ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – Garden of Her Heart by Zoë Richards

Garden of Her Heart by Zoë Richards will be published on 20th June by UCLan Publishing in paperback and audiobook. My thanks to Karen Stretch for the proof copy.

An uplifting story of healing and recovery that will warm your soul…and get you into the garden. Eleanor Oliphant meets The Authenticity Project on a well-being retreat in this story of one loner, two secrets and three weeks at Pinewoods Retreat.

When Holly Bush (yes, she still hasn’t forgiven her mother for that combination) is made redundant with gardening leave, after a brutal attack, she decides to visit a retreat not far from home. There she finds friendship and a garden in need of love, she ends up doing literal gardening leave, bringing the community of guests together. Journaling her way through her holiday, Holly works on both her mental and physical scars and discovers an inner strength as her secrets are revealed.

Perfect for readers who enjoy an uplifting story of self-love, friendship and community, with a hint of romance.

Holly Bush (yes, really!) is having a tough time following an attack at work. When her extended absence leads to her being made redundant she’s not sure how to cope with the wreckage of her life. After seeing an advert for Pinewoods Retreat by chance, she decides to give it a go in the hope that she can salvage something and move forwards.

Pinewoods sounds absolutely perfect to me. I think it’s one of those places that ends up being whatever each person there needs and it’s not only Holly who is looking for change. She meets new friends there. Some are people like her, guests at the retreat, and others are the people who work there such as Lorraine and Dee who run the place, and (dishy) Hunter, the personal trainer. I loved all the main characters and how the author wove all their individual stories together, and I particularly enjoyed Holly’s transformation from someone with zero self-confidence and nothing to look forward to, to someone who has a future and lots of great things to come.

What makes this story work so well is that it taps into our desire to be able to live the life we want, even if that life isn’t obviously available to us. Who hasn’t dreamed of a change that seems out of reach? This book makes it all seem possible and sells a dream that is all about finding your particular place in the world. Garden of Her Heart is a delightful and uplifting debut novel from Zoë Richards. I enjoyed it very much and closed it with an extremely satisfied ‘aah’. It’s about friendship, love, growth and fulfilment and it wrapped itself around me like a warm and cosy blanket.

Zoë Richards was inspired to write Garden of Her Heart by being a suicide survivor from which she learned the healing that worked best for her, which is not the same for everyone. Dog walks around the Formby pinewoods, not far from her home, gave her the location, in an area known locally as The Lost Resort, a town that never came into existence, close to the sea. In the woods there is a sole Victorian house, standing alone on a cinder track, and this is the inspiration for the location of Pinewoods Retreat. She lives in Southport, near Liverpool, has been married to Rob for 34 years, and they have a grown-up daughter and a cockapoo who will never grow up. She worked for the NHS as an improvement programme manager, reforming how children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities are supported in healthcare. Writing gives her an escape from the intensity of work.

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