I’m a little late to the party – I’ve never had to miss a blog tour date before – but I’m delighted today to finally share my review of The Secrets of Hawthorn Place by Jenni Keer. Published by Headline Accent on 14th October, this lovely book is available as an ebook (and just 99p for your kindle), 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 via netgalley) – and thank you to everyone for their patience!
I’m such a fan of Jenni Keer’s writing, and I’m delighted to see her returning with a new publisher and a book I was so looking forward to reading. Her first book, The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker, was the loveliest read – all those misunderstandings, such great characters, and that perfect balance between the comedy and those moments that tore at your heart (you’ll find my review here). And then she went and did it again – The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows was such a special book, and I really loved everything about it (and it was one of my 2019 Books of the Year – you’ll find my review here). This one looked a little different – “a heartfelt and charming dual-time story of the power of love” – and I really couldn’t wait…
Love will always find a way… Discover the intriguing secrets of Hawthorn Place in this heartfelt dual-time novel, filled with warmth and charm, perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley and Cecelia Ahern.
Two houses, hundreds of miles apart… yet connected always.
When life throws Molly Butterfield a curveball, she decides to spend some time with her recently widowed granddad, Wally, at Hawthorn Place, his quirky Victorian house on the Dorset coast.
But cosseted Molly struggles to look after herself, never mind her grieving granddad, until the accidental discovery of an identical Art and Crafts house on the Norfolk coast offers her an unexpected purpose, as well as revealing a bewildering mystery.
Discovering that both Hawthorn Place and Acacia House were designed by architect Percy Gladwell, Molly uncovers the secret of a love which linked them, so powerful it defied reason.
What follows is a summer which will change Molly for ever…
I love a dual-time story, and it all started so well – the beautiful medieval love poem, Percy Gladwell’s letter of farewell to “darling Violet” before stepping off the cliff at West Bay on the Jurassic coast. And then the story returns to the present day – that’s what happens in a dual-time story – and we meet Molly, down on her luck, expecting her mother and stepfather to bail her out in the way they always have. She might be 24, but she really has the life skills of a 12-year-old – she’s selfish and entitled, could be a poster girl for everything us oldies see as “the problem with the younger generation”, and I disliked her intensely. And worse still, I then realised that the present day story was going to be told in the first person, so there would be no escape from her whiney voice. For a (very) short while, I thought I might not be able to carry on reading – but then I remembered that this was a novel by one of my favourite authors, so I really just needed to knuckle down and get on with it.
And this time, the parents don’t come to her rescue – she treats her rather lovely stepfather like he’s something on her shoe, and you fear she’s going to win her mother over once again as she greets her with a pink gin and a sympathetic ear, but it’s just not going to happen this time. Instead, she’s saved by an invitation to spend the summer with her widowed grandfather, in his Victorian Arts and Crafts house on the Dorset cliffs – and when she arrives she finds that he’s really struggling after the loss of his beloved Briggy, surviving on toast and spending his days in front of the telly rather than tending the garden he’s always loved, and the house is wreathed with dust. Housework and cooking aren’t skills that Molly has ever acquired, but it soon becomes clear that she needs to step up a little: and her inept attempts become increasingly funny, I began to enjoy the relationship between them both, and found I was reading with a wide smile on my face.
And then Molly discovers – and it’s more than my life’s worth to tell you how, but there’s a touch of real magic – that there’s an identical quirky house in Norfolk, far more at home in its surroundings. The story then alternates between both houses – they’re almost characters in the story, quite wonderfully described and brought to life – with dips back into the past and the enthralling love affair between Percy, the house’s architect, and out-of-reach Violet. Molly becomes fascinated by the houses’ history – while learning some of those life skills she was so severely lacking, discovering what’s important and turning her life around, and having a few romantic encounters of her own.
I honestly think that might be one of the worst synopses I’ve ever written – I really haven’t sold you the book yet, have I? I just so desperately don’t want to spoil the book for anyone – and there are a few real surprises along the way – but I must say that I absolutely loved every moment. I might not have taken to Molly when I first met her, but by the end she’d entirely won my heart – her journey’s a difficult one, but I adored her as she made one big mistake after another, every twist and turn of her story exceptionally funny but also, at times, emotional and extremely touching. And if you enjoy things emotional, you’re going to just love Percy and Violet’s turn-of-the-century love affair, revisited regularly as the book progresses – there were times when it really broke my heart.
This is quite wonderful writing – the author has an exceptional imagination that took my breath away, and the whole premise of the book is highly original and so well-handled. The characterisation is simply wonderful – I grew to love Molly, I adored her grandfather, but the whole supporting cast is quite tremendous, as are the very real relationships between them all. There’s a lot of love in this book, quite beautifully done, and the humour’s spot-on too – every shade from subtle to slapstick – and there were plenty of moments that made me laugh out loud, only to be wiping away a little tear a few pages later.
It’s well-researched and totally captivating, the author’s writing has never been better, and I adored every moment – it perhaps wasn’t entirely the book I was expecting it to be, but that only made me love it more. What a story – thoroughly recommended to all.
With thanks to Jenni and Rachel, I’m delighted to offer one lucky reader (UK only) the chance to win a signed copy of The Secrets of Hawthorn Place, plus chocolate and a sparkly pen.
Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions UK entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team. Jenni is also the author of The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker and The Unexpected Life of Maisie Meadows.