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The Unfinished Garden

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,044 ratings  ·  204 reviews
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
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by Harlequin MIRA (first published 2012)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,044 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
About fifteen minutes ago I finished reading The Unfinished Garden. Coming to the end is bittersweet, really. For the last week, I've carried Barbara Claypole White’s novel with me everywhere, picking it up in spare moments, even if only to read a few sentences before moving on to my next task. I must admit that I attempted to race through each page, eager to uncover more and more of the saga between Tilly and James; however, I was constantly slowed down by the sheer beauty of the author’s words ...more
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
This is a harlequin. I did not know that when I started. If you like romance novels, you will likely love it. It is atmospheric, there is good romantic tension, and there are interesting plot devices like OCD and unexplained guilt. That, however, was not what I was looking for.

My favorite line, un-ironically uttered by Our Hero: ""You're in danger, Matilda Rose, of becoming my greatest obsession." It pretty much sums the book up. If this book were a movie, that would totally be the tag line.

Erika Robuck
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I just closed the pages of this beautiful book with tears in my eyes and hope for humanity.

Set in the US and the UK, The Unfinished Garden is the story of a widow and her son trying to make a new place in the world. Tilly can either choose to recreate her past with an old love, Sebastian, or forge ahead with a new future, and James; neither choice is easy, but one will save her.

Dealing with family issues of caring for ailing parents, raising children well, OCD, and physical ailments, The Unfini
"The English author H. E. Bates said that a finished garden is a dead garden." She held his gaze and sensed the ebb and flow of her breath matching his. "It'll take a lifetime. A garden's a work in progress without end."

I'm seriously going to have to stop underestimating books that masquarade as cookie cutter chick-lit offerings. You know, the ones in laminated paper back on the library shelf with a cute cover. First, it was Heartstone, most recently it was The Unfinished Garden .

Meet Matil
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I finished this most readable book a month or so ago and have been dilly-dallying about writing a review. Why? I felt guilty.

This well-written story had enough psychological tension to inspire me to pick it up over and over to see how single mom Tilly reconciles her present widowhood in North Carolina with her formative past in England, as represented by new-yet-complicated possibility James, and the Englishman who was her hot-yet-unresolved first love.

The only thing that keeps me from a five-st
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a great first book by a local author. I loved reading about a gardener as the main character since I am a gardener myself. It takes place in two places that I love: North Carolina and England. Ms. White does a great job of telling the tales of a widow who is recovering from her husband's death and a man who is dealing with OCD. I have had experience with both and she does a wonderful job writing about the characters emotions and actions. I am looking forward to more from Ms. White in the ...more
Julie Kibler
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I received an early review copy of The Unfinished Garden from NetGalley. This was truly a lovely story. Major characters, Tilly and James, and minor characters, Isaac, Rowena, and Sebastian, effectively play off each other's strengths and foibles to explore their feelings of loss and grief, and in turn, their joy and rediscovery of hope and trust. Readers will enjoy the lush setting details in both venues--North Carolina and rural England, as well as Claypole White's use of gardening as metaphor ...more
Amy Franklin-Willis
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Barbara Claypole White gifts the reader with a lush setting, a heartbroken heroine, and a hero with a crippling disability in this unusual and lovely novel. The author describes the beauty of North Carolina and England, the two primary settings, with vivid details that transport the reader. Some of my favorite passages are the descriptions of the landscape and the gardens. Tilly is trying to keep herself and her young son together following her husband's premature death and is a compelling chara ...more
Kaethe Douglas
The book is at it's best when the author just lets it flow. I like the characters of Tilly, her family, and friends, I love the way Jame's OCD is handled, I even liked the stuff about gardening, which isn't normally a topic to draw me. An enjoyable story with some meat to it, and a pleasing romance. I look forward to more from this author.


Updated 10/11/2012: Attended a reading/talk last night with the author, in recognition of OCD awareness week. She was amazing, charming, forthright, and eng
Priscille Sibley
The Unfinished Garden is a beautiful story. I don't read romance but the writing here is so textural and the voice is so rich that I fell into it and couldn't put it down. The story and the relationships have substance and it is the characters' enduring faults and strengths that make them so lovable. An absolutely lovely book, a memorable one. ...more
The Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White A Recommended Read! A women's fiction novel that brilliantly contradicts uniformity with quirky characters in need of stability amongst their inner chaos. Tilly and James are uniquely flawed individuals whose friendship encompasses more than just a boy meets girl story. This novel unabashedly dives into psychological fears created by death, guilt and OCD, testing friendships beyond the normal range with humor, vivid emotion and understanding.

Full review also available at the TBR Mountain Ra
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
The garden is the perfect metaphor for the change, growth, potential and obstacles the characters within An Unfinished Garden encounter. Ever changing with the seasons, growing, blooming, resting. All transferable to our lives.

"The English author H.E. Bates said that a finished garden is a dead garden. ... It'll take a lifetime. A garden's a work in progress without end." (page 363)

But then again, so are life and love works in progress. And as satisfying a thought that is, so is An Unfinished G
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting group of characters, and the way they come together with some twists and turns and garden insights. A compassionate look at OCD.
Sep 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The unfinished garden is a contemporary romance filled with characters that are certainly not flawless, they have issues in life and within.

We are shown well detailed and in-depth insight into the characters, as well as broaching the subject of mental illness and grief.

Tilly lost her husband three years prior and now is now getting on with life the best she knows how and looking after their eight year old son Issac. Tilly is self employed running a nursery and doing what she loves best, bein
M.B. Gibson
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Through "The Unfinished Garden," Barbara Claypole White brings an uncommon depth and elegance to a beautiful love story. The protagonist, Tilly, struggles to move past the death of her husband by throwing her energies into her son, Isaac, and her North Carolina gardening business.

When a wealthy and somewhat dashing James Nealy offers an exorbitant fee to landscape his new home, Tilly flatly refuses. But the quirky software developer shows a remarkable persistence, even following her to her child
Beth Browne
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura Busch
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
What an incredible journey into the life and mind of a person with OCD as well as the pain and healing of grieve. I could not put the book down!
I'd recommend it to everyone I know. The spot-on descriptions of how it feels to be OCD, as well as those about being grief-stricken make it clear that this is a story about people who are incredibly difficult to love. Love, love, love this book!
Vivian Payton
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever read a book that made perfect sense and hit you in all the right places? Barbara Claypole White’s, THE UNFINISHED GARDEN, did just that for me. This is a wonderful romantic story about James Nealy and his OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), panic and anxiety issues and how he finds Tilly Silverberg, a widow who harbors guilt and fears of her own.

Tilly is the nursery owner of Piedmont Perennials located in North Carolina, a business that had “sprung out of the infertility of grief
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A first for me by this author and my first audiobook! I must say I was very impressed! I loved the real and relatable issues these fabulous characters had. It really sheds light on many health issues many suffer from every day. Very well written or should I say said in this audiobook version! I definitely want to read more from this author and thank her for the perfect first audiobook as she leaves me wanting more!
Erin Cashman
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Unfinished Garden is a beautifully written, heart wrenching love story. The novel centers on Tilly Silverberg, a young widow raising her son Isaac. She has a successful business that demands her attention, and which she uses as an excuse to hide from the world, and to escape the guilt she feels over her beloved husband’s death.

And then James Nealy, an attractive man who has retired young from his successful business as a software developer, shows up one night at Tilly’s house. James suffers
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Picking this one up, I wasn't sure whether I was going to LOVE it or not. I was pleasantly surprised; I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. This was definitely a feel-good read, but it wasn't as fluffy as some romance novels can be (not that there's anything wrong with that!) And when I say "romance novel," I'm not talking about a bodice-ripper. Think of this as more of a Hallmark movie with some mature conversations. What I really liked about this one was that the characters had depth ...more
Kathleen Rodgers
Dec 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Damaged people make for a rich read.

I was first drawn to Barbara Claypole White’s debut novel by two things: She writes about damaged people, something I can relate to, and it took her years of hard work and dedication to get her novel published by a traditional house, something else I respect as an author who’s been on a similar journey.

What I didn’t expect was to empathize and connect so well with the male protagonist, James Nealy, who suffers from OCD. Although I found Tilly a likeable chara
Mary Kubica
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book, by the very talented Barbara Claypole White. As a recipient of many awards - all of which are well deserved! - The Unfinished Garden is a beautiful love story set in the idyllic English countryside. The characters are wonderful and genuine, each of whom I would love to spend an afternoon. They are all flawed in their own way, but none more than James Nealy, one of the two protagonists in The Unfinished Garden, who battles often disabling OCD throughout the pages of ...more
Marian Szczepanski
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
A lively British voice, a satisfying tangle of interconnected relationships, and, above all, a marvelous rendering of the most unconventional hero I've recently encountered in fiction. I'm not a regular reader of love stories, but this is anything but a garden variety tale of boy meets girl. (Mea culpa for the godawful pun.) A valiant and successful effort to portray a complex character who happens to be battling a punishing behavioral disorder and to make that character, rather than the disorde ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Unfinished Garden is so much more than a romance: White writes about two "damaged" people who find each other but must battle their own demons before they find a happily ever after. Tilly has lost her husband but loves her gardening business, and James is struggling with OCD and sees gardening as his shot at redemption.

Both good and bad reside in Tilly and James, two very real characters who aren't perfect and know it. Guilt and grief, change and redemption kept me turning the pages of this
Sharon Chance
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In her novel, THE UNFINISHED GARDEN, author Barbara Claypole White weaves a gorgeous tapestry of a story that takes the reader on a winding road of tender romance. Claypole adds in elements of overcoming huge obstacles, conquering fears, and realizing self- worth in this tale that makes a pleasing combination that results in a lovely novel. The characters here are interesting and realistic and the settings of the North Carolina forests and the beautiful English countryside are charming. I highly ...more
Priscille Sibley
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Unfinished Garden is a beautiful story. I don't read romance but the writing here is so textural and the voice is so rich that I fell into it and couldn't put it down. The story and the relationships have substance and it is the characters' enduring faults and strengths that make them so lovable. An absolutely lovely book, a memorable one. ...more
Harlequin Books
"White's story features believable characters who are struggling with their issues and finding ways to conquer them and live a normal life. She conveys the condition of OCD, and how it creates havoc in one's life and the lives of loved ones, with style and grace, never underplaying the seriousness of the disorder." RT Book Reviews, rated 4 stars ...more
Carla Suto
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
THE UNFINISHED GARDEN by Barbara Claypole White is a beautifully-written and heartfelt book about love, friendship, loss and hope. Set in both North Carolina and the rural English countryside, the descriptions of the settings are vivid and captivating. The author brings the reader into the minds of the main characters, Tilly and James, sharing their guilt, grief, fears and emotions so perfectly that I felt I knew them personally. The secondary characters are also wonderfully portrayed. Barbara C ...more
This is another good story by Claypole White, I admire how she writes so openly and freely about mental health. Having a son with OCD certainly gives her an insight many of us don't have. This is a lovely story and one that takes the reader on a journey with the characters.

My only critique is that there is just too much detail, to the point I lost the flow of the story many times. However, don't let that stop people from reading it.
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Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Originally from England, she lives in the forests of North Carolina with her beloved of thirty years, the Prof. She is passionate about her family, her garden, and chipping away at the stereotypes and stigma of OCD--a chronic illness her husband and son both battle. They are her real life h ...more

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