Cover Image: Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church (Hopley Village)

Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church (Hopley Village)

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Member Reviews

Starting out in a sleepy village, we meet Gwen: living with her aunt after her parents' sudden deaths, she’s mired in grief and grey. Her aunt isn’t particularly nice: sharp tongued and negative, everything that Gwen does is met with a “that will come to no good end’ sort of response. But Gwen, stuck in Hopley and feeling hopeless isn’t without her own means of escape: church every Sunday at the lovely old village church, working two days a week at the local surveyor’s office, and dreaming of the entries in the church’s guestbook.   
Jarvis lives at home with his parents, works part-time at a local shop and spends the rest of his days (and nights) drinking with friends or playing video games.  An art school dropout, his confidence was shattered, and he’s done everything to live up to the ‘failure’ label, even knowing that it hurts his mother and leaves him feeling guilty.  Since the only nod he makes to his mother’s wishes is to attend church every Sunday, he’s there to hear yet another plea for the ‘roof fund’ from Vicar Dave.  

Vicar Dave has hit the proverbial wall: needing thousands of pounds to repair the roof and having a sparse and essentially elderly congregation with few exceptions has left him with few options – and an Archdeacon who is threatening to move he and his family to another post. He’s decided to ask for volunteers to comb through the visitor’s book to see if new leads for donations can be unearthed. Surprisingly, both Gwen and Jarvis express interest, although the Vicar couldn’t find two more unlikely options. He’s not too hopeful that they will do the work, can do it, or will even show up.  

This is the point at which the story takes off. Gwen has a writer’s heart and loves the notes and comments left: imagining their stories, able to discern information from bits of poetry used, even a bit of imagination. Gwen reckons that being out of her Aunt Mary’s earshot and away from the gloomy council house could be nothing short of wonderful – and give her a break from her aunt’s constant nagging and negativity.  For his part, Jarvis’ reasons are simple: he was painting by the church one day, met a woman, and fell head over heels. But she left via another exit – and the two never set eyes upon one another again. And, it wouldn’t kill him to give up a few hours of nothingness – particularly when his mother is so pleased.  

These two lost souls have to work together – and Jarvis sees that Gwen, although painfully shy is sharp, smart, funny and sweet – just has no confidence and is essentially lonely. He’s realizing that she sees the best of him (after a rocky start) and believes in his talents – allowing him to think differently about his art school experiences and his own work – and when the two start to find their own footing – they also start to blossom.  From finding donations for the church roof fund from the most unlikely places – starting with random visitors ten years prior, to small road trips organized to meet visitors or search out others – they find a friendship that strengthens them both. And while neither sees the connection at first – there is a tie there that enriches both their lives and gives each a sense of not being so alone in the world, no matter what.  There are surprises here – laughs and tears, and plenty of healing and hope. Rees brings characters that speak to all of us: low confidence, shy, listening to those negative voices inside and out – and allows us to see how one person believing in you – even about something simple, can make all the difference in the world to your growth and outlook – and from there, all things can happen.  

I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.  

Review first appeared at <a href=” /”> <a> I am, Indeed </a>
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Wow what a lovely read you get from this book. Plenty of emotions, great character and lovely settings. I didn't want this to end. This is a book to relax with and is great for a summers read. 5 stars from me.

Thanks to Netgalley and publisher for this ARC
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It's an entertaining and engrossing story, heartwarming and poignant.
Gwen is an interesting character and her character arc was excellent as she found a purpose and a way to change.
The author is a good storyteller and I liked the characters and the setting.
The plot flows and kept me hooked.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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As a huge fan of Tracy Rees’ epic historicals I had very high expectations for her first contemporary novel, Hidden Secrets at The Little Village Church and I was not disappointed. Heartwarming, emotional and feel-good, Hidden Secrets at The Little Village Church is a wonderful book to curl up with on a warm spring afternoon.

When tragedy strikes, twenty-six year old Gwen Stanley loses everything. Heartbroken, alone and unemployed, Gwen has nowhere to go and nobody to turn to, so she decides to retreat to the little village of Hopley deep in the heart of the English countryside where she hopes to rest, regroup and figure out what she is going to be doing next with her life. Feeling completely and utterly lost, the future looks bleak and uncertain for Gwen yet little does she realise that in Hopley, she might just end up finding everything she has always wanted…

One day, while looking around Hopley, she stumbles upon a tiny stone church on the edge of the village that seems to have been forgotten by everyone. As Gwen walks through the creaking wooden door, she finds a book full of local secrets and finds herself drawn into a mystery that is just begging to be solved. Who left this book in the church and why? Can Gwen find out the reason behind the book’s existence and get to the bottom of the baffling puzzle she has been presented with?

When she finds herself joined by local artist Jarvis, Gwen immediately finds herself intrigued by him – but also rather taken aback. Why is Jarvis so fascinated with this book? Are his motives honourable? Can she trust Jarvis? Or will she end up regretting her decision to let him join her in her quest? Can the two of them solve this mystery? Or will the two of them end up with far more than they bargained for as they try to discover the hidden secrets at the little village church?

An enchanting and heartfelt page-turner that I couldn’t stop reading, Tracy Rees has written a romantic tale full of warmth, charm and emotion. Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church is an immensely enjoyable romance about life’s unexpected surprises, second chances and finding love when you least expect it that tugs at the heartstrings and will make readers laugh out loud.

Gwen and Jarvis leap off the pages and readers simply cannot resist warming to them and cheering them on and Hopley is a delightful village I hope to visit again soon.

Whether she is writing historical novels or charming contemporary romances, Tracy Rees’ name on a book cover is a surefire guarantee of first class storytelling and with Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church, she adds another feather to her very accomplished hat.
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Thank you to NetGalley, the publishing house and the author for the opportunity to read an advance reader copy of this book in return for a review based upon my honest opinion.

This is the first book I read by this author, and it definitely will not be my last. I loved Holley village; I would love to be strolling the quaint little streets and stopping in at this beautiful little church. The author did a wonderful job of portraying the area and getting the feel for the book that made you want to visit.

The main characters in the book, Gwen and Jarvis, are both people in need of something but what they don’t even realize is that what they need most is a friend, and a purpose.  Gwen struggles through every day, since the loss of both of her parents, she knows she has to get on with life but she just can’t bring herself to do so. She attends church every Sunday and sits in the back, she just loves the feel of the church and doesn’t take part in any of the church activities. Reverend Fifield needs to raise money to fix the roof and he’s been trying for years to raise the money, he comes up with a new idea and when when he reveals his idea at the end of the Sunday church service something in Gwen sparks and she knows that she has to stay and help, that this project was meant for her. Jarvis is dragged along to church by his mom and dad every week, he mostly sleeps in church working off a hangover; but there’s something in that service that sparks his interest and he also shows up to help. Gwen and Jarvis are the only two they have come to help and what they will do in the short period of time they have is amazing. They will bring life back to not only the church but the whole village. They will become one another’s best friends and help give one another the purpose and push they both need to get on with life.

I love the way this book was written, I loved the people in it and I can’t wait to read the second book in the series and see how Hopley village is getting along.
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The Hopley village church is in desperate need of a new roof. Reverend Fairfield begs for volunteers to help search the visitor book for donors. He is disappointed when cripplingly shy Gwen and art school drop out Jarvis are the only volunteers. Yet they surprise him with their dedication and the friendship that develops between them...
Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church is a stand alone novel about friendship and fresh starts. There is a tinge of sadness but the overcoming of wasted opportunities swells the book with hope and warmth.
Gwen has had a pretty hard few years. Her parents died and she is living with her joyless aunt Mary. Meanwhile Jarvis is the black sheep of his family, dejected after dropping out of art school, working in a job he hates. They surprise themselves when they offer to help the vicar but soon become captivated by the stories of hope that radiate from the visitors' book.
The book is written from three third person perspectives: Gwen, Jarvis and Vicar Dave. This allows us to see their viewpoint but separates us from the emotion a little. It also allows us to see how they view the other characters, often with a clarity and kindness that they do not allow themselves.
Gwen and Jarvis are delightful lead characters, flawed but weighed down by circumstances and the opinions of others. Over the course of the book, they flourish into the people they truly are, and there is an important message for readers about staying true to yourself.
There is a lovely warmth to the plot and the writing that makes this book feel extra special. The developing friendship between Gwen and Jarvis, as well as their self discoveries and increasing confidence is lovely to read. There are also the mini stories of the visitors who signed the book, and many of them are emotional.
Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church is an uplifting and heart warming book, and I look forward to finding other books from this author.
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Wasn't sure when I started this that I would enjoy it but before I knew it I was sucked right in and couldn't put it down.
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This was a simple story, an easy light read. However for my personal tastes, it was a little too simple. 

I wasn't really able to engage with Gwen's character. I felt her character was too simple, and she had no depth. Sure, there were changes to that as the story wove on, but all in all I just felt no connection to her.

Thank you for the opportunity to read this book.
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I love when a story takes you by surprise. And I love when you can’t help but to fall in love characters as you watch them fall in love with each other. That’s what Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church has to offer. 

What I, what I loved:
I loved the setting, the slightly oddball characters, how their relationship blossomed, the secrets they uncover, and the cast of characters they meet along the way. 

There is such good character development in this story. Much like getting to know someone in real life, the author allows the reader to take their time and get to know each of the characters. She makes them memorable and distinct, each with their own struggles and secrets.

There were so many scenes that made me chuckle and a handful that made me cry. This is the kind of sweet, poignant story that begs to be made into a movie, complete with a theme song that makes you reach for the tissues.

For it’s lovely setting, purposeful characters, and a story that had me turning pages to get to the happy ending I knew just had to happen…five stars.

P.S. Sorry for taking so long to get this feedback to you. I adored this book! And will be featuring it in one of my August/September Characters and Candles Boxes!
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Gwen finds herself jobless heartbroken and ends up in a village in the country side. A book in the church starts her on a new story - Great Read-  Keeps you reading.
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I was completely taken by this book from start to finish. Who would think that a story hinging on the fundraising for a church roof could be so entertaining? I could totally see myself getting wrapped up in a project such as Gwen and Jarvis undertook. I would thrive on something like that. I really enjoyed watching (reading?) Gwen and Jarvis both grow. There was a good lesson of never let other people define your self-worth to be learned, as well as a mini-mystery that made it highly enjoyable. Definitely a feel-good novel I enjoyed from beginning to end. For a full review, please visit Fireflies and Free Kicks. Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for a digital ARC of the book.
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I cannot praise this book highly enough. I'm a big fan of Tracy Rees so when I saw this I had to read it!

Jarvis and Gwen are the most unlikely of heroes, and yet we see them both unfurl and blossom as they discover the stories behind the names in the visitors book. 

A reminder indeed that human beings need purpose, companionship and appreciation.

I don't think the title or cover do this book justice at all, it's so much deeper than it looks.
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This book really made me smile, during a time when life seems a little too hectic and has too many serious things going on with it.

Gwen is a young woman who is forced to live with her aunt, after her parents are tragically killed. 

Jarvis is a young man who lives in Hopley Village with his parents, and spends his time drinking with his buddies and not much else.

These two begin working on a project at the local village church and although they don't much like each other at first, eventually they start to get to know each other and discover that first impressions are often wrong.....

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and as well as the main two characters, I enjoyed reading about all the various secondary ones as well. The author has skilfully woven the stories through each other and I really want to read more about them all. 

5 stars from me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture.
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This is my first Tracy Rees book and I enjoyed it very much!

The church roof is falling apart and the priest has days before they shut the church down.

I found this funny and light hearted with the characters finding ways to come up with the raised money in time.

I was laughing and smiling all the way through this and hope the author will continue to write more contemporary womans fiction.
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This is a Women's Fiction book with a lovely cover. This book is all about two young out cast handed the challenge to save the church by raising the money they need to replace the roof on the old church. This is a long journey. The journey was sweet and fill with so many different kind of people. I really enjoyed reading this book so much. I loved all the characters in this book. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (Bookouture) or author (Tracy Rees) via NetGalley, so I can give honest review about how I feel about this book. I want to send a big Thank you to them for that.
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I’ve read and enjoyed other books by the author so was looking forward to reading this. It’s very different from the books I usually read, a sweet, tender book where nobody is murdered and terrible things tend not to happen. This doesn’t mean this book is twee, far from it. I fell in love with Gwen and the people she encounters as she strives to help raise funds for a new roof for the church, find a way out of her grief and decide what her place in the world should be. This is a beautiful, life-affirming book. It gave me all the feels.
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This new to me author, Tracy Rees had me hooked from literally the first page of this book to the last. I absolutely loved this unputdownable read.  This is definitely a read in one sitting book.

Oh my goodness I almost don’t know where to begin with this amazing book.  Gwen Stanley experiences a tragedy in her life that leaves her heartbroken, destitute and lost.  She retreats to the tiny village of Hopley, to find her way in life.  As Gwen wanders through the English countryside, at the edge of the village, she finds a tiny old dilapidated church.  Gwen pushes her way through the front doors.  As she roams through the church building, she finds a book and written inside are secrets of the town.  And then in walks local artist Jarvis, who is just as curious about the book as Gwen is.  Her relationship with Jarvis develops as the two of them decide to answer the Vicar’s request to fix the church’s roof.  Did Gwen find not only happiness but also a new purpose for her life? 

I absolutely loved the chemistry between Jarvis and Gwen and found myself cheering them on.  The English Village of Hopley is so beautifully described, it immediately became a place I would love to visit.  The characters are so well developed and relatable, that I easily visualized the story.  The flow of the the story has so smooth that I absolutely could not put it down until I turned the last page.  I am so happy to hear that this is a new series, I can’t wait for the next book.  Thank you Tracy Rees for such a wonderful and heartfelt story, it was a fantastic escape.
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Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church is Tracy Rees’ first foray into contemporary women’s fiction having written historical fiction which she still continues to do so. I always wonder why an author chooses to deviate from their usual genre and question will it work? Here it has proven to be very successful and I do hope that Tracy continues to write in both genres. 

This book is an absolutely gorgeous and charming read with two main characters you root for from page one. They both gradually realise their true potential as the story unfolds and they go on a journey they perhaps didn’t think they could face but the issue of the church brings them together leading to unexpected but welcome understanding and acceptance. Before I read this book it underwent both a title and cover change, and at times this frustrates me as it seems to happen quite regularly for no obvious reason, but here I could see the reasons for it and I feel both the new cover and title are much more apt for the book overall.

As much as I liked Jarvis as a character, for me Gwen is the stand out character in this book. I think we can all see aspects of ourselves in her, be they big or small. She is easy to identify with and you feel great sympathy for the situation she finds herself in. She is troubled, worn down and the numbing depression continues to erode at her on a daily basis. She never feels excited or enthusiastic anymore. Everything is such an effort for her and her low spirits means she is really struggling. Following the death of her parents in a car crash she moved to the little village of Hopely to live with her Aunt. You would think her Aunt would offer the comfort, solace and protection she so desperately needs at such a tragic time in her life. But this is not forthcoming and the constant barbs, put downs, complaints and just down right nastiness only add to her state of shyness, isolation and sadness. Gwen is made to feel like an unwelcome guest at a time when she should be embraced. You can see her sinking further and further into a place that will be very hard to come back from.

The only form of light that Gwen has is when she attends a weekly service at St. Domena’s church where Reverend David Fairfield is in desperate need of some sort of saviour who can raise enough funds to get the church roof repaired. Time is running out and he has but a few short months to get the funds needed or else the church will close for good. A visitors guest book is the catalyst that begins a transformation in Gwen. This change is slow and steady and perfectly executed throughout the book. Nothing is forced or rushed for if it had been it wouldn’t have been realistic as Gwen is so deep in her grief and anxiety that an overnight new Gwen emerging would have been too far fetched. A project is born where Gwen will look through the visitors book in the hopes of making contact with those who visited in the past and perhaps they will make a donation to the roof repairs. This task gives Gwen a focus and a means of getting away from her aunt if even for a short while.

As she is so shy and avoids human contact if at all possible poor Gwen doesn’t bank on having Jarvis muscling in on the project. But maybe St. Domena’s, the village of Hopely, and Gwen herself need Jarvis by their side even if Gwen wants to run a mile when she sees him appear at the church. Gwen had never been the most confident person, never felt able to reach out and grab life like her friend Amma and with the loss of her parents these feelings and opinions come ever closer to the fore. She has no faith in herself to make a go of things and her sense of self has been eroded so much that she can’t imagine an independent life that would make her happy. But the meeting of herself and Jarvis is a pivotal turning point in her life if she is only willing to step outside of the confines that she has erected around herself and find her true potential and the place where she is meant to be.

Jarvis is the total anthesis of Gwen. He spends his nights drinking and partying with friends and his parents can barely get him to do anything. His job at the local shop is not where his life’s ambitions lie but the art degree he was working on is now but a distant memory. He drinks a lot to transcend the jittery uncomfortable feelings that plague him and when he doesn’t he has suspicions that he isn’t good enough and that he is a waste of space. Beneath this bravado of partying and drinking lies a much gentler Jarvis and one you would love to get to know more deeply. He is missing purpose and self respect, perhaps even friendship, and you hope he can find these things once again and fulfil his hidden aspiration. You would never have thought he would have volunteered for the project but he has his own personal reasons which were just so lovely and heart-warming. In one sense you hoped to see his own mission completed but as the story developed you desperately hoped that something else would step in and take it’s place as it seemed a natural course for the book to turn in.  

Gwen and Jarvis on first meeting really rub each other up the wrong way. Gwen wants total control over the project and has her own set way of doing things but as they open up to each other and Jarvis introduces her to his family. She can see that there is a better life outside the realm of her penny pinching, butter and sharp tongued Aunt. You wonder whether she can build up the confidence to embrace what is within her grasp if she can only be pushed in the right direction. The book is the only little thing that makes her feel again and she can’t bare to let it go again. I loved the little stories that emerged as Gwen and Jarvis made contact with some of the names they find in the visitors book. They worked so well within the overall story. Their various life stories and their reasons for making a donation were heart warming and offered inspiration for both Gwen and Jarvis in more ways than one. It’s such a unique overall concept that perfectly formed the backbone of the book and allowed many other strands to effortlessly develop from it. Overall, it gave the book a lovely and natural flow and you just hope that the church can be saved and that Jarvis and Gwen find what has evaded them for so long.

Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church was a wonderful read with such heart-warming, generous and pleasing themes at its centre. I loved every minute of it and you’ll find it difficult to put down once you begin. Two lost souls unit for a common cause and in doing so a wonderful, life affirming story unfolds. Initially both Gwen and Jarvis are unlikely and perhaps uninspiring but Tracy Rees wove a fantastic story that brought them together for one common cause and in doing so their efforts did as much for them as they have done for the church. I was delighted to see that there will be a second story set in Hopely and fingers crossed this will be arriving sooner rather than later as I very much enjoyed my time in this brilliant setting.
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St Domneva’s church has been at the centre of village life in Hopley since the twelfth century – but the community is disintegrating, the congregation is dwindling, and the end of the road is nigh unless Vicar Dave can raise the money to repair the roof before the door is locked for the last time.

When he comes up with the idea of using the visitors’ book for some last chance fundraising – his excitement isn’t shared by his congregation – two distinctly unpromising volunteers step forward. Gwen has forgotten what happiness feels like – painfully shy, hiding behind her curtain of hair, life with her aunt since losing her parents has so little joy about it, and church on a Sunday has become one of her few moments of escape. And she’s always loved the visitors’ book and the glimpses it gives into the lives of others – so much more interesting than her own. When Jarvis volunteers, it’s a surprise to everyone (even him) – his life is every bit as directionless as Gwen’s, his usual milieu the village pub rather than the church, and the only reason he goes to church is to keep his mum happy. But he has his own reasons for being particularly interested in the book – a moment he let slip a few years ago, and the chance of finding someone who’s been in his thoughts ever since.

The dynamics when these two unlikely volunteers come together are just wonderful – Gwen with her notebook and plate of Bourbon biscuits, ready to approach the task slowly and methodically, hoping to lose herself in the lives the book reveals. Until Jarvis rolls up, late and hungover, producing a bottle of beer from the pocket of his hoodie – her peace is disrupted, and it looks unlikely that they’re ever going to be able to work together. But what follows is sheer magic – the unlikely pair do indeed work together and, as we see them become allies and friends and their lives begin to change, we find out more about the people who’ve visited the church over the years, and all the many stories behind the messages in the visitors’ book.

I have to say that I absolutely adored this book – while the initial premise might not have looked too promising, and neither of the two main characters particularly inspiring, the way the story unfolds is an absolute joy. As Gwen and Jarvis work together and achieve their little wins, their relationship changes – they bring out the best in each other, we find out more about the reasons why their lives have rather fallen apart, and start to see a real possibility that things could become rather different. And, while falling in love with them both and urging them on, we also find out about the lives of all the individuals they’re able to track down from the words they’ve left on the pages of the book. It’s quite beautifully done – some characters are just touched upon, others taking an increasing part, every individual with their own story about why St Dom’s played a part in their lives. Some are easy to find, some are more of a challenge – but slowly Gwen is able to colour in the squares on the church tower on her beloved wall chart (drawn by artist Jarvis – her artistic attempt was rather less successful), and the unachievable target looks like an increasing possibility.

Every single character in this book is just so beautifully and perfectly drawn – Vicar Dave has challenges of his own at home, we get to know Gwen’s difficult aunt rather better than we could ever want to, and the warmth of Jarvis’ family life is a great counterpoint to Gwen’s solitary existence. But it’s not just the main characters – every contact they make has their own story and leaps into life on the pages, together with all the many bit players from within the community. The writing is simply wonderful – at times it’s very funny indeed, the humour perfectly judged, but balanced with a poignancy and sadness that sometimes makes your heart ache. It’s a book full of moments and small details that I simply loved. So many themes emerge that I don’t know where to start in telling you about them, but it’s essentially a book about people, their diversity and their complex lives, and I found it entirely enchanting.

I really mustn’t tell you about the ending – whether the church is saved, whether Gwen and Jarvis really do manage to turn their lives around. You do find yourself wondering whether the romance you find yourself rather hoping for will develop – when, for all sorts of reasons, it looks increasingly unlikely. But as endings go, this one was simply perfect, heartwarming and uplifting, and everything I wanted it to be. And, of course, it’s not really the ending – because I’m delighted to see that the author will be taking us back to Hopley for two more books. I really can’t wait – this book was something very special indeed, and I loved every moment.

(Review copied to Amazon UK, but link not yet available)
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Gwen had lost her parents and moved in with her aunt, who was an unhappy woman and didn't treat Gwen very well.  She stumbled on to the church and started going.  Jarvis was a lost young man who hadn't found himself yet and still lives with his parents, so he goes to church with them.
The church is in need of a new roof and the vicar comes up with a plan to use the visitors books to try to get donations for the needed repair. He needed volunteers to go through the books and Gwen volunteered and at the last minute so did Jarvis.  As they started going through the books, sending emails, making phone calls, texts, however they found the person who signed the guestbook,  I could see that these two young people started to change, blossom, and begin to become who they were meant to be.  As I read, I changed, my heart opened up more, my spirits lifted, because the people who once visited the church,  even when only visiting once, walked away with so many memories and received so much from their visit.  They did what they could to help the church that did so much for them and never forgot that little church.
Two things really jumped out at me, one was Jarvis realizing that he feels a disconnect between his best life and how he has been living.  Another was when the Vicar Dave finally made it home to his family, his wife was there by herself. Gwen and Jarvis had taken their daughter Wendy, who was autistic with them to church to work on the fundraiser.  His wife says to him, you work hard, I know it goes with the territory, but, honestly David, you have to take care of yourself, too. God didn't give you a spectacular wife for you never to see her you know.
I received a complimentary book from Bookouture through NetGalley.
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