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A Secret Garden Affair: From the Sunday Times bestselling author comes the most captivating new historical romance and family drama of 2023, perfect for fans of The Book of Beginnings!

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James floods this story with regret and aching loss, exploring how grief and misplaced guilt can divide families, and you feel every heart-wrenching moment with real force - especially the impact of these emotions on mental health. There is a lot of pain being carried around by these characters, and my heartstrings were well and truly tugged, but there is also romance, glamour, friendship and warmth - and over the course of the story the threads come together in forgiveness and hope. Staying with her aunt Bess and Alfreda, she starts to mend her broken heart, deciding what to do with the rest of her life. Suffolk, 1981: whilst the entire country seems gripped by Royal Wedding fever, Libby, the heroine of James’s 25th novel, wants to get as far away from it as possible, for on the brink of marrying her fiancé, she has discovered him in flagrante with her best friend. Libby takes refuge with two eccentric old ladies one can imagine on screen played by Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. One is her great-aunt Bess, a former lady’s maid, and the other Elfrida, a society beauty in the 1920s but a deeply unconventional one, who eschewed marriage to build a satisfying career as a garden designer, in the footsteps of Norah Lindsay and Gertrude Jekyll. Its blurb describes the novel as a ‘love story from long ago’, referring doubtless to Elfrida’s clandestine relationship with a glamorous White Russian – for this novel is really her story, entwined with that of the loyal Bess, who being of a different social class has had to face threats of another kind. However, it could equally well refer to Libby’s emotional troubles. The storyline covers a lot of ground not least with Elfrida’s gardening but we also see Love, Loss, devastation and numerous secrets that look set to rear their ugly heads. This really was a quaint and charming read with exceptional detail which made everything so easily to visualise.

A Secret Garden Affair – HarperCollins A Secret Garden Affair – HarperCollins

July 1981. As the country prepares to celebrate Prince Charles’ wedding to Lady Diana, Libby flees London – and her cheating fiancé Marcus – for the Suffolk countryside. July 1981. As the country prepares to celebrate Prince Charles’ wedding to Lady Diana, Libby wants to be as far away from royal wedding fever as possible. The story is set in the summer of 1981 when the country was gripped by Royal Wedding fever, and also in the 1920’s moving forwards. We see the action in both the first and third person from alternating points of view. From the Sunday Times bestselling author Erica James comes a captivating story that sweeps through sixty years of history, love, and family drama. Readers love A Secret Garden Affair:

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Larkspur House felt like a character to me. It wrapped its magic around me (much like it did to Libby and Daniel) and I felt sad when I had to say goodbye.

A Secret Garden Affair | Jan 28 2023 - event.gives A Secret Garden Affair | Jan 28 2023 - event.gives

While all this jumping around in timeline and point of view could make, A Secret Garden Affair, more complicated to follow which could have made the layout better for the story arch, at the expense of the reader. Bess herself lives with Elfirda the woman she became a maid to when she was a teenager, although now it is more of a friendship, than master and servant. Though Liby may be running from the present she may find a lot more about their past and how it affects her. But for lifelong friends Bess and Elfrida, Libby’s arrival has stirred up the ghosts of the past. And before they can help her rebuild her shattered future, they must confront their own secrets, lost loves, and tragedies…

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It was so easy to feel emotionally attached to the three lead women in this story. All are very likeable – actually, that goes for the siblings of Elfrida and Bess and Libby’s mum too – even though they are harridans (and yes, they are cold and emotionally unavailable for a reason). Erica James does this by having the main story take place during the Summer of 1981 at a time when the then Prince Charles was marrying his first wife Lady Diana Spencer, which gave the novel a fixed period in time. This is a very old-fashioned novel. It's written in an old-fashioned way, and I say this because it contains characters who are privileged and 'other' to what we might consider to be 'everyday'. There's a big old house, left to Elfrida, and there's a Count who provides caviar and a special champagne from his brother's vault, on a boat, during a date. There's a mother who insists her daughter marries a man who has slept with someone else, and the man himself who thinks it's perfectly fine. For me, and I appreciate that Erica James has a massive following, this whole novel came perilously close to cliche, and the layer upon layer of stereotypical characters and situations were too distracting for me to enjoy it for what it is. Libby’s arrival at Larkspur House stirs up the past for its occupants Elfrida and Bess and they must eventually confront their secrets and tragedies. This new story from Erica James is enthralling. Written in both the past and the present, which is a departure for James, it tells the stories of Libby, Elfrida and Bess and the intricate nature of their relationship.

A Secret Garden Affair : Erica James : 9780008413774 A Secret Garden Affair : Erica James : 9780008413774

Elfrida is certainly a character who didn’t conform to society’s expectations but carved her own path, whether in the parts of the book set in the past or the relatively more modern 1980s. I thought she was a terrific creation and I loved her feistiness and refusal to do what others expected of her. I particularly liked her friendship with Bess who worked for Elfrida originally as a ladies’ maid. The women had shared many life events and were the keepers of each others secrets. They had become so much more than employer and employee over the years and were a huge support for each other. July 1981. As the country prepares to celebrate Prince Charles' wedding to Lady Diana, Libby flees London - and her cheating fiancé Marcus - for the Suffolk countryside.

A Secret Garden Affair for me is the type of novel that I enjoy reading as it allows you to see Elfrida and Bess as two old ladies which Libby sees them as now, Then Allows both the reader and other characters to find out about their lives and the decisions they made during events and the repercussions that comes down the generations. As you can imagine, the secrets all have emotional punches so be prepared to feel a host of emotions! A keen gardener, Erica lives in Suffolk and has a growing obsession for doll’s houses. She is also a keen follower of F1 motor racing and, when possible, loves travelling to Japan and the US to see her sons. I have always enjoyed Erica James's novels - I've found her characters to be well-drawn and warm, realistic and intriguing. This book was no different! Set in varying timelines from 1920s to the summer of the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981, it tells the life stories of three women connected by their shared history - Libby, Elfrida and Bess. Another heartbreaking but glorious tale of secrets and love from the Sunday Times bestselling author Erica James…

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