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A Secret Garden Affair by Erica James

What do you do when you find the man you’re about to marry in bed with your best friend? In Libby’s case, you scarper off to the sanctuary of Larkspur House in Suffolk and the loving care of Great-Aunt Bess and her gardening guru friend Elfrida. The home and its two inhabitants hold a special place in Libby’s heart, having often provided happy respite from the difficult relationship she has with her mother Nancy. But will they be able to help heal her current heartbreak?

Elfrida and Bess’s relationship was once that of lady and lady’s maid, but over their decades together it has evolved into one of enduring friendship and loyalty. Socialite and renowned garden designer Elfrida’s life has taken them on many travels, both home and abroad, and with that have come dalliances and dramas aplenty. Now, in addition to its beautiful garden and homely hearth, Larkspur House harbours their many secrets. When Libby says she’d like to sort through papers and photographs stored in the attic so she can document Elfrida’s garden successes, the two older women worry that their hidden past may come crashing into their present.

Author Erica James reveals their scandalous secrets by using alternate chapters to tell Elfrida and Bess’s stories, each ending with an enticing lure to ensure we keep turning the pages. Just when you think you’ve got the endearing characters sussed, more surprises are revealed. Threaded through all this is Libby’s story, leading to the ultimate moment when past and present inevitably collide.

Erica James has an impressive catalogue of family drama and romantic fiction to her name. A Secret Garden Affair, which takes us from the hedonistic 1920s to a Britain gripped by royal wedding fever in 1981, is another to delight fans of this author and genre.

Reviewer: Rowena Mara



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