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Friends of Bookends reviews THE ORANGE GROVE

We asked our lovely Friends of Bookends reviewing panel to share their thoughts on Rosanna Ley’s mouth-watering holiday romance The Orange Grove, and it’s 5*’s all around!


If you miss the sun in summer, don’t worry, this year this book will get you covered; because who doesn’t love to eat a delicious orange while sunbathing in Seville?
It’s always curious to see your country from fresh eyes; how everything is so bright and amazing while for you it’s boring and dull. And it was quite interesting seeing how the “oranges” are described in the book “sharp and sour as a lemon”, I suppose they really are. For me it’s the normal taste the orange has, the ones I buy here in Ireland (or UK) are too sweet and almost have no taste!
But let’s talk a little bit about this book, because it’s quite interesting how the author, Rosanna Ley, makes you feel invested in the story from the first page. It was easy to understand the need of Holly to change her life and try to make her beloved mother, Ella, invested in the process and make a trip to Spain together. What Holly doesn’t know is that Ella’s memories from Seville are far from bright, they are like oranges, bitter and sour… A long time ago, she made a choice, now she will have to face the consequences.
From the first moment the reader can suspect that Holly’s mother met someone in Seville but we don’t know how it happened and why she is so scared to return. While on the other side, there’s Holly, happy and bright to start this new adventure of her life searching for orange products.
In the end, mother and daughter will have the same decision to make; one in the past, the other one in the present: dreams or love? This is not an easy answer, it doesn’t matter what you choose, it will always have a bitter taste.
Are you ready for this delicious book? It will make you travel to Seville from your sofa and savor the oranges without getting dirty. Are you ready for The Orange Grove?


Maria, Friends of Bookends


This story is based on Holly. Holly has a really stressful job in the city, which she gives up. She takes a business course, and wants to open her own shop, focused around her passion – marmalade and oranges. She wants to sell soaps, wine, perfumes, and her own jars of home made marmalade. Holly only wants to use the best for her makes, and plans on using Seville oranges. Holly arranges to visit Seville, and wants her mum, Ella, to join her, but she is reluctant to return to Seville, as she took a holiday there 30 years ago. Eventually, they return to Seville to source the things Holly needs to open her new shop, aptly called The Bitter Orange.

We read the story set in two timelines, in 1988 and 2018, back when Ella was in Seville and the current time, and was a really easy read. The two timelines also head into a conclusion, and the ending was satisfying in tying any loose ends.

The whole story was extremely descriptive, and really added sunshine and brightness to it, especially give the current weather we are experiencing in the UK, and you can really imagine yourself walking down the streets in Seville and almost taste the oranges.

I really enjoyed the characters, and especially Holly, who was really driven and determined. I think each character could resonate with someone on a level. This was a really easy, summer, beach read that could light up even the dreariest of weather. This is the first book I’ve read from the author, but will not be the last. I was really invested in the characters, and the story, and now I really want to visit Seville.


Natalie, Friends of Bookends


The Orange Grove by Rosanna Ley is a vibrant Summer read. You can almost feel the sunshine of Spain in every page. It’s set in both Dorset and Seville and the family story is told from several main characters points of view both in flashbacks to 1988 and the present day. Holly has a dream of setting up her own business “Bitter Sweet” selling all things orange and based on her love of the Seville marmalade she has known since childhood. As her shop begins to take shape and needing to find suppliers, Holly and her mother go on a business trip which opens up some well hidden family secrets.
The descriptions of the orange blossom, food, drink and Spain itself are wonderful and the book is a well considered family love story, with perhaps a little smattering of a Spanish version of Mamma Mia thrown in. A perfect book for the holidays but be warned – you will feel the urge for toast and marmalade before the end of chapter one.


Karen, Friends of Bookends

A warm, uplifting, feelgood read.

Be prepared for your senses to be awakened from the very beginning of this story with the scent of oranges and orange blossom and the vivid description of tapas, wine and surroundings.

Making her marmalade is like therapy for Holly, relaxing her with a calming effect which has brought her to a point where she re-evaluates her life.

Holly tells her parents that she has given up her stressful job, has done a business course, carried out research and plans to open a shop selling orange-based products such as soaps, skin products, perfumes, wine, baking and her marmalade. Holly wants to use the best Seville oranges and has arranged to visit Seville and meet the contacts she has communicated with as a source for her products. Holly is aware of her mum’s love of Seville and asks her to accompany her on this business venture. Holly’s mum hesitates and is reluctant to go which Holly cannot understand but she talks her round and Holly anticipates that her mother may explain her hesitancy while in Seville.

This story is told in two timelines thirty years apart. It is a vibrant, vivid story of love and loss, of regrets and hope and awakening and happiness. The beautiful city of Seville comes alive through the imagination of this amazing author as the story unfolds in a realistic and believable way. The description of the Flamenco dancing with its mournful guitar playing and singing, is haunting, yet beautiful and wonderfully described. Seville touches Holly in a way which she could never have imagined. Her journey to Seville influences her mother and her family changing their lives and their future.

A beautifully written novel with a real sunshine feel. On turning the last page of this beautiful, immersing story, I felt as if I had just been to Seville.


Anne, Friends of Bookends

A sweet and juicy read to remind you of hot summers days with Ella and her daughter Holly.   Ella’s journey from underrated wife to a woman introduced to passion by a man who is not her husband and Holly’s journey to live her life doing what she loves doing best and finding family and love along the way. In dual timelines (2018 and 1988) and following the lives of mother and daughter, set both in Dorset, England and Seville,  Spain. The Orange Grove is not just a book about mother and daughter, but also about secrets, ambitions and love.
Holly has decided to pack in her job, she is just so fed up with the day to day office work, fed up with awkward customers and after having a panic attack in the supermarket decides to have a change of scene and do what she has always dreamt of doing and that is opening a small shop in the town of Bridport in Dorset, selling all things orange and especially Seville orange marmalade which she adores. After coming across a recipe in her mother’s recipe book for a orange and almond cake, she doesn’t realise what finding this is going to do with changing not only her life but her mother’s too. You are left wondering what is the secret that Ella is trying to keep from Holly, and what is the  secret of the cake?
After being on a trip to Seville to source products for the shop (called Bitter Orange) the two women are enjoying their visit, but it does have memories that Ella just can’t get out of her head, what happened here in 1988?  But there is also a large divide between the two nationalities, both socially and culturally, will this prove to be a problem?  There is definitely a connection between the two time lines and you just can’t wait to find out what they are, as you rapidly read on into the early hours of the night.
As emotions run high both for Holly and Ella, you are always left wondering if the two women will find love or will they let it pass them by, maybe the magic of the Seville oranges will do their trick.
This is a lovely romantic story, well written and it will stay with me for a long time. I have never visited Seville but now I feel like I know it so well, a well deserved five star read.


Heather, Friends of Bookends

For those disappointed that Spain failed to be included on the initial UK Green list of ‘safe’ places to travel as the lockdown safety curtain slowly rises. Fear not. For you can vicariously enjoy a trip to Seville courtesy of Rosanna Ley who has created a multi sensory experience with her words.

Thrill to the passion of the flamenco. Salivate to the mouth watering tapas. Breath in the sights and the sounds of the Triana area of Seville, the orange blossom and the local crafts. Admire the customs and rituals of a proud and vibrant people.

But this is not a travelogue. This is a novel of pasts and secrets, parents and children, husbands and wives, friends and lovers, families. A multitude of dynamics are explored. Ella and Holly relive the past and contemplate the future in a dual time narrative that swings us between 1988 and 2018 with a synchronicity between the lives of mother and daughter. They’re both pretty trough, strong women capable of making life changing decisions. Secrets unravel, and as the story unfolds the astute reader will realise the biggest secret of all.

This is one great, big, slice of summer captured forever in a jar of marmalade. This is a glorious evocation of the escapist novel where the only demands upon the reader is to relax, sit back and enjoy.


Gill, Friends of Bookends

I have read this in a day, that’s how much I’ve enjoyed it.

We have all been stuck at home for so long I absolutely loved being transported to Seville by Rosanna Ley. She’s done a fabulous job of bringing the sights, sounds and traditions of Seville, and particularly the area of Triana, to life.

Holly is our heroine. She’s given up a dull job in Brighton to return to Dorset to start up a shop selling all things orange in Bridport. She celebrates by making an orange and almond cake from a recipe she finds, but this seems to have a weird effect on her mum Ella, who went to Seville in the 1980s with Holly’s dad.  Clearly there are some family secrets to uncover.

Holly sets off to Seville with her mum, Ella, for a buying trip and we see what happened to Ella and what happens in the present day.

Obviously we need a handsome Spanish love interest or two. No disappointments on that score. I’d happily hang out with Rafael myself. There’s a fairly obvious parallel storyline going on in the 1980s but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

I would recommend this to previous readers of Rosanna Ley, plus anyone who would really love a Spanish holiday right now. If it were possible, I’d be off as soon as I could to enjoy all the delicious things described in this book. It’s definitely brought a little sunshine to my life today.


Nicola, Friends of Bookends

If you are missing the sights, sounds and scents of Spain and in particular, Seville, this is the ideal book for you, especially when travelling abroad is so difficult.

Holly is miserable in her job and decides to take her Grandmother into her confidence. Between them they are able to create and finance a business, but first  Holly has to find foodstuffs and items which are made of oranges for her bright idea to get off the ground. She decides to take her mother to Spain with her to source these, but is apprehensive as there is some secret which Holly is desperate to get to the bottom of and her mother is uncharacteristically acting very strangely. 

Safe to say that all is revealed .There is intrigue, strained family relationships, family secrets unveiled, romance and shocking life events along the way, but the ends are tied up satisfactorily.

This is a perfect deckchair read and one doesn’t even have to leave the country to want to drink sangria  and flamenco dance, after immersing oneself in this entertaining read. 


Jennifer, Friends of Bookends

I have never been entirely sure how I feel about oranges. One the one hand, they can be deliciously sweet; yet on the other they can be difficult to get into and may turn out to be sour. The Orange Grove is a book which almost mirrors the fruit in that regard. Having read the blurb, I expected this to be a sweet, chick-lit type story. Yet, what I actually found was a multi-layered tale with some tough-skinned characters and a story that was definitely bittersweet.

Holly has given up her hectic life and career in Brighton to move back to Dorset. Her plan is to open a shop celebrating all that is orange, and primarily products sourced from Seville. Holly recruits her mother, Ella, to accompany her to Seville, something which stirs up memories and secrets from Ella’s own past. Soon, both Holly and her mother have difficult decisions to make about their lives and loves. The book switches in time between Ella’s trip to Seville in the 1980s and the mother – daughter trip in 2018. The two parts of the story dovetail in a conclusion which, although I could see coming, was still satisfying.

So yes, this was not the frothy chick-lit that I expected; but I was not disappointed. Rosanna Ley has written a perfect piece of escapism to enjoy during a time when we cannot physically travel. Ley’s descriptions of Seville are evocative and appeal to all the senses, you can almost smell the orange blossom and taste the tapas as you read this book. There were moments when I felt the story was moving a tad slowly, however the book is not massively plot-driven and rather meanders along like the winding Seville streets. With that in mind, I would recommend reading this book when you have a day or two to spare, preferably whilst sitting in the sunshine!


Angela, Friends of Bookends