The linked circular beds of the chain garden, bright with summer colour, present a charming picture – unless you understand the coded language of flowers.
Guilt-ridden at the number of men dying in her father's mine, Grace Dameral works hard to help the village's bereaved families while caring for her frail mother and preparing for her brothers' homecoming.
The arrival of Edwin Philpotts, a former missionary, ignites a dramatic sequence of events that lay bare long-buried secrets. But why has Edwin returned to Cornwall, and how will Grace respond to his shocking confession?
Jane Jackson is an award-winning historical author who writes historical romances set in Cornwall during the period between the Napoleonic Wars and the Edwardian era. Containing elements of adventure and intrigue, they explore Cornish life at every level of society and are emotionally-gripping stories of courage, ambition, tragedy, and the redeeming power of love.
Grace flicked hopefully through the envelopes arranged on a silver tray. Glimpsing foreign stamps and her brother’s familiar scrawl her heart leapt as she seized it. Thank God. She sped up the wide staircase and along the galleried landing to her mother’s room.
Propped against lace-edged pillows fragrant with lavender Louise Damerel, lily-pale in frilled peach gauze, was sipping tea.
Grace held up the envelope. ‘At last, Mama. A letter from Bryce.’
Thrusting the cup at her daughter Louise held out a fragile hand. ‘Quick, give it to me. Dear Lord, I’ve been so worried.’
Moving a water glass and three enamelled pillboxes Grace set the cup on the bedside cabinet, then sat at the foot of the big bed and smoothed faint creases from her long skirt.
‘They did warn us about the primitive postal system,’ she reminded gently.
‘Yes, but it’s been five months. Five months. I know they’re grown men and very busy. But they are still my sons. If you had children you would understand.’
Grace looked down at the tight cuffs of her cotton blouse pretending to re-fasten a pearl button. If you had children. Oh how she wished… But she was three years from thirty and didn’t even have a gentleman caller.
Zoe attracted admirers like jam attracts wasps. Seven years older and lacking her sister’s beauty and sparkling talent she did not. But resenting Zoe would have been as foolish as resenting a shooting star.
For a while she had cherished hope. Occasionally she had been sought out. Her heart opening like a flower in sunshine when her callers brought flowers and accepted with gratifying enthusiasm her shyly offered invitations to tea. The painful and mortifying realisation that she was simply a route to Zoe had eroded then demolished her self-esteem.
Granny Hester had shown neither surprise nor sympathy. ‘Look at you. Men like to see a young woman in pretty dresses that show off her figure, not plain skirts and mannish blouses. Fair hair and grey eyes are no help either, unless you want to be invisible. You should learn from your sister, make a bit of effort. Zoe knows how to flatter men and make them laugh. No wonder everyone loves her.’ Shaking her head in disgust as Grace’s lack of such basic accomplishments she had retired upstairs to her sitting room.
Patting her hand her mother had confessed relief. ‘Darling, I’m so sorry you’ve been hurt. I know it’s dreadfully selfish of me but I’d hate to lose you. I don’t know how I would manage. You take such wonderful care of me.’
After the last time three years ago, and to spare herself further pain, Grace had buried her dreams of a husband and children of her own. Instead, burdened with guilt because her difficult birth was the cause of her mother’s fragility, she channelled all her energy into running the house and taking care of her mother, helping at the school and chapel and doing charity work in the village. In this busy demanding life she had rediscovered a sense of worth.
Then Reverend Peters died. A few weeks later, after consultations between the chapel elders and the circuit superintendent, a new minister was appointed. Within days the whole village buzzed with the news that the Reverend Edwin Philpotts had left mission work in India to return to his native Cornwall.
He had been standing in the vestibule with Mrs Nancholas, the chapel organist, when Grace arrived for her turn on the cleaning rota. Tall and thin, with straight brown hair that flopped over his forehead, he had a sallow complexion and dark shadows of strain beneath his eyes. Deep creases bracketed his mouth.
The Chain Garden is more than a straightforward romance; it is also a study into the nature of guilt and the effect it can have over the human mind and heart. Jane Jackson’s novel is satisfying on many levels, well-written and pleasurable to read.
Wonderfully evocative, atmospheric and marvellously told, The Chain Garden is a spellbinding tale written by a writer who never fails to mesmerize and captivate her readers. The novel's multifaceted premise, wonderfully drawn characters, moving romance and surprising plot lines make The Chain Garden the perfect book to lose yourself in.