If I was forced to make a list of just a few favourite authors, Alexandra Brown would undoubtedly feature near the top of it. I fell in love with her books when I discovered the Carrington's series, and when she started writing about the adorable (though sadly fictional) village of Tindledale with The Great Christmas Knit Off and The Great Village Show, this well and truly cemented her status as favourite and must-buy author on my otherwise very short list. So to say I was thrilled to return to Tindledale with The Secret of Orchard Cottage would be the understatement of the century.
Recent widow April travels to Tindledale to visit her great aunt Edie and take a much-deserved break from her life to try and process the loss of her husband. What starts off as a courtesy short visit to check up on her great aunt and help the older woman in and around the house, turns into a much longer stay when April realises that Edie's house and orchard is severely neglected and needs a younger hand to bring it back to life. April herself blossoms in Tindledale too, soon becoming friends with Molly and being eyed by not one but two of the local men.
And if the villagers and her great aunt weren't enough to keep her occupied already and take her mind off the death of her husband, April also tries to uncover the secret of Winnie, Edie's older sister who went missing during the second world war. Did she really run off because she had a baby with a married man, like so many elder residents in the village believe to be the case, or was there more to the story? For Edie's sake, April is determined to solve the mystery once and for all.
Returning to Tindledale felt like reuniting with an old friend you haven't seen for far too long, and yet within the first minutes of conversation you ease back into the familiarity and comfort of reconnecting with someone you can just be yourself with. Tindledale embodies cosiness and loveliness and spending the better part of the train journey from England to the Netherlands immersed within this village and its quirky inhabitants was an utter delight.
I'd already fallen in love with the villagers in the Alex's previous novels, and it was lovely to be reunited with some of them, but the new cast of characters in The Secret of Orchard Cottage has to be my favourite one yet. Most protagonists in women's fiction novels these days and in their 20s or 30s, but as readers grow older as well (myself included) it was refreshing to have 40-something April at the heart of the story, and she was complimented well by her 22-year-old stepdaughter and teenager Bella, both of whom I absolutely adored, for some cheeky shenanigans more befitting younger characters.
The Secret of Orchard Cottage wasn't only a heartwarming hug in book shape, it was a proper engrossing read too. I loved the links back to the past that were woven throughout with Winnie's story and the conclusion to the mystery was incredibly satisfying and brought a huge smile to my face. Alex is brilliant at mixing heartbreak with humour, and conjuring up an incredible cast of characters that us readers fall head over heels in love with (I'm looking at you Matt and Dr Ben). The latest instalment in the Tindledale series includes all of these elements and then some, making it the perfect read to dream away with on a lazy summer's day (or a spring, autumn or winter day, any day really...).
With Tindledale Alex Brown has brought all the very best elements of small town England together in one gorgeous place. The main characters in her novels visit this idyllic location to refuel and discover what is truly important in life – friends, family and love – but so do her readers. Having the opportunity to walk the cobble-stoned streets of this picturesque village through the pages of her books is an absolute delight. You don't have to leave your home to feel like your holidaying in the country side, all you need to do is pick up The Secret of Orchard Cottage and be swept away by its heartwarming charm.
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
The Secret of Orchard Cottage is published by HarperCollins on 2 June 2016 and you can buy your copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.
Connect with Alex BrownWebsite: www.alexbrownauthor.com