The Gardener

The Gardener
By Prue Leith

Synopsis

Lotte is in unfamiliar territory. After a painful divorce and a great deal of soul-searching, she's abandoned her successful career as an architect for a degree in Garden History, and uprooted her three children to take a job as Head Gardener to millionaire Brody Keegan.

Brody is as ignorant about gardens as Lotte is knowledgeable, his tastes as loud as hers are quiet. The things they have in common are a passion for Maddon Park and a determination to get their own way.

As Lotte locks horns with her boss and his spoilt young wife, she finds herself on an emotional rollercoaster. She knows what is right for the garden, but -- still raw from divorce, anxious about the children and frightened of entanglement -- she has no idea what is right for her.

 

Read an Extract

Charlotte Warren, one-time architect and would-be horticulturalist and plantswoman, glanced at her watch as she approached the Maddon Park entrance. She was early. She drove slowly through the great stone pillars and pulled up at the start of the drive, out of sight of the house. It was twenty years since she’d presented herself to a prospective boss and she was as nervous now as she’d been then. More perhaps. She had to get this job.

She flapped the sun-visor down to check her face in the mirror. I’ll do, she thought. No spinach on the teeth anyway. She ran her comb through her short brown hair and took off her sun-glasses. Gardeners, she thought, don’t wear shades.

She looked down the drive, marvelling at its dereliction. It was almost bare of gravel and badly pot-holed, with grass and weeds growing in a patchy line down the middle. Either side of the drive, dead tree stumps three or four feet across testified to a once magnificent avenue of elms.

Some stumps were jagged, some sawn off like picnic tables, some now just weedy hummocks at ground level.

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Reviews

Prue Leith – brilliant cook and businesswoman – is also a highly accomplished novelist. This is an engaging and well-crafted tale.
— Sue MacGregor
Prue Leith is a wise, warm, wonderful warm and her writing is exactly like her.
— Jilly Cooper
Prue Leith has chosen excellent ingredients for a story of complicated love. The heroin’s battle to make a beautiful garden, while her heart becomes engaged with its owner, is described with humour and sparkle, and evocation of the changing seasons is an added delight.
— Angela Huth
Here is a good romantic tale whose heroine is a divorced mother with three children – a refreshing change from the younger woman so often met within novels.

Lotte Warren is employed by the millionaire owner of a beautiful house surrounded by a derelict park and gardens. Her brief is to restore the whole estate, but she is up against the owner’s complete ignorance of anything to do with gardens plus a strong inclination to have his own way. She falls in love with Maddon Park, and the battle between her employer’s attitude and her professional expertise meld into a mutual passion that extends beyond the place. . .

The setting is one of the strengths of this book. Prue Leith writes about gardens with the knowledge born of real love for the subject, and this gives the story an extra dimension; so those who enjoy both gardening and romance will find it the ideal novel to take on holiday.
— Elizabeth Jane Howard
A gorgeous, completely delightful read – with something serious and fascinating to say about modern families, love, lust – and gardening. I adored this book.
— Emma Freud
It’s been a while since celebrity chef Prue Leith crept quietly out of the kitchen and into the study, and her gentle novels are picking up a loyal readership. The likeable heroine at the heart of Leith’s latest is Lotte, whom we meet at a moment of crisis: 15 years of marriage has ended in bitter divorce, inspiring a sudden career switch from high-flying architect to garden history student. When offered her dream job - head gardener at Heligan-like Maddon Park - she packs up in London and heads for the countryside, her three children in tow. Of course this is just the beginning, and romatics can rest assured that it’s not just flowers that blossom in Lotte’s new life.
— You Magazine

Location

The Garden is set in Maddon Park, historic manor house in Oxfordshire, now neglected with a lost garden. Once Maddon was a priory, then a hunting lodge, and its glory days were as a Georgian country seat. Jane sets out to discover Maddon's past, and finds and lot more than she bargained for, professionally, personally and emotionally.