Cover Image: The Village Inn of Secret Dreams

The Village Inn of Secret Dreams

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Member Reviews

I have had the first and second book in this series on my TBR pile for what seems like forever, but due to other commitments I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. Fortunately this book can be read as a stand-alone and the fact that we know books one and two had a happy ending as the main characters from them reappear as a couple in this book is not really a surprise given the genre of these books.

So focusing on the story in this book… it is the story of Belle and Pete and the village inn. They have know each other since they were kids but haven’t seen each other for 3 years when the story starts. Pete has been working in the Far East and has been something of a womanizer, all about hard work to make lots of money and date women, but never getting serious. Belle is always serious and doesn’t seem to take a minute to have fun and just enjoy life. She prefers to just fade into the background. When Pete returns to their hometown Cranbridge he somehow ends up buying the village inn where Belle lives and works and their friendship really gets tested.

The story may have contained stereotypes and have been predictable, but the writing was good and there was more to the story, like the renovation and things happening in the community. All in all, I thought it was a lovely read and would recommend it to people who enjoy Chick Lit / rom-com stories.

What to expect:

✅ set in a village that can easily be pictured with a river running down the middle of it

✅ renovation of a crumbling village inn… can it succeed?

✅ lovely community life where they look out for one another, some of the events really touched me

✅ good friends and family

✅ quirky and difficult family members

✅ can a player (Pete) ever change?

✅ can a cynic (Belle) ever be open to love?

✅ a festive, heartwarming read without it being purely a Christmas story so it can be enjoyed all year.

If there will be more books in this series I will definitely want to read them. Until then I will go back and read the first two books in the series and be on the look out for other books by Alison Sherlock.
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Thank you Netgalley for this ARC for an exchange of an honest review. 

Very cute and very sweet story.  I liked it.
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This is the third book in the Riverside Lane series, and although it is a standalone, I think you would get a lot of enjoyment from reading the other two books in the series, The Village Shop for Broken Hearts and The Village of Lost and Found. I was so excited to read The Village Inn of Secret Dreams and to finally get to read Belle’s story.

In terms of literary worlds built cleverly by their authors, I love the fictional Cranbridge where the story is set, and I think it is one of my absolute favourites. It makes me think of Bourton on the Water, where a shallow river runs through a picturesque Cotswold village. I think the feeling that shines through this series by Alison Sherlock is the perfect sense of community spirit. It is something that is lacking in my own life, and I feel that although I’m an introvert, I’d love to be in a community where everyone looks out for one another.

I really felt that I had been transported into Cranbridge from the very first page, and was even a little late leaving to attend a wedding because I couldn’t put the book down and wanted to read just another page…and another…and another!

The sizzling chemistry between Belle and Pete was obvious to everyone apart from them, but they both had grief to work through before they could effectively begin again. Belle found herself embracing colour, and Pete found that he had spent 3 years running away from a dilemma that was easily rectified. It was a journey they both needed to take before they were able to move forwards.

I loved the renovations at the Black Swan Inn, and I particularly enjoyed the problematic chef Andre, but loved it all even more when Pete stopped to listen to Belle about what would work best for the village.

Addressing grief, loneliness and poverty, the strength of the community shone through as it always does in Cranbridge, which added to the red-hot romance, to make this the perfect end of the year read. It certainly made me feel very festive. I really hope we get to return to Cranbridge again!
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This is book 3 in the Riverside Lane series from this author. The stories in this series centre on the small village of Cranbridge, once a little rundown, but gradually returning to its former charming state, with the sparkling river running through the middle. In previous parts, the village store and then the newspaper office have been brought back to life, but this book deals with the fate of the once striking Black Swan pub, more recently dubbed the Mucky Duck by the locals, having been allowed to deteriorate by its current owners. I have enjoyed the series so far and have been looking forward to this latest part. I listened to the audio version of the book and finished it within just a few sessions. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone, but for full enjoyment, I would recommend reading them in order.

When the owners of the Black Swan pub have reached the end of their tethers and decide that the only way out of their debt is to sell the business, they are delighted that, out of the blue, Pete Kennedy, recently returned to his home village from overseas, offers them the full asking price. Their niece, Belle, who has lived with them for most of her adult life, is not so excited, as she fears that she may lose both her job and her home if Pete decides to renovate the pub and then sell it on, as he has suggested. After a rocky start, Pete realises that he needs to listen to Belle’s suggestions for the new business if it, and he, are to fit into village life. He also begins to remember what it was like growing up in the village and his fondness for Belle from the first moment she arrived to live with her aunt and uncle. Belle also has growing feelings for Pete, but could it be love that they are both experiencing?

Just like the other books in this series, I found this story quite enthralling, with an interesting mix of drama, comedy and romance. The author really has brought this little village to life on the pages of these books, the characters becoming more familiar with each successive part of the series. All the characters in the story are likeable and believable, the selection including all the kinds of people you might well meet in any small country village. Once again, the community spirit in Cranbridge shines through, everybody pulling together in an emergency. Although Belle and the Kennedy family have featured in all parts of the series, Pete himself is a new character. Having been away from the village for many years, it took him some time to fit in again, and I felt for him as he struggled. The changes he made to the dilapidated old pub were extensive, and it sounded marvellous when it was finished - somewhere I would enjoy visiting. I can heartily recommend this particular book, but also the series as a whole; I for one shall be looking out for more of Alison Sherlock’s writing in the future.
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Favorite Quotes:

Aunty Angie’s view of clothing, hair and make -up was that you needed to be seen from outer space. Preferably without the need of a telescope.

Angie’s cooking was legendary and, unfortunately, not in a good way. Her food was almost always revolting and was normally soggy, dry or inedible. Sometimes all three at once.

My Review:

The small village of Cranbridge sounds pleasant and gentle, despite the frigid weather and dodgy electrical service.  I’m enjoying getting to know the quirky residents and uniquely appealing characters.  Each tale in this series has involved rebuilding and strengthening not only the buildings but of the people residing in them as well as the village at large.  I appreciate the pleasant sense of satisfaction of a community finding camaraderie and pulling together to help those in need as well as the sweet love story blooming amongst the toil and sweat.  The engaging storylines were easy to follow and populated with struggling yet likable and oddly endearing characters I can't help but root for.
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Not going to lie I was positively itching to get back to the village of Cranbridge and find out what the locals were getting up to. Book 1 and 2 focussed on the shop with Amber and Jake and then the newspaper office with Lucy and Tom. This time around it’s Belle and The Black Swan pub, affectionately known by the locals as The Mucky Duck.

With a poor reputation for an arguing landlord and lady, atrocious food and decor, the pub is failing badly and so Belle’s aunt and uncle put it up for sale and Belle is about to lose the only place that feels like home. On top of that romance seems to be in the air and after witnessing her parent’s and aunt and uncles tempestuous marriages she has sworn off marriage for life. Or has she? When old friend Pete returns to Cranbridge could he save the pub and mend Belle’s heart? Or will he flee like he did once before taking his secret with him?

I love these books and this was no exception, the characters all return and it feels like you are catching up with friends. I have a real kinship with Belle in that she is all bark and no bite, if only you take the time to see past the growl. Pete, at the start, I didn’t warm to and felt that he wasn’t good enough for our Belle. But as the pub is transformed so were my feelings towards him.

If you want a lovely cosy winter read with real community spirit and colourful characters then look no further.
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BOOK REVIEW | The Village Inn of Secret Dreams by Alison Sherlock

SYNOPSIS | After escaping her parents’ unhappy marriage to sleepy Cranbridge a long time ago, Belle Clarke dreams of staying at The Black Swan Inn forever. But with the rundown Inn threatened with closure, Belle may be forced to leave, unless a buyer can be found … quickly.

So, when her oldest friend Pete Kennedy returns from working abroad with a plan to save the Inn, Belle should be overjoyed. The trouble is, Pete has some rather radical ideas for the renovation which Belle disagrees with.

But when a snow storm hits, Belle and Pete are forced to put aside their differences and work together to help the village. Can Belle realise her dreams to stay in Cranbridge and can Pete ever stop running from his past?

As they try to save The Black Swan Inn, secrets are revealed and just maybe they’ll finally find out how they really feel about each other.

MY THOUGHTS | I loved visiting the village of Cranbridge for the first time! I was unaware that The Village Inn of Secret Dreams was a series - but can be read as a stand-alone - but I am excited to read the rest of the Riverside Lane books. I enjoyed all of the characters and the sense of community, but Belle and Pete’s relationship was my favorite. I was hoping throughout the story that she would get the happy ending that she deserved. The Village Inn of Secret Dreams is a perfect, charming story to read leading up to the Christmas season! 

RATING | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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The Black Swan pub is under threat - can barmaid Belle save it? Certainly not alone, but  help is at hand in the shape of, Peter, local boy made good. He’s newly-returned to the village, and has the leisure and the money to step in and save the Inn.
But will that solve Belle’s problems? For she now faces sharing her home with a man who once made it plain he didn’t return her feelings for him, and who has a completely different vision from hers for the future of The Black Swan.
This is a warm, sparkly romance, with the added bonus of a lovely community feel to the narrative – in the village of Cranbridge, the locals all look out for each other. As the seasons turn from summer to autumn to Christmas, we’re invited to step outside the Inn and share in community events, which all adds greatly to the atmosphere.
The various characters who habituate the inn and village add to to the story's charm – who could resist people like Grandma Tilly, “Dodgy” Dell, arrogant chef Andrei, and colourful auntie Angie? They’re the perfect foil for our two heroes, Belle and Pete, who are both attractive, empathetic characters in their own right. They’re funny, quick-witted and spark off each other beautifully. Occasionally their conflicted reactions to their growing attraction to each other seems a little contrived – can’t they just speak out to each other?
But overall the plot is convincing, and keeps us guessing to the end whether there will be a happy-ever-after for a heroine called Belle, who, despite her name, believes true love is only for fairytales.
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Happiness /ˈhapɪnəs/. 

Happiness is what I feel when I settle down with a good book and a cuppa or a glass of wine.
I felt immensely happy to be given the opportunity to review this new Alison Sherlock book, a further delve into life in the village of Cranbridge. If this book is half as ‘The Village of Lost and Found’, then it will be a surefire winner.
I felt for Belle, having secretly fallen for her childhood friend, Pete. After kissing him, he ended up living in Singapore for years. Is there any hope of anything between them, now that he is coming back to Cranbridge? The romantic in me wants things to hit off between them, although practical me can foresee nothing but pitfalls!

Molly, Belle, Lucy and Amber seemed like the ultimate quadrumvirate from the outside and I just found myself wanting to be one of their gang. It felt to me as though as a group, they had brought life to what was otherwise a fairly humdrum, old fashioned village, with not a lot going for it. It would be a tragedy for the pub to close down or be sold; after all, who knows what could end up replacing the pub. In the previous book, the group had been involved with the rebirth of the village store and the advent of the community hub had come about due to their efforts in trying to save the village newspaper.

However, is the pub salvageable? it gets very little business. If Lucy was able to save her Uncles newspaper, why couldn’t they come up with a plan to rescue the pub. After all, on paper, it sounded idyllic. Auntie Angie’s culinary ineptitude was surely a causative factor to the pub’s problems! I must however confess to feeling rather sad at Belle’s belief that despite her fairytale name, there wasn’t necessarily a prince waiting in the wings for her, especially with the potential sale/closing down of the pub leaving her future to uncertain. What is life, if you can’t allow yourself to dream from time to time! Poor Belle, it seemed so sad to me, that she couldn’t bring herself to talk to anyone about her concerns for either the present or the future.

I do like a book with a bit of mystery; with Belle and Pete both hidings things too, this novel seems to have mystery in pages! Cranbridge seems to provide some kind of sanctuary to Belle, but sanctuary from what!? She is young and gorgeous, but still seems hell bent on blending into the background; the princess of not geting noticed. Oh Belle, please just let your friends and family in; they just want to help!

It seemed such a shame that it looked like the pub was going to have to be sold. This was a particularly bitter pill to swallow for Belle, as it was all she had ever known. I must confess to having had a rather unladylike snigger at the description of landlady Angie’s cooking as ‘soggy, dry or inedible. Sometimes all three at once’. This seemed like quite an achievement to me! I couldn’t help but wonder whether sorting out the culinary offerings of the pub would go someway towards reviving this village institution’s fortunes.

People often say things they don’t really mean – the words just kind of slip out, but Pete makes a promise of such immense proportions he must almost have wished he could have bitten his tongue off! The big question is surely as to whether or not he can follow through with his promise. Did he inadvertently make the offer due to his latent love for Belle? Is this reciprocated? Is there a future for them?

You may be able guess from my writing, the extent to which I enjoyed this thoroughly entertaining book; a contemporary prodigal son meets a modern Disney-style princess. A story that I didn’t want to come to an end. I can but hope that there may be another chapter depicting the inner workings and the lives and loves of Cranbridge in the offing?
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The Village Inn of Secret Dreams
by: Alison Sherlock
Boldwood Books

     In the quaint,  small village of Cranbridge, Christmas dreams could quite possibly come true, under the cover of a snowfall at the Black Swan Inn.  Get snug with a soft blanket and hot beverage to escape with Belle and Pete. They, along with their friends and families, will provide you with a warm, satisfying English winter. 
     Author Alison Sherlock truly set the tone for everything a reader wants in a light, romantic Christmas book with a picturesque setting and community atmosphere. Belle loves Cranbridge, with its surrounding hills and river going through the middle of town. Pete is her old friend who comes back to his home village and hopes to save the Inn. Secrets and misunderstandings linger and need to be resolved to make room for fulfilled dreams, however. 
     I liked the sense of closeness and altruistic spirit in Cranbridge, and It was nice to see Belle gain confidence and add color and brightness to her somewhat grey life. This book is third in the Riverside Lane series. Reading the series in order would add depth of understanding about the characters, but I enjoyed it without reading the first two. 
Thanks to Net Galley and Boldwood Books for the advance reader's copy and the opportunity to provide my honest review.
 #TheVillageInnofSecretDreams #NetGalley
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This is the story of renovating a run-down inn in a small British town.  The current owners are nearing retirement and haven't wanted to invest in the inn for a long time.  It shows.  The food is inedible and the drinks are the cheapest available.  They would have closed a long time ago if there were other options for nighttime entertainment nearby.
Belle is the niece of the owners.  She wants to stay in the inn forever but doesn't see how that could happen.  When her aunt and uncle jump at a drunken offer to buy the place she is not happy to find that she'll need to rely on her estranged best friend for a job.  She is extra mad because he's made it clear that he is only looking to flip the property.The story is nicely predictable.  You know how this is going to go but it is an enjoyable read.  Pete is supposedly a big financial sector success but not very bright.  He doesn't do any market research before just running headlong into renovating the inn into a modern gastropub.  He also has a big hangup about his late father because he thinks he found a secret that his mother doesn't know about.  Anyone who has ever been married knows that what he thinks he found would never be a secret between a long time married couple.  It could also have been easily resolved by asking a few questions or even doing a simple internet search but he left town for years and is determined to never get into a committed relationship because of it.  Props for his mother pretty much telling him he was dumb when he had his "big reveal."  Belle is a bit more logical.  She craves security and likes to fade into the background.  Her only goal is to work at the inn.  She does turn out to be the world's fastest quilter.  Several times she makes a quilt in an evening.  It takes me months.  Kudos to her.  The inn does sound like a fun place to hang out.  This book is part of a series but functions well as a standalone.
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I love the community atmosphere in these books, and I would really like to have a book with Del, or his nephew, that was a really cool new character!! I like Pete, but I believed it would be much nicer if he understood from the beginning the importance of the community for The Black Swan!

Full review on:
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I was overjoyed to see ‘tickets’ for another trip to Cranfield in my inbox and it’s something I would struggle to turn down.  I love this linked series and everything about it and I couldn’t wait to return.  
For me, arriving back in the fictional village of Cranfield feels like returning to a favourite haunt where I get to catch up with friends old and new.  I love the actual village.  It’s so quaint and picturesque but not perfect.  It has its difficulties and struggles and what makes it beautiful are the people who live there.   They are so warm and welcoming towards each other and anyone who turns up there needing some love and care.  
Bella has been secondary character in the previous books and I am so pleased we get to read her story this time.  She’s very anxious and wary of love and relationships and struggles to trust anyone with her heart.  When the only security she has ever know is under threat, she is forced to work with Pete who has previously rejected her.  Can Bella save her beloved Inn and find peace and happiness for herself?
This is such an uplifting and community whilst touching on some real emotional events and issues.  I adored Bella and really wanted her to have her happy ending and finally be released form some of her issues and worries.  
A gorgeous festive novel and I can highly recommend this series.
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I didn’t realize when I requested this that it was part of a series, but despite that, this book was great! There was a tiny bit I didn’t understand based on not having read the series, but I already plan to purchase so I can read them all! I’ll be featuring this on my Bookstagram during Christmas, it was such a fun book! Medium paced, character driven with lovable characters and a heartwarming story!
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Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley, too,
For my copy of this book, here's my honest review:

Belle Clarke was sent to stay with her Uncle and Aunt
When her parents fell out and had their final rant
She's stayed there, growing up then working in The Black Swan Inn
But it is losing money and now her Uncle thinks they can't win.
That's why the Inn is going up for sale soon
And Belle feels like all will end in doom.

Pete Kennedy is Belle's oldest friend
But his travels abroad are about to end.
When he decides to buy the Inn and work with Belle
To make it a place where folks like to eat and dwell.
Can they work together to make it a success
Or will their differences make it something less?

This is a story of a village and the folks there
Who are there to help others when they need to share.
With a world cruise, a snowstorm and folks in need
Can Pete learn to stay and Belle's advice heed?
Will love find a way to bring them romance
Or will fate intervene and prevent their chance?

This is the third book in 'The Riverside Lane' Series of books
Each of which is well worth taking a look
Although they're linked with characters and setting
You could enjoy them as a standalone, too, I'm betting.
However, I've now read and thoroughly enjoyed all three
And hope you'll get the chance to see if you agree with me!
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Belle and Pete are the main focus of book three in the Riverside Lane series. Belle is in danger of losing her home, and Pete returns to the village after years away and becomes the unlikely saviour of the pub and Belle, but his offer seems to lead to more conflict. Pete is Belle's friend, but their relationship dynamic suggests they are more than this. They don't see themselves as a couple, but their family, friends and the wider community do.

This is a romantic story with realistic conflict and humour. Likeably flawed main protagonists and the supporting characters give the village authenticity. Like the other books in the series, it explores contemporary issues through the characters in an insightful way.

This uplifting story weaves community spirit, friendship and romance into its idyllic but lifelike village setting.

I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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First off, thank you for letting me review this book! I really enjoyed the story and the characters of this book! The storyline kept me reading until I finished! I loved the characters and how well everyone connected
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A sweet and relaxing, clean romance with a focus on community spirit and friendships!

First of all, I adore the title and the cover-lovely and atmospheric, they do set you in the right mood for reading this  book. The Vilage Inn of Secret Dreams is the third book in the Riverside Lane series which focuses on four friends (Amber, Lucy, Belle and Molly) who live in a picturesque village of Cranbridge. If you have read the previous stories, you will be delighted to see the familiar faces. If not,don't worry, it can be easily read as a standalone.

This time it's Belle Clarke's turn to find her own happily-ever-after in her beloved Cranbridge. Belle has a propensity for wearing dark colours as if she doesn't want to draw any attention to herself and once you get to know her family story, it's easy to understand. She was sent away by her parents to live with her uncle and aunt, the owners of the only pub in the village. The Black Swan is in a desperate need of renovation and, to be honest, a new chef, as Belle's aunt can't cook to save her own life. The financial situation is so desperate that it looks like the pub will have  to be sold. What will Belle do then and where will she live?  Pete Kennedy, Amber's future brother-in-law and Belle's childhood friend,  comes back home from Singapore and offers to buy the inn out, but he and Belle may have slightly different ideas about the inn's future...

I really enjoyed the setting and the heart-warming focus on the community this book has. Alison Sherlock touches upon some heavy topics-e.g. loneliness in the old age, youth unemployment, marital strife- but she does it with a light hand and sensitivity.

The protagonists were sweet and it was very easy to root for them. Belle, perhaps, was a bit quick to jump to conclusions, but otherwise, their romance developed naturally and realistically. I really sympathised with the main characters-Belle for her desire to live in a safe, friendly place she calls her home and give her best to the community, and Pete for his courage to try something new and then being able to learn from his mistakes (he is really a very likeable character!). You can't write a book about a village without a large cast of secondary characters, but it didn't feel overwhelming or confusing at any point- quite the opposite. Grandma Tilly and Amber are probably my favourite, but it was a hard choice to name just a few.

Can't wait to come back to Cranbridge for the next story!
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What a sweet community vibe this book gives off! I have not read any previous in the series, and I think it could've helped a little bit to have read previous books to give better background. That being said, I think this book was a good stand alone. Thank you to NetGalley and Boldwood Books for a copy of this book for an honest review.
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A winter miracle will make two friends realise they are soulmates in Alison Sherlock’s delightful and magical new novel, The Village Inn of Secret Dreams.

For Belle Clarke, The Black Swan Inn in the beautiful village of Cranbridge is her favourite place in the whole world. The charming inn had provided her with the sanctuary she so desperately needed and she had hoped to stay at The Black Swan for the foreseeable future – until the beautiful inn is threatened with closure. A buyer must be found and quickly or the inn could be shut down forever. Belle is willing to do whatever it takes to save The Black Swan Inn – but could her good friend Peter’s plan to save it be the answer to all of her prayers? Or will his ideas for the inn end up causing even more problems and upheaval?

Pete has got some very radical plans for the renovation which do not fit with Belle’s ideas for The Black Swan. As the two begin to disagree about everything, they wonder whether they will ever manage to put all their differences aside for the good of the community. But when a storm hits, it looks like their diverging ideas will be the last thing on their minds as they find themselves forced with confronting the truth about how they really feel about one another…

Will Belle’s dreams about staying in Cranbridge ever come true? Will Pete’s past end up threatening his future with Belle? And can The Black Swan Inn ever be saved?

Enchanting, uplifting and wonderfully romantic, The Village Inn of Secret Dreams is a dreamy, adorable and emotional tale that charms from the off and keeps readers absolutely riveted to the page until the very last word. Alison Sherlock sprinkles her story with plenty of warmth, hope and heart and readers will fall in love with Belle and Pete and cheer them on on their way to their happy ending.

Fall under Alison Sherlock’s spell this winter with her latest novel, The Village Inn of Secret Dreams.
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