My dear bookish friends,
As the days are getting shorter, darker and colder, I’m getting more and more excited for Christmas time. That most perfect idea of a crisp snow day, curling up on the sofa with a steaming mug full of hot chocolate, and a cosy, happy, wintery read in my hands makes me so happy, and so I have decided to do that as much as I can this year. It might be too early for many, but I waited too long in the past years and then was too busy and only got to read one or two festive books every, and that usually in the greatest stress. So this year I told myself – no more waiting until it’s too late! So, big thank you to Boldwood Books and Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for my spot on this tour and my ecopy of the book!
After escaping her parents’ unhappy marriage to sleepy Cranbridge a long time ago, Belle Clarke dreams of staying at The Black Swan Inn forever. But with the rundown Inn threatened with closure, Belle may be forced to leave, unless a buyer can be found … quickly. So, when her oldest friend Pete Kennedy returns from working abroad with a plan to save the Inn, Belle should be overjoyed. The trouble is, Pete has some rather radical ideas for the renovation which Belle disagrees with. But when a snow storm hits, Belle and Pete are forced to put aside their differences and work together to help the village. Can Belle realise her dreams to stay in Cranbridge and can Pete ever stop running from his past? As they try to save The Black Swan Inn, secrets are revealed and just maybe they’ll finally find out how they really feel about each other.
If you like the happy, cosy, warm, snuggly Hallmark movies, you will love this book too. It left me with such a feeling of contentment and comfort, so exactly what you would want from such a book.
The Village Inn of Secret Dreams is the third book in the The Riverside Lane series, which I wasn’t aware of before reading it, but it wasn’t a problem to get into the story at all. I think if you did read the series in order, you would probably get a bit more depth and knew the characters a bit before, but it can be read as a standalone too. Even though the cover is practically screaming CHRISTMAS, it wasn’t actually that much focused on Christmas overall, so I feel like it can be read all year around (let’s be clear though, that cover is super cute!!). It’s definitely a nice read for the colder seasons, though.
I loved both the setting as well as the characters in this book. The village the story is set in is so charming and has the most picturesque feel to it; it was impossible not to wish I was living there myself. If you are dreaming of the English countryside, Cranbridge is the spot you’re thinking of: lush green hills, lovely little cottages, a little river and a nice sense of community.
If you are a fan of the ‘friends to lovers’ trope or love storylines where the two people you’re rooting for are stuck together, this will be right up your alley. Belle’s old friend, Peter, finally comes back to Cranbridge and helps save the Inn that is threatened to be sold. I loved seing their relationship develop into something…more. Of course, there are many bricks along the way, many hurdles to overcome, and I ended up cheering and worrying and hoping with Belle, and also Peter.
I loved seeing the change in Belle over the course of the book. While in the beginning, she was a bit prickly, we soon learn the reason why. Belle was forced to live with her aunt and uncle when her parents’ marriage ended during her early teenage years, and while they loved her, they did argue a lot. Belle met Peter when she moved in with her aunt and uncle, and they have been great friends ever since.
I didn’t see it coming that the pair would argue so much when they worked together on the Inn’s reparations, but I guess that made it appear even more real. It was easy to root for the characters. At some points, Belle jumped to conclusions a bit too quickly for my taste. Sometimes I was thinking to myself, Belle! Wait a bit longer! But then again, that added to the feeling of a real relationship with real feelings they were developing. Overall, the whole community was really sweet, with quirky and fun characters who were also very supportive, and it was very nice reading about them.
On top of this nice and cosy and comfy side of the book, there is also a more serious undertone to it, which I really appreciated. I loved that the whole community is getting together to help those in need, and it was lovely and heartwarming to see that they didn’t want to leave anybody out, not the poor, not the elderly, nobody.
If you are looking for a nice escapist read to curl up with this weekend, you should pick up The Village Inn of Secret Dreams. It will leave you with the happy and content feeling you are looking for in such a book!
4 stars from me, and I very much look forward to reading more books by the author.
Thank you all so much for reading!
Author Bio & Purchase Link
Alison Sherlock is the author of the bestselling Willow Tree Hall books. Alison enjoyed reading and writing stories from an early age and gave up office life to follow her dream. Her new series for Boldwood is set in a fictional Cotswold village and the first title was published in July 2020.
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