Every April, I stroll my yard like an expectant parent searching for signs of last year’s precious perennials. A few usually return. Others drift off into some kind of garden black hole. And I learn about others when I say to my husband “I wonder why those Shasta Daisies I planted by the stone wall aren’t beginning to grow.”

“Oh,” he’ll say with a slight rise of his brows. “I thought those were weeds and pulled them.”

Yet each spring, in spite of husband-weeding obstacles and other forces of nature, I tackle my gardens through rose-colored glasses, confident this will be the year our property becomes the envy of the neighborhood.

I pull weeds, mulch, and clear the dead brush from the garden beds.

I split and replant from the sprouts crowing out of the ground while reveling in the joy of my free plant bargains.

I go to the local garden store and shop ‘til I drop with purchases of colorful annuals and new perennials…to replace those previously thought to be weeds.

For the next three months, I tend to the young plant life like a zealous new mother. Watering. Deadheading flowers. Spraying new buds with deer repellant. Each time I leave my house, I glanced back at the horizon of my yard and pride wells inside me as I admire the fruits of my labor.

However, late July brings the scorching summer heat. Passion I one once felt towards my garden goals withers with the sweltering summer heat. An adventurous affair that once offered excitement and rewards has become a chore…a chore to be done in the humidity of mid-summer. 

By mid-August, my gardens have taken on a dried flower look. The eyesore in my yard is magnified by the display of flourishing foliage in my neighbor’s yard, a bit like a the world-renowned gardens at the Palace at Versailles. Perhaps I exaggerate, but envy consumes me nonetheless.

My motivation is renewed when autumn flowers appear in the garden shops. A new look. Where the colors of summer disappear and displays of shabby scarecrows nestled near rich colored chrysanthemums replace my dead—um, I mean dried flower display. The yard gets a respectable facelift, holding us over until snow arrives and can breath a sigh of relief that the gardening season has passed.

Before I know it, though, it’s spring again and my seasonal watch resumes. So goes my garden’s circle of life. I accept it for what it is and continue to approach it each spring in the hopeful spirit that nature dictates. I tackle it like I do everything in life, where I never give up. Who knows? This could be the year my yard looks like my neighbors.

And for good measure, I even replant the Shasta Daisies by the stone wall. But this time I might fence them in with yellow police tape, just so my husband won’t think they’re weeds again.

  • Photo credit: William Struth

 

The breathtaking promise of the English countryside can lift even the heaviest spirits . . .

Willow Armstrong, the once-famous “Queen of Weight Loss” and president of Pound Busters, succumbed to stress eating after her divorce. Now the scandal of getting caught on camera binging on pizza, and the internet-wide mocking of her new curves, may destroy her career. Add in a business advisor who drained her finances, and Willow is out of options—until she learns she’s inherited a house in England’s most picturesque locale, The Cotswolds.

Willow’s trip across the pond to sell the property and salvage her company soon becomes its own adventure: the house, once owned by grandparents she never met, needs major work. Plus, single dad Owen Hughes, the estate’s resident groundskeeper and owner of a local tour outfit, isn’t thrilled about the idea of leaving . . . Yet as Willow proceeds with her plans, she’s sidetracked by surprising discoveries about her family’s history–and with Owen’s help, the area’s distinctive attractions. Soon, she’s even retracing her roots—and testing her endurance—amid the region’s natural beauty. And the more she delves into the past, the more clearly she sees herself, her future, and the way home . . .

Praise for Sharon Struth

“Struth has a gift for layering stories within stories while keeping them all connected.” —Library Journal

“Struth is an author to watch!” —Laura Drake, author of RITA-award winner The Sweet Spot

“Sharon Struth writes a good story about love and loss. She knows her characters and has a path she wants them to take.” —Eye on Romance

“The plot is refreshing and will definitely keep the reader turning page after page.” —Fresh Fiction

 

KIRKUS REVIEW

At the center of Struth’s (Sweet Life, 2017, etc.) second Sweet Life novel is Willow Armstrong, a woman at a crossroad.

Willow is the founder of the Pound Busters weight-loss franchise (think of a more militant Weight Watchers). Her husband has ditched her and her longtime business adviser has embezzled her personal and company funds, and she falls off the dietary wagon. The “queen of weight loss” gets caught on camera shoving a slice of pizza into her mouth, and her place at the company she founded is in jeopardy. Salvation beckons when Willow goes through an envelope of her late mother’s things and discovers she has inherited a house in England’s Cotswold region. She travels there to escape her scandal, fix up and sell her ancestral home, and get back on her financial feet. Struth cleverly underscores the point that life is what happens while you’re busy making plans. Willow is soon adopted by Owen Hughes, the caretaker of her new property; his young daughter, Jilly; and their dog, Henry, who live in a cottage on the grounds. Naturally she falls for Owen, and soon the people and places of the Cotswold have Willow questioning all that she formerly found important. Struth has created a likably human protagonist. She was the chubby girl denigrated by her ex-model mom and stepfather who found her own well-received method to reach the societal standard of beauty. But Struth shows how, despite fame and fortune, the old insecurities lingered: “Deep inside of her, though, lurked the same person. The one who let dark demons in the pantry lure her to comfort.” Through her leisurely narrative pace, Struth allows the people and places of rural England to work their magic on the uptight Willow.

Another impressive entry in this series featuring strong women in transition.