A Taste of Home by Heidi Swain: Brimming with the real-life issues and heartfelt emotions - book review -
But a letter written by her globetrotting mother in her dying days sends Fliss on a flight from Puglia to a rundown fruit farm near Peterborough to discover the real family that she never knew existed.
If you are eager to make a welcome escape this spring, recharge your feelgood batteries with a fruit-filled reading feast from Heidi Swain, a much-loved author who has won thousands of hearts with her enchanting books set in Wynbridge, the fictional Fenland town where love blossoms whatever the season.
Swain, who lives with her family in stunning south Norfolk, has a well-earned reputation for warm, witty and wonderful stories which showcase her talent for blending escapist romance, culinary delights, and a perfectly imagined cast of characters with some real-life challenges in the modern world.
And A Taste of Home – which dishes up an intriguing new arrival in Wynbridge alongside a tasty side-serving of familiar faces from books gone by – moves from the plateaux of Italy’s Puglia to the endless horizons of East Anglian fens with a grieving young woman who is trying to make sense of her future.
Twenty-eight-year-old Fliss Brown has grown up living with her mother Jennifer on the Rossi family’s Italian fruit farm. Jennifer arrived at the farm three decades ago. She was a pregnant teenager who couldn’t find the Italian boy who had been her holiday romance and was all alone in the world … and the Rossis welcomed her, gave her a home and took her to their hearts.
Jennifer was a free-spirited woman who often left Fliss behind with Nonna Rossi and her family while she travelled the world, but now cancer has stolen Jennifer’s life and Fliss is consumed with grief.
But before she died, Jennifer left a note telling Fliss that she has a family of her own in England and urging her to return there because she would be ‘a good fit’ with her grandfather and his farm, and urging Fliss to bury her roots in Fenland soil before it is too late.
Armed only with a backpack containing her few important belongings and Nonna Rossi’s treasured family recipe for cherry and almond tart, Fliss arrives unheralded at Fenview Farm on the outskirts of a small town called Wynbridge.
Unfortunately, her estranged, and now widower, grandfather, William Brown, is recovering from both a bad infection and a knee replacement operation and is being cared for by handsome young family friend Eliot Randall.
It’s not the best start for Fliss and she is dismayed to see that her grandfather’s fruit farm has fallen into disrepair. Using the knowledge gained from working on the Rossi farm and her desire to find out more about her past, Fliss rolls up her sleeves and gets stuck in.
As she digs into the soft, dark earth of the fens, Fliss hopes that she will unearth her roots… but what will she discover, and can she resurrect the farm’s glory days and find a taste of home?
Swain is on her very best form as we are immersed in the new beginnings of Fliss, and share with her the trials and tribulations of getting to know her long-lost grandad and transforming the rundown Fenview Farm into a thriving business again.
At the heart of the story are also the endearing relationships that slowly but surely start to take root… the growing understanding and affection between Fliss and grandad Bill, her connections and friendships with the lively and lovely local community, and the blossoming romance with handsome biker Eliot.
Family always comes first in Swain’s inspirational books and A Taste of Home brims with the real-life issues, evocative landscapes, heartfelt emotions and all the love, laughter and tears that we have come to expect from this accomplished author.
And with mouthwatering descriptions of fruit to enjoy at every turn of the page, a refrain of Strawberry Fields Forever would perhaps be the perfect accompaniment!
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)