09 Oct The Village Inn of Secret Dreams by Alison Sherlock
A feel-good romance to get you in the festive spirit
Alison Sherlock is an author new to me, so I did not know what to expect when I entered the village of Cranbridge, fictional setting for her previous books.
Thankfully, there was no feeling of being a stranger in town when I found myself right at the start in The Black Swan, the local inn, watching as Josh Kennedy, owner of the village shop, proposed to his girlfriend Amber.
What a happy way to start a story – but, wait, someone is feeling a tad cynical about the whole situation.
Belle, barmaid at the Swan and close friend of both Amber and Josh, is happy for them, of course, but given her own experiences, wonders just how long their love will last. The product of warring parents, she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle, mine hosts at The Black Swan, when she was just eleven, and has since watched their own bickers and quarrels as their marriage has disintegrated under the weight of the stresses of running a failing business.
For The Black Swan is on its uppers, and only a miracle will save it.
Fortunately, help is at hand in the shape of Josh’s younger brother, Peter. He’s newly-returned to the village, and has the leisure and the money to step in and save the Inn.
But will that solve Belle’s problems? For she now faces sharing her home with a man who once made it plain he didn’t return her feelings for him, and who has a completely different vision from hers for the future of The Black Swan.
A third intriguing thread to the story is the family secret that Pete feels he cannot share, even with his brother, that has given him his own cynical outlook on love.
All these different conflicts kept the plot flowing beautifully in this quick paced, sparkling story.
There’s a lovely community feel to the narrative – in the village of Cranbridge, the locals all look out for each other. As the seasons turn from summer to autumn to Christmas, we’re invited to step outside the Inn and share in community events, which all adds greatly to the atmosphere.
Inside The Black Swan itself, despite its many drawbacks of dark, cold dinginess, there’s always a warm welcome from staff and regulars.
The various characters who habituate the inn and village add to greatly to its charm – who could resist people like Grandma Tilly, “Dodgy” Dell, arrogant chef Andrei, and colourful auntie Angie? They’re the perfect foil for our two heroes, Belle and Pete, who are both attractive, empathetic characters in their own right.
They’re funny, quick-witted and spark off each other beautifully. Occasionally their conflicted reactions to their growing attraction to each other seems a little contrived – can’t they just speak out to each other?
But overall the plot is convincing, and keeps us guessing to the end whether there will be a happy-ever-after for a heroine called Belle, who, despite her name, believes true love is only for fairytales.
With events culminating in Christmas and New Year celebrations, this feel-good romance is a great one to include on your festive reading list!
About the Author
Alison Sherlock is the author of the bestselling Willow Tree Hall books. Alison enjoyed reading and writing stories from an early age and gave up office life to follow her dream. Her new series for Boldwood is set in a fictional Cotswold village and the first title was published in July 2020.
She says, “I write uplifting stories of love and friendship set in the glorious English countryside. Some characters reappear throughout the Riverside Lane series but all the books can be enjoyed as standalone stories read in any order.”
Follow Alison Sherlock here
Follow Boldwood Books here
Many thanks to Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be part of this blogtour. You can catch up with the rest of the tour by following the links below.
Look out for more festive recommendations from me in the run-up to Christmas!