So for me, Heidi Swain is as close to a guilty pleasure book as I get. Not because it’s chick-lit, I make no secret that I love the genre, but because there’s a slightly quaint feel to it that in my opinion can make them appeal a little more to older audiences than I usually like. But her books are set around East Anglia where I live and I’ve always enjoyed them well enough as they are a nice and fun easy read.
Which is why the moment I saw The Winter Garden was available on NetGalley, I immediately requested it, even though I knew it would make my mum – the massive Heidi Swain fan – a little jealous, ha!
This book follows Freya, a gardener who had been working in gardens in Suffolk when she is turfed out of her home after the loss of a friend. During a trip out she receives what she considers a sign and finds herself on Nightingale Square with a job working on a winter garden for Prosperous Place. There she makes many new friends including her co-worker Chloe and a temperamental artist in resident, Finn. As she works hard to get the garden ready in time she has to deal with getting involved with people again.
One of the things I liked best about this book were the friendships. Chloe was probably my favourite character and I’m pretty sure is new to the series with this book. She was fun, mischievous and trying to help Freya in a lot of areas. There were also new side characters Zac who started off as someone who made me roll my eyes but showed actual growth and made me love him not to mention the adorable doggy sidekick for Freya, Nell. I loved the poor, anxious pupper. She deserved all the love.
Admittedly, one of the areas that I found was kind of weak was actually the romance. I didn’t hugely care for Freya or Finn and I had a lot of issues with them. It was both too fast and yet it felt like nothing really happened? Like one moment he didn’t trust her due to his past and then the next he loved her and knew she wouldn’t hurt him on purpose. And though I’m glad he did trust her, it seemed like the lack of trust should have been the big drama and…not much happened? It just made the romance feel too easy but because of what happens early on, it wasn’t a nice cosy easy romance where that sort of thing can work.
Unfortunately, that was a big issue for a lot of the book. Not much really happened. Heidi Swain’s books aren’t too soul destroying, they tend to be easy reads but they do usually have a bit more drama. And I wasn’t really feeling it with this book. I’d have liked to see more drama with the whole garden situation but I didn’t really get it so the ending didn’t feel like much of a payoff.
I did finally get some sort of pay off with the location though! My complaints for the earlier Nightingale Square books were that it was set in Norwich but it felt like some sort of quaint village. Even when the city centre or the college was mentioned you didn’t really get to see it. So they could have just been driving in basically but here you see them walking into the city. There’s interactions going on with it being Christmas and it was just so nice to finally see! I’ve been wanting that so bad so yay for that!
Overall this book wasn’t bad. It was still a typical Heidi Swain and it was pretty light-hearted and enjoyable. It wasn’t my favourite that I’ve read by her but if you love Heidi Swain then you’ll definitely adore this new addition.