Ten years ago, Ella moved to the remote Welsh countryside to escape the pain of a terrible tragedy… but can you ever truly leave the past behind?
Southport author Rachael Lucas certainly knows how to pull on our heartstrings and after a clutch of beautiful books – including two moving teenage novels – she sweeps us away to a picturesque hillside farm for an absorbing story full of heart, hope and humanity.
A mother to six children, Lucas is an acutely perceptive writer and has a deep understanding of what makes both young people and adults tick, homing in on their fears and foibles with compassion, warmth and her now trademark brand of life-affirming optimism.
In Finding Hope at Hillside Farm, this down-to-earth author brings us a romantic drama steeped in the two things that would seem to be her passion – animals and troubled souls – as we cuddle up with a delightful close-knit community where life proves to be both ordinary and extraordinary.
Hillside Farm, nestled in the rolling hills of the Welsh countryside, has proved to be a safe haven for thirty-something Ella whose life has been marred by tragedy. Living on the remote farm, with just horses and her beloved Aunt Bron for company, Ella thinks she has finally found a place where she can forget her past and find peace.
Ella’s equine therapy business has proved a success, even if it doesn’t quite pay all the outstanding bills, but now Aunt Bron – who has always been Ella’s mainstay – is heading off to Australia to visit her ailing sister and leaving a nervous Ella in charge.
Also looking for a fresh start in the quaint village of Llanidaeron are Jenny, Lou and their eight-year-old granddaughter Hope who has been withdrawn and traumatised by the death of her mother, and misses her father, Harry, who spends a lot of time working away from home.
When Hope starts visiting Hillside Farm to experience the therapeutic effects of riding and caring for horses, Ella is eventually introduced to Harry… a meeting that will change everything for them both.
Neither Ella nor widower Harry want any ‘complications’ in their lives, but as Ella helps the father and daughter come to terms with their loss, she realises that she has been so busy ‘fixing’ other people’s problems that she is no further forward with her own.
But is it too late to find real happiness now?
There is a charming gentleness to Lucas’ clever and thought-provoking novels and this compelling story revels in the beauty of its stunning rural backdrop as well as the eternally fascinating complexity of human relationships.
Lucas focuses on the different ways in which we cope with loss and grief, the long road to healing and acceptance, and the battle to let go of the past and look forward to new beginnings.
Learning to trust again, discovering that kindness and patience reap their own rewards, and finding consolation in community are just some of the themes explored in a romantic drama full of memorable and believable characters, and threaded through with emotional and psychological wisdom.
Uplifting, entertaining, and with an enchanting twist at its heart, Finding Hope at Hillside Farm will help to restore any flagging faith in human nature.
(Pan, paperback, £7.99)