Wednesday 13 October 2021

Guest Review: The Village Inn of Secret Dreams by Alison Sherlock

After escaping her parents’ unhappy marriage to sleepy Cranbridge a long time ago, Belle Clarke dreams of staying at The Black Swan Inn forever.

But with the rundown Inn threatened with closure, Belle may be forced to leave, unless a buyer can be found … quickly.

So, when her oldest friend Pete Kennedy returns from working abroad with a plan to save the Inn, Belle should be overjoyed. The trouble is, Pete has some rather radical ideas for the renovation which Belle disagrees with.

But when a snow storm hits, Belle and Pete are forced to put aside their differences and work together to help the village.

Can Belle realise her dreams to stay in Cranbridge and can Pete ever stop running from his past?

As they try to save The Black Swan Inn, secrets are revealed and just maybe they’ll finally find out how they really feel about each other.

Review: This is book 3 in the Riverside Lane series from this author. The stories in this series centre on the small village of Cranbridge, once a little rundown, but gradually returning to its former charming state, with the sparkling river running through the middle. In previous parts, the village store and then the newspaper office have been brought back to life, but this book deals with the fate of the once striking Black Swan pub, more recently dubbed the Mucky Duck by the locals, having been allowed to deteriorate by its current owners. I have enjoyed the series so far and have been looking forward to this latest part. I listened to the audio version of the book and finished it within just a few sessions. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone, but for full enjoyment, I would recommend reading them in order.

When the owners of the Black Swan pub have reached the end of their tethers and decide that the only way out of their debt is to sell the business, they are delighted that, out of the blue, Pete Kennedy, recently returned to his home village from overseas, offers them the full asking price. Their niece, Belle, who has lived with them for most of her adult life, is not so excited, as she fears that she may lose both her job and her home if Pete decides to renovate the pub and then sell it on, as he has suggested. After a rocky start, Pete realises that he needs to listen to Belle’s suggestions for the new business if it, and he, are to fit into village life. He also begins to remember what it was like growing up in the village and his fondness for Belle from the first moment she arrived to live with her aunt and uncle. Belle also has growing feelings for Pete, but could it be love that they are both experiencing?

Just like the other books in this series, I found this story quite enthralling, with an interesting mix of drama, comedy and romance. The author really has brought this little village to life on the pages of these books, the characters becoming more familiar with each successive part of the series. All the characters in the story are likeable and believable, the selection including all the kinds of people you might well meet in any small country village. Once again, the community spirit in Cranbridge shines through, everybody pulling together in an emergency. Although Belle and the Kennedy family have featured in all parts of the series, Pete himself is a new character. Having been away from the village for many years, it took him some time to fit in again, and I felt for him as he struggled. The changes he made to the dilapidated old pub were extensive, and it sounded marvellous when it was finished - somewhere I would enjoy visiting. I can heartily recommend this particular book, but also the series as a whole; I for one shall be looking out for more of Alison Sherlock’s writing in the future. 

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