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on 19 October 2005
A good book should be relaxing, escapist, maybe instruct the reader in some way, or inspire them. The characters should be well-drawn and believable, there should be a strong sense of place, it should move along well, with dialogue that doesn't jar.
Well, all this and more can be found in the pages of the latest by Erica James, 'Gardens of Delight'.
'Gardens of Delight' is a holiday, a tour of some of Italy's finest gardens in the Lake Como area, and the descriptions of the gardens, the views across the Lake, brought it to life in mind pictures for me, thanks to Ms James descriptive powers and use of language.
And who goes on this holiday? Well, it's a group of characters, members of a village Gardening Club, a mix of both sexes and a wide age range. There is the poor little rich girl Savannah, typical moody teenager that she is, loud-mouthed and often foul of temper, but equally capable of getting her own way by being soft and gentle, just like her Daddy thinks she is all the time. And at the other end of the age scale is Mac, a genial old gent with a secret he's kept most of his adult life, who can also be a bit of a grouch, but lovable too. Genuinely lovable that is, not play acting. In between there's Helen, the poor woman who is Savannah's step-mother, for whom the trip brings home a few home truths; Lucy who has an ulterior motive for going on the trip to Italy but isn't sure she's ready to face this particular demon; and there's Conrad and Orlando, one in love with Lucy and one in love with Helen.
Interwoven throughout the story are relationships that are tested to the limit on this trip, as well as past grievances faced up to and aired, doubts also. Some of the relationships founder, while new ones are forged.
There is a strong romantic thread running through this story, a big novel filled with strong and totally believable characters, and whilst the storylines may not be original, they move along well, and for me, this was a page turner.
Erica James never fails to please me with her books, which are like old friends... good company; a bowl of Heinz tomato soup on a cold day ... comforting. They relax me, inspire me to try harder with my own writing, and in this case, reinforced my intention to learn Italian!
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on 11 September 2010
I get tired of reading books with their never ending violence - there are too many of them for my liking but for people who enjoy them that is their prerogative. A good thriller is one thing, but something which gives you nightmares is, for me, another.

Erica James writes good books (what I would call a gentle read) and I've read three now and enjoyed them all. I don't find them predictable at all, in fact the outcome in this book, for some characters, was a complete surprise, and her knowledge of Italy - with her discriptions of the surrounding scenery, the history of that country and the Italian language makes you feel as if you are there, or have been. In fact a friend of mine has been on a Gardens Tour to this village, Bellagio, and she said the gardens at Villa Carlotta were magnificent and she stayed at this wonderful hotel called Serbelloni where a lunch party was held in the book. I did wonder whether some of the hotels, gardens etc were not all factual, but this proves they are.

I do wish though that some other Reviewers wouldn't go into so much detail about the characters and what is happening to them. The reader wants to discover this themselves when they open the book. I find it very off-putting to know so much of what is happening to them in advance.

I recommend you give her books a go if you've not read one. They may not be your cup of tea, but you might have just discovered an author whom you really enjoy and want to continue to read.
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on 24 July 2012
I'm afraid I felt I had to write a review of this book to provide some more balance to the gushing opinions already expressed. Two of the characters introduced in the early part of the book are called Marcus Gray and Charles Carrington... I think that says a great deal. Everyone in this story is impossibly good looking and simmering with unrequited love for someone equally gorgeous and wholesome. The baddie is a multi-millionaire businessman called Hunter. They all love gardens.... Arggghhhh!!!! and we haven't even met the Italian stallion Alessio who's a concert pianist who nearly died yet.... Having said that this really is the literary equivalent of comfort food and I gorged myself on it on holiday. The descriptions of the gardens and of Lake Como are wonderful and it's difficult to seriously knock something so pleasant.
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on 19 January 2006
Words can not say how important it is to have a book to come home to after a long, tough day.....this book is wonderful. It offers the reader warmth with its eccentric characters and a wonderful escape to the beautiful Italian Lakes. I thoroughly recommend this to everyone.
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on 10 December 2006
Another novel that makes you want to put everything else on hold just to read it!

I love the fact with Erica James books that you will always find a character who you can most relate with and this book was no different.

I was slightly hesitant before reading it as I am deffinatly not a green fingers kind of girl and do not know the first thing about gardening. But as usual with Erica this book was beautifully written and most of the time I was desperate to visit some of the gardens myself!

I thoroughly enjoyed every character and the close relationships they shared. Once again Erica has placed a group of very different people together through a shared love and allowed us to see into their lives... and enjoy every page!
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on 23 March 2013
I think this is one of Erica James' best novels. It combines an interest in gardening and travel - I've never been to Italy, but reading this made me feel as though i was truly there.
the characters are brilliant, and Erica covers topic of reuniting father and daughter so cleverly and with great sensitivity.
I have read every one of Erica James' books and there are many that I could read over and over again, and this is one of them. If you haven't read this amazing authors books, then I suggest it is time you did!
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on 17 October 2015
I read this directly after re-reading "Behind the Scenes at the Museum". Perhaps if I'd read this one first I'd feel slightly differently about it.

Overall, it's an OK read and the Italian sections have an Italian feel to them so the sense of place is good. The characters are mostly well-drawn. However there were quite a few characters in the story, each with their particular story-lines and at times it felt just a bit "crowded".

I also felt that there was a bit too much exposition and a degree of repetition. A little more "show not tell" and some judicious editing would mke the book a bit shorter (it's quite long) and not so cloggy round the edges. But, as I said earlier, it's OK.

I'm so glad Savannah was included - one of those characters you would dearly love to slap but she did provide some of the funnier moments (well - I thought they were funny!)
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on 16 September 2013
Oh dear, not quite what I was expecting after having read Tell it to the Skies which was a real page turner. The characters in this book are non-descript. I can't believe this won Romantic Novel of the Year award. The storyline is so weak, a real disappointment I wouldn't bother with this book if I were you. The plot is so uninteresting and there was no humour in this book at all, a real shame.
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on 21 August 2014
Many have called this book comfort food, easy holiday reading, chick lit.

I don't agree. OK, there are some beautiful women (but also some not so beautiful ones), handsome fellows, but also someone older, frail and over the most strapping youth. In fact, both at home in England and on the garden tour cum holiday to Italy we meet quite a selection of very different people, with very different lives. What most of them have in common is gardening, which leads to lovely discreptions of gardens in both countries. Not bothersome long and detailed, just enough to give a glimpse of garden beauty to all admirers of gardening.

As for the character gallery, a bit stereotype, perhaps. But then again, isn't life full of stereotypes. Garish millionaire Hunter busy on the mobile at all times, making even more money and cheating on his wife. Bored, spoiled daughter Savannah used to getting her own way. Nice and gentle Helen, true to her marriage vows in spite of it all.... Old English gentleman Mac worried about failing health and his dignity. His nephew Conrad who after long sorrow may finally once again see love... And Lucy and Orlando, two young garden fans and best friends; or perhaps not only friends after all...

These are a few of the people we meet in this warm and lovely story, which is in fact not only romantic goody stuff but quite realistic as well. In the midst of Italian beauty and romance life happens. Love comes and love goes. Health is not a given thing and old bitterness and conflicts must be faced and dealt with.

It's nice that this story is set in such beautiful surroundings. Erica James knows Italy well and describes Bellagio and Lake Como to the reader's delight.

A wonderful story recommended to all Erica's fans as well as new readers.
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on 31 August 2012
What a lovely, easy read! I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. She weaves her believable charcters with such ease. I'm looking forward to her next book.
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