What happens when two lost souls find themselves?
After recent heartbreak, Skye Jackson finds herself homeless and on the road with only a classic Airstream trailer to her name. A surprise inheritance of a rundown little lodge in the grounds of beautiful Willow Tree Hall forces her to change her plans. However, there is a problem…
The lodge is co-owned by care-free, playboy Will Harris, who finds himself unemployed after a recent tabloid scandal.
Syke desperately wants a home to call her own and needs to move on as quickly as possible. Will doesn’t want to stay at his family home either to face the ghosts of his past. So they decide to put aside their differences and renovate the cottage together.
But when a storm hits, Skye and Will are forced to stay on to ensure that an important wedding goes ahead. Can Skye finally find a home of her own? Can Will stop running from his past and help out his family when they need him the most?
The magic of winter at Willow Tree Hall is about to change everything…
A Way Back Home is the third book in my Willow Tree Hall series.
The idea for Willow Tree Hall actually came from watching Downton Abbey! I watched the programme and wondered what it would be like to live in a grand stately home in the present day. As I researched the subject, I realised that many of our country estates had fallen into disrepair due to the high running costs. And thus became the ‘eureka’ moment that began the plot for Book 1 in the series, A House To Mend A Broken Heart.
The renovation and transformation of Willow Tree Hall will take place over all four books, although you don’t need to read them in any particular order as each story is standalone. I was a tiny bit worried about writing a series – my first ever! But all of the books have been huge fun to write as I loved having the chance to catch up with my characters each time.
Will Harris is the hero in A Way Back Home and I’ve been desperate to write his particular story from the very beginning! He is the younger brother to Sam, the heir to Willow Tree Hall. Will has always felt like the ‘spare’ and surplus to requirements over the past few years. Instead of helping with the renovations, he has stayed abroad, building up his playboy image, complete with an Aston Martin! But when he loses his job, Will is finally forced to come home.
The trouble is, the rundown lodge he calls home has unexpectedly received a new co-owner, a stranger called Skye Jackson. Skye is as surprised by the inheritance as Will is and both of them want the matter dealt with as quickly as possible. But, as always, it’s never that easy…
The book was great fun to write as I had already given Will a wickedly dry sense of humour. Therefore it was only right that the heroine of the story would be free-spirited Skye who is his total opposite!
Do they find common ground and even love over a long, cold winter? You’ll have to read A Way Back Home to find out!
Opposites always provide exciting romantic opportunities with lots of fireworks as they learn to trust each other. This story has an added dimension, showing love’s healing qualities and how people can grow and mellow when they find the place they’re meant to be.
Skye’s family circumstances force her into early responsibility. When this unexpectedly ends she finds herself homeless, but with many opportunities for happiness if she’s brave enough to take them. Will comes from a privileged background, but he’s always felt superfluous. Definitely the ‘spare’ in the ‘heir and spare’analogy. His lack of responsibility contrasts sharply with Skye’ way of doing things, but gradually they see value in each other and accept they both have something to learn.
With wonderful supporting characters, that you will be familiar with if you’ve read the other books in the series. This heartwarming, romantic story has a festive twist and would be a great addition to anyone’s Christmas stocking.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Then the sash window was closed once more.
‘My sister fusses over me,’ said Arthur, with a warm smile as he turned to Skye. ‘Would you care for a cup of tea?’
‘I’d love one,’ she replied. ‘Thank you.’
Reeling from all the information her brain was trying to process, Skye needed a few minutes to try and take it all in. She had no idea what any of the talk about a lodge meant and couldn’t quite believe it was somehow linked to her as well.
She was secretly pleased to be invited indoors as the damp of the chilly autumnal afternoon was beginning to seep through her woollen cape and make her feel cold. She was also very interested to see the inside of such an elegant stately home.
However, she could feel Will’s eyes glaring at her back as they walked towards the big house. It sounded as if the lodge had been his for a long time and she had obviously caused him yet more upset after already having dented his beloved sports car. She felt mortified that her visit had brought about so much trouble for him.
Following Arthur inside the double fronted red door, Skye couldn’t help but stare around the huge entrance hall in admiration. Despite the deep red walls, the room still felt light and airy. A wide, dark oak staircase curved up to the first floor. All along the stairwell were portraits of presumably countless generations of the Harris family. From the double height ceiling, a chandelier hung high above them, glittering despite the gloom of the day. A fire was lit in the large stone fireplace, its flames bringing warmth to the chilly air.
She caught Arthur watching and waiting for her reaction.
‘It’s lovely,’ she told him, nodding enthusiastically. ‘A really nice example of the Georgian era.’
‘Isn’t it?’ said Arthur, beaming as if pleased that she had noticed. ‘Do come into the drawing room and meet my sister.’
He led the way towards the entrance to the wing on the left-hand side of the hall. They went into the first room on the left, the drawing room.
Skye didn’t think she had ever been in such an elegant room, with its walls painted in soft green, oak floorboards, and comfortable looking sofas and chairs. The large sash windows overlooked the grounds at the front. There were framed photographs, antique ornaments and candlesticks everywhere. Along with lots of rugs and cushions, it felt homely, warm and welcoming.
‘Right, who’s for tea?’ said the dark-haired elderly woman who had called out from the window. She was now sitting next to a coffee table which held a packed tea tray of cups, saucers and plates. The bejewelled rings on her hands glistened as she held up a teapot. Then she spotted Skye and paused. ‘My goodness, that hair colour is magnificent! Do you think it would suit me? They say older women shouldn’t wear purple, but I’ve never followed the rules, have I, darlings? Mind you, I haven’t had a colour rinse since the eighties, but on you, it’s utterly glorious.’
The whole speech had been said in the same clipped aristocratic voice as Arthur. But whereas he had a gentrified, olde worlde style about him, this lady was highly sophisticated and wearing what looked like a classic bright pink Chanel jacket, wide trousers and many strings of pearls around her neck.
‘This is my sister, Rose,’ said Arthur, with an indulgent smile. ‘Rose, let me introduce you to Miss Skye Jackson.’
Rose put the teapot down with a clatter and rushed to stand up and sweep Skye into a bear hug. ‘Darling girl!’ she said, finally releasing her to hold her at arm’s length and study her with dark blue eyes. ‘What an absolute joy to meet you at last. We were so sorry about dear Norman. What a wonderful man he was. You must still be utterly bereft. Do sit down.’
Skye was somewhat overwhelmed by the warm and exuberant welcome that Rose had given her. But the tears pricked at her eyes as she realised how nice it was to be amongst people who had known Norman so well.
‘Such a shame Annie and Sam aren’t here to meet you, but they’re both out until later,’ carried on Rose, rattling on with her monologue. ‘Sam’s my great-nephew, big brother to Will here and Annie is his gorgeous fiancée. But I’m just an aunty, never a great-aunt. So old sounding when I’m still only middle-aged!’
Skye smiled, especially as it was obvious up close that Rose had to be at least seventy.
‘I love your poncho, by the way. Primark?’ Rose continued.
Skye shook her head. ‘I knitted it myself.’
‘How marvellous! And so unique, of course. Although you can’t beat a bit of Primarni, can you? Now, do I take it that you’ve come to claim your half of the lodge?’ asked Rose, placing a gentle hand on Skye’s sleeve.
‘You knew about that?’ said Will, going to stand in front of the fireplace and look at his aunt in amazement.
‘Of course, darling!’ said Rose, beaming up at him. ‘I think I’d just left my first husband so I was back home for a time. My goodness, we were steaming drunk that evening! That gorgeous magnum of champagne from the wine cellar, wasn’t it, Arthur? Such fun.’
‘I still can’t believe Grandad would put something like the lodge up as a bet,’ said Will, shaking his head.
Rose waved away his disbelief with her hand. ‘We were all young and frivolous once upon a time,’ she said. ‘And it didn’t seem to matter until you began to use it more frequently, these past few years. But fair’s fair, half belongs to Norman.’
Will turned to look straight at Skye, his blue eyes burning into hers. ‘But you’re not technically Norman’s family, is that right?’
Skye could feel herself blushing under his scrutiny. ‘Well, you see, it started off when he became my landlord around ten years ago,’ she told them in a small voice. ‘I rented one of his spare bedrooms.’
Arthur nodded thoughtfully. ‘I remember when he told me that he had rented out a couple of his rooms to top up his pension.’
‘That’s right,’ said Skye. ‘For myself and my younger sister. Anyway, we stayed there for all that time and became close to Norman. I used to help him with the shopping and cleaning when his arthritis became too bad.’
And they had kept each other company in the evenings when the loneliness took hold. But she wasn’t going to tell these strangers that, however nice they were.
‘And these past few years after he had that massive stroke?’ asked Rose gently. ‘How did you cope then?’
‘I tried to take care of him,’ said Skye, looking away to stare down at the rug. ‘But it was just too much. We tried to use carers at home, but if they didn’t show up then he was left alone until I came home from work.’ She gulped away the guilt that she had utterly failed him after all of his generosity towards them. ‘Norman told me that it was for the best that he should go into a nursing home so we chose the best one that we could find.’
Alison Sherlock enjoyed reading and writing stories from an early age and gave up office life to follow her dream. Alison lives in Surrey with her husband and a daft golden retriever.