Review: The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick
Why: I have always wanted to develop a green thumb, and since moving in to our first house in September, gardening has been high on my priority list. When I saw this title and read the teaser, it felt made for me in this season of life! Old timey gardens, an historic castle, mysterious tapestries and of course, a budding romance. (Pun fully intended.)
Here was a place that defined beauty in petals and leaves, scent and sight, hue and touch.
Story: The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick is the second book about the Sparrow Sisters – the first being aptly named The Sparrow Sisters! This novel focuses on Sorrel Sparrow, the eldest sister. She finds herself leaving home to resurrect a dark and mysterious garden in England. Invited by Sir Graham Kirkwood who has not been entirely forthcoming in regards to the history of the decayed land, Sorrel is tested to her very core. In order to save the garden, this Sparrow sister must uncover the meaning behind cryptic tapestries, long-hidden to keep their disturbing secrets. What they reveal threatens human and plant life alike.
There was a chill in that corner of the garden, a shadow that did not lift even when the moonlight returned.
Opinion: The easiest way for me to describe my opinion of this book is to liken it to a Lifetime channel movie. I found the twists and turns of the plot fairly predictable, but the emotional pull was intoxicating. The picturesque location, the handsome but brooding leading man, and well-paced text made me imagine it all playing out on my television screen.
The one aspect of Herrick’s style that would fail horribly on screen, however, is her ability to elicit smells from her narrative. Other books have done that for me in the past, but Herrick’s tale positively engulfs the reader in scent. It becomes a critical element in each scene, and for me, that made the book come alive and stay with me long after I closed the book.
“I am the hands that will plant the new garden over the old. You must be the heart that stands with me.”
Recommendation: I read this book in a day. Then, I listened to the audiobook of The Sparrow Sisters in roughly three days. Suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Ellen Herrick’s stories! One note of caution: if you are thinking about reading The Forbidden Garden and will probably end up reading both, read The Sparrow Sisters first! There is enough back story revealed in the second book to ruin the impact of the first’s plot.
Back to The Forbidden Garden, though. I can’t say I’ve ever recommended something to be a book club read, so this will be my first. It feels like a quality, casual book that one could discuss over a glass of wine. I might also describe it as “a Sunday morning read”. It would be best suited for readers that want the fairy tale romance. Those of us that are a bit more pragmatic may not appreciate it as fully.
Those days were an idyll that they all deserved but still could not entirely trust. Perhaps that is what made it so very sweet.
Journaling Prompts: (If you haven’t read any of my other reviews, I enjoy putting together a few questions about the book for those that have already read, or choose to read the book after viewing this post! There are great prompts at the end of this book, and some of these questions stem from that list.)
- Why do you think Ellen Herrick made Andrew’s character a minister? How else does faith come up in this book?
- Describe Gabe’s character. How does he evolve throughout the story?
- How do you feel about Graham’s actions from his writing to Sorrel through the end of the novel?
- What does family mean in this book?
- What role does Poppy serve in this book? Do you agree with Patience’s assertion about Poppy?
- One of the themes in this novel is the idea of perception versus reality. Describe the perception of the Kirkwoods versus the reality. How else is perception different than reality in The Forbidden Garden?
- Herrick writes about many strong women. How do the women in this book display their strength?
- Is the ending of the book satisfying? If so, why? If not, where would you take the story next?
*Bonus Questions! If you read The Sparrow Sisters too, how do Delphine and Graham resemble Sorrel and Simon Mayo? What about Mathilde and Mattie?
Special thanks to TLC Book Tours for the book in exchange for my honest review!