by Prue Leith

August 2004
ISBN: 0-312-32617-3
Reviewer Graphic Button St. Martin`s Press

“A Garden is a lovesome thing,”

Thomas Edward Brown -My Garden

A Lovesome Thing by Prue Leith brings us a patchwork of love stories, nicely joined together in a tranquil novel about the renovation of a great English estate. At the center of the novel is Charlotte (Lotte) Warren, a newly-separated mother of three, who gave up an architectural career for horticultural restoration. As the Head Gardner for Maddon Park, she would be achieving several goals. She would be embarking on the true career of her heart, combining a love of gardening and a reverance for historical preservation. She would be escaping the city and it’s painful reminders of her husband’s infidelity. She would get a fresh start with her children in a much better atmosphere.

Her new boss, entrepreneur Brody Keegan, is a self-made man, rising from poverty in Ireland to achieve unbelievable wealth and status with a mixture of keen instincts, luck and hard work. He seems to have it all - a fabulous estate, supermodel wife, and a life most people only dream about. His plans for Maddon are plebian and tasteless. Lotte is determined to redirect his thinking to a more historical perspective. He wants what he wants - finished yesterday. They are bound to butt-heads as their diverse outlooks clash in every way.

As Lotte begins work on Maddon Park, she discovers that there is much more to the history than she first thought. Consulting with an archivist at Oxford, she discovers that the grounds could contain some of the country’s finest design elements. With the help of her scholarly friend, Peter, she continues her research. Their relationship deepens as Peter’s gentle charm soothes Lotte and her children. He soon becomes a fixture in their lives.

Obsessed with the monumental task at hand, Lotte is constantly thrown together with Brody, whose fiery temperment and drive are often at odds with her methodical approach. While she relishes her quiet evenings with Peter, it is these passionate arguments with Brody that make Lotte’s heart pound. What would she do if she had to choose between them - garden, Peter or Brody?

While A Lovesome Thing would fall apart without the romantic elements, it is not an obvious romance. It is more about Lotte’s personal growth. As she is drawn more deeply into the restoration project to the detriment of her family relationships, how will she cope? The story is beautifully written and the historic references are not overpowering. Readers will share her enthusiasm for discovering new aspects of the estate and her triumphs and tragedies along the way.

Reviewed in August 2004 by Paula.

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