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Review: The Secret Vineyard by Loretta Hill

on January 2, 2018

The Secret Vineyard
Loretta Hill
Penguin Random House AUS
2018, 362p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When you’re stumbling through life, try falling head over heels …

Grace Middleton knew that her ex-husband Jake was a lying, cheating, wife-abandoning bastard.

What she didn’t know – until his untimely death – was that he was also the owner of a secret vineyard in the heart of the Margaret River Wine Region. And, much to the chagrin of his new wife, he’s left the property to Grace’s three young sons.

With the intention of putting it up for sale, Grace takes the boys to view Gum Leaf Grove. And immediately finds herself embroiled in mysteries from Jake’s past – and becomes the accidental target of the resident ‘ghost’.

Nowadays Grace believes in love even less than she believes in ghosts. So no one is more surprised than her when she’s caught between two very different men – with secrets of their own . . .

A sparkling romantic comedy about trust after betrayal, hope after regret, and falling in love after vowing never ever to do it again . . . 

I love all of Loretta Hill’s books and I definitely noticed when she didn’t release something in 2017. However we are kicking off 2018 in the right way with a new book from her.

Grace Middleton is struggling at the beginning of the book. She’s a single mother of three, her former husband having left her for her former best friend. He seems to have little interest in their young boys and almost zero interest in contributing to their upbringing, despite his high-paying job. Grace is tired, lonely, frustrated and her life seems in desperate need of a shake up. It’s kind of ironic that the man responsible for the predicament she’s in now is also the one to provide an out. When Jake, her ex passes away Grace is informed by a lawyer that he’s left their three children a property, acquired before he even met Grace and therefore able to be kept out of the grasping hands of his second wife. Grace decides to visit the property in order to decide what to do with it.

I really enjoyed this. Grace is an easy character to sympathise with. Raising kids on your own is hard, especially when you have a disinterested former partner who only does the bare minimum. Having to explain to three young ones that their father is dead is something no one should ever have to do, no matter the circumstances. Grace originally intends to sell the property in order to fund schooling for the boys or something like that but when they camp out with the intention of getting a house that hasn’t been lived in for 20 years ready for sale, something happens. The boys are thriving, Grace is finding the local community idyllic and even the rumours of the house’s resident ghost isn’t enough to put her off.

You could really see the life that Grace and her children could have at Gum Leaf Grove. The boys are able to get outside and play and explore and there’s a small local school. Grace is intrigued by the background of the house, how it fits into her ex-husband’s life and she discovers that it holds a lot of secrets. She finds herself wanting to get to the bottom of them.

Whilst visiting Gum Leaf Grove, Grace also meets two very different men – one a confident, suave type who wants to sweep her off her feet…..and the other quieter, reclusive and a bit mysterious. Grace will have to decide where her heart lies and what will fulfill her the most but both men have secrets. I liked the way this played out a lot. Grace has been out of the game for a long time – she and her ex-husband were together for a number of years and she hasn’t dated anyone since their separation. I can’t say too much without giving key things away but this worked really well and I think it nailed Grace’s excitement but also her nervousness at stepping back into the dating scene.

Loretta Hill writes with such genuine warmth. I loved the connections between the characters and it’s rare for me to find young children so believable, but Grace’s three boys were a delight but also energetic, busy kids that argue and get into mischief. I really loved the stuff about their interactions with the “ghost” before Grace realises what/who they are talking about. This is a really wonderful feel good type of story. I also really enjoyed the way in which Grace and her mother’s relationship was explored in depth as well as the issues that had led to their estrangement. I got really invested in Gum Leaf Grove as well and the mystery of what had happened there that resulted in the house being abandoned. I love a bit of a renovation story – I think I watch too many shows on the Lifestyle Channel! But you could just see that there was so much potential in the house and for Grace’s life if she were to make it her home rather than selling it and investing the money. The kids were young enough to embrace the “tree change” and a more outdoor, rural lifestyle where they could roam and play.

A Loretta Hill book is perfect for any occasion but there’s something about this one that makes me think warm summer nights with a glass of wine! Highly enjoyable and full of some heart warming surprises.

8/10

Book #209 of 2017

The Secret Vineyard is book #61 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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2 responses to “Review: The Secret Vineyard by Loretta Hill

  1. LorettaHill says:

    Thank you so much for such a wonderful review. You’ve made my day!

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