17 Feb The Farmhouse of Second Chances by Helen Rolfe
A heart-warming story of hope and redemption
I was so pleased to be invited on to this blogtour for The Farmhouse of Second Chances as I really enjoyed Helen Rolfe’s previous book The Kindness Club on Mayberry Lane, and looked forward to reading more.
For, let’s be honest, we could all do with some kindness and joy in our own lives – and I’m happy to say that The Farmhouse of Second Chances delivers both. Well, with a heroine called Joy, how could it fail to?
Sixty-nine-year-old Joy Browne lives up to her name by delighting in the pleasures of life at the Old Dairy Farmhouse which she inherited from kind couple Ted and Marjory, who took her in when she was a troubled young woman, alone, homeless and disowned by her family.
Now Joy pays the favour on, offering a haven to the waifs and strays of life she encounters. Some stay a short while – others make their home with her, or settle nearby.
When we meet Joy, a core of four form her family. There’s Freddy, who runs a small market garden on her land; Drew, who has built up a successful outdoor adventure business, Lauren, who is now married and building up a cake business and 18-year-old Cameron – Joy’s latest protégé – whom she’s rescued from a life of homelessness and petty crime, and who now lives at the farmhouse with her.
Into this mix comes Libby, Joy’s adult niece, the only member of her blood family who will give her the time of day. She’s no idea why her aunt has been ostracised by her family – and Joy wants to keep it that way.
For her secret is so shameful, she’s prepared to lose the farm and all she holds dear to keep it under wraps – even if that means giving in to blackmail.
This story has everything – the beautiful, rural setting evokes feelings of peace and tranquillity that can never be totally destroyed by the elements of uncertainty, fear and familial tension that play out in the ever intriguing plot.
Joy is the central character, a woman who is described as a “grey-haired surrogate mother to more than a dozen young adults, lover of owls, keeper of chickens”. But the hints of her troubled past add another dimension to her persona – the fact that she is not, and never was a saint, makes her all the more empathetic to the reader.
Libby is the perfect foil for her aunt – she, too, has her troubles, but they’re more straightforward. Her stressed-out job, nice but unexciting boyfriend, and difficult relationship with her widowed father have all led to her taking refuge with Joy, and she has her own challenges to resolve along with her aunt’s.
She’s drawn to her aunt’s surrogate family, especially Drew – something that should delight Joy, but strangely only adds to her unease about the future.
Drew, Freddie, Lauren and Cameron all have a strong part to play in the story, too. Each may have overcome their initial dramas and disasters with Joy’s help, but life has a way of continuing to throw problems into people’s paths, and perhaps some of our new friends at The Farmhouse of Second Chances need third chances, too.
It’s a mark of the story that the reader is confident they’ll get them. For the theme right through the book really is one of redemption and reconciliation.
As the various threads in each of the characters’ lives draw to resolution there’s a storm – a wonderful allegory for the upset that’s happening in their lives, but also, in its cessation, a metaphor for the fresh start they can make if they can only forgive and forget.
For preserving family and friendship is just as important as saving the farmhouse to continue its legacy as a haven and a home for anyone who needs its comfort and joy.
What a lovely warm and uplifting read.
About the Author
Helen Rolfe writes romantic and contemporary women’s fiction and enjoys weaving stories about family, friendships. Secrets and community. Her characters must fight to overcome challenges, but always have a happy ending.