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Endless summer! The Books I Read in March 2022.

Our seemingly endless summer-the hottest in one hundred and twenty-five years here in Perth, Australia, continued into March. Gardens and humans wilted. The East Coast of Australia endured catastrophic floods, with homes and businesses submerged and lives were lost. Covid remained and the war was being waged in Ukraine. How did I escape all that? As usual, I took refuge in books. Some were from the library, a more than usual eclectic mix, and of course, I am still reading Regency romance mostly on my Kindle. Why am I reading Regency romance? Well apart from rewatching Bridgerton series one. I am hoping to be a contribution to a regency romance anthology

Hot days and steamy nights

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth 

Old-time Hollywood glamour.

My Review

Embodying all the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood in a story that seems almost inevitable. A small-town girl with a to die for body and big ambitions reveals what she did, and how she did it, to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. It could be called an expose, apart from the fact it is Evelyn Hugo telling her own story. She is unsparingly honest, but why and why now?

The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape.

This is the only money guide you’ll ever need

That’s a bold claim, given there are already thousands of finance books on the shelves.

So what makes this one different?

Well, you won’t be overwhelmed with a bunch of ‘tips’ … or a strict budget (that you won’t follow).

You’ll get a step-by-step formula: open this account, then do this; call this person, and say this; invest money here, and not there. All with a glass of wine in your hand.

This book will show you how to create an entire financial plan that is so simple you can sketch it on the back of a serviette … and you’ll be able to manage your money in 10 minutes a week.

You’ll also get the skinny on:

Saving up a six-figure house deposit in 20 months Doubling your income using the ‘Trapeze Strategy’ Saving $78,173 on your mortgage and wiping out 7 years of payments Finding a financial advisor who won’t rip you off Handing your kids (or grandkids) a $140,000 cheque on their 21st birthday Why you don’t need $1 million to retire … with the ‘Donald Bradman Retirement Strategy’

Sound too good to be true? It’s not.

This book is full of stories from everyday Aussies — single people, young families, empty nesters, retirees — who have applied the simple steps in this book and achieved amazing, life-changing results.

And you’re next

He knows his stuff.

My Review

Exceptional advice that is clear of Jargon and makes sense. I wish I had this book when I was starting out. So much financial advice is useless and often self-serving. If you are in any doubt- read the book and find out how to handle your money better

Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown.

In Atlas of the Heart, Brown takes us on a journey through eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. As she maps the necessary skills and an actionable framework for meaningful connection, she gives us the language and tools to access a universe of new choices and second chances—a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection.

Over the past two decades, Brown’s extensive research into the experiences that make us who we are has shaped the cultural conversation and helped define what it means to be courageous with our lives. Atlas of the Heart draws on this research, as well as on Brown’s singular skills as a storyteller, to show us how accurately naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power, it gives us the power of understanding,  meaning, and choice.

Brown shares, “I want this book to be an atlas for all of us, because I believe that, with an adventurous heart and the right maps, we can travel anywhere and never fear losing ourselves.

My Review

An encyclopaedic and somewhat overwhelming book. Sections deal with categories of similar emotions. Probably best to dip in and out of reading the section that applies at the time

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan.

Perfect for the holidays! A brand-new heartwarming Christmas novel from the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner and Christmas at the Island Hotel.

When the department store she works in closes for good, Carmen has perilously little cash and few options. She doesn’t want to move in with her perfect sister Sofia, in Sofia’s perfect house with her perfect children and her perfectly ordered Edinburgh life.

Frankly, Sofia doesn’t exactly want Carmen there either. Her sister has always been sarcastic and difficult. But Sofia has yet another baby on the way, a mother desperate to see her daughters get along, and a client who needs a retail assistant for his ailing bookshop, so welcoming Carmen might still have some benefits for everyone.

At Sofia’s behest, Carmen is thrown into the daily workings of old Mr McCredie’s ancient bookshop on the streets of the old dark city. Can she use her design skills to revamp the store and bring it back to popularity in time to benefit from Christmas shopping traffic? Can she choose between bad boy literary rock star Blair and quiet Quaker student Oke? And will she heal the rift with the most important people of all: her family

Gorgeous cover!

My Review.

Almost a hug in a book. It didn’t matter that it was long past Christmas, it brought all the wonder of Christmas back. Set in Edinburgh it made me long to explore that city. Carmen is a perfectly imperfect heroine, regarding herself as a family failure. So, losing her job before Christmas is just one more disaster. Forced to stay with her ‘perfect ‘ sister, Carmen can’t think of anything worse, as even the au pair is perky and gorgeous. Going to the McCredie book shop is her only escape. Can she drag it out of the past, especially when the reclusive owner has no interest in doing so? Maybe gorgeous Blair is the answer to all of Carmen’s prayers? Then why does the quiet Oke, make her think and see more in herself?

The Marlow Murder Club by Richard Thorogood.

To solve an impossible murder, you need an impossible hero…

Judith Potts is seventy-seven years old and blissfully happy. She lives on her own in a faded mansion just outside Marlow, there’s no man in her life to tell her what to do or how much whisky to drink, and to keep herself busy she sets crosswords for The Times newspaper.

One evening, while out swimming in the Thames, Judith witnesses a brutal murder. The local police don’t believe her story, so she decides to investigate for herself, and is soon joined in her quest by Suzie, a salt-of-the-earth dog-walker, and Becks, the prim and proper wife of the local Vicar.

Together, they are the Marlow Murder Club.

When another body turns up, they realise they have a real-life serial killer on their hands. And the puzzle they set out to solve has become a trap from which they might never escape… 

My Review

Initially, I did not recognise the author’s name. He is the creator of Death in Paradise and has written a series of novels about D.I. Richard Poole. The Marlow Murder Club is a stand-alone. Judith Potts has a mind capable of solving and setting cryptic crosswords. So, when a murder takes place in her neighbourhood, she takes it as a  personal challenge. I expected a slightly lighter tone, but overall I enjoyed the book.

Sunrise by The Sea by Jenny Colgan

New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan returns to the setting of her beloved Little Beach Street Bakery series for a timely and heartfelt novel set in a Cornish seaside village.

Marisa Rosso can’t understand why everyone else is getting on with their lives as she still struggles to get over the death of her beloved grandfather, back home in Italy. Everyone loses grandparents, right? Why is she taking it so badly?

Retreating further and further from normal life, she moves to the end of the earth–the remote tidal island of Mount Polbearne, at the foot of Cornwall, hoping for peace and solitude, whilst carrying on her job as a registrar, dealing with births, weddings, and deaths, even as she feels life is passing her by.

Unfortunately–or fortunately?–the solitude she craves proves elusive. Between her noisy Russian piano-teaching neighbor, the bustle and community spirit of the tiny village struggling back to life after the quarantine, and the pressing need to help save the local bakery, can Marisa find her joy again at the end of the world? 

A bright cover for a book with a bit more depth than the cover might suggest.

My Review

Marisa was a character it was easy to emphasise, mourning the loss of her beloved grandfather. Suddenly,her life feels overwhelming, and she has to get away. Craving peace the last thing she wants is a noisy Russian neighbour. Yet, the place and people may be exactly what she needs.

I enjoyed this book, but I do have a quibble, I recognised Polly and Huckle and Neil the puffin from The Little Beach Street Bakery. I think it would be helpful to indicate in the blurb to advise the connection with an ongoing series.

Family For Beginners by Sarah Morgan

New York florist Flora Donovan is living the dream, but her bubbly optimism hides a secret. She’s lonely. Orphaned as a child, she’s never felt like she’s belonged anywhere…until she meets Jack Parker. He’s the first man to ever really see her, and it’s life changing.

Teenager Izzy Parker is holding it together by her fingertips. Since her mother passed away a year ago, looking after her dad and little sister is the only thing that makes Izzy feel safe. Discovering her father has a new girlfriend is her worst nightmare—she is not in the market for a replacement mom. Then her father invites Flora on their summer vacation…

Flora’s heart aches for Izzy, but she badly wants her relationship with Jack to work. As the summer unfolds, Flora must push her own boundaries to discover parts of herself she never knew existed—and to find the family she’s always wanted. 

This cover didn’t inspire me. It is relevant though.

My Review.

Sarah Morgan has a gift for exploring family relationships. Likeably flawed characters, whose motivations make perfect sense to them. Flora is open to love, and also to getting hurt. Jack seems like her perfect man, but he has a family including Izzy a prickly teenager. Izzy is still struggling with her mother’s death. Can allowing a stranger into their lives be the answer?  Izzy certainly intends to fight to keep life the same.

The Design of the Dukes by Kathleen Ayers

The Beautiful Barrringtons  Book2

Lady Andromeda Barrington is the most unsuitable young lady in London.

At least in the Duke of Granby’s opinion.

Granby doesn’t care for bastard relatives or tainted pedigrees and Andromeda possesses both. Nor does he like opinionated young ladies who enjoy hurling insults in his direction.

Andromeda is, in short, the most annoying creature he’s ever met.

When she arrives, uninvited, to a house party given at his estate, Granby can’t decide whether to kiss Andromeda senseless or send her packing.

Andromeda is the victim of infatuation and bad luck.

The infatuation is that of her sister for the Earl of Blythe, but the misfortune belongs solely to Andromeda after she is forced to attend a house party hosted by the Duke of Granby. She and the duke are previously, unpleasantly, acquainted. The entire party is bound to be awkward, and their mutual dislike difficult to hide. Her only recourse is to avoid the giant block of ice masquerading as a duke. Thankfully, Granby’s estate is enormous.

But instead of mutual hostility upon arriving, Romy is greeted with unexpected attraction. Insults turn into flirtation. Heated discussions become lingering kisses.

Her heart is ruined. Granby may not even have one.

And the duke has already chosen another young lady to be his duchess.

The Design of Dukes is a steamy historical romance with a guaranteed happily ever after and next in the series The Beautiful Barringtons.

A steamy romance.

My Review.

Spirited heroine, tick. Remote detached Duke, tick. Put them together and wait for sparks to fly. And of course, they do. Found this a fun read.

Bewitching by Jill  Barnett

Adventure, love and enchantment come magically alive in this new historical romance from the author of Just a Kiss Away. Joy’s fine bloodline didn’t make her proper enough to be a Duchess, but the Duke of Belmore could marry whomever he desired. He turned to ice, however, when he discovered that Joy was a witch.

Reads a bit like a fairytale.

My Review.

I enjoyed this tale of a slightly incompetent witch, who lands herself a Duke.

The Red Hot Earl by  Darcy Burke  

The Earl of Buckleigh was once an untitled misfit, tormented at Oxford. Now, he’s overcome his challenges and is eager for the future, especially when his oldest and dearest friend, Bianca, needs help to save the annual holiday party. Ash has a plan to rescue the event, but when the bullies from his youth are up to their old tricks, he must risk everything to put the past behind him and find true love.

Furious when her brother refuses to host the St. Stephen’s Day party, Lady Bianca Stafford is committed to giving the villagers their celebration. In Ash, she sees salvation for their local tradition, and perhaps a future she never expected. But her brother has other plans for her—a Season and marriage, and not to Ash. When disaster strikes, everything she cares about is threatened and it will take a miracle—or a hero—to save the day.

The Red Hot Earl is inspired by the song and story, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. 

This one appealed to a lot of people.

My Review.

Intriguing to read a story based on a song, sadly, it didn’t quite gel for me. Ash didn’t get my heart racing and isn’t that what you want in a hero?

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves–New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows–returns with the extraordinary follow-up to The Long Call, in the Two Rivers series, soon to be a major TV series too.

North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder–Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter’s broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found–killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.

DI Matthew Venn returns in The Heron’s Cry, in Ann Cleeves powerful next novel, proving once again that she is a master of her craft. 

Lovely evocative cover.

My Review.

The second in the Two Rivers series is in my opinion a better story than the first one. Matthew Venn is settling in and gaining the respect of his colleagues and community. But now he’s under pressure not to let Devon’s tourist season be derailed by hints of a serial killer.

Underpinning the story is the continuation of his uneasy relationship with his mother, contrasting with the easy relationship he has with his husband Jonathan.

Hot summer nights.

March was quite a big month for reading and when I came to count I was quite surprised at the number of books I had read. I was also attending a weekly art group and writing a novella that I hope will be included in the upcoming anthology. There are two anthologies in the Swain Cove selection. Both are available for pre-order now. One is on the sweet side and the other is on the steamy side.

Why not treat yourself?

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The Books I Read in February 2022.

February was a sunny, sunny month.

February in my part of Australia (Perth)started off hot. I mean frying eggs on the pavement hot, don’t walk out in bare feet hot. We ended up with a climate record-breaking month. Many days reached temperatures of over 40c ( 104F) While it’s not great for much activity, it is perfect for reading under the air-conditioner. It also is a month with a poignant anniversary for me, so most of my reading was light. Additionally, I am hoping to join a Regency romance project, so some of my reading is geared towards that.

Love is in the air! February is the month for romance

It’s in His Kiss by Julia Quinn. (7th Bridgerton Book)

The seventh novel in Julia Quinn’s globally beloved and bestselling Bridgerton Family series, set in Regency times and now a series created by Shonda Rhimes for Netflix. This is Hyacinth’s story: she’s all grown up and ready to cause havoc . . .

All the ton agree: there is no one quite like Hyacinth Bridgerton..

Fiendishly smart, devilishly outspoken and – according to some, particularly Gareth St. Clair – probably best in small doses. But there’s something about her – something charming and vexing – that grabs one and won’t quite let go.

Gareth and Hyacinth cross paths at the annual – and annually discordant – Smythe-Smith musicale. To Hyacinth, Gareth’s every word seems a dare, and she offers to help him out with a knotty inheritance problem he’s facing. However, as they delve into the mysterious St Clair history, they discover that the answers they seek lie not in the past – but in each other; and that there is nothing as simple – or as complicated – as a single, perfect kiss.

Find out why readers love Julia Quinn .

Fans cant get enough of Bridgerton.

My Review.

I watched the first Bridgerton series last year, but sadly, had only the vaguest recollections of Hyacinth. As it is the seventh book in the series and I have only read one, Benedict’s story, I expected to have some catching up to do. I wanted to fall in love with the characters and plot, but I didn’t. Eloise has always been the outspoken and witty one and Hyacinth didn’t gel for me. One of Gareth’s actions didn’t sit well with me. One for the fans, I think.

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

For the first time in 20 years, Ann Cleeves –international bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows– embarks on a gripping new series.

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.

An astonishing new novel told with compassion and searing insight, The Long Call will captivate fans of Vera and Shetland, as well as new readers. 

My Review.

I have always been a fan of Ann Cleeves, so I was interested in reading her new series. Matthew Venn is a quiet thoughtful man, one who I am sure will develop as the series progresses. For now, it is his knowledge of the religious community he left behind that informs part of his investigation. They say you can never go back, but sometimes you have to, so you can move forward. There is a TV adaptation of the book, which altered a couple of the plot points. I preferred the book.

Someone to Romance by Mary Balogh

Love comes when you least expect it in this captivating new novel in the Wescott Regency romance series from New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh.

Lady Jessica Archer lost her own interest in the glittering excitement of romance after her cousin and dearest friend, Abigail Westcott, was rejected by the ton when her father was revealed to be a bigamist. Ever practical, however, once she’s twenty-five, she decides it’s time to wed. Though she no longer believes she will find true love, she is still very eligible. She is, after all, the sister of Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby.

Jessica considers the many qualified gentlemen who court her. But when she meets the mysterious Gabriel Thorne, who has returned to England from the New World to claim an equally mysterious inheritance, Jessica considers him completely unsuitable, because he had the audacity, when he first met her, to announce his intention to wed her.

When Jessica guesses who Gabriel really is, however, and watches the lengths to which he will go in order to protect those who rely upon him, she is drawn to his cause—and to the man. 

My Review.

I enjoyed this. Lady Jessica is a character who is strong-willed, independent and finally ready to settle down to marriage. Somehow none of her current suitors’ appeal, too dull, too slavish in their devotion, or only after her money. At twenty -five she really should be married. Gabriel Thorne, piques her interest, although, of course, he is totally unsuitable and totally intriguing.

Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams

The New York Times bestselling author of Her Last Flight returns with a gripping and profoundly human story of Cold War espionage and family devotion that proves again why Elin Hilderbrand says Beatriz Williams “is writing the best historical fiction out there.”

In the autumn of 1948, Iris Digby vanishes from her London home with her American diplomat husband and their two children. The world is shocked by the family’s sensational disappearance. Were they eliminated by the Soviet intelligence service? Or have the Digby’s defected to Moscow with a trove of the West’s most vital secrets?

Four years later, Ruth Macallister receives a postcard from the twin sister she hasn’t seen since their catastrophic parting in Rome in the summer of 1940, as war engulfed the continent and Iris fell desperately in love with an enigmatic United States Embassy official named Sasha Digby. Within days, Ruth is on her way to Moscow, posing as the wife of counterintelligence agent Sumner Fox in a precarious plot to extract the Digby’s from behind the Iron Curtain.

But the complex truth behind Iris’s marriage defies Ruth’s understanding, and as the sisters race toward safety, a dogged Soviet agent forces them to make a heartbreaking choice between two irreconcilable loyalties

An intriguing cover.

My Review.

Smart and compelling but you need to pay attention as it moves at a fast pace between places and people. I remember my parents talking about Burgess and Maclean and Philby. The shadowy world of espionage means loyalty is fluid and who knows who a friend or an enemy is. At times I felt impatient with Iris and her devotion to Sasha, a charming but most unsatisfactory husband. The conclusion made it all worth it.

Romancing The Duke by Tessa Dare.

In the first in Tessa Dare’s captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?

Abducted by handsome highwayman?

Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

My Review.

A delightful romp of a book. Izzy Goodnight is a unique character, who gained both my sympathy and admiration. She is unfazed by the surly Duke, Ranson Roxbury. He is in turns enraged, baffled and unwilling to admit she may have got through to him. Unless they work together neither will have a home. Surprisingly Izzy’s past is the answer to their present problems.

The Garden House by Marcia Willett.

After the death of her father, El moves into his home just outside Tavistock in Devon. Fresh out of university and dangling on the precipice of adulthood she questions what it is she really wants from life. Although her childhood friend, Will, is there to help her through her grief she soon realises there were things her father was hiding from her…

Jules is also mourning Martin, but they thought it best to keep their relationship secret, she must now grieve entirely alone. All she has to remember her love are the memories of their time spent at a beautiful community garden and teashop nearby. The Garden House is where they met, fell in love and where their secret affair will inevitably be uncovered.

As El and Will begin to piece together her father’s secrets they bring them closer and closer to both Jules and a truth that is difficult to face.

My Review.

I’ve always enjoyed previous Marica Willet books and anticipated an easy and enjoyable read. Unfortunately, I’d say it’s one for the fans as so many characters from previous books make appearances. I did recollect who a couple were but overall, it left me feeling dissatisfied.

Someone to Love by Mary Balogh.

Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune that will

forever alter the lives of everyone in his family—including the daughter no one knew he had…

Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. Now she discovers that the late Earl of Riverdale was her father and that she has inherited his fortune. She is also overjoyed to learn she has siblings. However, they want nothing to do with her or her attempts to share her new wealth. But the new earl’s guardian is interested in Anna…

Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, keeps others at a distance. Yet something prompts him to aid Anna in her transition from orphan to lady. As London society and her newfound relatives threaten to overwhelm Anna, Avery steps in to rescue her and finds himself vulnerable to feelings and desires he has hidden so well and for so long. 

My Review

Having read Someone to Romance I was interested to read the story of how Avery and Anna came to be married. It seemed an unlikely pairing. The initial set-up was confusing with so many Dukes, Duchesses, Earls and assorted nobility crowded onto the pages. Anna is perhaps just as a bit too good to be true, while Avery is not as substantial a presence as I would have liked in a romance.

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles.

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are–family, friends, and favorite authors–The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

My Review.

At times a book just speaks to you and for me, The Paris Library was one of those books. It is so obviously a library and book lovers’ book. To some of us, a place without a library is soulless. Libraries bring communities together and none more so during WW2 than the American Library in Paris. This dual timeline story focuses on two women and how their lives become connected. Odile in wartime France and Lily in Montana in 1983.

Odile has memories she’d rather forget, while Lily has longings she can’t even begin to explain.

During the Nazi occupation, even books became dangerous, many were banned and confiscated. And of course, the doctrine of ‘racial purity ‘ meant people were no longer permitted in some areas. The library had welcomed everyone, French, Russian,  American, English, Jewish. But now Jews were disappearing, rounded up by the French police.

Long-time library regular Professor Cohen has entrusted her novel to Odile and the first section reads, ‘ The Afterlife is filed with the heavenly scent of musty books. Its walls are lined with tall bookcases full of forgotten tomes. In this cozy mezzanine between worlds, there are no window nor clocks, though an occasional echo of children’s laughter or whiff of  chocolate croissant wafts in from the ground floor.’

I stopped reading and held the book close at such a beautiful description. A book for bibliophiles and anyone else who enjoys a good story.

Summer Kisses at Mermaids Point by Sarah Bennett

Laurie Morgan runs a café in the small seaside community of Mermaids Point, named after the beauties rumoured to live in the waters a few miles off the top of the point. When a hazy image is posted online of what appears to be a mermaid, the café and the village are soon full to bursting with curious sightseers.

The most eye-catching of the new arrivals is handsome author, Jake Smith, who has rented a cottage for the summer while he works on his new book. Or so he says. In fact, he is a journalist, burned out and disillusioned with life, whose editor has sent him on a crack-pot hunt for mermaids…
Jake quickly finds himself drawn to village life, and to the gorgeous woman who runs the local café. But he soon suspects there’s trouble lurking beneath the idyllic façade, and when it looks like Laurie’s family might be involved, Jake faces a difficult choice. Pursue the truth, or protect the woman he’s beginning to fall in love with…

Warm, escapist, feel-good and altogether brilliant story-telling from bestselling author Sarah Bennett. Perfect for all fans of Trisha Ashley and Milly Johnson.

A cute cover, but I would have loved to see a mermaid.

My Review.

A fun escapist read. Café owner Laurie has a contented life in Mermaid Point, but something is missing. Life is predictable, and her past has left her unwilling to trust men.

Jake Smith is undercover on what he regards as a stupid assignment, the mermaid hunt. He suspects that some in the village may be involved in what he thinks is an elaborate scam.

Laurie thaws to Jake while he is increasingly holding his cynicism at bay until events take an unexpected turn.

Romancing Mr Bridgerton: Penelope & Colin’s Story by Julia Quinn.

Everyone knows that Colin Bridgerton is the most charming man in London. Penelope Featherington has secretly adored her best friend’s brother for…well, it feels like forever. After half a lifetime of watching Colin Bridgerton from afar, she thinks she knows everything about him, until she stumbles across his deepest secret…and fears she doesn’t know him at all.

Colin Bridgerton is tired of being thought nothing but an empty-headed charmer, tired of everyone’s preoccupation with the notorious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, who can’t seem to publish an edition without mentioning him in the first paragraph. But when Colin returns to London from a trip abroad he discovers nothing in his life is quite the same – especially Penelope Featherington! The girl haunting his dreams. But when he discovers that Penelope has secrets of her own, this elusive bachelor must decide…is she his biggest threat – or his promise of a happy ending? 

My Review.

Like many of us, I have a soft spot for the overlooked Penelope, who has loved Colin from afar. Now he has returned from abroad and she finds him as charming as ever. But, for the first time, he’s noticing her. They share banter and after resigning herself to spinsterhood, a ray of hope grows in Penelope’s heart. Until her secret, threatens to derail the budding love affair. Can he look past it, does he care enough, is she worth it? Will they face the future together?


Most of my reading was escapist reading this month, interspersed with a few more serious choices. For me, reading is about enjoyment and entertainment. Maybe I ‘should ‘ read more serious literary works, but I am content with what I read and I don’t think anyone should shame you for your reading choices.

Still, the sun blazes down.


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What Was I Reading in January 2022?

Anticipating the seasonal heat I had collected a stockpile of books to read. Books were from my local library, gifts, or already on my bookshelves. There were some books leftover from Christmas, an appealing mid-grade childrens’ book and some folktales Also, two books featuring cats. I also find that covers do influence which books I choose to read, well if publishers spend time and money selecting the right cover, it seems I am not alone in this.

I wouldn’t take a book to the beach, all that sand!

The Secret Book, and Scone Society by Ellery Adams.

From New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams comes the first in an intriguing new series set within a quirky small-town club where the key to happiness, friendship—or solving a murder—can all be found within the pages of the right book . . .
Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing. Strangers flock here hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden.
When a visiting businessman reaches out to Nora for guidance, she knows exactly which novels will help. But before he can keep their appointment at Miracle Books, he’s found dead on the train tracks.

Stunned, Nora forms the Secret, Book, and Scone Society, a group of damaged souls yearning to gain trust and earn redemption by helping others. To join the society, members must divulge their darkest secret—the terrible truth that brought each of them to Miracle Springs in the first place. Determined to uncover the truth behind the businessman’s demise, the women meet in Nora’s cramped and cozy bookstore to share stories and trade support. And as they untangle a web of corruption, they also discover their own courage, purpose, and a sisterhood that will carry them through every challenge—proving it’s never too late to turn the page and start over . . .

The cover appealed to me.

My Review.

This book is the first in the series and goes a long way to explain, how and why the book club was formed. As a spa resort, Miracle Springs certainly doesn’t need bad publicity and an unexplained death is certainly that. There is a deal going on, but is it all that it seems?  Nora and the club rise to the challenge of finding out who killed the businessman who asked her for book recommendations. Sharing their secrets bonds the female friendships which are such a part of this book. A potential love interest added to the appeal and of course the book suggestions. It’s a series I will continue to read.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa (著 )Philip Gabriel  (Translator)

It’s not the journey that counts, but who’s at your side.

Nana is on a road trip, but he is not sure where he is going. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved owner Satoru in the front seat of his silver van. Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, though Nana doesn’t know why and Satoru won’t say.

Set against the backdrop of Japan’s changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and humour, Nana’s story explores the wonder and thrill of life’s unexpected detours. It is about the value of friendship and solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take. TRAVELLING CAT has already demonstrated its power to move thousands of readers with a message of kindness and truth. It shows, above all, how acts of love, both great and small, can transform our lives.

A surprise success.

My Review.

This is such a lovely book, sure to appeal to any cat lover. The relationship between Nana the cat and Satoru is heart-warming and real. We know there is a mystery, and may even come to solve it before Nana, but the book still packs an emotional punch. I cried from sadness and joy. Highly recommended.

Lily’s Little Flower Shop by Lisa Darcy

When Lily misses out on a well-deserved promotion the day her boyfriend is offered a job overseas, she faces a choice: should she embrace an ex-pat life, or follow her childhood dream and become a florist?

Deciding to follow her heart, she moves to the coast and decides to start again. But fitting into the tight-knit community proves harder than she expected.

As she navigates new friendships, financial worries, and the pull of returning to her city life, she learns how flowers can bring the happiness she’s been looking for.

And when romance appears on the horizon, Lily realizes she can’t commit until she reconciles her mistakes.

Can she overcome her past and learn the true meaning of love? 

My Review.

Easy reading and fun. I was particularly amused and enraged by her dense boyfriend, Ben. He is convinced her life should revolve around him. Lily begins to question her choices. Does ‘ having it all,’ mean working all hours, and living a life you have come to hate? Lily’s hours are more taxing in the flower shop, but her sense of self-worth increases, although her income doesn’t. Will she have to give up her dream?

The Secrets of Sunshine by Phaedra Patrick.

In the heart warming new novel from the author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper , a chance encounter will lead a single father on an unexpected journey that might just help him find a second chance at love.

Mitchell Fisher hates all things romance. He works on the famous “love lock” bridge where lovers go to fasten padlocks, covering the bridge with their love stories. But to Mitchell, it’s an act of vandalism, and he enjoys his job of cutting off those padlocks. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his grumpy veneer, Mitchell still grieves the loss of her mother.

Everything changes one fateful day when, working on the bridge, Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls into the river. He’s surprised to feel a connection to her, but the woman disappears before he learns her name. To Mitchell’s shock, a video of the rescue goes viral, hailing him as “The Hero on the Bridge.” He’s soon notified by the mysterious woman’s sister, Liza, that she has been missing for over a year—and the only clue to where the woman could have gone is the engraved padlock she left on the bridge.

Mitchell finds himself swept up in Liza’s quest to find her lost sister. Along the way, with help from a sparkling cast of characters, Mitchell’s heart gradually unlocks, and he discovers that new beginnings can be found in the unlikeliest places…

A suitably sunshiny cover.

My Review.

I found this quirky book difficult to categorise, as it’s part romance, part mystery. Unusual characters, and a storyline that meanders along. I found it quite readable.

The Christmas Tea Shop by Darcie Boleyn.

Fran Gandolfini can’t help taking in strays; with four dogs, five cats and two bearded dragons, she refuses to give up on a creature in need. The only thing Fran has given up on, in fact, is her love life.

Moving from the city to Penhallow Sands to work in the Tea Shop, Ethan Clarke hopes Moving from the city to Penhallow Sands to work in the Tea Shop, Ethan Clarke hopes he’s made the right choice for his daughter, Tilly.

Ethan’s past means he struggles to trust people. Just as Fran starts to change that, a life-changing secret that she’s keeping for a friend causes a rift between them. Fran can’t tell Ethan the truth, but she hates lying to him more. It’ll take a Christmas miracle to set things right…

A festive romance set in Cornwall and perfect for fans of Holly Martin and Phillipa Ashley.

An appealing cover.

My Review.

Leftover from my Christmas reading, but I read it anyway. For me it didn’t feel right, some of the characters were creating their problems. Also, in my opinion, the emotional insights went on for far too long. Fran is an appealing character, but I kept thinking an honest conversation could have solved this. I know others have enjoyed this book and I wanted to too, but it didn’t work for me.

The Wattle Island Book Club by  Sandie Docker

Is it ever too late to rewrite your own story?

COURAGE

In 1950, teenager Anne flees Wattle Island for the big city, where she learns that establishing the life she’s always dreamed of isn’t as easy as she thought. When a secret she’s been keeping is discovered, she has no choice but to retreat home and live a quiet life. But when tragedy strikes, establishing the Wattle Island book club is the only thing that offers her solace.

PASSION
In 2018, spirited librarian Grace has been writing bucket lists since she was a child, and is ticking off as many challenges as she can now that life has handed her a hefty dose of perspective. Heading to Wattle Island on one of her adventures, she is determined to uncover a long-held mystery surrounding the town’s historic book club, unlocking a buried truth that has been trapped between the dusty pages of secrecy for years.

HOPE
All too aware of how fragile life is, Anne and Grace must come together to help the residents of Wattle Island find the bravery to move beyond the trauma that tore the book club apart. Budding relationships offer new hope, along with a library project for the town’s future – but it will take more than a few lively literary debates to break the silence and heal the past.

Welcome to the Wattle Island Book Club, where some chapters may end, but others are just beginning… 

What a great cover!

My Review.

Of course, I was interested in a book about book clubs, having coordinated one for eleven years. Additionally, having Grace work as a librarian added to the appeal. Dual timeline stories can sometimes be uneven, luckily, I found both timelines held my interest. I had a sense of the ending and think it was probably the right choice. Recommended.

The Royal Governess by Wendy Holden.

Sunday Times bestselling author Wendy Holden brings to life the unknown childhood years of one of the world’s most iconic figures, Queen Elizabeth II, and reveals the little-known governess who made Britain’s queen into the monarch we know today.

In 1933, twenty-two-year-old Marion Crawford accepts the role of a lifetime, tutoring their Royal Highnesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. Her one stipulation to their parents the Duke and Duchess of York is that she brings some doses of normalcy into the sheltered and privileged lives of the two young princesses.

At Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Balmoral, Marion defies oppressive court protocol to take the girls on tube trains, swimming at public baths, and on joyful Christmas shopping trips at Woolworth’s. From her ringside seat at the heart of the British monarchy she witnesses the upheaval of the Abdication and the glamour and drama of the 1937 Coronation.

During the war, as Hitler’s Heinkels fly over Windsor, she shelters her charges in the castle dungeons (not far from where the Crown Jewels are hidden in a biscuit tin). Afterwards, she is there when Elizabeth first sets eyes on Philip. But being beloved governess and confidante to the Windsor family has come at a cost. She puts her private life on hold until released from royal service following Princess Elizabeth’s marriage in 1947.

In a majestic story of love, sacrifice, and allegiance, bestselling novelist Holden shines a captivating light into the years before Queen Elizabeth II took the throne, as immortalized on the popular television series The Crown. 

My Review.

Almost a fly on the wall account of the early years of the Queen and her sister Princess Margaret’s upbringing and schooling. Fascinating to read about some of the archaic rules and regulations. For example, the staff could not walk down the centre of a carpet, that was reserved for royalty. Marion Crawford ‘Crawfie’ had some success with introducing aspects of ordinary life into their gilded world. Some opinions, such as the portrayal of the Duchess of Windsor are bound to be controversial. Sad that after such devoted service Crawfie was relegated to a person non grata.

My Kind of Happy by Cathy Bramley

The new feel-good, funny story from Sunday Times bestseller Cathy Bramley about one woman’s search for happiness…

‘I think flowers are sunshine for the soul.’

Flowers have always made Fearne smile. She treasures the memories of her beloved grandmother’s floristry and helping her to arrange beautiful blooms that brought such joy to their recipients.

But ever since a family tragedy a year ago, Fearne has been searching for her own contentment. When a chance discovery inspires her to start a happiness list, it seems that Fearne might just have found her answer…

Sometimes the scariest path can be the most rewarding. So is Fearne ready to take the risk and step into the unknown? And what kind of happiness might she find if she does? 

Captures the tone of the book, perfectly.

My Review.

Easy to read and entertaining, it feeds into our fantasies of chucking it all in and starting again.  Flowers are so beautiful, no one considers the hard work that goes into making a floral bouquet, the early mornings and perishable stock.

The book is set in Barnaby and characters and places from Cathy’s previous books appear. I recognised some from The Lemon Tree Café. I also picked up a hint about a story I haven’t read yet. Fearne’s road to a happy ever after had a few bumps along the way. The name Fearne simply didn’t gel with me.

You’re Doing It Wrong. A History of Bad and Bonkers Advice to Women by Kaz Cooke.

You’re Doing it Wrong is an outrageous tour through the centuries of bonkers and bad advice handed down and foisted upon women, told as only Kaz Cooke can – with humour and rage, intelligence and wit.

Come with Kaz on a laugh-out-loud frolic through centuries of terrible advice, from 14th-century clergy to the Kardashians (wear a dress made of arsenic, do some day-drinking, have sex with a billionaire biker, worry about your vagina wrinkles). It’s also a roar against injustice, a rallying cry for sisterhood and a way to free ourselves from ludicrous expectations and imposed perfectionism.
Kaz’s own 30-year history of interest and experience in advice – from her newspaper etiquette column to best-selling books, including Up the Duff and the Girl Stuff series – and years of archives and research have culminated in a full-colour, exuberant shout of a book with hundreds of wacky and sobering historical photos of objects and instructions.

You’re Doing It Wrong examines what we’re told to do (change shape, shoosh, do all the housework), and what we’re not supposed to do (frown, have pockets, lead a country). It covers sex & romance, paid work, fashion & beauty, health advice, housework, and a motherlode of mad parenting instructions – from witchcraft to beauty pageants, with a side of aviatrixes. Put the kettle on and settle in. 

My Review.

If ever you were accused of being paranoid over some ‘mansplaining,’ a comment, or a dismissal, here is the book to reinforce the belief that society has been doing a number on us for centuries. It made me furious, it made me sad to realise how many of these beliefs still influence how we behave.

The Secret of Platform Thirteen by Eva Ibbotson.

A forgotten door on an abandoned railway platform is the entrance to a magical kingdom–an island where humans live happily with feys, mermaids, ogres, and other wonderful creatures. Carefully hidden from the world, the Island is only accessible when the door opens for nine days every nine years. A lot can go wrong in nine days. When the beastly Mrs Trottle kidnaps the prince of the Island, it’s up to a strange band of rescuers to save him. But can an ogre, a hag, a wizard, and a fey really troop around London unnoticed?

 

Looks exciting!

My Review.

I dipped into the library’s children’s section for this book. I’d heard about it by chance, and it predates Harry Potter by three years. I was intrigued to see the similarities and differences. Platform13 is at Kings Cross station and opens once for a few days every nine years. As everyone probably knows Platform 9. 3/4 is at Paddington station. In my opinion, this book is geared to a younger audience than the first Harry Potter book. As an older reader, I was fairly sure of the plot development but can see that it would appeal to its intended audience.

Nordic Tales: folktales for Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark.

 By Ulla Thynell ( Illustrator) Peter Christen Asbjorbsen , Parker Hoysted Fillmore,  Jon Arnason.

Nordic Tales is a collection of 16 traditional tales from the enchanting world of Nordic folklore.

Translated and transcribed by folklorists in the 19th century, these stories are at once magical, hilarious, cozy, and chilling.

Welcome to a world of mystical adventure
—where trolls haunt the snowy forests, terrifying monsters roam the open sea, a young woman journeys to the end of the world, and a boy proves he knows no fear.

• Offers a fascinating view into Nordic culture
• The tales come alive alongside bold, contemporary art
• Part of the popular Tales series, featuring Tales of Japan, Celtic Tales, Tales of India, and Tales of East Africa

Nordic Tales will enthral fans of fairy tales and captivate those interested in the rich history of Nordic culture.

Ulla Thynell’s glowing contemporary illustrations accompany each tale, conjuring dragons, princesses, and the northern lights.


• A visually gorgeous book that will be at home on the shelf or on the coffee table
• A perfect gift for fairy tale and folklore lovers, fans of Nordic culture, people of Nordic ancestry, collectors of illustrated classics, and bibliophiles looking for a comforting wintertime read
• Add it to the collection of books like D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, and Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton.

People who love Greek mythology, roman mythology, Chinese mythology, Celtic mythology, and folklore and cultural studies from around the globe will love Nordic Tales. 

Beautifully Illustrated.

My Review.

Enhanced by the beautiful illustrations, some tales have a familiarity about them, while others are completely new. I read them one at a time and then paused before reading the next one. In my opinion, these aren’t tales for children, as they have a harshness about them. I found the last tale completely baffling.

Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron.

Elizabeth Strout meets Marian Keyes in this wonderful, joyful, funny debut novel from Australian author Jacquie Byron.

Growing older doesn’t necessarily mean growing wiser.

Gin in one hand, paintbrush in the other, Franny Calderwood has turned her back on the world, or at least the world she used to love. Having lost her husband, Frank, in tragic circumstances three years earlier, 65-year-old Franny copes the only way she knows how: by removing herself completely from the life she had before. Franny lives a life of decadent seclusion, with only her two dogs, Whisky and Soda, a stuffed cat, cocktails and the memory of Frank for company.

Then the Salernos move in next door. The troubled but charming trio – beleaguered mother Sallyanne, angry teenager Dee and eccentric eight-year-old Josh – cannot help but pull Franny into the drama of their lives. But despite her fixation with independence, Franny’s wisecracks and culinary experiments hide considerable trauma and pain, and when her eccentric behaviour has life-threatening consequences she faces a reckoning of sorts. Yes, Frank is dead, but did the woman he loved have to perish with him?

A story about one woman, two dogs and the family next door, Happy Hour is a hilarious and uplifting insight into grief, loss, true love and friendship.

My Review

 I was gifted this book by someone I don’t know well and while I appreciated the gesture, I was dubious about the book. She’d asked the book shop to recommend something, and this was their suggestion. I don’t know what she told them, or if she told them anything. I thought I ought to read it and I did. It’s a book that deals with coping with grief, and for me, still grieving, it was the wrong book at the wrong time,

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett.

Polly Perks joins the Discworld army to find her brother Paul. “Ozzer” cuts off her blonde braids, dons male garb, belches, scratches, and masters macho habits – aided by well-placed pair of socks. The legendary and seemingly ageless Sergeant Jackrum accepts her plus a vampire, troll, zombie, religious fanatic, and two close “friends”. The best man for the job may be a woman. 

My Review. Philosophy mixed with slapstick, all in Terry Pratchett’s inimitable style. Politics, religion, patriotism, gender roles are some of the topics explored. I read it as standalone. although it is number thirty-one in the Discworld series. I have enough familiarity with the world to get a  sense of it.

The Sugarhouse Blues by Mariah Stewart.

Allie, Des, and Cara, each having her own reasons for wanting a share of their father’s estate, meet in the grand Victorian home in which he grew up, only to be greeted by another secret he purposely hid from them: his sister Bonnie. The women reluctantly band together to take on Fritz’s challenge, working with a local contractor to begin the renovations financed by an account Fritz had set up for the task. While the restoration appears to go smoothly at first, it soon becomes apparent that the work will be more extensive than originally thought, and Des, elected to handle the money, needs to find ways to stretch out the remaining savings while searching for new sources of funding.

As strangers linked only by their DNA try to become a family, the Hudson sisters also try to come to terms with the father they only thought they knew. In the process, each woman discovers her own capacity for understanding, forgiveness, love, and the true meaning of family.

My Review.

I picked this up at the library, not realising it was the second in a series. So initially I was a bit lost, but I was soon drawn into the sisters’ world. The experience would have been better if I had read book one. The sisters are different enough to each other and have distinct personalities. Their mission is bound to keep them busy through several books.    

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa, Louise Heal Kawai, (Translator)

Grandpa used to say it all the time: books have tremendous power. But what is that power really?

Natsuki Books was a tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town. Inside, towering shelves reached the ceiling, every one crammed full of wonderful books. Rintaro Natsuki loved this space that his grandfather had created. He spent many happy hours there, reading whatever he liked. It was the perfect refuge for a boy who tended to be something of a recluse.

After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone…

The Cat Who Saved Books is a heart-warming story about finding courage, caring for others – and the tremendous power of books. Sosuke Natsukawa’s international best seller, translated from Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai, is a story for those for whom books are so much more than words on paper. 

I loved this cover and the earnest cat.

My Review.

I was fortunate enough to be gifted this book by a fellow book lover and cat lover. I immediately fell in love with the gorgeous cover and delightful cat. At one level it is a simple story, but simplicity doesn’t mean valueless. It would be a splendid present for anyone who cares about books. What makes books special? Why do we read? What separates readers from those who don’t read?

The King’s Witch By Tracy Borman.

In March of 1603, as she helps to nurse the dying Queen Elizabeth of England, Frances Gorges dreams of her parents’ country estate, where she has learned to use flowers and herbs to become a much-loved healer. She is happy to stay at home when King James of Scotland succeeds to the throne. His court may be shockingly decadent, but his intolerant Puritanism sees witchcraft in many of the old customs—punishable by death.

But when her ambitious uncle forcibly brings Frances to the royal palace, she is a ready target for the twisted scheming of the Privy Seal, Lord Cecil. As a dark campaign to destroy both King and Parliament gathers pace, culminating in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Frances is surrounded by danger, finding happiness only with the King’s precocious young daughter, and with Tom Wintour, the one courtier she feels she can trust. But is he all that he seems?

My Review.

The title intrigued me, so I decided to read this book. It is well written, and the story moved along at a steady pace, but I had forgotten how much I already knew of this era. These were difficult times, and reading about them also proved difficult for me emotionally. Events move with an inevitability and the conclusion was foregone. Frances is an appealing character, but for me, at this stressful time, I will not continue with the trilogy.

A Year At The Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

The perfect escapist read, for all fans of Cathy Bramley and Jenny Colgan. A Year at the Star and Sixpence is Holly Hepburn’s four Star and Sixpence novellas collected together as a novel for the first time. 
When sisters Nessie and Sam inherit a little pub in a beautiful country village they jump at the chance to escape their messy lives and start afresh. But when they arrive at the Star and Sixpence, it’s not quite what they imagined – it’s pretty much derelict, ruined by debts, and it’s going to be a huge job to get it up and running again. But they are determined to make the best of this new life and they set about making the pub the heart of the village once again. Their first year at the Star and Sixpence won’t be easy, though nothing worth doing ever is.
But when the sisters’ past comes back to haunt them, they start to think that the fresh start they needed is very far away indeed…
Curl up with A Year at the Star and Sixpence – the perfect novel to welcome Spring.
‘A fresh new voice, brings wit and warmth to this charming tale of two sisters’ Rowan Coleman
‘You’ll fall in love with this fantastic new series from a new star of women’s fiction, Holly Hepburn. Filled to the brim with captivating characters and fantastic storylines in a gorgeous setting. Simply wonderful. I want to read more!’ Miranda Dickinson
‘Warm, witty and laced with intriguing secrets! I want to pull up a bar stool, order a large G&T and soak up all the gossip at the Star and Sixpence!’ Cathy Bramley

++ A Year at the Star and Sixpence is the collected Star and Sixpence novellas. If you have already enjoyed the novellas, then you have already enjoyed A Year at the Star and Sixpence. For new novellas from Holly, check out her Picture House by the Sea series and her Castle Court series.

My Review.

After the last book I read left me feeling rather depressed I wanted to read something upbeat and lively. From the gorgeous cover to the blurb, this book seemed like the perfect answer and for the most part, it was. I think it suffered from having the four novellas combined, as information we already knew from one section was repeated in another. Setting that aside, it delivered good seasonal stories and if characters sometimes got in their own way, well the course of true love never did run smooth.

Well, both the weather and the holidays made sure I was indoors, busy reading. I didn’t realise I had read quite so many books and can’t imagine that I will read so many next month.




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December’s Big Book Haul- What Was I Reading?

In December my library came up with an amazing selection of books. In Australia where I now live, Christmas can be HOT. It never really feels like Christmas to me. I was brought up in Britain, so escaping to read under the air conditioning is fine. Additionally, I knew it was likely to be a time for reflection due to a death in the family.

A book can be company, comfort or escapism.

Some books were ones I had on request which arrived and others were random picks from the tempting library displays. I hadn’t noticed before how many books do deal with death and grief in some way.

Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand.

When Vivian Howe, author of thirteen novels and mother of three grown-up children, is killed in a hit-and-run incident while jogging near her home, she ascends to the Beyond. Because her death was unfair, she is allowed to watch what happens below with her children, her best friend, her ex-husband, and a rival novelist whose book is coming out the same day as Vivi’s.

Vivi is also given the use of three ‘nudges’ so that she can influence the outcome of events in the world of the living. As Vivi discovers her children’s secrets, watches the investigation into her own death and worries about a secret from her youth coming to light, she must decide what she wants to manipulate – and what should be left well alone.

Combining Elin Hilderbrand’s trademark beach scenes, mouth-watering meals and picture-perfect homes with the heartfelt message that the people we lose never really leave us, Golden Girl is a beach book unlike any other from ‘Queen of the Summer Novel’ (People).

Set in Nantucket.

My Review. I had heard of Elin Hilderbrand, but I hadn’t read any of her books until I saw this in the library. It sounded like an intriguing premise, and I was soon involved in the life on Nantucket Island. Of course, it required the suspension of disbelief as Vivi and her guide in the Beyond, negotiate terms as to what she may or may not do. She observes her former life and the choices her children and ex-husband make. Then Vivi has to decide who and what is worthy of using one of her precious ‘nudges.’ I read to the end and was left with the feeling that I hadn’t liked any of the self-absorbed characters.

 The Christmas Swop by Sandy Barker. Chloe, Jules, and Lucy meet at a Maui resort kids’ club, aged 11, forging lifelong friendship spanning two decades and three continents.

Twenty-two years later, they decide to swap Christmases, none of them expecting the hilarity and romantic escapades that will ensue.

Chloe from Melbourne spends her Christmas with Lucy’s mum and dad in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England, stunned to the core when she discovers who grew up across the road from Lucy.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend a balmy ‘Orphan’s Christmas’ with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away from her mundane life is just what she needed.

Join these three lovable women as they each get a Christmas to surpass their wildest dreams. 

My Review. This is easy reading and filled with the joys of each of the alternate Christmases. Of course, having a gorgeous and available male at each location makes each Christmas more memorable. Although all the stories have their appeal, I enjoyed Chloe’s the best for its Love Actually vibe.

 The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan.

In a new World War II-set story from the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, four women compete for a spot hosting a wartime cookery program called The Kitchen Front – based on the actual BBC program of the same name – as well as a chance to better their lives.

Two years into WW2, Britain is feeling her losses; the Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is putting on a cooking contest–and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the contest presents a crucial chance to change their lives.

For a young widow, it’s a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. For a kitchen maid, it’s a chance to leave servitude and find freedom. For the lady of the manor, it’s a chance to escape her wealthy husband’s increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it’s a chance to challenge the men at the top of her profession.

These four women are giving the competition their all–even if that sometimes means bending the rules. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together serve only to break it apart?

An insight into the recent past

My Review. I enjoyed this book whilst at the same time marvelling at the ingenuity and privations that happened during the war. It was easy to sympathise with Audrey, the young widow and Nell, the kitchen maid, less so Zelda the trained cook and Gwendoline the lady of the manor. Although, as the story unfolded, I also gained sympathy for them. I was torn as to who I wanted to win the coveted post. There are authentic recipes included for those who wish to try them.

The Last of The Apple Blossom by Mary Lou Stephens.

The fire took everything – except two women’s fighting spirits. A sweeping, big-hearted Australian family saga for readers of Judy Nunn and Victoria Purman

7 February, 1967. Walls of flame reduce much of Tasmania to ash.

Young schoolteacher Catherine Turner rushes to the Huon Valley to find her family’s apple orchard destroyed, her childhood home in ruins and her brother dead. Despite her father’s declaration that a woman will never run the orchard, Catherine resolves to rebuild the family business.

After five sons, Catherine’s friend and neighbour, Annie Pearson, is overjoyed by the birth of a much longed for daughter. As Annie and her husband Dave work to repair the damage to their orchard, Dave’s friend Mark pitches in, despite the fact that Annie wants him gone. Mark has moved his family to the valley to escape his life in Melbourne, but his wife has disappeared leaving chaos in her wake and their young son Charlie in Mark’s care.

Catherine becomes fond of Charlie, whose strange upbringing has left him shy and withdrawn. However, the growing friendship between Mark and Catherine not only scandalises the small community but threatens a secret Annie is desperate to keep hidden.

Through natural disasters, personal calamities and the devastating collapse of the apple industry, Catherine, Annie and those they love battle to save their livelihoods, their families and their secrets.

My Review.

What a gorgeous cover!

A heart-breaking book about struggle and sacrifice. The book is set during and after the devastating fires on Tasmania in 1967 and their aftermath which saw the Apple Island almost cease production of the famed Tasmanian Apples. More than that, it is the story of two women and what they live through and endure.

One More For Christmas by Sarah Morgan.

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Christmas Sisters comes this sparkling tale of Christmas redemption. Brimming with Sarah Morgan’s trademark festive cheer, you won’t want to miss it!

For sisters Samantha and Ella Mitchell, Christmas is their most precious time of the year—a time for togetherness, love and celebration. Most of all, it’s about making up for everything their childhood Christmases lacked. But this year, they’ll be buying presents for the most unexpected guest of all—their estranged mother. It’s been five years since they last saw each other. But when their mom calls out of the blue and promises that this Christmas will be different, Samantha and Ella cautiously agree to spend it all together…

Gayle Mitchell is at the top of her career, but her success has come at a price—her relationship with her daughters. She never seemed to say or do the right things. Her tough-love approach was designed to make them stronger, but instead managed to push them away…until a brush with her own mortality forces Gayle to make amends. As the snowflakes fall on their first family celebration in years, the Mitchell women must learn that sometimes facing up to the past is all you need to heal your heart… 

A joyful book.

My Review. This is the perfect book to read over Christmas! It has it all, lush scenery, a luxury location and family dynamics that need repairing. I was drawn into the story as the old hurts of the past resurfaced, and expectations were upended. No, you can’t go back, but you can make a new beginning. It reminded me of the Netflix movie A Castle for Christmas. The book is a new favourite.

Ink and Shadows by Ellery Adams

Controversy erupts in Miracle Springs, North Carolina, when the owner of the local bookstore tries to play peacekeeper—but winds up playing detective instead…

Nora Pennington is known for her window displays, and as Halloween approaches, she decides to showcase fictional heroines like Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Madeline Miller’s Circe. A family-values group disapproves of the magical themes, though, and wastes no time launching a modern-day witch hunt. Suddenly, former friends and customers are targeting not only Nora and Miracle Books, but a new shopkeeper, Celeste, who’s been selling CBD oil products.

Nora and her friends in the Secret, Book, and Scone Society are doing their best to put an end to the strife—but then someone puts an end to a life. Though the death is declared an accident, the ruling can’t explain the old book page covered with strange symbols and disturbing drawings left under Nora’s doormat, a postcard from an anonymous stalker, or multiple cases of vandalism.

The only hope is that Nora can be a heroine herself and lead the Secret, Book, and Scone Society in a successful investigation—before more bodies turn up and the secrets from Celeste’s past come back to haunt them all.

Books about bookshops always appeal to me.

My Review. I picked this book up from the library, as I usually enjoy cosy mysteries and books about bookstores. This is the fourth book in a series, and I hadn’t read the other three, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment of the story. The bookstore Halloween display provokes an over-the-top response, and splits feeling in the town. It all seems relatively harmless until someone is killed, as Nora senses she may be the next target.

The Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson.

Love, laughter and friendship from the Sunday Times top five bestselling author.
    When Lewis Cawthorne has a heart attack in his early forties, he takes it as a wake-up call. So, he and his wife Charlotte leave behind life in the fast lane and Lew opens the antique shop he has dreamed of since he was a little boy.


    Bonnie Brookland was brought up in the antiques trade and now works for the man who bought out her father’s business, but she isn’t happy there. So, when she walks into Lew’s shop, she knows this is the place for her.


    As Bonnie and Lew start to work together, they soon realise that there is more to their relationship than thought. But Bonnie is trapped in an unhappy marriage, and Lew and Charlotte have more problems than they care to admit. Each has secrets in their past which are about to be uncovered. Can they find the happiness they both deserve…?

My Review. I felt for Bonnie, trapped in a loveless marriage and in a job that she increasingly has come to hate. All the standards that made her father’s shop appealing have been abandoned by a man who is out to squeeze profit out of everything. He doesn’t respect her knowledge of antiques and treats her like dirt. One comment sees her out of a job.

Lewis is finally living his dream, but if sales don’t pick up, he can’t keep going for very long. Meanwhile, his wife Charlotte is bored and spending as if he still has his high salary and prestigious job.

Two lonely people united by a passion for antiques and maybe something more.

The Book Club by Roisin Meany.

A tragic accident leaves the small seaside town of Fairweather reeling but when Tom McLysaght arrives to the community and joins the local book club, the residents find their lives changing in ways they never could have imagined.
For Tom, his move to Fairweather was to escape his highflying past in London and to put some much needed distance between him and his ex-fiancée but as he begins to open himself to town of Fairweather and the people he meets, including his quiet and reserved neighbour Lil, he discovers that while friendship might be the last thing on his mind, maybe it’s the only thing that will help him move forward.

An appealing cover

My Review Another library pick, influenced by the title. As someone who coordinated a book club for eleven years, I know they can be wonderful places to connect and make friends. Not everyone shares a passion for reading, so it’s good to find those who do.

Tom has moved as far away as he can from his past. The small town of Fairweather is remote enough to give him the anonymity he craves. His landlady seems distant and suspicious and that’s how he likes it. Gradually he starts doing jobs for people and is invited to join the private book club. Over time he is drawn into the community, wanting to learn its secrets, particularly those concerning Lil, the daughter of his landlady. I found this a difficult book to categorise.

All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White.

The New York Times bestselling authors of The Glass Ocean and The Forgotten Room return with a glorious historical adventure that moves from the dark days of two World Wars to the turbulent years of the 1960s, in which three women with bruised hearts find refuge at Paris’ legendary Ritz hotel.

The heiress . . .
The Resistance fighter . . .

The widow . . .
Three women whose fates are joined by one splendid hotel

France, 1914. As war breaks out, Aurelie becomes trapped on the wrong side of the front with her father, Comte Sigismund de Courcelles. When the Germans move into their family’s ancestral estate, using it as their headquarters, Aurelie discovers she knows the German Major’s aide de camp, Maximilian Von Sternburg. She and the dashing young officer first met during Aurelie’s debutante days in Paris. Despite their conflicting loyalties, Aurelie and Max’s friendship soon deepens into love, but betrayal will shatter them both, driving Aurelie back to Paris and the Ritz— the home of her estranged American heiress mother, with unexpected consequences.

France, 1942. Raised by her indomitable, free-spirited American grandmother in the glamorous Hotel Ritz, Marguerite “Daisy” Villon remains in Paris with her daughter and husband, a Nazi collaborator, after France falls to Hitler. At first reluctant to put herself and her family at risk to assist her grandmother’s Resistance efforts, Daisy agrees to act as a courier for a skilled English forger known only as Legrand, who creates identity papers for Resistance members and Jewish refugees. But as Daisy is drawn ever deeper into Legrand’s underground network, committing increasingly audacious acts of resistance for the sake of the country—and the man—she holds dear, she uncovers a devastating secret . . . one that will force her to commit the ultimate betrayal, and to confront at last the shocking circumstances of her own family history.

France, 1964. For Barbara “Babs” Langford, her husband, Kit, was the love of her life. Yet their marriage was haunted by a mysterious woman known only as La Fleur. On Kit’s death, American lawyer Andrew “Drew” Bowdoin appears at her door. Hired to find a Resistance fighter turned traitor known as “La Fleur,” the investigation has led to Kit Langford. Curious to know more about the enigmatic La Fleur, Babs joins Drew in his search, a journey of discovery that that takes them to Paris and the Ritz—and to unexpected places of the heart. . .  

My Review.It was interesting to read a book written by three authors, I found that the story and prose flowed seamlessly. Each story underpinned the other and the interrelated events. There was an immediacy about the stories, and it was easy to feel part of the unfolding events. I guessed the identity of ‘La Fleur’, without too much difficulty. For me, the story set in 1942 was the most noteworthy. I enjoyed this book and would happily read another by the same authors.

Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan.

Another heartfelt and delightful Christmas tale from the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner and Christmas on the Island.

New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan returns to the setting of Christmas on the Island and Endless Beach for a heart-warming new novel celebrating the season, and Scotland.

On the tiny, beautiful, and remote island of Mure, halfway between Scotland and Norway, a new hotel opening is a big event. New mother Flora MacKenzie and her brother Fintan are working themselves half to death to get it ready in time for Christmas. 

The new hotel’s impressive kitchens throw together two unlikely new friends: Isla Gregor is the hardworking young girl who has been a waitress in the island’s cafe, dreaming of a bigger, better life now that she’s at a proper fancy hotel. Konstantin Pederson is working his way up in the hotel’s kitchens too…but he is also, secretly, the only son of the Duke of Utsire. Konstantin has been sent to learn what it is to work hard for a living, before receiving his inheritance. Although he’s initially resentful, the place grows on him; he has never met anyone quite like Isla and her fellow Murians before. 

As the island’s residents and special VIP guests gather for the hotel’s grand opening gala, Christmas is in the air. But so are more than a few small-town secrets…

My Review. Once again, I found I was reading a book that was part of a series. The perils of picking up random books in the library! It is number four in the Mure series.  So, I was initially slightly confused as to who some of the characters were. Fortunately, I was able to get into the story and enjoy it. Yes, it was slightly predictable, but somehow that’s what you expect in a Christmas story. I enjoyed reading about Konstantin’s struggles in this reverse Cinderella tale. Isolated the island of Mure sounds magical, if incredibly cold.

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan.

Mrs. Braithwaite, self-appointed queen of her English village, finds herself dethroned, despised, and dismissed following her husband’s selfish divorce petition. Never deterred, the threat of a family secret being revealed sets her hot-foot to London to find the only person she has left—her clever daughter Betty, who took work there at the first rumbles of war.
 
But when she arrives, Betty’s landlord, the timid Mr. Norris, informs her that Betty hasn’t been home in days–with the chaos of the bombs, there’s no telling what might have befallen her. Aghast, Mrs. Braithwaite sets her bullish determination to the task of finding her only daughter.

Storming into the London Blitz, Mrs. Braithwaite drags the reluctant Mr. Norris along as an unwitting sidekick as they piece together Betty’s unexpectedly chaotic life. As she is thrown into the midst of danger and death, Mrs. Braithwaite is forced to rethink her old-fashioned notions of status, class, and reputation, and to reconsider the question that’s been puzzling her since her world overturned: How do you measure the success of your life?

My Review. I was able to picture the redoubtable Mrs Braithwaite quite clearly, she looked and sounded a lot like Hyacinth Bouquet from Keeping Up Appearances. What a fabulous character she is! Full of energy and a conviction that she is right, snobbish and determined. Poor Mr Norris is unable to say ‘no’ to her demands.

Their adventures have a surreal quality to them, but with all the conventions of pre-war time broken, can Mrs B adapt? The story moves along in quite a visual way. I found it fascinating how Mrs Braithwaite’s views were changed by her experiences.  So different from The Kitchen Front,  it’s hard to choose which I liked best

Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry.

The joyous Christmas novel from the Sunday Times top-ten bestselling author of A Family Recipe and The Beach Hut

‘A glorious story full of hope, heartache and Christmas magic’ Cathy Bramley

‘Wise, insightful, beautiful written and sprinkled with Christmas joy – I adored this book’ Milly Johnson

Everyone adores Christmas . . .

Especially Lizzy Kingham. But this year, she is feeling unloved and under-appreciated by her family. The present-buying, decorating and food shopping have all been left to her. So she wonders … what would happen if she ran away and left them to it?

Lizzy heads to her favourite place: a beach hut on the golden sands of Everdene. There she meets an unlikely collection of new friends, all running away from something. But the spirit of Christmas gets under Lizzy’s skin: soon the fairy lights are twinkling, and the scent of mulled wine mingles with the sea air.

Back at Pepperpot Cottage, her family are desperate to find her. For Christmas isn’t Christmas without Lizzy. Can they track her down in time and convince her she means the world to them, every day of the year?

Bursting with love, hope, forgiveness – and plenty of Christmas cheer – this is the perfect stocking filler!

My Review. For every woman who has ever felt overwhelmed at Christmas. I am sure you will be cheering from the sidelines and wondering if you’d have the nerve to do the same.

Christmas is a magical time of the year, but it also involves a lot of planning and hard work, mostly unseen and unappreciated. We do it because we love them, we want to have a magical Christmas and we ignore the little voice that occasionally says, ‘what about me?’

Lizzy has felt exhausted and unappreciated for quite some time. Her husband Simon’s ex-wife Amanda, seems to call all the shots, altering their plans on a whim. The final straw is when no one comes home to trim the tree, although all have promised faithfully to do so. So, very uncharacteristically Lizzy packs her bags and leaves. A really fun read!

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow.

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be

My Review. I was intrigued by the title, a reworking of T.H White’s The Once and Future King as well as the premise of the book, it seemed very timely. The concept of women’s work and will and her words, as well her crafts and storytelling being marginalised and ignored. Anyone who steps out of the conformist pattern is a threat and must be pursued and vilified. I think the story will resonate with a lot of women, who have put up with the endless and relentless mansplaining and sexism.

I read the book over two days, and it sustained my interest. At times the prose is almost magical, weaving a spell of its own. Although I felt that some of it could have been compressed without any loss. A modern fable.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday by Milly Johnson

It’s nearly Christmas and it’s snowing, hard. Deep in the Yorkshire Moors nestles a tiny hamlet, with a pub at its heart. As the snow falls, the inn will become an unexpected haven for six people forced to seek shelter there…

Mary has been trying to get her boss Jack to notice her for four years, but he can only see the efficient PA she is at work. Will being holed up with him finally give her the chance she has been waiting for?

Bridge and Luke were meeting for five minutes to set their divorce in motion. But will getting trapped with each other reignite too many fond memories – and love?

Charlie and Robin were on their way to a luxury hotel in Scotland for a very special Christmas. But will the inn give them everything they were hoping to find – and much more besides?

A story of knowing when to hold on and when to let go, of pushing limits and acceptance, of friendship, love, laughter, mince pies and the magic of Christmas.

My Review. Milly Johnson has delivered a magical Christmas book. It feels as if you are there inside Figgy Hollow, sharing time with the couples. Mary had so much hope for this weekend, that Jack will finally notice her. Instead of a glamorous evening, they are stuck in an out of the way deserted inn. Charlie and Robin have somehow got lost in Yorkshire on their way to Scotland. For Bridget and Luke, a quick five-minute paperwork handover has turned into a weekend together. These couples will wend their way into your heart, and you hope they will all find their ‘happily ever after.’ Deftly handled, this book is about tolerance, acceptance and love. Another favourite.

The Comfort Book by  Matt Haigh

A manual of reflections for an increasingly stressful world

Nothing is stronger than a small hope that doesn’t give up. 

A collection of little islands of hope, The Comfort Book gathers consolations and stories that give us new ways of seeing ourselves and the world. 

Matt Haig’s mix of philosophy, memoir and self-reflection builds on the wisdom of philosophers and survivors through the ages, from Marcus Aurelius to Nellie Bly, from Emily Dickinson to James Baldwin. 

This is the book to pick up when you need the wisdom of a friend or the comfort of a hug, or just want to celebrate the messy miracle of being alive.

Personally, I wasn’t keen on this cover.

My Review. Having read and enjoyed The Midnight Library, I was interested when I heard about this book. In times like these, I can see it would appeal to a lot of people. What I liked was I knew that Matt Haigh had walked the talk. He wasn’t theorising, he simply said ‘here are some things that have helped me,’ adding ‘they may help you too.’  Some will resonate more than others, but it is a comforting book.

Looking back, I am surprised how many books I did read in December. There is a pattern of reading a serious book and then a lighter book , which I find works quite well for me .I also ignored TV in favour of Netflix, and allowed myself as much Christmas as I could handle. To find two books which I have marked as favourite, about Christmas, when I felt very un Christmassy was a surprise.

Featured

Meet author Rod Baker.

Rod and I have been friends for a few years, drawn together by our love of writing. Both of us are ex-pat Brits. He lives in Canada and I live in Australia. Neither of us can remember where it was that we ‘met,’ but it was probably in one of the many online writers’ forums. Unusually, among my writer friends, Rod writes memoirs. Over time I have read and enjoyed all of his books and I think you might, too.

Rodney Baker. Author.

Thanks for joining us. Prior to your writing, you have had a varied career; can you tell us a little about that?

Like many sixteen-year-olds, I was bored with my home, my home town, my parents, and probably myself. I wanted something bigger, better, an exciting life, adventure! When someone said to me, “You should join the merchant navy and see the world,” two weeks later, I did. 

The lure of the open ocean.
Adventure called!

Samuel Johnson said, “Life at sea is like being in prison, with the added possibility of drowning.” While true, I loved visiting over 20 countries, meeting the local people and talking with them. Lives in Africa, Central America, China, Japan, Tahiti, Canada, to name a few, were so interesting, so different from mine. It stretched my knowledge of humankind and made me a more understanding person. When I was 19, I fell in love with a girl I met on a blind date in Vancouver, emigrated to Canada at age 21, and got a job working on the tugboats. One December night in the far north, the tug ran aground and the barge carrying 18,000 gallons of gasoline and lots of heavy equipment crushed the tug. I escaped with my life and decided to get a job ashore.

Rod visited twenty countries.

I became an apprentice boatbuilder and learned how to build 55-foot boats out of wood. Each payday, I would buy myself a new tool for my toolbox, on my slow four-year journey to become a tradesman. You can read more about it here.

Rod’s most popular book.

After getting married, buying a house becoming a father of two, I lost my job and couldn’t pay the mortgage. Scary! I couldn’t find any work, so, clutching at straws, I started a boat repair business, which I ran for 20 years. Business taught me to be accountable and responsible.

Unfortunately, that marriage ended and we divorced. I had no energy to run the business anymore, so I sold it and retrained to be a psychological counsellor. All the theories were really interesting, and I ended up getting an MA in Counselling. It felt good to help people. I learned that my problems were minor compared to many. For a while, I was a counsellor in a refugee centre. Such awful stories of people’s lives disrupted forever. Chilling! I was also an addiction counsellor for a couple of years.

Counselling can help[ with a range of problems.

My counselling and business experience equipped me to run a non-profit organization for people with mental illness. We provided housing and support for them. I also started an outreach program for homeless people. This sort of work made me realize how lucky I was. Well, not always completely lucky. After I got hired as executive director for the Simon Fraser branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, they told me they didn’t have enough money to pay me! Yes, I was pissed off! I started a thrift store (charity shop) largely run by our mental health clients, which made a lot of money and helped pull us out of financial difficulties. It also gave our clients a chance to give back and learn new skills.

Helping to finance the charity

 Which job appealed to you the most?

They were all interesting. Running the nonprofit was probably the most rewarding because it was the most complex, and I saw the results of my work in the daily lives of the people we were supporting.

What gave you the impetus to begin writing, what are essentially memoirs?

I had to write a lot of really boring funding proposals in the ten years I worked in nonprofits. I promised myself when I retired at 65, I would write something, more interesting, more fun, more entertaining. I hoped I achieved that! Plus, I only usually read non-fiction so memoirs just rolled out naturally.

Rod had a taste for adventure

Which one gets the most comments?

“I Need My Yacht by Friday – True Tales from the Boat Repair Yard,” gets the most comments and sells the most. People who have run any business can relate and boat owners can really understand the various themes.

How do you have such a good recall?

Some notes, some photos, but I have an excellent memory for emotional events, they just stick in my brain. As I had a number of different careers, there were lots of first time experiences. It’s easy to remember those. I often can recall word for word what was said — it just resonates and sticks in my brain.

Yes, where is Belize?

If you were starting out writing now, would you do anything differently?

Yes, I would start earlier than I did at age 65.

As a migrant do you ever feel nostalgia for ‘home’ or is ‘home’ wherever you are?

I miss the English countryside, the humour, the pubs, the regional accents and BBC radio. I don’t miss snobby, pretentious people or the class system. To a point, home is where I am, except I lived in Italy for a year in 2008, and that didn’t feel like home. Ha, I could write about that!

What do you like to read? Any favourite authors or genres?

Alexandra Fuller, Farley Mowat, Gavin Maxwell, Gerald Durrell, Lawrence Anthony, Cheryl Strayed, Jared Diamond.

I think I have read all of your books, but my favourite is the one about managing the Charity Shop.

Thanks, Sonia. In some ways, it was the most difficult to write, so I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Rod is currently working on a memoir of his earlier life, provisionally called The Shilling Thieves. I have read some extracts and it is hilarious. So, look out for that soon

All of  Rod’s books are available on Amazon and if you are in Canada through rodbakerbooks.com

Rod left home at 16 years old and went to sea as a deckhand. He migrated from England to Canada at age 21and found work as a mate on the British Columbia tugboats. After the tug sank in the Haida Gwaii islands, he quit going to sea and worked as an apprentice boat builder, marine repair shop owner, psychotherapist and executive director of non-profit mental health associations.

Since retiring from full-time work in 2012, he has written four memoirs and is currently working on a book of humorous short stories.  rodbakerbooks.com

Featured

What Did I Read in November 2021?

November is officially the last month of Spring in the Southern hemisphere. I live in Perth, Australia and Spring weather is typically unpredictable. We went through our wettest Spring on record which gave me plenty of reading time. And yes, I did begin a bit of early Christmas reading.

Staying at home with a good book

The Perfectly Imperfect Woman by Milly Johnson 

Marnie Salt has made so many mistakes in her life that she fears she will never get on the right track. But when she ‘meets’ an old lady in a baking chatroom and begins confiding in her, little does she know how her life will change. 
 
Arranging to see each other for lunch, Marnie finds discovers that Lilian is every bit as mad and delightful as she’d hoped – and that she owns a whole village in the Yorkshire Dales, which has been passed down through generations. And when Marnie needs a refuge after a crisis, she ups sticks and heads for Wychwell – a temporary measure, so she thinks. 
 
But soon Marnie finds that Wychwell has claimed her as its own and she is duty-bound not to leave. Even if what she has to do makes her as unpopular as a force 12 gale in a confetti factory! But everyone has imperfections, as Marnie comes to realise, and that is not such a bad thing – after all, your flaws are perfect for the heart that is meant to love you. 
 
The Perfectly Imperfect Woman is the heart-warming and hilarious new novel from the queen of feel-good fiction – a novel of family, secrets, love and redemption … and broken hearts mended and made all the stronger for it.

My Review

A new Milly Johnson book filled with warmth and humour and that intangible feel-good factor. She may well be the successor to Maeve Binchy, her books are positive and enjoyable, but she does not shy away from heartbreak either. I enjoy that her books are quite down to earth and deal with the less fashionable North of England. Fell in love with her hero too.

The Man Who Died Twice byRichard Osman

It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them? 

My Review. Oh, the fun was just beginning in the Thursday Murder Club. Here is a plot as clever and intriguing as any I have read. I am invested in these characters, the enigmatic Elizabeth, the guileless Joyce, providing her with a perfect foil. Ibrahim’s cerebral approach contrasts strongly with Ron’s wish to deal with things directly. This time though, their opponents are ruthless and violent. Even Elizabeth has to tread carefully, especially when her past is involved. Can’t wait for book number three.

The Distant Shores by Santa Montefiore ·

Margot Hart travels to Ireland to write a biography of the famous Deverill family. She knows she must speak to the current Lord Deverill – JP – if she is to uncover the secrets of the past. A notorious recluse, JP won’t be an easy man to crack. But Margot is determined – and she is not a woman who is easily put off.

What she never expected was to form a close bond with JP and be drawn into his family disputes. Shouldering the blame for running up debts that forced him to sell the family castle, JP is isolated and vulnerable. With help from his handsome son Colm, it seems as though Margot might be the only one who can restore JP’s fortunes.

Will the family ever succeed in healing rifts that have been centuries in the making?

My Review.

When I began reading this book, I hadn’t realised it was book five of a series. Fortunately, I was able to read it as a stand-alone. I enjoyed it, but perhaps my reading would have been more nuanced had I read the previous four books. Some in the family are nervous about what a biography may uncover and don’t trust Margot. She has an uncompromising approach to life, enjoy where you are and who you are with, and then, move on. Gradually and perhaps surprisingly, she gains the reclusive JP’s trust. But is his trust misplaced? Will she tell a balanced story?

The Cottage at Plum Tree Bay by Darcie Boleyn

One summer can change everything…

Catherine Bromley has spent her life in Penhallow Sands, dedicating herself to work and supporting her emotionally fragile mother. Since her father left, it’s always been the two of them and Catherine has no interest in romance. What’s the point when men just leave? And besides, her mother needs her.

But when handsome novelist Mark Coleman arrives to stay at the cottage overlooking nearby Plum Tree Bay, Catherine’s world is changed. She’s soon bumping into Mark everywhere – or being thrown at him by her matchmaking friend! Can Mark let go of his painful past to be the man that Catherine can rely on? And will Catherine find the courage to let love in?

A heart-warming romance set in Cornwall and perfect for fans of Holly Martin and Phillipa Ashley.

My Review.

An escapist read, set in Cornwall. Catherine has a lot on her plate, she can’t think about romance. Mark has left his past behind and is having a new start in Cornwall. Neither is looking for romance, but what if fate has other ideas?

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner.

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them – setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose – selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate – and not everyone will survive. 

My Review.

I chose this book based on its title and blurb, I usually enjoy dual timeline stories. This one worked well balancing the intrigue of the past with the present day. Disenchanted with her marriage, Caroline is spending time alone and reassessing her life and past. An impulsive stint of ‘mud larking’ ( searching for found objects left behind by the tide) propels her in a new direction. The search is intriguing and as it progresses Caroline sympathises with the women desperate enough to want to escape. Can she find the answer to a forgotten mystery?

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim

Become enamored with the splendor of Paris in this heartwarming and delightful story about writing one’s own destiny and finding love along the way.

Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people’s fortunes — or misfortunes — in tea leaves.

Ever since she can remember, Vanessa Yu has been able to see people’s fortunes at the bottom of their teacups. To avoid blurting out their fortunes, she converts to coffee, but somehow fortunes escape and find a way to complicate her life and the ones of those around her. To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai.

The day before her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa accidentally sees her own fate: death by traffic accident. She decides that she can’t truly live until she can find a way to get rid of her uncanny abilities. When her eccentric aunt, Evelyn, shows up with a tempting offer to whisk her away, Vanessa says au revoir to America and bonjour to Paris. While working at Evelyn’s tea stall at a Parisian antique market, Vanessa performs some matchmaking of her own, attempting to help reconnect her aunt with a lost love. As she learns more about herself and the root of her gifts, she realizes one thing to be true: knowing one’s destiny isn’t a curse, but being unable to change it is.

My Review.

A winning combination

Like many other readers, I am drawn to books about Paris. This is an intriguing concept of East meets West as Vanessa Yu goes from America to Paris. Her large extended family has various occult abilities, but Vanessa is intent on denying her destiny. Surely in Paris, things will be different? Despite coaching by her Aunt Evelyn, Vanessa doesn’t want to use her abilities. She fears seeing death and disaster, as well as being known as the family screw-up. She does however try to reunite her aunt with a previous love and learns to trust her instincts more.

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick 

Librarian Martha Storm has always found it easier to connect with books than people – though not for lack of trying. She keeps careful lists of how to help others in her superhero-themed notebook. And yet, sometimes it feels like she’s invisible.

All of that changes when a book of fairy tales arrives on her doorstep. Inside, Martha finds a dedication written to her by her best friend – her grandmother Zelda – who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. When Martha discovers a clue within the book that her grandmother may still be alive, she becomes determined to discover the truth. As she delves deeper into Zelda’s past, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever.

Filled with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and vivid characters, The Library of Lost and Found is a heart-warming and poignant tale of how one woman must take control of her destiny to write her own happy ending

My Review.

Probably my favourite out of this month’s reading-I wanted to race along reading it, but I  never wanted it to end! If you are passionate about books and libraries and love fairy tales, this book should delight you. Martha is one of those good but taken for granted people, who help others at her own expense. Unexpectedly finding a book of fairy tales propels her into a  different way of living and reveals a family secret that changed many lives.

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters.

In this charming, feel-good debut novel, a cynical assistant at a screenwriting agency must re-enact the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedy movies in order to help her #1 client get his scriptwriting mojo back–but can a real-life meet-cute be in store for someone who doesn’t believe in happily ever after?

After seven years as an assistant, 29-year-old Evie Summers is ready to finally get the promotion she deserves. But now the TV and film agency she’s been running behind the scenes is in trouble, and Evie will lose her job unless she can convince the agency’s biggest and most arrogant client, Ezra Chester, to finish writing the script for a Hollywood romantic comedy.

The catch? Ezra is suffering from writer’s block–and he’ll only put pen to paper if singleton Evie can prove to him that you can fall in love like they do in the movies. With the future of the agency in jeopardy, Evie embarks on a mission to meet a man the way Sally met Harry or Hugh Grant met Julia Roberts.

But in the course of testing out the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedies IRL, not only will Evie encounter one humiliating situation after another, but she’ll have to confront the romantic past that soured her on love. In a novel as hilarious as it is heartwarming, debut author Rachel Winters proves that sometimes real life is better than the movies–and that the best kind of meet-cutes happen when you least expect them.

My Review.

Could it work, can we set out to meet cute and win? Evie must prove that it can to Ezra Scott, otherwise her job and the agency are in jeopardy. Going from one hilarious attempt to another Evie is holding up her end of the bargain, but is Ezra holding up his and writing? By midway through the story, I had guessed the conclusion, but it was a fun journey getting there.

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan 

The Christmas Party is a delicious, page-turning story of romance, family and secrets, by the Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Swan.

When Declan Lorne, the last remaining knight in Ireland, dies suddenly, an ancient title passes with him. But his estate on Ireland’s rugged south-west coast is left to his three daughters. The two eldest, Ottie and Pip, inherit in line with expectations, but to everyone’s surprise – and dismay – it is the errant baby of the family, Willow, who gets the castle.

Why her? Something unknown – something terrible – made her turn her back on her family three years earlier, escaping to Dublin and vowing never to return. So, when Willow quickly announces she is selling up, her revenge seems sweet and the once-close sisters are pushed to breaking point: in desperation, Pip risks everything to secure her own future, and Ottie makes a decision that will ruin lives. It’s each woman for herself.

Before moving in, Connor Shaye, the prospective new owner, negotiates throwing a lavish party at the castle just days before Christmas – his hello, their goodbye. But as their secrets begin to catch up with them, Ottie, Willow and Pip are forced to ask themselves which is harder: stepping into the future, or letting go of the past? 

I couldn’t resist this gorgeous cover!

My Review.

Sister can be so different, and here each sister is convinced that she is acting for the best. Willow risks alienating her entire family but believes she is acting following her father’s wishes. Do things matter more than people? As the book moves along it gives an insight into each sisters’ point of view and why they act as they do. Complex family and other relationships add twists and turns to the plot. Well written and enjoyable.


The comforts of home with books and cats.

For me personally, it has been a tough year and following a death in the family, I will be spending Christmas alone. I have been invited to a couple of places but don’t think I will be good company. My plan is to hibernate at home ( from the heat, not the cold!) with lots of books and cats and Netflix.

 

Featured

Chatting with Kath Engebretson about The Blooming of Alison Brennan.

Hi Kath, It’s lovely to welcome you back to talk about your new book. The Blooming of Alison Brennan which was published recently by Next Chapter.

Kath Engbretson.

A family full of secrets…and one girl who must survive.

Sixteen-year-old Alison Brennan’s mother, Bernadette, is an agoraphobic hoarder, and her father Harry seems to have no past. Struggling every day, Alison seeks the help of a school counsellor.

When an old homeless man is found dead in a Melbourne park, Alison’s life changes. Somehow, the man’s death is connected to her family and the Polish Home Army.

Fighting for her future, can Alison unravel the mystery of her family and the dead man, and find a way to place her trust in others again?

Available in paperback or on Kindle.

I enjoyed reading it and found Alison such an engaging and relatable character.

Alison lives with her agoraphobic hoarder mother, and her father Harry, who lets life happen. Alison’s everyday life is a struggle, even to get herself to school. As a teacher and academic, did you encounter any children of hoarders?

Not especially of hoarders, but as a teacher, you often encounter children or young people who struggle with difficult home situations. It may be that they’re a carer for a sick parent, or the family may be breaking up, or sometimes it’s just emotional and physical neglect. As a teacher, you can be a listener, but most schools have specialist counsellors or welfare officers who have the skills and knowledge to help. I modelled the school counsellor, Stella Goodall, on such a person.

Photo by Lance Grandahi at Unsplash.

Most of us will have seen what a hoarder’s home is like from TV. It’s certainly not a normal environment. What inspired you to write about such an unusual topic?

From reading books and articles about hoarding, I began to try to imagine what it must be like for a child or teenager to be trapped in such a situation. They would either be buried in it or try to rise above it. I had to give Alison lots of inner strength and independence to cope with it, but also empathy, or it would have made her hate her parents.

Alison is lucky that she gains help from a school counsellor, but she is also a strong character herself.

Yes, she’s very strong, and in the story, I try to show that it was a characteristic she inherited from her maternal grandmother.

Lucky to have a loving grandmother.

I got impatient with her father, but when his story is revealed, I gained more understanding. I enjoyed how each chapter gave us a different person’s perspective.

Had you always planned to write the book that way, or did you choose to do that later on?

No, it evolved. It began being a story of a child of a hoarder, but then the characters grew. I wove in the grandfather and the uncle and his partner, to give Alison a support base, then the events that unfolded are indirectly based on actual events.

We ignore the homeless.

The link between finding the homeless man dead in the park and Alison was a surprise. As were the stories of heroism from the Polish Home Army. You didn’t overload the book with information, but it was clear that you had done your research. Theirs is a story that deserves to be told.

Was the linkage always obvious to you or did that develop as you wrote?

The homeless man found dead in a Melbourne park actually happened some years ago, but I changed it in every detail. Making the homeless man a Polish refugee was something I wanted to do. A friend of our family married a Polish man who had come to Australia after the war. He had been a prisoner of war in Poland and was an activist for Poland’s freedom after the Nazi takeover. He expressed his activism through poetry, and the State Library of Victoria has three of his books of poems, all in Polish of course so I couldn’t read them, not knowing the language. The refugees who came to Australia after the war were often sent to remote places to work on big constructions such as the Snowy Mountains scheme.

Refugees could have been lost at sea. Their experiences too painful to share

Imagine the loneliness and pain, in those stark conditions, especially since many of them would also have lost their families to the war. I try to tell that story through Hobie and his son. Richard Flanagan writes of this immigrant experience in Tasmania in The Sound of One Hand Clapping.

What do you hope people take away from the story if anything?

The triumph of the human spirit, that change is always a possibility, that love is everywhere and when we think it’s not possible, it can come from behind and surprise us.

Just a little bit of hope.

How long did the book take to write and what’s next on the agenda for you?

I wrote this over one year, but I didn’t find a publisher until now. Reading it again, I’m very proud of it. I’m working on another book now, set in the Victorian Mallee area. I hope to have it out next year.

Oh, I will look forward to that. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

Thank you, Sonia, for your interest and support.

You can find the book at Abe Books, Book Depository, or Amazon.

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Featured

Writers, Can You Survive Danger & Death in the Conflict Challenge?

Another great book to add to your library.

Do you have a bookshelf of writing guides? I do, and well, it’s an addiction, but a good one. I’m going to flag one for you to look into: The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Vol. 1).

This book is from Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus. I bought that when it first came out and I bought several others of their guides- all really helpful and great value.

I’m such a fan of their writing guides I joined their Street Team. Every time they release a book they do something epic and fun to celebrate, and I get to tell you all about it!

But first, you’re probably curious about this book, so let me break it down. The Conflict Thesaurus is set up like the other books in their series: part how-to, part thesaurus. This guide shows writers how to maximize conflict and use it to build tension, drive the plot, reveal your character’s inner layers, and most importantly, keep readers glued to the page.

It’s packed with conflict scenarios like Moral Dilemmas, Ticking Clocks, Obstacles, No-Win Scenarios, Temptations and more. It can help you nail down your plot and character arc, so check it out!

Conflict is so often personal

Now, speaking of conflict, I have a BIG question for you.

Can You Survive Danger as Well as Your Favorite Protagonist? You’re probably pretty good at throwing problems at your characters and making life difficult for them. After all, that’s part of being a writer. But do you ever think about how you’d do if you had to face the same situations? If you were the protagonist, would you hold up to the pressure? Would you make good decisions and succeed, or screw up and fail?

Let’s find out.

Introducing… The Conflict Challenge

Become the protagonist in a story Angela & Becca created using scenarios found in the Conflict Thesaurus to see if you’ve got what it takes to win.

The Conflict Challenge is fun, campy, and will put your wits and instincts to the test.

And if you survive, you will win some cool stuff!

I survived, but I am a lot braver in fiction than in real life!

GIVEAWAY ALERT

While you’re checking out the Conflict Challenge at Writers Helping Writers, make sure to also enter their Conflict Thesaurus release day giveaway, too. But hurry – it ends October 15th.

So, take the Conflict Challenge…if you dare. And don’t forget to come back and let me know how you did against Camp Deadwood!

Now I have to see if I can survive on Team Angela.
Featured

What Was I Reading in September 2021 ?

September was a month filled with rain , so what better time to curl up with a good book, a cosy cuppa and a comfy cat? My reading was a bit random , but overall I thought it was a good mix of fiction and non-fiction. Do you like me, read both fiction and non fiction? Let me know! Some books I pick because I have heard good things about them, some because a cover appeals to me ,and some are simply impromptu choices.

Does your cat want to be involved when you read?

September reading started with this book.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

In 1901, the word ‘Bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford  English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor. Esme rescues the slip and stashes it in an old wooden case that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. While she dedicates her life to the Oxford English Dictionary, secretly, she begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Set when the women’s suffrage movement was at its height and the Great War loomed, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. It’s a delightful, lyrical and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words, and the power of language to shape the world and our experience of it.

I thought this was a beautiful cover.

My Review.

The book was a gift and I had it since Christmas but felt no urgency to read it. I started to read and was gradually drawn in, stories of motherless girls have a particular appeal for me, as that was much of my childhood experience. Esme is lucky that Lizzie, the kitchen maid is devoted to her and helps steer her through to womanhood. Her childhood is odd and there is no mention of her going to school regularly. Later, she is sent to boarding school, which isn’t a happy experience. A solitary and peculiar child, her ideas are shaped by the male lexicographers and her adored father. Without their influence would she have ever considered the importance of words? But she does, and as she grows up realises that women’s experience is negated and marginalised. While it isn’t a fast-paced read, I found it interesting enough to keep reading. It is on the more literary end of the spectrum.

Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas.

Can she find her recipe for happiness?

Del and her husband Ollie moved to a beautiful village in Provence for a fresh start after years of infertility struggles. But six weeks after they arrive, they’re packing the removal van once more. As Del watches the van leave for England, she suddenly realises exactly what will make her happier…a new life in France – without Ollie.

Now alone, all Del has is a crumbling farmhouse, a mortgage to pay and a few lavender plants. What on earth is she going to do? Discovering an old recipe book at the market run by the rather attractive Fabian, Del starts to bake. But can her new-found passion really help her let go of the past and lead to true happiness?

A heart-warming tale about reclaiming your life, set amongst the lavender fields of Provence. Perfect escapism from the author of Late Summer in the Vineyard and The Honey Farm on the Hill.

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A sunny cover for this book

My Review. An escapist fantasy, that is easy to read and as beguiling as the sunshine on holiday. A mid-life woman starting over in France. Somehow, she has to make it work, as her options are limited and she has no intention of returning to Ollie or England. I had to suspend disbelief a little at the idea that an English woman could win praise for her cooking in France. Peopled with a lively mix of characters and with enough conflict to maintain my interest. I enjoyed this book.

So easy to get lost in a good book.

A Year at the Chateau by Dick and Angel Strawbridge.

Like many couples, Dick and Angel had long dreamed of living in France, but where others might settle for a modest bolthole in the French countryside, the Strawbridge’s fell in love with a 19th-century fairytale château, complete with 45 rooms, seven outbuildings, 12 acres of land and its own moat.

Throwing caution to the wind, Dick and Angel swapped their two-bedroom flat in East London for an abandoned and derelict castle in the heart of the Loire valley and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime with their two young children Arthur and Dorothy.

Sharing their full journey for the first time, A Year at the Château follows Dick and Angel from when they first moved to France in the depths of winter and found bedrooms infested with flies, turrets inhabited by bats, the wind rattling through cracked windows, and just one working toilet, which flushed into the moat, through to the monumental efforts that went into readying the château for their unforgettable wedding and their incredibly special first Christmas.

Along the way we’ll read glorious descriptions of rural life in France, with charming characters, delicious food and wonderful seasonal produce, together with the extraordinary list of renovations and restorations Dick and Angel completed, many of which were never shown on TV.

As warm and entertaining as their much-loved show, A Year at the Château is a truly irresistible story of adventure and heart, epic ambitions and a huge amount of hard graft. 

The inimitable Strawbridge family.

My Review.

I think you could enjoy this book even if you weren’t a fan of the TV show. It takes us back to almost the beginning of Dick and Angel’s story. If you have watched the show, you have probably marvelled at what they do and how they do it. Here we get the dual perspective, the practical from Dick and the creative and quirky from Angel. The practical logistics were daunting. They were made even more so by being in a foreign country, trying to talk to the tradesman, as well as deal with permits and paperwork. To keep the couple afloat financially, Dick had to complete contracted filming work in America. Leaving Angel alone with two kids under two, both trying to start the work towards their dream.

How do you read? Tablet, Phone , or physical book?

The Shelley Beach Writers’ Group by Jane Love. What do you do when your husband dumps you for his PA, your company goes broke and your nearly published novel is cancelled?

Gina, a barely 50-something corporate high-flier, is counting her losses when a chance meeting throws a sea change her way. A job as a house/dog-sitter – albeit in a minus one-star leaky cottage in windswept Shelly Beach – seems the perfect opportunity to relax and regroup. But Gina hasn’t counted on the locals, and soon finds herself reluctantly convening the writers’ group, babysitting, baking, seal-watching, bicycling . . . and perhaps even falling in love.

With a cast of unforgettable characters, The Shelly Beach Writers’ Group is an irresistible story of reinvention. 

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My Review.

I wanted to like this book, but it didn’t quite grab me, and I could easily have put it down. It had all the ingredients, but somehow the recipe was off for me. Perhaps it was the number of assets that Gina had, from an Amani coat to a spare diamond ring, and some serious designer clothes. The book seemed more like a monologue and that can get tedious. Some of the email repartee was fun.

My cat is seldom so well behaved.
The Real History Behind Foyle’s War by Rod Green

A comprehensive guide to the popular TV show, giving evidence the vast amount of historical research conducted prior to the writing of every episode

This fascinating book provides an intriguing insight into law and order on the home front between 1939 and 1945, comparing the Foyle’s War storylines and characters with real crimes and real people from the war years. It offers a wealth of background information on the living and working conditions for ordinary people during this time period, as well as on the role of the police in wartime and the multitude of crimes on which the plotlines of Foyle’s War are based. Complete with an introduction from the writer and creator of Foyle’s War himself, this is the ultimate companion guide for fans of the show, as well as anyone with an interest in military history.

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A well loved TV series based on fact.

My Review. An engrossing read providing the facts behind the fiction. Foyle’s War was exemplary for its authenticity. The book gives insight into what was a difficult job for authorities such as the police. Crime skyrocketed by 57%, the murder rate increased and their manpower declined. Looting and opportunistic thefts were increasing all the time. Representative of all the unsung heroes who kept on with their jobs during increasingly difficult times.

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The Oyster Catcher By Jo Thomas.

Dooleybridge, County Galway. Population: 482 (or thereabouts). The last place Fiona Clutterbuck expects to end up, alone, on her wedding night.
But after the words ‘I do’ have barely left her mouth, that’s exactly where she is – with only her sequined shoes and a crashed camper van for company.
One thing is certain: Fi can’t go back. So when the opportunity arises to work for Sean Thornton, the local oyster farmer, she jumps at the chance. Now Fi must navigate suspicious locals, jealous rivals and a wild, unpredictable boss if she’s to find a new life, and love, on the Irish coast. And nothing – not even a chronic fear of water – is going to hold her back.

Join Fi on her romantic, unpredictable adventure as she learns the rules of the ocean – and picks up a few pearls of Irish wisdom along the way.

My Review.

Having recently read a book by Jo Thomas, I eagerly selected this one. Subsequently, I realised this was her first published book. I can’t say I ever contemplated an oystercatcher as a hero and Sean is a man of few words. The only time he speaks is to talk about oyster catching. He’s also prone to moody silences, so not my idea of a hero. On several occasions, an abrupt transition in point of view confused me.

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Loved this dreamy cover. I picked this book after hearing the author speak.

Journey’s End By Jennifer Scoullar.

From the author of Currawong Creek and Turtle Reef comes a beautiful story of family, friendship and the healing power of love.

When Sydney botanist Kim Sullivan and her husband inherit Journey’s End, a rundown farm high on the Great Eastern Escarpment, they dream of one day restoring it to its natural state. Ten years later, however, Kim is tragically widowed. Selling up is the only practical option, so she and her children head to the mountains to organise the sale. The last thing Kim expects is for Journey’s End to cast its wild spell on them all.

The family decide to stay, and Kim forges on with plans to rewild the property, propagating plants and acquiring a menagerie of native animals. But wayward wildlife, hostile farmers and her own lingering grief make the task seem hopeless. That is, until she meets the mysterious Taj, a man who has a way with animals. Kim begins to feel that she might find love again. But Taj has his own tragic past – one that could drive a wedge between them that can not be overcome .

Published June 13th 2016 by Penguin Books Australia.

Can a city girl love country life?

My Review. It was easy to sympathise with Kim and her desire to get away from her previous life. The sadness of her husband’s death, and her son being bullied at school were two compelling reasons to escape. She plans to visit their property Journey’s End and get it up for sale

At first, the place resurrects painful memories of her husband, but the longer she spends there the more she feels at home. Her children settle easily and Kim finds solace in the beauty around her. Roped in by her neighbour to help care for injured wildlife, she gradually feels more at home.

Ben, the local real estate agent is attentive and then there is the enigmatic Taj, a man of few words. As her emotions begin to settle, she contemplates at least a year in this peaceful retreat. Somehow, the children persuade her to adopt a puppy, and life feels even more perfect. But perfection comes at a price and soon Kim is reluctantly at odds with neighbours and friends. Its a book of quiet charm, which beguiled me with its characters and setting.

The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies.

A sweeping new novel from the number one Sunday Times bestselling author of The Tea Planter’s Wife.

In 1940s Tuscany, Contessa Sofia de’ Corsi’s peaceful home in a medieval villa among the olive groves has been upturned by the arrival of German soldiers. She is desperate to help her friends in the village fight back in any way she can, all while keeping her efforts secret from her husband Lorenzo, who fears for their safety. When Maxine, a no-nonsense Italian-American, arrives in Tuscany to help the resistance, the two women forge an uneasy alliance. Before long they find themselves entangled in a dangerous game with the Nazis, each trying to save the ones they love. 

‘Dinah Jefferies has a remarkable gift for conjuring up another time and place with lush descriptions, full of power and intensity’ Kate Furnivall.

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My Review.

It was interesting and enlightening to read a story set in wartime Italy. So much has been written about wartime France, so this was intriguing. The author set out a timeline of wartime events at the front of the book, which helped to contextualise the story. It was easy to visualise the time and setting while becoming involved in the lives of Sofia, the Contessa and Maxine. When reading a book like this, one asks the inevitable question, would I become involved, would I be so brave?

Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart

Renovations are hell. And that’s before you find the body beneath the floorboards. An intriguing mystery from a stylish new voice in crime fiction, for readers of Kerry Greenwood and Holly Throsby.

When your builder finds bones under the floor of your heritage home, what do you do? For TV researcher Poppy McGowan, the first step is to find out if the bones are human (which means calling in the cops and delaying her renovations) or animal (which doesn’t).

Unfortunately, ‘help’ comes in the form of Dr Julieanne Weaver, archaeologist, political hopeful, and Poppy’s old enemy. She declares the bones evidence of a rare breed of fat-tailed sheep,  and slaps a heritage order on the site. The resultant archaeological dig introduces Poppy to Tol Lang, the best-looking archaeologist she’s ever met – and also Julieanne’s boyfriend.

When Julieanne is found murdered in Poppy’s house, both she and the increasingly attractive Tol are considered suspects – and so Poppy uses her media contacts and news savvy to investigate other suspects. Did Julieanne have enemies in the right-wing Australian Family party, for which she was seeking preselection, or in the affiliated Radiant Joy Church? Or at the Museum of New South Wales, among her rivals and ex-boyfriends? And who was her secret lover?

Can Poppy save herself, and Tol … and finally get her house back? 

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My Review. I found this a fast-paced and entertaining read. It was interesting to see behind the scenes at the ABC and the museum. Poppy is an engaging character and her interactions with several of the suspects made amusing reading. Julieanne, the victim, is portrayed as cold and unlikable, and it was difficult to feel any sympathy for her. Potential sparks are flying between  Poppy and Tol although both are in relationships. I suspect you may not enjoy this book if you are a right-wing conservative voter, but for the rest of us, it was fun!

The Blooming of Alison Brennan by Kath Engebretson.

A family full of secrets, and one girl who must survive. Sixteen year old Alison Brennan’s mother is an agoraphobic hoarder, and her father, Harry, seems to have no past. When an old homeless man is found dead in a Melbourne park, Alison’s life changes. Somehow the man’s death is connected to her family and the Polish Home Army. Fighting for her future, can Alison unravel the mystery of her family and the dead man, and find a way to place her trust in others again? 

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My Review.

Intensely readable and engaging, I enjoyed this book and learnt a lot through it too. Fiction enables us to live other lives and to begin to understand other perspectives. Although there are things that are confronting in the book. All the topics were handled sensitively and with understanding and compassion. The author’s meticulous research gave her characterisation an added depth.

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Meet Aussie Expat Katrina Coll, talking about her new book, A Match Made for TV.

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Katrina Coll to talk about her new book

An expat Aussie, Katrina lives in rural Ireland where the countryside really is forty shades of green. She is a keen cook, which is why she’s becoming a reluctant runner with the support of the family dog, Beetlejuice.

Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book A Match Made for TV  which released 16th September.

Author Katrina Coll

Ria De Lorenzo is a damn good doctor. Or was. Burnt out before she’s begun, a three-month paid vacation as the medical consultant to a reality TV show is just what she needs to recover her mojo. 

Cancer survivor and headline grabber Griffin Stromberg is desperate to reboot his ultra-macho image. Typecast by years of fame, showcasing his softer side with a picture-perfect relationship should do the trick. Until Ria breaches show protocol and gets Griff’s fake girlfriend disqualified. 

Now Ria’s only hope of clocking out of reality is to check in to a fantasy by becoming his new partner. Griff, however, wants their relationship to be the real deal, not one of his infamous life-hacks. 

Can a man renowned for taking shortcuts prove he’s ready to commit to a forever relationship? Or will reality bite once filming is over? 

Note: This is a steamy romance, which includes swearing and steamy bathroom sex.

What a great cover!

Oh, sounds great! Are you writing anything else?

My work in progress returns to the world of reality tv with a reunion romance. My couple are paired on a bake-off—one is a chef, the other a cook. The fallout from past betrayals is massive but they have to work through their past for a much bigger reason than a tv show.

We will discuss your writing, but first some quick-fire questions.

Late nights or early mornings? Late nights. I am not a morning person.

What’s for breakfast? I often do overnight oats in jars with yogurt and fruit.

A healthy start to the day.

Night out or Netflix? Netflix on weekends. Weeknights I write.

G &T or Tea/coffee? While I do love a pink gin and elderflower tonic (*Foodie alert), I cannot do without decent coffee.

Perfect weekend? These days it’s any weekend when I get out the house.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An author.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? It ended up a roast rack of rosemary lamb with Catalan-style greens, roasted root veggies, and baby new potatoes. For a bit of fun, here’s a pic:

Nothing better than a home cooked meal.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Taking the dog for a walk always cheers me up.

Your hero? My nanna. She’s a total legend.

If you could choose three people (living or dead ) to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? They’d have to be living because I’m prejudiced against zombies. Actually, I’d just love to be able to hold dinner parties again…

Dinner parties seem like a distant dream!

Do you have any non-writing related interests? I’m re-learning the piano (thanks lockdown!) and I’m going for my second black belt. (The first was a loooong time ago.) What would surprise people to know about you? If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise!

I know you have a dog, but I could not resist this picture with the cat!

Life lessons-what do you wish you’d know earlier? Persistence is more important than intelligence.

Questions about Writing. What is your writing process like? Iterative. I write, re-write, write, edit. It is not efficient but it’s how my brain works.

Do you have any other projects are in the works? I have two paranormal romances waiting to see the light of day, a medieval romance (currently shelved), and the sequel I mentioned.

Have you ever resuscitated a project you’d shelved? What helped it work better the second time around? I have some stories on life support so long it’s embarrassing. The bake-off book is one example. I wrote a version before A Match Made for TV but realised that while I had tension, drama and attraction, the relationship never built. Now I build the relationship first.

A competitive environment can spark rivalries and maybe romance?

If you were to genre-hop, which genres would you most like to try writing? Fantasy and historical.

What writing resources have been most helpful to you? The most singularly useful text was Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes. But collectively, it’s been by joining writing organisations like the Romance Writers of Australia.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey? I wish I’d had critique partners sooner instead of trying to do it all solo.

A critique partner makes such a difference.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? I’m still at the stage of fitting writing around my work.

What inspired your new book? My love of cooking. And the Aussie TV show the Cook and the Chef.

Always something to learn in the kitchen.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Getting new words down and keeping them.

Did you do any research for your current book? I have a chronic need to research, so yes.

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Finish the damn book has to be the best.’

“A writer is a person who writes every day” is the worst.

Best money you have spent as a writer? Buying Scrivener.

What are you reading now? Playing it Safe by Amy Andrews. And the next book on pre-order is The King’s Cowboy by Madeline Ash.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I’m looking looking forward to hearing what readers say about my style.

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Current fave is The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.

Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Almost everything by Diana Wynne Jones.

Available in lots of online formats.

You can catch up with Katrina here.

Web             https://www.katrinacoll.com

Facebook    https://www.facebook.com/KatrinaCollAuthor

Instagram   https://www.instagram.com/katrinacollauthor/

Pinterest     https://www.pinterest.ie/KatrinaCollAuthor/a-match-made-for-tv/

BUY LINKS: 

Here’s the publisher link (best value as on sale): https://www.evernightpublishing.com/a-match-made-for-tv-by-katrina-coll/

https://books2read.com/A-Match-Made-for-TV

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What was I Reading in August 2021?

Where do you read? I read practically anywhere, my Kindle allows me to take a book wherever I go, but I love the physicality of print books. Like many people, I enjoy the pleasure and comfort of reading in bed. Do you judge a book by its cover? It seems that I frequently do, a realisation that had escaped my notice until now.

A cuppa and a good book.

 The Broken Spine by Dorothy St James.

The first in an exciting new series featuring Trudell Becket, a spunky librarian who will stop at nothing to save her beloved books and catch a killer!

Trudell Becket finds herself in a bind when her library is turned into a state-of-the-art bookless ‘technological center’. A library with no books breaks Trudell’s book-loving heart and she decides to rescue hundreds of beloved tomes slated for the recycle center. Under the cover of darkness, Trudell sets up a secret book room in the library’s basement and opens it to her loyal patrons.

When the town councilman, who was a vocal supporter of the library’s transformation is crushed by an overturned shelf of DVDs, Trudell becomes the prime suspect. She was the only person in the library at the time of his murder, or so the police believe. But the visitors to Trudell’s secret book room were actually all there too.

If she tells the police about the backdoor patrons who were in the library at the time of the murder, she’d have to explain about the secret book room and risk losing the books. To keep herself out of jail, Trudell–with the help of a group of dedicated readers–decides to investigate. She quickly finds herself on the same page with a killer who would love to write her final chapter. 

Excellent cover of the genre.

My Review.

By now you have probably realised I have a soft spot for books about books, bookshops, and libraries. So, when I saw this intriguing title, I grabbed it immediately. Trudell Becket is a passionate librarian, who is faced with the imminent destruction of her beloved library. The library is going digital and not just digital, they are going to purge the library of books. It will be a library without a book. When the architect of this scheme is murdered, suspicion falls on Trudell. She knows she is innocent, but how to prove it? I found it an entertaining read with enough red herrings to keep me amused.

 The Dream Weavers by Barbara Erskine.

The new gripping historical novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of Lady of Hay.

A nest of vipers, they called us. But that is not how it was.

Mercia, 775 AD. In the grand Saxon halls of Mercia, King Offa rules with ruthless ambition. Aggressive and relentlessly acquisitive, his three daughters are destined to marry advantageously in service of their country. Eadburh, the youngest, is neither the cleverest nor the most beautiful of the three. But, with her father’s ruthless spirit and the secret gifts passed down from her mother, she is determined to carve her own path in the world.

2021. Simon Armstrong has escaped to a secluded cottage on the English-Welsh borders, desperate to finish his book about Anglo-Saxon King Offa. But he soon finds himself disturbed by unsettling noises and visions. Calling in local expert Bea to identify the issue, Simon hopes to get back some peace – but soon Bea is as embroiled as he is, feeling increasingly connected to a ghostly presence that is growing ever-stronger in its desire for revenge.

And when Simon’s daughter disappears, centuries of secrets and resentment begin to tumble out…

An epic tale of deceit, revenge and exile from the queen of timeslip historical fiction.

Time is running out as the past and present collide…

I found this cover dull.

 My Review.

This book captured my imagination and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. I found the transfer from past to present totally believable and kept wanting to read just that bit more. If you are a history aficionado, like timeslip fiction and enjoy a touch of the otherworldly, this book is for you. I found it interesting that due to skilful writing I was able to feel sympathy for some quite unlikable characters.

All You Need Is Love by Jessica Redland.

When you’ve loved and lost, how do you find the strength to let love in again?

Jemma thinks she’s found the love of her life. Scott is everything she ever dreamed of and she can’t wait to begin the next stage of their life together. But just as she is heading for her happy ever after, a shock revelation shatters Jemma’s life as she knows it. Left to pick up the pieces, Jemma’s friends and family rally round to help her find the courage to move on.

Sam thinks he has his future all worked out. A thriving career, lovely home and an amazing fiancée. But when tragedy strikes, he finds himself alone, far from everyone he cares about. Did he do the right thing by running away and trying to rebuild the tatters of his life alone?

This is the story of Jemma and Sam. Two lost souls, desperately trying to find closure and happiness. When a chance meeting brings them together a friendship is formed, but the guards are up.

Will it finally be their turn for a happy ever after? Or will the secrets from their pasts prevent them from moving on?

Escape to Whitsborough Bay for an emotional, uplifting story of love and friendship from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland. This book was previously published as Bear With Me. 

As I said, I was misled by this cover.

My Review.

I picked this up because I wanted an escapist read, and hadn’t looked at the synopsis, just the cover. Having had a few personal problems in recent months, I wasn’t looking for anything heavy or demanding. For the most part, it delivered, although on a couple of occasions I found something that affected me. That is just a personal reaction and of course, I was always free to give up if I wanted to. In general, though I enjoyed the story and wanted to know what happened to Jemma and Sam.

Call the Vet by Bruce Fogle.

Arriving in 1970s’ London as a fresh-faced Canadian, Bruce Fogle assumed that because he knew the language, he would understand the English. As a graduate of the world’s best veterinary school, he also thought his profession would come naturally to him. He quickly learned not to make assumptions…

Bruce began his career at the prestigious Woodrow Singleton surgery in the heart of the Knightsbridge. Frequented by Britain’s most distinguished pet owners, from Duchesses and Sultans to Paul McCartney and Elizabeth Taylor, it also cared for the exotic inhabitants of the Harrods’ ‘Zoo Department’. Over the next few years, an arc of clients would cross Bruce’s table, from cats and dogs to alligators, pumas and even a capuchin monkey. Each adventure taught Bruce far more than any textbook ever could, while skilful veterinary nurses provided the greatest lessons of all.

Call the Vet is a wonderfully rich and warmly funny memoir. Set against the vibrant backdrop of 1970s’ London, it explores the unique bond between pets and their owners; the common thread of compassion that unites all cultures and classes, and the discovery of love and joy in unexpected places.

Perfect for fans of Noel Fitzpatrick, Ben Fogle and Kate Humble! 

Appealing cover.

My Review.

An interesting insight into how vets care for our pets. Bruce Fogle shares stories from the 1970s. It is heart-breaking to realise that at that time, the orthodoxy was that animals don’t feel pain, like humans. Observation and his instincts gave Bruce Fogle the understanding that they do, and that they deserved better treatment. As a ‘celebrity vet,’ he shares stories of some of the famous clientele. He was dating actress Julia Foster and so ,inevitably they met a lot of theatre folk. The stories that resonated most deeply for me were those of Miss Williams, valiant cat rescuer, Pat, the unflappable surgery nurse, and the many ordinary people who loved their pets.

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz.

“You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late…”

These, heard over the phone, were the last recorded words of successful celebrity-divorce lawyer. Richard Pryce, found bludgeoned to death in his bachelor pad with a bottle of wine – a 1982 Chateau Lafite worth £3,000, to be precise.

Odd, considering he didn’t drink. Why this bottle? And why those words? And why was a three-digit number painted on the wall by the killer? And, most importantly, which of the man’s many, many enemies did the deed?

Baffled, the police are forced to bring in Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, the author Anthony, who’s really getting rather good at this murder investigation business.

But as Hawthorne takes on the case with characteristic relish, it becomes clear that he, too, has secrets to hide. As our reluctant narrator becomes ever more embroiled in the case, he realises that these secrets must be exposed – even at the risk of death…

Striking with a 1930’s vibe.

My Review.

Another intriguing brain teaser from Anthony Horowitz. Each time I thought I had the solution, another thing popped up which blew that theory apart. The female detective Cara Grunshaw was terrifying, and I imagined her as a belligerent bulldog. At least I guessed who wrote the Doomworld series. As the story unfolds, we are given tantalising hints as to Hawthorne’s mysterious past. So, I guess there will be another Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery soon.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café by Jessica Redland.

A few minutes of courage might change your life…

Emotionally, Tara Porter finds the festive period a challenge. Christmas Day is a reminder of the family she lost, and New Year’s Eve holds bitter memories of the biggest mistake of her life: marrying Garth Tewkesbury. Shunning invitations to celebrate, she seeks refuge in her flat with only her giant house bunny, Hercules, for company.

Professionally, though, it’s the best time of year. Tara’s thriving café, The Chocolate Pot, is always packed. With the café hosting a wedding and engagement party, it’s shaping up to be the café’s best Christmas ever.

When former nemesis, Jed Ferguson, threatens the future of The Chocolate Pot, Tara prepares for a fight. The café is everything to her and she’s not going to let anyone or anything jeopardise that.

Tara badly misjudged ex-husband Garth and, since then, has refused to let anyone in. After all, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. But has she misjudged Jed too? Is it possible that he’s not the arrogant, deceitful man from whom she bought the café 14 years earlier? Can she find the courage to find out for sure? 

Who could resist that cover?

My Review.

I was drawn to this book both by its title and cover. Never underestimate the power of a good cover. I think that was what made the book kind of surprising. Although light-hearted, it also deals with betrayal and that betrayal is shocking. To me it felt as if I was it was an amalgam of two books, one the chick lit I was expecting and another that veered into darker territory. I found it an interesting read.

Threadneedle  by Cari Thomas

Book one in The Language of Magic  series

Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.

Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.

Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.

It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used,  but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.

Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then .Could it?

Excellent cover.

My Review.

I wanted to love this book ,and in parts I did. It has been pitched as an adult book, and its themes are dark, but to my mind, it is better suited to older teens. The premise is intriguing and the paranoia of the Binders truly terrifying, but then what if they do have something to fear? It’s a long book and in places, it dragged for me, but I was interested enough to see how it ended. The dynamics of the relationships, the magic herb lore and spells, were all believable as was the setting of contemporary London. It’s just the sort of place this could happen. Friendships, rivalries, bullying, first love, infatuation , all contributed to the  YA theme I adored the magical library that co-existed with the London Library.

Before the Crown by Flora Harding.

Before the crown there was a love story…

’If you’re a fan of The Crown, you’ll love this’ Woman’s Weekly.

‘Fascinating…a beautiful love story’ Woman

Windsor Castle, 1943

As war rages across the world, Princess Elizabeth comes face to face with the dashing naval officer she first met in London nine years before.

One of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, Philip represents everything she has always been taught to avoid. Instability. Audacity. Adventure.

But when the king learns of their relationship, the suitability of the foreign prince is questioned by all at court.

He is the risk she has never been allowed to take. The risk not even the shadow of the crown will stop her from taking…

Step through the palace gates and discover a captivating historical novel of royal secrets and forbidden love exploring the tempestuous courtship between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the wake of WWII.

Perfect cover for this book.

My Review.
It’s a strange feeling to read this fictionalised account of the courtship of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. People I have known of my whole life, but of course, do not know at all. It is written in a plausible style and gave a depth of understanding to these somewhat remote figures. Princess Elizabeth, who is as isolated as any princess in an ivory tower, controversially choosing a man who wasn’t constrained by old ideas and ideals. It also gave me an idea of what it would be like to be a princess .It’s not all tiaras and ballgowns , its often tedium and duty.

Soulless by Gail Carriger.

Book one The Parasols Protectorate.

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.

First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire–and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart? 

This quirky cover didn’t appeal to me.

My Review.

Having recently read Gail Carriger’s The Heroine’s Journey, I wanted to read some of her fiction. Although this isn’t necessarily a book I might have chosen otherwise. It didn’t matter as I was soon hooked and happily chortling away at Alexia’s repartee and character in general.  It’s a rip-roaring fast-paced read with enough steamy scenes to make it interesting. I am definitely going to continue reading this series.

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin.

It’s The Holiday on the Champs-Élysées in a great big love letter to Paris, charming old bookstores and happily-ever-afters!

When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her

Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer—after all, what kind of romantic would turn down six months in Paris? Sarah is sure she’s in for the experience of a lifetime—days spent surrounded by literature in a gorgeous bookshop, and the chance to watch the snow fall on the Eiffel Tower. Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe.

But her expectations cool faster than her café au lait soon after she lands in the City of Light—she’s a fish out of water in Paris. The customers are rude, her new co workers suspicious and her relationship with Ridge has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he’ll ever put her first over his busy career. As Christmas approaches, Sarah is determined to get the shop—and her life—back in order…and make her dreams of a Parisian happily-ever-after come true.

Does the job , but didn’t inspire me.

My Review

This is absolutely my kind of book. I loved everything about it, it was such a comforting, happy read. The concept of books having lives of their own, rustling their pages, and whispering secrets, resonated with me. I suspect most book lovers would secretly adore owning a bookshop. Ignoring the inconvenient facts that it is work, and often hard work at that! The Parisian vibe had me picturing myself there, strolling along the banks of the Seine. Small town Sarah, exploring the delights of Paris and finding the ‘secret Paris,’ that only true Parisienne’s know.  Her relationship with the elusive Ridge.
My copy had a bonus addition The Book shop On the Corner, which showed how Sarah and Ridge had come to meet. I was sad to finish this book.




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The Books I Read in July 2021.

The weather was dismal, as we had twenty eight days of rain in July. The last time the rain was so frequent, in sunny Perth, Australia, was seventy five years ago. Home and comfort was the place to be. My local library provided most of the books I’ve been reading this month. Television provided few distractions, so I happily got lost in a good book.

I love how a library display can inspire you to read something different.
When She Was Good by Michael Robotham.

Criminal psychologist Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac return in this new thriller from author Michael Robotham. Who is Evie, the girl with no past, running from? She was discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Her ability to tell when someone is lying helped Cyrus crack an impenetrable case in Good Girl, Bad Girl. Now, the closer Cyrus gets to uncovering answers about Evie’s dark history, the more he exposes Evie to danger, giving her no choice but to run. Ultimately, both will have to decide if some secrets are better left buried and some monsters should never be named… 

MY REVIEW.

Although this continues the story which began in Good Girl, Bad Girl, it could be read as a stand-alone. Tautly plotted and filled with tension, the story follows Evie Cormac, aka Angel Face. She was a child discovered at a horrific crime scene. Evie is deeply traumatised, trusting no -one, apart from Cyrus Haven, the criminal psychologist who initially got her to speak. Evie has the unerring ability to know when someone is lying. When she says their lives are in danger, Cyrus doesn’t believe her.

The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

The world’s most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot, the legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and most recently The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket, returns in a stylish, diabolically clever mystery set in the London of 1930.

Hercule Poirot returns home after an agreeable luncheon to find an angry woman waiting to berate him outside his front door. Her name is Sylvia Rule, and she demands to know why Poirot has accused her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met. She is furious to be so accused, and deeply shocked. Poirot is equally shocked, because he too has never heard of any Barnabas Pandy, and he certainly did not send the letter in question. He cannot convince Sylvia Rule of his innocence, however, and she marches away in a rage.

Shaken, Poirot goes inside, only to find that he has a visitor waiting for him — a man called John Mc Crodden who also claims also to have received a letter from Poirot that morning, accusing him of the murder of Barnabas Pandy…

Poirot wonders how many more letters of this sort have been sent in his name. Who sent them, and why? More importantly, who is Barnabas Pandy, is he dead, and, if so, was he murdered? And can Poirot find out the answers without putting more lives in danger? 

MY REVIEW. It’s a while since I read Agatha Christie and I was intrigued to learn that Sophie Hannah had been authorised by the Christie estate to continue the series. I picked this one at random, not realising it was the third in the series.  There is a new inspector, Inspector  Edward Catchpole, replacing Inspector James Japp. George, Poirot’s Valet also makes an appearance. I missed Captain Hastings and Miss Lemon. Hasting to pose the questions that we all would like to ask. Miss Lemon for her solid devotion to Poirot. The book is cleverly plotted, but for me, it felt a bit flat.

The Charleston Scandal by Pamela Hart.

If you devoured THE CROWN you will love this exuberant story of a young Australian actress caught up in the excesses, royal intrigues and class divide of Jazz Age London, losing her way but reclaiming her heart in the process

London, 1920s: Kit Scott, a privileged young Australian aiming to become a star, arrives in the city to find the Jazz Age in full swing. Cast in a West End play opposite another young hopeful, Canadian Zeke Gardiner, she dances blithely into the heady lifestyle of English high society and the London theatre set, from Noel Coward to Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele.
When Kit is photographed dancing the Charleston alongside the Prince of Wales, she finds herself at the centre of a major scandal, sending the Palace into damage control and Kit to her aristocratic English relatives – and into the arms of the hedonistic Lord Henry Carleton. Amid the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, both Zeke and Kit are faced with temptations – and make choices that will alter the course of their lives forever.
Readers of Natasha Lester’s A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD will love THE CHARLESTON SCANDAL. Bestselling author Pamela Hart’s energetic, masterful storytelling will have you glued right until the end. 

I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this book.

MY REVIEW. From starting this book, I was immersed in its setting and felt as if I was a participant in Jazz Age London. As an ex-pat Brit, I had of course heard all about dazzling David, the Prince of Wales. Later, he became Edward VIII who subsequently abdicated in favour of his brother Bertie, who became George VI. At the heart of the story is a presumed scandal, that the Prince of Wales should be caught dancing the Charleston with an actress. Australian Kit Scott has orders both from her theatre management and the Palace, to appear alongside someone else. They even provide the decoy in Lord Henry Carlton. He is amiable and aimless. He’s a younger son, with nothing to do and all the time in the world to do it. This conflicts with the connection that Kit has built with Zeke, her dance partner in the play. There they are both second leads and socialise in the theatrical world. As Colonials they feel a sense of connection, and maybe something more.


A Woman’s Courage by Simon Block. Book Three in the Home Fire Series.

As bombs continue to fall on the North West of England, the members of one town’s WI fight harder than ever to help the war effort. Grieving for men already lost or anxious for those still away fighting, the women of Great Paxford must rely on each other. Amidst the complexities of broken relationships, loss, love, betrayal and sudden freedom, this group of very different women must work together to find a way through.

Despite the chaos of war, behind closed doors they fight more personal battles. Pat is reeling from her own role in her husband’s death, while Steph is struggling to come to terms with significant changes in her life.

Together the women of Great Paxford must find a way through .

Celebrates the ordinary lives disrupted by war.

MY REVIEW.

Knowing this book was the last in the series, reading it was bittersweet. I can understand Simon wants to get onto other projects, but these characters have become real to so many. We were heartbroken when Britain’s ITV cancelled the series, as it was a cut above so many other dramas. Well scripted, and well-cast, we glimpsed the lives of our grandparents or parents. Despite being set in a Cheshire village, and not a battlefield, plenty was going on. We see the likes of Downton Abbey more frequently than stories of ordinary people. That was what made the series and books so fascinating. Daily challenges such as make do and mend, food shortages, worry about loved ones. Daily life, not as we know it, but how it was for millions of  Brits.

Most storylines made sense, some happy, some sad. New characters such as the doctor integrating with our old favourites. What rang true for me was the petty jealousies and gossip, as well as the kindness and pulling together. I am sad to say goodbye to these much-loved characters.

Son of A Witch by Louisa West. Midlife in Mosswood, Book Five.

She knew she’d have to find something old and something new. This wasn’t what she was expecting.

Rosemary Bell is going to the chapel and someone’s gonna get married. But when an unexpected visitor begins causing trouble in Mosswood, the something blue on Tammy’s big day could end up being the bride.

For better or worse, Fox Cottage has a new resident. And mostly, it’s for worse. With Declan struggling to rein in his way ward son, Rosie ends up playing referee as well as bridesmaid–and she doesn’t look good in stripes. Wanting to support her boyfriend and still keep peace in the neighborhood, Rosie is stuck between a diamond and a hard place.

When the teenage troublemakers commit a ceremony foul, will Rosie find herself one family richer or one group of friends poorer?

Freaky Friday meets My Best Friend’s Wedding in this short novel about the vows we make, the promises we break, and the things we do for family’s sake.

Just love this gorgeous cover!

MY REVIEW. Rosie’s life keeps getting more complicated, and her magical ability isn’t proving helpful. She’s torn between wanting to keep the peace, or her sanity. Maggie, Rosie’s daughter is slightly in awe of her new sibling. He’s not one for conforming or fitting in. Anyone who has dealt with truculent teens will have sympathy for Rosie and Declan. The book still has the trademark wit and good humour with the characters we have come to know and care about.

The Bermondsey Bookshop by Mary Gibson.

Set in 1920s London, this is the inspiring story of Kate Goss’s struggle against poverty, hunger and cruel family secrets.

Her mother died in a fall, her father has vanished without trace, and now her aunt and cousins treat her viciously. In a freezing, vermin-infested garret, factory girl Kate has only her own brave spirit and dreams of finding her father to keep her going. She has barely enough money to feed herself, or to pay the rent. The factory where she works begins to lay off people and it isn’t long before she has fallen into the hands of the violent local money-lender. That is until an unexpected opportunity comes her way – a job cleaning a most unusual bookshop, where anyone, from factory workers to dockers, can learn to read and then buy books cheaply. A new world opens up, but with it come new dangers, too. Based on the true story of the Bermondsey Bookshop, this is the most inspiring and gripping novel Mary Gibson has yet written.

MY REVIEW. I am pretty much guaranteed to pick up any book with a bookshop, or a library in the title. This story though focussed more on the main character Kate Goss. She is an unloved child ,who has been foisted on her aunt. Her mother is dead, and her father has disappeared. The grim surrounding and tough treatment meted out to Kate were very reminiscent of a Catherine Cookson novel. Her deprivation and the cruelty of her family were hard to take. Kate works a difficult and dirty job as a tin worker. When her aunt throws her out, she needs more work to survive. She finds it as a cleaner at the Bermondsey Bookshop. Through her part-time work there, she is gradually drawn into the lives of some of the middle-class patrons. When a  Pygmalion transformation takes place, Kate learns how the other half lives. The part I found most interesting was about the bookshop ( based on the real bookshop) and its ethos.

Purls and Poison by Anne Canadeo. A Black Sheep Company Mystery.

When a fellow Black Sheep Knitter is suspected of poisoning her coworker, the group puts down their needles and takes up their friend’s defense . . .

Suzanne Cavanaugh has just about had it with her office rival at Prestige Properties. It’s bad enough that Liza Devereaux is constantly needling her at work, but when she shows up at one of Suzanne’s open houses to poach potential buyers, it’s the last straw. No one in the office fails to hear the two snarling at each other.

When Liza is later found dead in her office cubicle–poisoned by a diet shake–Suzanne becomes the prime suspect. It’s soon discovered, though, that Liza had double-crossed so many around town and stashed their dark secrets in her designer handbags that anyone could be the culprit.

The Black Sheep Knitters have no doubt their friend has been framed–but they need to prove it. Stirred to action, they get together to catch a sneaky killer who’s trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes . . . 

A lesson in Don’t Judge a Book by its cover!

MY REVIEW. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but it was the cover of this one that attracted me first. Ironically, neither the gorgeous feline nor the string of pearls appears in the book. Did the cover designer mix up pearls and purls?

Work rivals Suzanne and Liza have had a less than cordial relationship in the past, but does that mean Suzanne murdered her rival? The police certainly seem to think so. They know that  Suzanne had a very public row with Liza over client poaching. As the case unfolds, Suzanne is helped by her knitting club pals and begins to learn about a different side of Liza. The pace of the story flowed well and gave us a couple of interesting possible suspects. An easy and entertaining read.

Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace by Kate Forster.

Love comes when you least expect it…
Tressa Buckland likes her quiet life in Port Lowdy, with its cobbled streets and colourful terraced houses overlooking the sea. Her job at the local paper allows her to pursue her art in her free time, with no one but her tabby cat Ginger Pickles to mind her in Mermaid Terrace. But then the owner of the paper is called away on an emergency, and it’s up to Tressa to run the paper for six months. Her first task: find a new part-time journalist.

Dan Byrne is the angriest man in Ireland – or so the readers of his very successful column, ‘Dan takes on the world’, think. But after a story goes south and he loses his job in Dublin, Dan has no choice but to start afresh. When an opportunity comes up in sleepy Cornwall, Dan and his Golden Retriever Ritchie set off for a new adventure.

For Tressa, Dan’s arrival to Port Lowdy changes everything. Tressa tries not to look too deeply at her own life, but Dan sees a story to uncover in absolutely everyone – even her. The two of them couldn’t be more different… yet, if they can find a way to work together, they may just breathe new life and joy into this sleepy seaside village.

Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace is a heart -warming new village romance about the power of love and kindness, from the bestselling author of Starting Over at Acorn Cottage

Kindle Edition, 263 pages Published February 4th 2021 by Aria.Paperback to follow.

MY REVIEW. Having lived in Cornwall as a child, I do have a soft spot for books set in Cornwall. It was easy to visualise the village and setting. Treena is a lonely character, happily isolated from her family, due to her mother’s expectations. She lives in Port Lowdy, where she feels happy at home. But life changes and her carefully constructed world is upended. George, her boss has left her in charge of the local paper, and she employs Irishman Dan to take on the reporting duties. He arrives with his gorgeous dog Ritchie and soon makes Port Lowdy his home. His charm had everyone telling him their stories and he’s just the one to write them. Treena feels life is brighter with Dan around and begins to trust him. But then, a story threatens to tear them apart. I enjoyed this book, but there was one loss that broke my heart.

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce.

Margery Benson’s life ended the day her father walked out of his study and never came back. Forty years later, abandoning a dull job, she advertises for an assistant. The successful candidate is to accompany Margery on an expedition to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty is not who she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all Margery’s expectations, eventually finding new life at the top of a red mountain.
This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story and it is also a tender exploration of a friendship between two unforgettable women that defies all boundaries. 

MY REVIEW. I was first drawn in by the intriguing title and soon began to appreciate the solitary life led by Miss Benson. An ordinary spinster, in the post-war period in Britain. One out of character event starts her on the path to going on a beetle hunt. She is a relatable character, with her insecurities, and foibles. When she advertises for an assistant, most of the applicants are unsuitable. Still, she embarks on her quest to find the mythical golden beetle. Think Thelma and Louise meet Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture by Gail Carriger. 
The book you didn’t know you needed.

Tired of the hero’s journey?
Frustrated that funny, romantic, and comforting stories aren’t taken seriously?
Sad that the books and movies you love never seem to be critically acclaimed, even when they sell like crazy?

The heroine’s journey is here to help.

Multiple New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a clear concise analysis of the heroine’s journey, how it differs from the hero’s journey, and how you can use it to improve your writing and your life.

In this book you’ll learn:

* How to spot the heroine’s journey in popular books, movies, and the world around you.
* The source myths and basic characters, tropes, and archetypes of this narrative.
* A step-by-step break down of how to successfully write this journey.

What do Agatha Christie, JK Rowling, and Nora Roberts all have in common?
They all write the heroine’s journey. Read this book to learn all about it.

From Harry Potter to Twilight, from Wonder Woman to Star Wars, you’ll never look at pop culture the same way again.

With over a dozen NYT and USA Today bestsellers, and over a million books in print, popular genre author and former archaeologist Gail Carriger brings her cheeky comedic tone and over a decade of making her living as a fiction author to this fascinating look at one of the most popular yet neglected narratives of our time. The presentation she does on this subject sells for hundreds of dollars.

“I’m not sure how you can just rewire my brain to see the heroine’s journey like this and then expect me to make coherent, thought-out comments about the text when all I want to do is hold it in my twisted little grip while I shove it at people screaming like a madman and pointing at passages.”
~ Author Beta Reader

Gail Carriger uses the heroine’s journey to produce bestselling, critically-acclaimed books that genre blend science fiction, cozy mystery, young adult, urban fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and alternate history. In this non-fiction book she uses her academic background and creative writing skills to bring to life the archetypes, tropes, story beats, themes, and messages inherent in the heroine’s journey. Part treatise on authorship, part feminist literary criticism, part how to write guide, Carriger uses mythology, legend, and Gothic Victorian 19th century literature to explore movies, screenwriting, books, and audience desires.

This is an excellent reference guide for genre fiction authors seeking to improve their craft or for readers and pop culture enthusiasts interested in understanding their own taste. It is the perfect counterpoint to The Hero with a Thousand Faces not to mention Save the Cat, Women Who Run with The Wolves, and The Breakout Novelist. 

Kindle Edition, 285 pages Published October 1st 2020 by GAIL CARRIGER LLC

MY REVIEW. Finally, a book that makes sense of the heroine’s journey. Tired of trying to fit stories into the prescriptive and restrictive hero’s journey, and wondering where you went wrong? Perhaps like me, you queried where the heroine fitted into the hero’s journey and was answered dismissively. Try as you might your story wouldn’t fit that pattern. It was the wrong pattern- The Heroine’s Journey is the book that might change your writing life.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz.

A woman crosses a London street.

It is just after 11am on a bright spring morning, and Diana Cowper is going into a funeral parlour to organise her own service.

A mere six hours later she is dead, strangled with a crimson curtain cord in her own home.

Did she know she was going to die?
Did she recognise her killer?

Are the two events even related? Because nobody arranges their own funeral, and the gets killed the same day – do they?

Enter Daniel Hawthorne, a detective with a genius for solving crimes and an ability to hold his secrets very close.

With him is his writing partner, Anthony Horowitz. Together they will set out to solve this most puzzling of mysteries.

What neither of them know is that they are about to embark on a dark and dangerous journey where the twists and turns are as unexpected as they are bloody..

MY REVIEW. Anthony Horowitz likes to challenge his readers, not because he doesn’t give them a good, imaginatively creative, and intricately plotted story. He does, but he also does the unexpected. This time, he is a character in the book he is writing. On the one hand, it is interesting to learn about his writing experiences and thoughts on writing. On the other hand, I found it vaguely unsettling, the blurring of fact and fiction. And to add to the confusion, he thanks his fictional detective in the acknowledgements.

A Season in Paris: A Historical Anthology by  Ava January, Nancy Cunningham,  Sarah Fiddelaers, Clare Griffin. 

One Paris shop, four women, four decades of intrigue…

Spring, 1909
When Delphine Altrain purchases a date with Paris’ most eligible bachelor, Gabriel La Pouge, she has one thing on her mind…hats. When her latest design becomes the talk of the Grand Prix, it seems everything she has dreamed of is within her reach, but when the past arrives to destroy her present, Delphine needs to decide, stay and risk heartbreak, or run and always wonder what could have been.

Summer, 1924
Beautiful Edith Carrow appears to have it all. As Coco Chanel’s mannequin her life is full of parties and the adoration of a rich man. But Edith holds a deep secret from her past. When she meets toymaker, Henri, her heart threatens to unravel all she has worked hard to achieve. She must choose, follow her head or listen to her heart and risk losing everything.

Autumn, 1935
Genevieve Dupuis is forbidden from doing two things; painting and falling in love. So when she meets handsome Sebastian on a forbidden painting trip her life becomes ever so slightly complicated. Can a girl who has learned to survive by lies and illusions face up to the truth in time to realise that sometimes surrender is the bravest act of all?

Winter, 1944
SOE agent Therese Lambert is about to risk everything to help free Canadian airman Will – a man hiding his own covert activities beneath an identity she knows isn’t his. Fleeing from the German occupiers and the collaborating French, they escape Paris. Can their budding attraction survive a perilous journey, or will a betrayal put both their lives on the line? 

Kindle Edition Published July 26th 2021  by Girl On A Soapbox Press. Paperback to follow.

Perennial Paris

MY REVIEW.   Books about Paris are perennially popular and this one contains four individual stories. Each story highlights a different epoch and aspect of Paris, but all are equally engaging with that ineffable je ne sais quoi of Parisian flair. I read this quickly, finding it an easy and enjoyable read. I received an ARC of this book, but with no obligation to review it.

I love the thrill of finding an unexpected book.



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June 2021

Which books did I Read in June 2021?

The nights are drawing in, is there anything better than settling down with a book of your choice? This month I had plenty of books to choose from, and the time to read. Often, my reading is accompanied by a sleepy cat on my knee, which means I can’t move for an extended period of time. I’m not complaining!

A cosy spot a hot drink and a book to read.

I had heard a lot about this book and wanted to see for myself what the fuss was about.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. Klune.

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management, he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours. 

A magical tale.

My Review A fairy tale for adults and like most fairy tales there is a hidden meaning to this story. I was captivated immediately by this tale. Linus Baker, the oppressed drudge lives his life by routine. At the Department for Magical Youth, the safest course is to be unremarkable. Linus who works there, lives his life to be unremarkable. A summons from Extremely Upper Management presents him with a terrifying new assignment. One he simply can’t refuse. He is to go and observe an orphanage he hasn’t even heard of The House in The Cerulean Sea. There all his certainties are upended, and he begins to doubt the rule book he has lived his life by up to to this point.

Spring Clean for the Peach Queen by Sasha Wasley

Twelve years had passed since the last Harvest Ball.

I was just eighteen when my hometown crowned me their Peach Queen with a blossom coronet. And I was eighteen when I left.

One tanked career, one badly timed glamour shoot and one dead boyfriend later, thirty-year-old Lottie Bentz is finally going home.

Back in the orchard town of Bonnievale, Lottie embarks on a radical declutter of her life, Marie Kondo-style. She casts out everything that got her into trouble: her phone, socials, make-up and a tendency to tell little white lies – to herself and others. But home has its own issues, not least Lottie’s staunchly feminist mother, who is furious with her.

When Lottie lands herself a place to stay in exchange for helping kindly Mrs Brooker try out the Kondo method, it seems like the perfect farm escape. That’s until Angus, Lottie’s former Peach King and heir to the Brooker orchards, makes it clear she’s not welcome – especially when Lottie’s declutter begins to stir up long buried memories and half-truths.

As Lottie finds her way back to herself, can she use her talents to coax Bonnievale and the Brookers out of the past? After all, everyone deserves to feel love, hope and the occasional spark of joy.

A deeply moving story about forgiving, finding joy and falling in love with life again. 

What a fabulous title.

MY REVIEW.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and felt that the characters were real. Lottie was reinventing herself- especially hard to do in a place that has known you as their Peach Queen. Her Spring clean involves far more than throwing out clutter, lies and fakery are at the top of her list. At times this makes for uncomfortable situations. Her strained relationship with her mother struck a chord with me. Equally having a family member with dementia, I found Mrs Booker poignantly relatable. I also enjoyed the slow burn possible romance. 

The Sumer Villa by Melissa Hill.

USA Today bestseller Melissa Hill is back with her most unmissable summer read yet!
This summer, escape to Villa Dolce Vita on the Amalfi coast, where love, food and friendship will come together in this satisfying and epic summer read…

Capturing summer in our winter.

MY REVIEW
An easy and entertaining escapist read. A summer villa is a chance to escape everyday life. To relish time in a beautiful place, and perhaps have a holiday romance. But what if that romance feels so real, how do you move on from that? The three main characters meet by chance and ally. Six years on they are invited back to the villa, to celebrate its successful relaunch. Mysteries will be solved, and secrets revealed.

Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines. A Sassy Cat Mystery by Jennifer J Chow.

When a local teacher is found dead, LA’s newest pet groomer Mimi Lee finds herself in a pawful predicament—with her younger sister’s livelihood on the line.

Mimi Lee is on top of the world. She has a thriving pet grooming business, the sweetest boyfriend, and a talking cat to boot. When she arrives at the elementary school where her sister Alice works, she’s expecting a fun girls’ night out—but instead finds a teacher slumped over in her car, dead.

Alice was the last one to see Helen Reed, which instantly marks her as the prime suspect. Unable to sit quietly and let the authorities walk all over her sister, Mimi starts snooping and talks to Helen’s closest contacts, including one jumpy principal, a two-faced fiancé, and three sketchy teachers. With the help of her sassy but savvy cat, Marshmallow, and a cute kitten named Nimbus, the clock’s ticking for Mimi to get to the bottom of yet another case before her sister gets schooled.

Gorgeous cover.

MY REVIEW

Initially, I was intrigued by the cover, as I do love a good cat story. It didn’t disappoint. Although I hadn’t read book one, it was easy to be engrossed in Mimi’s and Marshmallow’s story. Have you ever wondered what your cat would say if it could talk? Marshmallow, Mimi’s cat provides commentary that only Mimi can hear. In turn, Marshmallow’s point of view is engaging, snarky and fun. Their relationship is a highlight of the book. Apart from that, there is a mystery of how a young teacher comes to be found dead in her car. Suspects aplenty, and all with a motive for wanting Helen Reed dead. I loved how the dour detective Brown, melted at the charms of Nimbus the kitten. 

The Last Bookshop By Emma Young.

Cait is a bookshop owner and book nerd whose social life revolves around her mobile bookselling service hand-picking titles for elderly clients, particularly the grandmotherly June. After a tough decade for retail, Book Fiend is the last bookshop in the CBD and the last independent retailer on a street given over to high-end labels. Profits are small, but clients are loyal. When James breezes into Book Fiend, Cait realises life might hold more than her shop and her cat, but while the new romance distracts her, luxury chain stores are circling Book Fiend’s prime location, and a more personal tragedy is looming. 

I could almost step inside!


 MY REVIEW.

A clear winner for me. I love stories about book shops, and this one is set in Perth, my adopted hometown. We have all heard of the pain bookseller are going through, in the age of the e-book. When large chains struggle, it’s a wonder any of the indies manage to survive at all. Cait has built her bookshop on service, and on combining second-hand books with books fresh off the press. It is a niche market that has helped her survive so far. Change is coming to Perth. It’s a boomtown, rents are rising, and a quirky bookshop doesn’t fit with the vision for prestige brands. 

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman.

The war is over, but the past is never past …Paris, 1944. Charlotte Foret is working in a tiny bookstore in Nazi-occupied Paris struggling to stay alive and keep her baby Vivi safe. Every day they live through is a miracle until Vivi becomes gravely ill. In desperation, Charlotte accepts …( sorry that is where the description ends)

My paperback had this evocative cover design.

MY REVIEW.

I will be thinking about this book for a long time, as it poses some interesting questions. While l we all like to think we would be brave and resourceful, none of us knows how we would behave in an unthinkable situation. What would we do, not just to save ourselves, but to keep our loved ones safe? Thankfully, for most of us, that is a hypothetical question. For Parisiennes in war-time France, it was a lived reality. Who could you trust? What could you believe? How to stay alive. The author captured that unnerving atmosphere well and later the accompanying questioning and guilt of someone who survived. Not a love story, but a story about love, forgiveness and letting go of the past.

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What was I reading in May 2021?

Back to reading ,after a bit of a Netflix obsession. Two choices were a result of watching Netflix this month. Books have always been part of my life,and if I don’t read ,I feel I am missing something vital.

I could live without a TV, but I couldn’t live without books!

                                The Newcomer by Fern Britton.

It’s springtime in the Cornish coastal village of Pendruggan, and a newcomer is causing quite a stir…

My review

When the Cornish village of Pendruggan farewells its popular vicar Simon and his wife Penny, they are anxious to find out who will be their new vicar. The newly ordained Reverend Angela Whitehorn is equally anxious. It is her first parish, and she wants to make a success of it. Accompanied by her husband Robert, a well-known political journalist, who is ready to play at house husband and her daughter Faith, it’s a challenge for all of them.

Angela wants to make her mark on the village by starting up new initiatives, such as a book club, women’s circle, and couch to 5k training. She ruffles the feathers of the local ‘Queen bee’, who resists all of Angela’s efforts. Then Angela starts to receive poison pen letters. Who can resent her that much?

Believable characters and the ending ties in with the beginning, which by then I had forgotten, so I was dismayed at the loss of a favourite character.

                     Nasty Astrology by Richard McDonald.

Exploring exactly what hidden demons lurk within other people’s psyches, Nasty Astrology reveals all the unspoken truths about people’s star signs.

Aren’t you bored with all the astrology books that tell you what a nice person everyone is? Don’t you know, deep down, that there are some very unpleasant aspects to all our characters? Wouldn’t you like to know the truth about the other signs? What makes them tick? What their dark little secrets are?

In this wonderfully nasty book you learn the truth about the personalities of your friends, lovers, boss, colleagues, and even the dark secrets about yourself. Lifting the lid on real astrology, you can know what everybody around you really thinks and feels, about their secrets and motivations, and how to push people’s buttons. With humour and wit, and no holds barred (no, really), Richard MacDonald, unveils saucy secrets, motivations and the unspeakable traits of the zodiac.

My Review.

The title says it all.

Virgin River by Robyn Carr.

A Netflix Original Series!

Welcome back to Virgin River with the book that started it all…

Wanted: Midwife/nurse practitioner in Virgin River, population six hundred. Make a difference against a backdrop of towering California redwoods and crystal clear rivers. Rent-free cabin included.

When the recently widowed Melinda Monroe sees this ad, she quickly decides that the remote mountain town of Virgin River might be the perfect place to escape her heartache, and to reenergize the nursing career she loves. But her high hopes are dashed within an hour of arriving—the cabin is a dump, the roads are treacherous and the local doctor wants nothing to do with her. Realizing she’s made a huge mistake, Mel decides to leave town the following morning.

My Review.

I first watched the series on Netflix and decided I’d like to read the book. They are not the same, many similarities , but some parts of the story are transposed or altered. I cant honestly decide which version I liked best.

Pastels for Absolute Beginners by Rebecca de Mendoza

Take your first steps with pastels and learn how to produce modern, lively and colourful artwork with this exciting medium.

Artist and teacher Rebecca de Mendonça offers the beginner a complete course in using pastels. Step-by-step exercises and longer projects help you to build essential skills and allow you to produce a range of pictures, including landscapes, still life, portraits and animals. Vital drawing skills are explained and demonstrated, along with an easy-to-follow guide to colour theory. A huge wealth of finished paintings provide ideas and inspiration for your own future pastel work.

My Review

In recent months I have found an escape in art. I have never used pastels before and wanted find out more. I find it relaxing although often frustrating. A good introduction that shows the versatility of pastels and demonstrates various techniques. What I particularly liked was the author showed a variety of subjects, including people and animals, and not just landscapes.

What Cats Want by Dr Yuki Hattori.

 An illustrated guide for truly understanding your cat. From the top feline doctor in Japan comes a fun, practical, adorably illustrated “cat-to-human” translation guide to decoding your cat’s feelings.

When your cat’s tail is upright, she’s saying hello. If it’s quivering? She’s happy to see you. But if it swishes ominously from side to side across your living room floor? Beware-your cat is annoyed.

With nineteen bones and twelve muscles, cats’ tails have countless ways of expressing their emotions. What Cats Want is here to uncover the meaning behind every movement, and the motivation beneath every quirk. Did you know, for example, that adult cats love to reconnect with their inner kitten? Or that cats prefer multiple watering holes over just one? Our cats are sophisticated-no matter what any dog lover says-and What Cats Want has the answers to every question asked by cat owners young and old.

The cute illustrations add to the text.

An invaluable new guide filled with creative tips and darling illustrations, What Cats Want provides a much-desired glimpse into the minds of our most mysterious pets. 

My Review

Advice from a feline expert made it easy to understand and with delightful, funny and charming illustrations. A gem.

An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn.

Will she accept the offer before the clock strikes midnight?

Sophie Beckett never dreamed she’d be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton’s famed masquerade ball. Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, waltzing in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.

Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other— except, perhaps, this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid’s garb. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breath taking maid makes him weak with wanting her. If he offers her his heart, will he sacrifice his only chance for a fairy-tale love? 

My review.

Book Three in the popular Bridgerton series, but you don’t need to have read any of the others. This is the story of the second Bridgerton brother, Benedict. There is a distinct Cinderella is feeling in Sophie Becket’s life. She is the unacknowledged illegitimate child of an Earl. Lived in his home as his ward and was educated with his stepdaughters. All that changes on the earl’s death when she is relegated to the role of servant to her vindictive stepmother and stepsisters.  Her life of drudgery is unending, until the fateful night, she attends the masquerade ball in borrowed finery. She captivates Benedict and is equally attracted to him. Like Cinderella, she must leave at the stroke of midnight. Disappearing from Benedict’s sight and his life.

After a confrontation with her stepmother, Sophie is almost destitute and decides to leave London. Two years pass as she works as a maid. Occasional glimpses of Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers confirm that Benedict is still single. Sophie has never forgotten him. can it be that he hasn’t forgotten her? Ah, the course of true love and all that.

They meet again when he rescues her from three would-be  despoilers. Benedict is attracted to her, but true to the era and his class, he suggests that Sophie become his mistress. This is something that she has vowed never to do,  knowing too well the misery of being illegitimate.

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March Madness, Those Missing Books-March 2021.

It seemed impossible that I hadn’t read any books in March. Life was hectic and filled with the unexpected. but whatever the circumstances I always find time to read. Finally, I found them! Here is what I was reading.

Always time for a book and a cup of tea or coffee.

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes by Trisha Ashley

The brilliant new novel from Top Five Sunday Times bestselling author Trisha Ashley

All Marnie wants is somewhere to call home. Mourning lost years spent in a marriage that has finally come to an end, she needs a fresh start and time to heal. Things she hopes to find in the rural west Lancashire village her mother always told her about.

With nothing but her two green thumbs, Marnie takes a job as a gardener, which comes with a little cottage to make her own. The garden is beautiful – filled with roses, lavender and honeysuckle – and only a little rough around the edges. Which is more than can be said for her next-door-neighbour, Ned Mars.

Marnie remembers Ned from her school days but he’s far from the untroubled man she once knew. A recent relationship has left him with a heart as bruised as her own.

My review. Returning from France where she’d fled five years previously, after her acrimonious marriage break up, all Marnie wants is a roof over her head and obscurity. The Lancashire village of Jericho’s End promises a fresh start. Here she can work as a gardener, have a place to live and rebuild her life. Of course, it can’t be that simple, can it? I enjoyed this story about rebuilding a garden and a life.

The Polly Principle by Davina Stone.

Polly Fletcher loves marrying off her friends. Which is kind of weird considering she has no intention of ever walking down the aisle herself. Social worker by day, sex siren by night Polly has a clear set of principles that guide her life; her Tinder app, her Jimmy Choo shoes and a packet of condoms in her clutch.

So when she meets a sexy, silver-eyed stranger at a friend’s wedding, all she’s after is a wild night between the sheets.

Solo Jakoby has his Ducati motorbike, a backpack of his belongings, and a disaster he’s running away from in Sydney. And sure, he’s wildly attracted to the curvaceous beauty, but he has a job to do, and some unpleasant memories to forget. So what if their night together blew his mind? They’re never going to meet again.

But when Solo and Polly are flung together in quite different circumstances how are they going to handle the chemistry that just won’t seem to let up between them?

And when they start to uncover each other’s past hurts and vulnerabilities, is their crazy attraction set to turn into something deeper? Something that may just challenge Polly’s firmly upheld principle—to never, ever give away her heart.

Published March 29th 2021 by Feathers and Stone Publishing

Exuberant Polly first appeared in The Alice Equation, encouraging Alice to ditch predictability for sexiness and sass. Both are qualities Polly exemplifies when she has a fling at a country wedding. She’s feeling a little down, as her ‘friends with benefits,’ guy is getting married. Not that Polly wants marriage, she’s content with uncomplicated sex, with no promises, and no commitment. So, after that one night, she’s comfortable that Solo, the sexy stranger, will ride his Ducati motorbike away and out of her life.
Practical workaday Polly is serious about her job, and she doesn’t encourage any distractions there. But changes are in the air and there are diversions she can’t ignore. Can party girl Polly resist making an appearance, when the new guy at work is sexy as hell?
Can colleagues take it up a notch, or does that risk their working relationship? There is depth to the story as it deals with some mental health issues, sensitively and thoughtfully.
I received an ARC and this is my honest review.

Fiddling with Fate by Kathleen Ernst.

Chloe has a devil of a time unravelling the mysteries of Norway’s fiddle and dance traditions.

After her mother’s unexpected death, curator Chloe Ellefson discovers hidden antiques that hint at family secrets. Determined to find answers, Chloe accepts a consultant job in Norway, her ancestors’ homeland. She’s thrilled with the opportunity to explore Hardanger fiddle and dance traditions . . . and her own heritage.

Once their plane lands, however, Chloe and her fiancé, cop Roelke McKenna, encounter only disharmony. Chloe’s research reveals strong women and the importance of fiddle music in their lives. But folklore warns against “the devil’s instrument” and old evils may yet linger among the fjords and mountains. As Chloe fine-tunes her search for the truth, a killer’s desire to stop her builds to a deadly crescendo.

My Review. Chloe Ellefson has questions she wants answered. Is it because of grief after her mother’s untimely death, or is there something to find in her ancestral home of Norway? She is fascinated by the Hardanger dance and fiddle traditions. Traditions that are well established, but changed in her American home. Chloe and Roelke-her fiancé and a cop, are dogged by strange occurrences. Roelke’s cop sense tells him these are more than mere coincidence and that Chloe is in danger. Although this is the tenth book in a series, I was able to read it as stand-alone. An interesting look at Norwegian culture combined with a mystery. It appealed to me because I have visited the region mentioned.

Tidelands By Philippa Gregory.

  • New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory begins a sweeping new series with the story of a poor, uneducated midwife named Alinor who is tempted by a forbidden love affair–but all too aware of the dangers awaiting a woman who dares to step out of the place society carved for her.

England 1648. A dangerous time for a woman to be different . . .

Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, and England is in the grip of civil war between renegade King and rebellious Parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even to the remote Tidelands – the marshy landscape of the south coast.

Alinor, a descendant of wise women, crushed by poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.

Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbours. This is the time of witch-mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands. 

Paperback, 438 pages Published August 20th 2019 by Simon & Schuster

My Review.

Tidelands begins slowly, but it draws you into this edge of the world place. The book deals with the fate of Alinor, a deserted wife. She ekes out a subsistence existence as a herbalist and midwife. An unexpected encounter leads her to a passion she could never have expected. Intertwined in the plot is the story of the captured King Charles the first and the plans to rescue him. The story speeds up to its almost inevitable end. As I hadn’t realised this was the first book in a series I was left wanting, but feeling let down and reluctant to continue with further books.

A Home From Home by Veronica Henry

Sunshine, cider and family secrets…

Dragonfly Farm has been a home and a haven for generations of Melchiors – arch rivals to the Culbones, the wealthy family who live the other side of the river. Life there is dictated by the seasons and cider-making, and everyone falls under its spell.

For cousins Tabitha and Georgia, it has always been a home from home. When a tragedy befalls their beloved great-uncle Matthew, it seems the place where they’ve always belonged might now belong to them…

But the will reveals that a third of the farm has also been left to a total stranger. Gabriel Culbone has no idea why he’s been included, or what his connection to the farm – or the Melchiors – can be.

As the first apples start to fall for the cider harvest, will Dragonfly Farm begin to give up its secrets?

A Home from Home is the very best of Veronica Henry’s storytelling – gorgeous scenes you wish you could step into, a cast of characters who feel like friends, and an irresistibly feel-good family drama crossing three generations.

Paperback, 416 pages. Published October 8th 2019 by Orion (first published July 25th 2019)

My Review. I generally enjoy books by this author, and this was no exception. I was drawn in immediately by the delightfully named Dragonfly Farm. It is a warm and sheltering home for generations of Melchiors. They live across the river from their rivals the Culbones. A long-ago feud means there is bad blood between the families. Dragonfly Farm is under threat as their uncle’s will has thrown up an unsettling surprise. Tabitha calls the farm home, and it is her cousin Georgia’s second home. They are shocked to learn that a third share of the farm has been left to a Culbone. What possessed Uncle Matthew to do that? The past must be explored to reveal the reasons for this decision.

A  Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn.

Previously published as four e -books

The brand new novel from bestselling author Holly Hepburn, perfect for anyone who loves Jenny Colgan, Veronica Henry and Lucy Diamond. A Year at Castle Court is Holly Hepburn’s four Castle Court e-novellas collected together as a novel for the first time. 

Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester’s bustling streets.

They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn’t think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there’s support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Seb‘s cocktail bar on the third floor!


 My Review. A new author to add to my list. I found it an enjoyable read and it added to my pleasure that it was set in Chester, UK. The story flowed well, as Sadie and Cat began to establish their custom-made biscuit shop. In Castle Court, they find both friendship and rivalry and events that will challenge and change them. and a life.


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What Did I Read in April 2021?

March passed in a blur and while I cant believe I didn’t read anything, I have not kept any record of what I did read, so apologies and here is my April reading.

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jamie Admans

Today is the Mondayest Monday ever. Hallie Winstone has been fired – and it wasn’t even her fault!

Having lost her job and humiliated herself in front of a whole restaurant full of diners, this is absolutely, one hundred percent, the worst day of her life.

That is until she receives an email announcing that she is the lucky winner of the Once Upon a Page Bookshop!

Owning a bookshop has always been Hallie’s dream, and when she starts to find secret love letters on the first pages of every book, she knows she’s stumbled across something special.

Things get even better when she meets gorgeous, bookish Dimitri and between them, they post a few of the hidden messages online, reuniting people who thought they were lost forever.

But maybe it’s time for Hallie to find her own happy-ever-after, too?

My Review: As a passionate reader and lover of bookshops, the book appealed to me. The observations about books and the power of reading, also clicked with my feelings. I suspect that like many readers, I dream of owning a bookshop, forgetting the inevitable hard work involved.

The minute Dimitri crashed into the bookshop; I was hooked. Waiting for the inevitable happy ever after. Less happily, I guessed the major plot points before they were revealed. I still found it an enjoyable read.

                     Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley.

Holly Swift has just landed the job of her dreams: events coordinator at Wickham Hall, the beautiful manor home that sits proudly at the heart of the village where she grew up. Not only does she get to organise for a living and work in stunning surroundings, but it will also put a bit of distance between Holly and her problems at home.

As Holly falls in love with the busy world of Wickham Hall – from family weddings to summer festivals, firework displays and Christmas grottos – she also finds a place in her heart for her friendly (if unusual) colleagues.

But life isn’t as easily organised as an event at Wickham Hall (and even those have their complications…). Can Holly learn to let go and live in the moment? After all, that’s when the magic happens.

Paperback, 512 pages Published January 14th, 2016 by Corgi.

My Review: I enjoyed this book and found it easy and amusing reading.

Behind the scenes of a stately home, with newly appointed events coordinator Holly Swift. For her, and for us, it’s an escape into another world. It’s a challenge that she relishes ,as this is her dream job. It comes with its own protocols, challenges, rivalries, and friendships. Then there is Ben, or Benedict, as his mother prefers that he is known. The reluctant heir to Wickham Hall. He has his own dreams and ambitions to fulfil, and they may not include Wickham Hall.

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan.

USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan returns with this heart-warming novel about the power of friendship, love and what happens when an ending is just the beginning…

To celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Grace has planned the surprise of a lifetime for her husband—a romantic getaway to Paris. But she never expected he’d have a surprise of his own: he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock but refusing to be broken, a devastated Grace makes the bold decision to go to Paris alone.

Audrey, a young woman from London, has left behind a heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no money and no knowledge of the French language, suddenly a summer spent wandering the cobbled streets alone seems much more likely…until she meets Grace, and everything changes.

Grace can’t believe how daring Audrey is. Audrey can’t believe how cautious newly single Grace is. Living in neighbouring apartments above the bookshop, this unlikely pair offer each other just what they’ve both been missing. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding this unbreakable friendship might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them..

My review:  This is the first book I have read by this popular author.
The story flowed well, alternating between Grace and Audrey. It was easy and enjoyable reading, and it really came alive when they arrived in Paris.
At first, Grace and Audrey seem to have nothing in common, but as the story progresses, more similarities emerge. Well-rounded characters, a believable plot and Paris, it’s a winning combination.

The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes.

It’s 1919, and Louisa Cannon dreams of escaping her life of poverty in London, and most of all her oppressive and dangerous uncle.

Louisa’s salvation is a position within the Mitford household at Asthall Manor, in the Oxfordshire countryside. There she will become nursery maid, chaperone and confidante to the Mitford sisters, especially sixteen-year-old Nancy – an acerbic, bright young woman in love with stories.

But then a nurse – Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter of her famous namesake – is killed on a train in broad daylight, and Louisa and Nancy find themselves entangled in the crimes of a murderer who will do anything to hide their secret.

My review: Perhaps because this is going to be a series there wasn’t a great deal of information about the Mitford family and their lifestyle. Nancy is an engaging character as is Louisa, however, I found the storyline slightly confusing

The Carer by Deborah Moggach.

From the bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Tulip Fever, a deliciously funny, poignant and wry novel, full of surprising twists and turns.

James is getting on a bit and needs full-time help. So Phoebe and Robert, his middle-aged offspring, employ Mandy, who seems willing to take him off their hands. But as James regales his family with tales of Mandy’s virtues, their shopping trips, and the shared pleasure of their journeys to garden centres, Phoebe and Robert sense something is amiss. Is this really their father, the distant figure who never once turned up for a sports day, now happily chortling over cuckoo clocks and television soaps?

Then something happens that throws everything into new relief, and Phoebe and Robert discover that life most definitely does not stop for the elderly. It just moves onto a very different plane – changing all the stories they thought they knew so well.

My Review :I found this an enjoyable read and one that delivered a few surprises. Initially, the siblings regard Mandy almost as a saint and a solution to their problems. Some of her choices that their father James now enjoys, offend their middle-class sensibilities. They’d like to get rid of Mandy,but realise they can’t really do without her. Then everything changes, leaving them questioning everything.

Get Witch Quick By Louisa West.

She should have known better than to put all of her eggs in one basket.

Rosemary Bell has begun a new life in Mosswood, Georgia. But when the town’s annual Easter Fair is ruined by a spell gone wrong, the townsfolk are hopping mad, and it could have grave consequences for her daughter Maggie.

With her daughter’s spellcasting shenanigans all over the national news, Rosie finds herself on the wrong side of the worldwide Council of Witches. When Maggie’s magical ability tests off the charts, the Council decides it’s only a matter of time before she winds up in the news again, putting herself and others at risk. Maggie must be trained by a certified magical instructor and will have to leave Mosswood to do it.

Unless she wants her family split up, Rosie will have to hop to it and train Maggie herself—and time is of the essence.

This Easter, the only way Rosie can keep living her best life is to get witch quick.

Stardust meets Gilmore Girls in this short novel about a mother’s love, a daughter’s lesson, and a family’s leap of faith.

My Review :This could be the best yet of the Mosswood series. This instalment had me snorting with laughter. Yet, there is poignancy too, as Rosie battles with her own fears and feelings for her daughter Maggie. Maggie has always been a happy trusting child. Now, she is becoming argumentative and disobedient. Her magical powers are drawing the attention of people and she can’t or won’t control them. Enter the Witches Council with a proposal that Rosie doesn’t want to accept. If ever you thought magic could solve all your problems, this demonstrates that magic can cause even more problems. I believe in the emotional bond between Rosie and Maggie, but there were times when I wondered how far it could stretch. Can’t wait for the next instalment. 

 

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Meet Monique Mulligan, Author of Wherever You Go.

Its a pleasure to welcome Monique Mulligan, author of Wherever You Go to the Chatting with Authors Page.

Monique Mulligan is an author, freelance editor & marketing officer at Koorliny Arts Centre.

Monique is known for her love of words, of cooking, and of cats.

Monique Mulligan, who also writes for children as Monique Alexandra.

What is the book about?

Wherever You Go is about a marriage in crisis after a life-shattering tragedy. Desperate to save their foundering marriage, chef Amy Bennet and her husband Matt move to the small town of Blackwood in the south-west of Western Australia. In denial from guilt and grief, Amy opens a café and starts an Around the World Supper Club and soon finds herself becoming part of a community, but is blind to Matt’s accelerating struggle with incomplete grief. It’s a story of grief and loss, of friendship and community, of renewal and redemption, and the healing power of food.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️“Monique Mulligan has written a heartwarming tale to make you laugh, cry and gasp in surprise.” SheSociety

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ “This debut novel is beautiful in its execution, raw and powerful.” – The Book Muse

Such great reviews, so tell us what inspired the book?

I was inspired by a number of things – a real-life event, my love of food and cooking, the beautiful countryside of Bridgetown, and my interest in relationships and how challenges affect them differently.

We will chat about the book and your writing later.

First, some quick fire questions.

Late nights or early mornings? Early mornings.

What’s for breakfast? Yoghurt, homemade granola and berries.

Night out or Netflix? Netflix.

G &T or Tea/coffee? Definitely not G&T – I think it’s the tonic water I don’t like. Love a good coffee (not instant) or herbal tea, especially peppermint.

Perfect weekend? Reading, writing, cooking, seeing family.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A journalist. In Year 12 I wanted to be the next Jana Wendt (A Current Affair). My career took me full circle into journalism (print, not TV) in my mid-thirties and the skills I learnt were invaluable.

Can you cook? I know the answer to that one!

What is for dinner tonight? Tuna steaks and green veg.

Ha ha, yes I can and I love to cook. Right now, a lemon poppy seed tea cake is cooling on the stove.

Have you always loved cooking, are you self-taught or did you learn as child? I am self-taught but loved to practice when I had the opportunity as a child. Mum wasn’t a big fan of letting us kids use the kitchen though, so the opportunities were few and far between until I married and had my own kitchen to cook in. One of the ways I show people I care for them is through cooking – soups, cakes … feasts!

Favourite meal?

A Monique feast.

Too hard! I love Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. Maybe a chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Cat videos! Patting my cat. Walking on the beach. So many things …

Boogle stalks across the desk and sniffs the drink.

Your hero? I can’t single out one person. I find many people to be inspirational or admirable for different reasons, but I wouldn’t say I have a hero.

 Questions about Writing.


Your love of photography- has it impacted your writing in any way? Do you see scenes more visually because of it, or has it had another kind of impact? Photography is a hobby I truly enjoy. I’ve been told I have “the eye” but I’m no expert. The technical side of photography boggles my brain and I’m not sure I’ll ever get it. 

I like to carry a camera with me because I often see things I want to capture, whether for later reference or because they speak to me in some way. Does it impact my writing? Yes, in a way. I used a vision board when I was first drafting Wherever You Go. It was full of pictures I’d taken around and about in Bridgetown, Western Australia (which was the inspiration for the setting). I can’t quite visualise in my mind (as in, if I’m meditating, I can never see the waterfall or the gently flowing stream) but I do learn visually. 

 Were you always going to write about food? That came to me later – I knew I wanted to write a novel and loved reading “foodie” fiction, but I didn’t set out to write about food initially. Now it just seems natural!

Playing in the kitchen. Photo by Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash.

Why do you think that stories of failure and redemption resonate so powerfully? It’s such a universal experience, isn’t it. I think it’s that universality that resonates – we all know what it’s like to fail, to mess up, to lose. Likewise, most understand that redemption is a powerful need and a life-changing gift, whether it comes from ourselves or another.

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

What time of the day do you usually write? Mornings when I can fit it in, otherwise afternoons on a weekend. I usually get in the zone.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Drafting! I am so slow in this stage. I am not a person who drafts fast at all. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work for me.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I make faces when I write, talk to myself, and sometimes “act” out certain actions and dialogues. That’s three quirks …

Monique giving a reading.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? I really loved the character of Irene in Wherever You Go. She’s 69-going-on-70, a nurturing woman who has always put others first, a jam-maker, and a protector. She longs to travel, but has to put her dreams on hold. She reminds me of my grandmother a bit.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

That’s such an interesting question, Sonia. I think it would be hard to write if you felt nothing at all. How would you empathise with your characters? Above all, readers want to have an experience, and a writer’s job is to trigger their emotions and feelings to generate that experience using a combination of techniques. The writer doesn’t need to have experienced those exact emotions themselves, and, if they haven’t, could ask, ‘What is the character feeling? What else is the character experiencing?’ or research others’ lived experiences to engage with that scene as genuinely as possible.

But surely you must at least be able to imagine those feelings. That’s my thought, anyway.  

Best writing advice? Trust the process is advice that works for me. What doesn’t work is ‘write every day’ – I need to balance work, family and writing in a way that prevents the feeling of overwhelm. I do want to write ‘morning pages’ every day, but I’m struggling to make it happen on work days. I would have to schedule my time so tightly – or get up even earlier than I already do – and my sleeping time is already being challenged by the fact of getting older! So I choose the way that works for me.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Best money you have spent as a writer? A manuscript assessment by Laurie Steed.

How can I ignore all-around inspiration and muse Boogle?

Beautiful Boogle.

Sonia, you know we can’t ignore cats – they ignore us! They make it very hard to be ignored when they want attention, and Boogle is no exception. Right now, I’ve taken a break from writing to answer these questions, and she is sitting on the floor next to me, loudly licking her butt. There’s a visual for you. That’s annoying, but I quite like it (love it, really) when she sits on my lap while I’m writing … and when she joins in my cooking videos (you can see them on Instagram). 

Proving the point, Boogle ignoring Monique.

Do you have a favourite author and why? Daphne du Maurier – I love her gothic-style stories about the darker side of human nature. They’re mysterious and uneasy, and clever and unexpected.

What are you reading now? I’m reading The Godmothers by Monica McInerny. Next, I’ll be reading The Breaking by Irma Gold.

Favourite quote (does not matter the source): “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” – Brene Brown

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

Thanks, Monique, its been wonderful to learn about your writing style and your process. All photographs unless otherwise indicated are courtesy of Monique Mulligan.

Follow Monique:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueMulliganAuthor

Instagram: @moniquemulliganauthor

Twitter: @MoniqueMulligan

Website: moniquemulligan.com

You can buy Wherever You Go at all online bookstores such as Booktopia, in print and eBook versions. For eBooks, click here: https://books2read.com/whereveryougomm

You can also buy signed copies at Monique’s website.

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What did I read in February 2021?

As things in my personal life continued to take their toll-I used reading as an escape from reality.

Reading was my escape and refuge.

        Troubled Blood By J.K Galbraith.

Private Detective Cormoran Strike is visiting his family in Cornwall when he is approached by a woman asking for help finding her mother, Margot Bamborough — who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1974.

Strike has never tackled a cold case before, let alone one forty years old. But despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on; adding to the long list of cases that he and his partner in the agency, Robin Ellacott, are currently working on. And Robin herself is also juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike.

As Strike and Robin investigate Margot’s disappearance, they come up against a fiendishly complex case with leads that include tarot cards, a psychopathic serial killer and witnesses who cannot all be trusted. And they learn that even cases decades old can prove to be deadly . . . 

My review

I have mixed feelings about this brick of a book. At 900+ pages it is a lot to read. It could have been edited to a more manageable length without losing much. I did finish the book, but frequently I was lost in the morass of clues, diagrams, astrological and mystical information. The case is complex, at times horribly graphic and disturbing. I might have stopped reading, but I was intrigued by the developing relationship between Strike and Robin. Also, I suspect any woman who has been subjected to unwanted male attention will feel for Robin dealing with a crass male. But I admit I felt sullied after reading this and doubt I will read another Strike novel. I needed to read something lighter and more cheerful, so I picked up a mid-grade novel.

The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent.

 An exciting story of magic, adventure and a mysterious inheritance. Perfect for fans of ENID BLYTON, ROALD DAHL, and J K ROWLING.

Alfie Bloom’s life is dull. Dull and lonely, and this summer is set to be the most boring yet. All of that changes when he is summoned to the bizarre offices of mysterious solicitor, Caspian Bone, where he discovers he has inherited a castle full of wonders that has been sealed for centuries. Alfie is astounded to learn he was born in that very castle six hundred years ago during a magical timeslip. There, Orin Hopcraft, the last of the druids hid an ancient magic inside him, which others seek but should never be used. With the help of his cousins Madeleine and Robin, and Artan the flying bearskin rug, Alfie must keep the magic from terrifying adversaries and ensure that the secrets of Hexbridge castle stay secret, forever!

My Review

An exciting mid-grade book with lots to like. After all, who wouldn’t want to inherit a castle? Alfie’s life is humdrum and boring, but that is about to change. He receives a letter from Caspian Bone, a Lawyer inviting him to call to discuss his inheritance. This is Hexbridge castle and there is far more to the castle than meets the eye. Not everything is perfect. His new school Wrymwald House’s joint headmistresses, the Misses Murkle and Snitch, are renowned for their bizarre punishments, as well as their ability to bamboozle parents. There is far more to the castle than meets the eye. Alfie and his friends will be tested to the limit, as they battle to save the castle, the village, and themselves.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder. 

My Review.

It seems to me that Anthony Horowitz had fun writing this. His fictional detective Atticus Pund is the creation of an unlikable writer, Alan Conway. Few mourn his death, but he has left a fictional puzzle with his last book. Susan Ryeland, his editor wants to track down the last chapter. In doing so she puts herself in danger as the fictional world impinges on the real world. Adding veracity to the tale is the supposed interview from the Spectator magazine between Anthony Horowitz and Alan Conway. Horowitz exercises his considerable talents with wordplay, anagrams, puzzles and extraneous information. A tour de force.

Never Judge a Lady  By Her Cover by Sarah MacLean Award-winning author Sarah MacLean reveals the identity of The Fallen Angel’s final scoundrel in the spectacular conclusion to her New York Times bestselling Rules of Scoundrels series . . .

By day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking–in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered . . . until now.

Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems, and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear . . . including her heart. 

Hardcover, Large Print, 613 pages

Published July 8th 2015 by Thorndike Press (first published November 25th 2014)

The author was recommended to me as someone who wrote whip-smart dialogue. I picked up the first title I saw, not realising at first that it was part of a series. It didn’t matter, the story although improbable, was entertaining and easy to follow. It had the readability factor which kept me entertained, even as my critical faculties were querying the implausibility of the plot. Just what I needed, pure entertainment.

My One True North by Milly Johnson From the bestselling author of the “glorious, heartfelt” (Rowan Coleman, New York Times bestselling author) novel The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew comes a warm-hearted tale about two people brought together by fate.

Laurie and Pete should never have met. But life has a different idea.

Six months ago, on the same night, Laurie and Pete both lost their partners. Overwhelmed by their grief, they join the same counselling group…and change their lives forever.

From their profound sadness, Pete and Laurie begin to find happiness and healing. Except, the more they get to know one another, the more Laurie begins to spot the strange parallels in their stories. Then Pete discovers a truth that changes everything—one which threatens to reverse everything they’ve worked towards.

But, as surely as a compass points north, some people cannot be kept apart.

With Milly Johnson’s signature “warm, optimistic, and romantic” (Katie Forde, bestselling author) style, My One True North is an unforgettable exploration of the power of love, friendship, and hope.

Paperback, 400 pages .Published July 23rd 2020 by Simon & Schuster UK

My Review.

I had requested this book from my local library a while back. By chance, it arrived after a death in my family. I debated whether to read it, would it be too depressing? I didn’t think Milly Johnson could write a depressing book, so I gave it a go. I laughed, and I cried, the characters were real to me. Laurie, the young solicitor, is aware that something was missing from her marriage. Fireman Pete is traumatized after attending the accident where his wife had died. Leavening what could have been a very sad story, were the extracts and malapropisms from The Daily Trumpet newspaper. A wonderful support group and a psychic who is amazed, to discover her powers are real, all propel the story forward to the desired happy ending, but not before a few surprises along the way.

A  Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn.

 The brand new novel from bestselling author Holly Hepburn, perfect for anyone who loves Jenny Colgan, Veronica Henry and Lucy Diamond. A Year at Castle Court is Holly Hepburn’s four Castle Court e-novellas collected together as a novel for the first time. 

Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester’s bustling streets.
 
They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn’t think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there’s support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Sebs cocktail bar on the third floor!


Paperback, 400 pages

A book, a coffee and time to read.

Published July 23rd 2020 by Simon & Schuster UK

A new author to add to my list. I found it an enjoyable read and it increased my pleasure that it was set in Chester, UK. The story flowed well, as Sadie and Cat began to establish their custom-made biscuit shop. In Castle Court, they find both friendship and rivalry and events that will challenge and change them.

A Home Away from Home by Veronica Henry.

Sunshine, cider and family secrets…

Dragonfly Farm has been a home and a haven for generations of Melchiors – arch-rivals to the Culbones, the wealthy family who live the other side of the river. Life there is dictated by the seasons and cider-making, and everyone falls under its spell.

For cousins Tabitha and Georgia, it has always been a home from home. When a tragedy befalls their beloved great-uncle Matthew, it seems the place where they’ve always belonged might now belong to them…

But the will reveals that a third of the farm has also been left to a total stranger. Gabriel Culbone has no idea why he’s been included, or what his connection to the farm – or the Melchiors – can be.

As the first apples start to fall for the cider harvest, will Dragonfly Farm begin to give up its secrets?

A Home from Home is the very best of Veronica Henry’s storytelling – gorgeous scenes you wish you could step into, a cast of characters who feel like friends, and an irresistibly feel-good family drama crossing three generations.

I generally enjoy books by this author, and this was no exception. I was drawn in immediately by the delightfully named Dragonfly Farm. The warm and sheltering home for generations of Melchior’s. They live across the river from their rivals the Culbones. A long-ago feud means there is bad blood between the families.  Dragonfly Farm is under threat as their uncle’s will has thrown up an unsettling surprise. Tabitha calls the farm home, and it is her cousin Georgia’s second home. They are shocked to learn that a third share of the farm has been left to a Culbone. What possessed Uncle Matthew to do that? The past must be explored to reveal the reasons for this decision.


Featured

What did I read in January 2021?

January was a difficult month as my husband was seriously ill and in hospital . More than ever I was looking for entertainment, escapism. and distraction. What helped? Good friends, books, cats and Netflix.

Being alone felt sad.

                 A Nose for Trouble by D.D. Line.

Betrayed by her lover and left for dead, Senior Constable Ellie Marsden and her canine patrol dog leave Perth and move to the small coastal town of Trinket Bay. Time heals Ellie’s wounds, but not her heart.

When thieves break in and steal drugs from the local doctor’s surgery, she realises it’s similar to her last case back in the city. If her ex-lover is in her town; can she close the case and arrest the man who almost destroyed her?

Brennan Cole has been on the run for almost three years, leaving behind everything he’s ever known and everyone he’s ever loved. He’s never forgiven himself for betraying Ellie, but he’s in too deep to stop now.

Trinket Bay is another perfect target. The police force isn’t as prominent here, the drugs they need are easy to acquire, and its tourists provide a ready market. It’s a simple in and out before they move on to the next town. But then he glimpses the woman he still loves. Can he escape detection before it’s too late?

Or will they learn cases of the heart never grow cold?

A Nose for Trouble is a contemporary romantic suspense novella set in the fictional town of Trinket Bay in South Western Australia.



My review

An exciting beginning to what promises to be an engaging romantic suspense series. Policewoman Ellie Marsden has relocated to Trinket Bay with her K9 companion Miss Charlie. After a heartbreaking betrayal, Ellie has given up on love. She and Charlie share an unbreakable bond and surely that is enough? So why does her heart race when she sees Brennan Cole, the guy who trampled on her hopes and dreams? Ellie suspects its more than a coincidence that he is in Trinket Bay. What is he up to? I loved finding out, and I look forward to reading book two in the Trinket Bay series.

                 The Alice Equation by Davina Stone.

Alice Montgomery’s life is like Groundhog Day. Five years after graduating, she’s still working in her mum’s bookshop, hiding her stash of romance novels under the bed and pining for the gorgeous guy who helped her over a panic attack before her final uni exam.

Aaron Blake loves to party—hard. His idea of commitment to anything other than his legal career is strictly three months. Until landing a job with the most prestigious—but conservative—law firm in town means he has to convince the partners he’s deeply committed to family values.

Aaron needs a fake date fast—and who could be safer than his bookish friend Alice?

Soon Alice finds herself dating her secret crush, sporting a daring new look of vintage frocks and itsy-bitsy lace lingerie.

Now the heat is notching up. Aaron’s feelings for his fake date are proving anything but safe, and Alice is discovering her inner sex-goddess.

But when secrets are revealed and lies uncovered, both Alice and Aaron will have to work out the hardest equation of all… what this crazy thing called loved is all about. 

The Alice equation is a whole lot of fun with a sexy vibe. Alice has secretly loved Aaron forever. Aaron is a player, his cut off point for relationships is three months. When he joins a law firm with ‘family values’ he needs to come up with a suitable partner and fast. So, Alice and Aaron begin a fake relationship. Alice is a newbie at the dating game. Her popular and gregarious friend Polly tells her that , ‘amazeballs sex, equals true love.’ Coached by Polly, Alice embarks on a  revamp of her wardrobe and her ideas. Aaron responds to the new Alice and they become’ friends with benefits’. There is great chemistry between them as Alice releases her inner sex goddess. Until it all goes horribly wrong. I really appreciated the drama and conflict. I enjoyed getting Aarons point of view as well as Alice’s. They both grew throughout the book which made it a satisfying read. Looking forward to book two in the Laws of Attraction series.  I received an Advance Reader Copy through Book Funnel and the author but was not obligated to post a review.

 We Witch you A Merry Christmas by Louisa West.

All she wants for Christmas is some peace and quiet. But Santa—and the local sheriff’s office—might just have her on the naughty list.

Rosemary Bell’s got a brand new bag. She has a great circle of friends, a sexy Irish boyfriend, and a daughter following in her witchy footsteps. But when she becomes the prime suspect in her grinch husband’s disappearance, the halls she’ll be decking might be behind bars.

Things get even bleaker when she’s called home to clean up her husband’s mess. When Rosie finds clues about a family she never knew she had, she realizes she doesn’t know as much about her past as she thought. And her present isn’t much better, when the local sheriff joins the investigation into her crimes.

With the local Sheriff breathing down her neck, it’ll take a Christmas miracle to keep her new family together for the holidays. This year Rosie might find herself witching for a Merry Christmas.

Charmed meets The Santa Clause in this short novel about the families we’re born into, the families we choose, and the magic of Christmas.

It doesn’t need to be Christmas ,for you to enjoy this book.

I’ve enjoyed the books in the Midlife in Mosswood series and had this on pre-order. Due to technical glitches, I wasn’t able to read it pre-Christmas. It didn’t matter, it flowed along and kept me entertained and intrigued anyway. Rosie makes intriguing discoveries, while the Sheriff launches a vendetta against her, and her ex discovers a few things for himself. All wrapped up in tinsel and Christmas, but it’s good to read anytime. The latest in the Mosswood series is, in my opinion, the best so far.

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Featuring his famous literary detective Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland, the hero of the worldwide bestseller Magpie Murders, a brilliantly complex literary thriller with echoes of Agatha Christie from New York Times bestselling author Anthony Horowitz.

Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is living the good life. She is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her long-term boyfriend Andreas. It should be everything she’s always wanted. But is it? She’s exhausted with the responsibilities of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, and truth be told she’s beginning to miss London.

And then the Trehearne’s come to stay. The strange and mysterious story they tell, about an unfortunate murder that took place on the same day and in the same hotel in which their daughter was married—a picturesque inn on the Suffolk coast named Farlingaye Halle—fascinates Susan and piques her editor’s instincts. 

One of her former writers, the late Alan Conway, author of the fictional Magpie Murders, knew the murder victim—an advertising executive named Frank Parris—and once visited Farlingaye Hall. Conway based the third book in his detective series, Atticus Pund Takes the Cake, on that very crime. 

The Trehearne’s, daughter, Cecily, read Conway’s mystery and believed the book proves that the man convicted of Parris’s murder—a Romanian immigrant who was the hotel’s handyman—is innocent. When the Trehearne’s reveal that Cecily is now missing, Susan knows that she must return to England and find out what really happened.

Brilliantly clever, relentlessly suspenseful, full of twists that will keep readers guessing with each revelation and clue, Moonflower Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction from one of its greatest masterminds, Anthony Horowitz.  

Published November 10th, 2020 by Harper (first published August 20th, 2020.)

I hadn’t read the first book in the series, but that didn’t matter, as Moonflower Murders reads well as a stand-alone. It was easy and engrossing reading, although at times I stopped to admire the clarity of the prose. Anthony Horowitz is at the top of his game and it certainly shows. The book is elegantly written,  and the descriptions are so clear that I pictured them effortlessly. The concept of a book within a book intrigued me. I have since learned that this was also used to good effect in the first book. There is so much information, so many clues, so many potential suspects. I doubt many people will have solved the murder. A terrific homage to the golden age of crime fiction.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Hardcover, 288 pages.

I raced through this book eager to know the consequences of Nora’s choices. Would any of her new lives be better? Would some be worse? Most people may have a regret or two, so the concept of trying out different lives certainly resonated with me. Some lives lived up to her expectations, while others had unintended consequences.

Books and cats were a comfort this month.

Books have always been refuge for me, and this month I was very happy to escape into other lives and worlds.


Stuck in place- books helped to visit different worlds,

Featured

Meet Versatile Writer, Sandi Parsons.

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Sandi Parsons to tell us about her contribution to the new anthology Growing Up Disabled  in Australia, edited by Carly Findlay.

Sandi Parsons.

Sandi is hard to categorise as a writer having written both fiction and non- fiction. The titles are ;

The Last Walk and Other Stories
Pepsi the Problem Puppy
The Mystery of the Sixty-Five Roses 

Along with pieces in the following anthologies:

Growing Up Disabled in Australia
Just Alice
Writing the Dream

Apart from her writing Sandi describes herself as , ‘a book nerd, librarian, cystic fibrosis survivor, and lung transplant recipient.’ She also a mum and a devoted dog owner.

Thank you for joining us- tell us about the new book which was released  recently. The book features contributions from forty people and I have since learned that one in five Australians have some from of disability.

Growing Up Disabled in Australia was released on February 2nd.

My story Don’t Have a Bird, is a love letter to my best friend Julie — with the first half detailing our physical growing up. After Julie died, the second half shows my emotional growth as I followed her footsteps in the transplant journey.

Quick-fire questions.

Late nights or early mornings? Early mornings – although I’m trying to write more later in the day.

When is walkies? First thing or Rotto cries. He’s a bit of sook.

What’s for breakfast? That is a very complicated question! I’m one of those people who can eat anything at any time of day. So, breakfast ranges from Saladas with Vegemite, re-heated leftovers, bread roll or muffin to traditional things like bacon and eggs or tomato sauce on toast … and occasionally salted peanuts and can of coke.

Breakfast can be many chocies.

Night out or Netflix? I’m a girl who likes to rock n’ roll all night and party every day so long as I’m home, on my couch, and in my pj’s by 9 pm.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A librarian who also writes books 😊 Ambition realized then!

Your hero? The hero of my story is a woman I will never meet – but her donated lungs have allowed me to have another chance at life.

Lungs

As you don’t show signs of disability, are people surprised when you identify as disabled?

In my case, media and medical professionals will refer to me as a ‘Cystic Fibrosis sufferer.’ An implication that my life is not worth living, full of suffering, and I am an object of pity.  It’s a term that falls smack in the middle of the social model of disability — which means that society disables more than the body does. I prefer the term ‘Cystic Fibrosis warrior’ — I’m at war, not only with my own body but also with a society where I am continually forced to break low expectations of my abilities. Others prefer the term ‘living with Cystic Fibrosis’.

It’s essential to check with someone to see which terms they prefer.

Sandi prefers to be known as a Cystic Fibrosis Warrior

How did you get started as an author?

My start was unique — in that, I had my first publishing contract before I’d written a word. I pitched an idea to Cystic Fibrosis Western Australia that there was a market gap, and we were the ones to fix it. The Mystery of the Sixty-Five Roses evolved from that meeting as a teaching tool to spark a discussion about Cystic Fibrosis.


Many would say you are extremely versatile; do you find it easy to switch from fiction to nonfiction?

Although I like to identify as a children’s writer, my nonfiction and memoir writing has had more published outings. Switching between the two was never my original intent — I received advice that sharing part of my story and journey with CF would help raise my profile and make my own voices middle-grade novel more attractive to a publisher.

Although my middle-grade novel is still looking for a publisher, that advice saw my writing diversify to become a hybrid of memoir, children’s fiction, nonfiction, and short stories. I think navigating between them has helped me become a better writer, but it’s also hard to classify what I do or identify a marketing niche.

Rotto and Chili looking quite unimpressed.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I’ve always found first drafts to be especially tricky. Lately, I’ve been working on a dot point dirty draft process, which is essentially a list of all things I want to happen and which order, and it seems to help make that process a little easier for me.

The power of imagination.

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received?

My Year 11 English teacher went on a rant about how I had spelled the same word wrong eight different times. She thought if I was going to get it wrong, I should be consistent about it.

If at first you don’t succeed…. keep trying!

I thought I had perseverance — I knew it wasn’t right and kept having a go. She marked me down to a D because of the spelling errors.

But spelling and grammar can be edited and fixed. However, there is very little you can do with a story that lacks imagination or emotion.  To me, the heart of a story will always be more important.

Best money you have spent as a writer?

Scrivener along with my yearly subscription to Grammarly.

Do you have a favourite author and why?

My favourite authors can change depending on what I’ve read lately. Right now, Jay Kristoff is topping my list — if for nothing else than the brilliant footnotes in the Nevernight series.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing?

Writers are readers and book lovers.

I think everything you read influences you to a certain degree — but one book had more of an impact than others — Robyn’s Book by Robyn Miller was the first book I read written by another person with Cystic Fibrosis. Until then, writing had been something I wanted to do — but the narrative society was telling me I didn’t have a future, so why bother trying? But if Robyn could write a book, then so could I.

Favourite quote (does not matter the source)

I’ve got two — one describes my writing style while the other describes precisely what happens when I have word salad.

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

― Shannon Hale

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

― Alan Greenspan

Find out more about Sandi at www.sandiwrites.com.au

Photo by Secret Garden on Pexels.com

Featured

Meet D. D. Line, Author of A Nose for Trouble.

It’s a pleasure to welcome author D.D Line to talk about her new book, A Nose for Trouble. Book One in The Trinket Bay Series.

Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book which was recently released .

Betrayed by her lover and left for dead, Senior Constable Ellie Marsden and her canine patrol dog leave Perth and move to the small coastal town of Trinket Bay. Time heals Ellie’s wounds, but not her heart.

When thieves break in and steal drugs from the local doctor’s surgery, she realises it’s similar to her last case back in the city. If her ex-lover is in her town; can she close the case and arrest the man who almost destroyed her?

Brennan Cole has been on the run for almost three years, leaving behind everything he’s ever known and everyone he’s ever loved. He’s never forgiven himself for betraying Ellie, but he’s in too deep to stop now.

Trinket Bay is another perfect target. The police force isn’t as prominent here, the drugs they need are easy to acquire, and its tourists provide a ready market. It’s a simple in and out before they move on to the next town. But then he glimpses the woman he still loves. Can he escape detection before it’s too late?

Or will they learn cases of the heart never grow cold?

A Nose for Trouble is a contemporary romantic suspense novella set in the fictional town of Trinket Bay in South Western Australia.

I read A Nose for Trouble not long ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Gorgeous book, fabulous cover.

D.D .Line.

D.D. lives in beautiful Mandurah, a thriving coastal town in Western Australia.

When she isn’t writing she facilitates the Romance Writers of Australia Aspiring Writers Group. She organises Q and A sessions with authors, answers numerous queries and takes member questions to RWA. All in a voluntary capacity.

After an enthusiastic response from readers to A Nose for Trouble  D.D is busy writing book two in the Trinket Bay Series

This could be coastal Trinket Bay.

Late nights or early mornings? Both – I lose track of time.

What’s for breakfast? Black coffee and toast, muffin, or pumpkin loaf, depending on what I’ve baked.

Night out or Netflix? Netflix, but I enjoy the occasional night out

G &T or Tea/coffee? Coffee, but enjoy a social drink

Perfect weekend? A wander around Bunnings*. Coffee somewhere. Time to read and write. A movie. Family time. (I’d better say in no particular order.) 😉 *Bunnings is a large Australian chain of do it yourself hardware and home store

What did you want to be when you grew up? Happy.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating? Chicken, rice and veggies. Cooking is okay, but I love baking. Steak sandwich and hot chips with aioli.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Singing, and dancing around like a crazy person in my office. Be grateful you’re only reading that, not seeing / hearing it.

Sing and dance like no-one is watching.

Your hero? My dad. He was the benchmark to which I judge all other men.

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? (Dead or alive) My hero! I would love to spend time with him, have our chats and solve the world’s problems like we used to do.

I think I’d be too nervous to meet others I admire. I imagine they’d be doing all the talking, and I’d be sitting there keeping my mouth full of food, so I didn’t say something stupid. LOL

Nick Hornby is quoted as saying, ‘Finding the confidence to write is a constant battle.’ Do you agree?

I disagree. I love writing. I need to write. Having the confidence to start putting my writing ‘out there’, however, was a challenge.

How did you get started as an author? Does wanting to impress my senior year English teacher count? No? Life happened. Then I started writing again after a miscarriage because escaping into words and other worlds helped me deal with the grief. Then I remembered how much I loved to write stories, so I kept writing.

Escaping into words

What is your writing routine? I write in the morning. I write at night. I write while waiting for kids to finish school. And in between whatever else it is I have to do.

Do you find pleasure in writing? I’ve heard there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain, and when you’re writing, you walk that line. When everything’s flowing and the words are working—it’s exquisite.

Have you always written? No, but I have always been a reader.

Dante one of D.D’s dogs. He’s named after the Italian poet Dante.

What inspired  A Nose for Trouble?  An anthology call out by Gumnut Press. They were looking for stories about dogs. I have two dogs that are a bit crazy. We follow most of the stories about things they’ve done with ‘it’s lucky they’re cute.’ I decided I wanted a clever dog to feature in my story and came across an article where the Western Australian Police announced three new canine recruits had joined the force, and my story evolved from there.

Banjo-named after Australian Poet Banjo Patterson.

What time of the day do you usually write? I can write at any time.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? I call it ‘soggy middle syndrome’. I know how my story begins and how it ends, but sometimes the points to get from here to there are a little haphazard.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing? I have a job, and a family who for some crazy reason like to spend time with me, so I work around them.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Hmm, maybe that I write notes to myself like “remember on page 24 when ‘this’ happens? Make sure on page 49 you wrote ‘that’” sort of thing. Or is that a crazy one? Might be another of those ‘fine line’ things.

Where would we be without our notes?

Did you do any research for your current book? Yes, an interview with a retired police officer who is a brilliant source of information, the canine patrol unit, and their relationships with their handlers.

The next book involves a winery. I’ll have to do lots of research on that. 😉

D.D’s next line of research.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? Oh, hard question. I have a story in my drawer, a paranormal romance, about a cursed Romani magician. Nicolae is entirely too attractive for his own good, much too charming to resist, and for all his outward confidence, is someone desperate to right a terrible wrong. And he’s sitting there waiting for me to be an experienced enough writer to finish his story.

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Best – write what you love. I’m not listening to any negativity.

Best money you have spent as a writer? A great editor is worth every cent.

Do you have a favourite author and why? Way too many to fit here.

Photo by Mohan Reddy Atalu on Pexels.com

What are you reading now? I am beta reading a yet to be published book, therefore can’t say the name, but it’s a paranormal romance and I’m enjoying it.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing? For a long time, I believed I was a horror writer, but my characters kept wanting to do that kissing ‘stuff’. I read Stephen King and Dean R Koontz in my formative years.

Western Australian author, Jenny Schwartz, was a great paranormal romance influence. Carolyn Wren, also a Western Australian author, made me fall in love with romantic suspense. Polly Holmes, yes, another WA author, introduced me to cosy mysteries. I read many genres, so I am always learning something.

Love is in the air.

Favourite quote “Love is not the dying moan of a distant violin – it’s the triumphant twang of a bedspring.” S.J Perelman.

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Another of those ‘too hard questions.

Favourite book/story you have read as a child? The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Biography

D. D. Line lives in coastal South Western Australia with her family, a curious cat, and two pups trying to dig their way back to Central Queensland—we’re Sunshine State ex-pats.

Reading was her favourite childhood pastime. In her senior year, thanks to a crush on her English teacher and her desire to impress him, she developed a deep love of writing stories.

She writes Romantic Suspense, Paranormal Romance, Contemporary Romance and Speculative Fiction. Her short stories have featured and placed in KSP Writing Centre’s Spooky Stories Collections, Western Australia and Queensland Writing Group anthologies, RWA’s Little Gems Moonstone anthology and GEM – a 2014 Dr Liz Huf Memorial Tribute anthology.

She’s been a child wrangler, a mini lab photo developer, an admin assistant, a copyeditor, a proofreader, (no, she can’t edit her own work), and a wannabe baker who wishes she could sing.

D. D. Line is the Aspiring Ambassador for Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) and a member of the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA). She loves hearing from her readers. You can find her here.

https://facebook.com/ddlauthor

https://ddlineauthor.blogspot.com/

https://www.instagram.com/d_d_line/

https://facebook.com/ddlauthor/videos/675006573152129   (book trailer)

Buy links

https://www.gumnutpress.com/product-page/a-nose-for-trouble

https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/a-nose-for-trouble-3?fbclid=IwAR3hudHY0Xbp2O1pPEKYUdK8X01vZN1d3MVSrgntmzGtBS-FBrSZ56YL0cs#ratings-and-reviews

Featured

Meet Davina Stone whose book The Alice Equation is launches today!

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Davina Stone to talk about her new book,

The Alice Equation.

 I’ve just finished reading it and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Available as e book or print.
https://www.davinastone.com/book/the-alice-equation/


https://books2read.com/TheAliceEquation

Davina, thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book  which releases today! 

The Alice Equation – Sometimes love is complicated

Alice Montgomery’s life is like Groundhog Day. Five years after graduating, she’s still working in her mum’s bookshop, hiding her stash of romance novels under the bed and pining for the gorgeous guy who helped her over a panic attack before her final uni exam. Aaron Blake loves to party—hard. His idea of commitment to anything other than his legal career is strictly three months. Until landing a job with the most prestigious—but conservative—law firm in town means he has to convince the partners he’s deeply committed to family values.

Aaron needs a fake date fast—and who could be safer than his bookish friend Alice?

Soon Alice finds herself dating her secret crush, sporting a daring new look of vintage frocks and itsy-bitsy lace lingerie.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Now the heat is notching up. Aaron’s feelings for his fake date are proving anything but safe, and Alice is discovering her inner sex-goddess.

But when secrets are revealed and lies uncovered, both Alice and Aaron will have to work out the hardest equation of all… what this crazy thing called loved is all about.

It’s a sweet sexy rom/com about love, friendship and family and it’s the first in a series (The Laws of Love).

Are you writing anything else?  The second book The Polly Principle is off for proofreading and will be out in April 2021 and I am working on the third in the series, The Felicity Theory.

We will talk about your writing, but first some quick-fire questions.

Late nights or early mornings?   I have always naturally been a night owl, that’s when I get my best ideas.  But I’m training myself to write in the mornings now since I know my brain is clearer.

G &T or Tea/coffee?   I love a good G&T but the reality is I have no alcohol tolerance at all, so for me it’s a cappucino or two in the morning and copious amounts of French Earl Grey tea in the afternoons

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Perfect weekend?  In my hammock reading a good book.  I just don’t get enough reading done at present and my TBR pile is humungous.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  Grow up?  I haven’t yet. But I always wanted to be a writer.  Or an actress.  Never made the actress, though I tried.  Hopefully I’ll make it as a writer!

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood? 

My garden. I grow succulents and herbs and a few veggies.  The latter still in experimentation phase, I had a crop of teeny-weeny wizened carrots and about 20 broad beans. But every morning I wander and water and talk to my plants and my trees. Being in nature always lifts my spirits

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

What inspired your new book?   

My fascination with human relationships and particularly why we fall in love and with whom. Thinking about this inspired the series, “The Laws of Love” because I believe there are powerful natural laws at play when we fall in love, a bit like the laws of the Universe.  Love is such an amazing thing, it can make the world a better place and without it we really lose our way. I really don’t think love is an accident, and I wanted my books to have totally Happy Ever Afters, so that’s really why they became romances.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? 

Final edits.  Urgh.  Missing those last typos.  And I fiddle to try and tweak things, because I’m a bid OCD.  A very bad habit.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?   All over the place.  I intend to change that, but I find writing sprints is the only way I get a book written.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?   I daydream my characters into life.  They play out in my mind like movie scenes, what they say, how they feel, I even speak some of the lines (usually when walking alone, otherwise people will think I am mad). Then when I write it seems to flow. I can’t just sit down and write a scene properly without this process.

Photo by Mateusz Dach on Pexels.com

Did you do any research for your current book?

Not really.  I worked in different areas of health and mental health as an occupational therapist for many years. I use the things I learned from that in my books but it’s kind of organic, and sub-conscious to be honest. I only research when I need to make sure details are correct.  I’d love to write historical, but I fear I’m too lazy to get my facts right.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?  

I have such as soft spot for Carts, (Aaron’s best friend in The Alice Equation and The Polly Principle.) He is kind of dorky, and naïve where women are concerned, but has a heart of gold and so deserves love.  I will say no more, except to hint that things go okay for him in the end.  And Polly, I love how naughty and feisty she is.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?  Can’t answer that, I have too many emotions.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? 

“You don’t think yourself out of writer’s block, you write your way out of it.”  Not sure who’s words these are,  but it’s true.

Best money you have spent as a writer? Great editor, great cover designer

Do you have a favourite author and why?  I can’t choose, really, don’t make me.

What are you reading now?   All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton. It is so beautifully written it makes me want to cry on every single page.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing? 

Helen Hoang, Amy Andrews, (she writes such hot sex). Talia Hibbert, Alexis Hall, Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips for her quirky plots.

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult?  The Book Thief

Favourite book/story you have read as a child?  The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  Magic really does happen at the back of wardrobes you know!

Thank you for chatting with us Davina, wishing you every success with the book. I am looking forward to reading book two.          _____________________________________________

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What Did I Read in August 2020?

August was quite a different month to July, and I didn’t manage to complete as much reading as I had hoped.

The convenience of e-books

August had promised to be an exciting month. I’d planned to attend my first Romance Writers of Australia conference. Both the conference and the hotel were booked in January. Usually, its a great event with workshops and talks, as well as award presentations and a Gala dinner. Additionally, there are unofficial events to look forward to. Gossiping, grabbing a cheeky wine, meeting authors informally, sharing cake and confidences.

Empty chairs but the conference went ahead!

Sadly, it was cancelled and transformed into an online conference. This was excellent and well worth attending, with lots of inspirational and practical content. I spent five days at my computer listening to workshops and talks. It was an absolute credit to the organisers who had pulled it together so quickly.

That said, brilliant as it was, it wasn’t the conference experience I had heard about and hoped for. Maybe another year….

I’ve also started writing another book, a historical romance so that is keeping me busy

I’m still staying close to home and indulging in my passion for reading. All the books that I read this month were on my Kindle. I find it is both convenient and annoying

I find it both convenient and at times, annoying.

Convenient: Multiple books in a light and easy to carry format. Backlit for easy reading in bed. Enlarges text size at a touch, ability to add notes and highlights and a dictionary built in.

Personal gripe: I wish I had paid the additional cost for the model that included colour.

Annoying:  This may be personal, but I think my recollection of the books is not as clear. Additionally, where a book has notes, exercises, or appendices with a print book I could print them out I don’t have that option with the Kindle. Unless someone can tell me how?

Death in the English Countryside by Sara Rosett.

Location scout and Jane Austen aficionado, Kate Sharp, is thrilled when the company she works for lands the job of finding locations for a new film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but then her boss, Kevin, fails to return from a scouting trip to England. Afraid that Kevin has slipped back into some destructive personal habits he struggles with, Kate travels to England to salvage Kevin’s and the company’s reputation before word gets out that he is missing.

Things go from bad to worse when Kate arrives in Nether Woodsmoor, a quaint village of golden stone cottages and rolling green hills, only to find no trace of Kevin except his abandoned luggage. Even the rumpled, easy-going local scout they consulted, Alex, doesn’t know where Kevin might be.

Increasingly worried about Kevin and with an antsy director waiting for updates about the preproduction details, Kate embarks on a search that includes a pub-crawl and cozy cottages as well as stately country manors. But Kevin remains missing, and she begins to suspect that the picturesque village and beautiful countryside may not be as idyllic as they seem. 

My Review.

The premise is intriguing- an American location scout searching for places to film a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When the principal of the agency fails to report in, serious concerns are raised. He is usually the soul of reliability unless he’s gone on a rare bender. Kate, his assistant, is despatched to take over and to find out discreetly what’s happened to her boss When his car is found abandoned in the river, Kate’s fears are raised. Once the car is out of the river it proves to be empty. For Kate, it’s both an opportunity to prove her worth. It is also a chance to do some detective work. and location scouting of her own. Unfortunately, when her boss turns up dead, she becomes the prime suspect. Village rivalries simmer over the merits of competing locations. Local contact, Alex is helpful and charming, but is he all that he seems? One clue stood out for me early on, giving me a suspect. It’s the start of what promises to be an engaging new series 

Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes.

What makes a romance novel a romance? How do you write a kissing book?

Writing a well-structured romance isn’t the same as writing any other genre—something the popular novel and screenwriting guides don’t address. The romance arc is made up of its own story beats, and the external plot and theme need to be braided to the romance arc—not the other way around.

My review.

If you have been struggling to fit your romance into the Hero’s Journey story structure and failing, this book will help you understand why. A romance is not apt to work well with that formula. The female journey isn’t and shouldn’t be a carbon copy of the male journey. The author gives examples to illustrate the points she makes.  A quick and easy to read.

Feverfew & False Friends by Ruby Loren

A witch has vanished. The only clue to her whereabouts is a threatening letter and a gory trail that screams foul play.
When Hazel receives a similar letter, she realises that this mystery involves the entire town… and she could be the next witch to disappear.
It’s a race against time to find the missing woman and discover who is using their poison pen to turn the residents of Wormwood against one another..

My review.

Hazel has gained some acceptance in the Wormwood community, both magical and non -magical alike. Her cute teashop is becoming a community hub and D.C. I. Admiral has also gained a grudging respect for Hazel. Her newsletter ,Tales from Wormwood is well received, and life seems to be improving. She is gradually finding her talents are and they are unlike any other witches’ abilities. When threatened she can manifest weapons and has accidentally opened a between worlds chasm. Unfortunately, she has little control over these events. They can surprise her, as well as everyone else. Two similar murders suggest a vampire is on the loose and  put the townsfolk magical or not, on edge. Hemlock, her familiar is as sarcastic and unhelpful as ever. He will only do what she asks for treats and is always trying to sneak a look into the spell books. Meanwhile Hedge, who turns out to be Jesse’s familiar (and spy) is still living with Hazel. Troublingly,  she realises her eyes are a similar colour to those of the local demon. Then , another demon arrives on the scene , with a pack of hell hounds.

The First Draft is NOT Crap by Bryan Hutchinson.

The impetus for this book was from an article Hutchinson wrote nearly a decade ago, the article was titled, ‘The First Draft Is Not Crap’ and it became one of the most viral articles about writing. The assertion is the counter to the all too typical -the first draft is shit- mantra, which has led far to too many writers to give up and quit before their writing has had the chance to blossom. You can’t quit! You can’t. This book will give you not just the mindset, but also the tools to continue and finish. Keep-on-keeping-on even when every fibre of your being wants to quit. Formerly, “Serious Writers Never Quit.”

My Review.

This book is like having your own personal cheer squad, encouraging you to keep going. Most writers experience those moments of self- doubt, the question, what am I doing this for?  This is the book for you.

Belladonna and a Body by Ruby Loren.

Book four of this popular series

What happens when the sleuth becomes the suspect?

Once the town’s hero witch, Hazel Salem is now the prime suspect in a murder investigation.
Her fall from grace is nearly complete when a stranger comes to town and throws a spanner in the works – one large enough to alter the course of the murder investigation.
Hazel knows she’s being framed.
But who is out to get her… and how far will they go to put her out of the picture?
Wormwood has always had its secrets… but this one might be its darkest yet.

My review

Hazel was coaxed into publishing an ancient recipe in the town newsletter ,but she didn’t expect anyone to use it. She had labelled the Belladonna Bottle Curse as of historical interest  and  dangerous. A solicitor shows up with news of her inheritance from her mysterious and disappeared father. After ten years he is presumed dead and she is given the keys to his mansion and told she has money coming to her. Exploring the house, she hopes to find more clues to her parentage. What she does find suggests her father is not magical but points to him  conducting an  investigation of his own. This leaves her with more questions than answers. She returns to Wormwood to find that her creepy uncle, who considers himself the head of the Salem family, has opened a  competing  apothecary shop opposite her tea shop. She can detect traces of magic all over it and it appears to be doing a roaring trade. When a member of the coven Hazel now leads  turns up dead, all the clues point straight to Hazel, salt circle, runes  and the recipe.  D.C I Admiral who initially asked for her help is forced to consider her a suspect .As does the head of the Witch council.

An Unsuitable Lady for a Lord by Cathleen Ross.

Lord Aaron Lyle has one hell of a choice: a bankrupt dukedom, or marriage to some simpering society miss so his spendthrift father can get his hands on her huge dowry. He won’t do it. He has a reputation to maintain, and besides, he’d rather run naked through the streets of London than marry anyone at all. Surely, there must be a third option.
Then Lady Crystal Wilding walks into his life, a bluestocking, full of subversive thoughts, who hates the notion of marriage even more than he does. He is intrigued…and suddenly he has an idea. He invites the totally unsuitable lady home on the pretext of presenting her as a possible match…but in truth, Aaron has something far more pleasurable in mind. For her part, Lady Crystal has her own reasons for going along with his hare-brained scheme.
Imagine their shock when his highly proper family loves her and starts planning the wedding. Will their chemistry be the end or the beginning of them.

My review.

A delightful and entertaining read. Orphaned, Lady Crystal has a low opinion of men and of marriage. Lacking her father’s control, she is apt to do as she pleases. She has many progressive ideas and being tied in marriage to a man she hardly knows is not one of them. After a speaking engagement at Sir Walter Scott’s house goes wrong, she is the talk of the town.

Lord Lyle is being hounded to marry, to save his family estate, to fulfil his duty. Entirely suitable rich young women candidates are continually being presented to him. He can’t stand any of the simpering misses and refuses to marry. He attends Lady Crystal’s talk and is intrigued by her and her outrageous opinions and causes. Soon they are bantering about anything and everything and all they seem to agree on is their low opinion of marriage. With a strong-willed heroine, sizzling sexual chemistry, and a lord apt at seduction, this story will keep you entertained until the last page.

Romance Writers of Australia. Conference .Kindle. Convenient. Annoying. Death in the English Countryside.  Cosy Mystery. Romance. Witches. Writing. Romance. Witches of Wormwood series.


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Changes Ahead. Please Stay With Me.

In the past two years, I’ve grown and changed as a writer. Now its time for this blog to reflect that too. All the old posts will still be there, but in future, I will be concentrating on what I write, and what inspired me to write it. From time to time I will post about what I am reading. There will be a research section for those of you, who like me like their facts to be accurate. Along the way, I will be happy to answer your questions.

Change
Change can be scary- please stay with me. Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

So from now, the focus will be more on the writing process, ice dancing, Bergen in Norway. Vikings and Viking beliefs.Reindeer Nathan lemon unsplash

What Did I Read in July 2022?

July here in Australia was a month for sitting by the fire with a good book. It rained, then it rained some more. The weather was dismal, and television held little of interest for me. Covid was still about and restrictions were in place. Time to settle in with a good book. There are more than usual romances and Regency books. I have written one Regency novella and have plans for another.

Perfect time to sit by the fire and read.

Lord Somerton’s Heir by Alison Stuart.

First love left them desolate … can a new love heal their wounds? A tale of second chance love in aristocratic Regency England, for lovers of all things Bridgerton.

Sebastian Alder’s sudden elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of fairy tales, but the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition leaves him little time for fantasy, and the memory of his wife’s brutal death haunts his every moment. When he learns of the mysterious circumstances of his cousin’s demise, he must also look for a potential murderer … surely not Isabel, his cousin’s ladylike widow?

Isabel, Lady Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. Her hopes are shattered from beyond the grave when she is left not only penniless but once more bound to the whims of a Somerton … although perhaps the new Lord Somerton is a man she can trust … or even care for?

Suspicion could tear them apart … honesty and courage may pull them together.

(Winner of the 2012 Romance Through the Ages Award for an unpublished manuscript – Romance Writers of America Historical Chapter) 

Gorgeous cover.

My Review A mystery and a romance combined. The interaction between the couple is engaging and fun. Sebastian isn’t your typical aristocrat and has no pretension to be one. Initially, Lady Isabel is all an aristocrat should be, apart from her concern for the less fortunate. After a shaky start, they begin to appreciate each other, but then the past comes back to disrupt the budding relationship. Can they trust each other?

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn.

The New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code returns with an unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history’s deadliest female sniper. Based on a true story.

In 1937 in the snowbound city of Kiev (now known as Kyiv), wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son–but Hitler’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper–a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her three hundredth kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour.

Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC–until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life.

Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever.

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A sharp cover.

My Review.

The story seems unbelievable and yet it is based on fact. Like many people, I was fascinated and slightly repelled by the idea of a female sniper. The question lurking at the back of my mind was, ‘how could she?’ Once you start reading your doubts and misconceptions are swept away. It was the time and place and the circumstances that made Mila Pavlichenko. It wasn’t a life she had wanted or planned, she simply had to learn to survive. For her son, for her family and for her country. Russia bore the brunt of Hitler’s war for so long, sacrificing far more than any other country. Conditions were harsh and Mila learnt to adapt and earned respect, she had to set her sensibilities aside in a deadly certainty of kill or be killed.

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

Horry Winwood doesn’t play by the rules.
So when her family are near ruin and her sister is about to enter a loveless marriage to a wealthy man to settle the family debts, young and headstrong Horry proposes to marry him in her sister’s place.
As her new husband’s attentions fall elsewhere, Horry begins to feel increasingly unhappy.
Then she meets the attractive and dangerous Lord Lethbridge and her days suddenly become more exciting.
But there is bad blood between Horry’s husband and her new acquaintance, and as complications and deceptions mount, the social tangle grows ever trickier to unpick.

Will Horry’s gamble cost her everything she holds most dear?

A rebranded Georgette Heyer

My Review.

It’s not often I read a book and want to slap the heroine. Bad enough she is called Horrie, surely, they meant Horror?  Frankly, she is a spoiled brat and whilst initially, she appears to have some sense, it rapidly deserts her. The background of Regency life is good. Lord Rule is amiable and lazy but twice Horrie’s age. It didn’t sit particularly well with me, although obviously historically accurate.

The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer.

“Skillfully researched and powerfully written, The German Wife will capture you from the first page.” —Madeline Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Bookshop in London

The New York Times bestselling author of The Warsaw Orphan returns with a gripping novel inspired by the true story of Operation Paperclip: a controversial secret US intelligence program that employed former Nazis after WWII.

Berlin, Germany, 1930—When the Nazis rise to power, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes and her academic husband benefit from the military ambitions of Germany’s newly elected chancellor when Jürgen is offered a high-level position in their burgeoning rocket program. Although they fiercely oppose Hitler’s radical views, and joining his ranks is unthinkable, it soon becomes clear that if Jürgen does not accept the job, their income will be taken away. Then their children. And then their lives.

Huntsville, Alabama, 1950—Twenty years later, Jürgen is one of many German scientists pardoned and granted a position in America’s space program. For Sofie, this is a chance to leave the horrors of her past behind. But when rumors about the Rhodes family’s affiliation with the Nazi party spread among her new American neighbors, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results tears apart a family and leaves the community wondering—is it an act of vengeance or justice?

“An unforgettable novel that explores important questions highly relevant to the world today.” —Christine Wells, author of Sisters of the Resistance.

My Review. An interesting and informative read, I am hesitant to use the word entertaining, perhaps engaging would be better. What I found remarkable was the subtle and incremental erosion of freedoms. So many tiny decisions to make, all of them adding up. How could any of us know how we might act? It was so well researched, which must have been harrowing to do. Believable.

When a Duke Loves a Woman by Lorraine Heath.

Gillie Trewlove knows what a stranger’s kindness can mean, having been abandoned on a doorstep as a baby and raised by the woman who found her there. So, when suddenly faced with a soul in need at her door—or the alleyway by her tavern—Gillie doesn’t hesitate. But he’s no infant. He’s a grievously injured, distractingly handsome gentleman who doesn’t belong in Whitechapel, much less recuperating in Gillie’s bed.

Being left at the altar is humiliating; being rescued from thugs by a woman—albeit a brave and beautiful one—is the pièce de résistance to the Duke of Thornley’s extraordinarily bad day. After nursing him back from the brink, Gillie agrees to help him comb London’s darker corners for his wayward bride. But every moment together is edged with desire and has Thorne rethinking his choice of wife. Yet Gillie knows the aristocracy would never accept a duchess born in sin. Thorne, however, is determined to prove to her that no obstacle is insurmountable when a duke loves a woman.

My Review. While readable, I don’t think this quite worked on the same level as the first book in the series. Maybe it’s how Gillie is described for much of the book. Somehow, the handsome Thorne sees past the forbidding façade she has built up to the kind, caring and passionate woman she is.

The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss by Mary-Frances O’Connor 

A renowned grief expert and neuroscientist shares ground-breaking discoveries about what happens in our brain when we grieve, providing a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and learning.

For as long as humans have existed, we have struggled when a loved one dies. Poets and playwrights have written about the dark cloak of grief, the deep yearning, how devastating heartache feels. But until now, we have had little scientific perspective on this universal experience.

In The Grieving Brain, neuroscientist and psychologist Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD, gives us a fascinating new window into one of the hallmark experiences of being human. O’Connor has devoted decades to researching the effects of grief on the brain, and in this book, she makes cutting-edge neuroscience accessible through her contagious enthusiasm, and guides us through how we encode love and grief. With love, our neurons help us form attachments to others; but, with loss, our brain must come to terms with where our loved ones went, or how to imagine a future that encompasses their absence.

Based on O’Connor’s own trailblazing neuroimaging work, research in the field, and her real-life stories, The Grieving Brain does what the best popular science books do, combining storytelling, accessible science, and practical knowledge that will help us better understand what happens when we grieve and how to navigate loss with more ease and grace

My Review. Perhaps one more the scientists and researchers than those experiencing grief.

The Scoundrel in Her Bed by Lorraine Heath.

The bastard son of a nobleman, Finn Trewlove was a shameful secret raised by a stranger. As Finn came of age, he had secrets, too—the clandestine nights spent with an earl’s daughter. But her promise of forever ended in betrayal.

Driven by a past that haunts her, Lady Lavinia Kent seeks redemption in London’s underworld, engaged in a daring cause inspired by the young man to whom she gave her innocence, and who then proved himself a scoundrel by abandoning her.

When their paths cross again, they can’t deny the yearning and desire that still burns. As they discover the truth behind the deceptions that tore them apart, Finn and Lavinia must fight to reclaim what they’ve lost, no matter how dangerous—because love is worth the risk.

My Review.

Their love story is unique as each navigates past hurts and wonders if it is possible to trust again. I was cheering this couple on hoping they would find their way to happiness. A hot and steamy romance.

Dressing the Dearloves by Kelly Doust

One crumbling grand manor house, a family in decline, five generations of women, and an attic full of beautiful clothes with secrets and lies hidden in their folds.

Kelly Doust, author of Precious Things, spins another warm, glamorous and romantic mystery of secrets, love, fashion, families – and how we have to trust in ourselves, even in our darkest of days. One for lovers of Kate Morton, Belinda Alexandra, Fiona McIntosh and Lucy Foley.

Failed fashion designer Sylvie Dearlove is coming home to England – broke, ashamed and in disgrace – only to be told her parents are finally selling their once-grand, now crumbling  now crumbling country house, Bledesford, the ancestral home of the Dearlove family for countless generations. Sylvie has spent her whole life trying to escape being a Dearlove, and the pressure of belonging to a family of such headstrong, charismatic and successful women.

Beset by self-doubt, she starts helping her parents prepare Bledesford for sale, when she finds in a forgotten attic a thrilling cache of old steamer trunks and tea chests full of elaborate dresses and accessories acquired from across the globe by five generations of fashionable Dearlove women.

Sifting through the past, she also stumbles across a secret which has been hidden – in plain sight – for decades, a secret that will change the way she thinks about herself, her family, and her future.

Romantic, warm, and glamorous, moving from Edwardian England to the London Blitz to present day London, Dressing the Dearloves is a story of corrosiveness of family secrets, the insecurities that can sabotage our best efforts, and the seductive power of dressing up

My Review.

Not quite an impoverished aristocrat, but from a landed family now fallen on hard times, Sylvie Dearlove is marking time. New York is behind her and with no discernible future, she is at home at her family estate. I found some of the transitions into the past slightly confusing. Overall though the story comes together and like a kaleidoscope the pieces shift to form a different pattern.

A Three Dog Problem: The Queen Investigates a Murder at Buckingham Palace by S. J. Bennett.

HM the Queen Investigates Book 2

In the wake of a referendum which has divided the nation, the last thing the Queen needs is any more problems to worry about. But when an oil painting of the Royal Yacht Britannia – first given to the Queen in the 1960s – shows up unexpectedly in a Royal Navy exhibition, she begins to realise that something is up.

When a body is found in the Palace swimming pool, she finds herself once again in the middle of an investigation which has more twists and turns than she could ever have suspected. With her trusted secretary Rozie by her side, the Queen is determined to solve the case. But will she be able to do it before the murderer strikes again? 

My Review. I enjoyed this book. It’s as fascinating for the insights into the running of the palace as much as for the mystery itself. HM’s sense of humour comes through in several places. Why should one of the richest women in the world care about a little painting? It’s not the painting itself, it’s what it represents. Rozie is the most admirable of assistants, loyal, discreet and not above breaking the rules.

 Undercover Duke by Sabrina Jefferies.

Bridgerton fans and readers of Madeline Hunter, Eloisa James, and Lisa Kleypas won’t want to miss this humorous and clever new love story from the historical romance legend.

Along with his stepsiblings, Sheridan Wolfe, Duke of Armitage, is determined to finally solve the mysteries behind the suspicious deaths of their mother’s three husbands. Tasked with investigating a possible suspect, Sheridan finds himself in dangerous proximity to her captivating daughter, Vanessa Pryde. But still haunted by a tragically lost love, the duke is resolved to resist the attraction—and avoid any “scheming” husband-hunters. Besides, lovely Miss Pryde seems utterly smitten with a roguish London playwright…

Vanessa thinks a little scheming may be in order—for it’s Sheridan she truly has her sights, and her heart, set on. Her theatrical flirtation is intended only to break through his business-like demeanor and guarded emotions. And as Sheridan’s jealousy becomes aroused, the two soon find themselves propelled into a scheme of an altogether different kind, involving a pretend engagement, a secret inquiry—and a perhaps not-so-secret leap into true love…

My Review.

When I picked this book, I hadn’t realised it was part of a series. The perils of a quick library book grab! My understanding of the story would have been enhanced if I had read the others. Perhaps the proposition that three Dukes had been murdered was a little farfetched, but this is fiction after all. Vanessa is an engaging heroine and I felt for her having to pretend an interest in playwright Konrad Juncker when in reality it’s Sheridan she wants. He needs a wife but is determined not to marry just for a dowry to prop up his estate. The tragic end of his previous relationship has affected him. Anyway, in his eyes, Vanessa is a chit of a girl, far too young for him. How the story progressed was entertaining and it amused me that Sheridan can’t see the games Vanessa is up to.

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson

London, 1944.

Clara Button is no ordinary librarian. While the world remains at war, in East London Clara has created the country’s only underground library, built over the tracks in the disused Bethnal Green tube station. Down here a secret community thrives: with thousands of bunk beds, a nursery, a café and a theatre offering shelter, solace and escape from the bombs that fall above.

Along with her glamorous best friend and library assistant Ruby Munroe, Clara ensures the library is the beating heart of life underground. But as the war drags on, the women’s determination to remain strong in the face of adversity is tested to the limits when it seems it may come at the price of keeping those closest to them alive.

Based on true events, The Little Wartime Library is a gripping and heart-wrenching page-turner that remembers one of the greatest resistance stories of the war

Hardcover, 496 pages.

My Review.

Gives such a great sense of time and place and peopled with characters we come to care about. It’s a good story and based on facts. Ingenuity and spirit were the defining things about the Bethnal Green underground library. Should people be deprived of books because there’s a war on? Defiantly the answer was no, people needed books more than ever.  Public libraries are egalitarian and provide a free service for anyone who has a ticket. Maybe they weren’t all reading highbrow improving books, but they were reading for escapism, for romance, for history.

The Earl Takes a Fancy By Lorriane Heath.

New York Times bestselling author Lorraine Heath pens another richly satisfying romance in her Sins for all Seasons series.

She’s looking for a nobleman to wed…

Though born out of wedlock, Fancy Trewlove is determined to fulfill her mother’s wish that she marry into nobility. Fancy’s keen intellect and finishing school manners make her the perfect wife for any gentleman—if he’s willing to overlook her scandalous lineage. But Fancy’s plans are thrown into chaos when an intriguing commoner begins visiting her bookshop—and she finds herself unable to stop thinking about him.

He’s looking to escape his title…

Widowed just a year ago, the reclusive Matthew Sommersby, Earl of Rosemont, has been besieged by women hoping to become his next wife. Desperate for anonymity, he sheds Society life to search for the peace that eludes him. Fancy’s shop is his one refuge, until the night their passion erupts into a kiss that nearly leads to her ruin—and leaves both longing for much more.

Together, they discover an unlikely love…

As Fancy finds herself torn between her family’s expectations and her growing feelings for Matthew, secrets are exposed—secrets that force Fancy to question if she can trust her heart’s desire.

My Review.

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book as Fancy is both the youngest and most protected of the siblings. It seems as if she has had a far easier time than any of the others. Although that comes with expectations, that she will marry well, preferably a lord. Her passion for her book shop and love of books went part of the way to winning me over.

Matthew was incognito, playing a part and with each day getting more involved with Fancy. She is everything he admires but she has told him she has to marry well and this makes him doubt her. So, the man who hates subterfuge justifies keeping deceiving her.

Then an event forces them to confront each other. Is he the man she hoped he was and is she the woman of his dreams? Before this can resolve, hurt and pride need to be put aside.

I will always find time to read!

I read thirteen books this month, which when I counted them up surprised me. I would be hard pressed to name a favourite, although I relished the humour of A Three Dog Problem, after the more serious books. I’ve almost finished the Sins For All Seasons collection. They are on the steamier side of romance. I believe we should read whatever we want, for pleasure and enjoyment. While romance celebrates relationships, books based on fact illuminate the past in ways that resonate with us and connect us to that experience. Crime and murder intrigues us, as long as we are safe and only reading about them.

Now ,I am already four books into my August reading.

The Books I Read in June 2022.

In the southern hemisphere, June is the beginning of the winter months. It’s perfect for curling up with a good book. Here are the fourteen books that impressed me the most this month. I settled in my armchair, with a cuppa and with my cat on my knee. Then, I opened a good book. It’s a perfect recipe for a cold and dreary winter day or evening. In addition to reading, I’ve also been writing. This time it’s a submission for a Regency romance anthology. Of course, to some extent, my reading has reflected this.

This cutie isn’t my cat.

Elodie’s Library of Second Chances by Rebecca Raisin.

An uplifting story about fresh starts, new beginnings and the power of stories, from the bestselling author of Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop!
When Elodie applies for the job of librarian in peaceful Willow Grove, she’s looking forward to a new start. As the daughter of a media empire, her every move has been watched for years, and she longs to work with the thing she loves most: books.

It’s a chance to make a real difference too, because she soon realises that there are other people in Willow Grove who might need a fresh start – like the homeless man everyone walks past without seeing, or the divorcée who can’t seem to escape her former husband’s misdeeds.

Together with local journalist Finn, Elodie decides these people have stories that need sharing. What if instead of borrowing books readers could ‘borrow’ a person, and hear the life stories of those they’ve overlooked?

But Elodie isn’t quite sharing her whole story either. As the story of the library’s new success grows, will her own secret be revealed? 

My Review. Anyone who is passionate about books and libraries would enjoy this book. Elodie has never wanted the glamorous PR role she’s been given. Family loyalty has kept her tied to a job she has come to resent. Her previous attempts to leave have failed. This time she is determined. Her brother Teddy could take over her role and would love to. Applying for the job of Librarian at Willow Grove is an act of defiance. Willow Grove is where her love of books started. Elodie decides if she gets the job, she will resign. She does, but Willow Grove isn’t quite as welcoming as she had hoped. Maisie, the library assistant seems to resent her. Unless they can make a success of the library. it is due for closure and Elodie isn’t about to let that happen. Why does someone want to sabotage her efforts? Then there is Finn, the journalist. He wants to help her, but would he if he knew the truth? Her plan for ‘The Peoples’ Library’ may give both the participants and the library a second chance. Can telling a story be a step on the way to healing? Can hearing a story be a step to changing someone’s mind?

With thanks to Rebecca Raisin and Net Galley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review

Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath. Sins for All Seasons 1.

At birth, Mick Trewlove, the illegitimate son of a duke, was handed over to a commoner. Despite his lowly upbringing, Mick has become a successful businessman, but all his wealth hasn’t satisfied his need for revenge against the man who still won’t acknowledge him. What else can Mick do but destroy the duke’s legitimate son—and woo the heir’s betrothed into his own unloving arms . . .

Orphaned and sheltered, Lady Aslyn Hastings longs for a bit of adventure. With her intended often preoccupied, Aslyn finds herself drawn to a darkly handsome entrepreneur who seems to understand her so well. Surely a lady of her station should avoid Mick Trewlove. If only he weren’t so irresistible . . .

As secrets are about to be exposed, Mick must decide if his plan for vengeance is worth risking what his heart truly desires.

A steamy romance.

My Review. They should never have met, and when they did, they shouldn’t have connected. Lady Aslyn shouldn’t meet anyone like Mick Trewlove. She finds him fascinating, dangerous, and disturbing. Her life is already mapped out for her, betrothed to her guardian’s son Lord Kipwick , who treats her more like a sister than a potential wife. Viewing the fireworks at Vauxhall Gardens with Mick Trewlove, Lady Aslyn experiences the beginnings of desire. She is a novice in love, but longs to learn and who better to teach her than Mick?

Classified As Murder by Miranda James

Aging eccentric James Delacorte asks Charlie the librarian to do an inventory of his rare book collection—but the job goes from tedious to terrifying when James turns up dead. Relying on his cat Diesel to paw around for clues, Charlie has to catch the killer before another victim checks out.

A cat on a cover will always grab my attention!

My Review.An engaging mystery with enough bookish facts to satisfy the bookworm in me. An appalling family each of whom is a potential suspect. Charlie and Diesel are delightful and I plan to read more of this series.

How to Live to 100 by Ariane Sherine & David Conrad

If you’re reading this, you probably want to live to a hundred.

And why wouldn’t you want to live a super-long life, if you could remain in good health? You’d get to meet your great-grandkids, try out space travel and the teleporter, and gross out all your descendants by having noisy old-person sex.

Comedian Ariane Sherine has always been determined to live into her hundreds, but never knew how. With so much conflicting and confusing health information out there, she didn’t have a clue where to start until she met David Conrad, a public health expert, who helped her to weigh up all the research and evidence and explained exactly what to do to live a long and healthy life.

And together, they’ve decided to tell you how to live to a hundred too.

This book has all the facts, stats, inappropriate jokes and shameless puns you could ever need to make it to your eleventh decade. The evidence is given for a hundred factors that affect life expectancy – everything from green tea to gardening, sex to sweeteners. And celebrities weigh in with their own thoughts too, so you’ll find contributions from Derren Brown, Richard Osman, Lou Sanders, Charlie Brooker, Konnie Huq, Robin Ince, Jeremy Vine, Clive Anderson and many more. 

My Review The book is divided into sections, making it easy to access the information you want. It would be a useful reference without getting in too deeply into any topic. I browsed, rather than read and picked the sections that interested me.

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett.

It’s time to solve the murder of the century…

Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. He took it to his remedial English teacher, Miss Isles, who became convinced it was the key to solving a puzzle. That a message in secret code ran through all Edith Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Isles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven’s memory won’t allow him to remember what happened. Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Isles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today? Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Isles, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn’t the only one trying to solve it…

My Review. An interesting concept, the whole book is told in a series of transcribed recorded messages. It can make for fragmented reading and the book requires concentration. Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing story as forty years late Steven is trying to make sense of what happened that summer. There are no certainties because what people say or believe may not necessarily be the truth. A satisfying conclusion but after the mental work out I felt I needed to read something lighter.

Poison At The Village Show by Catherine Coles.

Westleham Village 1947.

It’s the Westleham village show and with the war finally over, everyone is looking forward to a pleasant day.

But newcomer, Martha Miller doesn’t share the excitement. Because since her husband Stan left for work one day and never returned, Martha has been treated as somewhat of an outsider in Westleham. The village gossip is that Martha must be to blame….

Martha hopes she can win her fellow villagers over with her delicious homemade plum gin. But as glasses of the tangy tipple are quaffed, disaster strikes! Chairwoman of the village show, Alice Warren, slumps to the ground – poisoned!

As fingers of suspicion again point Martha’s way, she’s determined to prove her innocence and find the real culprit. And she’s ably helped by the new vicar, Luke Walker.

But who would kill Alice and why? And will Luke and Martha discover who is behind the poisoning before it’s too late? 

 My Review. A promising beginning to a cosy murder series. Quite reminiscent of Agatha Christie, with its picture-perfect village and villagers. Martha is an outsider and still struggling to gain acceptance. Disaster strikes when her plum gin is implicated in poisoning. New vicar Luke Walker is sympathetic and joins her in investigating. We are sure to see more of this likeable duo.

Shatter By Michael Robotham. Joe O’Loughlin 3

Joe O ‘Loughlin is on familiar territory—standing on a bridge high above a flooded gorge, trying to stop a distraught woman from jumping. She is naked, wearing only high-heel shoes, sobbing into a cell phone. Suddenly, she turns to him and whispers, “You don’t understand,” and lets go. Joe is shattered by the suicide and haunted by his failure to save the woman, until her teenage daughter finds him and reveals that her mother would never have committed suicide—not like that. She was terrified of heights. Compelled to investigate, Joe is soon obsessed with discovering who was on the other end of the phone. What could have driven her to commit such a desperate act? Whose voice? What evil?

Having devoted his career to repairing damaged minds, Joe must now confront an adversary who tears them apart: a man who searches for the cracks in a person’s psyche and claws his fingers inside, destroying what makes them whole.

My Review. Compelling fiction, tense, edge-of-your-seat stuff. Joe might never have got involved but for chance. Once he is, he can’t look away. If anyone can unlock this killer’s mind, Joe believes he can. He just doesn’t know what it will cost him.

The Year of Mr Maybe’s by Judy Leigh

Never say never to falling in love…Val didn’t expect to be starting again in her seventies, but when life gives her lemons, Val is determined to make lemonade.

Settled into her new home – a picture-perfect fisherman’s cottage in the small Cornish seaside town of Lowenstowe – Val is ready to start a new chapter. And with her son due to get married next Christmas, there’s also the little job of finding herself a plus-one to help her face her ex-husband and his new girlfriend.

With the support of her neighbour Connie, and after decades of married life, Val takes the plunge back into the world of dating with trepidation and excitement. But can she remember how the single life works, let alone what her type is? There seem to be plenty of Mr Maybes, but no sign of Mr Right.

As the year passes, and as friendships and community life flourish, Val begins to blossom. And as Christmas approach, she might just decide she doesn’t need that plus-one after all – although never say never… 

Judy Leigh is back with her trademark promise of laughter, love and friendship. The perfect feel-good novel for all fans of Dawn French, Dee Macdonald and Cathy Hopkins.

My Review. I was intrigued to read a book with a lead character in her seventies. Val is facing the problem that many women face, her husband has left her for another woman.

She is determined to start again. Moving to another Cornish town is a start. Here she makes friends and decides that there may be a man who is right for her. Then there is the almost invisible guy next door. I found this a fun but quite realistic read. The friendship between Val and Connie gave her the courage to pursue new ideas and relationships.

The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern. By Robert Morrison

The Victorians are often credited with ushering in our current era, yet the seeds of change were planted in the years before. The Regency (1811–1820) began when the profligate Prince of Wales—the future king George IV—replaced his insane fa her, George III, as Britain’s ruler.

Around the regent surged a society steeped in contrasts: evangelicalism and hedonism, elegance and brutality, exuberance and despair. The arts flourished at this time with a showcase of extraordinary writers and painters such as Jane Austen, Lord Byron, the Shelleys, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner. Science burgeoned during this decade, too, giving us the steam locomotive and the blueprint for the modern computer.

Yet the dark side of the era was visible in poverty, slavery, pornography, opium, and the gothic imaginings that birthed the novel Frankenstein. With the British military in foreign lands, fighting the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and the War of 1812 in the United States, the desire for empire and an expanding colonial enterprise gained unstoppable momentum. Exploring these crosscurrents, Robert Morrison illuminates the profound ways this period shaped and indelibly marked the modern world. 

My Review. in spite of the catchy strapline on the cover, this book is full of serious research. The book gives a good overview of the era and what a dynamic time it was. I focused on the areas that were of interest to me so a little on the political scene, the ton, Waterloo, fashion, and class. Although there was much more that could have been explored. I’d regard it as more of a reference book than one to read in a sitting.

Talk Bookish To Me by Kate Bromley

Inevitable that a title like this would appeal to me. Overall, I found it an enjoyable read. Ryan and Kara have a relationship that challenges them both. Ryan’s goofy dog added another dimension and her struggle to reach her book deadline added another strand. How can the guy that annoys her the most inspire her fiction?

Kara Sullivan’s life is full of love—albeit fictional. As a bestselling romance novelist and influential bookstagrammer, she’s fine with getting her happily-ever-after fix between the covers of a book.

But right now? Not only is Kara’s best friend getting married next week—which means big wedding stress—but the deadline for her next novel is looming, and she hasn’t written a single word. The last thing she needs is for her infuriating first love, Ryan Thompson, to suddenly appear in the wedding party. But Ryan’s unexpected arrival sparks a creative awakening in Kara that inspires the steamy historical romance she desperately needs to deliver.

With her wedding duties intensifying, her deadline getting closer by the second and her bills not paying themselves, Kara knows there’s only one way for her to finish her book and to give her characters the ever-after they deserve. But can she embrace the unlikely, ruggedly handsome muse—who pushes every one of her buttons—to save the wedding, her career and, just maybe, write her own happy ending?

My Review Inevitable that a title like this would appeal to me. Overall, I found it an enjoyable read. Ryan and Kara have a relationship that challenges them both. Ryan’s goofy dog added another dimension and her struggle to reach her book deadline added another strand. How can the guy that annoys her the most inspire her fiction?

The Village of Happy Ever Afters by Alison Sherlock

Molly Hopkins has happily watched all of her friends’ dreams come true on Riverside Lane.

Deciding to follow her passion for baking, Molly with the help of her friends takes the plunge and opens a Tea Garden in the village hoping to make it a summer to remember!

Meanwhile, after a rather public end of his marriage, Logan Armstrong trusts no one but his beloved Grandad. He just wants his brief stay in Cranbridge to be as quiet as possible. But his Grandad has other ideas; he dreams of seeing the old watermill working again which might just mean Logan has to ask the village for help.

Can Molly finally overcome her lack of confidence and believe in her abilities to make the tea garden a success?

Will Logan discover that Molly might just be the one to mend his broken heart? And will both of them realise that life is for living and loving?

Over a long hot summer in Cranbridge, perhaps everyone’s dreams of a happy-ever-after can finally come true. 

My Review. Ah, the perils of picking up random books from the library. I had no idea this was part of a series. I try to balance my reading between serious/ darker books and lighter ones. The cover indicated that this was going to be a light read. The beginning when Molly meets Logan was promising of an uncomplicated read. However, I got quite frustrated at Molly’s lack of confidence. She seemed to be capable but is filled with self-doubt. I almost gave up. I  read to the end, but it wouldn’t inspire me to go back to read the previous books.

The A List of Death By Pamela Hart

Shooting for fame could end your career … and your life. A sparkling mystery from a stylish new voice in crime fiction, in a book that will delight fans of Richard Osman and Kerry Greenwood.

TV researcher Poppy McGowan has never sought the spotlight and is none too happy to be photographed with rock god Nathan Castle. When the photo pops up on celebrity gossip sites, it sparks a media feeding frenzy, forcing Poppy to go to ground, don a wig, and pull some nifty moves to escape a tailing car. And she cops abuse from Nathan’s outraged fans.

None of this would have happened if Poppy had not found Nathan’s mother Daisy, one-time glamour girl and elderly best friend of her Aunty Mary, bleeding and unconscious in her bathroom. The police dismiss the case as an accident, but Poppy is sure there are questions to be answered. Who attacked Daisy, and why? Will she come out of her coma? What secrets are her gathering family hiding? What happens to Daisy’s money if she dies?

When a murder occurs outside Daisy’s flat, the police step in at last. Unfortunately, they finger Poppy’s boyfriend, Tol, for the crime – after all, he had bad blood with the victim. As Daisy’s money-hungry family circle, amid hints of poisoning, bribery and blackmail, Poppy must find a way to clear Tol’s name and ensure Daisy’s safety

My Review. I enjoyed this book. Poppy is a great character with an interesting job who isn’t easily overawed by fame and celebrity. She also has skills as a researcher and an inability to ‘ leave things alone,’ as advised by the police. You don’t need to have read Digging Up Dirt to enjoy this and, in my opinion, it’s even better than the first book in the series.

Dreams of a Little Cornish Cottage by Nancy Barone.

In her huge mansion overlooking Wyllow Cove, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Natalia Amore had everything she could possibly want. But having kicked out her adulterous ex-husband, her house is filled with nothing but echoes and Nat yearns for the coziness and bustle of seaside living. In particular, the rundown Lavender Cottage that has gone up for sale.

But when her mother has a fall, Nat’s dream of a quiet new life crumbles as she instantly brings her into her home to care for her. With her two energetic nieces then dumped on her doorstep and her recently heartbroken daughter moving back into the nest, Nat can’t possibly abandon her family… Lavender cottage will just have to wait.

That is until Irishman Connor enters Nat’s life and makes her realize that it’s okay to put herself first, and she’s allowed to wish for more. 

My Review. Nat has come out of an unhappy marriage. The house is too big and too reminiscent of her ex who was all about status. Nat dreams of a simpler life in a seaside cottage. However, all the niceties of divorce and separation have to be got through. Connor, her new lodger is a bit of a charmer, is he too good to be true? Nat’s sister exploits her good nature by leaving her daughter with Nat and then her mum has a fall and Nat’s ex who is a doctor gets involved. Oh, and her job as a columnist is under threat too. A lot is going on and this makes for a bit of a confusing book. Is it a feel-good romance? Is it more women’s fiction?

Hearts on Fire: A’firey’ novelette by Jenny Lynch.

Erin Barber works as a junior stylist at her sister Amelie’s popular hair salon and is forever in Amelie’s shadow. When Erin and Amelie attend their cousin Chelsea’s Hen Night at swanky nightclub, Nirvana, sparks soon fly as hunky firefighters put on a sizzling revue to raise money for the Burn’s Unit at a local Children’s Hospital. The fireys-adorning next year’s charity calendar-don’t disappoint, setting the house on fire. And Erin has already become accidentally acquainted with the incredibly ripped and cheeky Mr November! After the smoking-hot performance, the emcee announces a silent auction. The prize? A dinner date with the firey who gets the highest bid. Mr November has already stirred the flames of desire in Erin, but she knows she could never afford to put up the cash for a date with him. Will her dreams of a night with the gorgeous firey go up in smoke? And just what is Erin’s gran, Lizzie, up to? 

My Review. A quick and enjoyable read, perfect for when you settle down with a cuppa or a cheeky glass of wine. The two main characters seem just right for each other. Erin is slightly overawed by her older sister. Not seeing her own potential. Gotta love a ‘firey’ called Cole, the subtle pun amused me. Sparks fly between this couple and it could easily have developed into a longer book. With thanks to Darognfly publishing who provided me with a copy of the book.

Ideal weather to stay in and read a good book.

July has also been a big reading month. We have had lots of stormy weather. Mainly through chance, a few of next month’s books are based on World War Two. I am still reading Regency romance. There is another anthology opportunity I have my eye on. I’m also thinking about the Viking romance I submitted which was awarded a Judges’ choice in the Ink and Insight contest.

Meet Hearts On Fire Author, Jenny Lynch.

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Jenny Lynch to talk about her new book.

Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book Hearts on Fire which releases on 25th July 2022.

Jenny Lynch

“Hearts on Fire” is my new novelette, which began its life as a (long) short story. I wrote it to submit to Dragonfly Publishing earlier this year. They’d put a call out for submissions for a romance anthology. Unfortunately, the anthology is not going ahead, but I was offered a contract for my story to be published as a stand-alone novelette. I was rather flattered…and extremely excited!

A hot heartthrob features in Jenny’s book.

This fun-filled little book is going to be launched on Monday 25th July, at 2pm, at the Gosnells Bowling Club on Albany Highway, Gosnells. The event is free and anyone is welcome, but registration is essential through Eventbrite.

Perth Australia people book your tickets via Eventbrite

Are you writing anything else?

I’m currently writing another children’s Christmas book for Pink Ribbon Books (my fundraising project). Plus, I’m always writing something—whether it’s flash fiction, short stories or rhymes for my writing group (Gosnells Writers Circle), or a piece of writing for a writing competition.

Some quick-fire questions. Late nights or early mornings?

Definitely late nights (and lazy sleep-ins with breakfast in bed).

What’s for breakfast?

I’m not a huge big breakfast fan unless it’s for a special occasion. So, usually just cereal or toast, and definitely a nice hot cup of tea or two.

A light breakfast to start the day.

Night out or Netflix?

Netflix…or other streaming services, of which there are now plenty to choose from.

G &T or Tea/coffee?

Tea at home mostly, but a nice, large flat-white coffee when out. I must admit though, I am rather partial to a G&T on the odd occasion…with lemon or lime, and lots of ice.

Perfect weekend?

Spending time with family and friends is always a perfect way to spend a weekend. The simple things in life are usually the best.

Time spent together.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Believe it or not, a teacher…which I never did become! I studied computer programming and systems design instead, gaining a Bachelor of Business degree. My husband and I ran our own computer consulting company for 34 years.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating?

Dinner is whatever my wonderful Masterchef husband is cooking. I think tonight might be green chicken curry. I can cook (if I have to) but truth be told, I have been known to burn boiled eggs…more than once!

Curry and rice.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits and chases away a down mood.

Spending time with family and friends; doing good deeds for others; fundraising for worthy causes, especially breast cancer research—which is why I created Pink Ribbon Books. I donate all profits to the Breast Cancer Research Centre-WA, as I am a breast cancer survivor. It’s my way of ‘giving something back ‘for my good health.

Supporting breast cancer research.

Your hero?

I’d have to say, my mother and late grandmother. I can’t think of anyone else who could reach the height of their pedestals. Whatever good values I possess, they were instilled in me by these two remarkable women.

If you could choose three people (living or dead) to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Celebrity guests for an informal dinner party

J.K. Rowling (because I admire her literary success and creative imagination)

Celeste Barber (because that crazy woman cracks me up! She’s the only celebrity I follow on Instagram, and she’d be the life and soul of the dinner party.)

Regé-Jean Page from season one of Bridgerton (no explanation required J!)

I applaud your choice!

Do you have any non -writing-related interests?

I’m a wedding celebrant, so I enjoy being part of couples’ special day, creating a beautiful ceremony and taking care of all the legal paperwork. I also TRY and exercise, so I belong to a local walking group and exercise class.

Helping couples celebrate their special day.

Questions about Writing.

What writing resources have been most helpful to you?

Joining a local writers’ group has taught me so much about writing. We not only learn from various workshops, but we learn from each other, simply by sharing our written work. We have been taught how to edit each other’s work too, and that has been extremely beneficial to me.

Creativity can bond people of all ages.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey?

How to ‘show not tell’, and what POV and head-hopping are!

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Trying to think up plots and characters that are unique but still believable, so that my story is unlike any others.

Did you do any research for your current book?

Answers can be just a tap away.

Of course. Google is my best friend!

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?

From my novelette “Hearts on Fire”, I adore the character of Lizzie. She was such a fun grandmother to create! I hope I’m just like her when I’m in my eighties.

From one of my children’s picture books, “Bootsie and Snudge”, I adore the two cute little elves who help Santa out when he’s tired and has become forgetful. Obviously, the elves’ names are Bootsie and Snudge and they are adorable. Personally, I think ABC should turn them into a cartoon show…they’d certainly give Bluey a run for his money.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?

I certainly think it would be hard to ‘show’ and not tell if the writer lacked emotions.

Creativity allows us to express our dreams.

Best writing advice: edit, edit, edit and then when you finish, edit again! And then get someone else to proofread your work.

Worst advice: Write what you know. With the internet at my fingertips, I have written lots of stories about places and events I’ve never visited or experienced. All you need is a little bit of online research time and a lot of imagination!

Best money you have spent as a writer?

Some money is worth saving and some is worth spending.

My annual fees at my writing group and an online ‘Writing and Editing’ course run by Nas Dean. I learnt so much from that course.

Do you have a favourite author and why?

I have several favourites actually: Jane Harper, Trent Dalton, and Liane Moriarty to name a few.

What are you reading now?

“Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. I absolutely love it and I can’t wait for the movie to be released here in July. (But I always read the book first…that’s a golden rule!)

Favourite quote (does not matter the source)

“Believe you can, and you’re halfway there!”  (Theodore Roosevelt)

Words to live by!

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult?

“A Fortunate Life” by A.B. Facey. I can’t find enough superlatives to describe how much I loved this extraordinary book. It’s an autobiography of Albert Barnett Facey’s life, growing up in Western Australia in the early 1900s. I have actually read it several times now. It’s modestly written but is such a moving memoir, I highly recommend it to everyone. It certainly opened my eyes to how hard life was back then, and how privileged we are these days.

Favourite book/story you have read as a child?

Absolutely everything and anything written by Enid Blyton.

 Jenny’s book is available on Amazon for pre-order before it is released on 25th July.

I was lucky enough to read an early copy and I enjoyed it. My review appears on Good reads.

_________________________

What was I reading in May 2022?

Here in Australia, it was still quite warm as we edged towards Autumn. As usual, my reading was a mixed bag of library finds Kindle downloads and serendipitous discoveries. I can’t fault our public library, they have a good selection of current books across genres. How do I pick which books to read? Randomly. A review, a recommendation, or a library display. Do I always get it right? No, but I am not here to bash books, these are books I’ve read and enjoyed.

The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher.

The dramatic story of how a humble bookseller fought against incredible odds to bring one of the most important books of the 20th century to the world in this new novel from the author of The Girl in White Gloves.

When bookish young American Sylvia Beach opens Shakespeare and Company on a quiet street in Paris in 1919, she has no idea that she and her new bookstore will change the course of literature itself.

Shakespeare and Company is more than a bookstore and lending library: Many of the prominent writers of the Lost Generation, like Ernest Hemingway, consider it a second home. It’s where some of the most important literary friendships of the twentieth century are forged–none more so than the one between Irish writer James Joyce and Sylvia herself. When Joyce’s controversial novel Ulysses is banned, Beach takes a massive risk and publishes it under the auspices of Shakespeare and Company.

But the success and notoriety of publishing the most infamous and influential book of the century comes with steep costs. The future of her beloved store itself is threatened when Ulysses‘ success brings other publishers to woo Joyce away. Her most cherished relationships are put to the test as Paris is plunged deeper into the Depression and many expatriate friends return to America. As she faces painful personal and financial crises, Sylvia–a woman who has made it her mission to honor the life-changing impact of books–must decide what Shakespeare and Company truly means to her. 

Iconic Shakespeare and Company

My Review.

As a reader and book lover, of course, I had heard of Paris’s famous Shakespeare and Company. What I hadn’t known, was the fascinating story behind the establishment of Paris’s first English language bookshop, and the woman behind it. Sylvia Beach was a woman of conviction and she believed passionately that James Joyce’s Ulysses‘ was a masterpiece that the world needed to read.

The Rose Code by  Kate Quinn.

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of East-End London poverty, works the legendary code-breaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter—the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger—and their true enemy—closer…

A blend of fact and fiction.

My Review.

You might think a 600+ page book would drag or be difficult to read. You’d be wrong. I read this book in a few days, becoming engrossed in the lives of these different women. Osla with a burgeoning romance with the dashing and handsome Prince Philip. Mab remaking her life after a false start and mousy and beleaguered Beth escaping her family. I’d watched The Bletchley Circle and The Imitation Game, but The Rose Code gave me a different perspective on the same events. I lived vicariously through these women, feeling their feelings, and understanding more about the strains and stresses of wartime. I thoroughly recommend this book.

A Life Worth Living by Louise Guy.

Are some white lies simply too big to forgive?

Eve and Leah are identical twins—but beyond that, they’re polar opposites. Struggling journalist Leah envies Eve’s seemingly perfect life—the loyal husband, the beautiful twin daughters, the stellar career—little knowing that what Eve longs for most is Leah’s independence.

When a shocking event upends their world, one woman seizes a split-second chance to change everything and follow her sister down a different life path. It’s a spontaneous choice, but there’s no going back. How will she deal with the fallout when covering up one untruth means lying to everyone—about everything?

One thing is clear: both twins have secrets, and both just want to be happy. But what price will they pay to live the life they’ve always wanted?

My Review.

I found this easy reading and raced through the book. It was always tempting to read ‘just one more page.’ Twins can look alike, but not think alike and that is evident here. The grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, but what are the pitfalls? What do you do when one decision affects everything and everyone

Autumn Leaves At Mill Grange by Jenny Kane

At Mill Grange, the work – and the fun – never stops! As autumn brings coolness and colour, change is in the air for all at the manor…

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

Welcome back to Mill Grange and the beautiful village of Upwich, full of larger-than-life characters you can’t help but adore. 

A random library choice.

My Review.

This was an interesting read, picked up on a whim at my local library. The topic was unusual, and the cover appealed. Subsequently, I found that it was the second book in a series, and I hadn’t read the first book. The archaeology was perhaps a bit in-depth for a lay person, but overall, the characters and plot made it a good story. Sam’s claustrophobia was well conveyed and showed how limiting it could be.

Summer Intrigue by Linda Tyler.

SUMMER INTRIGUE
Summer, 1812, Scotland.
Invited to a house party, Lucinda Banbury soon discovers someone there is passing British secrets to the French. But who should she believe – her suave host or the enigmatic naval officer? It is important she finds out soon, as Lucy finds herself falling in love with Captain Nathaniel Lambert!

This isn’t the cover of the book I read, but this is the only one available.

My Review.

A pleasant and easy-to-read Regency romance. No real surprises as the spirited heroine and the dashing naval captain hit it off. I read this in a paperback edition.

Bridgerton’s England by Antonia Hicks

Stunning buildings and photography.

My Review

A great pictorial reminder of all the iconic locations used in the series. At the back of the book are the details of where they are and when they are open to the public.

Under The Whispering Door by T.J.Klune.

A Man Called Ove meets The Good Place in Under the Whispering Door, a delightful queer love story from TJ Klune, author of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller The House in the Cerulean Sea.

Welcome to Charon’s Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.


When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.

 

My Review.

A slightly slow start but the book is so worth it. I laughed, I cried and more than anything else I marvelled that words on a page could convey so much. I read that T.J wrote this when he was grieving, and it felt like a warm and compassionate hug as I too was grieving. A joyous book

The Duchess in His Bed by Lorraine Heath.

(Sins for all Seasons Book 4).

For a duchess with practical desires, falling in love is an inconceivable part of her plan…

As owner of the Elysium Club which caters to women’s fantasies, Aiden Trewlove is accustomed to introducing adventurous ladies to sin and vice. But he is uncharacteristically intrigued by the mysterious beauty who visits his club one night, yearning to indulge in the forbidden—with him. Drawn to her indomitable spirit, he breaks his rule of never becoming personally involved with his clientele and is determined to fully awaken her desires.

A recent widow, Selena Sheffield, Duchess of Lushing, has never known passion, not until Aiden’s slow, sensual seduction leads her on a journey of discovery and incredible pleasure. But her reasons for visiting the notorious club are not all that they seem.

As Selena’s motives become complicated by love, she finds herself with a most unexpected choice: forge ahead with a secret plan that could secure her future—or follow her heart which could prove ruinous. 

A Steamy Romance.

My Review.

It would be difficult not to sympathise with Selena, or to fall for Aiden. She is a recent widow, supposedly constrained by the rules of society. While he, as the proprietor of a scandalous ladies’ club, follows no rules at all. Both characters are appealing, and the sparks soon start to fly, with delicious conversations, and even more delicious love scenes.

This is the first book in the series that I’ve read. Luckily, there was sufficient information for me to pick up who the other characters were. I will be reading more of this series.

That brings me to the end of my May reading. Funnily enough, and for no particular reason, June sees me reading more crime and thrillers. I look forward to your company then. Meanwhile, if TV is boring, can I suggest you get lost in a good book?

What Was I Reading in April 2022?

My reading was of two types this month. There was more research for writing a Regency romance and a browse through other fiction. It was also my birthday and somehow along the way, it became almost a week of birthday celebrations. Not that I am complaining! Thanks to wonderful friends I was taken out to lunch, twice, as well as being treated to my first pedicure.

Saying it with flowers and lunches and pedicures.

Changeless.( Parasol Protectorate 2 )by Gail Carriger.

Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. So even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

CHANGELESS is the second book of the Parasol Protectorate series: a comedy of manners set in Victorian London, full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking. 

My Review.
Having enjoyed the first book in the series so much, I was looking forward to reading this.it continues the story than began in book one. Unfortunately, for me personally, it lacked the verve of the first book.

From Where I Fell by Susan Johnson

An anguished email from Pamela Robinson in Australia to her ex-husband in Paris accidentally ends up in the inbox of New York State teacher Chrisanthi Woods. Chrisanthi is sympathetic to Pamela’s struggles and the women begin to tell each other the stories and secrets of their lives.

Pamela, responsible for raising her three sons, must re-invent the meaning of home following her divorce, and Chrisanthi, her dreams long dampened, must find home by leaving it. Temperamental opposites, their emails turn into an exhilarating and provocative exchange of love, loss and fresh beginnings, by turns amusing, frank and confronting

My Review. Having formed friendships online, this book resonated quite strongly with me. I enjoyed the exchanges between the women and their differing perspectives.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal.(Spindle Cove 5) by Tessa Dare

On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.
• Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
• Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
• Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit… and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love? 

My Review.

I enjoyed this book and its hero and heroine. Charlotte is determined to prove the person trysting in the library was not her. Piers and Charlotte are well-matched and each instance of them coming together proves it, but Charlotte isn’t about to marry anyone. The repartee is fabulous. I was cheering the couple on waiting for their happily ever after. 

Dressed by Iris by Mary-Anne O’Connor

A vivid, romantic story of Sydney in the 1930s Depression – the heartbreak, the glamour, the dark underbelly, the struggle towards a better day – and one young woman’s dream of designing her way from rags to riches. For readers of Natasha Lester and Victoria Purman.

1930: Seventeen-year-old Iris Mitchell dreams of designing clothes, but there’s little spare cash for fashion in their shanty-town home. The gift of a single purple ribbon from would-be boyfriend John Tucker, however, creates an unexpected opportunity … and when Iris’s brother Jim joins the Sydney Harbour Bridge construction, the large, dirt-poor but loving Mitchell family can move to the city. Iris will be torn away from John, but he’s Protestant and she’s Catholic, taboo in their world, so perhaps it wasn’t meant to be …

1932: By day, Iris scrubs the floors at Caron’s, an upmarket department store. By night, she designs and sews in her family’s tiny, crowded house. Friendship with gorgeous, livewire Natasha, one of Caron’s models, allows Iris to show her skills, but will her talent be acknowledged … or exploited?

When John reappears, passions are reignited, and Iris must face not only their religious divide, but the apparent impossibility of having both marriage and a career. Meanwhile, the Mitchells must navigate life in a city riven by corruption, dirty politics and gambling. Will their faith, determination and deep family bond save them when tragedy and adversity strike? In 1930s Sydney, the stakes have never been higher … 

My Review.
An interesting take on an Australian rags to riches story. The depictions of the harshness of life in 1930s Australia are sobering. Iris has talent, but no opportunity until one comes along, but even that isn’t all it promised to be. Friendship is what gets her through these tough times. When she has the opportunity to shine, she does so. Personally, I would have liked a little more about Iris’s success.

The Emporium of Imagination by Tabitha Bird

From the author of A Lifetime of Impossible Days (winner of the Courier-Mail People’s Choice QLD Book of the Year Award) comes this beautiful and uplifting story, that will make you laugh and make you cry.

Welcome to The Emporium of Imagination, a most unusual shop that travels the world offering vintage gifts to repair broken dreams and extraordinary phones to contact lost loved ones.

But, on arrival in the tiny township of Boonah, the store’s long-time custodian, Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, makes a shocking realisation. He is dying . . .

The clock is now ticking to find his replacement, because the people of Boonah are clearly in need of some restorative magic.

Like Enoch Rayne – a heartbroken ten-year-old boy mourning the loss of his father, while nurturing a guilty secret.

Like Ann Harlow, who has come to the town to be close to her dying grandmother. Though it’s Enoch’s father who dominates her thoughts – and regrets . . .

Even Earlatidge in his final days will experience the store as never before – and have the chance to face up to his own tragedy . . . 

My Review

Beautiful book. Spellbindingly magical, a fairy tale for adults. Wonderful phrases and concepts. Inspired by a personal loss, this book should resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one. It’s a joyful book, filled with happiness. 

The Whispered Word by Ellery Adams. Secret, Book & Scone Society 2

In New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams’ intriguing new Secret, Book, and Scone Society novel, Nora Pennington and her fiction loving friends in small-town Miracle Springs, North Carolina, encounter a young woman desperately in need of a new beginning . . .

Nora Pennington, owner of Miracle Books, believes that a well-chosen novel can bring healing and hope. But she and the other members of the Secret, Book, and Scone Society know that sometimes, practical help is needed too. Such is the case with the reed-thin girl hiding in the fiction section of Nora’s store, wearing a hospital ID and a patchwork of faded bruises. She calls herself Abilene, and though Nora and her friends offer work, shelter, and a supportive ear, their guest isn’t ready to divulge her secrets. But when a customer is found dead in an assumed suicide, Nora uncovers a connection that points to Abilene as either a suspect—or another target.
 
Summer’s end has brought other new arrivals to Miracle Springs too. Entrepreneur Griffin Kingsley opens Virtual Genie, a cyber business that unloads people’s unwanted goods for cash. With the town in an economic slump and folks hurting for money, Virtual Genie and its owner are both instantly popular. A patient listener, Griffin dispenses candy to children and strong coffee to adults, and seems like a bona fide gentleman. But Nora’s not inclined to judge a book by its cover. And when a second death hits town, Nora and her intrepid friends must help the new, greenhorn sheriff discern fact from fiction—and stop a killer intent on bringing another victim’s story to a close . .

 My Review

Nora Pennington has a knack for knowing which books a customer needs. Her quirky bookstore is a hub for the Miracle Springs community. So why can’t she get a sense of the mysterious girl who has shown up in her bookstore? I enjoyed this story and the book-related quotes and recommendations. 

How to Avoid the Marriage Mart by Eva Shepherd.

A notorious rake.

Meets a spirited spinster…At a weekend shooting party, where the guests are as determined to bag a marriage partner as they are a pheasant, two attendees are under siege. The Duke of Kingsford from a clutch of desperate debutantes, and Charlotte FitzRoy from her matchmaking mother! A pretend courtship between them should keep the others at bay, but an unexpected, impassioned kiss may just bring about the marriage they both sought to avoid!

My Review.

This is actually outside the era I wanted to read about, but I began reading and found it quite engaging. Of course, it has the essential elements,  meddling mammas, rebellious daughters, reluctant grooms and a previous encounter between the couple which had not gone well. Charlotte is a rebellious young woman with no interest in marriage, the despair of her mamma. Charlotte is into causes. Nicholas is at the house party purely to gamble; he has no interest in either shooting or picking a wife. They have a previous acquaintanceship which has left both of them bruised but they decide to help each other with a fake courtship. Of course, nothing is as simple as that sounds.

The Jane Austen Society by  Natalie Jenner  

(2020 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction and for Debut Novel!)

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society. 

My Review. Quite a slow-paced read but brimming with character and connections. Sleepy Chawton just after the war, impoverished, little changed. Unaware of the potential goldmine they have in being Jane Austen’s last home.  Similar to Jane Austen’s books here a cast of characters in a small village come together to form The Jane Austen Society. The diverse group have one thing in common they are all devotees of her work and that is what initially binds them together. Relationships are tested and changed. When love blossoms it is unrecognised and almost lost.

The Truth About Dukes.( Rogues to Riches 5)  by Grace Burrowes 

A new duke and a woman with a secret in her past get a second chance at love in this delightful and charming Regency romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the Windham series.

Robert Rothmere is hiding a past no duke should have endured, but he’s not hiding it well enough. Sooner or later, his enemies will learn that he spent years locked away at a private asylum. To get their hands on his wealth, they’ll try to send him right back to his worst nightmares. If Robert is to foil their schemes, he needs to marry a perfectly proper, blessedly boring, deadly dull duchess, immediately—and he knows exactly which quietly delightful lady he’d love to entrust with that role.

Lady Constance Wentworth has cultivated a reputation for utter forgettability. She never speaks out of turn (in public), never has a daring thought (that she admits aloud), and never comes close to courting scandal… as far as anybody knows. Her path crossed Robert’s years ago, though, and she’s never forgotten the extraordinary lengths he traveled to keep her safe when she hadn’t a friend in the world. She longs to be his demure duchess…but little does he know that to marry her would be utter madness.