Blog Tour: Book Review and Extract from The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be shouting about my stop on the fabulous #OrchardCottage blog tour. What you'll find here on the blog today is my review of Alex Brown's newest novel The Secret of Orchard Cottage, as well as a scrumptious extract from the book itself that will hopefully get your bookish senses tingling! So, without further ado, let me first tell you about why I loved The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown!

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Title - The Secret of Orchard Cottage
Author - Alex Brown
Publication Date - June 2nd 2016
Publisher - Harper
Format - Kindle Edition
Pages - 400

April Wilson is wondering what to do next - her life has been turned upside down after the loss of her husband so she's hoping to piece herself together again with a visit to her elderly great aunt, Edith. Arriving in the rural idyll of Tindledale, she's dismayed to find Edith's cottage and the orchards surrounding it in a sorry state of disrepair. Edith seems to have lost interest completely, instead she's become desperate to find out what happened to her sister, Winnie, who disappeared during WWII.

April gets to work immediately, discovering that the orchard still delivers a bumper crop each year, and with the help of some of the villagers - including Matt, the enigmatic Farrier - begins to unravel the mystery of the missing Winnie. Slowly, April can feel things coming to life again - but can Orchard Cottage work its magic on her too?

What a treat The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown turned out to be! Sweetly intriguing with a sumptuously idyllic setting, I adored being back in Tindledale and couldn't wait to get stuck in, to see what the author had whipped up for her readers this time. When the title and cover were revealed a while back on Twitter, I knew immediately that I had to read this book. It spoke of sisters, love and of deep longing, and so I hopped inside with great enthusiasm, eager to begin.

In The Secret of Orchard Cottage, readers are introduced to April Wilson. After the tragic loss of her husband, Gray, she's off to visit her great aunt Edith in Tindledale, a place she has always adored visiting. But when she arrives, it's clear that her lovely great aunt hasn't been keeping on top of things. The cottage garden has grown wild and free, and the orchards aren't what they used to be either. Upon finding her great aunt Edith in a worrying position while peering through the kitchen window, April realises that perhaps great aunt Edith could do with a bit of help, and perhaps she should have came sooner.

What follows on from April's arrival in Tindledale and Orchard Cottage is a charming and utterly enchanting tale. I was hooked from the very first page, reading way past midnight and even then, trying my very best to keep my eyes open in order to continue. Weaved within the intriguing mystery of Winnie's disappearance, Alex Brown includes a number of heart-warming issues for April to figure out. From Orchard Cottage and the orchards surrounding the gorgeous home, to romantic fizzes and unexpected advances, it really was a joyous read with so much heart, warmth and sparkle that I just adored.

The characters within The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown were wonderfully-crafted and so enjoyable to spend time with. I took a particular shine to April and her journey back to happiness while in Tindledale and wished nothing but the best for her. She was a woman with a golden heart and soul who desperately wanted to make her great aunt Edith happy. When the topic of Winnie's disappearance crops up, April knows that her aunt won't be able to rest until the truth is uncovered, and so April bravely makes it her mission to put the pieces of the past back together, using the clues that gradually make themselves known to her. Another character I thoroughly enjoyed meeting was the ruggedly handsome Matt and his teenage daughter. Both brought with them a certain sense of hope to the story, and I couldn't help but to wonder if Matt and April would end up being beneficial towards one another if given the time to connect. I loved the scenes involving that cosy theme of family and felt as if I knew these characters personally. Alex Brown achieves such a fantastic job of bringing her characters, and their surroundings, to life on the page, and I could imagine standing outside of Orchard Cottage myself, so real and vivid it felt to me.

All in all, an absolutely splendid tale from Alex Brown that I felt compelled to pick up again each time I reluctantly put it down. Utterly oozing with warmth, charm and sun-dappled sweetness, it was intriguing from the beginning, and focused beautifully on the most important things in life. Love, family, and finally feeling at peace and laying the past to rest.

Becca's Books is awarding The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown with five of my bookish stars. It was absolutely wonderful to be reunited with Tindledale and I only hope that we have a good couple more stories set here to look forward to in the future. It felt just like coming home. Special thanks to the publisher and Alex Brown for inviting me to be part of the blog tour and for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book.  

EXTRACT FROM PROLOGUE (serialised from day 1 on Book AddictShaun)

Winnie poured herself some tea from the knitted tea-cosied pot before smoothing a starched white linen napkin into her lap – her mother always liked to look her best and to keep an immaculate home too, and certainly saw ‘no reason to let standards slip just because Hitler has seen fit to turn our lives upside down’, as she frequently reminded them all. Their father begged to differ, and said that it was Delphine’s chic French ancestry that made her a perfect petal amidst the ‘ruddy-cheeked horrors’ that he had grown up with toiling the fields surrounding Tindledale. Talking of which, both parts of the kitchen stable back door burst open and George appeared, stamping the mud from his boots on to the mat before pulling Delphine towards him for a hearty morning kiss.
‘Ew! Enough of that,’ Delphine shooed him away, pretending to chastise. ‘You’ll make my face all mucky and that really won’t do when we venture up to the village square later on.’
‘Don’t worry about that – handsome woman like you. You’re the best looker in Tindledale!’ George puffed out his chest as he reluctantly let go of his wife. Delphine patted her neatly prepared pin curls back into place.
‘You always were a charmer, George.’ Delphine pecked his cheek, before bringing proceedings back to the importance of the day. ‘Now, there’s a fresh shirt hanging  
in the wardrobe next to your good suit. But first . . .’ Delphine delivered two perfectly poached eggs on to a plate, ‘eat your breakfast up!’ And she smiled contentedly. Delphine was in her element and at her happiest when feeding and fussing over her family.
‘Right you are,’ George replied, doing as he was told. He sat at the kitchen table and popped the filmy yolk of an egg with the corner of a hunk of home-baked crusty bread. ‘Want to look my best too for waving off our Winnie,’ he added, winking at his eldest daughter. ‘It’s been smashing having you home again for a bit love, and so grown up you are now.’
Winnie smiled; she wasn’t the na├»ve girl she used to be. Not like she was when she first went off to the Land Army at the start of the war. But so much had changed since then . . . courting for starters, that had come as a pleasant surprise. And quite unexpected too. She smiled at the memory of that morning when she first met him – she’d just finished showing the girls how to crate the apples correctly, when someone from the nearby army base at Market Briar had requested a volunteer who could drive.
‘And it’s not every day one of our own gets chosen for driving duties,’ George went on. ‘For the top brass no less. I knew my showing you how to drive would come in handy one day.’ He punctuated the air with the prongs of his fork. ‘You didn’t even know how to switch on the apple lorry’s engine before I showed you.’ He took another big bite of his bread.
‘Daaad.’ Winnie gave him a pretend exasperated look.
‘It’s hardly the same – an open-back truck crammed full of apples bobbing all over the place every time the tyres hit a pothole. No, the “top brass”, as you call them, enjoy a very smooth ride in a proper car, thank you very much.’ Winnie took a sip of her tea and pondered again on her good fortune in having spent the last couple of months in and out of the army base where she had been noticed, something that never would have happened if she’d stayed milking cows and digging for victory in the fields with the other girls.
‘You’ll be driving ambulances now though!’ Edie blithely chipped in, before turning her attentions back to the infinitely more interesting dollop of homemade blackberry jam that she had just let plop from a knife on to her toast. Winnie turned to study her little sister, half wishing that she still possessed Edie’s innocent view of the world. But there was a war on, and already Winnie had seen first hand the real effect it was having on the country. What her parents didn’t know was that one of Winnie’s driving duties had taken her to Brighton – she hadn’t wanted to alarm them with accounts of what she saw there, preferring they enjoy their still near-idyllic lives out here in the countryside – but the devastation that the German bomb had caused when it landed on the cinema in Kemp Town would stay with Winnie for always, especially the four children amongst the fifty-five people who were killed.
‘And doesn’t she look a picture in her uniform?’ Delphine joined in, smoothing a proud hand over Winnie’s right shoulder with a formidable look on her face, as if warning the tiniest speck of fluff to so much as dare go near her daughter’s immaculate jacket.
‘Indeed she does,’ George nodded, equally proud.
As the emerald green and cream split-window Bedford bus chugged away from the village square, Edie dashed after it, along with several other girls from the village, all waving white cotton hankies with stoic smiles fixed firmly in place as they treasured last glimpses, potentially, of their soldier sweethearts. But it was different for Edie: she loved her big sister, of course she did, but she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t a tiny bit gleeful that Winnie had signed up to join the FANY, driving ambulances and doing first aid, and it wasn’t as if she was going some­where really dangerous like her brothers. No, Winnie would be having the time of her life at the training centre, and it wasn’t for ever. Winnie would be back before they knew it, which was why Edie didn’t feel quite so bad for having already boxed up all her belongings ready to move into her big sister’s bedroom for the duration. After their parents’ room, which was set at the front of the cottage overlooking the single-track lane, Winnie’s attic bedroom, with its very own pastel-pink vanity unit and dual-aspect windows with views of the surrounding fields, really was the perfect place to be in Orchard Cottage.


Be sure to keep up with the #OrchardCottage blog tour!


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