"Holly Swift has just landed the job of her dreams: events co-ordinator at Wickham Hall, the beautiful manor home that sits proudly at the heart of the village where she grew up. Not only does she get to organise for a living and work in stunning surroundings, but it will also put a bit of distance between Holly and her problems at home.
As Holly falls in love with the busy world of Wickham Hall - from family weddings to summer festivals, firework displays and Christmas grottos - she also finds a place in her heart for her friendly (if unusual) colleagues.
But life isn’t as easily organised as an event at Wickham Hall (and even those have their complications…). Can Holly learn to let go and live in the moment? After all, that’s when the magic happens…"
For those of you that read my blog regularly, you’ll know I’m a HUGE fan of Cathy Bramley. I find it hard to believe that this time last year I hadn’t read anything by her, and yet now she’s up there as one of my favourite authors. Wickham Hall is her latest release, originally split into a four part serial like her other stories, and then released in a full paperback version earlier this month. When I heard the description for Wickham Hall, I was hooked. The story follows Holly as she lands her dream job - events organiser for the prestigious and beautiful Wickham Hall.
First of all I need to talk about the setting for this fabulous story. Wickham Hall sounds bloody amazing! A proper stately manor home with gardens, a tea room and gift shop… it captured my heart as much as it did Holly’s. When I was younger I actually worked in a manor house in my local village and it certainly wasn’t as fun as working at Wickham Hall sounds - I’m jealous! I loved the community spirit the place has - everyone works well together and they become almost like a family which is lovely to see.
As usual, Cathy has created a heroine that you instantly warm to and hope everything works out for her. Holly is down-to-earth and relatable, a great trait for stories like this. When she gets the job at Wickham Hall - a place that has meant a lot to her and her mum for many years - I was thrilled for her, and that was after only reading for a few pages. Imagine what it’s like when you’ve got to know her through the whole story!
Although I really liked Holly, she does seem quite lonely at first. She lives at home with her Mum and has one best friend and no love interest. Now, I’m not in any way saying she has to have a love interest to not be lonely, but it’s clear her world is fairly small and closed - off. That’s what I loved about her working at Wickham Hall - seeing her make new friends, becoming part of a team and even finding a potential love interest.
That’s where Ben (or Benedict) comes into play. Oh, Ben. Straight away he peaked my interest and I warmed to him. He’s the son of Lord and Lady Fortescue, who own Wickham Hall, and, with some reluctance from him, is next in line to inherit this amazing Hall. Sounds dreamy, right? Right. But the problem is he wants freedom - he’s a talented artist and wants to follow his passion, not be cooped up and taking orders from his Dad. For a ‘trial run’ he starts working alongside Holly in the events team. I loved watching the two of them interact and the chemistry is fizzing from the offset. Holly also tries to get him to see the opportunity he has ahead of him and how, actually, returning to Wickham Hall could be an amazing thing.
I loved getting an insight into her job as she settles into her role at Wickham Hall. The events organisation sounded so much fun and I loved her ideas. Fireworks night sounded beautiful and putting together a special calendar to sell in the gift shop really built up a picture of the place in my head and captured my imagination. Wickham Hall itself is the driving force of this story and one that thrilled me from the very beginning -I LOVED it.
Cathy also explores some different issues in this story, in a perfectly crafted way. From early on there are hints that all isn't well with Holly's mum, and as the story progresses its clear she's a hoarder. She can't let anything go and the small cottage is brimming with unecessary items. The way Cathy introduces this is seamless - it isn't spelt out to you as a reader, but hinted at... building up a picture. I thought this really showcased Cathy's amazing writing skills and also kept me interested as a reader. Her mum's issues also explain the organised and the need to be obsessively tidy from Holly - it's a way to counteract her mum's problem and almost done as a coping mechanism. A clever addition to the story and one that really showed the different layers of Holly's personality.
Overall, this is another absolute corker from Cathy Bramley. She just gets better and better - creating beautiful locations, gripping and lovely storylines and fantastic characters that stick with you a long time after reading. Like in Ivy Lane and Appleby Farm, community spirit is a dominating feature of this story and I loved watching such a range of characters with different and vivid personalities work together. If you want a read that captures your imagination, warms your heart and leaves you with a smile on your face then look no further - Wickham Hall is what you need.