The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain – Book Review

Title: The Winter Garden (review copy)

Series: Nightingale Square #3

Author: Heidi Swain

Genre: Contemporary Light Fiction, Christmas, Romantic Dramedy

Blurb from Goodreads

Freya Fuller is estranged from her parents and has been following her childhood dream of becoming a gardener ever since.

When an opportunity to design a winter garden opens up at a Victorian property in Nightingale Square, Freya jumps at the chance to make a fresh start.

But while the majority of the residents are welcoming, local artist Finn seems determined to shut her out, and when Freya’s family make a surprise appearance, it seems that her new life is about to come crashing down . . .

The Winter Garden is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance.

My Review

The Winter Garden is the third book in a series of books set in the fictional surroundings of Nightingale Square. Each book in the series is linked by the supporting characters who feature in each story (main characters from books one and two become supporting players in later books I believe) but can be read as standalones. I have not read books one and two prior to reading this third book and did not feel that this impacted my enjoyment nor understanding of the plot.

The book follows the exploits of gardener Freya who finds herself needing a job as the country estate where she used to work has been taken over by a relative of her recently deceased boss Eloise and is to be sold to developers. This change in circumstances leaves Freya feeling rather lost and unsure of herself, as she had been very happy working for her sweet elderly boss so having to move on is very difficult for her.

However she quickly becomes ensconced in her new community at Nightingale Square as everyone works together to create a beautiful Winter Garden and Winterfest to celebrate the wintry season.

This is a very easy to read and gentle sort of book. Nightingale Square is an absolutely idyllic setting; it is enhanced by the gorgeous descriptions of both autumn and winter seasons, including a nod to the everyone’s evergreen favourite Christmas markets, which makes ‘The Winter Garden’ the perfect book to enjoy while sipping a hot chocolate in a big squishy sofa by the fire. Christmas time here we come! This is also a great book for anyone with green fingers as the passion for gardening practically drips off the pages!

The community of characters are all very warm and friendly (with one or two slightly more pantomime villain-esque characters) which adds to the sense that this book is like a big giant cosy hug. Although, personally I did find myself feeling quite detached from the characters in the novel. The community was almost too perfect, and therefore any tension or drama that arose just felt very perfunctory and performative. I get that the essence of a book like this is just to escape the hectic nature of the real world for a few hours, but I just could never find that enjoyable sense of gleeful abandonment. Instead, I found myself rolling my eyes at the actions of some of the characters… in particular the love interest Finn. He seemed hostile for no good reason other than the book needed a dramatic plot device to overcome before the two characters could find their happy ever after.

However, I think this is a case of the wrong reader rather than the wrong book. The prose is perfectly lovely, the pace and setting are deftly handled, and the story has a lovely happy ever after feel to it. I think I have just read too many of this type of book in the past and prefer my light hearted reads to have a little more sass to their sense of humour. Sadly, sometimes it’s just a case of wrong reader and wrong time.

But one of the things I really did enjoy about this book was how it mentioned how much light and getting out into the fresh air is so good for our mental well-being … the book made reference to Seasonal Affective Disorder.

So I still very much recommend this book to people who enjoy light hearted, escapist wintry reads in the run up to the festive period as this has many of the sparkling ingredients that make the season the happiest time of the year.

Read this if you like Jill Mansell, Katie Fforde, Trisha Ashley, Carole Matthews

*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley. This review contains my honest thoughts and opinions*

This paperback copy publishing 1st October 2020, Simon and Schuster

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