One More Christmas at the Castle by Trisha Ashley – a special novel of the preparation for a remarkable Christmas in a castle

One More Christmas at the Castle by Trisha Ashley

A Christmas novel has to be something special to be memorable, and this latest Christmas book from Trisha Ashley has a lot going for it. Set in a part large home, part mini castle set near Hadrian’s Wall in beautiful Northumberland, it has friendship, romance and difficult relationships, as well as some excellent cooking organisation tips. This book is mainly set in the lead up to Christmas, and I think could be enjoyed at other times of the year when the weather suits a cosy read. The characters are so well drawn that they stick in the mind, as well as being enjoyable in the context of the book. Not all behave well, some have complex agendas, and there is much to work out. This book is full of Ashley’s trademark humour, which works well between such excellent characters. Sabine has many memories connected with the building from early childhood, but there are tensions which she suggests in her own chapters that she narrates. The main storyteller is Dido, a young woman whose background is mixed, but who has learned to be self-reliant and make the most of her considerable skills. The other characters in the book may not directly comment, but their parts are crucial to the story as a community comes together in the rather special celebrations of Christmas. This book is a real treat in so many ways. 

The book opens with a character list, which given the arrivals at the castle is useful when the community is assembled and to a certain extent confined to the castle and its grounds. The Prologue describes the castle, stuck in the winter, beyond its beautiful Winter Garden which becomes a feature for more than one character. Mrs Sabine Powys is a wealthy woman, generous to those who work for her, but beset by a relative called Lucy who is ineffective at best. Change is on the way, as housekeeper Maria is not going to be able to continue to run the house. Sabine decides to take action as she knows her time is limited, and with her wealth she is able to work out how to hire a very special service to make Christmas as much as possible as it was when she was a small child, before her family was irreparably changed. Dido and her friend Henry are experienced at running their own business “Heavenly Houseparties” which provides a temporary live in service to run house parties in every detail, especially at Christmas. It soon becomes obvious that their complementary personalities and amazing organisation means that they can turn up at a venue and take over every element of cooking, cleaning and preparation. Not that it is without its challenges, as Sabine has her own ideas, particularly about Dido. Happily a retired Vicar, Nancy, has known Sabine for many years, and has a real gift for making friends. Just to confuse the issue Xan is a young man who has come to write a biography of Sabine’s late beloved husband Asa, and his presence stirs up memories not only for Sabine, but also for Dido. As Sabine is conflicted by difficult situations revived for the Christmas season, Dido realises that she has taken on more than running Christmas as it once was, and must deal with future possibilities.

The book manages to evoke so many themes, of difficult memories amidst the traditions of a spectacular recreation of a childhood Christmas. There is a community of people who temporarily come together at Christmas with their own agenda, and it brings many issues to a climax.This book is written with real feeling for the characters, the setting and the time of year, and I recommend it as a special read for anyone who enjoys contemporary lively stories.    

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes by Trisha Ashley – Marnie finds a new life in an overgrown garden in this escapist treat with real edge

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes: The heartwarming and uplifting new rom-com  from the Sunday Times bestseller: Ashley, Trisha:  9781787632332: Books

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes by Trisha Ashley

This is a deeply satisfying book, with a garden to cut back and transform, a secret or two, and some threats to contend with. It is laced with Ashley’s usual brand of humour, attention to detail and features a distinctive cat. This novel is a faithful and realistic story of a young woman who has to overcome a difficult past and is trying to rebuild her life in a garden that is in desperate need of rescue. It is lively, funny and anyone with the slightest interest in gardening – even as an observer- will find much to enjoy in this story of Marnie getting to grips with an overgrown rose garden. The element of romance is well introduced by the character of Ned, an old friend who has also endured a damaging relationship and is wary of any involvement with someone whose exit from gardening in the UK was much discussed. The setting in this book is typically charming, a large garden attached to a country house, and a bonus in terms of a waterfall considered to be a tourist attraction, if only because of the ambiguous appearances at various times of a winged creature. This is a book which includes some of the challenges of life, both contemporary and in the past, and is a deeply satisfying read. 

At the beginning of the novel Marnie loses her mother who has dominated her life to this point, having been rejected by her own family. The main novel is about the adult Marnie, who has spent the previous few years in France working on refurbishing chateaux gardens. She had once had a promising career in British heritage gardens, but that was ruined by her controlling ex husband Mike, who had sent an inflammatory resignation email to her employers. During their brief time together he had systematically controlled her life, and as her adoptive family were in France, nearly succeeded in cutting her off from all support. Having escaped to France, Marnie has returned to Britain having found a strange live-in gardener job near her adopted sister Treena. She has heard of Jericho’s End from her mother, but she is not prepared for the discoveries she makes when she arrives, including a family run ice cream cafe, a memorable site on which to work, and the well known gardener Ned. Not that everything is straightforward, as she discovers that the people she works for are friendly and welcoming, including a rescue cat , Casper, who moves into her small flat. She soon learns something about the history of the village, and realises that a warning from her mother may finally make sense. The brooding figure of Ned also worries her, as he is wary of anyone who may cause him problems as he battles to rescue his garden as a tourist attraction.  It becomes obvious that Marnie will have to take on more than overgrown roses as she tries to build a new life in the shadow of the past.

This is a lovely read as Marnie cuts back the roses and plants that cover a very special garden, and helps to make a visitor attraction out of a wilderness. By including characters from previous novels, Ashley has succeeded in rooting this novel firmly in her wonderful world of communities that help a woman to survive and thrive. The humour which emerges from the dialogue is natural and unforced, always enjoyable and adding a definite bonus to the novel. Not that this is a completely light read; the controlling relationship that is in the background is brilliantly described as abuse that is not necessarily physical but still life changing. Overall I recommend this novel as an escapist joy with a firm base in contemporary life.

Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley – a festive novel of a memorable family, friends and food

Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley | Waterstones

Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley

A house- sitting job over the festive season for a young woman who does not want to celebrate Christmas is the theme of this immensely popular book from Trisha Ashley. It starts with the familiar idea of becoming snowed in with an oddly assorted group of people into a large country house, but happily there is no murder, despite some fairly heated comments! This book has it all, romance, fantastic food and a lot of fun. There are some sad moments which give rise to some of the storylines, but essentially this is a modern Christmas classic. The character of Holly Brown who recounts this novel is a fascinating one, and her narrative reveals so much about the consistent characterisation throughout the novel.  The rural setting is also well described, as bad weather settles in and very few vehicles can move. There are animals, Christmas traditions, and small details that contribute to an overall celebration of a lovely holiday season. The other theme is the food, the solid winter meals which feed a large number of people, the using up of a stock of food which satisfies a lot of  instincts, the description of the planning meals and so much more. Altogether this is a deeply satisfying and most enjoyable book.

The book begins with Holly describing how she became a widow at a young age, after her much loved husband died in an accident years before, and to a certain extent her anger at being deserted. The recent death of her grandmother has also rocked her life view as the rather strict woman’s final words suggested an unknown man in her life. Her late husband’s sister is her best friend, and invites her for a family Christmas, an invitation she turns down in preference for a house sitting job in an isolated house. She does not want to celebrate Christmas as she was never allowed to as a child, and she wants to think about her husband on the anniversary of his death. When she arrives she meets the family of the house owner, a remarkable elderly couple and their granddaughter Jess. She encounters other members of the small community, and soon realises that the absent Jude usually holds a family Christmas meal for many of the locals. Reluctantly agreeing to cook some of the vast quantities of food in the house, she soon discovers that she has taken on a huge task, taking on some of the responsibilities of the absent Jude. Horses, a dog and some remarkable characters contribute to a funny, memorable and satisfying story. 

Those who know Ashley’s work may well begin to predict the romance element of this book, but the plotting and side issues of this book are enormously entertaining. An old diary fascinates Holly, there are tales of a secret celebration, and the unpredictable weather means that everyone’s stay at the house is uncertain. This is a book with a lot going on, effectively mirroring real life. Holly is a sympathetic character who is written with great depth and understanding. On the surface this appears to be a light read, but it has lots to interest and even inform. The food sounds wonderful and so much detail makes this a wonderful festive read. 

Sowing Secrets by Trisha Ashley – a story of love, roses and diets

Sowing Secrets: Ashley, Trisha: 9781847560117: Books

Sowing Seeds by Trisha Ashley

While the new books by this established author are wonderful reads, this older book is also an excellent glimpse into the world of a woman having to cope with difficult situations. Fran is an artist who lives in a small Welsh village, with a fascination for roses which she plants in her cottage garden. She has a daughter, Rosie, who is usually away at university. Her husband Mal is not Rosie’s father; Fran believes that her daughter is the product of a one night stand. One of her problems is that she is uncertain as to the attractive, distinctive young man’s identity having been drunk, on the rebound from her long term boyfriend, and acted out of character. Her beloved Ma has always supported her, as have her local friends. Her problems begin at Christmas, when Rosie demands to know about her father, Mal is being more distant, and Fran is being nagged by him about her weight. This novel is narrated by Fran, as she considers her friends, family members and life in the village, with the usual humour and brilliant characterisation which typifies Ashley’s books. Food, roses and so much more abound in this book which contains humour and romance, all from Fran’s point of view.

The book opens at Christmas, with Rosie at home and asking questions about who her father is, knowing that Mal did not appear on the scene until well after she was born. Indeed Rosie and Mal argue frequently, often about his attitude to Fran. Mal is frequently away for work, and while he is away she works hard at her illustrations and cartoons, and plants roses even beyond the boundaries of Mal’s regulated garden. The neighbours seem to resent her, and apparently report to Mal on her activities. She has her friends, including Nia, who is a potter, and Carrie who has teashop known for her wonderful cakes. Another friend is Rhodri, newly divorced and owner of a large house and estate called Plas Gwyn, which he is intending to open to the public and as an events venue. Nia decides to organise him, and they become involved in a bid to get a celebrity restoration gardener to come and sort out the gardens for a television series. It is an excellent plan, until Fran recognises the celebrity gardener, Gabriel Weston, as someone from her past. To add to her confusion, her ex boyfriend Tom seems determined to attract her attention, as well as invite Rosie to learn to surf. Mal, however, seems increasingly distant, and a tragedy forces her to review her thoughts about her marriage, Gabriel and everything else in her life.

This is an extremely lively and enjoyable book. Fran’s attempts to diet at her husband’s insistence forms a running joke in some ways, and his impossibly high standards make him thoroughly annoying. Fran’s thoughts and panics, highs and lows are really interesting and well depicted, and her life is punctuated with some realistic incidents. I always enjoy the way Ashley’s  female lead characters tell their story, detail her friends and those who are difficult, and cope with challenges that would finish off other people.  This is a very entertaining book, with underlying themes of marriage problems, past loves and village life. There is  a lot of humour in this book, some of it quite dark, but all of it vivid. I recommend this book to Ashley’s fans, and would argue it should help make many more. 

A Leap of Faith by Trisha Ashley – An astonishing woman in a small community

A Leap of Faith: Ashley, Trisha: 9781784160869: Books

A Leap of Faith by Trisha Ashley


Sappho Jones, at the centre of this lively and well written book, has a past, present and future. Brought up by a remarkable pair of women, she has travelled extensively on her own and is a successful writer of travel guides and a fantasy author. Her present is marked by her friendships, including Bob who runs a creative school on a Greek island and several women with whom she was at university. Her future is suddenly determined by her realisation that it is her thirty ninth birthday, and the only adventure that she has not tried is motherhood. Not that she wants a relationship with a man at present; she is still pursued by Dave, a photographer who she was involved with at college and who will not take no for an answer. Sappho is a remarkable woman who has a vivid imagination and sees some of the people around her in terms of her characters, which adds to the humour of an already very funny book. Even her name is a memory of an ancient poet who jumped from a cliff, but Sappho has far too much to live for despite her tendency to stand on cliff edges; she has a cottage in Wales that has just become vacant and as it is near to her friend Miranda’s house she intends to collect up her possessions and move in. The novel is a story of a momentous time in Sappho’s life as she aids and abets her friends to change their lives, only to discover that her own lifestyle and choices become strangely affected by one of her characters come to life.


Sappho is a striking woman, tall and with very long hair, and she is instantly recognisable. With a firm independent streak she pays her own way with her not inconsiderable income, and can advise and help her friends. As she moves into her cottage in the memorably named Bedd, she discovers that a very determined woman, Dorinda, has disappeared in mysterious circumstances leaving her husband Gil under some suspicion. Miranda is distraught as her tv chef husband, Chris, who has always used her recipes, has sent her to Wales to live in her inherited cottage as she no longer fits in with his image. Sappho encourages her to rebel against him, especially when it seems he may be setting up situations which make her doubt her sanity. Another friend, Mu, is happily married to Ambler, an adventurer, but wants a baby more than anything. Meanwhile Lili is a woman who is determined to attract Nye, a potter who lives in Bedd, which leads to some interesting situations.  As parties and more happen in the small village there is no secrecy, so odd events create a lot of interest. Sappho of course is often at the centre of them.


This is an enjoyable book in  lots of ways, and there is a lot of fun in the story of a remarkable woman who is convinced of what she wants, until things change. As always with Ashley’s books, there is a community of friends which plays the part of a family, and each character is carefully drawn with great depth. As one of her older books there is a shortage of contemporary references to computers and phones except in passing, but this book is none the less a strong read which much to recommend it. It is a funny, dramatic and engaging read which I really enjoyed. 


As always, Trisha has written a book with a strong female lead who has come to a point where she must make a decision. it is a lovely read, a comfort read in several ways, and very entertaining. Just the thing for a sometimes grey August!

Every Woman for Herself by Trisha Ashley – a genuinely funny book with some Bronte allusions!

Every Woman For Herself: Trisha Ashley ...

Every Woman for Herself by Trisha Ashley


If there is comedy to be found in what looks like a tragic situation, this book by the witty and clever Trisha Ashley demonstrates how Charlie (or Charlotte) rises from two huge problems with the help of her memorable family. As part of a “Bronte experiment” by their father Ran, she has two sisters Anne and Emily, and a brother called Branwell, and they live in a large house called the Parsonage in Upvale, Yorkshire. When Matt, Charlie’s husband, is apparently suddenly seized by an urge 

to demand a divorce before returning to work abroad, Charlie soon realises that she must return home to her father’s house. 


As with several of Ashley’s other books, a change of location soon means a change of perspective and life, and with Charlie’s family and friends, she soon discovers a lot about herself. The characters in this book are superbly rendered; the redoubtable Em, the sister that runs the household and dabbles in other interests, Anne of the war – like disposition, and Bran the brilliant academic who is bewildered by everyday life. There is a new age nursery with an appalling child, and a striking actor with a bright little daughter. The house and extension which Charlie is forced into is described so well that it becomes another character, along with Gloria and Walter, and it does seem to be a very real, if slightly uncomfortable, place. 


Charlie narrates her story, and can only rationalise Matt’s decision to get a quick divorce by assuming he has been taken over by aliens. After twenty three years of married life in which she has not had children or developed an independent career outside the house, Matt presents his plans as “a fait accompli”. When Angie, the wife of “Groping Greg”, best friend to Matt,  turns up as a predecessor to a disastrous later meeting, Charlie is beginning to realise that the divorce demand is real. She has to travel to the Parsonage under a cloud, but gets what amounts to a welcome from her family. Another one of her father’s procession of mistresses is in possession of her old bedroom, so she moves into the Summer House with her precious collection of plants. As several members of the extended household begin to foresee what is ahead, Charlie begins to realise that many things are happening that are difficult for her to cope with, let alone foresee.


This is a very funny book in terms of both the characters and the amusing details which make for a really enjoyable read. I so appreciated the house that I wished that I could visit. Throughout the book there are little snatches for a magazine which Charlie idly considers starting, called “Skint Old Northern Woman” which is of itself a very funny idea. Including such stereotypes as never wearing warm clothes whatever the weather, it earnestly explains the difference between  mushy peas and pease pudding and other alternative ideas to the standard magazine.  This book is a little dated, as it originally appeared in 2002 so is pre internet and ubiquitous mobile phones, but is probably more interesting for that reason. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a very funny book which incidentally deals with some serious themes, and it is so easy to read.      


This is a lovely book to read at any point, but is especially helpful if life is proving difficult. There are some more serious issues raised here, but all are dealt with in a thoughtful way. I am enjoying working my way through Trisha Ashley’s books, and hope to be reviewing a few more soon when I can get hold of them, including the new “The Garden of Forgotten Wishes” (I had better start saving my pennies!)

A Good Heart is Hard to Find by Trisha Ashley – a horror writer seeks inspiration and more

A Good Heart is Hard to Find: The wonderfully funny rom-com from ...

A Good Heart is Hard to Find  (Or Singled Out) by Trisha Ashley


A writer’s life is not always easy, and when that writer is responsible for vivid and scary horror novels. Cassandra or Cass Leigh is a unique character, as she lives in a small village with an atmospheric graveyard and an understanding vicar, Charles. Cass has a couple of good friends, including Orla who organises singing telegrams in full costume, and Jason who has a difficult son and a wife who has disappeared. Cass is forty four years old, and has been in a relationship with a married man for many years when she decides that she wants to have a baby, even though she knows it is against the odds. Max, her older lover, is in America with his wife for an academic job, but has managed to string her along for years with vague promises of marriage. As Cass seeks inspiration for her latest novel, she goes to the large manor house in the village.


This is a novel that has a lot of humour, often around the outrageous costumes that Cass and Orla wear. The humour extends to some of the characters who appear on the sidelines, with Trisha Ashley’s usual flair. It has a lot to say about the choices that women have faced for years, especially whether to hang onto a relationship even if it is far from ideal, even at the risk to their fertility and consequent hopes of having children. There is also the theme of guilt, especially when others encourage the feeling. Cass is fascinated with the occult partly as a result of a father who has always told her that she is evil. Apart from that, she has a most unusual family of one sister, Jane, who always appears to be innocent, and four brothers who have very different ways of life. The names and family did remind me of another author, a certain Miss Austen, who probably never wrote in this particular genre…


In a truly classic twist, Cass encounters the new owner of the local manor house, which is advertised as “the most haunted house in Britain”. Dante, apart from appearing in costume himself, has a past which has also left him with feelings of guilt, and he seems suddenly determined to discover more about horror stories and writing a book. When the vicar organises the annual auction of people’s talents in the village for charity, Cass realises that she must potentially do more than seek inspiration, and that there may well be decisions that she makes.


This is a book which defies easy description, but is very entertaining and very funny. Cass’s writing is “reviewed” in short phrases at the start of each chapter which suggest that it is disturbing and yet addictive. Also as ideas for the stories come to Cass, she thinks through suitable lines to write during the night. The dialogue is also very funny, especially as it becomes known that Cass is hoping to find a father for a child. The set pieces of the confrontations between Max and Cass, and Dante with people from his past, are very enjoyable, especially in the context of vampire and other horror stories. This book introduces some fascinating characters, even the minor ones, as well as slipping in some big questions of family and friends. I recommend this book as a very enjoyable read.  


This novel is a good and entertaining read, with some very cheeky references. Although there are some tough questions here it is well written and very effective. Sometimes it is just this sort of entertaining book we need when life is tricky, and it makes a change from more “heavy” novels.  As always, great variety helps!

Written From The Heart by Trisha Ashley – a funny novel of a writer’s life

Written From the Heart: Trisha Ashley: 9781784160883 ...


A novel of a writer, who writes and critiques other writers, is often an interesting read. This book contains much more – humour, ballet and innuendo, literary festivals and friendship. Trisha Ashley has created Tina Devino who tells her story very much in her own words, and with her own suggestive tales of her regular lover, partner and friend, the retired but still active ballet dancer Sergei. There are letters throughout addressed to Tina’s agency for aspiring writers, where for a certain sum a range of individuals send their manuscripts of varying quality for Tina’s scrutiny and advice. She replies with humour and discretion and I enjoyed these insertions into the story very much. Meanwhile we see Tina’s interactions with various people in her life; her publisher, Salubrious Press with a surprise, her agent, Miracle, and her good friend Linny. She has local friends in the seaside town of Shrimphaven, who help her with diverse things as computers, as the internet was a new thing for her, and her pet mouse Minnie. This is a very funny book, with Ashley’s usual cast of characters and a plot that is far more than a straightforward romance. Tina is a wonderful creation, with a lot of determination to make the most of her career as a “mid list author”, and this is a most entertaining book.


The book opens with Tina receiving a dictaphone so she can make notes for her novels, which Linny confidently predicts will be bestsellers. That would certainly relive the financial pressures  on Tina, but meanwhile she will keep producing her novels of gardening and passion and supplementing her income looking through the novels sent to her, often too long, beyond definition and not even in convincing English. They make for funny interludes, as she copes with Linny’s random behaviour and Sergei’s regular phone calls. Her brother is convinced that the family is from an Italian gangster background, and his family are all that is left of Tina’s relatives. She is no longer in contact with her ex husband, Tim, but her long term part time relationship with Sergei is quite exhausting. She becomes determined to save her career in the face of blonde debut writers, and decides that as her publisher will not spend anything on publicity for her book she must get some herself. Happily, that may not be too difficult with Sergi on her team.


This is a most entertaining novel with some very funny incidents, all seen through Tina’s remarkable point of view. Her clothes and her concerns are always funny. Her experiences at literary events have a certain ring of truth, especially when she is trying to lead a writing session. There are plenty of imaginative events involving Sergei, who embraces celebrity with great flair. The letters that are sent by the would be writers are very funny, as they reveal their great hopes for success and fame despite their frequent misunderstanding of genre and writing altogether. Every part of this book gives a picture of an unusual woman with a great sense of fun.   


This book originally appeared in 2008 as “Happy Endings”, which explains why the attitude to computers and the ignorance of such things and mobile phones may be noticed. This novel, like the other Trisha Ashley books I have enjoyed and reviewed, features women who are forced to reassess their lives for various reasons. This one is a lot lighter than some. I think it is one of a great variety of books that have come my way recently, and is very different from the book I hope to review tomorrow.

Good Husband Material by Trisha Ashley – a classic romantic comedy with real flair


Tish is married – and to a suitable husband. James, a solicitor in the family firm, seems good, solid, reliable good husband material. He is on good terms with her mother, which is more than Tish is, supports her while she writes romantic novels, and is eager to become a father. He agrees, eventually, to move to an idyllic, country cottage.  The problem is that Tish is not that convinced. Part of her remembers her first love, the famous, or maybe infamous, Fergal, pop star, celebrity, notorious for his lifestyle of wine, women and song. She knows that she should make the most of her safe, orderly life with James, but somehow all her fictional heroes resemble Fergal far more than her “good husband”. This funny book, mainly narrated by Tish as James becomes less than attentive and indeed her life changes, brings in several other characters that are all beautifully depicted, ranging from her slightly disreputable grandmother to Fergal’s ambitious self appointed girlfriend. It is possible to visualize her cottage, its challenges and proximity to a village in this well written book, full of dialogue and thoughts that entertain and engage throughout. 


The Prologue is written from the view of a young Fergal Rocco, remembering his first glimpse of Tish at seventeen, falling from a tree. A vision of beauty, trying to capture a bad tempered parrot. Twelve years later Tish observes that when she writes her novels as “Marian Plentifold”,  all her heros “bear a definite (physical) resemblance to Fergal”. She manages to find and buy a cottage in the countryside, which means that James has a longer commute, and she will be living out of town without being able to drive. Owing to strange twists of fate, Fergal and Tish meet again in a hotel. Meanwhile, James is becoming more uncommunicative, abandoning Tish with a temperamental dog and parrot, refusing to eat what she cooks, staying away overnight and becoming obsessed with the local pub and radio building. The locals in the village include a strange neighbour, a local shopkeeper and a wealthy woman, Margaret who has her own agenda. When the local manor house is bought, things become even more lively for Tish, and her challenges seem to multiply. Will her grandmother plots help? Will her awful mother finally gang up with James? Why has he been spending so much time away? 


This book dates back to 2000, so predates mobile phones and the internet being everywhere. Research is more complicated, communication more tricky, and instead of social media the newspapers and magazines carry all the celebrity gossip that Fergal attracts. There is a lot of subtle comedy here, and there are some wonderful set pieces between various characters. Despite his supposedly wild ways, Fergal comes over as a good man, who tries hard for those he likes. The novel overall is genuinely entertaining and the character of Tish grows with the book, overcoming challenges and maintaining her independence despite her qualms. I really enjoyed this book, and would strongly recommend it as a positive book with a basis in real life.    



This sort of novel is a welcome distraction from other concerns, though there is a health scare in the story. It is very funny, with terrific characters and a lot more. Some characters demand sympathy, some dislike and others are just for fun. Even the animals add to the story. All part of the rich variety I am aiming for on this website!  

The House of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley: an old house is full of possibility – and danger

The House of Hopes and Dreams: Ashley, Trisha ...


An entertaining novel based on a little known but a fascinating skill, characters who have to find their way after challenges, a mystery set in a large country house, this older novel by a well known author is a great read in many ways. The profession of stained glass design and restoration is an intriguing subject for a book, and it is obvious that the author has researched not only the principles but also the daily practice of this ancient craft brought up to date. This being a novel there are no illustrations, but the descriptions are so good that it is easy to visualise their appearance and impact. The main female character, Angel, has so much courage in the face of lost love, home and future that she is an admirable lead for this book. Carey Revell is the requisite hero, though when first sighted he is in hospital recovering from a near fatal bike accident.Angel realises that she is one more of  a group of friends and women who are keen to be part of Carey’s new venture, the chances of the right romance seems remote. The large country house almost becomes an additional character in this novel, and overall the complete package is a great read. 


Another element of this book is the intermittent entries from the journal of one of the previous women who lived in the house. Her unhappy story provides a framework and commentary on the origins of the spectacular house, and help to explain some of the contemporary discoveries. The research into this part of the novel alone must have been daunting, but as with the rest of the novel there is no overload of facts as the story shines through at all times. 


Angel’s story begins with the harmonious picture of her working with her older partner and mentor, Julian. He had made a recovery from a stroke a while before, and Angel had maintained the business as well as helping him. Unfortunately, his unpleasant son Nat is soon on the scene with his vindictive partner Willow, and Angel must find a new home and business premises. Carey meanwhile is in hospital when he discovers that he has inherited Mossby, a large but rundown house. Bewildered by his change of circumstances having been left by his partner and ousted from his job presenting a cottage renovation programme, he soon realises that with support from his friends and his own skills he can transform the challenging building. A basis for a television restoration programme seems highly possible, especially if he can rope in a friend who knows about the stained glass for which the house is famous for, and Angel is thus roped in just as she needs a fresh start. New and old friends combine with a tiny terror of a dog to make this a memorable story.


This entertaining book is a good distraction and a genuinely engaging read, with an element of romance running alongside the humour and the excitement of a new start. There is sufficient mystery to maintain interest, as well as the element of threat to everything Angel has done, as well as the overcoming of certain characters who do not support the renovation. This is a light read in many ways, but makes the most of its subject matter to make for a funny, fascinating and lovely read. 


How are your book stocks holding up? Mine are fine, not that it stopped me from ordering some new ones and some older titles during the last week. I am topping up my book trollies with books that I am coming across in the house, so I shouldn’t be running out of reading matter anytime soon. Looking at twitter and book blogs by other people reminds me of books I have in the house somewhere and would be interesting to read and review, or sometimes re read. I am lucky that Northernvicar has really got the cooking bug now, and is producing some lovely cakes – though I must stick to my exercises!