Review by Veronica

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Series Name: The Riverside Lane, #3

“He’s held her at arm’s length for so many years, but now she was everywhere in his life and he was having to hold himself back for her sake, not his. Because all he wanted to really do was kiss her. And keep kissing her. 

In that moment, he knew that she was so much more than a friend.”

After escaping her parents’ unhappy marriage to sleepy Cranbridge a long time ago, Belle Clarke dreams of staying at The Black Swan Inn forever.

But with the rundown Inn threatened with closure, Belle may be forced to leave, unless a buyer can be found … quickly.

So, when her oldest friend Pete Kennedy returns from working abroad with a plan to save the Inn, Belle should be overjoyed. The trouble is, Pete has some rather radical ideas for the renovation which Belle disagrees with.

But when a snowstorm hits, Belle and Pete are forced to put aside their differences and work together to help the village. Can Belle realize her dreams to stay in Cranbridge and can Pete ever stop running from his past?

As they try to save The Black Swan Inn, secrets are revealed and just maybe they’ll finally find out how they really feel about each other.

The Village Inn of Secret Dreams was an utterly charming read and left me feeling giddy and smiling from ear to ear. This book is perfect for those readers who are a fan of Hallmark movies and looking to escape to a charming English village with delightful characters. The book’s cover can be a little deceptive because it makes it out to be a Christmas book when in my opinion, it really wasn’t. The book’s last quarter does take place over the Christmas holidays and has that festive feel to it. But most of the book takes place in October, and for me, it felt more like a fall romance read, which I loved because there aren’t too many fall-ish romance books out there.  

This book has a delightful cast of characters, who are quirky, fun, and you can’t help but like. Belle and Pete are charming and endearing, and I loved reading this story from both of their perspectives. At the beginning of the book, Belle is prickly and closed off. Her parents mistreated her, affecting how she saw herself and how she interacted with those around her. It was lovely watching as Belle started to grow in confidence and learn to open her heart not only to Pete but also to her friends. 

The romance in this book is sweet and heartfelt. If you are a fan of friends to lovers or stuck together tropes, you should give this book a try. I’m struggling to figure out the right words to explain why I loved the relationship between Pete and Belle so much. I think that’s because I am too busy thinking of how happy and, dare I say, “love stuck” their relationship made me feel. Their relationship has this natural and believable progression to it. I didn’t get that unrealistic feeling that you sometimes get with romance books.  Alison made me believe that their love was genuine and something that could be possible in real life.  

Sticking with that “Hallmark” feel, the village of Cranbridge has that picturesque quality to it. Alison paints a picture of this village with beautiful tiny cottages, green hills, cute shops, and wonderful quirky villagers. However, Alison also adds depth to her story by shining light on a serious issue that exists within many communities. This issue is around people struggling to make ends meet, especially seniors. When the weather turned unseasonable cold and snow started to fall in abundance, Pete and a few other main characters realized that there are seniors in Cranbridge who can’t afford to heat their homes or are unable to leave their homes in the snow. The community comes together to help those in need by checking in on them and bringing food. 

Alison did such a great job capturing my attention right from the first chapter and keeping me enchanted right until the very end. There is something so wonderful about reading a book that leaves you feeling so happy; it’s a lovely escapism read for anyone looking to leave a wacky world behind for a few hours. 

Get ready to ‘fall’ in love with Alison Sherlock’s latest novel, The Village Inn of Secret Dreams.  

Thank you, Boldwood Books, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.