When Ella married the handsome, celebrated artist Sebastian Montclair at just nineteen she was madly in love. Now, those blissful years of marriage have turned into the very definition of an unconventional set-up. Separated in every way but distance, Sebastian resides in an outhouse across the lawn from Ella’s ramshackle farmhouse.
With an ex-husband living under her nose and a home crowded by hostile teenaged children, gender-confused chickens – not to mention her hyper critical mother whose own marriage slips spectacularly off the rails – Ella finds comfort in the company of the very charming gardener, Ludo. But is he really the answer to her prayers?
Then out of the blue Sebastian decides he must move away, catching Ella horribly unawares. How much longer can she hide from what really destroyed her marriage . . . and the secret she continues to keep?
Ella’s marriage to the celebrated artist Sebastian Montclair has not turned out to be the success she had hoped for. Now in her mid-thirties and with two lazy teenage children lolling about the house, her husband has moved out to live in an outhouse elsewhere on the farm, leaving Ella to look after the children, the holiday guests, the animals as well as doing his laundry. When her parents have marital difficulties too, and her mother decides to come and stay in one of the holiday lets on the farm, Ella’s life become even more chaotic and its only her growing friendship with handsome gardener Ludo (also married) that is her salvation.
By comparison, Ella’s bossy sister Ginnie seems to have a perfect life – she is a lady that lunches, she fills her time with charity committees and by all appearances seems to have the perfect children. Only appearances are never what they seem.
I was really looking forward to reading this as I had very much enjoyed Catherine Alliott’s previous book, A Rural Affair however I found this disappointing. It was an easy read but both characters and storyline were bland and forgettable. Ella seemed to be a pleasant enough ditzy character but I didn’t warm to her, I became irritated by her indecisiveness and dithering and thought some of the minor characters like Ottoline, Ella’s mother and even Sebastian were far more interesting and would have liked to have seen more of them in the book.
There were some amusing moments – most notably with the chickens. Monsieur Blanc and his little gang raised a smile but it’s quite sad really when chickens are more interesting than the main characters!
At nearly 500 pages I felt the book was a bit too long and Ella’s will she/won’t she friendship/affair with Ludo became repetitive. Even the reveal of the “secret” hinted at in the book description wasn’t enough to pick the story up for me. There were some insightful moments when I had a moment of sympathy for Ella, especially when she felt her family were excluding her from their decisions but sadly this book just didn’t hit the spot for me.
Although this was only a so/so book for me, I’m sure that many other people would enjoy it and I would still read other books by this author.
My thanks to Real Readers for the opportunity to read and review this book.
Author website: http://www.catherinealliott.com