Tracy Rees comes to the blog and brings us the first book in her Hopley series
Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church
Starting out in a sleepy village, we meet Gwen: living with her aunt after her parents’ sudden deaths, she’s mired in grief and grey. Her aunt isn’t particularly nice: sharp tongued and negative, everything that Gwen does is met with a “that will come to no good end’ sort of response. But Gwen, stuck in Hopley and feeling hopeless isn’t without her own means of escape: church every Sunday at the lovely old village church, working two days a week at the local surveyor’s office, and dreaming of the entries in the church’s guestbook.
Jarvis lives at home with his parents, works part-time at a local shop and spends the rest of his days (and nights) drinking with friends or playing video games. An art school dropout, his confidence was shattered, and he’s done everything to live up to the ‘failure’ label, even knowing that it hurts his mother and leaves him feeling guilty. Since the only nod he makes to his mother’s wishes is to attend church every Sunday, he’s there to hear yet another plea for the ‘roof fund’ from Vicar Dave.
Vicar Dave has hit the proverbial wall: needing thousands of pounds to repair the roof and having a sparse and essentially elderly congregation with few exceptions has left him with few options – and an Archdeacon who is threatening to move he and his family to another post. He’s decided to ask for volunteers to comb through the visitor’s book to see if new leads for donations can be unearthed. Surprisingly, both Gwen and Jarvis express interest, although the Vicar couldn’t find two more unlikely options. He’s not too hopeful that they will do the work, can do it, or will even show up.
This is the point at which the story takes off. Gwen has a writer’s heart and loves the notes and comments left: imagining their stories, able to discern information from bits of poetry used, even a bit of imagination. Gwen reckons that being out of her Aunt Mary’s earshot and away from the gloomy council house could be nothing short of wonderful – and give her a break from her aunt’s constant nagging and negativity. For his part, Jarvis’ reasons are simple: he was painting by the church one day, met a woman, and fell head over heels. But she left via another exit – and the two never set eyes upon one another again. And, it wouldn’t kill him to give up a few hours of nothingness – particularly when his mother is so pleased.
These two lost souls have to work together – and Jarvis sees that Gwen, although painfully shy is sharp, smart, funny and sweet – just has no confidence and is essentially lonely. He’s realizing that she sees the best of him (after a rocky start) and believes in his talents – allowing him to think differently about his art school experiences and his own work – and when the two start to find their own footing – they also start to blossom. From finding donations for the church roof fund from the most unlikely places – starting with random visitors ten years prior, to small road trips organized to meet visitors or search out others – they find a friendship that strengthens them both. And while neither sees the connection at first – there is a tie there that enriches both their lives and gives each a sense of not being so alone in the world, no matter what. There are surprises here – laughs and tears, and plenty of healing and hope. Rees brings characters that speak to all of us: low confidence, shy, listening to those negative voices inside and out – and allows us to see how one person believing in you – even about something simple, can make all the difference in the world to your growth and outlook – and from there, all things can happen.
Title: Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church
Author: Tracy Rees
Series: Hopley #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance, British, Depression, Family Saga, Friendship, Grief, Humor elements, Mystery Elements, Second Chance, Setting: Britain, Small Town
Published by: Bookouture
Published on: 7 May, 2021
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 8 Hours: 15 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible
‘This may just have saved my life…’ The hurried scribble in the dusty visitors’ book catches Gwen’s eye. Just like that, she is drawn into a mystery at the heart of the pretty village of Hopley, and her troubles seem to fall behind.
When tragedy strikes, Gwen Stanley finds herself jobless and heartbroken. With nowhere else to turn, she retreats to Hopley, a crumbling little village in the sun-dappled English countryside. Wandering the winding lanes and daydreaming about what could have been, Gwen feels so very lost for the first time…
Until one day she pushes through the creaking doors of a tiny stone church on the edge of the village, forgotten by nearly everyone. There she stumbles on a little book full of local secrets. It might just change her life.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.