Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Emma's Review: The House of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

When Carey Revell unexpectedly becomes the heir to Mossby, his family’s ancestral home, it’s rather a mixed blessing. The house is large but rundown and comes with a pair of resentful relatives who can’t be asked to leave. 

Still, newly dumped by his girlfriend and also from his job as a TV interior designer, Carey needs somewhere to lick his wounds. And Mossby would be perfect for a renovation show. He already knows someone who could restore the stained glass windows in the older part of the house…

Angel Arrowsmith has spent the last ten years happily working and living with her artist mentor and partner. But suddenly bereaved, she finds herself heartbroken, without a home or a livelihood. Life will never be the same again – until old friend Carey Revell comes to the rescue.

They move in to Mossby with high hopes. But the house has a secret at its heart: an old legend concerning one of the famous windows. Will all their dreams for happiness be shattered? Or can Carey and Angel find a way to make this house a home?

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Many thanks to Poppy Stimpson from Transworld Books for my copy of The House of Hopes and Dreams to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

The House of Hopes and Dreams, the new book from Trisha Ashley, delves into the creative, artistic world of stained glass making and takes us on a journey with Angel Arrowsmith as she attempts to overcome tragedy and rebuild her life. I was quick to warm to Angel from the beginning of this story and countless times over, the further I read I felt she had been very hard done by through what I would term cruel and vindictive actions of others. Yet her talent, creativity and flair always shone through. There were several storylines at play throughout this book, some more riveting than others but come the end they all had their part to play and each blended in nicely with the overall themes and plot.

Before the beginning of every chapter focusing on Angel in the present day, there was a brief page or two from a diary. After several chapters it became clear that this was the diary of a famous stained glass artist Jessie Kaye who had once lived at Mossby which is the main setting for this story. I found these little snippets very interesting and tantalising in equal measure, as were given brief glimpses into a different life lived at Mossby many years ago and also how the main window of the house plays such a pivotal part in connecting the past with the present. Plenty of secrets and surprises await between the covers of this book and it proved to be an enjoyable read.

Carey Revell is on the cusp of leaving hospital after a long and arduous recovery following an accident which almost resulted in the loss of his leg. Times have been tough for him and he will never walk with complete ease again and combined with the fact his role as presenter of The Complete Country Cottage series has now been consigned to the bin along with the girlfriend who walked out the door, one can't say that life has lately been a bed of roses for him. News from a side of the family he never knew really existed make him see things in a new light. He is has inherited a grand old country pile called Mossby from an Uncle who has passed away.

Carey has no clue about anything to do with the running of the estate but he is more than wiling to learn his family history and the history of the estate as he is going along. I could immediately sense that Carey had been through the wars and that this new opportunity afforded to him would be a challenge to relish as he could use his restorative skills and charm to channel his energies into something new. Soon Carey feels so at home at Mossby, even though he has never been there before, it speaks to him and he heeds the houses call and wants to restore it to its former glory. This is where Angel comes in as she needs a refuge and maybe Carey and Mossby will provide that to her.

The first third of the book focused on Angel, setting up her situation and how she came to arrive at Mossby in need of comfort and a place to heal. Initially it seemed like she led the ideal life for her. She wasn't married but was happily in a relationship with famous stained glass artist Julian Seddon. Together they crafted away in their workshop even though Julian still struggles with the after affects of a severe stroke. I sensed the pair had a deep respect and love for each other and their shared passion for stained glass only enhanced this. So when the unimaginable happens and Julian suffers once again, Angel is left alone and must carry on.

As if that is not bad enough what I felt was such a major injustice was done to her, it was so unfair what occurred. It was as if all her wishes, her hard work and dedication went out the window and she was forgotten about in an instant. All down to greed, bitterness and jealously. Julian's adult son, Nat, storms in and demands what he feels is rightfully his. The cottage, the workshop, commissions everything is now his and poor Angel was very firmly out out in the cold without a thank you. I felt desperately sorry for her It's bad enough having to deal with the death of someone you loved so much but then to have further trauma unnecessarily heaped upon is just the pits. I wanted to reach out and hug her and offer her a place to stay so affected was I by what she had to endure.

Nat made his presence further known at a time when you felt things might turn around for Angel but I was glad she had seemed to garner more courage and strength to stand up to what was essentially a bully. The kind, caring side of Carey emerged as Angel is invited to stay at Mossby and start her own workshop once used by Jessie Kaye. At first I thought Carey was just being a good friend and wouldn't like Angel to be left on the streets but the further we moved through the story I thought hmmm maybe there is more to this than at first meets the eye. But how could Angel be ready for new feelings of love given the death of Julian had only recently occurred?

I didn't think the middle section of the book was a strong as the beginning and the latter third. Yes it was interesting to read of the descriptions of Mossby, how Carey was going to film a new series, and of Angel setting up her workshop and basically all the new and exciting plans for Mossby. But at times I felt it did become slightly repetitive and the story needed to be moved on a bit. There were several characters mentioned who did ring a bell with me as they did feature in a previous book I had read by this author but if you hadn't read that they wouldn't have meant that much to you. Also, there was no doubt impeccable research undertaken by the author into stained glass and its construction had been undertaken but I found there was just too much information around this for me to absorb and visualise. I stopped at one or two points to look up some of the techniques and terms used just so things would make more sense for me and to deepen my understanding. The storyline around Lady Anne's window was fascinating though and I felt as I said once we got to the later third the story really moved up a notch and I was keen to discover just exactly what was going at Mossby and why a certain creepy character acted the way they did?

The inquisitive side of Angel begins to emerge as she restores the famous window at Mossby and with Carey by her side things begin to take dramatic turns. Will the legends of Mossby come true and cause chaos, doom and gloom for all involved leaving no chance for happiness for anyone? Or will Carey and Angel be able to get to the root of the problems and solve the mystery once and for all. I loved how there were two major twists towards the end that I wouldn't have seen coming and I felt all the diary entries really paid off. Some readers I think might initially find them a hindrance and question whether they taint the flow of the story but I knew they had to have some validity and a need to be there and I am so glad I wasn't let down by the eventual outcome.

The House of Hopes and Dreams although not my favourite book by Trisha Ashley, I think that will forever be The Twelve Days of Christmas, but it does come quite close to it. It's a fun, enjoyable, escapist read that will have you hoping a happy ever after can be found for all involved.

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