Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Ellen Herrick - The Forbidden Garden

At the nursery she runs with her sisters on the New England coast, Sorrel Sparrow has honed her rare gift for nurturing plants and flowers. Now that reputation, and a stroke of good timing, lands Sorrel an unexpected opportunity: reviving a long-dormant Shakespearean garden on an English country estate.
Arriving at Kirkwood Hall, ancestral home of Sir Graham Kirkwood and his wife Stella, Sorrel is shocked by the desolate state of the walled garden. Generations have tried—and failed—to bring it back to glory. Sorrel senses heartbreak and betrayal here, perhaps even enchantment. Intrigued by the house’s history—especially the haunting tapestries that grace its walls—and increasingly drawn to Stella’s enigmatic brother, Sorrel sets to work. And though she knows her true home is across the sea with her sisters, instinct tells her that the English garden’s destiny is entwined with her own, if she can only unravel its secrets…

Comment: I got interested in this book because of the magical realism label. I'm always on the hunt for something in this genre that has not been as hyped as the most known books in the genre. I confess I also felt very confident in it because the cover is so beautiful and evocative but, alas, I should have known one should not judge a book by its cover.

In this book, which is a sequel to another story featuring a sister of the heroine of this one, we meet heroine Sorrel Sparrow who, along with her sisters, has a special gift when it comes to gardens. After the events of the first book, the sisters got a little famous and that is why they hear about them in England too. Following this, Sorrel, as the garden expert, is asked to go to England to the estate of sir Kirkwood to investigate an restore and old Shakespeare garden which no one has been able to fix since a few centuries back because of an apparent curse.
Sorrel thinks this is a good opportunity to test her abilities and do an amazing work, curse talk aside. She travels across the Atlantic and when she arrives, she believes she can make a difference. What she wasn't counting on was the people in the estate making a difference for her and the curse being more serious than what she anticipated...

What a premise! I was fascinated by the possibility of this story and it can be read it quite well without reading the first book. I have had some bad experiences reading series in order but I'm thankful I didn't try this with these stories here because:
a) despite the constant reference to events in the first book, this one reads well without it and
b) this one turned out to be a terribly boring one and I can't stand the idea of having wasted time with the other one too.

Sadly, this is my opinion: what a boring book this was!
So boring. I felt this was such a disappointing execution to what promised to be a cute and romantic and magical and special story. I admit I imagined tones and details along the lines of books like those of Sarah Addison Allen or even Susanna Kearsley who, not being a magical realism author, still conveys the sort of atmosphere I envisioned for this one, being the setting in England.
It can be quite unfair, these hopes and failed expectations!

The plot has a lot of merit, the characters have interesting qualities and personality traits, the ideas the will supposedly be addressed seem fascinating, the hidden little things like the possibility of a romance, the adaptation to a new country, all seems to slowly grab the reader's attention but then, so disappointingly, nothing is really developed besides clichés and superficiality.
A lot of pages are spent on giving details on things that don't matter. The confidences and sharing between characters don't really add any depth to them. I liked the mention of flowers and plants but the writing was so lousy for me, I barely paid attention.

The garden issues and all the details pertaining to it are interesting enough but, like I said, the pertinent information is lost among unnecessary and unimportant sections.
Why the garden was cursed was not such a big surprise and the reasons why it was kept a secret by the owner a real silly reason, I think it would have been better to just admit to it and help Sorrel deal with the way necessary to fix it. How easy it turned out to be!

As for the romance, there were interesting moments, some cute scenes but they just....went on with it. There was no conflict, no indecision, no real passion in how the romance was approached, how it happened...and it wasn't as sweet and natural as that, even if quiet and easy was the way to develop it. I think this was a pity too because it could have elevated the story into romantic levels or into memorable ones and it just...happened.
I was not convinced they were in love nor that their being together was the only possible way for them to be happy as we obviously like to see when a believable romance is present in a story.

Considering the experience of reading this, what a disappointment but since this ended up being so easily forgettable, I can move on without guilt anyway.
Grade: 4/10

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