What Was I Reading in February 2023?

Once again February delivered a hot and uncomfortable month with some good times and some not-so-good.

Welcome to the world of Alice

I visited The Alice in Wonderland exhibition at the West Australian Museum with a friend and we had a lovely time finishing with an Alice Tea party. The exhibition runs until Sunday 23rd April 2023. In my opinion, it is more for older children and adults.

The Cheshire cat

My computer and internet became seriously unreliable. It was incredibly stressful not knowing if any work would be available.

Part of the ever-changing tea party

Kudos to my broadband provider Aussie Broadband, who contacted me about the problem and arranged a call out from the NBN which fixed the internet problem.

I found to my delight that I had enough ‘Flybuys Rewards’ points to buy a new computer. I have had to spend some time getting to know it.

And of course, there was always time for reading.

Fly Me to Moongate Manor by Kate Forster.

A brand new cosy romance by the bestselling author of Starting Over at Acorn Cottage, coming to you in April 2023!

Amanda Cox is living in New York with a non-committal boyfriend and a student loan that threatens to crush her. That is, until she enters a raffle for a manor house in the British countryside of Northumberland – and wins…

352 pages, Kindle Edition

Expected publication April 13, 2023

I liked this enchanting cover.

My Review.

Life is bleak for Amanda; she is dealing with a bereavement and her life isn’t how she hoped it would be. The surprise lottery win ignites something in her and she decides to go and see what life would be like in an English manor house. Diana, the previous owner of the manor house, is friendly but reserved. Amanda senses there are things she’s not being told. Then there is Simon, the casual garden helper, who knows nothing about gardening. What is there in his past that he has run away from?
A treat for anyone who enjoyed The Secret Garden. There is a definite feeling that both the garden and the people are transforming. Easy and enjoyable reading. I loved it!

Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for giving me a complimentary digital copy of this e-book in exchange for a full, frank and honest review.

Love Heart Lane by Christie Barlow.

Welcome to Love Heart Lane…

When Flick Simons returns to the small village of Heartcross she only expected to stay for a few days. The white-washed cottages of Love Heart Lane might be her home, but the place holds too many painful memories, and of one man in particular – Fergus Campbell.

When a winter storm sweeps in, the only bridge connecting the village to the mainland is swept away! As the villagers pull together, Flick finds herself welcomed back by the friends she once left behind. And as the snow begins to melt, maybe there is a chance that Fergus’s heart will thaw too…

My Review

Trapped in Heartcross village Flick can’t help running into Fergus. They have a history, and now he tries to avoid her. Pushed reluctantly into a leadership role she is fighting for their village and its survival. Flick can’t avoid him and his delightful young daughter forever. He’s surly with her in a way she didn’t expect. Could he too be hiding a broken heart?

My Review

Just An Ordinary Family by Fiona Lowe.

Liane Moriarty meets Jodi Picoult in this tensely negotiated story of family ties, betrayal and sacrifice.

Every family has its secrets…

Alice Hunter is smarting from the raw deal life has thrown her way: suddenly single, jobless and forced to move home to her parents’ tiny seaside town. And now she faces an uncomfortable truth. She wants her twin sister Libby’s enviable life. 

Libby’s closest friend Jess Dekic has been around the Hunter family for so long she might as well be blood. She’s always considered herself a sister closer to Libby than Alice ever could be…

Libby Hunter has all of life’s boxes ticked: prominent small-town doctor, gorgeous husband and two young daughters. But when she is betrayed by those she loves most, it reveals how tenuous her world is…

For Karen Hunter, her children are a double-edged sword of pain and pride. She’s always tried to guide her girls through life’s pitfalls, but how do you protect your children when they’re adults?

As the family implodes, the fallout for these four women will be inescapable…

Bestselling Australian author Fiona Lowe wields a deft hand, creating utterly addictive storytelling that will have you questioning your own perceptions of what family is.

My Review.

Libby has an apparently idyllic life, while in contrast her twin Alice feels like a total failure. She’s lost her job, and her relationship and has moved back home to live with her parents. It’s not the life she envisaged for herself. She isn’t even as close to her twin as she once was, being sidelined by Libby’s friend Jess. But even perfect lives can have fault lines and in a small town, everyone notices everything. This is a real page-turner, and while you may not always agree with the characters or their choices you can understand why they take them.

The House of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley.

When Carey Revell unexpectedly becomes the heir to Mossby, his family’s ancestral home, it’s rather a mixed blessing. The house is large but rundown and comes with a pair of resentful relatives who can’t be asked to leave.
Still, newly dumped by his girlfriend and also from his job as a TV interior designer, Carey needs somewhere to lick his wounds. And Mossby would be perfect for a renovation show. He already knows someone who could restore the stained glass windows in the older part of the house…

Angel Arrowsmith has spent the last ten years happily working and living with her artist mentor and partner. But suddenly bereaved, she finds herself heartbroken, without a home or a livelihood. Life will never be the same again – until old friend Carey Revell comes to the rescue.

They move into Mossby with high hopes. But the house has a secret at its heart: an old legend concerning one of the famous windows. Will all their dreams for happiness be shattered? Or can Carey and Angel find a way to make this house a home?

My Review.

The type of story that I enjoy, it is about a renovation project as well as reinventing two careers. Trisha Ashley also includes references to a village from one of her previous books, called Half Hidden. Throw in speculation about a ghost, and details of working with stained glass as well as an ongoing family mystery. Of course, there are some quirky characters too. A triple timeline throughout the book adds to the story, as we learn secrets before others know them.

The House That Made Us by Alice Cavanagh.

When Mac and Marie marry and find a home of their own, Mac takes a snap of themselves outside their newbuild bungalow, the garden bare and the paint on the front door still wet. It becomes a tradition, this snap, and slowly the photographs build into an album of a fifty-year partnership.
Every year they take a photo and though things change around them – the garden matures, the fashions change, they grow older – the one constant is their love. Every year, come rain, come shine, from the Seventies through the decades, every photo tells the story of their love.
Until the last photo, where the couple becomes one, and their story comes to an end…

My Review.

A deceptively simple story of family life that draws you in. Reminiscent of Maeve Bincy for its warmth and humour.

The Last Love Note by Emma Grey.

In the aftermath of crushing grief, sole parent Kate Whittaker must learn to live and love again. It’s been tough raising her young son and wrangling a university fundraising job, an overbearing mother and a best friend intent on matchmaking her with someone new.
When Kate and her boss, Hugh, become stranded in a sleepy hamlet north of Byron Bay, she finally has a chance to process all that she’s been through and all that the future might hold. Caught in an impossible tangle of loss, love and unexpected longing, Kate wonders if she can risk her heart again.
But when it becomes clear that Hugh is hiding a secret from her past, all she has to guide her is the trail of scribbled notes she once used to hold her life together. The first note captured her heart. Will the last note set it free?
A sparkling Australian romantic comedy that will break your heart into a thousand shards and piece it back together again.

My Review.

This is such a beautiful book, it’s a testament to the power of love, the pain of loss and the resilience to go on. I started to read this on the anniversary of my husband’s death, somehow, I felt it would be an important book for me.

It made me laugh; it made me cry. I nodded my head in recognition of the gradual disintegration of a loved one’s brain. I recognised the fear, anger, hurt, sudden impatience, and remorse.

Kate is a young widow and for her, there is the potential to love again.

The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre.

A compelling and lavish novel from the NYT bestselling author about a young woman striving to forget her part in the war by building life anew as the publicist at the just-launching House of Dior in Paris

1943. After spearheading several successful advertising campaigns in New York, PR wizard Alix St Pierre comes to the attention of the US government and finds herself recruited into a fledgling intelligence organisation.
Enlisted as a spy, Alix is sent to Europe where she is tasked with getting close to a Nazi who might be willing to help the Allied forces – but there’s also the chance he might be a double agent.

1946. Following the war, Alix moves to Paris to run the Service de la Presse for the yet-to-be-launched House of Christian Dior. But when a figure from the war reappears and threatens to destroy her future, Alix realises that only she can right the wrongs of the past and bring him to justice.

The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre is a thrilling, sumptuous work of historical fiction told in three timelines: before, during and after WWII. This completely immersive story takes readers from the dangerous, intrigue-filled rooms in Switzerland where elites of both sides mingled and schemed during the war, to the glamorous halls of the House of Dior in the golden age of French fashion and journalism.

 My Review.

Sure to please M/s Lester’s many fans and garner her new ones. Alix St Pierre is an extraordinary young woman who has been many things from a diligent student, to a spy. Now promotions for the new fashion house of Christian Dior. As we have come to expect from Natasha Lester, an engaging story, well told. Alix St Pierre had to make her own way in life. The resilience she has developed has served her well. But will old scars and wounds be her undoing?

Author: soniabellhouse

Sonia Bellhouse loves writing and reading stories with a ‘happily ever after ’ending. She believes we all need love in our lives. Sonia writes Regency and Viking steamy romances. Her book Fire & Ice is a contemporary and Viking romance, with plans to reissue. She’s a member of Romance Writers of Australia. An ex-pat Brit, Sonia happily calls Australia home. She will always ignore the ironing in favour of playing with her cats. You can find her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/soniabellhouse.author/ Or her Chatting with Authors page https://www.facebook.com/groups/1031642857187598

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