The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman

A house full of history is bound to have secrets…

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

This is the first book by Rowan Coleman that I’ve read, although I’ve got a few of hers either on my Kindle or my bookshelves. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to read one, but having read The Girl at the Window I know it won’t be long before I read another.
I’m a Bronte fan, so I suppose this book was bound to appeal to me. Set in Yorkshire in the famous Ponden Hall, so inspirational to the Bronte sisters who visited often, this story has plenty of Bronte lore woven in, not least the possibility of a previously unknown Emily manuscript.
But, even without mention of the Brontes, it’s a captivating story. The tale of the Heaton family who have lived at Ponden Hall for generations, and the legends that have built up over the centuries, of ghostly presences, warnings and cries in the darkness, it’s gripping stuff, and extremely atmospheric.
The house is the main character, but the other characters are engaging. I was especially fascinated by “Ma”, and really enjoyed getting to more about her.
Threaded through the Bronte/Heaton story is that of Trude and Abe. Trude is grieving and has sought refuge at her childhood home of Ponden Hall, along with her young son, Will. Although things between Trude and her mother are in a bad way when she arrives, Trude’s grief, Will’s fervent belief that his father is still alive, and Ma’s touching compassion for them both, and surprising understanding of their feelings, means that a new relationship between them is forged, as they join forces to puzzle out what is going on at their home.
I don’t want to give away any more of the plot, so I’ll just say that this book is very well written with beautifully crafted language and rich imagery. I was drawn in from the first paragraph and the book didn’t let me go until the very last word. In fact, it’s still there, in the recesses of my mind, haunting me …
I honestly loved this book and will no doubt read it again at some point – something I rarely do. A high accolade indeed!

You can buy The Girl at the Window here.

Every Woman for Herself by Trisha Ashley

Every Woman for Herself is another brilliant Trisha Ashley novel. Her heroine is one Charlotte (Charlie) Fry, nee Rymer, whose extremely selfish husband decides their marriage is over (a fait accompli, apparently) and basically clears off back to Saudi on his next business trip, leaving Charlie to pick up the pieces and start again. Charlie doesn’t sit around, weeping and wailing. She decides to get on with her life, and, after a rather unfortunate episode with a frying pan that is just a joy to read, in a rather guilty way, she heads home to her father’s house on the Yorkshire moors.

Charlie’s amorous father has had a long string of mistresses, and his current one, the glamorous Jessica, is currently living at the Parsonage (not a real Parsonage, just its name) along with her two children. It’s rather crowded, as, besides Charlie’s older sister Em, who is most definitely in charge of the place, their other sister, Anne, has returned home, as has brother Bran, an absolutely extraordinary character.  It’s quite difficult to tell whether Bran is mad or just very, very clever. Either way, eccentric doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I loved reading about him. As you can probably tell, Charlie’s father had a real interest in the Brontes and was trying to recreate them, in some sort of strange experiment. He’s another eccentric!

In the family’s cottage, just down the road,  the exotic-looking famous actor, Mace North, and his little girl are staying, while Mace works on his play. When Charlie’s misadventures in her new job lead to her being sacked, Em arranges for her to work for Mace, taking care of his daughter, and before long they have built up quite a rapport. With the help of Em, who is now dabbling in the dark arts, Mace falls under Charlie’s spell – at least, that’s what Charlie believes. Funny, then, that Gloria’s potion to remove the spell doesn’t seem to work.  The all-seeing Gloria isn’t keen on Mace, and doesn’t want him to get his hands on Charlie. She sees nothing but disaster in such a union. On the other hand, she could be getting mixed up.

Em, who is keeping a tight rein on the house, is fighting a determined battle to prevent Jessica from taking over her home and changing the way things are done. Nothing is going to distract her from that purpose. Or is it?

Anne, a war correspondent, is fighting a different sort of battle, and she’s taking it all in her stride, including moving on from the boyfriend who badly let her down, just when she needed him most.

It’s a chaotic household, but it’s very much held together with love and laughter, and the Parsonage has always been the place that the family can return to and find things carrying on, pretty much as what passes for normal in the Rymer family. So, when Jessica announces that she is marrying their father, and then decides they are going to sell the Parsonage and move into a more modern, comfortable house, it’s a real blow to them all. Can the Rymers pull together and stay together? Especially after a particularly disturbing piece of information about Charlie and Bran comes to light.

With a lovestruck, leather-clad vicar, a group of friendly, neighbourhood witches, and a vengeful widow who is determined to wreck Charlie’s life, this is an extremely entertaining novel. Then there’s Skint Old Northern Woman, a real stroke of genius on Charlie’s (and the author’s!) part. Throw in the unsentimental warmth of the family relationships, the smouldering sex appeal of Mace North, dogs, children, and laugh-out-loud scenes, and you have a really wonderful story that’s an absolute joy to read.

Definitely five stars from me!

You can buy Every Woman for Herself here.

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Every Woman for Herself was the first book I’ve read for the Jera’s Jamboree Reading Challenge. It ticks the box for the category, “A book you own but haven’t read”. If you’d like to take part in the challenge, click here.