It might surprise you to know that although Jenny Kane is a regular visitor here at Being Anne, I’ve never actually managed to read any of her books – and isn’t that just awful? When Aria Fiction invited me to join the blog tour for the first book in her new series, Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, I’d planned to just share an extract, but I so liked the look of this one that I’ve also managed to read it and I’m delighted to share my review. Thank you to Aria for providing my e-copy: this book was published on 25th June and you can buy your copy from Amazon for your kindle and in paperback , or it’s also available via Google Play or for Kobo.
Thea Thomas needs to get away from her old life… and the interfering ex who won’t leave her alone. When she lands a job heading up the restoration of Mill Grange, a stunning Victorian manor, it feels like the perfect opportunity to start afresh.
What Thea didn’t anticipate was how hostile the volunteer team, led by the formidable Mabel Hastings, would be about accepting new leadership. And with the deadline looming before the grand opening, Thea is in desperate need of more volunteers.
A broadcast appeal on the local news attracts the interest of arrogant but undeniably attractive celebrity historian Shaun Cowlson, who wants to make a TV programme about the restoration. It’s hard enough adding one more big personality to the mix – but then her ex turns up as one of the volunteers! What seemed like a dream come true is fast becoming a total disaster! Can Thea find a way to save the manor?
Well, I’m delighted to report that I’ve been right to spread the word about Jenny Kane’s books – I really should have tried one rather sooner! This book was thoroughly lovely, the perfect light summer read, and everything I wanted it to be.
The characters, I thought were excellent – I took to Thea from outset as she escaped to her fresh start at Mill Grange, understandably shaken by attentions of her distinctly creepy ex, feeling her way in a new job that’s rather a change of direction for her. I enjoyed her friendship with Tina too – another strong character, perhaps a tad superficial in many ways but with considerably more about her than it first appears.
The team of volunteers are all wonderfully drawn too – particularly Mabel with her high level of resentment and aroma of vinegar, but the glimpses of her home life and the way her character develops ensure that she’s never the caricature that she could so easily have become. The focus widens to take in characters from the wider surrounding community too, and that’s always something I rather enjoy.
I particularly liked the book’s setting – Mill Grange is vividly drawn, the details of its renovation, the impending opening celebrations and the question mark over its future driving the overarching story. The surroundings of Exmoor are well used too – there’s that really strong sense of place that I always look for and enjoy.
The romance elements are something I equally enjoyed – both romantic threads have their unexpected twists and turns, and both are entirely satisfying (and particularly heartwarming) in the way they’re resolved.
But there’s also a fair bit of well developed tension too – both over the future of Mill Grange and the dogged and determined pursuit by Thea’s increasingly sinister ex. And there’s one particular episode that had me on the edge of my seat, real danger particularly well handled and very well written.
And while I’m talking about the writing, I will mention how much I loved that too. The author has a style that’s very easy to read, comfortable to relax and disappear into – this was perfect summer reading, and most definitely recommended.
Even better, it’s the first in a three book series – the second book, Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange will follow on 10th September, and is available for preorder.
Let’s try an extract too – give you the opportunity to meet Thea, Tina, and the formidable Mabel…
The meeting hadn’t started, yet no companionable chatter criss-crossed the table. The lemon cake remained untouched. Mugs of tea and coffee mugs cooled, un-drunk. The alcohol sat unopened. Thea struggled not to squirm as eight sets of eyes rested on her. Only Tina was smiling.
The faces of the volunteers – five women and two men – held an air of awkward patience which declared they’d listen politely, but then they’d carry on as they had before.
With an encouraging nod from Tina, Thea cradled her coffee cup. Taking comfort from its warmth, she broke the uneasy silence.
‘First of all, I’d like to thank you all, not just for coming out this evening, but for everything you’ve achieved at Mill Grange over the past five years.’
Not allowing anyone the chance to comment, Thea ploughed on with a speech she’d been semi-rehearsing on and off since she’d arranged the meeting two days ago. ‘It’s incredible what you’ve done, and—’ seeing a flicker of objection in Mabel’s eyes, Thea hurriedly raised her palm ‘—I don’t mean incredible in a patronising way. You’ve had few resources, a limited budget and no training. Everything you’ve achieved has been for the pure love of it. I have tried to tell you how much I admire your work ethic and how much I can see you all care for Mill Grange…’
‘But?’ Mabel put down the tea mug she’d just lifted up with an exaggerated thump.
‘There is no but.’ Hoping her rising anxiety didn’t show, Thea continued to address the stony faces around the table. ‘Whatever I’ve done to offend you, I’m truly sorry, but we need to work together. We owe it to Mill Grange.’
‘We?’ Mabel’s eyes narrowed. ‘You turn up one day out of the blue, without a word of warning, and take over. How do you think that made us feel?’
‘What?’ Puzzled, Thea turned to Tina, who appeared equally baffled. ‘You didn’t know I was coming to work here?’
Mabel tilted her head to one side, clearly unconvinced that Thea hadn’t been aware she’d been a surprise to them. ‘We did not.’
Tina lowered her coffee cup from her lips. ‘You were sent an email, Mabel. I was copied in on it, so I know it was both sent and received. The chief trustee, Malcolm, fired it off to you personally as he sees you as the volunteers’ spokesperson.’
‘An email.’ Mabel spoke flatly as she looked down at her clenched hands, and Thea guessed that checking her email was something that rarely crossed the old lady’s mind.
Taking the diplomatic path, Thea said, ‘Obviously it can’t have reached you, Mabel. The Internet is hardly reliable here. So, it appears I was thrust upon you without warning. But I promise you, I didn’t know you were unaware of my appointment.’ She looked across to Tina for confirmation. ‘To be honest, I was surprised a representative from the volunteers wasn’t at the interview.’
‘In normal circumstances they might have been. Perhaps because you came so highly recommended, they didn’t see the need this time.’
Thankful that most of the volunteers were beginning to look less hostile, Thea took a sustaining sip of coffee. ‘Maybe we can start again?’
About the author
From the comfort of her cafe corner in Mid Devon, award winning author, Jenny Kane, wrote the contemporary women’s fiction and romance novels, A Cornish Escape (2nd edition, HeadlineAccent, 2020), A Cornish Wedding (2nd edition, HeadlineAccent, 2020), Romancing Robin Hood (2nd edition, Littwitz Press, 2018), Another Glass of Champagne (Accent Press, 2016), and Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013).
She has also written 3 novella length sequels to her Another Cup of… books: Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014), and Christmas at the Castle(Accent, 2016). These three seasonal specials are now available in one boxed set entitled Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection (Accent, 2016)
Jenny Kane is the writer in residence for Tiverton Costa in Devon. She also co-runs the creative writing business, Imagine. Jenny teaches a wide range of creative writing workshops including her popular ‘Novel in a Year’ course.