an Erica James novel for a number of years but I was soon engrossed in the storyline and anyone who enjoys a family drama with some twists will find this a compelling read. This is a very old-fashioned novel. It's written in an old-fashioned way, and I say this because it contains characters who are privileged and 'other' to what we might consider to be 'everyday'. There's a big old house, left to Elfrida, and there's a Count who provides caviar and a special champagne from his brother's vault, on a boat, during a date. There's a mother who insists her daughter marries a man who has slept with someone else, and the man himself who thinks it's perfectly fine. For me, and I appreciate that Erica James has a massive following, this whole novel came perilously close to cliche, and the layer upon layer of stereotypical characters and situations were too distracting for me to enjoy it for what it is.

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