Much-loved rom-com author Trisha Ashley may now be living in North Wales but her wonderfully entertaining books seem to confirm suspicions that her heart still lies in the countryside of West Lancashire.
Her enchanting new novel, The House of Hopes and Dreams, has been carefully and lovingly carved out of the seaside air and rural splendours of the corner of the county where Ashley grew up, an area which has become the inspiration for a raft of gorgeous feelgood stories.
A beguiling blend of dark Lancashire humour, heart-melting romance, and characters so lovable, quirky and real that you want to live next door to them are just some of the many reasons why Ashley’s clever comedies always fly off the bookshelves.
This delightful new confection of romance, mystery, skulduggery and a show-stealing, overgrown pet Chihuahua is brimming with Ashley’s signature warmth, wisdom and wit, and her irresistibly wry observations on the frailties and foibles of humankind.
As Carey Revell recovers after being seriously injured in a hit-and-run cycling accident, he learns that he has unexpectedly inherited Mossby, his family’s ancestral home in Lancashire.
It’s not all good news though. The house – part Elizabethan and part 19th century Arts and Crafts style – is large but rundown and comes with a pair of resentful distant relatives who live in the Lodge and can’t be asked to leave.
But at least it’s somewhere for Carey to lick his wounds after being dumped by his girlfriend Daisy and left with her pet Chihuahua dog Tiny, newly named Fang because of his predilection for biting ankles with his needle-sharp teeth.
Carey has also lost his job as a TV interior designer and Mossby would seem to be perfect for his own renovation show. Fortunately, he has a long-time friend who could restore the stained glass windows which are a central feature of the older part of the house.
Angel Arrowsmith has spent the last ten years happily working and living with her stained glass artist mentor and partner Julian Seddon who is 20 years older than herself. But when she is suddenly bereaved and turned out of her home and workshop by Julian’s resentful son, she fears life will never be the same again.
When Carey comes to her rescue, they move into Mossby, once the home of renowned stained glass artist Jessie Kaye, with high hopes that it can be restored to its former glory. But the house has a dark secret at its heart, an old legend concerning the famous Lady Anne window, and there are others who want to see their plans fail.
Will all their dreams for happiness be shattered, or can Carey and Angel find a way to make this house a home?
This dazzling new romantic odyssey sees Ashley at her best as we join Carey and Angel on their journey from heartbreak, betrayal and tragedy to new beginnings, strange discoveries and a friendship that burgeons slowly into love at a seductive old house near the Lancashire coast.
With an intriguing, multi-layered narrative that seamlessly crosses centuries, a cast of colourful characters from both past and present, a fascinating insight into the history and artistry of stained glass window production, and the added bonus of some tasty recipes, The House of Hopes and Dreams is guaranteed to leave readers hungry for more.
(Bantam Press, hardback, £12.99)