Today I am thrilled to be on the blog tour for The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown. I have an extract from the book to share with you but remember to stop by the previous blogs on the tour to read their extracts too.
April knew that Nancy was trying to make her feel better, but it had to be at least a couple of years since she had visited her great aunt in Tindledale. The last time had been with Gray, when he was still fairly mobile. They had driven down one sunny Saturday afternoon, stopping on the way at a quaint old black and white Tudor-framed pub with a lovely garden full of pink hollyhocks and a couple of goats in a pen for children to pet. Gray had surreptitiously fed them his salad – never having been a fan of ‘rabbit food’, as he called it. They’d had a wonderful time relaxing, and for a few precious hours it had seemed like the old days, carefree and fun, before the diagnosis changed everything.
‘I guess so. But I’ve still neglected her,’ April said.
‘Then do something about it. Go and see her.’ Nancy stepped back from April and put her hands on her hips. ‘Go on! It’ll do you good – get away from here for a few days, give yourself some space, and you know what they say, a change of scenery and all that.’ Nancy looked April in the eyes. ‘A mini break is exactly what you need.’ She nodded.
‘Hmm! Are you trying to get rid of me?’ April asked, instantly wishing she didn’t sound quite so needy. It really was unlike her, but it was something she had noticed creeping upon her more and more since Gray had died. She felt exposed, vulnerable even, and she wasn’t really sure why, preferring not to think too much about it, hoping the feeling would go away if she ignored it.
April coughed to clear her throat. ‘But I can’t go and leave you here on your own.’ She wasn’t sure it was right, certainly not so soon after the memorial service – the twins might need her.
‘Of course you can.’
‘But what about Freddie?’ April knew how hopeless he was at getting himself up for his job as a car mechanic every morning. And hadn’t she promised Gray that she’d be here for the twins no matter what?
‘What about him?’ Nancy shook her head. ‘No. It’ll do Freddie good to look after himself for a day or two. He’s a lazy arse and relies on you too much. And you really must stop doing his washing!’ She wagged a finger in the air.
‘But it’s no trouble to put it in with my stuff, I quite like doing it in fact,’ April said, always happy to help out.
‘Oh April, pleeeeease, go and visit your great aunt. If only to remind her that your name isn’t Winnie! And you never know, you might even solve the mystery!’
‘Mystery?’ April raised her eyebrows. ‘What do you mean?’
‘You know . . . find out who this Winnie woman is,’ Nancy joked.
‘Ahh, yes, indeed. And I could very well have her fiver here,’ April smiled, waving the note.
‘Exactly! And Freddie is perfectly capable of seeing to his own washing and I’ll be here to make sure he pulls his weight around the house,’ she laughed.
‘Hmm. But joking aside, the name Winnie does seem to ring a bell. I’m sure I’ve heard it before . . . a relative perhaps. I think there was an old black and white picture of her on my aunt’s sideboard in the sitting room . . . in a uniform during the war . . . It used to fascinate me as you don’t often see that, it’s mostly men, the soldiers.’ April creased her forehead, casting her mind back trying to remember more.
‘Sounds intriguing, what happened to her?’
‘I’m not sure – you know how family history gets lost in the mists of time – but I’d like to see if I can find out before it’s too late. My aunt is getting on now and once she’s gone that’ll be it, I suppose, for my family, my flesh and blood. It’ll just be me left.’
‘Then you must go right away, before, as you say . . . it’s too late.’
‘Yes, I should do that. And I am concerned about Aunt
Edie.’ A short silence followed, leaving April deep in thought.
‘And it can’t be easy for her on her own at that age. Has she got a husband? Any children? I can’t remember . . .,’ Nancy asked.
‘No. She never married,’ April replied, then pondered, casting her mind back. ‘She used to joke that there was a shortage of men around after the war, and the only eligible ones in the village were either daft, or already spoken for . . . And that she much preferred the company of horses in any case.’
‘Indeed. She always had a good circle of friends though, but I guess most of them have probably died by now.’ April shook her head.
‘I guess so. Ninety is a ripe old age. And definitely more reason why you should go and see her.’
‘But are you sure?’ April checked, but now that all the practicalities following Gray’s death had been completed, she was actually starting to feel a tiny bit brighter each morning. Gone was the dreadful split-second gear change on waking, that glorious moment before the synapses of her brain kicked in and it was as if Gray was still alive and still well, only for the grief to come hurtling back all over again when her memory was restored. Yes, April was definitely on the way to feeling a little bit more like her old self, less wobbly, and it would certainly keep her busy for a couple of days. All this sitting around doing nothing very much really wouldn’t do. And hadn’t Gray said on his card for her to seize the day?
So, April made a decision. Nancy was right: she could do with a break, time to gather her thoughts, dust herself down and figure out what next. And it was a pleasant, pretty drive through the countryside to get there, which would give her plenty of time to do just that. Yes, first thing tomorrow morning April would go to Tindledale and visit her great aunt Edith in Orchard Cottage.
It is no secret that I am an Alex Brown super fan and her books set in the quaint little village of Tindledale are my absolute favourites so when I heard her new release The Secret of Orchard Cottage would be making a return to Tindledale I didn’t waste any time in getting started on this book.
Our protagonist is April and she is such a loving and selfless character who lost her husband 18 months ago and is still trying to come to terms with his death and work out what path her life should take now. With a little persuasion from her step daughter Nancy, April decides to spend some time back in Tindledale with her aunt Edith but when she arrives April is shocked at how bad things have got, it is quite clear that Edith is struggling to cope.
Edith is desperate to find out what happened to her sister Winnie who disappeared during WWII and with April at Orchard Cottage now with her help hopefully they can try and discover the truth of what happened to Winnie.
I love books that involve restoration so this book was perfect for me as we watch April try to bring life back into Orchard Cottage. April has faced such a challenging time and I had such compassion for her character and watching her working on the orchards and the cottage we begin to see her character blossom and I was willing her to find her happy ending.
I was really intrigued by Winnie’s story too, I wasn’t sure what we were going to uncover and I love that the author managed to keep me in the dark because I was unable to predict what had happened to Winnie and I was unsure if we were going to find that she had died or that she was still alive. I had such admiration for Winnie and her story brought a lump to my throat. Winnie and April’s stories weave together perfectly in this book and creates such an emotive and yet uplifting read that had me captivated the whole way through.
I loved the return of some much loved characters and being able to revisit the Spotted Pig Café and Hettie’s House of Haberdashery where Hettie and Sybs make another appearance.
This book was full of emotion and tackles some difficult subjects but Alex Brown has also managed to bring that soft and cosy feel to the storyline that I have come to love in her books that makes me just want to visit Tindledale even more. I loved this book and it is up there with my favourite The Great Christmas Knit Off. Kick back with an apple cider and a copy of The Secret of Orchard Cottage for a perfect Summer combo.