It’s a delight today to be joining the blog tour for Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow by the wonderful Jessica Redland: published yesterday (4th May) by Boldwood Books, it’s now available as an ebook (free via Kindle Unlimited), in paperback and as an audiobook. Thank you 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).
This is the third of Jessica’s Hedgehog Hollow books, and the fact that I’m here (again!) probably tells you all you need to know about how much I’m enjoying this series. You’ll find my review here of the first book, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow: my review of the second, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow is here. I’m growing to love this series every bit as much as the books set in Whitsborough Bay – Jessica’s a personal favourite, and has been for a while, so if you pop her name into the search bar you’ll find reviews of most of those books too.
Now, I do remember there were a few loose threads and a rather dramatic ending for the last book – let’s find out what’s been going on with Samantha, Josh, their families and the hedgehogs…
Every family has its secrets, and at Hedgehog Hollow there is no exception…
It was always Samantha’s dream to run her beautiful rescue centre, Hedgehog Hollow, full-time. But just as her wish comes true, she becomes a victim of her own kindness when she finds herself with a house full of guests – all with their own problems and secrets – looking to her for support.
When her self-absorbed cousin, Chloe, unexpectedly turns up at the farm – swiftly handing over her baby to Samantha to care for – trouble is definitely brewing. Especially as Chloe won’t tell anyone why she’s left her husband, James…
As Samantha juggles new hedgehog arrivals, family dramas and her own health challenges, it soon becomes clear that she needs to start putting herself first for once. Little does she know that life-changing secrets from the past are about to unravel and turn their lives upside down…
Return to glorious Hedgehog Hollow with top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for a heartwarming, emotional but uplifting story of family, friendship and moving on from the past.
I read this book on a wet and windy Bank Holiday Monday, in a single wonderful sitting. This is the third in the series, and I always feel really at home at Hedgehog Hollow – a bit like being enveloped in a warm hug, with a smile on my face before I’ve even read a word. Although it’s obviously better to read a series in order (and why wouldn’t you want to read them all – they’re gorgeous!), there’s a really useful catch-up on the story so far at the start of this book, and a list of characters for you to refer back to (should you need to), and I thought that was an excellent idea – and it really does make this latest book even more readable as a standalone.
But I’ve been to Hedgehog Hollow before, and I was really looking forward to seeing how life was treating Sam and Josh, what was happening with their small patients and with all that extended family and their various relationships. If you’ve read the earlier books, you’ll already know her cousin Chloe – they were once close friends, but a particular act of treachery has made their relationship distinctly strained ever since. But when she arrives at Hedgehog Hollow, with her baby son, in a state of disarray, refusing to tell anyone why she’s run away from her marriage, warm-hearted Sam is happy to provide her with sanctuary.
The voice of the story alternates between Sam and Chloe – the first is a character you can’t help but take to your heart, but liking and understanding Chloe is considerably more difficult. For the first quarter of the book, I disliked her intensely – even her inner thoughts have a selfishness and petulance about them, she’s totally unaware and unconcerned about the impact of her behaviour, and the way she treats Sam is quite appalling. It’s brave writing, but it’s exceptionally well done – as Chloe’s story unfolds, you slowly come to understand the reasons why she behaves the way she does. I’m not going to spoil anything by telling more, but it’s quite a story, with some quite serious issues sensitively handled – and as the full story emerges, Chloe undergoes something of a transformation and becomes once more the caring friend Sam remembers from their younger years. I can’t say I ever grew to particularly like her – but I certainly sympathised, and came to understand her rather better.
And as Chloe’s story unfolds, Sam continues to develop the hedgehog sanctuary, with increasing numbers of new admissions, along with hosting visits from groups of primary school children, supported by the wonderful Josh and her friends and family. And as they support her, Sam opens her home and heart to them too – I particularly liked the way her relationship developed with Beth, Josh’s former girlfriend, now the partner of Josh’s dad Paul who’s going through a few challenges of his own. And while we’re talking about relationships, there’s some really interesting developments in Sam’s difficult one with her mother – I really liked the way that was handled, very real and particularly touching. But although the external threat to the sanctuary has been removed, it continues to have an impact on Sam’s health and peace of mind – another issue beautifully handled, its slightly darker edge casting a few shadows.
The book’s title and cover might make you think this would be a light and heartwarming story, something nice and easy to spend an afternoon with – and in so many ways, it certainly is. But the author never shies away from the bigger issues, and there’s a meatiness to the story at times that I particularly welcomed. I think I’ve probably mentioned before – in earlier reviews – how well she draws and develops her characters, making them real individuals that you engage with and believe in, and in this book does that more strongly than ever. And I think I must say a word about the book’s ending – the central story is complete and tied up, but there’s a really tantalising hook into the next book in the series, and more than a hint of trouble to come – I really liked that, although I really didn’t need a hook as I’m looking forward to it already.
Her best yet? Despite Chloe, yes, I think it really might be. I’ve been reading the author’s books for a few years now, and it’s been a delight to see her style and storytelling increasing in confidence and maturity, bringing her the success and attention she’s always very much deserved.
Jessica published an excellent article yesterday on the dangers of writing an unlikeable character – well worth a read, and you’ll find it here.
About the author
Jessica Redland writes uplifting stories of love, friendship, family and community set in Yorkshire where she lives. Her Whitsborough Bay books transport readers to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast and her Hedgehog Hollow series takes them into beautiful countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds.