Three women across time are connected by a garden in Kelly’s enjoyable and richly detailed latest (after The Whispers of War). In 1907, Venetia Smith is hired to design elaborate gardens for the Highbury House estate in Warwickshire. In 1944, Beth Pedley works there as a land girl. For both women, the gardens become scenes of loss and grief, tragedies that are hidden until landscaper Emma Lovett reconstructs the history of the grounds while restoring them in 2021. Venetia falls in love with a young botanist while renovating the garden, and after she becomes pregnant, the career she had worked for and the life she hoped to build are threatened by his controlling sister. Later, as WWII envelops Britain and Highbury House is turned into a hospital, Beth’s tense relationship with the house mistress, Diana Symonds, becomes a shared dedication to protect the gardens from the ravages of war. While much of the narrative is given over to describing the design and work of gardening, Kelly balances Emma’s detective work reviewing papers and records found in the house with Venetia’s slow-burn tragedy and the twist that defines Beth’s relationship to the gardens. Kelly easily delivers everything her fans will expect. (Jan.)
A sweeping and beautifully written novel... an epic saga of love and friendship.
Praise for The Light Over London
"Sweeping, stirring, and heartrending in all the best ways, this tale of one of WWII's courageous, colorful, and enigmatic Gunner Girls will take your breath away."
The Washington Book Review
A heartbreaking romance that will grip you from the very beginning. Julia Kelly weaves a tender romantic story around a girl who fights war showing how strong even tender, romantic women can be. With a bit of mystery in the story, even mystery-readers will like it.
Praise for The Whispers of War
"Julia Kelly’s story about the bonds of female friendship threatened by senseless government policies is timeless and moving, and her trio of heroines had my heart from the start. A gripping tale by a writer at the top of her game."
Apple Best of the Month
"Readers who adore a richly detailed period piece will be immediately drawn in by the world of The Light Over London. Julia Kelly has delivered her most elegant effort yet: a deeply rewarding and moving novel."
"The Whispers of War is a beautifully told story, and a timely reminder that history works in chillingly familiar patterns. Julia Kelly writes gripping, moving historic fiction that’s not to be missed."
"Historical fiction fans won't be able to wait to get their hands on Julia Kelly's The Light Over London....fans should bookmark [it.]"
Deftly weaving together past and present, Kelly tells a fresh, heartfelt story of sisterhood and sacrifice, culminating in a gut-punch finish. Perfect for fans of The Alice Network.
"The Light over London is a poignant reminder that there is no limit to what women can do. A nostalgic, engrossing read."
"A story of exquisite tenderness, The Whispers of War beautifully captures just how precious female friendship can be, and shines a light onto an important but less well-known aspect of war. Add to that rich historical detail and a cast of engaging characters and you have a must-read for all historical fiction fans.
Camille Di Maio
"This book was refreshing in a sea of much WWII fiction. At its heart, it is the story of friendship. In this case, three women who became each other's family and whose devotion is tested in a world changing through war and new roles for women. Heartwarming and compelling, it lifts the reader to a place of beauty and joy even as the shadows of impending war threaten to shatter life as they know it. New love, family secrets, and national loyalties shape the friendships. Though WWII fiction is a regular genre of mine, I felt that The Whispers of War elevated the human story of it in ways that felt brand new. And - as I always love to learn through historical fiction - I was pleased (and horrified) to learn about the extensiveness of internments and the darkness that fear and propaganda can harbor. Kelly touched on themes that are found throughout history, giving it a human face."
From the Publisher
Praise for The Last Garden in England
"[A] touching, immersive read with definite appeal for aficionados of Downton Abbey and Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008)...Subplots involving love, loss, and hope for new beginnings gracefully intertwine, and readers will be enraptured by the garden theme...Like gardens themselves, these pages invite lingering and thoughtful reflection.”—Booklist
"Julia Kelly’s captivating novel, The Last Garden in England, is as immersive as it is enchanting...Historical fiction at its very best."—Patti Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis
"Three women across time are connected by a garden in Kelly’s enjoyable and richly detailed latest...Kelly balances Emma’s detective work reviewing papers and records found in the house with Venetia’s slow-burn tragedy and the twist that defines Beth’s relationship to the gardens. Kelly easily delivers everything her fans will expect.”—Publishers Weekly
"Kelly’s novel encompasses everything I love in historical fiction: a dramatic setting depicted so vividly I could’ve sworn I was strolling through the gardens of Highbury House as I turned the pages, and a series of stories that intertwine each other effortlessly, echoing the theme of love lost and found. A delight."—Fiona Davis, nationally bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue
“Kelly’s decades-spanning story will appeal to gardeners and lovers of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs."—Library Journal
"Like the petals of Highbury House's enchanting roses, Julia Kelly's latest novel unfurls to reveal layered stories of long-lost secrets. The Last Garden in England is a compelling read, filled with loveable characters and an alluring twist of fates." —Ellen Keith, bestselling author of The Dutch Wife
"In this beautiful tale of love, heartbreak and re-invention, Julia Kelly draws us deeply into the heart of the English countryside and a mysterious garden where the destinies of women living decades apart collide in unexpected, transformative ways. Gorgeously written and rooted in meticulous period detail, this novel is vibrant as it is stirring. Fans of historical fiction will fall in love with The Last Garden in England."—Roxanne Veletzos, bestselling author of The Girl They Left Behind
"Bestselling author Julia Kelly plants the seed of an idea, nurtures it into a vivid, intriguing seedling, then fertilizes, prunes, and shapes its various twisting branches into a stunning garden. Connected across the decades by a garden in desperate need of their care, three fascinating women grow alongside one another, shedding secrets and insecurities, eventually blooming with self-realization, hope, and love." —Genevieve Graham, bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child
"An engrossing portrait of three generations of women longing to find their place in the complicated times in which they live. Blooming with warmth and heartbreak."—Brooke Lea Foster, author of Summer Darlings
"The story-strands twine together like honeysuckle climbing up a trellis, sending out secrets and surprises all the way."—Jane Johnson, author of The Sea Gate and Court of Lions
"Kelly’s latest outing movingly depicts the importance of female friendship in wartime... Rich with historical detail and anchored by an utterly convincing friendship at its heart, this should find a wide audience among historical-fiction fans, book clubs, and readers who enjoy stories of the important roles women play in one another’s lives.
"Kelly doesn’t disappoint us–and readers will be engrossed in Louise’s story of love and war juxtaposed with Cara’s present discoveries...We root for both Louise and Cara, understanding their fears, hopes and chances."
When landscaper Emma Lovell takes on the project of restoring the gardens at Highbury House, designed in 1907 by famed garden designer Venetia Smith, she little expects to become embroiled in a mystery spanning several generations. The place exerts a pull on her, as it did on the women who came to the garden before her: ambitious Venetia, who is changed by the gardens and the residents of the Warwickshire town; Diana Symonds, widowed mistress of Highbury during World War II, when her home is requisitioned as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers; Stella Adderton, reluctant cook at Highbury House, who dreams of escape; and land girl and artist Beth Pedley, who joins forces with Stella and Diana when the garden is threatened. Emma discovers multiple stories of love, heartbreak, and ambition, all revolving around the gardens she is restoring as she slowly uncovers the majesty of the gardens and their secrets. VERDICT Kelly's (Whispers of War) decades-spanning story will appeal to gardeners and lovers of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs, though readers may find that the shortness of the chapters in each character's voice detracts from rather than adds to the narrative tension.—Cynthia Johnson, formerly with Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA