Welcome to the review tour for Willow's Way by Sharon Struth. I previously read and reviewed her book The Sweet Life, so when I saw this new one was an option, I simply had to jump on it. (Read my review of that book here.) Please keep on reading to check out an excerpt, as well as my honest review of this women's fiction novel. Be sure to leave Sharon a comment or a question. And of course follow the rest of the review tour for even more chances to enter the giveaway at the end!
Please note that affiliate links are present within this post. Should you make a purchase through one, I may earn a small commission to help me to support my websites, at no additional cost to you. Please also note that I did receive a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.
Willow's WayWillow Armstrong, the once-famous “Queen of Weight Loss” and president of Pound Busters, succumbed to stress eating after her divorce. Now the scandal of getting caught on camera binging on pizza, and the internet-wide mocking of her new curves, may destroy her career. Add in a business advisor who drained her finances, and Willow is out of options—until she learns she’s inherited a house in England’s most picturesque locale, The Cotswolds.
Willow’s trip across the pond to sell the property and salvage her company soon becomes its own adventure: the house, once owned by grandparents she never met, needs major work. Plus, single dad Owen Hughes, the estate’s resident groundskeeper and owner of a local tour outfit, isn’t thrilled about the idea of leaving . . . Yet as Willow proceeds with her plans, she’s sidetracked by surprising discoveries about her family’s history--and with Owen’s help, the area’s distinctive attractions. Soon, she’s even retracing her roots—and testing her endurance—amid the region’s natural beauty. And the more she delves into the past, the more clearly she sees herself, her future, and the way home . . .
Read an excerpt:
Willow swallowed the lump in her throat, took the luggage handle, and hoisted it up the steps. A low howl of a dog, followed by rustling from the nearby woods, made her pause.
She turned to the sound, laughing as a short legged, shaggy dog approached, its long tail raised high in the air, wagging like a flag of surrender. The cute canine bellowed another generous howl and came toward Willow; she swore it wore a smile—if a dog could.
Willow stepped off the porch. “Hello there, little fella.” She crouched down and extended her hand. “Come here.”
Woooowooowoooo. This time he offered a softer, less frantic cooing that warmed and welcomed. He swarmed her calves while she ran a hand along his thick, wiry fur, trying to figure out the breed. A body like a basset hound, with the same white, black, and tan coloring, yet his thick, wiry hair was very un-bassett-like.
She touched his long, silky ears. “You’re a cute little guy.”
With that he rested his short, thick legs on her knees, giving her the once over, too.
Long snout. Pronounced black nose. Smiling dark brown eyes peeked out beneath a mop of hair atop his crown-shaped head. A real cutie. He licked her cheek.
“Are you lost or just part of the welcome wagon?” He licked her again. “Then part of the welcome wagon it is.”
She checked his collar for ID. A metal tag read Henry and listed a phone number.
“Well, Henry, why don’t I call your—”
“Henry!” A child yelled. “Henry!”
The voice came from the direction of the same thick trees where the dog had exited.
“He’s over here,” Willow hollered back and a moment later a young girl of maybe five or six dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt emerged.
She marched over. “Oh, Henry.” She shook her head and her fawn-colored pigtails danced. “You are not always a good listener.”
The dog abandoned Willow. As he rushed to meet the girl, his back end swayed to one side, as if it couldn’t keep up with his front half. He ran right into the young girl, but she braced herself from falling and leaned over to give him an affectionate pat on the back.
“Henry! You can be such a bad boy.”
Henry licked her cheek, making the girl giggle. Willow couldn’t wipe the smile from her face if she tried. Besides the young girl’s contagious laugh, her accented voice and reprimand sounded so grown compared to American children.
Willow walked toward them. “What kind of dog is he?”
“Oh, he’s a petite.”
“I’ve never heard of those.” Willow squatted down and ran her hand along his low, long body. “Just a petite?”
“No. A Petite Basset Griffon Vendéen.” She pronounced the words with a beginner’s French accent.
“That’s a mouthful. Well, I’ve definitely never heard of that either.”
“That’s why we call him a petite, or sometimes a PBGV.” She cupped the dog’s snout in her hands and kissed the top of his head. “My mum used to breed them.” She frowned. “Now we only have Henry.”
“Oh, so she doesn’t breed them anymore?”
She quieted and stroked the dog’s long ears. “My mum passed away. But my daddy let me keep Henry.”
Sadness tore at Willow’s chest. To hear that such a young child had suffered the loss of a parent didn’t seem right. “I’m sorry about your mother. I lost mine, too. It’s hard.”
The little girl played with the dog for a bit then glanced up at Willow. “You’re American?”
I was excited to come across this book, because I really liked Sharon Struth's previous Sweet Life book, which is the inaugural book in the series. (And I do hope that more of these are in the works!) There is a quick nod to the first book, but the two are completely separate from each other.
I think I liked this one even more than the first one. Then again, I feel like I related to Willow a lot more. We're the same age and suffer from some of the same physical and psychological ailments. So it was extremely easy for me to put myself in her place in the story.
Willow's Way is another one of these stories where the MC has to travel and ends up finding herself along the way. I just love these and completely understand how that happens. I think that is why I like to travel. In this book, Willow has to go over to England to take care of some family business that she uncovered after her mother died. She ends up learning about even more family secrets, and therefore more about herself. She also learns how to love herself, which can be difficult to do, especially considering her past.
Conveniently there is a beautiful divorced man who is the caretaker for her family's estate. He is ever so charming and gets compared to Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. I kept having thoughts of Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones, especially with his insistence that Willow is perfect just the way she is. They fit together so well. We could all use an Owen in our lives.
Adding to Owen's charm is Jilly, his young daughter. She just lights up every page on which she appears. I fell madly in love with her, and of course, Henry her faithful canine companion.
Just as in the previous book, the landscapes and settings are so vividly described that I felt as if I was right there with the characters. I could so easily hop on a plane and go to the other side of the pond, if I had the money to do so. Maybe I could look up some of my long-lost relatives and discover more about myself. And I seriously want to do the Cotswold Walks to explore that part of the country.
I loved every minute of this book. And while it went quickly, I didn't zip through it super fast, because I wanted to savor every moment of it. I was a little sad when it was over. But I can't wait for another book to come along.
About Sharon StruthSharon Struth believes you’re never too old to pursue a dream. The Hourglass, her debut novel, was a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Awards for Best First Book. She is the author of the popular Blue Moon Lake Novels, which include Share the Moon.
When she’s not working, she and her husband happily sip their way through the scenic towns of the Connecticut Wine Trail, travel the world, and enjoy spending time with their precious pets and two grown daughters. She writes from the friendliest place she’s ever lived, Bethel, Connecticut. For more information, including where to find her published essays, please visit sharonstruth.com or visit her blog, Musings from the Middle Ages & More at www.sharonstruth.wordpress.com.
Sharon Struth will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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