Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Country air, cowslips and a charismatic rogue . . .
Would-be gardener Daisy can't believe her luck when her parents announce they're off on a midlife-crisis gap year, leaving her in charge of their gorgeous garden. After a turbulent few months, a spell of quiet in the countryside is just what she needs.
A shoulder to cry on wouldn't go amiss either - so when Daisy comes across Elaine and Jo, she breathes a sigh of relief. But her new friends are dealing with dramas of their own . . .
As Daisy wrestles the garden into something resembling order, her feelings for handsome Irishman George, begin to take root. But Daisy's heart's desire - her parent's garden - is under threat, and she is forced to confront nosey neighbours and fight greedy developers. Village life is turning out to be far from peaceful.
All I can say is what a gorgeous book this was from start to finish. An absolute pleasure to read. Coming Up Roses by Rachel Lucas should be on everyone's reading lists this Summer. This is only the second book I had read by this author, well the first was her Christmas novella from last year Sealed with a Christmas Kiss. I thought it was good but I felt I had missed out by not reading the first book Sealed with a Kiss. I am so pleased to say I loved every minute of this new book right from the very first page and it's not often you can say that. This feeling of enjoyment and fun lasted throughout the book as I fell in love with all the characters and the small village of Steeple St John. I raced through this in two sittings and was sad to leave such a wonderful well thought out cast of characters behind.
From the first unfortunate incident Daisy (our main protagonist) has with a garden hose and a posh lady's carefully styled hairdo I knew I was in for an entertaining, light-hearted read and that is exactly what I got. Daisy is a gardener and had plans to further her career in France but an incident with some people close to her has left her wounded and despondent with the world. She turns up in the small, quaint village of Steeple St. John to her parents beautiful house - Orchard Villa. Her parents, now retired academics are just about to up and leave for a long venture to far flung corners of the world. Daisy seizes the opportunity to house and dog sit and at the same time return their rambling garden to its once former glory. Polly the golden retriever was such a welcome addition to the storyline, it may sound silly enjoying the character of a dog but the author included her in such a sentimental, fond way that you couldn't fail to enjoy her. It's clear for the reader to see that Daisy is not the person she once was and the project of the garden helps her to take her mind off things. She is happy in her own company and wants to remain shut off from the world to reassess her situation. Phone calls from sister Miranda and obligatory wine and chocolate runs to the shop will suffice for now. As Daisy feels safe and enclosed working away in the garden she at first seems reluctant to interact with the residents of the village. But upon meeting long time resident Thomas Broughton this all changes.
Thomas was once gardener at Orchard Villa and many other houses in the village. Just like Daisy he wishes to see the garden brought back to life. He also wants to halt developers from buying up gardens to turn into ugly residential developments. Soon Daisy makes two new friends Elaine and Jo. The three women couldn't be more different from each other. Elaine is uber glam and runs a lifestyle blog. Everything appears perfect in her life and she strives for perfection in whatever project she undertakes but look a bit deeper and all is not as it seems behind closed doors. Just what is Elaine hiding and why does she feel the need to do so? Jo is a single mum to teen Martha who is at the rebelling stage. But Jo is torn in two having discovered the father of her daughter is now a successful poet. Should she face up to her biggest worry and tell this man he has a daughter who is now a teenager? Together the three women slowly forge a friendship in which they can offer each other support, a shoulder to cry on or just a friendly ear when someone wants to let off steam.
There was lots going on in this book but it wasn't in the least bit difficult to keep track of everything. People may think, I'm not into gardening so this book would not be for me. I am not a gardener at all (cutting the grass is enough of a chore for me) but the author does a fantastic job of balancing all the details of the rich beautiful flowers alongside many fun events run by the village. We also meet many other characters which further enamoured me to this book and the village. Flora - retired head teacher now endlessly pouring her heart into the allotments and fund-raising for the village. What would a book be without some hunky men in the form of Irishman restaurant George and lovable local vet Ned? although I had a sneaking suspicion about George right from the outset. The main storyline with all these characters wasn't too in your face and this is what made me love the book even more but I suggest you read for yourself to see how all the threads come together.
Coming Up Roses reminded me of two books – the Tindledale series by Alexandra Brown and A Vintage Wedding by Katie Fforde. To me Rachel had the two best elements of these books and these made for an enjoyable, gratifying read. We had the three women who become best friends previously unknown to each other as in the Katie Fforde book and the cosy,rural village feel I felt when reading the Tindledale book came rushing back to me the minute I started the first page of this novel. The two elements worked really well together and to me it wasn't a bit contrived that women who had never met before yet alone confessed their deepest feelings and insecurities to each other soon became firm friends. It all just worked and the story lines ran along side each other extremely well. Sometimes having too much going on in stories can read like three separate books a such but here everything flowed so naturally. You can sense the enjoyment the author had while writing this book and the love she had for these characters as within a few chapters I was feeling the exact same way.
I would definitely read more by this author as Rachel Lucas has a way with words that draws you in and keeps you hooked until the very last page. I'd love to find out what happened next to the characters. A short Christmas novella maybe or could there be a series set in Steeple St. John. Well whatever the author decides to write next I for one will certainly be reading it as Coming Up Roses proved to be a welcome, humorous and a thoroughly feel-good read. Surely this is one for all those taking part in Paperback Summer.
I'd like to thank Emma for reviewing this eBook which she received from the publisher via NetGalley.