About the book...
Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she seeks out peace and quiet in a new town, taking on a plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution.
But the friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and gradually draw Tilly in to their cosy, comforting world of planting seedlings, organising bake sales and planning seasonal parties.
As the seasons pass, will Tilly learn to stop hiding amongst the sweet peas and let people back into her life – and her heart?
About the author...
After four years of flinging herself round the dance floors of Nottingham's nightspots, British author Cathy Bramley somehow managed to get an honours degree in business.
She then plunged herself into the corporate world of marketing, working on high-powered projects such as testing the firing range of SuperSoaker water guns and perfecting the weeing action of Tiny Tears until deciding in 1995 to set up her own marketing agency.
She now lives in an idyllic Nottinghamshire village with her husband, two daughters and a dog called Pearl.
Cathy Bramley certainly knows how to reel in an audience. Ivy Lane was published last year in four parts and was set in and around an allotment. Each part published with the seasons - spring, summer, autumn & winter Each part gives you not quite enough or just the right amount depending on how you look at it. I'm impatient so felt a tiny bit frustrated when each of the books ended - I was left just desperate for the next instalment and trying to second guess what would happen next. You can imagine my delight when I found it was coming to be released in paperback form as a complete book - I didn't think my delight could get any higher until a little bird told me I had, not just one but two mentions in the newly published paperback - I was blown away, such an honour.
For me everything about Ivy Lane is just perfect - the characters, setting, pace, intrigue, humour and romance all are served up in just the right quantities. I loved every page and waxed lyrical about it at every opportunity.
The story is about a character Tilly Parker and the people she meets and becomes friends with when she takes on a new hobby as an allotment owner. Tilly had moved to the area looking for a fresh start - from what, we're not told but, it does involve a man called James. She takes on an allotment as a way of seeking the outdoors and some solitude, a way to regain her equilibrium.
'Peace and solitude' - I could have told her finding that would be difficult - my husband had an allotment for several years and his 'allotment friends' as I called them were all different characters and ages from all walks of life - privacy and solitude don't go together when you become part of an allotment community.
Cathy had clearly done her research as he characterisations were so accurate. Our (that's the 'royal our') allotment was in the same condition as Tilly's when we took it over and all the surrounding allotment owners came and gave their advice, pitched in with tools and gossiped the day away :) With each person Tilly met I could draw on my memories of allotment life and say 'oh, she/he is just like....', or 'do you remember that day when....'.
Tilly Parker kept her cards close to her chest as to her reasons for turning up in Ivy Lane, but as the book progresses we see her opening up a little and seriously having her head turned romantically, not by one but two suitors. I loved the way her whole demeanour altered when she arrived at the allotment, totally relaxing and losing herself in the job at hand - her beautiful nature shining through time and time again when she gives time to others, putting their needs and feelings to the forefront of everything she does.
A highly amusing part of the book saw the allotment owners gearing up for a TV crews arrival. They were to film a new television programme set at the allotments. It was also time for the annual produce competition. Needless to say there was lots of primping and pruning done and not just to the allotments. I laughed and smiled so much reading all the antics, loving all the characters and their little ways both subtle and in your face.
It was great to be a voyeur, watching the story unfold - there are those that love the limelight and those that like to blend into the background. Secrets, jealousies and love share equal space on the page and I oohed and ahhed whilst Tilly found feelings surfacing that she'd kept battened down for so long. Her relationship with her new friend Gemma is another big favourite of mine, she makes me laugh, smile and groan in equal measures. Throughout the book there are a lot of sub-stories that Cathy throws out, reeling the reader in and then leaving them dangling. But none more so than halfway through the book!
With Ivy Lane Cathy has developed characters that are highly imaginable and feel to me like real people. Tilly Parker the main character in Ivy Lane develops and blossomed as the book progressed. I did think it was a stroke of genius and so very apt of Cathy to centre the story around an allotment where things grow with love and care. Just like Tilly, with all the love and support of her new friends on the allotments. Tilly very much kept her cards close to her chest as to how and why she has ended up in Ivy Lane but the third quarter of the book sees Tilly's story un-ravel but not before we see her character flounder a little.
The TV company comes back to show a preview of the series they filmed, a young offenders project begins on the allotments and let me just say that Tilly's confidence takes a bashing, jealousies arise, advice is given and new beginnings are forged.
Confidences are shared and Tilly reveals her past - it's clearly a huge relief to her to finally share her secrets and release the weight that she has been carrying around with her. This was a slightly more serious part with many differing emotions on display. There were still plenty of moments that had me laughing, smiling and groaning out loud though, imagining the antics going on, in and around the allotments Even when displaying her serious side Tilly still manages to make me smile - there is a vulnerability and dippy side that just makes me want to hug her and say bless!
As I drew close to the end of this book I was sad and eager at the same time - wanting to find out the final secrets and yet not wanting to because I knew the book would be over. Christmas approached with an hilarious baking competition and a party that finally sees romance blossom for Tilly but is it with Aiden or Charlie? You'll have to read it for yourself and find out.
I can let you into a little secret - Cathy has a new four part series out so we don't have to say goodbye to Ivy Lane totally as some of the characters cross over into the new series Appleby Farm.
I urge you all to go out and buy Ivy Lane, once you start reading you'll be hooked, line and sinker. This was perfect, enjoyable read that is uplifting and got better and better the more I read. Cathy has successfully showcased Ivy Lane and it's characters who all had depth and a story to tell. There's lots of humour, friendship and intrigue and this story is just like good chocolate - satisfying, dreamy and delicious but leaves you wanting just a little bit more.