** spoiler alert ** I had just started another book when this one arrived in my mailbox. The thought of an old family estate, a walled Shakespearean garden that refused to grow even a weed, an ancient mystery and all on English soil to boot ~ of course I dropped my intended book & glommed onto this one straight away. One of these days I just need to pack a suitcase, buy a one-way ticket to England and either get over my romantic obsession with the country or get on with making a life there! Since facets of my life haven't aligned to make that possible yet, I'm forced to satisfy my Anglophile notions thru reading. Parts of this book were truly fulfilling in that regard. They include the descriptions of London, the Kirkwood estate (house, land, gardens, dogs ~ the whole shebang,) the walled garden with its Tudor era bricks, the beautiful, bygone Elizabeth complete with missing journal, etc., etc. A surprising addition, if one has foodie inclinations, there are epic meals described within the pages ~ sumptuous creations made from scratch & described in detail, all concocted with ingredients fresh from the estate. I'd advise not to read if the cupboards are bare & your stomach is growling. Just an fyi from someone who learned the hard way....
Since I'm a gardening enthusiast, the idea of recreating a garden filled with plants found in the Shakespearean era was very appealing and I enjoyed that aspect of the book. Learning the plant names, reading about laying out the parterres, designing the garden, etc. ~ all interesting subject matter to me & I suspect anyone else with the same shared hobby. An enchanting feature of the book absolutely worth noting was how each chapter was titled with the name of a plant. Lovely idea.
Unfortunately, despite all those "shiny" points, the book wasn't as wonderful as I was expecting and I can't place my finger on why? Immediately upon starting to read, I realized it was a sequel which apparently I'd overlooked prior to ordering. I wouldn't say the story was lost on me for not having read the first book but it sure was referred to often. Also it was strongly reminiscent of books by Sarah Addison Allen (primarily thinking 'Garden Spells' here) in the way it eludes to the protagonist having magical connections to plants and their properties. The love story was sweet but felt a bit rushed, especially how it began. Andrew going from scowling, grumpy, anti-social behavior to caring, patient gentleman (almost overnight) was a bit much to swallow. Maybe I need and/or underestimated the power of 'heart's ease'?
Also the "mystery" part of the book was not so much a mystery as it was deception(s). Family members not being forthright about information that could have resolved questions way before a couple of centuries passed. There were other things that didn't exactly ring "true" with me too but I'm not sure if it would be petty to line them all out? Except I do "need" to say all the "F" bombs seemed out of context considering the subject matter/nature of the book ~ or perhaps I have a heretofore undiscovered prudish nature?? I hope not!
If you're not the kind of person who gets hung up on details and you're looking for an effortless read, maybe 'The Forbidden Garden' would be up your alley? I hope I haven't dissuaded you, it's not entirely without charms, it just fell a little flat for me. A bit sad because with more effort (some editing and tweaking) it could easily be a much better read.