Review of The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White

James Nealy is haunted by irrational fears and inescapable compulsions. A successful software developer, he’s thrown himself into a new goal; to finally conquer the noise in his mind. And he has a plan. He’ll confront his darkest fears and build something beautiful: a garden. When he meets Tilly Silverberg, he knows she holds the key; even if she doesn’t think so.

After her husband’s death, gardening became Tilly’s livelihood and her salvation. Her thriving North Carolina business and her young son, Isaac, are the excuses she needs to hide from the world. So when oddly attractive, incredibly tenacious James demands that she take him on as a client, her answer is a flat no.

When a family emergency lures Tilly back to England, she’s secretly glad. With Isaac in tow, she retreats to her childhood village, which has always stayed obligingly the same. Until now. Her best friend is keeping secrets. Her mother is plotting. Her first love is unexpectedly, temptingly available. And then James appears on her doorstep.

Away from home, James and Tilly forge an unlikely bond, tenuous at first but taking root every day. And as they work to build a garden together, something begins to blossom between them; despite all the reasons against it.

My thoughts:

Tilly is a gin drinking, no-nonsense mother and widow who is struggling with some serious emotional baggage while managing her own plant nursery business. She brings order into her life through her gardening, creating a soft and inviting garden that offers a sense of peace- and peace is something that James Nealy desperately needs in his life. A successful software developer, he battles every minute of every day with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a crippling condition that is making his life a living hell. But James knows that if he can confront his greatest fears, with the help of Tilly, he can finally find the peace he so desperately seeks.

Despite not being much of a romance fan, I really liked this book and here’s why- Barbara Claypole White writes with such gifted ease, creating characters who are beautifully flawed and completely human. Usually stories that include characters with OCD like to candy-coat the disorder and show only the quirky sides of it, but this book chose to delve deeper, exposing the mental anguish of being slave to your own irrational thoughts, the constant second-guessing and over-analyzing of every little thing you say and do, the incessant fidgeting and need to move- to me, the way this story exposed OCD in it’s entirety, no holds barred, was a thing of beauty.  It drew me in from the first and kept me completely invested in the characters, from the tormented and mysterious James Nealy, to Tilly’s eccentric mother, to her downright hysterical best friend Rowena.

Bottom line, I loved this book, and if you enjoy a good story with imperfect characters, you will too!

Rating: 4 stars


I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review. Want to get free books too? Sign up at 

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