My grateful thanks to Quercus Books for including me in their reading challenge #QuercusSummer and providing book three, The Lavender House, by Hilary Boyd in exchange for an honest review. The Lavender House was published in e-book and hardback on 4th August 2016 and is available for purchase from Amazon, W H Smith, Quercus and from all good booksellers.
The Lavender House
Nancy de Freitas is the glue that holds her family together. Caught between her ageing, ailing mother Frances, and her struggling daughter Louise, frequent user of Nancy’s babysitting services, it seems Nancy’s fate is to quietly go on shouldering the burden of responsibility for all four generations. Her divorce four years ago put paid to any thoughts of a partner to share her later years with. Now it looks like her family is all she has.
Then she meets Jim. Smoker, drinker, unsuccessful country singer and wearer of cowboy boots, he should be completely unsuited to the very together Nancy. And yet, there is a real spark.
But Nancy’s family don’t trust Jim one bit. They’re convinced he’ll break her heart, maybe run off with her money – he certainly distracts her from her family responsibilities.
Can she be brave enough to follow her heart? Or will she remain glued to her family’s side and walk away from one last chance for love?
My Review of The Lavender House
Four years after her husband leaves her for a younger woman, Nancy is going out for a friend’s birthday on an evening that will change her entire future.
The Lavender House is the kind of read that feels familiar and comforting because Hilary Boyd always writes with such authority and panache about relationships and ordinary life so that every word is completely believable. It’s almost as if she’s stepped into your head and understood your hopes, fears and vulnerabilities.
An aspect that (probably ridiculously) slightly marred the read for me was Jim’s hair and smoking. I loathe cigarette smoke with a passion almost bordering on pathological obsession and I can’t stand pony tails on men so it took me a short while to get over my own prejudices. However, these features also had the effect of making me wary of him like Nancy’s mother Frances and her daughter Louise so I could understand their emotions perfectly.
Most of the characters were rounded and realistic except perhaps for Christopher who felt a little too stereotypically pompous and self centered, although he is a minor character. It was scary how Frances echoed exactly my own mother so accurately – so much so that I won’t be passing on The Lavender House to her in case she realises! I did want to shake Nancy at times and thought that she ought to have put her own happiness first more frequently, but I felt the way in which her dilemmas were portrayed was very authentic.
The plot moves along with pace so that I found myself caught up in the action and wanting to know how life would resolve itself for Nancy but I did think there were perhaps a few too many blocks and obstacles for her. That said, I cared what happened to her completely.
The Lavender House touches on the kind of themes that can affect us all – loyalty to family, divorce, financial uncertainty, dealing with elderly parents – so that there is something here for all readers. I enjoyed the story very much – and even with a ponytail Jim won me over! I think The Lavender House would make a good holiday read.
About Hilary Boyd
Hilary Boyd trained as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, then as a marriage guidance counselor. After a degree in English Literature at London University in her thirties, she moved into health journalism, writing a Mind, Body, Spirit column for the Daily Express. She published six non-fiction books on health-related subjects before turning to fiction and writing a string of bestsellers, starting with Thursdays in the Park. Hilary is married to film director/producer Don Boyd.
Follow Hilary on Twitter.