It’s a real pleasure today to be sharing my review of A Hare’s Footprint by Celia Moore: independently published on 1st May, the third and final part of the Fox Halt Farm trilogy, this lovely book is now available via Amazon for kindle (free via Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback. If you’d prefer to buy a paperback copy direct from the author, you can do so through her website, and she’ll also be happy to add a personal dedication: and if you’ve missed out on the first two books in the series, she also offers the option of buying a full set of all three books at a reduced price.
This is a rather special review for me – a bit more of a personal one than usual, because I’ve been privileged to follow Celia’s writing journey from the very beginning. Way back in November 2017, having got to know her quite well in the run-up to publication, I wrote a review of the first book in this series, Fox Halt Farm (you can read it again here). The story was both complex and ambitious, and – although I really did enjoy it – I had to admit that I didn’t find it entirely perfect. She – very bravely – asked me for more detailed feedback, and I (equally bravely!) did just that. Using the feedback she’d received from a number of early readers, Celia then revised the book – that’s the edition that’s now available, and I was immensely touched that she chose to place a quote from my review on the front cover.
The second in the series, Culmfield Cuckoo, was published in March 2019 – and that review was so much easier to write (you’ll find the review here). It was equally ambitious in scale, but so well paced and constructed – combining the continuing romance of Billy and Richard with a strong and convincing story of family mystery and intrigue, full of unexpected and well-handled twists and turns, and the unfolding edge-of-the-seat drama kept me reading into the early hours.
And now I’m rather sad that we’ve reached the last book in the series… it feels like the end of an era, but I just know that Celia’s head will be full of ideas for whatever comes next, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing whatever direction her writing takes.
Celia Moore’s A Hare’s Footprint is the final part of the Fox Halt Farm trilogy – the compelling epic tale with a backdrop of Dartmoor, Devon continues…
There is so much of the past that Billy has spent years avoiding.
There’s a future where dreams could rip everything apart.
And someone has a deadly vendetta.
Should you grasp at your dreams?
It’s quite a long time since I read the last book in this series, Culmfield Cuckoo, so I must say I particularly appreciated the catch-up introduction to this one, that covers – in some detail – everything that’s gone before. It also means that it would be entirely possible for new readers to try it as a standalone – although I’ll admit that it was so much more satisfying, as the story revisits so many memories and reverberations from the past, to have read and enjoyed the first two books.
Fox Halt Farm itself is very much the anchor for the story – day-to-day life on the farm is vividly drawn, the setting detailed and quite beautifully described and brought to life. Billy has worked tremendously hard to make the farm a success, dependent on its Friesian herd for the production of the dairy products that have given it such a strong and positive local reputation. Her mother Daniella is still a vibrant presence, always people-focused (in a way that often made me smile), caring for all the family and friends who support their enterprise, and also for all the animal waifs and strays who come their way.
But then there’s husband Richard – and alarm bells begin to ring when we discover that he’s considerably less involved, only home at weekends while his weekdays are spent mentoring Arthur in readiness for him taking over the reins at the family supermarket chain. But retirement is fast approaching, and he’s looking forward to the purchase of a camper van, finally being able to leave behind the treadmill of his working life. It’s amply clear though that Billy’s dreams are very different – the farm is her life, and when the opportunity unexpectedly arises to diversify into ice cream manufacture, she throws herself into the new venture with her usual passion. Although there’s clearly love between them, they’re poles apart – and as she tangles with all the technicalities around the new enterprise, that gulf between them steadily widens.
But there’s so much more to this book than the mapping of a struggling relationship – in addition to the absence of Richard’s support, external factors begin to make the successful launch of the new business increasingly difficult. Someone doesn’t want it to be a success – at first interference with a planning application, then increasingly serious acts of sabotage that threaten the future of the farm itself and endanger the lives of those who call it home.
And if that whole story isn’t compelling enough, the book also explores the lives and relationships of the large cast of supporting characters whose lives are tied in with Fox Hall Farm and nearby Culmfield. That’s where the echoes of the past play into the story – as the various relationships change and develop, there are quite a few surprises in store as the deep secrets of the past refuse to stay buried.
The story is told from the viewpoints of both Billy and Richard, and it’s particularly well done – while it’s easy to share the sadnesses and losses of her past, her passion for moving the business in a new direction no matter what the obstacles, her excitement and her heartbreak when things don’t proceed in the way she hopes, it’s equally easy to understand Richard’s sadness and frustration that their goals and vision of the future are so very different. And while the early pace of the book is relatively steady – an opportunity to re-familiarise yourself with the characters, to understand the relationships and tensions – the drama and suspense steadily escalates as the threat and danger becomes increasingly real, and the book’s grip becomes a fraught and emotional one, particularly well sustained by the confidence of the writing.
I’ve really enjoyed this series, following the many ups and downs of the changes in the lives of its key characters. At its heart is a strong and convincing romance that ebbs and flows, and the warmth of the many family relationships and friendships – but all layered with secrets, betrayal and heartbreak. And this book brings it all to a close in a way I thoroughly enjoyed – this is, without question, the strongest book in the series, and a very fitting final act.
And just another big thank you to Celia – for including me in her acknowledgements, and for using my quote on the book’s back cover. I’m already really looking forward to seeing what she does next…
About the author
1967, when I was born, my parents lived on a small farm near Moretonhampstead in Devon UK and I have a treasured photo of Dad with his plough horses, Blossom and Pleasant. He could work an acre a day, and B and P knew to stop if the plough was about to hit one of the many rocks sticking out of the ground.
Later, we moved to a farm, 30 miles away, near Whiddon Down and kept a small dairy herd. The farm never made money and my parents eventually sold up. Dad then worked in a local cheese factory, a massive change in his fifties but he said he loved the regular wage, lack of worry and set hours. I think he loved the camaraderie of his new work mates most of all – it’s lonely on a farm sometimes. I studied for my degree in London and had a career with Lloyds Bank in London, Bristol and Taunton working as a Chartered Surveyor but in 2000, I followed a dream to North Wales, training to be an outdoor instructor, teaching rock-climbing, canoeing, mountaineering, and even skiing. I climbed everything I could in the beautiful national park.
Next, I moved to Somerset to teach in an outdoor education centre. I ran additional programmes for children excluded from school and children in care, instructing many different activities including archery, rifle shooting and mountain biking – and ended up managing one of the centres! I loved watching the non-academic children shine and the activities allowed teachers to see some pupils in a new light too.
When, in 2008, I met my husband, it wasn’t fair to expect him to put up with my all-consuming job. He is the best thing that has ever happened to me – and I gave up teaching and came to live with him back in Devon – home at last! By the way, I had actually been in primary school with Paul but I hadn’t seen him for 25 years when we met up again!
Today, I work as a gardener, eat cake, drink tea and chat. Many of my customers have lost their other halves to cancer and I feel what I do now is wholly appreciated. I run too so I can eat more cake. I have completed the London Marathon 4 times but won’t do it again until I’m 60 when I hope I’ve forgotten how hard it was last time!
In winter 2016, I started blacksmithing to earn some money when there wasn’t much gardening to do. I created organically inspired items for gardens (sundials, bird feeders, arches etc.) but that all stopped when I woke up one morning with a story in my head that I just had to write – and now I garden most of the year and write whenever I can. I love writing and by book 7 I hope to have discovered exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
My debut novel, Fox Halt Farm was published in 2017, Culmfield Cuckoo its sequel in 2019, and the final part of the Fox Halt Farm Trilogy, A Hare’s Footprint, was published in May 2021. To find out more do visit my website or social media pages.