It’s a pleasure today to join the blog tour and share my review of A Wedding in the Olive Garden by Leah Fleming. The ebook was published by Head of Zeus on 7th May, and is available for kindle, via Google Play, and for Kobo: the hardback will be published on 6th August, and you might like to preorder via Waterstones or Hive rather than the usual Amazon. The paperback is planned for release on 5th November. My thanks to Vicky at Head of Zeus for the invitation and support, and for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
Do you know, I can’t believe I’ve never read one of Leah’s books before – but I do know there are a few waiting on my kindle, including The Olive Garden Choir, where I know the author introduced us to Santanaki and some of the characters in this book. I must say that the gorgeous cover – wouldn’t you love to be there, right now? – drew me to this one immediately.
Let’s take a closer look…
Can an island in the sun provide the second chance Sara needs?
A warm and uplifting novel about love, friendship and new beginnings on the beautiful Greek island of Santaniki.
Sara Loveday flees home and crisis to the beautiful island of Santaniki. Here, amid olive groves and whitewashed stone villas, where dark cypress trees step down to a cobalt blue sea, Sara vows to change her life. Spotting a gap in the local tourist market, she sets up a wedding plan business, specialising in ‘second time around’ couples.
For her first big wedding, she borrows the olive garden of a local artists’ retreat, but almost at once things begin to go wrong. To make matters worse, a stranger from Sara’s past arrives on the island, spreading vicious lies. Can her business survive? And what will happen with the gorgeous new man who she’s begun to love?
This is a gorgeous, warm-hearted and uplifting novel conjuring the local colour, traditions and close bonds of island life.
If there was the slightest chance of you finding yourself on a sun lounger on a beach this year, this book really would be the perfect company – but read it in your garden in the sun instead, and you really should feel as transported as I did. I’ve spent many holidays in the Greek islands – including in Chania, where the characters do their necessary shopping and catch the ferry to Santanaki – and the author does a simply wonderful job of recreating the authentic feel of a small island community.
The supporting characters too have that same authenticity – their relationships, their behaviours, the way their society operates, their social gatherings – and I really, really enjoyed that.
The artists’ retreat was a wonderful idea, vividly recreated – I really would like to spend some time there, and maybe Don and I could have a few drinks together while he gives me some pointers on writing my novel. And I enjoyed many of the storylines, particularly the one about the rescued dog and everything that ensued, but also some of the threads drawing on the backgrounds of the various inhabitants. There’s a really large cast of characters, some of whom I felt I perhaps got to know better than others.
I will admit though that I did struggle a little bit to engage with Sarah – bearing in mind that I’m considerably older, I just found her a bit difficult to like – but the other characters, her other relationships, those shadows from her past and the developing romance more than compensated for that. And the romance was engaging and believable too – I really did rather admire his patience and persistence.
I was particularly intrigued by the whole concept of a “wedding planner” – it really did seem to consist of getting other people to do everything, particularly poor hard-pressed Mel at the taverna (I took to her character rather more!). But everyone seemed to like Sarah well enough, investing themselves in her success – and there are some excellent set pieces of various wedding celebrations, everyone pulling together, and a particularly uplifting and feel-good scene towards the book’s end.
But it’s the story’s setting and some of the local characters that will particularly stick in my memory – really beautifully done, a great escape from reality, and some particularly welcome armchair travel in current times…
About the author
After careers in teaching, catering, running a market stall, stress management courses in the NHS as well as being a mother of four, Leah Fleming found her true calling as a storyteller. She lives in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales but spends part of the year marinating her next tale from an olive grove on her favourite island of Crete.
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