Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had ever seen as a little girl. A rambling pink cottage on the edge of the Suffolk village of Melbury Green, its enchanting garden provided a fairy-tale playground of seclusion, a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.
Now an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to the broken, battered books that find their way to her, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a notebook carefully concealed in an old Bible - and realising someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own - Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love...
The Dandelion Years is the latest release from Erica James and with such a beautiful cover and interesting and memorable title before I had even opened the first page I had fallen instantly in love with this book. Erica always delivers an impressive, romantic book and this is no different except for one small thing but this is a positive. Erica has decided to use the time slip element in this new book and it works really well in telling the story and helps the reader to gain a deeper insight into what the characters are going through and how the past can affect decisions we make in the present. I was delighted to see Erica using this device as some of my favourite books are time slip novels. It was used effectively here but I felt the author was testing the waters to see how it felt but I can say I loved it and wish Erica would use this even more in future novels.
Our main female character Saskia Granger has a job that many book lovers would envy, she restores books back to their former glory using specialised methods that she has studied. Using a workshop in the garden of the family home Ashcombe (which had the most beautiful descriptions so the reader had such a vivid picture in their head) Saskia has not strayed far from home in her chosen profession. An horrific event in the past altered her family’s life for ever and now Saskia, her father and two grandfathers all live together and muddle along quite happily. Ralph is Saskia's father who runs a second hand bookshop specialising in rare finds. Whilst Oliver and Harvey look after the house and gardens. It was so refreshing to read a book where there were three strong male characters who all had such important roles to play in Saskia's life. The strong, united family bond was very well written and the love and support they had for each other radiated through the pages.
Saskia herself is content with her life, she has had a few relationships but as soon as they reach a certain point she fears the next step of a deeper commitment and that she can't leave the three most important men in her life all alone. But yet Oliver and Harvey know she must take the next step and branch out on her own as they will not always be there, yes in life you should look out and care for others but at the same time you can not neglect your own well being especially as you are just at the beginning of your journey where others may be nearing their end.
Now you may be wondering how the time slip element comes into play in this book, well Saskia is restoring a bible and discovers a secret compartment and in it is hidden a diary which of course like any curious person she begins to read and is soon lost in a story of wartime love and miscommunications and misunderstandings. She needs to read further to discover the identity of the author but soon just like Saskia I was lost in the romantic story of a couple who meet whilst working to help Britain in the war effort. At the same time Ralph is called upon to evaluate a collection of books owned by a professor who has recently passed away. Jacob Belinsky was a person who liked to be alone in the later years of his life but the son of his former housekeeper Matthew always had a special place in his heart. Before we know it connections are established between Jacob, Saskia and Matthew and the story unravels at a fantastic pace not too fast that we are bombarded with information but with ease as the layers and secrets slowly unfurl to unite the past and present. To say any more would ruin the story but I just had to keep reading to discover what had happened to the couple in the diary and how they could possibly be connected with what was going on in the present time.
I can't say I preferred either the past or present aspects of the book but enjoyed them both equally which is the sign of a skilled and talented author as normally I find one aspect stronger than the other but not in this case. Reading the diary helps Saskia come to several realisations and also her new found friendship with Matthew opens up her eyes to things she had kept hidden and under wraps for fear of getting hurt. The title is so apt and inspirational as Kitty (the woman mentioned in the diary) explains 'one little puff and everything could be gone, our hopes and dreams quashed'. Such a true analogy for wartime romance and living and also for us to today. Grab every day as if it could be your last,embrace your hopes, accept and thrive on new challenges as every last minute does count.
The Dandelion Years was a gorgeous story that gives you hope that true love can prevail despite everything life can throw in its path.Erica James has written another wonderful, inspiring, marvellous book that left me with a sense of deep contentment once I had finished the last page. Whether you are new to Erica's work or a long term fan you will not be disappointed.
Many thanks to Gaby Young from Orion for kindly sending me this book to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.