A novel of second chances and blossoming communities from the author of The Lighthouse Bookshop.
Budding landscape architect Luisa MacGregor is stuck in a rut – she hates her boss, she lives with her sister, and she is still mourning the loss of her husband many years ago. So when she is given the opportunity to take on a parcel of land in a deprived area, she sees the chance to build a garden that can make the area bloom.
Arriving in the rundown seaside town of Collaton on the north-west coast of Cumbria, she realises that her work is going to be cut out for her. But, along with Cas, a local PE teacher, and Harper, a teen whose life has taken a wrong turn, she is determined to get the garden up and running.
So when the community comes together and the garden starts to grow, she feels her luck might have changed. Can she grow good things on this rocky ground? And might love blossom along the way…?
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invite. I’m delighted to share an extract of The Forgotten Garden, published by Simon & Schuster UK on 27 April and available in ebook, audio and paperback.
It was barely four o’clock, but the sun was already dipping lower in the sky as Luisa began the long drive back north to Carlisle. She detested the short days of February: by now winter was dragging. She drummed her cold fingers on the steering wheel, peering out at a heavy grey sky that was threatening another cloudburst at any moment. It was going to take her hours to get home. Luisa wouldn’t have minded the journey so much if there had been any real point to her being at that meeting at all, instead of just as a backlight to Marianne Boswell’s ego. Her boss could have taped her own notes and handed them to Luisa for typing up afterwards. Although, Luisa conceded, that would have meant she’d have missed out on the visit to Feldspar Hall, which would have been a pity.
Her phone rang. Luisa glanced at the screen. The name she saw there made her pause for a moment, perplexed. She tapped her Bluetooth earpiece.
‘Owen,’ she greeted, cautiously. ‘How lovely to hear from you. It’s been a while. How are you?’
‘Better for hearing your voice, my dear.’ Owen Lawrence’s cut-glass baritone filled her ear. ‘How are you, Luisa?’
‘Oh, you know,’ she said, lightly, wondering why her late husband’s godfather was calling her at all. ‘Keeping on, as always.’
‘Good, good,’ he said, with the air of a man perpetually in a rush. ‘Well, look, I’ll come straight to the point. Something came up yesterday that I wanted to run past you. An opportunity that made me think of you.’
‘Really?’ Luisa checked her mirrors, surprised. Owen was one of the north’s biggest property developers. He already had a well-established team, including a devoted secretary who had been with him for years. Luisa couldn’t imagine where she would fit into that equation.
‘I’ve acquired some land as a part of a new deal,’ he went on. ‘Long story short, I bought out a company who owned it as part of their portfolio and, to be frank, it’s of no use to me. It’ll never sell for the same reasons I don’t want it – it’s no use for commercial development. Then one of my wily accountants pointed out that if I donate it to charity, it becomes a tax write-off.’
‘Right,’ Luisa said, still mystified.
‘To be completely honest, I couldn’t imagine what charity would want it or what possible use it would be,’ Owen added. ‘But then I remembered that community garden scheme that you and Reuben wanted to get off the ground, back in the day.’
Reuben. Luisa drew in a breath, her fingers tightening on the steering wheel. A beat passed, then another. It was ridiculous, she chided herself, that just the blunt mention of his name could still derail her so completely.
‘Luisa? Have I lost you?’
She swallowed. ‘No, Owen. I’m still here.’
‘I feel bad that I didn’t do more to help you with it at the time,’ Owen said. ‘The dear boy would have wanted me to.’
‘It was a long time ago. You were grieving, too,’ Luisa said, faintly, still trying to ride out the pain, which was shockingly physical. It’s only that it came out of nowhere, she told herself. That’s all. You’re fine. Everything’s fine. ‘We all were.’
Sharon started her career as an entertainment journalist, writing non-fiction books about film and television. She is also the author of multiple children’s books. Sharon and her husband live in a small village in northern Cumbria where they run a second-hand bookshop, Withnail Books in Penrith. She can be found on Twitter @sharongosling.
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