It’s a pleasure today to be helping launch the blog tour for The Village Inn of Secret Dreams by Alison Sherlock, the third book in her Riverside Lane series, and to share my publication day review. Published by Boldwood Books, it’s now available as an e-book (free via Kindle Unlimited), in paperback, and as an audiobook. 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 through netgalley).
I’d been rather looking forward to another visit to Cranbridge and spending some more time with the lovely community of Riverside Lane. I thoroughly enjoyed The Village Shop for Lonely Hearts last year, the first in this lovely series (you’ll find my review here). And the second, The Village of Lost and Found, was every bit as lovely, pulling at the heartstrings a little, full of warmth and feel-good – and you’ll find a review of that one here. So I had no hesitation in coming back for a third…
Brand NEW from the bestselling author of The Village Shop For Lonely Hearts.
After escaping her parents’ unhappy marriage to sleepy Cranbridge a long time ago, Belle Clarke dreams of staying at The Black Swan Inn forever.
But with the rundown Inn threatened with closure, Belle may be forced to leave, unless a buyer can be found … quickly.
So, when her oldest friend Pete Kennedy returns from working abroad with a plan to save the Inn, Belle should be overjoyed. The trouble is, Pete has some rather radical ideas for the renovation which Belle disagrees with.
But when a snow storm hits, Belle and Pete are forced to put aside their differences and work together to help the village.
Can Belle realise her dreams to stay in Cranbridge and can Pete ever stop running from his past?
As they try to save The Black Swan Inn, secrets are revealed and just maybe they’ll finally find out how they really feel about each other.
I really do rather like it in Cranbridge – the village shop that Josh and Amber made such a success of restoring, the village hub that Tom and Lucy created, the river running through the centre, the community that gather at the seating on the verandah. And that lovely community also gather at the village pub, The Black Swan – although it’s distinctly neglected, the welcome there’s not always the warmest one, the food leaves a lot to be desired, and the landlords are constantly at each others’ throats. And when they finally decide they’ve had enough, and the pub goes up for sale, everyone wonders what might happen next – especially Belle, as it’s been her home for a long time.
Josh’s brother Pete comes to the rescue – he fled the village after their father’s death, and never planned to stay permanently, but can see that the pub has real possibilities and has ideas about how it could be improved. There’s a bit of history between him and Belle, and a frisson of attraction – but their ideas about the pub’s future are rather different. It does look as if he’ll only do it up and then move on again – there’s a big secret that makes him less than comfortable to be back in Cranbridge.
I really enjoyed the relationship between Pete and Belle. She’s always been a little bit spiky, but we find out the reasons why – and there’s a touch of sadness about her as her future looks less than secure. Their exchanges as they clash over Pete’s plans to create a Michelin-starred restaurant spark and fizz – and we see things from Pete’s point of view too, as he wrestles with his feelings for her and works through his own discomfort over the secret he’s keeping. They go from friends to enemies, and then back to friends and something more – the outcome’s never really in any real doubt, but I did enjoy the journey. And I also really liked seeing the pub’s transformation – although it might not have been the best idea inviting a restaurant critic to opening night with a new and untested chef and a space that’s still rather less than customer-friendly. Thank goodness for Dodgy Del – and his extended family!
The friendships developed in the previous books were ever present – but don’t worry if this is your first visit to Cranbridge, you’ll feel at home very quickly. The author is an accomplished storyteller, the humour is gentle and well-handled, and so is the emotional content – and all the characters, however peripheral to the story, are really well drawn. And as well as all the problems around communication, there’s a really nice focus on loneliness and isolation and the kindness of others that warms the heart, along with the support of friends and the importance of family. And yes, the snow starts to fall and there’s a perfect touch of Christmas too.
It’s really was a lovely read – and I’ll be looking forward to another visit to Cranbridge in the not-too-distant future.
About the author
Alison Sherlock is the author of the bestselling Willow Tree Hall books. Alison enjoyed reading and writing stories from an early age and gave up office life to follow her dream. Her new series for Boldwood is set in a fictional Cotswold Village: the first title, The Village Shop for Lonely Hearts, was published in July 2020.