I’m so delighted today to be helping launch the blog tour for The Beauty of Broken Things by Victoria Connelly, and sharing my review. Published yesterday (9th June) by Lake Union Publishing this gorgeous book is now available for kindle, in paperback and as an audiobook via Amazon in the UK, US and Australia. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
Well, it might have taken me rather longer than I’d ever planned to discover Victoria Connelly’s lovely writing, but I’m very glad indeed that I finally have. In April I finally got round to reading The Book Lovers, and absolutely loved it – you’ll find my review here. Fair to say, I think, that this book is very different from that earlier series – but I think I loved it even more…
United by tragedy, can two broken souls make each other whole?
After the tragic loss of his wife, Helen, Luke Hansard is desperate to keep her memory alive. In an effort to stay close to her, he reaches out to an online friend Helen often mentioned: a reclusive photographer with a curious interest in beautiful but broken objects. But first he must find her—and she doesn’t want to be found.
Orla Kendrick lives alone in the ruins of a remote Suffolk castle, hiding from the haunting past that has left her physically and emotionally scarred. In her fortress, she can keep a safe distance from prying eyes, surrounded by her broken treasures and insulated from the world outside.
When Luke tracks Orla down, he is determined to help her in the way Helen wanted to: by encouraging her out of her isolation and back into the world. But Orla has never seen her refuge as a prison and, when painful secrets and dangerous threats begin to resurface, Luke’s good deed is turned on its head.
As they work through their grief for Helen in very different ways, will these two broken souls be able to heal?
I already knew Victoria Connelly wrote beautifully – but I really didn’t know she could write this beautifully. This book was stunning – not a romance, conventional or otherwise, but overflowing with love. The first chapter lulls you into a false sense of security, perhaps making you feel that you know what is to come – then something happens that turns the whole book into something entirely different.
It becomes a portrait of two damaged people – not just damaged, more like broken – and the extraordinary support they give to each other as they make their tentative steps towards recovery. As a portrait of Luke’s loss and grief, it makes you ache inside – I shed tears in the second chapter, and they most certainly weren’t the last. And then there’s Orla – isolated by choice in her castle home, seeing no-one, only venturing outside into her secluded garden or to the deserted nearby beach with her dog, collecting the damaged pieces of beautiful china that arrive in regularly delivered parcels, posting her wonderful photographs on the Galleria website.
And that’s how she “met’ Luke’s wife Helen – a shared love of photography and accompanying words that built into an on-line friendship and a mutual affection. Helen left her a gift, and Luke feels so driven by the need to fulfil her wishes and place it in her hands that he tracks Orla down through a series of small clues in her photographs. In very slow steps, they begin to find comfort in each other’s presence, as builder Luke carries out repairs to her home – but it’s a very long way to any possibility of “and they both lived happily ever after”, as the author tracks the way that Luke’s grief ebbs and flows, and Orla’s steady unfurling sometimes falters. I won’t explain Orla’s love for damaged and broken things – but when her story emerges, shared with Luke in a scene etched permanently in my memory, the parallels and symbolism become evident (and rather perfect).
Although the book deals very realistically with the extremes of grief, there’s nothing mawkish or depressing about it – it’s heartwarming, uplifting, sometimes positively joyous, full of hope, with a real lightness in many of their interactions, and some nice touches of humour. It’s a book of “moments”, all exquisitely drawn, as both Orla and Luke continue their healing process. It’s an unexpectedly compelling read too – particularly when the author introduces a very real threat, an edge of danger with the potential to reverse all the progress they’ve made.
The book’s primary focus is on its two main characters, and that’s as it should be – but there are a small few others, wonderfully drawn, part of the healing process, each growing increasingly nuanced and rounded as Orla begins to re-enter the world. And the vividness of the book’s setting is exceptional – the castle itself almost becomes a third main character, the Suffolk countryside and coastline and the surrounding communities beautifully drawn.
I adored this book – I read it in a single sitting, totally unable to tear myself away from the characters, emotionally engaged to the very last page. And the ending was beautiful, totally right for the story, and perfectly judged – it filled me with joy, and then I set the book aside and cried again. Don’t miss this one – a very special book indeed, and an exceptionally talented author.
About the author
Victoria Connelly studied English literature at Worcester University, got married in a medieval castle in the Yorkshire Dales and now lives in rural Suffolk with her artist husband, a young springer spaniel and a flock of ex-battery hens.
She is the author of two bestselling series, Austen Addicts and The Book Lovers, as well as many other novels and novellas. Her first published novel, Flights of Angels, was made into a film in 2008 by Ziegler Films in Germany. The Runaway Actress was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romantic Comedy Novel award.
Victoria loves books, films, walking, historic buildings and animals. If she isn’t at her keyboard writing, she can usually be found in her garden, with either a trowel in her hand or a hen on her lap.
Her website is www.victoriaconnelly.com where readers can download a free novella.