Published by Bookouture
Publication date – 5 May 2021
Source – Net Galley ebook
When tragedy strikes, twenty-six-year-old Gwen Stanley finds herself suddenly jobless and heartbroken. With nowhere to turn, she retreats to Hopley, a crumbling little village deep in the heart of the English countryside. Wandering the winding lanes and daydreaming about what could have been, Gwen feels lost for the first time in her life.
Until one day she pushes through the creaking doors of a tiny stone church at the edge of the village, empty and forgotten by nearly everyone. There she stumbles on a book full of local secrets and is instantly drawn into the mystery of who could have left them there, and why.
When she’s unexpectedly joined by handsome local artist Jarvis, Gwen is caught off-guard. He seems just as fascinated by what’s in the book as she is… but why? Can she trust Jarvis’s motives really are what he says they are? And are the butterfly flutters she feels whenever they’re together because she’s one step closer to learning the book’s secrets… or might the little village church actually hold the key to healing Gwen’s poor, trampled heart?
Gwen is still trying to come to terms with the loss of her parents. She has been treading water for the past two years, living with her aunt who does everything she can to make Gwen feel unwelcome. Gwen works in a job she doesn’t like and can’t see a way out. Then Reverend Dave at the village church asks for help. And so she finds herself pouring over the visitors book in search of potential donors. Only she’s not alone. Jarvis offers to help for his own reasons. Will Gwen find more than funds for the church roof?
Gwen is a quiet character, lost after the death of her parents. She’s not quite sure what she wants from life, or if she’s ready to find out, but she is drawn to the church and the visitors book. When she gets the chance to spend more time looking at it, she sees it as her way of escaping reality for a while.
Jarvis is a jack the lad, mooching through life with no direction now that his dream of art school is over. He has his own motives for wanting to spend time with the visitors book but it is him who gets the fundraising started. As he spends more time with Gwen the pair become friends and both become invested in saving the church.
Gwen’s aunt is the modern equivalent of the evil stepmother, raining in Gwen’s parade, not even attempting to comfort her during her grief. It is only when Gwen is no longer around that she realises how she has acted.
There are some lovely characters in the book from Gwen and Jarvis, to Jarvis’ mum and of course Rev Dave.
It is a softly paced story but does not seem slow. The fun comes from watching the pair become close to each other, finding something they did not realise was missing in the other.
Gentle, calming and reflective, this was a lovely way to spend a few hours.
About the Author
Tracy Rees was the winner of the Richard and Judy ‘Search for a Bestseller’ Competition and her books are paperback and kindle bestsellers. 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. She lives in Wales.