Finding Hope at Hillside Farm is a sweet and heartwarming story about moving on from past hurts. Ella is an equine therapist, which means she helps her clients deal with their problems by having them work with the horses on her aunt’s farm. The farm also provides her a safe haven from her own trauma — an injury that ended her horse-riding career, and a load of guilt over how she treated her ex-husband. Her quiet life gets overturned, and a second chance at love presents itself, when a young girl Hope and her widower father Harry come into town and Hope falls in love with Ella’s horses.
I had expected this to be more of a romance than it was, so a part of me felt a bit impatient at how long it took for Ella and Harry to finally meet. While the story still did turn out to be romantic, most of the first half focused a lot less on the romance itself and a lot more on the various traumas Ella and Harry have had leading up to their meeting. If you’re looking for a heartwarming romance, you’ll find it here; it’ll just take a while to get moving.
That being said, the story was indeed heartwarming overall. I love the idea of working with horses being therapeutic because their actions basically mirror what they sense from the humans around them. I’ve heard a lot about how therapeutic animals can be for people undergoing stress, but haven’t quite seen it implemented in an actual therapeutic practice as Ella does. So I love the aspects about Ella’s work, and how her love for the farm pushes her to go past her comfort zone. Her discomfort with the things she has to do to save the farm — be interviewed by a reporter, expand her clientele to include children — turn out to be linked to her own past trauma, and I like how tightly Lucas weaves all these seemingly disparate threads together.
Harry was a bit more of an enigmatic character for me — while I felt for his struggles with workaholism and living up to the high parenting standards set by his mother-in-law — his story didn’t quite draw me in as much as Ella’s did until about the halfway mark.
There was a twist that I didn’t expect at Harry and Ella’s first meeting, and to be honest, I initially found it too gimmicky and hated the direction the story was going. However, as the story progressed, this particular plot point grew on me, and I eventually had to admit that it ended up taking the characters further than I expected.
Overall, it’s a lovely and emotional story about moving on and allowing yourself to be happy again. I found it to be more of a family drama than a romance, but I think it still worked, and I liked how Ella’s story arc progressed.
Thanks to Publisher’s Group Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.