“Kate is on the run from her almost-divorced husband who is determined to have her back, and she has found the perfect place to hide… a little cottage on Nightingale Square in Norwich, far away from her old life in London. But the residents of Nightingale Square don’t take no for an answer, and Kate soon finds herself pulled into a friendship with Lisa, her bossy but lovely new neighbour.
Within a matter of days Kate is landed with the job of campaigning the council to turn the green into a community garden, meanwhile all the residents of Nightingale Square are horrified to discover that the Victorian mansion house on the other side of the square has been bought by developers. But when all hope is lost, the arrival of a handsome stranger is sure to turn things around!”
It’s publication day for Heidi Swain’s sixth book so Happy Publication Day, Heidi!
I am a huge fan of Heidi’s books and I am totally in love with the little town of Wynbridge where all of her previous novels have been set so I was a little disconcerted to find that her latest novel is not set there! However, Heidi has carved out another charming location for her latest book in Nightingale Square, a village-within-the-city setting where the reclusive Kate has retreated to hide from her soon-to-be-ex-husband and lick the wounds left by the breakdown of her marriage. She is hoping to live the quiet life for a time while she decides what direction her life should take but her neighbours in the Square have other ideas.
Soon Kate is drawn right into the heart of the little community, with two fabulous new girl friends in Lisa and Heather and a surrogate family in the other residents, who love their home and are all pulling together as a community to find a space where they can set up a neighbourhood garden. They also are united in their desire to thwart the modernisation of the neighbouring big house, Prosperous Place, which has an important history at the heart of the area. Kate finds a certain equilibrium in her life until the arrival of a handsome neighbour and the appearance of her ex-husband, via for her attention, throw her off-kilter again.
This book felt a little different to Heidi’s previous books, and I don’t think that was just down to the change in location. I did miss the Wynbridge cast, although a few of them put in an appearance, as Kate is the sister of Jemma’s husband. Regular readers of Heidi’s books will know Jemma as the owner of The Cherry Tree Cafe in Wynbridge.
I think the crux is that Kate is a complicated character and some of the issues tackled in this book seemed a little heavier than the themes in Heidi’s previous books. I am not highlighting this as a negative, just that it feels like a slight divergence for me from what her readers may have come to expect from her books. I enjoyed the meaty storyline and could sympathise with a lot of the dilemmas that Kate is wrestling with in this book – it goes some way beyond a light summer read on this occasion. The desire to hide away to lick one’s wounds will be familiar to all of us from some time or other in our lives.
The history angle was interesting and a great hook for the plot, and I enjoyed the familiar themes of supportive friends and the importance of community that we have come to appreciate in Heidi’s books and her regular readers will not be disappointed in this regard. There were also the usual great cast of characters – Lisa and Harold were the stand-outs for me – and the elements of humour that she is so good at.
There were a couple of elements that niggled a tiny bit. Kate’s obstinate clinging to the idea that there is only one perfect One for all of us and that if the one you thought was The One turns out to have feet of clay that this is it for you on the romance front, I found hard to buy in to. I think this was particularly difficult for me to accept as I found her ex to be so odious that I struggled to see how she could have thought he was The One, but that may just be my perception. In addition, there were parts of the story that were glossed over too quickly and I would her liked them to have been explored more fully and deeply, but I think maybe I was just being greedy for the story to go on longer!
Overall, this was another great read from Heidi but I was left feeling like this book is on the cusp of taking things in a slightly different direction for her but maybe she is holding back a little bit. Whether she chooses to push this further, or keep giving us the great, light-hearted romances we know and love, I will be interested to see. Either way, I will be happy and look forward to seeing what comes next from one of my favourite authors.
Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square is out now and you can purchase a copy here.
My thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
About the Author
Heidi Swain is the Sunday Times bestselling author of five novels: The Cherry Tree Cafe, Summer at Skylark Farm, Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market, Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage and most recently, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair. She lives in Norfolk with her husband and two teenage children.
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