It’s an absolute pleasure today to share my publication day review of The Start of Something by Miranda Dickinson. Published by HQ today, it’s now available as an ebook, in paperback, and as an audiobook. My thanks to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy, and for inviting me to share my review today.
I haven’t read a book by Miranda Dickinson since A Parcel for Anna Browne way back in 2015 (you’ll find my review here) – do you know, there are times when I even surprise myself. Back in 2019 I really enjoyed hearing her talk as part of a panel at the Chase Bookfest, and vowed to try one of her books “soon” – and, although I’m not a regular, I’ve really enjoyed some of her Chatty Thing evenings (Wednesday nights, if you’d like to join in…) on her Facebook author page. I really liked the look of her last book, Our Story – Linda at Linda’s Book Bag wrote a lovely review that you can find here, and I almost always love the same books as she does – but I just couldn’t find a space on my reading list. So this time, I grabbed a review copy with unseemly haste when this book first appeared on netgalley – and then the publication date began to slip further and further away. But it’s out at last, and I have to say I really loved it…
Two lonely people.
One note in the window.
And what happens when they reach out…
Lachlan Wallace is stuck at home after a car accident stalled his army career. With months of physiotherapy still to endure and only his rescue dog and cat for company, he’s taken to gazing out of the window, watching the world spin on without him. And then he notices a vase of flowers on the windowsill of the apartment opposite his. Drawn to their hope and colour, he decides to reach out and sticks a message in his window…
Bethan Gwynne is a stranger in a new town. Bringing up her son Noah by herself, she is slowly rebuilding her life, but loneliness is one obstacle she has yet to overcome. She’s intrigued by a glimpse of her neighbour in the apartment across from hers – and then, one evening, she sees a message in his window just for her:
WHAT ARE THOSE FLOWERS CALLED?
And so begins a love story of two people reaching out, daring to trust a stranger…
As this story begins, Lachlan’s boredom and frustration is something you can really feel – a formerly super-fit military man, confined to his flat after a life-changing accident, visited only by his cheery physio and his friend who seems to have his own agenda. The company of Bert the dog and Ernie the cat keep him going – well just about – but when he notices a young woman moving into the flat opposite it provides a welcome diversion.
Bethan finally has a home where she can feel comfortable after a few difficult years – when she moves in, accompanied by her young son Noah, she feels her life might just be taking a turn for the better after a few particularly difficult years. She’s found a reliable child minder so that she can work at the garden centre, where she has friends who alleviate her loneliness (except for her immediate boss – he’s frankly a bit of a tosser) – although the customers aren’t crossing the threshold as often as they used to, and some innovative ideas are needed to turn its fortunes around.
A vase of flowers on her windowsill and a glimpse of her ponytail prompt Lachlan to reach out with a note pasted in his window – and he’s delighted when she responds. She’s as intrigued as he is, seeing his characterful cat on the windowsill, spotting his well-toned body and tattoos, and their light-hearted exchanges continue (mostly relating to biscuits – but, to two lonely people, meaning a lot more than that). And then comes the inevitable – they both want to meet, but have their own obstacles to negotiate. Lachlan doesn’t want to be defined by his disability, believing it’s all she’ll see – Bethan hasn’t mentioned her young son, equally afraid that her situation defines her, and needing to protect him.
Their joint story – a developing romance, and a lovely one giving them both hope for the future – is perhaps mildly unrealistic but I thoroughly enjoyed the way it developed. It’s also fraught with misunderstandings – understandably, when they really don’t know each other or how much they can trust each other. But their separate stories unfold too – their problems certainly aren’t all behind them, and they both have very difficult situations to negotiate.
I loved the way the story was told – the viewpoint alternates between the two main characters, and while they don’t know each other well we certainly get to feel how much their exchanges and encounters mean to them both. The book’s emotional touch is excellent – I really felt for them both, their vulnerability entirely convincing, and I took them both to my heart. And their separate stories are certainly page-turning too, as we learn more about their pasts and the struggles of their presents, hoping for a happy ending. The whole idea of notes in the window has been done before, but the whole premise of this book is fresh and different – and I very much enjoyed it. A really lovely read, moving, heart-warming and uplifting, filled with hope – a definite recommendation from me.
‘A proper lovely romance, and a fabulous spirit-lifter’ Ruth Jones, Sunday Times bestselling author
‘Heart-warming and believable. This is Miranda Dickinson at her very best’ Sarah Morgan, Sunday Times bestselling author
‘The Start of Something is a wonderfully romantic story about the healing powers of love. Gentle and romantic, a wonderful salve for the soul, it is a charming joy of a read’ Milly Johnson, Sunday Times bestselling author
‘A truly heart-warming novel about hope, loneliness and the power of reaching out. Bethan and Lachlan’s story will move anyone who’s ever taken a chance on love. A magical read’ Holly Miller, bestselling author of The Sight of You
About the author
Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. Born in Wolverhampton, in The Black Country, West Midlands, she grew up in Kingswinford and dreamed of one day writing a book that would reach the heady heights of Kingswinford Library…
Her first novel, Fairytale of New York (2009) was discovered on Authonomy.com – HarperCollins’ site for unpublished authors. Within three weeks of its release, Fairytale of New York had entered the Sunday Times Top Ten Bestsellers List, where it remained for five weeks – making it the world’s first crowd-sourced bestseller. The novel was also shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2010 at the Pure Passion Awards.
Miranda is a six-times Sunday Times Bestseller, with Fairytale of New York, Welcome to My World, It Started With a Kiss, When I Fall in Love, Take a Look at Me Now, I’ll Take New York, A Parcel for Anna Browne and Searching for a Silver Lining, a Christmas novella, Christmas in St Ives, is a festive treat and prequel to her ninth novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea. The Day We Meet Again has won critical acclaim and is much loved by readers, most recently publishing in the US and Canada, taking her words Stateside for the first time.
Miranda is an international bestseller in four countries and her books have been translated into sixteen languages. To date, she has sold one million books worldwide.
Miranda is the founder of WriteFoxy – resources, vlogs and inspiration writing days for writers of all ages and abilities. Her popular vlogs feature her own publishing journey for each new novel, together with advice for authors and lots and lots of hats!
Miranda lives in Dudley with her husband, Bob and daughter, Flo. She is also a singer-songwriter and recently released her first solo album, About Time.