My enjoyment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (4 without the F-bomb)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Genre: General Fiction; Romance; Chick Lit
Objectionable material: Multiple uses of the F-bomb. Lots!
Publisher summary: James Nealy is haunted by irrational fears and inescapable compulsions. A successful software developer, he's thrown himself into a new goal—to finally conquer the noise in his mind. And he has a plan. He'll confront his darkest fears and build something beautiful: a garden. When he meets Tilly Silverberg, he knows she holds the key…even if she doesn't think so.
After her husband's death, gardening became Tilly's livelihood and her salvation. Her thriving North Carolina business and her young son, Isaac, are the excuses she needs to hide from the world. So when oddly attractive, incredibly tenacious James demands that she take him on as a client, her answer is a flat no.
When a family emergency lures Tilly back to England, she's secretly glad. With Isaac in tow, she retreats to her childhood village, which has always stayed obligingly the same. Until now. Her best friend is keeping secrets. Her mother is plotting. Her first love is unexpectedly, temptingly available. And then James appears on her doorstep.
Away from home, James and Tilly forge an unlikely bond, tenuous at first but taking root every day. And as they work to build a garden together, something begins to blossom between them—despite all the reasons against it.
I love it when I start a book with absolutely no expectations – and I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it!
Barbara Claypole While weaves a narrative full of complicated characters that are flawed and broken, and uses the literal and physical metaphor of a garden to help them heal and grow, both individually, and as a couple.
I was amazed that she could develop a character – James Nealy – who is plagued with obsessive compulsive disorder, and make him appear ill and struggling, as opposed to a caricature who is dysfunctional with ticks and outbursts. And in the process, provided the reader with an opportunity to learn more about the condition.
Her descriptions of gardens and the lush estates of England were glorious: Birds, bugs, flora, fauna, “The Chase,” ancient woodlands – I felt like I needed to dress up in Jane Austen-like attire and find Mr. Darcy at Pemberley.
Her characters were also equipped with steely dialogue. Tilly and James had very complex discussions about the state of James’s OCD, and Tilly’s past relationships. In addition, those sharp conversations were extended to friends Rowena and Sebastian.
One of the highlights, for me, was the focus on the relationship and the developing love story between Tilly and James without the sex scenes! I suppose that might be a disappointment to some, but it was a breath of fresh air to be free of throbbings and heavings.
However, the biggest downfall of this otherwise delightful novel – the use, and overuse of the F-bomb. Once or twice I can manage…but it was littered throughout the novel. Maybe it was a necessary element of James’s OCD…but I grew tired of having to read it. Again. And again.
Ultimately, a bright novel about two imperfect people who learn to help one another through their love of life and nature.
I'd like to thank TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.