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 spot 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. Daisy’s heart’s desire − her parent’s garden − is under threat, and Daisy’s forced to confront nosey neighbours and fight greedy developers. Village life is turning out to be far from peaceful.
When I reviewed Rachael Lucas’ first novel, Sealed With A Kiss, in May of last year, I reflected on my fussiness when choosing my reads. Even when the book itself is a little lighter, the characters need to have depth, there needs to be a good engaging story with a little more than simply boy meets girl, there must be a little light and dark, and the supporting characters need to be as well drawn as the main ones. And the writing needs to be good – I just won’t read a book if the writing isn’t good. Sealed With A Kiss delivered at every level. And I’ve now just finished Coming Up Roses – published by Pan on 21st May in paperback and for Kindle – and loved it every bit as much as I did her first.
The story is quite perfect, beautifully written, easy to escape into. Steeple St John is a wonderful village setting, and I loved the way that Daisy started out doing little but gardening, walking the dog and licking her wounds, but slowly got drawn into village life with its large cast of characters and very real everyday dramas. The female friendships are really well drawn – both Elaine and Jo were as well drawn as Daisy herself, and their issues real and challenging. I loved the support they provided for each other, the funny moments and the tears.
There’s a love interest for Daisy, of course – two of them really – but gently handled and almost incidental to the other strands of the plot. I loved the detail about the gardens, and Daisy’s warm friendship with pensioner Thomas, with his notebook of details about the original plantings and philosophical attitude towards change. The depiction of village life was wonderful – the village pub, the allotments, the fete, the barbecue and the inevitable organiser with the clipboard (who proves far more likeable than she first seems).
I adore a book where you get totally involved in the lives of the characters, think of them as friends, really invest yourself in things turning out as you hope… and feel a real sense of loss when you close the book and have to say goodbye. If you’ve enjoyed books by Katie Fforde, Judy Astley or Lucy Diamond, you’ll love this one. The writing is every bit as strong, the characters and setting as vividly drawn, the emotional engagement just as great, the humour as perfectly handled, and the whole book every bit as engrossing. And when this is only the author’s second novel, that’s high praise indeed – and thoroughly well-deserved.
My thanks to netgalley and publishers Pan for my advance reading e-copy.
Rachael Lucas is an author, coach and freelance writer. Her debut novel Sealed With A Kiss was downloaded over 130,000 times on Kindle and was a bestseller.
She lives and works in a Victorian house by the seaside in the North West of England with her partner (also a writer) and their six children.
Find out more about Rachael at her website , have a look at the planning boards for her books on Pinterest and you can follow her on Twitter.