Continuing with my NetGalley reads, this one just happens to have been published in December but doesn’t have a Christmas or wintry theme – however it is a good read that has pulled me into the world of quite a long series!

Christie Barlow – “Heartcross Castle”

(26 November 2021)

It’s always a bad sign for a relationship when there’s an engagement at the start of a novel, and so it happens here: young Grace (we realise later she can only be 16 or so), who has run away from home after an argument with her grandfather, accepts the proposal of her boyfriend even though she has severe misgivings about his temper already, because she’s poor and alone and pregnant. Fast forward eight years, she has three children, is battered and bruised and looking for any way out when she suddenly gets a letter to say she’s inherited Heartcross Castle from said grandfather. Dare she go back and try to pick up the friendships she broke trust with all those years ago? Can she make a new life up in Scotland? Well, she has nothing else to save her, so off she goes.

I liked the realism and detail of the book – we learn exactly how Grace makes ends meet (just), salvages a living space from the wreck of the castle and repairs those friendships (I tried not to retain knowledge of who is married to whom and running which small business when I discovered this is SEVENTH in the Love Heart Lane series set in the small Scottish town!). I loved how the community pulled together and Grace’s feisty sparring with Andrew, the entitled TV chef who is also saving her bacon by renting the servants’ quarters of the castle. There is realism, too, in the portrayal of a woman who has recently been experiencing domestic violence (and the effect on her children); this is well-done and not gratuitous or overly detailed but might be triggering. There are also funny moments – a ruined picnic and some cheekiness from the kids, so it’s certainly not all heavy.

This realism gives a depth to this novel not always found in light “women’s fiction” reads and I certainly downloaded a boxed set of the first three novels in the series before I’d even finished reading it!

Thank you to Sara from One More Chapter for offering me a copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “Heartcross Castle is” published on 31 December 2021.