Book Review: The Village Inn of Secret Dreams by Alison Sherlock

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.


The Village Inn of Secret Dreams is the third book in the Riverside Lane series.

Belle Clarke sees the village of Cranbridge as her home. She wants to stay there forever, working at her Uncle’s inn, The Black Swan.

When the inn is threatened by closure, Belle may have to leave. Cue Pete Kennedy, her oldest friend.

He buys the inn and has plans but these are the opposite of Belle’s vision.

Can Pete and Belle put aside their differences and save not only the inn but help the village too.

It was so lovely to be back in Cranbridge. It was really like being back with old friends. The descriptions and setting of this village sounds so stunning, especially as it’s set during Autumn and Christmas (I am feeling so festive now.)

Alison Sherlock has such a lovely way of drawing you into her stories which are so lovely, warm and heartfelt that you feel like you’re getting a big hug.

I was pleased to see that this book centred around Belle. Since the first novel in the series, I have been curious about her backstory.

Even though this is book three, you can read this one as a standalone. Everyone is sufficiently introduced without stopping the pace of the story and focus on Belle and Pete.

Belle is a real, vulnerable character with a heartbreaking past. Everything that makes her feel safe is suddenly on the verge of being taken away and I really felt for her.

Pete, well, it took me a little while to form an opinion of Pete. To begin with, I wasn’t sure what to make of him but the more you find out about his personality, the more the similarities between he and Belle become evident in terms of being scared and vulnerable. I really liked seeing how they developed through the novel. Sometimes I did want to bang their heads together. Haha.

It was lovely to be able to catch up with Grandma Tilly (who is brilliant,) Cathy, Josh, Amber, Lucy and Tom.

I really didn’t want this book to end and I hope this isn’t the last we see of these characters.

The Village Inn of Secret Dreams was a warm, funny, book full of romance and second chances and I loved it.


About Alison Sherlock:

Alison Sherlock is the author of the bestselling Willow Tree Hall books. Alison enjoyed reading and writing stories from an early age and gave up office life to follow her dream.

Her new series for Boldwood is set in a fictional Cotswold village and the first title was published in July 2020.

Say hello to Alison via Facebook, Twitter and Bookbub. You can also sign up to her newsletter by clicking here.

The Village Inn of Secret Dreams was released by Boldwood Books on 30th September 2021. Click to buy on Amazon UK.


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I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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