Monday, 30 November 2020

Guest Review: Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Molly Baker is living her best life.

Thirty-eight years old, she lives on the twenty-five-acre Hope Farm in Buckinghamshire, surrounded by (mostly) four-legged friends and rolling hills. There's Anthony the anti-social sheep, Tina Turner the alpaca with attitude, and the definitely-not-miniature pig, Teacup.

Molly runs the farm as an alternative school for kids who haven't thrived in mainstream education. It's full on, but she wouldn't have it any other way. So when the well-groomed Shelby Dacre turns up at Hope Farm asking to enrol his son Lucas, Molly isn't fazed.

But Lucas is distant and soon Molly realises he might be more of a handful than she anticipated. And then there's the added problem that his dad is distractingly handsome. Molly has her beloved farm to think of - could letting Lucas and Shelby in be a terrible mistake, or the start of something wonderful?

Review: I always enjoy Carole Matthews’s books and sat down to read this one full of anticipation. I loved the idea of a farm full of animals who had personality problems but had found a loving home and were material in helping children with difficulties find a purpose in life. To find that the fictional farm in the story was based on a real-life project was an added bonus.

In this story, Molly Blake is living on Hope Farm with her assortment of animals and running it as a centre for children of various ages with autism, learning difficulties or mental health problems. The children help Molly and adult helpers with caring for the animals and the farm itself. Molly is happy with her life, except for the constant worry about having enough money to keep going. She certainly doesn’t live in luxury in her old caravan which is lacking in the most basic facilities. When local TV star and widower Shelby Dacre turns up at the farm with problem teenage son Lucas, things begin to change in Molly’s world. Lucas is a very difficult person to deal with, but as she learns more about him and his background, she begins to grow fond of him and also his handsome father.

I can highly recommend this heartwarming story. It is brimming with great characters, both human and animal. I liked the way in which the story is written; it’s just like Molly is having a chat with the reader. She is very sensitive when talking about and dealing with her charges, but there is also a great amount of humour in the book. The animals have some wonderful names suited to their appearance or personality. I found Molly a likeable person, but I was a bit concerned by her living conditions. It was nice to see her coming out of her shell a bit more as the story progressed, and I loved the relationship she built up with Lucas. Shelby was an interesting character, handsome and rich, but with as many problems as his son; I couldn’t say that I liked or trusted him. I was never sure if he would become romantically involved with Molly. I was really pleased to find that this book has a festive sequel; I’m looking forward to finding out what happens to the trio, to say nothing of the animals, especially the naughty alpacas.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

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