When Philly starts a new job, working with Lorna in the gorgeous grounds of a beautiful manor house, it marks a turning point in both of their lives.
Philly has never been in love before and is constantly disappointing her mother with her unwillingness to settle down. But all that changes when she meets Lucien, a free spirit with an intriguing past …
Lorna is learning to embrace life on her own, until dashing Jack sweeps her off her feet in a whirlwind romance. But is this what Lorna really wants?
When the two women discover a secret garden in the manor house grounds, they are encouraged to restore its forgotten beauty in time for an unforgettable end of summer party. As they work together, secrets are revealed and relationships tested. Will they both find the happy endings they are looking for?
Lorna has spent years of her adult life loving her best friend, a man who is essentially clueless and devoted to dating/noticing everyone but Lorna. In light of her friend’s behavior, Lorna has resigned herself to be nothing more than friends and staying in his orbit as master gardener of his lush, if crumbling estate.
Outside of her best-friend, Lorna loves the estate gardens and has worked endlessly to restore them to their former glory. If she could only convince her extremely wealthy friend to loosen his purse strings a bit more, Lorna could hire more help and really kick her efforts into high gear. As fate would have it, through an online dating site and a brilliant first date, Lorna’s friend meets the “love of his life,” a woman who wants to see the estate and the gardens set to rights so that they may be used to highlight the area and save the local parish church. What ensues is a whirlwind of activity that brings friends closer, new partnerships to light, and the revelation of long forgotten part of the estate.
As plans for the estate gardens move forward, Lorna brings her dear friend, Philly, herself a master of plants and botanicals, to help with the planning, planting, clearing, and maintenance. Philly’s love of the work is rivaled only by her infatuation with the new, handsome chef who has blown into town. With nowhere but his van to sleep, Philly’s grandfather invites the young man to lodge with them which allows the friendship and eventual love between he and Philly to blossom.
And so the circle grows . . . .
With the expansion of the gardens, Lorna and Philly spend ever more time together which strengthens their friendship, Philly and her chef spend ever more time together as he contracts with she and her grandfather to renovate one of their outbuildings for cooking and baking, and Lorna becomes smitten with a younger stonemason charged with revitalizing the local parish church. In addition to this group are the Lady Anthea (a delightful surprise!) and Philly’s grandfather who strike up a friendship of their own as they support and guide the younger members of the group.
As the days and weeks pass and the estate gardens come to a beautiful fruition, the group rallies around one another in friendship and burgeoning love to celebrate what they have accomplished. While this may seem like the culmination of their success, all is not right with their world. Thanks to meddling outsiders, miscommunications, and hurt feelings, many of the friendships and partnerships forged during the garden project are torn apart and are seemingly beyond repair. In her despair, Lorna asks the Lady Anthea to poke around the property and see what she knows of a lost garden, a space so beautiful it should have never been forgotten. With broken hearts and a desire to take their minds off their respective situations, Lorna and Philly dive into the restoration of yet another estate garden. What neither knows is that the Lady Anthea’s plans are meant to just distract the two, but right the wrongs that have so recently occurred.
The Bottom Line: A Secret Garden was my first Katie Fforde book and I have to say, I think I’ll be coming back for more! Essentially, this book is split into two parts, the work and completion on the first known garden, and the work and completion on the second, previously forgotten about garden. Though garden restoration is certainly a theme which ties the two parts of the book together, there are other deeper themes as well including, love, friendship, trust, loyalty, and the value of hard work and dedication to a project. With the exception of one couple, Lorna’s best-friend and his “girlfriend,” each couple is interesting, full-bodied, and so easy to follow and root for. With that in mind, I was thrilled to find such a variety of personalities from the bold and brash (Lady Anthea) to those with a softer, more subtle kind of strength (Philly). The connections between all the characters is one of the highlights of the read followed closely by the descriptions of the gardens and the work done there. In all, A Secret Garden is a fine stand-alone, clean read that will certainly appeal to a wide variety of readers.