After the tragic loss of his wife, Helen, Luke Hansard is desperate to keep her memory alive. In an effort to stay close to her, he reaches out to an online friend Helen often mentioned: a reclusive photographer with a curious interest in beautiful but broken objects. But first he must find her—and she doesn’t want to be found.
Orla Kendrick lives alone in the ruins of a remote Suffolk castle, hiding from the haunting past that has left her physically and emotionally scarred. In her fortress, she can keep a safe distance from prying eyes, surrounded by her broken treasures and insulated from the world outside.
When Luke tracks Orla down, he is determined to help her in the way Helen wanted to: by encouraging her out of her isolation and back into the world. But Orla has never seen her refuge as a prison and, when painful secrets and dangerous threats begin to resurface, Luke’s good deed is turned on its head.
As they work through their grief for Helen in very different ways, will these two broken souls be able to heal?
This is such a lovely, uplifting story. Orla shares the beauty in chipped and cracked china through her exquisite photography but is unable to recognize it within herself. Isolating inside her castle home, she lives a life of fear and solitude. Luke knows his wife's sudden and tragic death has left him broken but pushes it deep within his mind, refusing to openly confront the pain and grief of her passing. Alone, both Orla and Luke continue to nurture their pain but, together, as they gradually form a friendship, they begin to challenge one another to move beyond their broken parts, to embrace the beauty in life, and in themselves. Together, these two unlikely friends begin to heal.
What a beautifully rendered story of broken dreams, painful loss, gradual healing, and fragile, but determined, hope. Victoria Connelly effortlessly drew me into this small, British seaside village and into the hearts and minds of her characters. Orla, Luke, and Orla's elderly gardener, Bill are the heart of the story, though Orla's mother plays a significant role as well. The characters, and their interactions, are interwoven in such a way to help the reader understand their fears, their hopes, and their motivations. Bill, especially, is a pivotal character who through his friendship with Luke and, eventually, with Orla helps move the story forward and has a significant impact in both of their lives. I adored his character. Even the secondary characters are vividly portrayed. There are no cut-out, cardboard characters here. Each one is well thought out, including, or perhaps I should say, especially, Orla's rescue dog, One Ear. Although, he really is more primary than secondary and a very important part of the story for both Orla and Luke.
Victoria Connelly paints such a vivid picture with her words that I felt as though I could step into the pages of this book and emerge in that small seaside village. I could smell the sea air, feel the mist upon my face, see the stately grandeur of the Oak tree in Helen's final photograph, feel the centuries of history surrounding me in Orla's castle. She breathes life into the village, into the castle, and into the characters. She gives Orla and Luke a difficult, but realistic, journey. This could have easily been a dark, oppressing book but, instead, Connelly has penned one that is uplifting and hopeful without minimizing the gravity of the situation each main character is facing. She gives them the time (the novel spans one year) to process, to overcome, to heal, to confront and move through their grief, to find the beauty in their broken pieces, gain strength from them, and reform them into the new, stronger people they are meant to be. I will not soon forget them.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Beauty of Broken Things and will be looking for more offerings from Victoria Connelly.