I must confess at the outset to being a Katie Fforde fan – I have a shelf full of her books (tucked in cosily with my Trisha Ashleys) which I dip into on occasion for a Comfort Read. A Country Escape is one of those books which I recently snuggled up to for a bit of light-hearted cheer and feel-good storytelling, and I feel it is only fair to share this book with you all.
Published in 2018, this book follows Fran Duke, the very distant cousin of Amy, a strong-headed widow nearing her final days in a care home who is looking for a suitable family member to carry on the farm, and more importantly the herd, once she has died. Amy is a sharp, highly interesting character with a specific sense of right and wrong which is a mix of her generation and her experience as a woman in a ‘man’s job’ after her husband died, leaving her his farm. This rather specific and at times unpredictable sense of what should be done leaves Fran guessing all the way through the book, with some rather high stakes.
Amy has contacted Fran and told her that if she runs her farm successfully for one year while Amy is in her care home, she might inherit. This rather precarious proposal is one that Fran herself admits most people would not leave their familiar comfortable lives for, but Fran uproots everything to come to the Cotswolds and make a go of it. With her best friend Issi as chief cheerleader and Tig the herdsman as her resident expert on how the farm works, Fran is left to sift through the muddy waters of the farms finances by herself.
The conflict is provided in the beginning by the difficult circumstances, but as Fran begins to get to grips with the realities of the situation and begins to forge a way forwards for the farm its very existance is bought into question firstly by the bank, and then later by the awful Roy, Amys ‘other relative’, also with a possible stake in the farm. Things start to get a little tricky for Fran.
However the overall tone of the book is upbeat and positive – Fran is a charming character to follow around the idyllic countryside and as she dreamily whips up cheese, daydreams about the farms potential and snuggles up with a glass of wine to set the world to rights with her best friend there is a lot to love about this story. Katie Fforde has written an endearing and loveable heroine who totally sold me on uprooting everything to go and live in the countryside and be a farmer – that’s the sort of stuff daydreams are made of after all!
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