I’ve never had much of a green thumb. When I was a kid, I was forever making my mother buy me those little seed packets at the supermarket that never seemed to grow into anything no matter what I did. As an adult, I’ve always been that person in the office who politely declines when a co-worker asks me to water their plants while they’re on vacation. (And by politely declines I mean saying something like, “Me?! Are you sure? How often do I need to water it? Does it need sunlight? Does it not need sunlight? Just how much water are we talking about here? Will it drown? Maybe you’d better ask :::lists everyone else in the building:::.” Having said that, I love a good garden, and I love visiting them any chance I get, whether it’s a trip to the Berkshires to see Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount, a few hours at the famous Bellagio gardens in Las Vegas, or a jaunt to Charleston to visit the Magnolia Plantation (one of Riggins’ personal favorites).
I’m amazed by all of the work, talent, and, yes, magic, that goes into these botanical wonders. Recently, I had the pleasure of spending some time in another garden filled with rich history and all of the enchantment a good garden should have—and for this one, I didn’t even need to leave the couch. I found this one right in the pages of Ellen Herrick’s gorgeous new novel, The Forbidden Garden.
The Forbidden Garden brings us on a journey across the pond with Sorrel Sparrow (who you’ll know if you’ve read Herrick’s first novel, The Sparrow Sisters) as she is called to England from her nursery in Granite Point, Massachusetts in order to restore a dilapidated—and some might say cursed—garden. Hearing of Sorrel’s almost mystical abilities, Sir Graham Kirkwood believes that she is the only person who can return the ruined Shakespeare Garden walled behind his family’s ancestral estate to the glory it held generations ago. All that Sorrel knows is that every attempt to restore the garden in the past has failed, but the more time she spends at Kirkwood Hall, the more she uncovers about the family secrets and centuries-old histories that haunt the halls—secrets that may hold the key to the garden’s demise. The Forbidden Garden is packed with everything you could want out of a rich and juicy read: mysterious ancient tapestries, a missing diary, the power of faith, family, and the magic of falling in love. I was spellbound from the very first pages.
Ellen Herrick has a way of drawing you into the world of her characters, and from the earliest chapters, I wanted to soak up every moment I could on the English countryside with Sorrel and the Kirkwoods. As wrapped up as I was in the dark lore and mystery of the garden, I was just as enraptured by the cozy meals and conversations in Sorrel’s adopted home away from home. Every new character I met scored a place in my heart, from the Kirkwoods’ delightfully vivacious daughter, Poppy, to the surly yet sexy brother-in-law, Andrew. (Perhaps my new favorite fictional man of the cloth, and that’s saying something considering my ardent love of Father Ralph de Bricassart.) Best of all, like a garden just starting to bloom, I never knew what to expect next in this novel, and with every new revelation that blossomed, I was more and more eager to discover how everything would unfold in the end.
The Forbidden Garden is the perfect book to welcome in the summer with—and there’s no green thumb required. If you haven’t read The Sparrow Sisters, it still stands beautifully on its own, but I do encourage you to read The Sparrow Sisters first because it’s a wonderful novel and it gives context and even more depth to Sorrel, her family, and where she’s coming from. I’ve loved spending time in the world Ellen Herrick has built, and I hope to see even more of these characters in the future.