A Village Secret

Summer 2022's most page-turning, uplifting read, from the bestselling author of A Village Affair

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.

Buy this Book on

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add kindle@netgalley.com as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 14 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 14 Apr 2022

Talking about this book? Use #AVillageSecret #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


When Jennifer goes up to Cambridge University with her head full of the Romantic Poets, she never dreams that she will find her very own Byron. But then she meets gorgeous actor Laurie Lewis, and finds herself living a real-life love poem.

Fifteen years and two children later, Jennifer and Laurie's relationship is starting to feel more like an epic tragedy. After a series of revelations turn her world upside down, Jennifer will do anything to keep her family together – even if it means moving hundreds of miles away to Laurie's childhood home in Westenbury, Yorkshire.

As she reluctantly enters into village life – complete with interfering in-laws, new friends and a surprise delivery of alpacas – Jennifer is amazed to find herself feeling happy for the first time in years. But the village holds one last, devastating secret and Jennifer must decide once and for all what she wants her future to hold.

Praise for Julie Houston:

'A warm, funny story of sisters and the secrets they keep' Sheila O'Flanagan

'Warm, funny and well written, with a page-turning plot, this book has everything! I loved it!' Katie Fforde

'Julie Houston at her best – heartfelt and hilarious' Sandy Barker

'Laugh-out-loud hilarious and heartwarming!' Mandy Baggot

'This book is an absolute gigglefest with characters you'll fall in love with!' Katie Ginger

When Jennifer goes up to Cambridge University with her head full of the Romantic Poets, she never dreams that she will find her very own Byron. But then she meets gorgeous actor Laurie Lewis, and...

Available Editions

ISBN 9781788549820
PRICE $6.99 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (EPUB)
Send to Kindle (EPUB)

Average rating from 67 members

Featured Reviews

Thoroughly good read. Jennifer goes to Cambridge to study the poets where she meets Laurie who just looks like one of the poets she loves. He thinks a lot of himself when he lands the role of a farmer in a tv show.
Everything then falls apart and they need to sell everything and move up to his family's farm in Yorkshire

Was this review helpful?

This was a lovely heartwarming novel abt a women’s return to get roots and I loved every second.


When Jennifer goes up to Cambridge University with her head full of the Romantic Poets, she never dreams that she will find her very own Byron. But then she meets gorgeous actor Laurie Lewis, and finds herself living a real-life love poem.

Fifteen years and two children later, Jennifer and Laurie's relationship is starting to feel more like an epic tragedy. After a series of revelations turn her world upside down, Jennifer will do anything to keep her family together – even if it means moving hundreds of miles away to Laurie's childhood home in Westenbury, Yorkshire.

As she reluctantly enters into village life – complete with interfering in-laws, new friends and a surprise delivery of alpacas – Jennifer is amazed to find herself feeling happy for the first time in years. But the village holds one last, devastating secret and Jennifer must decide once and for all what she wants her future to hold.

Was this review helpful?

I generally enjoy this authors work and this story was as good as the rest. Love the village and all the interactions between the characters! Also a good and fun read.

Was this review helpful?

I was so excited to receive a copy of this book as I recently read 'A Village Affair' and absolutely loved it. Sadly, this book didn't quite capture my heart as much as I was expecting and I think this was mainly because the characters of Jennifer and Laurie are both fairly hard to like.

Brought up in a wealthy, privileged family with her father gifting her a flat and bailing her out numerous times when things get tough, Jennifer doesn't seem to have any sense of living in the true world which makes her a flat/unrelatable character. Even Laurie, who has had a tougher upbringing, is still no more likeable. He is arrogant, egotistical and materialistic and his less privileged background hasn't made him any more grateful for his success and achievements. I think if the characters were more likeable, I would have been rooting for a more happy ending for them both, As it were, I felt neither of them were much deserving of happiness.

I like that the book documents the characters relationship right from the start when they meet at Cambridge in 1999 through to present day as this gives a really in-depth understanding of how they develop together. However, I felt it was slightly slow moving - it isn't until 40% into the book that they move to Westenbury. Overall, I enjoyed the style of writing and the plot held my attention throughout. Perfect story of idealism vs real life. It is definitely worth a read and I will be looking out for more books from this author.

Thank you to Netgalley and publishers for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

As a fan of Julie Houston's writing, I can heartily recommend this one. I love to read books set in villages and how the characters interact with each other, especially if there are secrets involved.

Was this review helpful?

Another absolute gem of a book. I couldn’t put this one down. I have devoured page after page of this one. Completely unwilling to put this one down.
This has kept my interest and made me want to read more by Houston and fall more in love with each character she creates

Was this review helpful?

Thanks Netgalley and the Publisher. I have enjoyed all this authors books and this was no exception. Great storyline, great characters and great location. Well worth a read.

Was this review helpful?

Another cracking good story from Ms Houston, I look forward to each new book from this author and this one does not disappoint.

As ever the author pulls no punches and her observation of relationships really resonate.

Although often flawed the characters are also drawn with a light touch and the humour comes through even in darker situations.

You're always in great company and in for a roller-coaster emotional ride in Ms Houston's stories and this one is no exception.

Highly recommend.

Was this review helpful?

The characters are very well placed in this story so it make for a very enjoyable read. It goes between Cambridge and Yorkshire so it leads to very different life styles. I recommend you read this as it is a very well written and interesting story. 5 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and publisher for this e ARC

Was this review helpful?

A wonderful lighthearted read with a feelgood factor. Delightfully observed characters, although I didn't really relate to the main character of privileged Jennifer or her wastrel husband Laurie, both of whom needed a bit of a wake up call. However, the book is certainly cheering and thoroughly entertaining .with a great deal of humour. I shall be looking out for more from this author when a light fun read is needed.

Was this review helpful?

Julie and her husband move to his childhood home, but the village holds a secret. very sweet, funny story, really enjoyed reading it, will look for more books from this author.

Was this review helpful?

I have been a fan of Julie's for a while now and I can honestly say that her books get better every single time. I have to say there were times when I was actually gasping out loud at the audacity and entitlement of one particular character, but that just proves that this book is well written because I believed that somebody could actually be as self centred!
If you've not read any of Julie's other works, I suggest you remedy that immediately. There is humour, romance, drama and a few emotional moments in this.
Highly recommended.

Was this review helpful?

At the risk of repeating myself, as I say this every time I read a Julie Houston novel, I absolutely loved 'A Village Secret'. From the opening line, I was hooked, and I couldn't wait to see what happened to the wonderful Jennifer and her family.

One of the things I adore about Julie Houston's writing is the way she threads page turning plots into romantic and family interactions, perfectly balancing the human drama with the bigger picture at every turn. Julie takes you into the world of Westenbury and its inhabitants until they feel like old friends. What's especially lovely is the way even older friends from the previous novels pop up from time to time, as if Julie's reminding us 'all is well, here they are.'

I loved walking alongside Jennifer as she navigated some very tangled emotional dynamics in 'A Village Secret', and the dual narrative, present day and flashing back to her university days, awoke some very fond memories of my own as an idealistic, romantic English Literature student in the mid 1990s. I must, also, of course, mention Julie's trademark humour, which had me grinning - she has such a way with one-liners that sum up her characters and their situations perfectly.

'A Village Secret' is a wonderful addition to the Westenbury series, and a definite must read. Bring on 'The Village Vicar' in 2023 - I can't wait!!

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed this book but I found some parts hard to endure. Particularly the way Laurie treated Jennifer and for Jennifer being a highly educated woman to not stand up to him and put herself first.

This inner turmoil Jennifer endured will probably resonate with a lot of society but for me it was difficult to follow the path Jennifer had to take.

I thoroughly enjoyed the latter part of the book when Jennifer clearly takes charge and builds strong foundations with Laurie's family. I found Laurie very difficult to like and it annoyed me that he took up so much of the book.

I loved the ending and the final few chapters of the book make it worth reading for me and actually change my overall view of the book. The book was exceptionally well written and followed several story lines and sub plots. You will definitely need a strong coffee to read this book!

Was this review helpful?

When Jennifer goes up to Cambridge University with her head full of the Romantic Poets, she never dreams that she will find her very own Byron. But then she meets gorgeous actor Laurie Lewis, and finds herself living a real-life love poem. This book is brilliant, really well written, good story which kept me interested from the beginning. Great characters which are also believable.

Was this review helpful?

Jennifer meets her own personal Lord Byron while studying at Cambridge, bowled over by Laurie Lewis' charm and good looks they fall madly in love and start a family together. But while Jennifer has some success with her book about Byron and the women who loved him, while also holding down a job in publishing, Laurie isn't having the same success in his acting career which leads to resentment between them. When Laurie lands a job on a BBC soap opera (think Eastenders) it looks like his time has finally come, but unfortunately he lets the fame go to his head and starts acting like a Hollywood star. When everything comes crashing down around them Jennifer and Laurie have to sell their big expensive house in St Albans to pay the debts, Laurie has lost his job, and they have to move back to his family's dilapidated farm in Yorkshire - will this be a new start for the family or will it be the final straw?

This was definitely a book of parts for me. I thought the early years in Cambridge and when Jennifer and Laurie first got married were too long and slow, I really felt like giving up. But as soon as they moved to Yorkshire the book really picked up for me. Of course Laurie's family farm is in Westenbury where Julie Houston's other books are set, so Jennifer and Laurie meet some of the characters from the previous books. Multiple family secrets are uncovered (or are they?), there are alpacas, dachshunds, horses, llamas, cute moppets, regency romances, and a lot of alliteration.

Definitely ended on a high note for me - loved it.

I was given a free copy of this book by the publisher Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

"A Village Secret" is a book about finding new friends and family, making a new life when the old one falls apart. Jennifer met Laurence when they were at university and they have been married for 16 years. In the early years she supported him while he struggled to find acting roles. Now his loyalty is in question. Discover what happens when they are forced to move back to Laurie's family home in Yorkshire/

Emotional, full of secrets, a re-discovery of self, and very readable.

Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for the opportunity to review this book.

Was this review helpful?

I have always enjoyed Julie's books but this one did take me a bit longer to get I to but once I did I really enjoyed it but was slow to start with but then loved it. Shows plenty about friendship and village life plenty of usual gossip with in the village and secrets come out.
Jennifer goes to Cambridge university and never dreamt she would meet the perfect man for her but she met an actor Laurie and they get together but she finds her life living a real life tragedy with plenty of revelations and they will change everything. But Jennifer wants to do all she can to keep her family together and they end up moving to Laurie's home village in Yorkshire which is miles away. Problem in how will the in-laws be and new friends but she is so surprised to find herself happy but suddenly one devastating secret and she needs to decide if she wants to stay. What will she do will she try and stay or leave.
A warm read once you get into it.

Was this review helpful?

I love all of Julie Houston's books and this one is no exception. I don't think there has been a more infuriating character than Laurie . Honestly Jennifer became infuriating too for putting up with him for years. This man child needed everything done for him aided by the way his mother always stuck up for him. The best thing was a satisfying ending for all.
I enjoyed all the other smaller storylines throughout the book and to be back in the village again with mentions of characters from previous books was good .
I recommend Julie's books to anyone who likes a good read.

Was this review helpful?

Another amazing book by Julie Houston. I love Julie's books she really knows how to spin a gorgeously romantic story. Which really leaves you feeling good

Was this review helpful?

Julie Houston never disappoints with her stories, A Village Secret sees it's lead characters moving from Cambridge, London and finally to a small Yorkshire village.

The small sleepy village is beautiful and the lives o it's residents happening and more lively than the city ones. You will not be dispappointed with what the chracters get upto as they give you plenty of chances to be happy, upset and laugh with and at them .

Was this review helpful?

A really funny book which describes a series of lovely characters and hilarious events. A very relaxing read. Julie Houston never fails to disappoint.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you NetGalley, Julie Houston and Head of Zeus for the ARC of the book A Village Secret. This is my personal review.
This book started out very slow for me but the more I read the more I was intrigued as to what was going to happen next Jennifer and Laurie.
With each page I was vested into finding out why things were happening and what was going to happen next in the story.
I really liked the captivating life in the village. It can be a good place to live or a not so good, but Jennifer knew what she was wanting for herself.
Thank you, Julie Houston, for taking me into this story.

Was this review helpful?

When you are young and you fall in love with the perfect guy... Then you marry him and you have kids. Later on it turns out that he might not be exactly what you thought he was meant to be, but instead a cheating bastard who can only love himself. The farm boy who thinks he is the greatest soap star to ever exist. Why do women not leave these men earlier? Maybe better late than never?

I liked the story, but it was a bit slow-going in the beginning, and could have been a bit shorter in general.There are many interesting characters in the book My favourite part is the last part in Yorkshire. I like the countryside, the people and animals there, and the book felt so real.

Was this review helpful?

Jennifer and Laurie met at Cambridge and for the longest part of their 16 year marriage, she was the one who supported them as he struggled to find an acting role. And then he gets a real juicy one and, unfortunately, it goes to his head. When they find themselves forced to sell their home, their only choice is to relocate to Laurie's family farm in a small village. What a change, especially for Jennifer, who has always lived a privileged urban life. You may thing you know how this is going to go but you don't really. Laurie is incredibly selfish and you'll wish Jennifer would, well, no spoilers. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A good read.

Was this review helpful?

A Village Secret, Julie Houston

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre: Romance, General fiction.

I adore Julie's writing, she has a way of twisting sweet events with heartbreak, lovely people with awful ones, running humour through situations that would have us in tears. Her characters are real, flawed, people we meet every day. Though I Do Not want to meet Laurie.

I felt Jennifer was in love with the fictional character she made Laurie in her head, and unconsciously excused him his faults, as they marred that perfect image. Laurie really was an objectionable character. Indulged as the “precious son” by his doting mother, got away with everything because of his stunning looks, he was so self obsessed.
There must have been some redeeming characteristics but I couldn't see them, something that kept Jennifer with him, maybe the early days of their marriage were different and we're only now seeing the build-up of events over time. ( Chickens home to roost and all that).

Jennifer had lived a privileged life, with wealthy and loving parents, but she worked hard for her position, looked after home, kids, and still carried on working. When it all falls apart I so felt for her. She's still loyal to Laurie, even though she's finally seeing him for what he is, but the kids adore him, and she feels she needs to try a bit longer. So off they go to Westenbury, where we meet up with characters from earlier books.
It was lovely to see them again, to catch up in their lives, to see them enfold and support Jennifer and George.
Laurie is soon off on his flights of fancy, planning for a future he really seems to believe is coming, but which Jennifer can see is not what she wants, and she's too busy with the day to day issues that keep on coming to really bother with Laurie. He's away more than he's home, assuming as ever that Jennifer will keep things running for him, be his eternal back up and support.

I loved this mix of pathos and humour, the teen girl issues, the way the countryside isn't just idyllic blue skies and eternal sunshine, but rain, mud, lots of problems.
It was wonderful to be reminded of earlier stories, though you don't need to have read them to enjoy this one. It did make me think I must have a reread of some of them. The actual romance though is very muted, barely happens until the end, but there's so much else going on that didn't matter to me.

Stars: Five. Its a fabulous book to just escape with, which will have you smiling one moment, choked throat the next.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Was this review helpful?

Jennifer fell in love with Laurie whilst at Cambridge University. Both from very different backgrounds, Laurie was a struggling farmer's son & Jen's father was a business owner & was financially astute! Laurie pursued his acting career whilst Jen worked to keep them a float. Life is never what you expect & they end up living back at his parent's farmhouse.
Julie Houston writes such compelling books. The characters are likeable, interesting & identifiable. There is humour, empathy & a credibility to the story, as with her other books.
I always look forward to Julie's new books. Enjoy this book!

Was this review helpful?

Jen meets the love of her life at uni.- Laurie- soon to be a famous actor. Until it all goes wrong and they have to move to his family home in Yorkshire. She realises her marriage is doomed but how will she cope? A really good book to read curled up in an armchair.

Was this review helpful?

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an early review copy.

The book is another fabulous study from Julie. I’ve read all previous books and await the next one. This one didn’t disappoint.just like the previous ones.

The way the author looks into relationships is so evident in this book and will relate to the readers.

The story is full of turns and twists, emotional at times, but, you’d expect nothing less from Julie’s books.

Highly recommend this book.

Was this review helpful?

I enjoyed this read, although it took me a while to get into the story. I'm glad I persevered though.

I liked Jennifer as a character and was glad she eventually saw Laurie for what he was. I couldn't stand him, but that was the point really.

A good read

Was this review helpful?

Jennifer and Laurie meet at Cambridge University where Jennifer is studying the poets and Laurie wants to become an actor
Fast forward a few years and they are married with 2 children, Jennifer had become a published author but Laurie was struggling with acting roles until he landed a part in a TV show where the fame went to his head. After the news breaks that he has had yet another affair they lose everything as the show cancels his character and they have to go to live on his mum's run down farm to try and start over.
Laurie can't accept his downfall and is convinced they will soon be back where they were and Jennifer finally realises the only person Laurie cares about is himself.
Loved it

Was this review helpful?

A Village Secret is one of those warm and friendly reads which you devour in an afternoon. With new friendships and relationships plus trying to fit into the village community, Jennifer has enough on her plate without alpacas.
With a slow start this story really got going for me when Jennifer and Laurie ended back in Yorkshire. Country life was described in all its glory with alpacas and dachshunds thrown in to complete the picture. Interesting characters, some likeable and others not so, kept the latter stages of the story moving along nicely, with twists and turns to keep me interested.

Was this review helpful?

Jennifer met Laurie at Cambridge in her final year. An English Literature student, she is obsessed with the romantic poets, particularly Byron, and when she first sees Laurie, for her, he is Bryon personified. Laurie has northern roots, hence the connection with Westenbury, but his looks are his only saving grace. He values only himself. Jennifer is besotted, and her life becomes inevitably intertwined with Laurie's. The connections with Westenbury are initially tenuous, but heading north is the only way to survive as a family when their life implodes.

I enjoyed reading about flawed characters, even Laurie, who is almost impossible to like. It is frustrating to see how Jennifer gives up her life to Laurie but rewarding when with the help of new friends and family, she realises what he truly is and realises her worth.

The village weaves its addictive mix of community, humour and romance into a story with surprising twists, keeping the reader engaged and satisfied.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Was this review helpful?

I’ve mentioned before that I always pick up the author’s next book with particularly high expectations – I expect to love every new one as much as the last, and she never lets me down. I will admit though that it did take me a little while to get into this one, as young Jennifer heads to Cambridge to pursue her passion for the Romantic poets and finds her own real-life Byron. And much as the reality of Byron himself might disappoint, so does self-obsessed Laurie: his own greatest fan, he believes he’s destined for film stardom, but instead the pinnacle of his success is his role in a TV soap opera… until his character is cancelled (amid a bit of a scandal) and they can’t continue to live the high life any more. Instead, they find themselves living at his family’s rundown farm in Westenbury in Yorkshire – while he continues to pursue the impossible dream, and Jennifer does all she can to keep the family’s heads above water.

And, for me, their return to Westenbury was the point when this book really took off – no-one writes Yorkshire quite like Julie Houston, and this time her canvas is filled with the most wonderful quirky characters (and a few familiar faces from her earlier books), a whole menagerie of animals, and a heroine who discovers how strong she can really be. As always, the great appeal of this book lies in its characters, drawn from across the generations, along with that mix of observational and situation-driven (sometimes raucous) humour and exceptional poignancy that she does so very well.

Laurie really is beyond redemption, but exceptionally well-drawn – and Jennifer, once her eyes are opened and she realises that she’s the only one keeping them afloat, becomes increasingly sympathetic and likeable. As a portrait of a marriage disintegrating through neglect, it can be pretty difficult to read at times – but I really did enjoy that focus on family and relationships that kept the pages turning (and I particularly loved the way Jennifer channelled her frustrations… quite wonderful!). There’s even a light touch romance in the mix – it was something I really welcomed, and a developing relationship I found entirely real and convincing.

There’s a particular warmth about the later part of the book – perhaps not always as evident at its beginning – and as the story built I found myself really rooting for Jennifer and hoping she’d find her way to a happy ending despite the many obstacles in her path. The author’s books unfailingly leave me with a broad smile on my face and a bit of an ache in my heart – and this one was certainly no exception. Recommended by me!

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: