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…
I eagerly anticipate the release of every new book by Erica James, and I’ve just thoroughly enjoyed reading her latest, The Dandelion Years, to be released on 26th February by Orion in hardback and for kindle. I’m an unashamed fan of Erica James’ writing – I reviewed Summer at the Lake last year, and mentioned my other favourite of hers, Hidden Talents. And this book delivered everything I could have asked for – and maybe just a little more.
The modern story – centred on Saskia and her extended family living in the idyllic cottage – is quite perfect. If they had a spare room, you’d want to move in – all the family members very quickly become your closest friends, and your heart aches over the tragedy that brought them together, caring for each other as they do, and continues to impact on their lives. The wartime story revealed in the notebook is equally perfect, and seamlessly integrated into the modern story, with connections that are revealed as the story progresses. It’s a wonderful and heartbreaking love story, as well as being a fascinating and well-researched story about the lives of the code-breakers at Bletchley Park.
It was a thoroughly lovely read. As with all of Erica James’ books, I totally escaped into its pages for as long as I was reading, living every twist and turn with her beautifully drawn characters, feeling every emotion, sighing as it drew to a close and setting it aside with a smile. If I were being critical – and it’s a very minor quibble – I was perhaps ready for the final threads to be drawn together a little sooner than the characters were. But I thoroughly enjoyed it – two lovely stories for the price of one, and it should delight everyone who has ever enjoyed her books, and (if there’s any justice) win her many new fans too.
(My thanks to netgalley and publishers Orion for my advance reading e-copy.)
With an insatiable appetite for other people’s business, Erica James will readily strike up conversation with strangers in the hope of unearthing a useful gem for her writing. She finds it the best way to write authentic characters for her novels, although her two grown-up sons claim they will never recover from a childhood spent in a perpetual state of embarrassment at their mother’s compulsion.
The author of eighteen previous bestselling novels, including Gardens of Delight which won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, Erica now divides her time between Cheshire and Lake Como in Italy, where she now strikes up conversation with unsuspecting Italians.