"Freya Moorcroft has wild red hair, mischievous green eyes, a warm smile and a heart of gold. She’s been happy working at the café round the corner from Ivy Lane allotments and her romance with her new boyfriend is going well, she thinks, but a part of her still misses the beautiful rolling hills of her Cumbrian childhood home: Appleby Farm.
Then a phone call out of the blue and a desperate plea for help change everything…
The farm is in financial trouble, and it’s taking its toll on the aunt and uncle who raised Freya. Heading home to lend a hand, Freya quickly learns that things are worse than she first thought. As she summons up all her creativity and determination to turn things around, Freya is surprised as her own dreams for the future begin to take shape.
Love makes the world go round, according to Freya. Not money. But will saving Appleby Farm and following her heart come at a price?"
For those of you that read my Ivy Lane review, you'll know I'm a HUGE fan of Cathy Bramley. Her writing style is engaging, detailed and so well thought through, her characters are lovable and realistic, and the stories are set in the prettiest English locations. She also has the most beautiful book covers. I mean seriously, feast your eyes on that delight above... I think that cover and the one for Ivy Lane are my favourites of the year. So pretty.
Now, I'm a pretty impatient person and as much as I disliked having to wait this long to get my hands on another of her masterpieces, I couldn't bring myself to read Appleby Farm in it's original, four-book-series form. The wait between each part would have been too much, so I decided to hold out for the full paperback version, which was released last week. I'm so glad I did, as this is an immersive, brilliant read that more than lives up to expectation following the high standards of Ivy Lane.
The story follows Freya, who you may remember as the waitress at the tea rooms at Ivy Lane. She receives a call from her Aunt Sue, to say that her Uncle is ill and they need help at the farm. She swiftly heads over to Appleby Farm to help them, which reveals the extent of the trouble they're in. Freya starts coming up with ways to get the farm thriving again and diminish the debt that has piled up, all while trying to deal with being separated from her boyfriend Charlie and working on her distant and poor relationship with her parents.
I loved, loved, lovedddd Freya. She is a great main character to follow - generous, kind and family-focused, doing all she can to make sure her Aunt and Uncle are OK. She's quite flitty and not comfortable settling down in one place, always looks for the next adventure and place to explore. This made me like her even more, it added depth to her character and it was intriguing seeing her inner battle between settling down at the farm to help her family, or move on to the next thing. She's funny too, some of my favourite parts of the story were her chats with her uncle, who is a real sweetheart, and her reunion with her old childhood friend Harry (who is pretty great too). I also really liked Lizzie, the bartender at the local pub and Freya's firm friend from the moment she arrives at the farm. She is funny and a little kooky, and I thought she was a brilliant addition to the gang.
Appleby Farm is set in the Lake District, which provides some beautifully described scenery - I particularly loved the little shepherds huts which Freya changes into a 'glamping' destination - they sound pretty fun! Any book that focuses on tea and cake is a winner in my eyes, so when Freya set out to make the old unused barn a vintage tea room I was in my element, it sounded so cute and dainty, not to mention tasty!
I really enjoyed how this story linked back to Ivy Lane. It features a couple of appearances from Tilly, who I loved from that story. Appleby Farm can be read as a stand alone novel in itself, it won't be confusing, but it's more fun if you've read the first so you can see the link and reconnect with characters you loved from Ivy Lane. I'm so chuffed that this didn't disappoint and was as brilliant, if not better (?!) than Ivy Lane. I really, really enjoyed it.
So, if you're looking for a story that's comforting, homely and absolutely absorbing look no further. Appleby Farm is an absolute treat of a story and showcases the wonderful talent of Cathy Bramley. I can't wait for more....