From the bestselling author of The Second Chance Tea Shop…
Caroline Hemingway can’t help but feel a little strange watching her ex sister-in-law marrying the owner of Carter’s Cider Farm, but she’s delighted Anna’s found happiness after the death of her late husband, and Caroline’s brother, James. If only Caroline could find her own love story…
Desperate to escape the rat race, Caroline decides to take the plunge and move to the idyllic village of Little Somerby, where she is given the task of opening and running a restaurant in one of the forgotten barns on the CiderFarm.
But secrets from her past seem destined to haunt her, and not even the attentions of the very dishy Jonathan Carter can distract her from all she’s left behind…
Perfect for all fans of Fern Britton, Katie Fforde and Cathy Bramley.
Of all the things to do, Caroline Hemingway reflected, watching your brother’s widow marrying another man was certainly one of the weirdest. She blinked in the warm spring sunshine and glanced around her. Around fifty guests were seated on white covered chairs in the main avenue of apple trees in the Royal Orchard of Carter’s Cider, waiting for the bride to arrive. It was perfect weather for a May Day wedding with not a cloud in the sky. The trees were in full flower, with frothy gowns of light pink and white blossom that made them look like a guard of honour of nature’s own bridesmaids. The scent of newly mown grass was in the air along with the first wafts of early honeysuckle from the old railway track, the Strawberry Line, that ran around the perimeter of the cider farm. Underpinning that was the sweet smell of billows of cow parsley. The groom, who happened to be Managing Director of the cider farm, looked, if not exactly nervous, then definitely on edge, although his expression didn’t detract from his charismatic presence. Dressed in a dark pinstriped suit, but for the pink Old English rose in his buttonhole, he looked as though he could have stepped straight out from behind his desk. Next to him, altogether more relaxed and leaning over to mutter things in the groom’s ear from time to time, was the best man. Caroline noticed the sweep of light chestnut hair, the easy manner and the broad smile as he attempted to lighten the groom’s serious demeanour, and realised from the similar bone structure that this must be the groom’s brother, of whom she’d heard a great deal.
Caroline felt a pang; seeing their easy relationship reminded her of the closeness she’d shared with her own brother, whose widow was now about to marry another man. As the first strains of the wedding march drifted across the orchard she blinked back tears. James would have understood, she thought. James would have wanted Anna to be happy. She should feel that way, too.
Not quite able to bring herself to turn to see Anna walking up the aisle between the assembled chairs, Caroline kept her eyes fixed on the two men at the front. The younger man reached out a hand and touched his brother’s elbow as the music began, and as the groom turned around and caught sight of his bride, a smile lifted his features.
When she sensed the bride drawing closer, Caroline turned. Anna looked lit up from the inside, transported with happiness. Caroline swallowed back the lump in her throat as her former sister-in-law passed the row where she was sitting, her father Richard next to her looking proud and happy to be giving away his daughter. Behind her were the two bridesmaids, one tall and teenaged, the other an adorable four year old, both dressed in the same shade of pink to match the apple blossom.
Anna’s eyes met Caroline’s for a moment and held her gaze. She smiled gently, seemingly aware of the strangeness of this situation for Caroline, then continued down the aisle to the front where her groom, the best man and the celebrant stood. Pausing to hand her bouquet of freesias, roses and apple blossom to the older bridesmaid, Caroline watched as Anna turned to her groom, who, seeming to forget where they were for a moment, raised a hand to his bride’s cheek and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.
‘That’s for after the ceremony, you berk!’ Jonathan said lightly, but audibly enough for the assembled guests to hear. The congregation laughed as Matthew gave a grin. Caroline’s heart flipped as Matthew leaned down to whisper something in Anna’s ear, and Anna’s smile in response showed exactly how transported she was with happiness. How things had changed for her, Caroline thought. How wonderful to have a man so in love with her again. Caroline, despite feeling conflicted, also felt slightly jealous; her life had been so complicated over the past few years; complications that had taken many forms and had nearly destroyed her. But, she thought resolutely, it was time to start putting all that behind her. It was as if, by attending this wedding, seeing Anna so happy, Caroline was also giving herself permission to move on. It was time, after the traumas of the past few years, for a fresh start. The spring always made her feel optimistic and in this beautiful setting it was difficult to feel anything else.
As the celebrant took Anna, Matthew and the congregation through the ceremony, Caroline saw the happiness on their faces and their two bridesmaids; the elder girl being Meredith, Matthew’s daughter, and the younger girl being Ellie, Anna’s daughter and Caroline’s niece. She also found her attention again drawn to the best man. So intent on reassuring his older brother before the ceremony, he was now watching the bride and groom solemnly. He was decidedly attractive, Caroline thought unguardedly; but she had a fair idea that it had taken a lot of time and talk to get the brothers to this point, and that Anna had had a great deal to do with that.