I’ve more or less abandoned reading ebooks because of my weird sight and I’m trying NOT to take on blog tours at the moment, but when I heard that one of my favourite authors, Tracy Rees, had a new novel out from Bookouture I knew I had to break all my intentions and read it. My enormous thanks to Sarah Hardy for inviting me to participate in this blog tour for Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church. It’s a real privilege to share my review on Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church publication day.
Tracy has been a regular on Linda’s Book Bag, and it has been my privilege to meet her several times in real life too. Although Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church is a contemporary novel, Tracy has an excellent selection of historical fiction that I’ve adored reading. Amy Snow was one of the first books I ever reviewed on the blog here. I reviewed Florence Grace here and had a wonderful guest post from Tracy about the appeal of the C19th that you can read here. Florence Grace was one of my Books of the Year in 2016 and you’ll see it featured here. I also reviewed Tracy’s The Hourglass here and Tracy was kind enough to provide a guest post all about her memories of Richmond when Darling Blue was published. Darling Blue is still on my TBR but it’s just over a year ago that I reviewed The House at Silvermoor here.
Published by Bookouture today, 7th May 2021, Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church is available for purchase here.
Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church
‘This may just have saved my life…’ The hurried scribble in the dusty visitors’ book catches Gwen’s eye. Just like that, she is drawn into a mystery at the heart of the pretty village of Hopley, and her troubles seem to fall behind.
When tragedy strikes, Gwen Stanleyfinds herself jobless and heartbroken. With nowhere else to turn, she retreats to Hopley, a crumbling little village in the sun-dappled English countryside. Wandering the winding lanes and daydreaming about what could have been, Gwen feels so very lost for the first time…
Until one day she pushes through the creaking doors of a tiny stone church on the edge of the village, forgotten by nearly everyone. There she stumbles on a little book full of local secrets. It might just change her life.
My Review of Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church
Having loved Tracy Rees’s historical fiction, I wasn’t sure how a more contemporary setting would appeal, but I needn’t have worried. The author’s ability to create a sense of place through perfectly balanced details, to draw in the reader to her story and to move them too, is still here in a gorgeous, entertaining and uplifting manner. Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church is a perfect example of positive, warm-hearted fiction and I loved it.
Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church has everything for a wonderful, immersive story that is utterly captivating. As well as romance as we’d expect from this kind of book, there’s mystery and social conscience too so that the story provides many layers of interest. I loved the way connections are explored and reading Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church made me wonder about those who have passed through my life fleetingly.
Although there are several minor characters that add interest and variety to the story, it is Gwen and Jarvis who create the fabulous pivotal detail. I was desperate for them both to find happiness and thought the manner with which Tracy Rees explored Gwen’s grief after tragedy and Jarvis’s indolence arising from his perceived failure was sensitively constructed. Initially I wasn’t keen on either of them, though I felt more empathy for Gwen, but Tracy Rees made me fall in love with both these warm, flawed, vivid people until I really hoped they would fall in love with each other – though you’ll have to read the book to find out what actually happens.
The narrative unfolds incredibly naturally so that it feels like it could happen in any small place where the sense of community is gradually being eroded. With Jarvis and Gwen working together to raise funds to restore the church roof, their efforts become a metaphor not only for the building, but for their own lives and the community as a whole, illustrating beautifully and inspiringly what can be achieved. I felt that Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church could give impetus to others to get involved in their local communities and even if it was just enjoyed as a story it would provide a sense of belonging that is so important in today’s fractured world.
Although the plot is essentially quite simple with two people fund raising to repair a church roof, that doesn’t mean it isn’t completely absorbing with so many themes swirling through it. Tracy Rees considers identity, community, belonging, friendship, loyalty, family, ambition and self-belief so that Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church feels multi-layered and textured in a manner I adored. I wanted to move to Hopley, to join in with the events and to meet Gwen and Jarvis in person.
Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church is a gorgeous book. I finished it with that sense of satisfaction of being royally entertained and feeling more positive about the world. I now know how Tracy Rees writes contemporary fiction as well as the historical fiction I am used to from this author. She does it brilliantly and I cannot wait for more. I loved Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church.
About Tracy Rees
Born in Wales, Tracy Rees has been called “the most outstanding new voice in historical fiction” by Lucinda Riley and her books are paperback and kindle bestsellers. She was the winner of the Richard and Judy ‘Search for a Bestseller’ Competition. A Cambridge graduate, she had a successful eight-year career in nonfiction publishing and a second career practising and teaching humanistic counselling before becoming a writer.
There’s more with these other bloggers too: