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The Books of Love: The Apothecary’s Garden by Julie Bozza

Reviewed by Minion Beck


Hilary Kent, a Londoner all his working life, retires to Wiltshire after an estranged cousin unexpectedly leaves him an inhabitable tower surrounded by an overgrown physic garden – and that’s when graduate student Tom Laurence suddenly erupts into his life, convincing him that together they can restore the ancient garden to its former glory.

Tom’s cheerful friendship is the best thing that’s ever happened to Hilary and he’s perfectly content with that until, to his astonishment and confusion, it seems that Tom’s affection for him is beginning to grow into something more … something he feels he probably shouldn’t allow …

The review…

When I was sixteen, my favourite movie of all time was released: A Room with a View with Maggie Smith (does that woman ever age?) and Helena Bonham Carter. It was a rich adaption of the book written by E.M. Forster and I was enchanted. It wasn’t a popular film and was quickly pushed to the independent movie houses. Every week while the film ran, I’d catch the train into the city, walk up to the Forum Theatre on the corner of Flinders and Russell Streets and I’d watch every viewing surrounded by the opulence of Grecian statues, gargoyles and a surprisingly realistic fake night sky.

I became obsessed with this film. Once it was out on video, I bought it. Even though I was too poor to own a video player. I also bought the DVD and blue ray versions as soon as they were available, despite not being able to actually watch them on any device I owned. Like Gollum, I would caress and cosset; I’d stroke the cases and whisper “precious”.

Every now and then, I’d find someone interested in seeing what all the fuss was about and I’d let them borrow my precious so they could watch the Best Movie Ever. Inevitably, they’d come back with a pensive look on their face and say, “Nothing actually happened!”

Now I will freely admit that I may be slightly biased about this movie, but when people say “Nothing actually happened!” I usually suffer a wee break with sanity. Because this is a real review for a blog and shit, I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say, I wail; I develop a vocabulary that would make Rosanne Barr blush; and I have been known to tear at my hair as I scream “OF COURSE NOTHING HAPPENED YOU NIMROD … THAT’S THE WHOLE (NASTY WORD) POINT!”

This book, The Apothecary’s Garden, gave me the same feeling as my first viewing of The Best Movie Ever. I was instantly enchanted.

I usually read a book of this size in a few hours, but I didn’t want it to end and managed to drag the experience out over 4 days. This story of unconventional love is whimsical and almost magical in its purity. I cried, not because of the ending, but because it ended.

Nothing actually happens yet everything happens. A man who has merely existed for 65 years is given the chance to actually live for the remainder of his life. A man who grew up in an era where the act of loving another man was illegal, was able to find acceptance for his irregular relationship; and in that acceptance, could grow into his loving potential. Tom brought energy, vitality, passion and love into a barren existence and just as he nurtured the garden; he nurtured Hilary.

This book won’t be for everyone. It is sweet and romantic. Languid in pace. The language is quintessentially English and there is a lot of tea.

I spent seven years living in England and I love the whimsy and fussiness of the over-regimented society. No, I couldn’t live there anymore, but reading or watching an enchanting, gentle story that captures the essence of the beauty that can be England and its people; that makes my heart happy.

Julie Bozza has become an author I will automatically buy and be warned, dis her, or this book, and I may just frighten you with my response.

In summary … Just wonderful and highly recommended.

Buy The Apothecary’s Garden

See more at Manifold Press

About Minion Beck

minon beckMinion Beck is an irreverent middle-aged woman with an extremely warped sense of humour and an inability to sit still. She is a mother, an author and now, a minion for all things literary. With a penchant for reading erotic romance and out-of-control caffeine addiction, you can usually find her bouncing around sprinkling fairy dust and joie de vivre … unless it’s before her first cup of coffee … in that case she bears a startling resemblance to Voldemort and should be approached with caution.

The Books of Love are romance book reviews of both new releases and old favourites.

The Books of Love: A Pride of Poppies anthology

Reviewed by NM Harris

24982563The blurb…

Ten authors – in thirteen stories – explore the experiences of GLBTQI people during World War I. In what ways were their lives the same as or different from those of other people?

A London pub, an English village, a shell-hole on the Front, the outskirts of Thai Nguyen city, a ship in heavy weather off Zeebrugge, a civilian internment camp… Loves and griefs that must remain unspoken, unexpected freedoms, the tensions between individuality and duty, and every now and then the relief of recognition. You’ll find both heartaches and joys in this astonishing range of thought-provoking stories.

The review…

As the centenary commemorations for World War I begin in earnest in 2015 (and will continue for the next few years), this anthology is perfectly timed. War brings all kind of suffering, to combatants and civilians, to those fighting with their comrades in numerous armies, and to those still at home.

Among the hundreds of thousands who fought, died, loved, lost and suffered were people of the LGBTQI community who experienced the additional stress of being unable to publicly acknowledge their experiences – both the horrific and the joyful.

A Pride of Poppies is a superb collection of stories that give voices to those who were silenced by the mainstream at the time. The stories are told across a rich array of experiences, including an intersex man facing his choices on enlistment, a ‘lesbian Lothario’ providing company to the women of her mail route, men in a German internment camp in England finding comfort in the midst of trauma, a bereaved mother visiting the sickbed of a wounded man who was her son’s particular friend, and two young men in French Indochina finding strength in each other as they struggle in their occupied homeland.

There are stories in the trenches, at sea, on the English homefront and in far-off places where the war’s impact is unexpected. But don’t get the idea that each one is a story of sorrow and misery. Far from it. There is so much love and hope in these tales, too. Happy endings as well as heartbreaking partings. The broader experience of the whole of humanity is reflected in these small and personal love stories.

Every story is a gem, though a few shone a little more brightly for me. I am an enormous admirer of Wendy C Fries Sherlock Holmes stories, and her beautiful contribution, I Remember, is lyrical and had me happy-weepy, sorrowful and glad for Christopher and James who can only write in a kind of code to each other. Eleanor Musgrove’s Inside, set in an civilian internment camp, shows life for those deemed ‘enemy aliens’ in a sympathetic light. At the Gate by Jay Lewis Taylor is another that had me tearful for the man who could not be seen to mourn too much for the man he loved. Julie Bozza (author of the excellent The Fine Point of His Soul) gives us the fresh and lovely Lena and the Swan, or The Lesbian Lothario.

A Pride of Poppies opens a window many lives affected by The Great War, not just in Europe, not just on the battlefield, but for so many lives changed and challenged in so many different ways.

The authors and publishing house all donated their efforts to this book, and a minimum of 60% of the proceeds are being donated to the Royal British Legion, which runs the UK’s Poppy Appeal. But don’t buy this wonderful anthology for that reason. Buy it because it’s a damned fine read which will break your heart, fill it with hope and remind you that love will find a way to grow, even under the harshest conditions.

Buy A Pride of Poppies

Read more about A Pride of Poppies and the anthology authors at Manifold Press.

The Books of Love are romance book reviews of both new releases and old favourites.