‘Stunning... What a marvellous read this was... I raced through the story finishing it in an afternoon.... I loved every minute of this beautiful read’ Shaz’s Book Blog Escape to the daisy-strewn windswept Dorset cliffs, to the donkey sanctuary at Sweet Briar Farm, where Hattie Rose is about to find, that in this world, the most unlikely opposites can sometimes attract … Hattie was once thrilled to call the beautiful city of Paris her home. But when her heart is broken by her boyfriend and she loses her dream job, she bids farewell to the city of love and hurries home to Gillypuddle, a sleepy village on the Dorset coast. But as she returns home she finds her parents struggling to cope with a terrible family tragedy. In a desperate search for a new start, Hattie takes a job at the donkey sanctuary nearby on Sweet Briar Farm where Jo, the taciturn owner, certainly loves her animals far more than humans. Hattie can’t help but fall in love with the donkeys (and the opportunity to get close to dreamy Canadian vet Seth) but Jo is harder to get to know and when she finds her boss sobbing in her sleep one stormy night, she knows that her new friend is hiding a dark secret. And when handsome newspaper reporter Owen does some digging into Jo’s past he finds something that connects her to Hattie on a whole new level. Can Hattie trust what Owen says, especially when he seems intent on standing in the way of her blossoming romance with Seth? And can Hattie help Jo to start healing and the donkeys of Sweet Briar Farm? A beautiful story that will melt the hardest of hearts. If you love Jenny Colgan, Lucy Diamond and Josie Silver you will be enchanted by this life-affirming read that reminds you that home is wherever the people you love are. Everyone loves Hattie’s Home for Broken Hearts: ‘ This is a story that will melt even the hardest of hearts, it is perfect for lovers of Jenny Colgan books. I will definitely be reading more by this author.’ Little Miss Book Lover ‘ I love Tilly’s books, and this one was a real pleasure to read… Great storyline, and a warm, captivating read.’ Goodreads Reviewer , Five stars ‘ The perfect heartwarming read for the summer. This story is about loss, love, and second chances. I couldn't help feeling like the grinch whose heart grew several sizes while reading this wonderful story. ’ The Reading Chemist ‘ Another fabulous story from Tilly. A fantastic summer read with the feel- good factor. Enough to almost draw tears but then break out in a big smile. Wonderful.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars ‘ Tilly love you have done it again. Hatties home for broken hearts is an amazing feel good book.…amazing characters, a fabulous storyline and a great setting. This book is really fab.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars ‘ This is a unique story that I enjoyed reading. A donkey sanctuary was a wonderful addition to the story of Jo and a few love interests as well. I am a fan of Tilly Tennant and have read many of her books, and this one was at the top of my list. For me, definitely a 5 star review. ‘ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars ‘Oh my word I loved this book, a definite page turner, and now I want a donkey. This book is perfect to read on holiday.’ Boonies123,. 5 stars ‘I fell in love with the donkeys straight away, just like Hattie! They all seemed to have their own personalities and I thought that they all were so cute! But, my favourite was definitely Norbert… Overall, this was a heart-warming story that I thoroughly enjoyed.’ The Cosiest Corner, Five stars
Release date: July 10, 2019
Print pages: 314
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Hattie's Home for Broken Hearts
Hattie sat on the low wall and looked out towards the Seine. A humid dusk embraced the city, indigo skies washed into velvet blackness. Boats cleaved their way through the choppy waters of the river – most of them the low, broad, glass-walled pleasure boats full of tourists that had become such a familiar, unremarkable sight to Hattie over the last two years, dotted with lights that reflected back and scattered into explosions of gold over the dark waters. Along the banks stood rows and rows of pristine and glorious façades, grand and beautiful old buildings brightened by so many lights it was as if they were trying to compete with the stars, and away in the distance the proud Eiffel Tower looked over the city and dared it to argue that it was not the most wondrous sight of all in this most magical of places.
Hattie looked out on the place she had called home for the past two years, and the sights that had become so familiar over that time had never before been such a source of sadness. Her flight back to England was booked. Given time, perhaps Alphonse might have asked her to reconsider, but the damage had already been done. She didn’t know if their working relationship could ever get back to the way it had once been and part of her didn’t know if she even wanted it to. Perhaps the catastrophe of the opening night of his new collection was a sign. Though she loved Paris, Hattie had been plagued by the vague feeling that something wasn’t quite right for a few months now. She’d been employed as his PA, eager to learn about the business, but all she’d done since she began working for him was run around fetching his lunch and dry-cleaning. She’d mentioned it to him more than once, but he’d just tapped his nose and warned her not to run before she could walk and all would be well. That was easy for him to say when the star of his own career as a fashion designer was rising, and soon it would be about as high and bright as it was possible to get. Certainly, it was far above the less impressive orbit of Hattie’s own.
Then it had happened: Alphonse had finally trusted her with the task of stage dressing for the opening of his show, and Hattie had been beside herself. But it had all gone horribly wrong and Alphonse’s rage had been such that Hattie had feared for his life, if not her own, and he’d sacked her on the spot. He’d repented, of course, once he’d realised that he’d have to run for his own coffee and dry-cleaning if Hattie left, but the incident had made Hattie’s mind up for her.
She stood up and drew a lungful of air. It’s been good, Paris, she thought, and I’ll never forget you… but it’s time to go home.
No matter how apprehensive the thought of coming home made her, the sight of the foxglove-edged lanes as the taxi drove her towards her parents’ house, the meadows of wildflowers and copses of ancient trees that became blurs as the car raced past, the picture-perfect houses of the Dorset village where she’d been born – all thatched roofs, rose bushes and pastel-rendered walls – would always soothe her. Early summer was a remarkable time of year here, when the landscape seemed to burst into life. She’d left many troubles behind when she’d left Gillypuddle, but she’d left good memories and good people too. She couldn’t deny that it would be nice to catch up with those people again, relive some of those memories and maybe make some more.
‘Nice place,’ the taxi driver remarked approvingly as he pulled up outside the sweeping driveway. Hattie never really thought about how posh her parents’ home might look to strangers, but every now and again an admiring, covetous glance would remind her that what was unremarkable to her was very remarkable to others. It was just the place she’d grown up in, just home. But as she looked out of the car window now, she really appreciated for the first time just how imposing and grand it was. Unlike a lot of the cottages in the village, the high roof was tiled instead of thatched. It was much larger than the houses surrounding it, the original façade an elegant Georgian design, while sections had been added over the years. It sat in impressive grounds, dressed in an abundance of mature frothing shrubs and leafy trees – a product of her dad’s love of gardening. They were a mile or so away from the ocean; while the sea fog sometimes rolled this far inland and smothered the house, they couldn’t see the sea from here, though being close enough to walk to the beach had always been one of the best things about growing up here.
‘Thanks,’ she said, glancing up at the meter and paying him with a note that would cover it. ‘Keep the change.’
The driver tipped an imaginary cap and got out to fetch her bags from the boot. Hattie walked round to the back of the car and found he’d already placed them on the ground for her.
‘Alright now?’ he asked.
‘Yes, thanks,’ Hattie said. ‘I can manage now.’
With another brief nod, the driver got back into his car and drove away. Hattie looked up at the house and took a deep breath. Her mum and dad would be happy to see her, wouldn’t they? Grabbing her bags, she walked up to the house. She’d soon find out one way or the other.
Hattie closed the front door behind her and dropped her bags to the floor. The entrance hall was silent and she called again.
‘Hello! Anyone home?’
Nothing. Her parents must have gone out, but she’d half expected that. Perhaps a little part of her had almost hoped for it. One thing was certain, she could hardly complain about it when she’d given no warning of her return.
Her parents had decorated again. The grand entrance – and it was just that, a room that opened out to various doorways and a staircase that curled into the next two floors – had been covered in a heavy paper last time she’d been to visit, but now the paper had been stripped and the walls had been painted in contrasting variations of sage and cream. It looked brighter, cleaner… more optimistic. The usual gallery of photos remained, however, and with them the pervading sense of sadness, reminders of what was lost, the immobility of time that had choked Hattie during the years before she’d left home. She took a slow tour of the walls, stopping to inspect each image as she reached it. There was her older sister, Charlotte, beaming down with her violin award. Charlotte winning the gymkhana. Charlotte in her school uniform proudly displaying her head-girl badge. Charlotte on her sixteenth birthday, Charlotte in her choir robes, Charlotte shaking the hand of the mayor and beaming for the camera…
Then the one at the end of the row, next to the stairs. Hattie and Charlotte together on the beach, squinting into the camera, smiles crinkling their faces as they held hands, the sun somewhere out of shot but bright and fierce. Hattie could still remember the feel of it burning her back. Hattie would have been six or seven here, Charlotte five years older. Hattie had long suspected that the only reason this photo had made it into the gallery was because Charlotte looked so unutterably angelic on it. Hattie herself looked like a smudge on legs and there were far nicer photos upstairs in her mother’s album.
Hattie sighed as she gazed at the photo. Her parents would never stop mourning Charlotte and Hattie would never expect them to, but sometimes it felt as if they existed simply to mourn. Since Charlotte’s death, keeping her memory alive had overshadowed everything else. It had become such a defining feature of Hattie’s own childhood that it had engulfed it quite completely, and she sometimes wondered if they’d forgotten they had another daughter.
And there were the constant comparisons too, the constant disappointment that Hattie was not all that her sister had been. While Charlotte had been alive her parents had been able to celebrate the differences in their two daughters – and there had been many – safe in the knowledge, perhaps, that at least one of them would become all the things they valued and approved of. Once Charlotte was gone, it seemed to Hattie that she herself had suddenly become a living epitaph to their dead daughter, that they now expected Hattie to become all the things that her sister had been, to fill the gap her death had left in their lives. Charlotte, by virtue of never growing up, would never fail. She’d never go off the rails, marry an unsuitable husband, have children too early or too late, never disappoint or make mistakes or lead a messy life. She’d always be there: a perfect daughter in a photo, frozen in moments of achievement and triumph, while Hattie – live and fallible – made all the messes. Like running off to Paris against her parents’ wishes and screwing everything up when she got there.
Hattie walked back to her cases and looked down. When it had all gone wrong in Paris, coming home had seemed so appealing, but now Hattie wasn’t so sure it had been the best idea after all. The hallway where she now stood represented everything she’d run away from in the first place. She’d been so ready and eager to rush back to it when her life had taken a turn for the worse in Paris, but why? Had she expected her old life to offer some comfort and safety? In financial terms perhaps it would, but emotional comfort might be harder to come by.
She hauled in a breath and pushed her shoulders back. Her parents would be happy to see her and it would be good to be home again. And, even if they weren’t, being back in the village where she’d grown up would offer so much in the way of welcome familiarity that it would be worth spending some time here. It wouldn’t be forever anyway – she just needed a breather, time to regroup, decide what to do next with her life…
Dragging her cases into a corner of the hall, she went through to the kitchen. Sunlight was pouring in through the glass roof, bouncing from gleaming marble worktops. To judge from the smell of disinfectant, Carmen, their cleaner, had recently been in. Hattie went to the fridge and opened it to find the shelves groaning with food. Her flight had been delayed and she hadn’t eaten since her early-morning check-in; she didn’t think her parents would mind if she opened a pack of ham and made herself a sandwich. It was good ham too, Hattie remarked silently as she eyed the packaging – better than the stuff she’d been forced to eat living away from home. Her parents had always liked the best of everything and Hattie had grown up with no idea of what value brands looked like – until she’d gone to Paris, of course. There, with her extortionate rent and low wage, she’d soon found out the meaning of value. At first, she’d sort of enjoyed having to economise – it had almost been a kind of rebellion against her upbringing – but she soon realised just how privileged her home life had been and been filled with a sense of guilt for all she’d had before. She’d wanted to distance herself from that life and she would never tell new friends about it. Right now, a slice of luxury ham was very welcome – maybe she could forgive her parents’ high standards just this once.
She’d just settled on a seat at the kitchen island with a ham and pickle sandwich and a large glass of cold, fresh orange juice when a voice floated into the kitchen. It was quiet and distant but unmistakable. With a faint look of regret at her lunch, she got up and went to the entrance hall to investigate. The letterbox of the front door was open and a mouth filled the slot.
‘Dr Rose…? Mrs Rose…?’
Hattie smiled as she recognised the voice. Rushing to the door, she yanked it open and a tiny old man almost fell into the house. He looked up, his expression of shock and bewilderment giving way to a beaming smile.
‘Hattie!’ he cried, and she threw her arms around him.
‘Nobody told me you were coming home!’ Rupert said, holding her at arm’s length now to look at her, smiling all over his face.
‘I didn’t know I was coming myself until yesterday,’ she said, trying not to think about the events that had led to that decision. It was far too lovely seeing her old neighbour to let that sort of melancholy ruin the moment. ‘How are you? It’s so good to see you!’
‘All the better for seeing you, my dear,’ he replied cheerily. ‘I expect your parents are thrilled to have you home.’
‘They don’t know I’m here yet – I’ve just arrived and nobody’s home.’
‘Ah,’ Rupert said. ‘That answers my question. I wanted to have a word with your father about my gammy knee.’
Hattie raised her eyebrows. ‘Still not a fan of the new village GP?’
Rupert looked faintly guilty. He was of the generation that held anyone of any qualification in the utmost esteem and reverence, and he must have been half afraid that being less than complimentary about the village’s new doctor would cause a bolt from heaven to strike him down.
‘I’m sure she’s very good but Gillypuddle is not the place for someone like her. She’d be better suited to a big city where she doesn’t have to care about being part of the community.’
‘Dad says she’s very professional; that’s why she doesn’t get involved personally with her patients.’
Rupert gave a dramatic sigh. ‘I suppose it’s a modern thing. It’s a sad sign of the times, though, when your family doctor can’t stay for a pot of tea and a slice of cake.’
‘I expect she’s got a lot of work to get through,’ Hattie said carefully. She was used to hearing all about Rupert’s disgruntlement from phone calls to her mum and dad. ‘I’m sure it’s nothing personal.’
‘It isn’t and that’s precisely the problem,’ Rupert continued, determined that Hattie’s assessment wouldn’t sway him to have even the tiniest bit of sympathy with the new doctor’s probably massive workload. Her dad had started his career back in the days when the village GP was everyone’s friend, when people who worked in the health service had time to spare, but for many years now he’d been saying that it wasn’t like it was in the old days and that the job got tougher every year. It had been one of the deciding factors in his recent decision to take retirement.
‘So Dad’s still seeing patients?’ Hattie asked.
Rupert tapped the side of his nose. ‘Not officially. He’ll only give informal advice if his friends ask, and we mustn’t say anything in case it gets back to the new woman – could cause all sorts of trouble.’
‘I understand. I’m not really surprised either – I suspected Dad wasn’t enjoying retirement much, even though he’d said for years he was going to take it as soon as he could.’
‘Sixty’s no age to retire these days, is it? You’re still in the prime of your life at sixty. He’s getting plenty of golf in though, so he’s keeping busy.’
‘Yes, so Mum tells me.’ Hattie smiled. ‘Why don’t you come through to the kitchen and have a cup of tea? I’m sure Mum and Dad won’t mind if you wait for them.’
‘Where have they gone?’
Hattie paused. ‘That’s a very good question; I don’t actually know!’ It seemed ridiculous now that she wouldn’t have warned her parents that she was coming home, but it had been such an impulsive, sudden decision that she’d barely thought about it. Now, it seemed rather arrogant to have assumed that her return would just be OK with them, that they’d accommodate her regardless. But all she’d thought about when she’d booked her flight back to the UK was how much she wanted to be home. And perhaps a small part of her had been desperate to delay for as long as possible the conversation about why she was giving up a life in Paris, when it had been the subject of such a fierce fight before she’d gone to chase it.
For the moment, she tried to push all this to the back of her mind and gave Rupert her brightest smile.
‘In that case, perhaps I’d better not,’ he said. ‘It’s not that I’m not enjoying your company, but there’s no telling how long they’ll be and Armstrong will want feeding.’
Hattie blinked. ‘Armstrong?’
‘Oh, I’ve still got him.’ Rupert laughed. ‘He’s toothless and half deaf but I think he might be immortal.’
‘I don’t know about that, but I’m sure I’ve never heard of a cat as old as he must be now.’
‘Twenty-three,’ Rupert said proudly. ‘Give or take a few months because we were never quite sure how old he was when he came to us.’
‘Well, it must be a good life living with you. I ought to try it.’
‘Ho ho, you practically did live at our house when you were little – you and your sister. Kitty loved having you both over – God rest her soul.’
‘It’s nice of you to say so but I’m sure we must have made absolute nuisances of ourselves, turning up at all hours and expecting you to drop everything to entertain us.’
‘Never! We loved it. Kitty always said it was better than having our own children because we could send you back when we’d had enough.’ He chuckled. ‘Not that she’d ever have had enough. I think she would have adopted you both if Dr Rose had allowed it!’
Hattie’s smile grew, but a small part of her thought that it was a good job she’d never known this fact when she was younger, because she might have campaigned quite vocally to put this arrangement into place. Not because she didn’t love her parents or appreciate the home they’d given her, but because at least then the years after Charlotte’s death wouldn’t have been characterised by the overwhelming sadness that had eclipsed all else. Perhaps, in Rupert and Kitty’s care, Hattie might have blossomed into the vibrant, individual flower she’d always felt she was meant to be instead of trying to grow into a shape that fitted the hole Charlotte had left behind. Perhaps she wouldn’t have been gripped by the compulsion to rebel in quite the same way, and perhaps she wouldn’t have dropped out of education or run off on a whim to Paris with a man twice her age. Perhaps she would have understood with more certainty where she fitted in the world and what she was capable of achieving. She’d had a lovely time in Paris, of course (until the last bit anyway), but she’d realised very soon after her arrival that the relationship that had taken her there had been a huge mistake and nobody – least of all Hattie – could argue with that.
‘I’ll pop back later,’ Rupert said, speaking into her thoughts, ‘when your parents are home. You’ll be staying for a few days more?’
Hattie gave an uncertain nod. If her mum and dad would have her, she’d be staying for a lot longer than a few days, but she wasn’t sure how welcome she’d be to move back in when she thought about how hard she’d tried to persuade them that Paris was the right place for her. The phrase I told you so was bound to feature in conversation when they returned and found her there, and she’d have to bite her tongue when it did.
‘I expect so,’ she said.
‘Wonderful! I’ll look forward to hearing all about your adventures in Paris then! I can’t promise any fancy French wine if you pop round but I do have some bottles of bramble wine that I made last autumn.’
‘That sounds lovely.’ Hattie gave him a brief hug and a peck on a whiskery cheek. ‘I’ll look forward to that.’
Rupert smiled affectionately. ‘You both were such sweet, polite little girls,’ he said, ‘you and your poor sister. Not many would spare time for an old man like me.’
‘I’ve always got time for you, Rupert,’ Hattie said.
She saw him to the door and, with a final farewell, she watched him go and shut it again. Her sandwich was waiting in the kitchen, but somehow she wasn’t quite as hungry as she’d been when she’d made it. She walked back anyway, Charlotte smiling down at her from another row of photos on the wall. Hattie had returned to Gillypuddle to fix something, though she didn’t even really know what it was that needed fixing. She’d thought coming home would make everything better, but now she wasn’t quite so sure.
Hattie was asleep on the conservatory sofa when the sound of a key turning in the lock of the front door woke her. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but the sun pouring in had been so warm and the cushions so plump and soft, and she’d been up so early that morning, and in the end, it had been so easy to drift off. She leapt up now, groggy and disorientated, and rushed to the entrance hall, where she found her parents inspecting her suitcases with a puzzled look. At the sound of footsteps, her mother looked around and broke into a broad smile.
‘Oh, how wonderful!’ she cried. ‘Why didn’t you warn us you were coming?’
‘I’d only just made up my mind for certain last night,’ Hattie said, rushing into her mother’s open arms. ‘I’m sorry I didn’t call ahead but…’
‘But what?’ Hattie’s father asked, offering a slightly stiffer, more formal hug.
Hattie gave a vague shrug. ‘It was all a bit sudden really and I didn’t know how you’d react.’
‘You’re always welcome to visit us, any time,’ her mother said. ‘You know that. We hardly see you enough so we’re not going to complain about a lovely surprise like this. How long are you staying? More than a day or two, I hope?’
‘Maybe,’ Hattie began slowly. ‘How would you feel about me staying for good?’
‘Coming home?’ Hattie’s mum looked to her husband. Hattie caught the uncertainty and her dad’s answering frown.
‘So what’s happened?’ he asked, turning to Hattie now.
He raised his eyebrows and Hattie felt fourteen again, making excuses for the cigarette butt he’d found at the end of the garden.
‘I just decided that Paris is not for me after all. Not somewhere I want to live forever anyway.’
‘What about that job you were so determined was going to change your fortunes? You didn’t need a degree to be a success – that’s what you told us. All those years of school fees down the drain so you could run away from home and play at fashion designer and now you don’t even want to persevere doing that?’
‘I know I said that but…’ Hattie fell silent.
‘And what about this man you were supposed to have been madly in love with? That ended well too, didn’t it?’
‘Dad…’ Hattie’s jaw clamped so tightly it almost felt like it would never open again. Didn’t her dad know how much it hurt when he brought Bertrand into the conversation? It made her feel silly and ashamed for the way things ended there, and surely her dad could see that? ‘I wasn’t madly in love with him,’ she said in a sulky tone that hid her real feelings. ‘And I’d rather not talk about it if you don’t mind.’
‘So now you’re home, what are your plans?’
‘Nigel…’ Hattie’s mum cut in, ‘perhaps we should have this conversation later?’
‘Because Hattie’s only just got here and I’m sure she’s tired after her journey.’
‘It’s OK, Mum. Dad’s right – I should have plans – but I’m afraid I don’t have a clue. There. I messed up in Paris – is that what you wanted to hear?’
‘Nobody’s accusing you of that,’ Hattie’s mum said, but Hattie shook her head.
‘It’s what you’re thinking.’
‘It’s what you think we ought to be thinking,’ her dad said, ‘but it wouldn’t make any difference if we were or not. Nobody’s ever been able to offer advice or the benefit of their wisdom to you without a fight and I’m not about to start trying again now. I expect you’ll do what you always do – exactly what you want. And when you’re bored you’ll fly off on the next breeze. Is that about right?’
‘I don’t fly off on the next breeze,’ Hattie returned sourl. . .
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