"This is another wonderful book from Ms. Tennant. I loved the storylines that wove together. I felt like I was friends with all the characters. I highly recommend this and any of her other books."It’s My Life
"A delightful escape, and if you're looking for a fun country romance, check out The Mill on Magnolia Lane."Sasha Wichita
The sky is cornflower blue, the air is scented with the smell of fresh apple blossom and Lizzie Lovell can’t wait to start her new life in the mill on Magnolia Lane. But is she just about to fall in love with someone she shouldn’t? When Lizzie loses her larger-than-life dad she doesn’t know how to move forward.
Encouraged by a childhood dream she shared with her beloved father, she is determined to continue his legacy and moves to the old Mill on Magnolia lane, a place he had always longed to own. Restoring the old windmill is a much bigger job than Lizzie bargained for, especially when she is distracted by her new next door neighbour Jude, who has temptingly twinkly eyes and a body to die for. But when Jude’s ex- girlfriend Harriet arrives back on the scene, Lizzie begins to wonder if life wasn’t far simpler before she moved to the mill. Especially when it emerges that Harriet knows something about Jude’s past, something that could shatter her new start and her heart into smithereens …
If your heart is warmed by Jenny Colgan, Lucy Diamond and Josie Silver’s One Day in December, you’ll fall in love with this beautiful feel-good story about finding love when you least expect it.
"A fabulous, feel good book. That will make you go through every single emotion possible. It’s an absolute gem of a book and one simply not to be missed." Goodreads reviewer
"Another absolute gem from Tilly Tennant, that was hard to put down. A gorgeous comfort read, with characters to fall in love with from the start." Goodreads Reviewer
"A heartwarming and emotional novel to be sure, but it was still lovely and had a beautiful ending. It's a lovely story about love, relationships and about losing a loved one. Emotional, sometimes I had tears in my eyes whilst reading this! But at other points I had a smile on my face." The Cosiest Corner
"I really enjoyed this book and I would highly recommend it. It has a great story line, excellent main characters and it is a real page turner. I read this book in one sitting and the hours just flew by!" Netgalley reviewer
"Fascinating and entertaining, the perfect feel good book for a cosy afternoon. I love the plot that kept me hooked till the last page and the cast of characters. The setting was lovely and it made me wish I was there. Highly recommended!" Scrapping and Playing
"I am a big fan of Tilly Tennant so I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book, and it didn't disappoint! This is the ultimate feel good romance book… Throughout the book you are treated to the blossoming romance between Lizzie and Jude. Perfect read for the summer days!" South Dublin Reads
"What a great story, I got really involved in the rebuilding of the windmill and the family dynamics. The description of the countryside around the windmill was so realistic I could picture the hedgerows and smell the wild flowers… A definite holiday read." Netgalley reviewer
"I love Tilly Tennant’s books and her writing... With the sails working on the mill, a new baby and hope for new loves and happiness to come – the story came around to leave me with a smile." I Am Indeed
Release date: April 4, 2019
Print pages: 340
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The Mill on Magnolia Lane
She’d driven past the old wreck a hundred times or more over the years. There was more sky than roof and more rubble than walls but still it had an indefinable charm, something that had always drawn Lizzie in.
‘Makes me melancholy, seeing that old place go to ruin,’ her dad would say.
‘One day we should fix it and live in it,’ Lizzie would reply, and her dad would chuckle. It was never patronising, only with wonder at the beautiful naiveté of childhood, where anything was possible and dreams always came true if you dreamt them hard enough.
‘One day,’ he’d reply. ‘I’ve often dreamt about owning it myself. One day you and me will fix it together – how about that? A little castle for my princess.’
But that day would never come, not now. No fixing of a castle for a princess, no dad’s help, no sage advice. The car she travelled in today drove past the crumbling hulk of the old mill, following the hearse that carried her dad’s coffin. Now there was just her and her mum. Once today was over, her younger sister Gracie would go back to her job and boyfriend in London, and brother James back to his slacker mates in whatever dump he was currently inhabiting, and Lizzie would have to pick up the pieces of her mum’s broken heart – the dutiful child, the one who always stayed behind.
‘It’s such an insult,’ her mum said from beside her. She dabbed at her eyes with a fresh tissue from her bag. ‘That witch in the official car and me trailing behind. He was my husband first.’
‘But he was Florentina’s husband last,’ Lizzie said in an even tone. She’d heard this so many times now it was hardly noteworthy. ‘Sorry Mum, but you have to accept that’s how it is.’
‘Why do I? She stole him from me and she has no right to be the grieving widow.’
‘But she is.’
‘She didn’t know him like I did.’
‘But she loved him and he loved her.’
Her mother turned a swollen face to her. ‘Well, we all know you loved her too.’
This time Lizzie bit back a sharp retort that had no place being uttered in the current circumstances. Her mother was hurt, and she was angry and frustrated, and she was saying things that she’d later regret. If Lizzie reacted in the same way they’d both have plenty to regret when the dust had settled. If they were going to get through these dark days, they’d need each other.
‘Please,’ she said, struggling to keep her voice level. ‘Let’s not get into that again. We got along – what else was I supposed to do when she was married to my dad?’
‘You could have shown your disapproval.’
‘And where would that have got us? Would you have had Dad picking sides? Because if he’d been forced to pick sides, he might have chosen her rather than us. That’s why I made an effort to get along with Florentina. I didn’t want to lose him.’
Lizzie’s mum pursed her lips but said nothing. Lizzie supposed that, in some ways, it had all been in vain. They’d lost him anyway – all of them. Her mum turned to face the window and Lizzie reached across to catch a silent tear that tracked her cheek.
‘I know it’s been hard, Mum.’
‘I’ve borne it without complaint.’
‘I know you have. You did it because you loved him. We all accepted things we’d rather have not because we loved him.’
‘Because I loved you too and I didn’t want to make our break-up harder for you than it was already.’
Lizzie pulled her mum into a hug. ‘That’s what makes you my absolute hero.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ Gwendolyn said with a sniff. She wriggled from Lizzie’s arms and dabbed at her eyes again.
The car slowed. Lizzie looked out of the window to see the evergreen-topped walls of the churchyard come into view. The wiry trees reached from the grey stones into a patchwork sky, their branches buffeted by a brisk November wind. The village of Piriwick was a pretty place and its church was still picturesque, even when dressed for such a sombre occasion. Her dad had returned to the village of his birth as often as he could during his lifetime, sometimes bringing his children to see what few sights there were. Often Lizzie and her siblings had been bored, but now she wished they’d shown more enthusiasm. It seemed only fitting that he should be buried here.
‘Looks like we’re here,’ she said. Her gaze ran over a crowd of black-clad mourners gathered at the gates. All turned at the arrival of the lead car. There were some people she knew, a lot that she didn’t. Perhaps they were from his other life, the one he’d shared with Florentina.
‘It would have made him happy to see so many people here,’ her mum said, nodding approval.
‘It would,’ Lizzie agreed. ‘He liked a good turnout for any social occasion, even more so when it was in his honour.’
‘He went to enough of them.’
‘He did.’ Lizzie laughed through the tears she could no longer hold back. ‘He would have gone to the opening of an envelope.’
‘I think he secretly always wished he was a celebrity.’
‘He was to us.’
Lizzie turned to see her mum was smiling now, even as tears rolled down her own face. For the briefest moment they shared the bittersweet memories of a man who had been as remarkable as he was loved, and it was hard to believe that such a larger-than-life character was no longer among them. His death had been so sudden that they’d all struggled to take it in, even now. But then Lizzie dried her eyes and took a deep breath.
‘We’d better go in and get our seats.’
‘Behind Florentina, I suppose.’
‘It stinks, I know. But hold your head up high and proud. You were his first love and you had a lot more years with him than she did – everyone in there knows it.’
‘And we had you and your brother and your sister,’ her mum said, stroking Lizzie’s face. ‘If nothing else good came from our marriage there was always you three.’
It was Lizzie’s turn to purse her lips, biting back a reply that demanded to know that if her siblings were so perfect, where were they now? Gracie was in another car with her Hooray Henry boyfriend, having dashed up at the last minute because she had a presentation that was apparently more important than her father’s funeral, and James had promised to come but as yet had not reported for duty. Which had left Lizzie alone trying to comfort her mum when she was barely coping herself. What loving children indeed. How blessed her parents must have felt with the kids who could barely trouble themselves with a visit once they’d flown the nest.
She shook away the bitter thoughts – now was not the time for them and they wouldn’t help her feel better in the end. James and Gracie had their own lives now and they were free to make choices that suited them, not their parents and not her. It stung, that was all, and it must have stung their mum, though she’d never say it. They were her children and in her eyes they could do no wrong no matter how anyone else saw it.
Lizzie and her mum climbed out of the car and Lizzie linked arms with her. They walked together, arm in arm, as the path that threaded the churchyard crunched beneath their feet. She glanced back to see another car had just arrived. Her sister, Gracie, got out and she had her boyfriend, Frank, with her, but also James – presumably they’d travelled from London together. At least that was something; at least they were here.
Lizzie tugged on her mother’s arm and gestured that they should wait for a moment. Once Gracie and James had joined them, they turned again, facing the crowd of mourners and the huge church doors.
This was it.
Showtime, her dad would have said.
It was May Day. A time of new beginnings, of optimism, of celebration, of new life. A time when thoughts turned away from darkness towards the coming summer. At least that was Lizzie’s hope.
She stood now, looking up at the grey stone walls of her new home, the grass-carpeted flats of the Fens stretching away to meet a cornflower sky, the smell of new pasture and the first apple blossoms filling her head. Her fingers were curled around a set of keys in her pocket. Where the decision had come from – as sudden and violent as a tropical storm – she couldn’t say. Perhaps it was the memories of her dad, always with her whether asleep or awake, that kept bringing the old mill into her mind, so often that she felt she might become obsessed with the place. Perhaps it was the need of a sea change in her life, of something to aim for, something to give her days meaning when everything had become so dull and repetitive. Perhaps it was just that the place was so achingly beautiful, the sorrow of its current state giving it a sort of handsome, noble tragedy, that once she’d found out who held the deeds she could do little else but try to buy it.
Perhaps it was all those things but none of it seemed to matter now anyway. Once she’d contacted the local authority and they’d been happy to get it off their hands for an incredible knock-down price, it seemed fated. Her mum had said Lizzie was crazy when she broke the news of her purchase, but there had been a glint of something in her eye even as she did. Was it approval? A vicarious sense of adventure? A wish that she’d taken more risks herself when she’d been young and financially independent enough? Lizzie’s dad must have mentioned his own love of the place in the past and perhaps her daughter’s purchase had brought those moments to Gwendolyn’s mind again.
All Lizzie knew for certain was that her dad’s death had been the catalyst for long-needed change. Before she’d really thought things through, she’d got a huge mortgage and was handing a significant chunk of her life savings over as a deposit. As a result, she was now the proud owner of the Mill on Magnolia Lane. It stood alone, away from the main village of Piriwick, which was a funny mix of old seventeenth- and eighteen-century cottages with a modern estate of boxy houses tacked onto the outskirts, as if to remind it that the world had moved on. Along the lane that led to the mill sat the stragglers – the odd farmhouse or old worker’s cottage, now turned into equestrian centres, pottery barns or farm shops. If Lizzie’s mill had a name, nobody knew it, but perhaps it didn’t matter; perhaps it was just another sign that it had always been waiting for Lizzie to come and make it hers. She liked to think her dad would have approved, that his spirit was somehow guiding her to make the choice. More likely his passing had made her recognise the fragility of a life that was far too short to be shying away from living it to the full; though with the way Lizzie’s life had panned out since her traumatic break-up with Evan twelve months before, it was no wonder she’d begun to shy away from it.
Of course, buying into the romance of rescuing an old shell of a windmill was one thing, but making it habitable was a very different thing altogether. And as Lizzie stood gazing at it now, it wasn’t just hope and optimism filling her breast, there was a fair amount of trepidation too. Now that she looked at it, knowing it was hers and all the responsibility that went with that, the project seemed much bigger and more daunting than it had before. Not only that, but once it had been converted into a place fit to live in, she’d need to make it pay the bills too.
The plan hadn’t always been in her mind. She had a perfectly good job writing web content for travel and holiday sites, which paid well and was flexible enough to fit in with her life. It was funny, really, because she’d sort of fallen into the job and it didn’t seem to matter that she’d been to barely a tenth of the places she wrote about (though often writing about them made her want to go). What did matter was painstaking research and a bit of imagination, and that she could do. One of these days, perhaps a client would offer to whisk her off to Rio or New York to see for herself what she was writing about, but as yet she was still waiting. However, when she’d decided to take on the mill, she’d had a long chat with a surveyor who had imparted a perhaps inappropriate hope that one day the old place might be grinding corn and wheat again, as it had been meant to do, and the idea had been planted so firmly in Lizzie’s head that she’d been unable to shake it.
She’d put her skills to good use and had researched for hours, late into the night, in the evenings, on lunch breaks. She’d soon realised she wouldn’t be able to make amounts of flour big enough to supply supermarkets or factories, but she could make enough to produce her own artisan bread products perhaps. Or someone else’s artisan bread products, though the idea of a batch bearing her own company label was undeniably appealing. She’d never even considered milling before, which was silly when she thought about it, because what else was a great stonking mill for? But once she’d had the idea, it seemed silly to have the sails of her mill standing idle when a little wind power was all it needed to make it useful again. Of course, the cost involved in getting the sails to a state where they could turn again without flying off into the sunset was a different matter entirely, and it was something she was still working out. Still, working things out seemed to be the motto for her whole life right now.
A shrill ring from her pocket interrupted her thoughts and she pulled out her phone.
‘Have you been in yet?’
‘So you haven’t had the chance to realise it’s simply the most terrible idea you’ve ever had?’
‘Not yet,’ Lizzie replied with a little laugh, recognising her mother’s dry humour and not a bit offended by it. ‘But it’s glorious out here right now. I wish you could see just how beautiful it is in the sunshine. There’s just grass and sky for miles and it’s so quiet. It’s just another reason to be happy I bought the place and when things get tough I’ll just look out of my windows to remind myself of that fact.’
‘You mean those windows that currently have no glass in them?’
‘Yes, those ones. At least summer’s coming so I won’t mind it being a bit draughty.’
‘I hate to break it to you but it won’t be warm at night without windows, unless we have a tropical heatwave. So you’re still not feeling as if you want your cosy little townhouse back?’
‘It’s a bit late for that, even if I did.’ Lizzie shook her head as her gaze went back to her new project. Besides, even though her little house in town had been home and it had served her perfectly well, there had been too much of Evan in it. It had been home for a while, but it had never felt the same since he’d left and she wouldn’t miss it. ‘I’m here now and I’m going to make it work.’
‘Has that man brought your caravan over yet?’
‘Derek? He just phoned to say he’s stuck on a narrow road behind a tractor but he’ll be with me as soon as he can.’
‘That’s country living for you.’
Lizzie’s mum had never understood anyone’s desire to live outside civilisation, and anywhere that wasn’t threaded by a decent network of tarmac roads was outside civilisation in her book. Why would anybody want to travel miles for the nearest shop, or have wildlife running riot in their garden, or get snowbound in the winter or cut off by floods when it rained? Why suffer all those medieval inconveniences when the modern world provided perfectly good solutions to those things and a comfortable, easy life safely surrounded by concrete and streetlights? Oh, Gwendolyn liked the countryside well enough, but a quick drive out and back for tea was enough for her. Lizzie’s love of the outdoors was definitely something she’d inherited from her father.
She turned around at the sound of a distant engine and watched as the speck of a black vehicle towing another began to grow larger as it travelled the road towards her house, the engine getting louder.
‘Speak of the devil – I think the caravan’s here.’
‘Oh, I’ll let you get on then. I’ll call back later; see how you’re settling in. Don’t forget to let me know if you need any help. I expect that caravan will need a good clean given it’s second hand and I can always come over—’
‘It’s fine, Mum. I can do the cleaning and there’s no need for you to come all this way just to work for me.’
‘I only want to help.’
‘I know you do. Thank you.’ Lizzie looked towards the vehicles again, almost at her gates now. ‘I’d better go.’
‘Mum…’ Lizzie drew a breath. ‘Do you really think I’m making a huge mistake here? That it’s too much for me?’
There was a pause. ‘Probably. But you’ve made your bed now so you’d better get lying on it.’
‘That’s not the answer I was looking for,’ Lizzie said with a faint smile.
‘You’ll be fine, sweetheart. You’re a dreamer, just like your dad was, but unlike your dad, you’re a doer too. He drove past that mill a thousand times and I know he always longed to take it on, but he always held back. He dreamt and never did, but you… I have all the faith in the world you’ll make it work.’
Lizzie allowed herself to relax a little. She knew her mum hadn’t really meant all the sarcastic comments about the mill being a terrible idea, but hearing her say she had faith made all the difference.
‘I suppose Dad was scared to take it on. He had a lot more to lose than I do and a family to provide for, which I don’t.’
Lizzie tried not to reflect on how very true her statement was. Since her split with Evan, she really didn’t have anyone to answer to – nobody else to consider, nobody to tell her she couldn’t. It was a valued freedom, but the gift was laced with a little pain too. With the split, and then losing her dad, it had been a tough couple of years.
‘I suppose so,’ her mum said. ‘He’d be pleased as Punch to see you taking it on now, though.’
‘He’d be doing the plumbing for me if he was here now. At least trying to.’
‘He would.’ Her mum laughed. ‘And making an almighty cock-up of it too.’
‘Probably. Thanks, Mum.’
‘I’ll speak to you later. Bye, love.’
Lizzie ended the call and mustered her brightest smile for the driver of the 4x4 as he pulled up outside her garden gates. As she’d suspected, it was Derek, the man who’d advertised his old caravan for sale on a local auction site, a caravan which just happened to be exactly what Lizzie needed. She’d spoken to him on the phone and he’d insisted that it was no bother to bring it out, so a smile was the least he deserved.
‘Hi, Derek,’ she called as he sauntered from the car to join her.
‘It’s a lovely spot here.’ He sunk his hands into his pockets and looked up at the mill. ‘Impossible to reach when the road floods, mind you. You might want to watch out for that. It’s more often than you might think.’ He shot her a sideways look. ‘Moved here from the city?’
‘It wasn’t exactly a city – a bit small,’ Lizzie replied. She knew full well that what he really meant was she’d been some city dweller who didn’t have the faintest idea how life worked in the country and would be turning tail and heading back to her comfortable suburban existence the minute Mother Nature threw an obstacle in her path.
‘Well, it takes a while for things to get through when the water’s high, not like it does in town.’
‘Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be that sorry if I do get cut off for a day or two,’ Lizzie said, repeating the defence of her decision to move out to the Fens. Derek had a valid point but saying it made her feel more than a little foolish. Once again came the needling sense of annoyance that he was passing judgement on her life choice and her capability when he didn’t have a clue about any of it. ‘It’ll give me a good excuse to stay indoors with the telly and a mug of cocoa.’
‘It will that,’ Derek said, appearing not to have noticed the offence he’d caused. ‘Your boss at work might not be so pleased when you can’t get in, though.’
‘I’ll be working for myself so my boss will be just fine about it.’
‘Oh, what’s that doing?’
‘I do web content right now.’
‘I basically make stuff up for websites.’
‘Right!’ Derek chuckled. ‘Sounds like a fine way to make a living.’ He scratched his head as he studied the skeleton of the windmill. ‘And what is it you plan to do with this?’
‘I’m going to get the old place going again.’
‘As a mill?’ he asked, unmistakable incredulity in his tone.
‘I think it’s doable.’
Derek whistled through his teeth. ‘On your own?’
‘I’ll get workmen in.’
‘And running it long term?’
‘I haven’t worked that bit out yet. Maybe I’ll have to employ someone.’
‘It’s finding someone who has the skills that might be a problem. There’s not much call for windmilling these days.’
‘I know. But I’m sure we can learn on the job together.’
Derek scratched his head. ‘Well, it’s not for me to pass judgement. As long as you’re happy. Are you hooked up to the grid here?’
‘No, there’s a generator. Has its own water supply too, takes it from an underground spring or something.’
‘Got all your certificates for that?’
‘I’ve asked the local authority to come and carry out a risk assessment, but I do know when it was last checked it was fine.’
‘I’ll bet it was a long time ago.’
‘That’s why I thought I’d get it rechecked.’
‘Well, it sounds as if you’ve thought of everything.’
‘I wouldn’t quite say that but I’m doing my best. I’ve done enough research.’
‘It seems to me you’ve got most everything you need.’
‘Apart from a roof, upper floors, large portions of wall… and some windows wouldn’t go amiss either.’
Derek grinned as he angled his head at the keys now in her hand. ‘Don’t think you’ll be needing them to get in. Blow on the front door and it’ll probably fall down.’
‘Probably,’ Lizzie agreed with a smile. Despite his implicit questioning of her sanity, she rather liked Derek. She’d only bought a caravan from him but she had a feeling he was a man you could rely on if you were ever in a fix for anything else. He hadn’t been under any obligation to tow the caravan out for her but he’d been happy to do it anyway; in fact, he’d insisted. Although it was possible he’d only come to take a closer look at the madwoman who’d bought the old wreck that had stood empty and decaying on the side of the road for as long as anyone in these parts could remember.
‘It’s a heck of a task you’ve got yourself there. I suppose your husband is quite handy?’
‘I’m afraid I don’t have one of those.’
‘Sorry, of course you’re too young to be married.’
‘Hardly,’ Lizzie said with a little laugh. ‘I wish I could say that but I’m thirty-two. I think that might have qualified me as an old maid in days gone by.’
‘My Caroline says she wishes she was an old maid sometimes. Says her life would be easier if she didn’t have to wash an old man’s socks every week.’
Lizzie giggled. ‘You’re not that old!’
‘I know. I’d like to know who this fella is – they’re not my socks… That said, she puts up with a lot and she probably does wish she was an old maid at times. I’d be lost without her, though.’
‘No one to wash your socks?’
‘Exactly.’ Derek looked up at the mill again. ‘You’ve got a builder on board? If not I might be able to help.’
‘That’s kind of you but I’ve got a decent quote and I’ve said yes; I just hope he turns up.’
‘Who’ve you got?’
‘Lundy and Sons.’
‘Ah, Tim Lundy. He’ll turn up alright.’
‘You know him?’
‘I know of him and he’s got a good reputation.’
‘Well, that’s a relief.’
‘I should imagine it is. Pay much for this place?’
‘Right…’ Derek jingled some loose change in his pocket. ‘None of my business, just curious. So where do you want this caravan then?’
As they began to discuss the best location for her temporary home, Lizzie looked back at the place that would one day become her permanent one. Hopefully. It was barely a dwelling at all right now – good reliable ventilation, her dad had always said, which meant hardly any walls at all. From within the bare rafters of the old roof, birds flitted to and fro. It looked as if there was a fair little colony in there, and goodness knew what else had settled in. Renovating this old place was a huge task, perhaps bigger than she was capable of tackling, but still it made her smile like nothing had ever made her smile before. It was almost as if the mill had been waiting for her all these years. As she stood and looked, it seemed to say Welcome home.
It didn’t take long to turn a caravan into home. A few knick-knacks, the odd photo, a couple of throws, the kettle and the television plugged in, and Lizzie was done. Most of the belongings that she would eventually transfer from her old place to the new one were still in storage, and she’d go over to her mum’s to collect the clothing she’d stashed there when she’d sold her old house as and when she could fit it into her tiny temporary wardrobe.
Derek had stayed for a quick chat and a tour of the crumbling ruins she was planning to call home (hard hats included) and he’d left mid-afternoon, much later than she’d envisaged, but she’d enjoyed the company in the end and had been proud to show her mill off. She had some actual paid work to do, but it would have to wait because she could barely concentrate while the heady mix of excitement, trepidation, hope and downright terror was rushing through her veins like the craziest drug.
So she’d spent a restless evening alone in her new/old caravan listening to the unfamiliar sounds of the countryside at dusk just outside her flimsy door, followed by an equally unsettled night in a strange bed. At least she’d been able to sleep in late the following morning, having no demands on her time first thing and having finally drifted off in the wee small hours. The builder was due to bring supplies so he could start early on Monday morning, but he wasn’t coming until the afternoon. So Lizzie sipped tea from her favourite mug and sat by her caravan window, gazing out onto the rolling meadows, backlit by a climbing sun that lifted a sea of golden mist from t. . .
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