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
April was a busy month, with lots of writing and reading. I read two Royal books, which are not my usual fare, in preparation for the coronation. I was more social than usual too.
I have the best friends- I got taken out to lunch on three separate occasions. The highlight though was lunch at Perth’s revolving restaurant, Restaurant C . Both the food and the views were exceptional.
My So-Called Scoundrel by Fenna Edgewood,Blakeley Manor 3.
When one finds a bleeding, half-naked, indescribably handsome man in one’s bed, does one… • Scream • Faint • Hit him with a large book • Push him back out the window he climbed in • Bandage his wounds like a sensible bluestocking-in-the-making
The most perfectly imperfect debutante… Marigold Spencer was never supposed to have a London Season. For heaven’s sake, she was never even supposed to become a lady! The former housemaid of a duke, Marigold is thrust into the limelight when her siblings marry far above their stations. Suddenly faced with the marriage mart, her escort and chaperone is not only one of ton’s most notorious scoundrels**,** but the utterly infuriating man still won’t tell her where he got the knife wound that led him to her bed that night.
…can still tempt the deadliest of rogues… Lord Leigh Blakeley’s path took a sharp turn from seductive rake to vengeful assassin long ago. Yet when he finally returns home for a visit, he nearly ruins his new sister-in-law’s reputation for good by falling into her bed after a misadventure. Now Leigh finds himself forced to play chaperone to a debutante… one who unexpectedly enchants his cynical heart. And when Leigh foolishly proposes to teach the innocent young Miss Spencer something of the ways of pleasure, he ignites an inferno of passion that quickly turns unquenchable. When another man presents Miss Spencer with an irresistible proposition, Leigh realizes the desire of his heart is quickly slipping away. Though he’s never intended to wed, Leigh finds himself making an offer Miss Spencer can’t possibly refuse… or can she?
In this tantalizing Regency romance by USA Today bestselling author Fenna Edgewood, desire knows no bounds as the most unlikely of lovers succumb to the flames of their passion and defy society’s expectations.
Published March 30, 2023
My Review. Although this can be read as a stand-alone (as I did) you would probably have more understanding of the characters if you had read the previous books. Having said that, I still enjoyed this book.
Marigold isn’t easily swayed, even by the persuasions of Leigh, Lord Blakely. She may have been forced to have a season, but that doesn’t mean she will meekly submit to a loveless marriage. Untutored in the ways of love she may consider a marriage of convenience if it gives her what she wants. Leigh wants to dissuade her from this and attempts to show her how passion can affect her. The trouble is, he didn’t realise that he would also be affected. How can he let her marry anyone else? And does Marigold have any say in this? Great repartee, with an ongoing attraction plus some steamy scenes.
Battle of Brothers by Robert Lacey
The world has watched Prince William and Prince Harry since they were born. Raised by Princess Diana to be the closest of brothers, how have the boy princes grown into very different, now distanced men? From Royal insider, biographer and historian Robert Lacey, this book reveals the untold details of William and Harry’s closeness and estrangement, asking what happens when two sons are raised for vastly different futures – one burdened with the responsibility of one day becoming king, the other with the knowledge that he will always remain spare.
My Review. I expected more from an ‘insider’ and found it surprising that it was less authoritative and read more like a gossip magazine. Of course, it suffers from missing these last crucial couple of years. The narrative that Harry is ‘spare’ has recently been bandied about. Diana always knew this and raised him to love and support his brother. I imagine her telling him he was lucky not to have all that responsibility. It is sad to see the brothers estranged now
Camilla from Outcast to Queen Consort by Angela Levin
A compelling new biography of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, that reveals how she transformed her role and established herself as one of the key members of the royal family.
For many years, Camilla was portrayed in a poor light, blamed by the public for the break-up of the marriage between Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Initially, the Queen refused to see or speak to her, but, since the death of Prince Philip, the Duchess has become one of the Queen’s closest companions. Her confidence in Camilla and the transformation she has seen in Prince Charles since their wedding resulted in her choosing the first day of her Platinum Jubilee year to tell the world that she wants Camilla to be Queen Consort not the demeaning Princess Consort suggested in 2005
Angela Levin uncovers Camilla’s rocky journey to be accepted by the royal family and how she coped with the brutal portrayal of her in Netflix’s The Crown. The public have witnessed her tremendous contribution to help those in need, especially during Covid. Levin has talked to many of the Duchess’s long-term friends, her staff and executives from the numerous charities of which Camilla is patron. She reveals why the Duchess concentrates on previously taboo subjects, such as domestic violence and rape. Most of all, Levin tells the story of how the Duchess has changed from a fun-loving young woman to one of the senior royals’ hardest workers. She has retained her mischievous sense of humour, becoming a role model for older women and an inspiration for younger ones
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is both an extraordinary love story and a fascinating portrait of an increasingly confident Queen Consort in waiting. It is an essential read for anyone wanting a greater insight into the royal family.
My Review. This a very positive portrayal of Camilla, a woman who has been much reviled for being loved by and loving the wrong man. As Diana famously said, “There were three of us in this marriage.” Those were different more conservative times when Prince Charles was expected to marry a virgin and even then, they were thin on the ground. So, he married for duty although his heart lay elsewhere.
I was always in Diana’s camp, but like many people have come to an acceptance of Camilla. I have admired her steadfastness and her dedication to unpopular causes. King Charles has blossomed with his marriage to her and seems so much happier.
Angela Levin has written a very admiring biography detailing the causes that Camilla supports, battered women, terminally ill children, rape victims and literacy causes. I applaud all these choices but a few lines on page 81 made my blood run cold.
“Camilla was out of step with most of the country over fox hunting. Cubbing, which involves training young foxhounds to chase and kill fox cubs was particularly loathed. She and Charles wanted to carry on in defiance of the Commons vote but gave it up when given a warning by the police.’
Elsewhere in the book, we are told that Camilla loves animals, particularly horses and dogs. This to me seems incompatible with happily watching young fox cubs being ripped to pieces by dogs. An interesting biography, but not I feel the whole story.
Don’t Let’s Go to The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller.
In Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with candor and sensitivity. Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, it is suffused with Fuller’s endearing ability to find laughter, even when there is little to celebrate. Fuller’s debut is unsentimental and unflinching but always captivating. In wry and sometimes hilarious prose, she stares down disaster and looks back with rage and love at the life of an extraordinary family in an extraordinary time.
My Review. This book was recommended to me as a good example of a memoir. It’s bleak, stoic, presumably honest and unbearably sad. The cruelties of life in Africa, the tragedies, and the treatment of animals all are explored.
Welcome to Ferry Lane Market by Nicola May
Although thirty-three year old Kara Moon loves her hometown of Hartmouth in Cornwall, she has always wondered if she should have followed her dream of leaving to study floristry. But she couldn’t bring herself to leave her emotionally delicate single father, and has worked on Ferry Lane Market’s flower stall ever since leaving school.
When her good-for-nothing boyfriend cheats on her and steals her life savings, she finally dumps him and rents out her spare room as an Airbnb. Gossip flies around the town as Kara welcomes a series of foreign guests to her flat overlooking the estuary.
Then an anonymous postcard arrives, along with a plane ticket to New York. And there begins the first of three trips of a lifetime, during which she will learn important lessons about herself, her life and what she wants from it – and perhaps find love along the way.
I wanted to read something lighter after a previous book, and this fitted the bill perfectly. Kara is an engaging character, whose main flaw seems to be her empathy and good heart. This has led her to be taken advantage of for too long, by her boyfriend and her boss. The fun really starts when she opens her spare room as an air b and b. This gives her an insight into how other men behave. Then the mysterious postcard arrives, and Kara is finally off on an adventure. It was good to see Kara’s world opening up, but for me, it did feel that the book was a little disjointed as if the two parts came from totally different books. I enjoyed it, it’s nice escapism.
Lying Beside You by Michael Robotham
Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac return in Robotham’s latest page-turning, psychological thriller in this series.
If I could tell you one thing about my brother, it would be this. Two days after his nineteenth birthday, he killed our parents and twin sisters because he heard voices in his head. As defining events go, nothing else comes close for Elias, or for me.
As a boy, Cyrus Haven survived a family massacre and slowly pieced his life back together. Now, after almost twenty years, his brother is applying to be released from a secure psychiatric hospital—and Cyrus is expected to forgive Elias and welcome him home.
Elias is returning to a very different world. Cyrus is now a successful psychologist, working with the police, sharing his house with Evie Cormac, a damaged and gifted teenager who can tell when someone is lying. Evie has gone back to school and is working part-time at an inner-city bar, but she continues to struggle with authority and following rules.
When a man is murdered and his daughter disappears, Cyrus is called in to profile the killer and help piece together Maya Kirk’s last hours. Police believe she was drugged and driven away from the same bar where Evie is working. Soon, a second victim is taken, and Evie is the only person who glimpsed the man behind the wheel.
But there’s a problem. Only two people believe her. One is Cyrus. The other is the killer.
My Review. Taut, tense, engrossing. Cyrus is torn between his high expectations of himself, as of course, he should forgive his brother and his feelings. While intriguing Evie reminds me of Lisbeth Salander from Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. As the book progressed, I got to a point where I could not put it down, I had to finish it.
As well as reading I’ve been writing and have just finished my story for The Regency Abduction Club. It’s been a blast and I fell in love with a spontaneous heroine, Sophia and her counterpart Christopher or Kit. This one is a bit steamy and hopefully fun. It’s with the editor now and available for pre-order on Amazon. Due out early July.
Next, I am embarking on a heart project, one which has been simmering away in my imagination for quite some time. It’s different, and will possibly be a challenge to write a memoir about a difficult time in my life.
More about that next month, meanwhile Happy Reading
My reading was quite a mixed bag in March as I read a memoir, contemporary fiction, domestic noir, historical fiction, as well as romance.
Lunch in Paris; A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard.
In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman–and never went home again. Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pave au poivre, the steak’s pink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce?
Lunch In Paris is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs–one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine. Packing her bags for a new life in the world’s most romantic city, Elizabeth is plunged into a world of bustling open-air markets, hipster bistros, and size 2 femmes fatales. She learns to gut her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen), soothe pangs of homesickness (with the rise of a chocolate souffle) and develops a crush on her local butcher (who bears a striking resemblance to Matt Dillon). Elizabeth finds that the deeper she immerses herself in the world of French cuisine, the more Paris itself begins to translate. French culture, she discovers, is not unlike a well-ripened cheese-there may be a crusty exterior, until you cut through to the melting, piquant heart. Peppered with mouth-watering recipes for summer ratatouille, swordfish tartare and molten chocolate cakes, Lunch in Paris is a story of falling in love, redefining success and discovering what it truly means to be at home. In the delicious tradition of memoirs like A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, this book is the perfect treat for anyone who has dreamed that lunch in Paris could change their life.
First published December 21, 2010
My Review. It’s like having chat with a talkative and foodie best friend. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I would continue reading, memoir isn’t really my thing, but I was gradually won over. There was such a sense of exuberance and enjoyment at finding ingredients and cooking. As well as acute observations on French manners and their way of life. The recipes sound achievable too.
A Secret Scottish Escape by Julie Shackman
When Scotland’s sleepiest hamlet becomes the centre of hot gossip, Layla Devlin finds herself caught in a mystery…
When Layla’s fiancée has an unexpected heart attack and dies – in another woman’s arms, no less – Layla is determined to pack up and leave Loch Harris, the village she’s always called home. But an unexpected inheritance and love for her quiet corner of Scotland send her down a new path.
Now Layla finds herself facing a whole new kind of drama. Rumours swirl that a celebrity has moved into Coorie Cottage and Layla is determined to have him headline her opening night at local music venue The Conch Club. But the reclusive star is equally determined to thwart Layla’s efforts. Rafe Buchanan is in hiding for a reason, and soon his past comes to Loch Harris to haunt him…
My Review. I enjoyed this book although it is difficult to categorise it. Part romance, part mystery, it is written in the first person. Although on two occasions it jarringly left first person to tell us something the narrator could not have known. Apart from that it’s an engaging story, which perhaps needed a little more romance.
The Familiars by Stacey Halls.
Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.
Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
Rich and compelling, set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside (even woodland creatures, or “familiars,” were suspected of dark magic) by capturing “witches”—in reality mostly poor and illiterate women.
My Review. This captured my attention in part by being set in my part of the world, Lancashire. On a trip back to Uk we visited Lancaster Castle and saw the bleak hole in the ground these supposed ‘witches’ were confined in. I had also studied a unit on witchcraft in Salem at university, so I had some background knowledge. Without the benefits of modern medicine people often relied on cunning men or women to cure their ailments. This was fine until something went wrong. Diseases we recognise and can treat today were unknown then. It was a climate where misogyny could be dressed as virtue and poorer and troublesome women could be silenced. The King, James 1st of England had a pathological fear of witches. What better way for an ambitious man to worm his way into favour than by denouncing witches? This book explores this in a story that will hold your attention and make you think how lucky we are today. I enjoyed this immensely.
Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill
Sulari Gentill, author of the 1930s Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, jumps to the post-modern in Crossing the Lines.
A successful writer, Madeleine, creates a character, Edward, and begins to imagine his life. He, too, is an author. Edward is in love with a woman, Willow, who’s married to a man Edward loathes, and who loathes him, but he and Willow stay close friends. She’s an artist. As Madeleine develops the plot, Edward attends a gallery show where a scummy critic is flung down a flight of fire stairs…murdered. Madeleine, still stressed from her miscarriages and grieving her inability to have a child, grows more and more enamoured of Edward, spending more and more time with him and the progress of the investigation and less with her physician husband, Hugh, who in turn may be developing secrets of his own.
As Madeline engages more with Edward, he begins to engage back. A crisis comes when Madeleine chooses the killer in Edward’s story and Hugh begins to question her immersion in her novel. Yet Crossing the Lines is not about collecting clues and solving crimes. Rather it’s about the process of creation, a gradual undermining of the authority of the author as the act of writing spirals away and merges with the story being told, a self-referring narrative crossing over boundaries leaving in question who to trust, and who and what is true.
My Review. Initially confusing reading, but as you get caught up in the story you acclimatise to making the brain switches required. Both protagonists claimed my attention, both for their stories, but also for their musings on the craft of writing and authorship. Is the author the creator alone or do we as readers share a part of that creation? Writers sometimes talk about a character rebelling about how they are written, which sounds absurd but does happen. Here we are left to grapple with just who is the author and who is the character.
The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth
THE HUSBAND A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.
THE DAUGHTERS Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.
THE FORMER WIFE With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.
THE YOUNGER WIFE Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses in all of them?
My Review. A friend recommended Sally Hepworth to me, and I came to the book with no preconceptions. It is simply put, a page-turner, and as each page turns you want to know more. Subtly layered to reveal portions of the story which allows you to make your own assumptions. Some connections seemed to me, while others were more opaque. Recommended.
The Marquess Meets His Match by Laura Martin.
Sparks fly in this fun, romantic Regency!
The marquess she loves to hate
…or the man she can’t resist?
Farmer’s daughter Charlotte Greenacre regrets attending a matchmaker’s party when she has to spend it avoiding her enemy, Lord Robert Overby! Until she learns that the handsome widower is not the villain she thought—and that after his unhappy marriage, he doesn’t want a new wife. It should mean she can now relax in his company…if it wasn’t for the irritating flare of attraction between them!
My Review. An easy and uncomplicated read, with enough dynamic tension between the couple. Charlotte is an engaging heroine and amuses Lord Overby who has little to be amused about for quite some time. He is predisposed to distrust love, but could an unpredictable young lady change his mind? I really disliked the cover.
The Second Lady Silverwood by Emma Orchard.
Sir Benedict Silverwood needs a new wife, an heir and a mother for his young daughter, but he can’t envisage any of the eligible young debutantes taking the place of his late wife. Then Kate Moreton, the granddaughter of a friend, an impoverished spinster and Italian teacher, is suggested and what seems at first an outlandish idea grows on him, alongside his attraction to Kate.
Kate has been hopelessly in love with Benedict for years so the idea of marriage to him is appalling, considering he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings, but also so very tempting…
When Kate steps into her new life as Benedict’s wife, sparks fly, but as it becomes clear that there are incendiary secrets that threaten their fragile new life together, the question is whether Benedict will be able to love and trust the second Lady Silverwood?
Initially a bit of a slow-burn romance that turns sizzling hot. Kate has loved Benedict for years, after one magical dance with him. She saw him turn away from her, mesmerised by another young woman. Now fate has presented her with another opportunity. Can she risk her heart again and if he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings, will the status of being married to him be enough? She learns that he is an enthusiastic and inventive lover, and she matches him, but will she win his heart? A naughtily steamy romance. I enjoyed it. Thanks to Net Galley.
Mrs England by Stacey Halls.
When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby is forced to confront her own demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know.
Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric landscape of West Yorkshire, Stacey Halls’ third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.
My Review. This was an unsettling read, everyone seems to have secrets and a gradual sense of menace crept up on me. I felt the pacing was slow and yet I wanted to read on. It was such a contrast to the previous book of hers I’d read, The Familiars. Perhaps if I had read this first I wouldn’t have chosen to read more by this author. She is certainly versatile.
The One and Only Dolly Jamieson by Lisa Ireland.
The One and Only Dolly Jamieson is a compelling feel-good novel featuring a proud and gutsy heroine with a truly unbreakable spirit.
Life is full of downs and ups . . .
Dolly Jamieson is not homeless, she’s merely between permanent abodes. The 78-year-old spends her days keeping warm at the local library, where
she enjoys sparring with the officious head librarian and helping herself to the free morning tea. It’s not so bad, really.
But it’s certainly a far cry from the 1960s, when this humble girl from Geelong became an international star of the stage. As the acclaimed lead in the Broadway production of The Rose of France, all Dolly’s dreams had come true.
So how, in her old age, did she end up here?
When Jane Leveson, a well-to-do newcomer to the library, shows an interest in Dolly, the pair strike up an unlikely friendship – and soon Jane is offering to help Dolly write her memoirs.
Yet Dolly can detect a deep sadness in the younger woman’s eyes. Perhaps by working together to recount the glittering highs, devastating lows and tragic secrets of Dolly’s life, both women can finally face their pasts and start to heal . . .
I galloped through this book, I wanted to know all about Dolly and through the dual timeline I learned of her past and present. In the swinging sixties, Dolly had a string of stage success, when she had it all. Looks, love and success. In the present, how did she come to need to seek refuge in the local library? There she is greeted with disapproval from some and welcomed by others.
Dolly knows the value of keeping up appearances but it’s particularly difficult when you don’t have a home. She is well aware that her appearance can be rather offputting. Yet, Jane speaks to her and over time a slightly wary and unlikely friendship is formed. Each seems to recognise something in the other.
Dolly doesn’t consider herself homeless, she just hasn’t got anywhere to live and in her seventies that’s not a comfortable position to be in. Once fawned upon, now she is dismissed and ignored. But Dolly has a story worth telling and Jane is the person to help her. Each woman has the ability to help the other.
This story examines uncomfortable topics with sensitivity and heart. I was cheering the indomitable Dolly on.
The Secret Diary of Shirley Sullivan by Lisa Ireland.
The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan is a charming, nostalgic and heart-warming story for women of any age – and it all begins when 79-year-old Shirley kidnaps her husband from his nursing home for one final adventure. .
‘An endearing novel about one gutsy, smart and inspirational woman. I want to be Shirley when I grow up.’ Rachael Johns
‘Elderly. Is that how the world sees me? A helpless little old lady? If only they knew. I allow myself a small smirk.’
When Shirley Sullivan signs her 83-year-old husband, Frank, out of the Sunset Lodge Nursing Home, she has no intention of bringing him back.
For fifty-seven years the couple has shared love, happiness and heartbreak. And while Frank may not know who his wife is these days, he knows he wants to go home. Back to the beach where they met in the early 1960s . . .
So Shirley enacts an elaborate plan to evade the authorities – and their furious daughter, Fiona – to give Frank the holiday he’d always dreamed of.
And, in doing so, perhaps Shirley can make amends for a lifelong guilty secret . .
My Review. It’s very easy to sympathise with Shirley, who has been sidelined by her daughter in caring for her husband Frank. Fiona is a concerned daughter convinced she is doing the best for her parents. But she doesn’t know half of their story. Shirley wants to take Frank on one last adventure, she owes him that. While Frank can’t always remember things, he wants to go home and Shirley has a plan. It’s funny, it’s poignant and as anyone who has dealt with Alzheimer’s will tell you, it’s very true to life. I was cheering Shirley on, up until the last few pages where I felt rather let down.
Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost …
In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell.
My Review. A wry yet sympathetic look at owning and running a bookshop. Presented in the manner of a cautionary tale, with George Orwell’s quotes as chapter headings. His love of books and bookselling is reflected in the pages. The book is in part an advisory tale about the madness of owning a bookshop. Shaun tells dolefully that booksellers are prominent among bad back sufferers.
It’s more a book to be dipped in and out of than to be read in a sitting.
Eleven books that I read this month and as always it’s an idiosyncratic collection. I source books from my local library, they do a terrific job and usually have tempting to displays of new books. I also read on my Kindle, and although I prefer the physicality of a book the Kindle has it beaten for sheer convenience. These days I read on the Ipad, which is even easier.
I’m happy to take a chance on a book because the cover or its blurb appeal to me. I also review some books for Net Galley. Or, I choose a book because I read a review, or because a friend recommended it.
How do you choose books? At random? What appeals from the cover? The blurb- an industry term for the persuasive words on the back of a book that persuade you to read it.
Bookshops and libraries are the places where I feel most at home. The ambience, that sense of being surrounded by so many books, so many thoughts.
Books can connect us through time and space and reading enables us to travel when we have to stay home.
Once again February delivered a hot and uncomfortable month with some good times and some not-so-good.
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.
My computer and internet became seriously unreliable. It was incredibly stressful not knowing if any work would be available.
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
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…
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?
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.
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?
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…
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.
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.
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?
I set myself a goal of reading at least a couple of books a week. I am not in competition with anyone else, only myself. I want to read books I enjoy, and I won’t hesitate in abandoning a book if I am not enjoying it. If I review a book, then I have read it. I don’t post reviews of books I didn’t enjoy and gave up on. I accept that we all have different tastes, and they weren’t my book and that’s ok too.
Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan.
From Manhattan with Love 6 She’ll risk everything for her own Christmas miracle…
Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family. But when dog walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list–dealing with Madi’s temporary dog sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.
Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi–how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple–he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide twenty-four-hour care. But there’s nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.
Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all–letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?
384 pages, Paperback.
My Review. An easy and enjoyable read, as fans of Sarah Morgan, have come to expect. It didn’t matter I had not read the other five Manhattan books. Harriet and Ethan make an unlikely couple who are somehow perfect for each other if only they will realise it. As an animal lover, I enjoyed the addition of the dogs into the story and Harriet’s dedication and passion for their care.
The Country Village Christmas Show by Cathy Lane
A feel-good, festive read to keep you cosy this winter. For fans of Heidi Swain, Sarah Morgan and The Archers.
Recently divorced, the family home sold and her son all grown-up, Clare is at a crossroads. She’s dedicated her whole adult life to her family, and now it’s time she did something for herself.
In the lead-up to Christmas, Clare decides that a bit of time in the countryside might be just what she needs, so she moves back to Little Bramble, the village she grew up in. But living with her mum for the first time in years – and not to mention Goliath the Great Dane – can be challenging.
When Clare finds herself running the village Christmas show, it feels like she has purpose in her life again. Bringing together people from all sides of the community, and all walks of life, will Clare manage to pull off a festive feat like no other? And will she find the new start in life – and possibly love – that she’s been looking for?
The Country Village Christmas Show is the perfect romantic read to get cosy with this winter. 400 pages, Paperback
Can you ever go back again? If you do, is it the right move? Clare ponders these questions as she returns to Little Bramble. It is challenging and rather unexpected and at first, she flounders. Who is she now, and what does she want? Sadly, she hardly knows. She gradually finds her feet and is drawn into village life and begins to feel happier. Dog walking puts the colour back into her cheeks, as does an encounter with a certain village vet. Could going back mean a whole new beginning? Easy and enjoyable reading.
The Little Venice Bookshop by Rebecca Raisin.
When Luna loses her beloved mother, she’s bereft: her mother was her only family, and without her Luna feels rootless. Then the chance discovery of a collection of letters in her mother’s belongings sends her on an unexpected journey.
Following a clue in the letters, Luna packs her bags and heads to Venice, to a gorgeous but faded bookshop overlooking the canals, hoping to uncover the truth about her mother’s mysterious past.
Will Luna find the answers she’s looking for – and finally find the place she belongs?
I fell in love with this book, it explored a book lover’s passionate connection to books and bookshops. The cover was just perfect too.There were so many topics which resonated with me, dealing with grief, uncertainty, searching for identity, relationships, family and of course, Venice. Venice, is the setting for so many love stories, falling for the wrong person, or finding the right person.
Rebecca Raisin touches lightly on many of the topics, which perhaps doesn’t portray the depth of thought behind those easy words. I read sentences and found myself nodding, recognising my own experiences and feelings. A book about books and reading and bookshops but also about relationships, and fractured families. Hanging on for true love, refusing to settle and finding unexpected happiness along the way. It may be Rebecca Raisin’s best book yet.
I was fortunate enough to receive an Advance Reading Copy through Net Galley, and I am choosing to leave this review.
Audio Books Experience.
I was recently gifted a superseded I pad and it’s been an almost life-changing experience for me. I now can post to Facebook or email from the comfort of my sitting room. Another bonus has been downloading the library app called Borrow Box. This enables me to borrow and return e-books without visiting the library.
As Borrow Box is new to me, I accidentally downloaded an audiobook. I hadn’t considered audiobooks previously as I derive so much pleasure and relaxation from reading. The book was by an author I have read and enjoyed so I decided to give it a go. I was slightly daunted by the listening time of over 12 hours and thought I would listen at lunchtime.
I settled down to listen, the narrator adopting a different tone for each character, but I found my attention wandering. Much like how I can tune out TV advertisements. I couldn’t picture the scene as I can when reading and then unaccountably, I fell asleep.
I tried again the next afternoon, and with the same result, I fell asleep. I woke with a crick in my neck as the narrator’s voice rolled on. The book had over 7 hours remaining. I debated with myself before returning it. I know many people enjoy audiobooks, but I seem to be an exception.
John Cleese on Creativity. Read by John Cleese.
We can all be more creative. John Cleese shows us how.
Creativity is usually regarded as a mysterious, rare gift that only a few possess. John Cleese begs to differ, and in this short, immensely practical and often very amusing guide he shows it’s a skill that anyone can acquire. Drawing on his lifelong experience as a writer, he shares his insights into the nature of the creative process and offers advice on how to get your own inventive juices flowing.
What do you need to do to get yourself in the right frame of mind? When do you know that you’ve come up with something that might be worth pursuing? What do you do if you think you’ve hit a brick wall?
Not only does he explain the way your mind works as you search for inspiration, he also shows that, regardless of the task you’ve set yourself, you can learn to be better at coming up with a promising idea, refining it and knowing when you’re ready to act on it.
We can all unlock new reserves of creativity within ourselves. John Cleese shows us how.Audio Book. I hour.
I found this interesting and relatable. While there is nothing earth-shattering, what John Cleese said made sense. He explained how our educational system did not encourage creativity, preferencing the safety and comfort of being right. He went on to suggest ways that creativity could be nurtured.
Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson.
London 1926. Roaring Twenties. Corruption. Seduction. Debts due.
In a country still recovering from the Great War, London is the focus for a delirious nightlife. In Soho clubs, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.
There, Nellie Coker is a ruthless ruler, ambitious for her six children. Niven is the eldest, his enigmatic character forged in the harsh Somme. But success breeds enemies. Nellie faces threats from without and within. Beneath the gaiety lies a dark underbelly, where one may be all too easily lost.
Draws the reader in gradually, until you feel you are completely absorbed in post WW1 Soho. Grinding poverty and huge extravagance exist side by side Inspector Frobisher is called in to investigate a string of missing girls and the possibility of police corruption. Two young girls come to the capital to seek their fortunes. Freda, pert, bright, and talented and her friend Florence. When they seem to have disappeared, Gwendolen Kelly, an ex-nurse and York librarian agrees to try to find them.
Frobisher is battling a police station that is hostile and an increasing number of young girls pulled from the Thames. He is frustrated at every turn. Nellie Coker runs successful clubs with a clientele at ranges from aristocrats to low lives. She doesn’t care who they are as long as the money keeps rolling in and the gambling doesn’t stop. There are threats to the clubs, from old enemies and ambitious newer ones. She is the matriarch of a family of six without a maternal bone in her body, she is ambitious for them, because they are hers. Drugs, sex, gambling add a seedy underbelly to the frenetic atmosphere of the clubs. How can virtue win when vice looks so attractive? My favourite characters were dogged Inspector Frobisher, Gwen for her complete unflappability and the enigmatic Niven. I loved the gorgeous art deco style cover.
An absolute tour de force of a book, it confirms Kate Atkinson’s mastery of storytelling.
The Sandycove Supper Club by Sian O’Gorman.
Do what you love. Love what you do…
After a whirlwind courtship, Roisin Kelly ignored the sceptics and objectors and married aspiring novelist Brody Brady.
Fast forward one year and Roisin’s honeymoon is well and truly
over. Brody has become her reclusive, freeloading lodger whilst he pens his masterpiece and she walks on eggshells.
Working in the Council Planning office, Roisin dreams to escape the mundanity of her life. Her true passions are cooking and entertaining her family and friends but she lacks the confidence to take it any further. When a charity supper club is suggested by best friends Jools and Richard, Roisin has no choice and is reluctantly swept along to be head chef for the fundraiser.
With the help of her friends, Roisin starts to believe that there is more to life that moody writers, hamsters and poor hygiene and that maybe she has a few dreams of her own.
And that just when you think life has nothing left to give, your whole world can change.
I got a little impatient with Roisin, as she creeps mouse like around her husband Brody. It can be difficult to confront someone, but she was so subservient. The best part for me were the food descriptions and menu planning sessions. There were some funny bits, she wants a baby, he wants a hamster. Ultimately, just not my book.
A Year at the French Farmhouse by Gillian Harvey
Escape to France with this warm, witty romantic read.
After ten years of loyal service Lily Butterworth has been made redundant. Like any clever woman, she knows the cure to redundancy is a little too much wine and her best friend. Only the next morning, Lily has more than a hangover . . . she has a whole new house – in France!
Seeing this as an opportunity instead of a disaster, she’s excited about finally moving to France, just as she and her husband always dreamed of. However, Lily is in for another surprise. Despite planning to move there for over 20 years, her husband never actually intended to go.
So begins a year in France, alone, renovating the gorgeous old farmhouse that is held together by wallpaper and wishes.
Will a year at the French farmhouse be just what Lily needs? Or could it be the previous owner, Frederique, that is the answer to Lily’s dreams?
Take a break in rural France. I imagine this is a fantasy wish fulfilment for many Britons. Lily has made the impulse purchase to end all impulse purchases, a house, sight unseen. Was it a moment of madness, or an inspired decision? She is about to find out, and her husband isn’t prepared to join the adventure. After much soul searching, she decides to go it alone. Gillian Harvey lives in France and explores the difficulties of navigating a new system, when you don’t speak the language.
Weyward by Email Hart.
Three women. Five centuries. One secret.
‘I had nature in my heart, she said. Like she did, and her mother before her. There was something about us – the Weyward women – that bonded us more tightly with the natural world. We can feel it, she said, the same way we feel rage, sorrow or joy.’
In 2019, Kate flees an abusive relationship in London for Crows Beck, a remote Cumbrian village. Her destination is Weyward Cottage, inherited from her great Aunt Violet, an eccentric entomologist.
As Kate struggles with the trauma of her past, she uncovers a secret about the women in her family. A secret dating back to 1619, when her ancestor Altha Weyward was put on trial for witchcraft…
Weyward is a stunning debut novel about gender and control – about the long echoes of male violence through the centuries. But more than that, it is a celebration of nature, female power and breaking free.
336 pages, Hardcover Expected publication February 2, 2023
My Review .Interesting, thought provoking, and enjoyable reading.
Three women linked in time by both their ancestry and abilities. Explores what it is to be and feel differently.
1619 Althea tries to mitigate the harshness of life with her abilities.
1942. Violet, privileged but unloved is deceived, and eventually is able to extract her revenge.
2019 Kate is little more than a trophy in an abusive relationship, until she decides to escape.
Each woman is trapped by her circumstance, but defiantly refuses to give in. There is a gentleness about the book.
Although the women do use their powers, I would have preferred them to be more proactive. Thanks to Good Reading magazine and the publisher for an ARC.
The Girls on The Shore (Novella) 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 a darkly delicious short story featuring DI Matthew Venn from the Two Rivers series. It was winter. Cold and clear, a different sort of day for this coast where the westerly winds usually blew rain and cloud. Detective Inspector Matthew Venn is standing by his kitchen window when he first spots them. Two young girls, facing away from him, seemingly staring towards something in the distance. They are holding hands, and they are alone.
Though not a natural with children, Matthew knows he must find out why the girls are here, on a school day, unsupervised. And so he meets Olivia and Imogen, a pair of sisters whose secrets Matthew must uncover if he hopes to get them home.
I got this through Borrow Box and was settling down for a good read. However, it was only about thirty pages, the rest of the book filled with prequel for another Vera story. I feel the description on the cover of the version I got is misleading as it was described as a novella and will lead to reader dissatisfaction. It certainly did in my case.
Madly, Deeply. The Alan Rickman Diaries.
By Alan Rickman edited by Alan Taylor.
Madly Deeply is a rare invitation into the mind of Alan Rickman—one of the most magnetic, beloved performers of our time.
From his breakout role in Die Hard to his outstanding, multifaceted performances in the Harry Potter films, Galaxy Quest, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and more, Alan Rickman cemented his legacy as a world-class actor. His air of dignity, his sonorous voice, and the knowing wit he brought to each role continue to captivate audiences today.
But Rickman’s ability to breathe life into projects wasn’t confined to just his performances. As you’ll find, Rickman’s diaries detail the extraordinary and the ordinary, flitting between worldly and witty and gossipy, while remaining utterly candid throughout. He takes us inside his home, on trips with friends across the globe, and on the sets of films and plays ranging from Sense and Sensibility, to Noël Coward’s Private Lives, to the final film he directed, A Little Chaos.
Running from 1993 to his death in 2016, the diaries provide singular insight into Rickman’s public and private life. Reading them is like listening to Rickman chatting to a close companion. Meet Rickman the consummate professional actor, but also the friend, the traveler, the fan, the director, the enthusiast; in short, the man beyond the icon.
Madly, Deeply features a photo insert, a foreword by Emma Thompson, and an afterword by Rima Horton.
Thoughtfully edited, each chapter has a preview of the year and where and what it covers. This makes it easy if you want to check a specific time in Alan’s life, and what a life it was. An enquiring mind, a passion for his craft and a generous spirit that ensured he gave back to the profession that had given him so much. Inevitably name dropping, but then Alan seemingly knew everyone. A travel schedule that would leave many of us breathless. Equally, he seemed to enjoy the simple things of meals at home.
Who will you remember him as? Die Hard’s Hans Gruber? The Sheriff of Nottingham? Harry, the unfaithful husband in Love Actually? Alexander aka Dr Lazarus in Galaxy Quest? Or the supercilious and yet in the end vulnerable Professor Snape? Or Louis XIV from A Little Chaos? Each role showcased his versatility, a talent taken too soon.
A Good Heart is Hard to Find by Trisha Ashley.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man of over forty is in possession of a major defect . . .”
Cassandra Leigh has woken as if from a bad dream: forty-four, childless and twenty-plus years into an affair with a married man. Max assures her they just need a little more patience and for his wife to die (!) but Cass is desperate for a baby and running out of time. Maybe Max is not the only man for her?
There’s her friend Jason – though he’s perhaps a little too rugged, and there’s something strange about the way his wife disappeared . . . Or there’s Dante, the mysterious stranger she meets on a dark night in his haunted manor house . . .
Cass must throw caution to the wind and claim the life she’s always wanted. Suddenly, it’s a choice between Mr Right, Mr Wrong or Mr Right Now . . .
Fantastically funny and whimsical, this heart-warming novel will charm fans of Milly Johnson and Jill Mansell.
This is a re-issue of one of Trish’s earlier books and it has a different tone to her later work. I found the jumps between shlock horror novel writing and the contemporary story slightly disconcerting. The premise was amusing and at times it worked, but at other times it struggled. It worked to the extent that I finished reading although I knew what was going to happen.
Her Worthy Rake by Charlotte Anne.
Sparkling Regency romance full of wit, warmth and mystery from a fabulouSparkling Regency romance full of wit, warmth and mystery from a fabulous new voice. If you like Georgette Heyer or all things Bridgerton, you’ll love this. Is falling for this rake a mistake?
Owen Tattershall might not have a title or immeasurable wealth like other gentlemen of his ilk, but he does have rather excellent taste in the waistcoat department-and taste counts for a lot amongst the ton. It also doesn’t hurt that his adopted mother is the dowager Marchioness of Faye and his kind-of-cousin is the Duke of Woodhal. Unfortunately, prestige didn’t save his family from the ravages of war, and now what’s left is held together by nothing more than heartbreak, hope and bravado. To keep his memories of the war at bay, Owen immerses himself in his work … until the day Sophy Calder comes colliding into his life.
Sophy has been fending for herself ever since her twin brother was press ganged to fight against Napoleon’s forces. But the war ended almost two years ago, and still he hasn’t returned. Knowing something dreadful has happened, Sophy is determined to find her missing brother, even if it means infiltrating the world that snatched him from her. But when she encounters Owen, she quickly finds her growing attraction for the only man who’s taken her seriously threatening her long-mastered control.
An addictive romp from start to finish, this delightful Regency romance is set in the world of The Unworthy Duke but is a standalone read.
I kept thinking that some of the characters were familiar and of course they were, having first appeared in The Unworthy Duke. There is no need to have read that, to enjoy this story.
Sophy’s brother is missing, she knows the ship he sailed on, but the captain now denies all knowledge of him. The Admiralty is also stone walling her attempts to find answers. She suspects that something is very wrong, and her money is running out. Yet, she can’t abandon the search.
A chance encounter with Owen Tattersall changes her circumstances and together they embark on the hunt for Sophy’s brother. There are complications, miscalculations and even a suspicion that her brother doesn’t want to be found. Then there is the growing spark of attraction between them.
The Village Inn of Secret Dreams by Alison Stedman
After escaping her parents’ unhappy marriage to sleepy Cranbridge a long time ago, Belle Clarke dreams of staying at The Black Swan Inn forever.
But with the rundown Inn threatened with closure, Belle may be forced to leave, unless a buyer can be found … quickly.
So, when her oldest friend Pete Kennedy returns from working abroad with a plan to save the Inn, Belle should be overjoyed. The trouble is, Pete has some rather radical ideas for the renovation which Belle disagrees with.
But when a snow storm hits, Belle and Pete are forced to put aside their differences and work together to help the village.
Can Belle realise her dreams to stay in Cranbridge and can Pete ever stop running from his past?
As they try to save The Black Swan Inn, secrets are revealed and just maybe they’ll finally find out how they really feel about each other.
An easy-to-read bit of escapism. Part renovation story and part romance. Cranbridge, which I kept wanting to call Cambridge, is a quintessentially English village. The centre of the village is the ageing Black Swan Inn. No longer glossy and new but dilapidated and dated. It has to be sold, but that would leave Belle homeless. When Pete returns and buys the Inn, she thinks her worries are over.
However, their different ideas and temperaments mean they can’t agree on how the inn should be renovated, or on pub food. Pete’s time in Singapore has made him almost a stranger. Getting them back together might seem impossible, but if they can’t agree, the Inn will be up for sale again.
One Night with her Viking Warrior by Sarah Rodi.
A dramatic Viking reunion romance.
Her forbidden love
Is back to claim her!
Once, Lady Rebekah shared a life-changing night with stable hand Rædan, but he disappeared the morning after. Now she’s consort to a cruel Saxon lord, and when Northmen lay siege to Ryestone Keep, Rebekah’s shocked to see Rædan leading the charge! This Viking warrior is not the man she remembers…and yet she finds herself drawn to him again. Taken as his hostage, Rebekah must decide—can she trust him with her life…and her dangerous secret?
Highly enjoyable, the story keeps you entertained as it follows the pull and push of attraction and the denial of that attraction. They knew each other years ago, but each now feels that the other betrayed them. Add in a shameful secret and a jealously deranged ex-partner and the scene is set for some highly charged action.
Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves.
Shetland Detective Jimmy Perez knows it will be a difficult homecoming when he returns to the Fair Isles to introduce his fiancee, Fran, to his parents. When a woman’s body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isles bird observatory, Jimmy must investigate the old-fashioned way.
Delves into Jimmy Perez’s back story as he returns home to present his fiancée to his parents. They are hoping he may return to the island, but Perez has other plans for a new life with artist fiancée Fran and her daughter Cassie. Storms close in and the Island is cut off, so when a murder happens Jimmy has to rely on his own skills and resources. Can he work without compromising his integrity or that of the scene? How can he replicate forensics? It’s back to old fashioned policing and his knowledge of the community. In a sense it is locked room mystery set on the island, as no-one can get in or out from Fair Isle. The crime comes at a personal cost and we know Jimmy Perez will never be the same again.
————————————————————- January saw record breaking temperatures here and being indoors was often pleasanter than being outside. Once again my reading was mixed bag of lighter and more serious reads.
When the sand burns your feet, its too hot for the beach!
Do you only read one genre? If so what drew you to it? Id love to know!
It’s a pleasure to welcome author Lisa Stanbridge to talk about her new book, Lonely in Paris. Lisa recently placed third in the Romance Writers of Australia, Sweet Treats contest. This is a highly prestigious award and it attracts many, many entries. Congratulations Lisa!
Some getting-to-know-you questions.
Late nights or early mornings? Late nights all the way. My imagination comes alive at night and that’s when I do my best writing. Unfortunately, I also have a full-time job so late nights are not a good idea as I always wake up tired.
What’s for breakfast? Bacon, eggs and hashbrowns. Yum!
Night out or Netflix? Netflix for sure, I’m such a homebody.
G &T or Tea/Coffee? I like tea and coffee, but I’ll always choose coffee first.
Perfect weekend? A weekend at home with hubby, relaxing, writing, watching movies or playing games.
What did you want to be when you grew up? An author! It’s nice to be able to check that off.
What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating? I can cook and do enjoy it, but tonight we’re having spaghetti bolognaise which hubby is cooking!
What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, and chases away a down mood. Going to the beach. Not to swim, but to walk along the sand. There’s nothing quite like the ocean breeze washing away the worries of the day.
Your hero? A family friend named Barry. He’d have to be in his 80’s now and I haven’t seen him for years, but he ‘saved’ me twice in my life and I’ll never forget him. The first time was when I was at a wedding and I was probably about 12 years old. I didn’t have anyone to dance with and I desperately wanted to, but he came up and gave me my first dance. I was flying high for the rest of the night!
The second time was about a year later when my Nana died. I loved her so much and I was absolutely devastated. At her funeral, I wasn’t allowed to sit in the front row with my family and instead had to sit by myself in the row behind. There were some other people around me, but no one I knew. I couldn’t stop crying throughout the whole funeral but I had no one to comfort me…until Barry came up and held me while I cried. He is truly my hero.
Do you have any non-writing-related interests? Is reading considered a writing-related interest? Because I love reading but always struggle to find enough time to do so. I also love gaming, the relaxing type. Animal Crossing, House Flipper, Stardew Valley, and Pokémon…just to name a few.
What would surprise people to know about you? I used to dance when I was younger. All types of dance—tap, highland, jazz, Irish, and ballroom. Never professionally, but I danced for a good few years in my teens. Sadly, I never kept it up.
Life lessons-what do you wish you’d known earlier? That adulthood is hard!
Let’s talk about your new book Lonely in Paris which was released, today 16th January 2023
Lonely in Paris is a bit of a passion project. Ever since I visited Paris a few years ago I’ve wanted to write a story set there. I did try writing one about three years ago but I wasn’t happy with it so it went into the ‘maybe’ pile.
Then I decided to join a Paris anthology and I wrote a new story, which is how Lonely in Paris was born. I knew it would work better as romantic comedy/chick lit and so that’s what I did, and it pretty much wrote itself. It’s a fun, light-hearted romantic comedy with some serious aspects because you can’t have romance without a little uncertainty.
The eBook is available from the 16th of January and will be Amazon exclusive. Anyone can purchase it from Amazon, but anyone with a Kindle Unlimited subscription can read it for free. A paperback will be available wide but will be delayed by a couple of weeks.
Tell us about it.
Jane’s #1 rule in Paris: Don’t fall in love
After ending a disastrous relationship, Jane accepts a job in the City of Love. The trouble is she speaks very little French, has no friends to enjoy Paris with, and she’s awfully lonely.
Then she meets Jacques DuPont.
Rich, handsome, and the cream of the Parisian crop, Jacques is living the dream. Just not his own. His father wants him to follow in his footsteps, but Jacques wants to earn his success. Trapped in a life chosen by his family, he’s always been alone.
Until he meets Jane.
He’s from money. She’s not. He’s a planner. She’s impulsive. He’s serious. She’s definitely not.
They couldn’t be more different, but they will fall. Hard.
Together Jane and Jacques will learn why Paris is the City of Love. But when an expiring visa, a jealous colleague, and a manipulative family threaten their fledgling relationship, their loyalties will be tested to breaking point.
Jane broke her #1 rule, now they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice for love.
Are you writing anything else?
Lonely in Paris is book 1 in a 3-book series
Confession: Lonely in Paris was meant to be a standalone, but as I wrote it and the characters grew, I just knew it could be a series. Rather than having different characters in the other 2 books, they’ll instead feature Jane and Jacques during their evolving relationship and the many blips along the way. Book 2 is scheduled to be released on 16th May 2023 (pre-orders will be available when Lonely in Paris is released). Book 3 I’m aiming to release on 16th September, but that date isn’t set in concrete yet. I’ll see how much progress I make on it when I release book 2.
Questions about Writing.
What is your writing process like? Like my current manuscript…a work in progress. It’s an area I’m still trying to perfect. Juggling writing and working full time is something I still haven’t got right.
Do you have any other projects are in the works? So many, my mind is full of ideas and future series. As I mentioned above, I’m working on books 2 and 3 of this series. I’m also editing manuscripts I finished a few years ago that I plan to publish in 2024.
Have you ever resuscitated a project you’d shelved? What helped it work better the second time around? My debut novel, Abandoned Hearts (published in 2020), was a resuscitated project. It took me 6 years from start to publication because I just couldn’t get it right and I kept sitting on it. In that 6 years, I worked on my writing, perfected my voice, learnt and learnt and learnt, until I finally I got it right.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey? Drafts don’t have to be perfect. I often expected perfection first go and sometimes even led myself to believe my first draft was perfect even though it was far from it. There’s nothing wrong with a dirty draft where you just spill the words on the page and then go back and fix it later. I’ve started doing that recently and it’s such a great feeling. The words flow better without the pressure of getting everything right.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Actually getting it down on paper. I get the idea in my head and it all sounds so amazing, but then it comes to writing it and I really struggle sometimes. Since I’ve started writing dirty drafts though, it’s made this a little easier.
Did you do any research for your current book? Yes, because it’s been a long time since I went to Paris, so I needed to make sure what I remembered was still relevant (and in some cases, it wasn’t). I also had to make sure I got the French translations correct.
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? Oh, this is hard, as I have many. 🙂 Michael and Claire in Abandoned Hearts are close firsts, as is Jacques in Lonely in Paris. But there’s also Hamish in my unpublished manuscript, The Final Masquerade, and Gavin in another unpublished manuscript (planned for 2024 release) Oceans Apart. How do I choose?
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? I think anyone can be a writer, but if someone doesn’t feel emotions it’s going to be a lot harder for them. But since I’m an over-emotional person, I can’t even comprehend not feeling emotions.
Best money you have spent as a writer? Purchasing Atticus to format my manuscripts and paying an editor to get my manuscript up to scratch.
Do you have a favourite author and why? I’ve got many, but my top two would be Katie Fforde and Sophie Kinsella. They were instrumental in helping me find my writing style and voice.
What are you reading now? Let it Snow by Beth Moran
What books or authors have most influenced your writing? Ha, see above!
What favourite book/story you have read as an adult? It’ll always be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I agree and the BBC 1995 Adaptation With Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is about as perfect as you could get.
What favourite book/story you have read as a child? The Tin Can Puppy by Wendy Orr and Brian Kogler
Thank you so much for talking with us and good luck with Lonely In Paris.
I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Lonely in Paris and have posted a review on Good Reads and in last month’s blog post.
December, so much going on, gifts to buy, events to attend, and more socialising. Luckily television provided me with few distractions so I kept up with my reading. As you can see it’s quite a mixed bag, some were Christmas themed, but the majority were not.
The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan
Indulge in the perfect winter’s day treat and escape to the snow-fringed fjords of Norway with The Christmas Lights, a delicious tale full of drama and mystery, heartache and hope by Sunday Times bestseller Karen Swan.
Bo lives a life most people can only dream of. She and her boyfriend Zac are paid to travel the globe, sharing their adventures with their online followers. And when Zac proposes, Bo’s happiness is complete.
With Christmas coming up, Bo can’t wait to head to the snow-fringed fjords of Norway. Arriving at the picturesque and remote hillside farmhouse that will be their home for the next few weeks, Bo’s determined to enjoy a romantic Christmas under the Northern Lights. Everything should be perfect
But the mountains hold secrets from the past and as temperatures plunge and tensions rise, Bo must face up to the fact that a life which looks perfect to the outside world may not be the life she should be living…
The Christmas Lights was not quite the cosy book I was expecting, as it had a darker, grittier edge to the story. Having visited Norway of course this book already appealed to me. I enjoyed its exploration of how an ‘Influencer’s’ life operates and can understand the blurring of fiction and reality. We can see how easy it is to be swept away by fame and skim the surface of your own life. After four years Bo wants to slow down and have some privacy and private life. Zac her fiancé wants more of the same, more fame, bigger opportunities. In this, he is seconded by their cameraman-Lenny the third and ever-present wheel in their success. Zac has made a deal without consulting Bo who is struggling with problems of her own. The remote location of their Norwegian shelf-farm hideaway gives everyone time to think. As does advice from Sigi, the grandmother who took their booking and Anders, her taciturn, and at times enigmatic grandson.
Under a Venice Moon by Margaret Cameron
Life isn’t a sort of practice run, something you can afford to play around with. They don’t offer second and third chances to get it right. Use it better. Live it fuller.
A week in Venice ignites Margaret Cameron’s interest in the private city behind the tourist facade and the obscure tales from its history. Tantalised by stories of this lesser-known Venice she returns the following August for a month-long stay, determined to uncover the Venice of the Venetians.
Stepping out from her comfort zone, Margaret finds that friendships – unexpected and spontaneous – blossom within palazzi walls and she makes a discovery: life can lead you along rewarding paths, if you let it.
As each day passes, her time in Venice becomes more than just an interlude; soon, the city feels like home. Could she leave her satisfying life in Perth and start anew in Venice? The question becomes urgent when romance waits where she least expected to find it . . .
352 pages, Paperback
Under a Venice Moon is hard to categorise, in part a travel guide and in part a memoir. Margaret Cameron has been visiting Venice for years and in that time, she has come to appreciate the Venetians’ contradictory attitudes to tourists and tourism.
Living in a neighbourhood that is off the tourist path enabled her to live a more authentic Venetian life. She understands the pressure that Venice and Venetians face. They are victims of Venice’s success, all other industry has gone, and their children have to leave to find work. While Venice itself is slowly sinking, unable to withstand the pressure of so many more people.
Margaret Cameron’s impressions of artworks and architecture are interspersed with the day-to-day realities of living in a foreign city. Could this be her lifelong reality or will it be a transitory dream?
City of Time and Magic: Book Four in the Found Things Series by Paula Brackston
Published February 23, 2022, Xanthe meets Paula Brackston’s most famous heroine, Elizabeth Hawksmith from The Witch’s Daughter, in this crossover story with all the “historical detail, village charm, and twisty plotting” of the Found Things series (Publishers Weekly).
City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.
Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.
I was pleased that I hadn’t had to wait for this last instalment and that the events of the previous books were clear in my mind. I’ve enjoyed this series and the gradual transit through time. Xanthe has help, but ultimately, it’s her choices and her decisions that will affect both the past and the future. It was a fitting conclusion although I will always have a soft spot for Samuel from the first book.
The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill
In every person’s story, there is something to hide…
The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Libr
The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.
Award-winning author Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.
This is the first book I have read by this author and all I can say is why did I wait so long? It ticked almost all my boxes, set in a library, a book about a writer and writing and a mystery. It was compelling and intriguing. I didn’t want to put it down and kept changing my mind as to who could be responsible as information was revealed.
Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop by Rebecca Raisin.
’Tis the season for mulled wine, mince pies, and magic under the mistletoe…
Flora loves Christmas more than anything else in the world, so she’s gutted when her Scrooge-alike boss fires her from Deck the Halls Christmas emporium. But now she finally has a chance to follow her dreams – and what better place to start than the home of Christmas?
Before she can say ‘sleigh bells’, Flora’s on her way to Lapland in a campervan-cum-Christmas-shop. She can’t wait to spend her days drinking hot chocolate and taking reindeer-drawn carriage rides, but something Flora didn’t expect was meeting Connor, a Norse god of a man who makes her heart flutter and snowflakes swirl in her stomach. There’s just one problem: Connor hates Christmas.
Can Flora convince Connor of the joys of Christmas – and will she find a festive romance along the way?
Flora loves Christmas and wants to help everyone enjoy it too. A kind-hearted gesture leaves her boss cold and gets her fired. It feels like her whole world is collapsing, but Flora is cheered on by her friend to follow her dreams.
There is no one more passionate about Christmas than Flora so why can’t she open a travelling Christmas shop? She can and is soon on her way to Lapland, having mishaps and adventures along the way.
There is a definite Hallmark Christmas Movie vibe about the story, and it’s even referenced in the plot. Meeting Connor, a brooding Norse man, makes Flora think all her Christmases have come at once. Except, Connor is grumpy, and Connor doesn’t like Christmas. Flora is convinced he just needs a little persuasion to see things her way. Connor is a hoot as he sees through many of Flora’s schemes. But as its Christmas surely, she is going to get her happily ever after
Around the Kitchen Table: Good things to cook, create and do – the whole year through by Sophie Hansen and Annie Herron.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.” – Annie Dillard
A giftable and inspiring source book for easy-to-integrate-into-a-busy-life projects and inspirational ideas to bring more little moments of joy into our lives. Includes seasonal recipes, creativity prompts, craft and seasonal planting and garden ideas. Around the Kitchen Table will deliver inspiration and encouragement on a daily basis – ideas for rituals, repetitions, family traditions, small and big ways to count the days, from the joy of sourdough starters, growing herbs from seed, to making your own Christmas wreath or the liberating act of morning journaling, these are simple pleasures that will fill you up with goodness and encourage you to step even a little outside your comfort zone, grab a pencil and paper and start to draw.
My Review A great book to dip into for inspiration and ideas. The recipes sound delicious, and the illustrations are stunning. Made me grab my pencils and try a sketch or two. A real treasure.
A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder by Dianne Freeman.
Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, returns in Dianne Freeman’s charming, light-hearted mystery series set in Victorian England, and finds her wedding day overshadowed by murder . . .
On the eve of her marriage to George Hazelton, Frances has a great deal more on her mind than flowers and seating arrangements. The Connors and the Doyles, two families of American robber barons, have taken up residence in London, and their bitter rivalry is spilling over into the highest social circles. At the request of her brother, Alonzo, who is quite taken with Miss Madeline Connor, Frances has invited the Connor family to her wedding. Meanwhile, Frances’s mother has invited Mr. Doyle, and Frances fears the wedding may end up being newspaper-worthy for all the wrong reasons.
On the day itself, Frances is relieved to note that Madeline’s father is not among the guests assembled at the church. The reason for his absence, however, turns out to be most unfortunate: Mr. Connor is found murdered in his home. More shocking still, Alonzo is caught at the scene, holding the murder weapon.
Powerful and ruthless, Connor appears to have amassed a wealth of enemies alongside his fortune. Frances and George agree to put their wedding trip on hold to try and clear Alonzo’s name. But there are secrets to sift through, not just in the Doyle and Connor families, but also in their own. And with a killer determined to evade discovery at any cost—even if it means taking another life—Frances’s first days as a newlywed will be perilous indeed . . .
I fell for the title and the cover and didn’t realise this was book five in a series. The perils of making a quick book swoop at the library. There was enough information to enable me to follow the story, but obviously, it would have been preferable to have read the previous books. Frances is a resourceful woman, but her love of family is a danger in itself.
Keeping Up Appearances byTricia Stringer.
As tensions simmer in a small country town, three women are going to need more than CWA sausage rolls and can-do community spirit to put things right. From a bestselling Australian author comes a delightful novel full of practical wisdom and dry humour that examines female friendship, buried secrets and why honesty is (usually) the best policy.
Privacy is hard to maintain in Badara, the kind of small Australian country town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. So discovers single mum Paige when she and her three children arrive from the city seeking refuge. Paige’s only respite from child care and loneliness is the Tuesday gym club, where she had feared the judgement of the town matriarchs, but she is met only with generosity and a plethora of baked goods. Besides, both the brusque Marion and her polished sister-in-law Briony are too busy dealing with their own dramas to examine hers.
Well-to-do farmer’s wife and proud mother Briony is in full denial of her family’s troubles. Even with her eldest daughter’s marriage in ruins and her son Blake’s recent bombshell. Suddenly Briony and husband Vince have a full house again – and the piles of laundry aren’t the only dirty linen that’s about to be aired.
For Marion, the unearthing of a time capsule – its contents to be read at the Celebrate Badara weekend – is a disaster. She was only a teenager when she wrote down those poisonous words, but that doesn’t mean she won’t lose friends and family if they hear what she really thinks of them – especially as the letter reveals their darkest secrets to the world.
When the truth comes out for Badara, keeping up appearances may no longer be an option for anyone …
Keeping Up Appearances is both readable and relatable. Many of us try to keep up a perfect façade when dealing with personal problems and anxieties. How much harder to do that in a place where your family have been for generations? Where everyone knows- or thinks they know, your backstory. Even so, secrets have been kept in Badara and for some the fear of what will be revealed is devastating.
Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey
A sizzling, standalone, feel-good holiday romance from Tessa Bailey, New York Times bestselling author of It Happened One Summer.
Two weeks before Christmas and all through Manhattan, shop windows are decorated in red and green satin. I’m standing alone in front of the famous Vivant department store, when a charming man named Aiden asks my opinion of the décor.
It’s a tragedy in tinsel, I say, unable to lie. He asks for a better idea with a twinkle in his eye. Did I know he owned the place? No. He put me on the spot. Now I’m working for that man, trying to ignore that he’s hot. But as a down-on-her-luck girl with a difficult past, I know an opportunity when I see one—and I have to make it last.
I’ll put my heart and soul into dressing his holiday windows. I’ll work without stopping. And when we lose the battle with temptation, I’ll try and remember I’m just window shopping.
My Review. A quick read with a bit of holiday hotness.
Miss Morton and The English House party Murder by Catherine Lloyd.
Catherine Lloyd, author of the critically acclaimed Kurland St. Mary mysteries debuts with the first book in a new series set in Regency England, where circumstances compel one Lady Caroline Morton to become a lady’s companion whose duties will soon entail solving a murder . . .
The options for the penniless daughter of a deceased earl are few indeed in Regency England. So, following the suspicious death of her father, the Earl of Morton, and the discovery that she and her much younger sister have been left without income or home, Lady Caroline takes a post as a lady’s companion to the wealthy widow Frogerton.
Just as Caroline is getting accustomed to her new position, her aunt, Lady Eleanor Greenwood, invites her and her employer to a house party in the countryside to celebrate her youngest daughter’s birthday. Mrs. Matilda (Matty) Frogerton sees this as an opportunity to introduce her own rather wild daughter, Dorothy, to the ton, and Caroline is eager to see her sister, who as a child lives with their aunt. But all is not well at the Greenwood estate. For one thing, Lady Caroline’s former fiancé, Lord Francis Chatham, is a guest and refuses to speak to her. Far worse, after a series of troubling harassments of the staff, an elderly family member is found stabbed by a knitting needle. As Caroline and an unexpected ally—Mrs. Frogerton—attempt to solve the chilling crime, they discover the culprit may be leaving bizarre clues as to who will be next in the nursery. But they must make haste, for this heartless killer is engaged in anything but child’s play . .
Again, I was intrigued by the title and the fact that it was set during the Regency years. Caroline is just a bit too saint-like for my taste, but she is at least attempting to forge her way without relying on her relations and becoming beholden to them. Her employer Mrs Frogerton, a forthright Northern wealthy widow is by far the most interesting character. The murders are calculated and bizarre, finding out who is responsible and why will tax Caroline and Mrs Rogerson’s ingenuity if they do not wish to become the next victims.
The Christmas Postcards by Karen Swan
Set in a chocolate-box village, a woman makes a surprising connection with a pen-pal that will change her life – and warm your heart – in the new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Swan.
It had been a make-or-break holiday for their marriage, but Natasha and Rob’s rekindled romance is short-lived when their daughter’s beloved soft toy disappears on the journey home.
As Natasha comforts the distraught child, she turns to social media for help. Miraculously, the toy is found, but it has become the lucky mascot of a man named Duffy, who is thousands of miles away.
When Duffy promises to keep Natasha updated with pictures, the pair begin a correspondence that soon becomes more meaningful to both of them. Sometimes, Natasha feels this stranger understands her more than the man lying next to her.
But as the weeks pass and Duffy heads deeper into the mountains, Natasha begins to notice a change in him. Then one day, the messages stop. Too late, Natasha wonders why he had ever needed a lucky mascot at all.
From the picture-perfect Cotswolds to the majesty of the Himalayan foothills, The Christmas Postcards is a novel about how the closest connections can be the furthest apart.
I was reading this book during a heatwave, so escaping to the Himalayas was quite enjoyable. The story spans the recent past and two main locations in the present. Natasha is apparently living an ideal life in The Cotswolds, while Duffy is about to tackle a great mountaineering challenge. Their paths crossed when Mabel, Natasha’s daughter, left her toy cow Moolah behind in the Viennese apartment. Duffy who is there overnight. found it and decided it will be his lucky mascot.
Mabel is inconsolable without Moolah and can’t sleep. In desperation, Natasha posts to social media and Moolah is tracked down to Duffy in Nepal. He knows he should send Moolah back, but that is getting more difficult by the day. And he has a superstitious belief that he was meant to find Moolah. Instead, he starts to send pictures of Moolah having adventures.
Natasha and Mabel look forward to hearing from him until the messages stop. How have two strangers become so connected? The final pages will keep you glued to the story. Although some plot points were a little obvious, overall, it’s an enjoyable read.
The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman.
Thursday Murder Club 3 Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Mystery & Thriller (2022)
It is an ordinary Thursday, and things should finally be returning to normal.
Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club are concerned. A local news legend is on the hunt for a sensational headline, and soon the gang are hot on the trail of two murders, ten years apart.
To make matters worse, a new nemesis pays Elizabeth a visit, presenting her with a deadly mission: kill or be killed…
While Elizabeth grapples with her conscience (and a gun), the gang and their unlikely new friends (including TV stars, money launderers and ex-KGB colonels) unravel a new mystery. But can they catch the culprit and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?
They say that easy reading comes from difficult writing and this story just flowed along. Richard Osman knows his characters well but allows them to keep surprising us, too. Elizabeth’s husband is gradually progressing into dementia and yet he is acute enough to provide a valuable clue. It’s hard not to have a favourite character among them. While I can admire the steely Elizabeth, gossipy Joyce ( a Mrs Everywoman) is a favourite of mine. Considered Ibrahim, and Ron round out the group. This is a fast-paced story with a conclusion that should surprise most readers.
Dastardly Deeds at St Brides by Debbie Young.
When Gemma Lamb takes a job at a quirky English girls’ boarding school, she believes she’s found the perfect escape route from her controlling boyfriend – until she discovers the rest of the staff are hiding sinister secrets:
– Hairnet, the eccentric headmistress who doesn’t hold with academic qualifications – Oriana Bliss, Head of Maths and master of disguise – Joscelyn Spryke, the suspiciously rugged Head of PE – Geography teacher Mavis Brook, surreptitiously selling off the library books – creepy night watchman Max Security, with his network of hidden tunnels
Even McPhee, the school cat, is leading a double life.
Tucked away in the school’s beautiful private estate in the Cotswolds, can Gemma stay safe and build a new independent future, or will past secrets catch up with her and the rest of the staff?
With a little help from her new friends, including some wise pupils, she’s going to give it her best shot…
Previously published by Debbie Young as Secrets at St Bride’s
A chatty fun read, the story was fast-paced and easy to read. To say the school is peopled with eccentric is putting it mildly. It was slightly reminiscent of Saint Trinian’s although the staff appear to be more eccentric than the pupils.
Lonely in Paris by Lisa Stanbridge.
Jane’s #1 rule in Paris: Don’t fall in love
After ending a disastrous relationship, Jane accepts a job in the City of Love. The trouble is she speaks very little French, has no friends to enjoy Paris with, and she’s awfully lonely.
Then she meets Jacques DuPont.
Rich, handsome, and the cream of the Parisian crop, Jacques is living the dream. Just not his own. His father wants him to follow in his footsteps, but Jacques wants to earn his success. Trapped in a life chosen by his family, he’s always been alone.
Until he meets Jane.
He’s from money. She’s not. He’s a planner. She’s impulsive. He’s serious. She’s definitely not.
They couldn’t be more different, but they will fall. Hard.
Together Jane and Jacques will learn why Paris is the City of Love. But when an expiring visa, a jealous colleague, and manipulative family threaten their fledgling relationship, their loyalties will be tested to breaking point.
Jane broke her #1 rule, now they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice for love.
Expected publication January 16, 2023
This short, sweet romance is perfect escapist reading. Paris is the City of Lovers, but only if you have someone to love. Jane is single, far from home and lonely. An unexpected meeting changes that, when she meets gorgeous Jacques. She intrigues him, as she is so unlike any of the women he’s met before. It’s perfect until things go wrong. Can they find their happily ever after? I read an Advance Reader Copy of the book, before voluntarily leaving a review.
I will be interviewing Lisa later in the month, so watch out for that. I am always intrigued to find out what inspired a book, how long it took to write and get a glimpse ‘behind the scenes ‘so to speak. Is this stuff you want to know too?
That Reading Goal.
In 2022 I set myself a goal of reading at least a couple of books a week. I am not in competition with anyone else, only myself. I want to read books I enjoy, and I won’t hesitate in abandoning a book if I am not enjoying it. If I review a book, then I have read it. I don’t post reviews of books I didn’t enjoy and gave up on. I accept that we all have different tastes and they weren’t my book and that’s ok too.
How Did I Get On? My goal for the year was 100 books and eventually, I had read 147. So what is this year’s goal? It is still at 100 books. I want to read and enjoy books, not mindlessly consume them to meet a challenge that I have set myself.
Additionally, I have other goals in mind. I want to publish at least one book this year and possibly two. More about that next time. Until then, read what you want, when you want for pure enjoyment
My reading slowed down in November as I impulsively decided to attempt to do National Novel in a Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, it’s a personal challenge to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Many people prepare in October and have plots all drafted out, character lists, settings and even the high and low points of their novel. Me? I suddenly thought I could do it, I had before. So, I signed up on October 31st with no plot, no plan just the vaguest of ideas. We will have to see how it goes. ( I was writing this introduction in mid-November.) More on that later. Anyway, reading wasn’t as much of an interest this month as I was writing and then something else caught my attention.
The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams.
An unforgettable and heartwarming debut about how a chance encounter with a list of library books helps forge an unlikely friendship between two very different people in a London suburb.
Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life in the London Borough of Ealing after losing his beloved wife. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who hides in her room reading while he spends his evenings watching nature documentaries.
Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a list of novels that she’s never heard of before. Intrigued, and a little bored with her slow job at the checkout desk, she impulsively decides to read every book on the list, one after the other. As each story gives up its magic, the books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she’s facing at home.
When Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha passes along the reading list… hoping that it will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between two lonely souls, as fiction helps them escape their grief and everyday troubles and find joy again. 373 pages, Hardcover
This delightful book is one for book lovers. As well as meeting the various characters we learn about their journey with The Reading List and what a list it is. Such a pleasure to revisit old favourites and learn people’s reactions to them. More than that though, it is the growing connections formed between people that are the biggest delight of this story A lovely gentle book.
Cats Work Like This by David St John Thomas& Gareth St John Thomas.
Cats Work Like This is for cat lovers who know that even after ten thousand years of living with cats, no one really has a clue what their cat is thinking. In this insider’s guide to the habits of these puzzling animals, the authors offer insights from two generations of watching their cats work. They share the sometimes hilarious and often astonishing observations on cats that have accumulated over ages, and offer some useful insights into how to understand your own cat.
Though there are many famous felines, it is the day to day cat which provides the most enduring interest. Though each one’s behaviour and mannerisms are unique, we can find enough practices in common to guide you to becoming an expert in how cats work.
Chapters include Habits, with an insight into how cats train you to have the right ones; and The Scientific Cat, with observations and empirical learning following the classic scientific method, as cats don’t listen well enough to be subjects in any other kind of experimentation.
Learn how cats practice their values and explore what your cats know about you. Find out what cats do while you sleep, what a cat’s eyes can tell you and what there is to understand about political and ‘eco’ cats. With a focus on attention, emotion, cute affection, manipulation, cunning and cussedness, Cats Work Like This gives a rare insight into the workings of a cat’s elusive mind. 176 pages, Hardcover
One to please most cat lovers in your life. It certainly enchanted me, with its delightful photographs and informative text. The book is written from the point of view of someone who has a deep love for cats and a wish to understand them better. I learnt things I didn’t know whilst chuckling at the insights into our cats’ manipulation of their willing humans.
The Austen Girls By Lucy Worsley
By turns thrilling, dramatic and inspiring, this is the story of Jane Austen’s life as you’ve never heard it before. It is 1809 and Fanny and Anna have just been launched on to the ruthless Regency marriage market by Fanny’s mother (think Mrs Bennet). But luckily their mysteriously wealthy Aunt Jane is there to guide them and help them make better choices – i.e. don’t get married at all! Jane plays detective to help them rescue a falsely accused friend from being transported to Australia, while Anna impetuously makes and breaks an engagement. Fanny is forced to leave the marriage market when her mother dies and she has to look after ten siblings. She learns the secret of Jane’s wealth and self-possession (she is, of course, a writer) and decides to follow in her footsteps.
My Review. While the book is categorised for Young Adult readers, I decided to read it. The focus is mainly on the younger members of the Austen family and their need to get married. It wasn’t what I was expecting- and devolved from a possible romance into mystery. I found it disappointing although the background information is good. 289 pages, Paperback
Cat Prints at the Crime Scene by K.M Waller.
Loretta Hamilton has never owned one cat, let alone seven.
When cat-loving Aunt Ginger passes away, Loretta is left with a farm she doesn’t want. And as if that’s not bad enough, her aunt’s dying wish is for Loretta to turn her home into a cat rescue sanctuary. Loretta doesn’t even know what to feed her aunt’s seven orphaned cats, let alone how to rescue them.
But Felicity, a pushy real estate agent, has plans of her own. She wants the farm for a land development project, and she won’t take no for an answer. After a heated exchange between Loretta and Felicity at a town hall meeting, Felicity is found dead making Loretta the main suspect.
With a superstitious sidekick and a knack for being practical, can Loretta settle into her new role as cat mom and protector while fending off a murderer?
Published August 13, 2020
My Review. An entertaining read and a promising start to a new series. I look forward to reading more of Loretta’s adventures or should they be mis-adventures? I think she is developing an attachment to the cats.
Revenge by Tom Bower.
The British Royal Family believed that the dizzy success of the Sussex wedding, watched and celebrated around the world, was the beginning of a new era for the Windsors. Yet, within one tumultuous year, the dream became a nightmare. In the aftermath of the infamous Megxit split and the Oprah Winfrey interview, the Royal Family’s fate seems persistently threatened.
The public remains puzzled. Meghan’s success has alternatively won praise, bewildered and outraged. Confused by the Sussexes’ slick publicity, few understand the real Meghan Markle. What lies ahead for Meghan? And what has happened to the family she married into? Can the Windsors restore their reputation?
With extensive research, expert sourcing and interviews from insiders who have never spoken before, Tom Bower, Britain’s leading investigative biographer, unpicks the tangled web of courtroom drama, courtier politics and thwarted childhood dreams to uncover an astonishing story of love, betrayal, secrets and revenge.
Reading this book is like entering a parallel universe, where reality is simply the next photo op or sound bite or whatever you want it to be. There was so much hope and promise at the beginning and everyone was happy that Harry had at last found his ‘happily ever after.’
Sadly, that hope has been extinguished as brand Sussex does its best to drag the royal family down. History is continually rewritten to suit the current narrative, although Tom Bower can show that while there might be alternative stories only one is embedded in fact.
At last, the ‘racist ’comment is revealed, and it was made before Meghan was pregnant. So, it was not directed at Archie.
Harry sent a statement with their proposal of entitlements after they left for Canada to Prince Charles. “They expected to retain their titles, privileges and income while living in Canada. They would keep Frogmore(their Uk grace and favour home), enjoy round-the-clock protection costing the British taxpayer annually about £2.5 million and continue to receive £ 1.5 million annual income from the Duchy of Cornwall. In exchange, they would occasionally return to Britain, but would otherwise represent the monarchy in Canada.” They were surprised when it was refused. This is an unflattering portrayal of two very spoiled and entitled people who seem to imagine the world revolves around them.
Murder in an Irish Bookshop by Carlene O’Connor
Between training the new town garda and trying to set a wedding date with her fiancé, Macdara Flannery, Siobhán O’Sullivan is feeling a bit overwhelmed. She’s looking forward to visiting the new bookshop and curling up with an exciting novel—only to discover the shelves contain nothing but Literature with a capital L. The owner not only refuses to stock romances, mysteries, and science fiction, but won’t even let customers enter his store unless they can quote James Joyce or Sean Hennessey. Despite the owner deliberately limiting his clientele, he’s hosting a reading and autographing event featuring up-and-coming Irish writers who will be taking up residency in Kilbane for a month. Among them is indie author Deirdre Walsh, who spends more time complaining about the unfairness of the publishing industry and megastar bestsellers instead of her own creative works, causing a heated debate among the writers. She seems to have a particular distaste for the novels of Nessa Lamb. Then Deirdre’s body is found the next day in the back of the store—with pages torn from Nessa’s books stuffed in her mouth. Now, Siobhán must uncover which of Kilbane’s literary guests took Deirdre’s criticisms so personally, they’d engage in foul play.
I enjoyed this one, it has that indefinable Irish charm as well as a good story. Book shop? Tick. Authors? Tick. Rivalries? Oh yes. I loved the snobbery of the bookseller and his partner’s subterfuge. The murder kept me guessing and it’s part of a series so I will be able to find others by this author to enjoy.
The Vanishing Thief by Kate Parker.
At 30, Victorian bookshop owner Georgia Fenchurch knows she’s considered a middle-class old maid. That’s all right with her. She has the bookshop she inherited when her parents were murdered before her eyes, providing her with a living and something to keep her busy during the day. At night, she has another occupation. Driven by her need to see people rescued and justice done, she works with the Archivist Society.
In the foggy London of coal fires and carriages, glittering balls and Sherlock Holmes, the Archivist Society digs through musty records searching for the truth. They also don disguises and assume identities as they hunt for missing people, stolen treasures, and cunning murderers. Between her efforts for the Archivist Society and her management of the bookshop, Georgia doesn’t have time to be lonely.
When a respectable middle-class woman comes into her bookshop complaining that a duke has abducted her next door neighbor, Georgia thinks the investigation will be a short one. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in theft, blackmail, lies, secret marriages, and murder. The man Georgia is asked to find may be royalty, may be dead, and is definitely missing. The woman who hired her won’t reveal the truth. The accused duke may be a victim or a killer, but he certainly is involved in the hunt for the missing man. And every aristocrat who knew the missing man seems to be hiding their own dangerous lie. As Georgia crosses London searching for the missing man, she finds herself staring into the face of the one person she has wanted to capture for a dozen years. The one who got away. The man who killed her parents.
This is the first in a series and a lot is happening. It is all interesting, but perhaps a bit too much to keep track of in one book. I didn’t find Georgia particularly likeable, but I did enjoy her interactions with the Duke of Blackford, who promises to be an intriguing returning character.
What Else Was Happening?
November became more complicated when I realised that I wanted, no, needed to make a submission to the Australian Government’s Aged Care Review. It had a deadline of November 25th. Almost eighteen months later I was still upset and angry at what I had witnessed in one aged care home. I felt I owed it to my loved one and to myself to complete the questions and submit my responses. Of course, it brought it all back, the shock, the anger, the pain. I sat at the computer crying and reliving it and trying to put my comments into a coherent order. When I finished I completed the questionnaire and had an additional five pages to add to the submission. Once that was done I felt emotionally spent. I then drafted letters to both my state and federal MPS. It felt good to finally speak out.
I raced to finish NaNoWriMo, but I suspect it won’t make sense. I can revisit it and edit it later, that doesn’t matter. I prioritised what was most important to me and to the community. I dont want anyone else to go through what we experienced. Promises made and promises kept and now I feel a sense of relief. I can’t change what happened, but maybe it will help someone else.
October, I dont quite know how I managed to read so many books. I was more selective with my time and only watched TV if something interested me. Obviously, not a lot did last month! The cats and I snuggled up and I read.
Secrets of the Chocolate House by Paula Brackston.
The second novel in a bewitching series “brimming with charm and charisma” that will make “fans of Outlander rejoice!” (Woman’s World Magazine)
New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s The Little Shop of Found Things was called “a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with its sequel, Secrets of the Chocolate House
After her adventures in the seventeenth century, Xanthe does her best to settle back into the rhythm of life in Marlborough. She tells herself she must forget about Samuel and leave him in the past where he belongs. With the help of her new friends, she does her best to move on, focusing instead on the success of her and Flora’s antique shop.
But there are still things waiting to be found, still injustices needing to be put right, still voices whispering to Xanthe from long ago about secrets wanting to be shared.
While looking for new stock for the shop, Xanthe hears the song of a copper chocolate pot. Soon after, she has an upsetting vision of Samuel in great danger, compelling her to make another journey to the past.
This time she’ll meet her most dangerous adversary. This time her ability to travel to the past will be tested. This time she will discover her true destiny. Will that destiny allow her to return home? And will she be able to save Samuel when his own fate seems to be sealed.
My Review. After enjoying book one, I was eager to read book two and continue the story. Once again Xanthe is called by an object-this time a chocolate pot. Xanthe is trying to ignore the call knowing that her mother’s health means she always needs assistance. But then, Samuel appears to be in danger, and she feels compelled to go to help him. However, nothing goes to plan, and Xanthe is in more danger than she can imagine. She’s facing new hazards and new risks and an unknown enemy.
Bombproof by Michael Robotham.
A kinetic standalone from “first-class storyteller” Michael Robotham (San Francisco Chronicle).
Sami Macbeth is not a master criminal. He’s not even a minor one. He’s not a jewel thief. He’s not a safe-cracker. He’s not an expert in explosives.
Sami plays guitar and wants to be a rock god but keeps getting side-tracked by unforeseen circumstances. Fifty-four hours ago Sami was released from prison. Thirty-six hours ago he slept with the woman of his dreams at the Savoy. An hour ago his train blew up.
Now he’s carrying a rucksack through London’s West End and has turned himself into the most wanted terrorist in the country. Fast, funny, hip and violent, Bombproof is a non-stop adventure full of unforgettable characters and a heart-warming hero–Sami Macbeth–a man with the uncanny ability to turn a desperate situation into a hopeless one.
My Review. it is non-stop action and risk. Suspend disbelief and go along for a fast-paced ride. This could be a Guy Ritchie film, highly visual and at times highly violent. All the seedier sides of life are exposed and yet it is highly plausible.
Seances Are for Suckers by Tamara Berry
When something goes bump in the night . . . it’s most likely a plumbing problem, or something equally mundane. But fake medium Eleanor Wilde is happy to investigate and cleanse your home of spectral presences—for a fee. Hey, it’s a living.
Ellie has an ailing sister to care for, and working as a ghost hunter who doesn’t believe in ghosts helps cover the bills for both of them. When she’s lucky, it also pays for the occasional tropical vacation. Her brother doesn’t exactly approve, but Ellie figures she’s providing a service. On her latest job, though, she may be in for some genuine scares. The skeptical, reserved, and very rich Nicholas Hartford III has flown her all the way to his family’s ancestral estate in England—supposedly haunted by a phantom named Xavier. Nicholas thinks it’s all just as much a crock as Ellie’s business is, but the fact remains that something is causing the flashes of light, mysterious accidents, and other apparent pranks in the chilly, eerie castle. His mother is sure that Xavier is real, and he’s willing to employ Ellie if she can get to the bottom of it and put a stop to the nonsense.
While the food and accommodations are somewhat disappointing (dorm-room furniture? Really?), Ellie is finding it an adventure to get to know this eccentric family and their house-guests, and to poke around in the nearby village for clues. But when an actual dead body appears—and subsequently disappears—at Castle Hartford, she’ll have to apply her talent for trickery and psychological insight to solve a flesh-and-blood murder.
My Review. The first book in a series sets the tone for the rest. Ellie is pragmatic and practical with a useful line between self-belief and scepticism. She’s not above a little trickery if it achieves her objectives. Ellie finds it less amusing though when the tricks are being played on her. Someone wants her investigation to succeed, while an unknown someone wants it to fail. Then there is Nicholas is he a help or a distraction?
The Picture House by the Sea by Holly Hepburn
The brilliant new novel from the bestselling author of A Year at the Star and Sixpence. Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley. All four Picture House novellas in one book!
The picture house by the sea is the Palace at Polwhipple – a lovely art deco cinema, nestled in front of azure Cornish seas. But it is long past its heyday now, and its only saving grace is Ferrelli’s, the family run ice-cream concession in the foyer, which is widely known as the best ice-cream for miles.
So when Ferdie, the owner of Ferelli’s, breaks his leg, his granddaughter Gina drops everything to come and help out. But when she arrives she is dismayed by the state of the cinema, which she remembers fondly from summer holidays when she was little, and she is determined to give it the makeover it deserves. Along with local renovation expert Ben, she sets about reviving the Palace to its former glory. But the cinema needs more than a lick of paint. Its very future is under threat from a developer with greed in his eyes. Can Gina save the place before it is too late?
** Disclaimer: originally published in four parts as eBooks
My Review. Just what I expected from Holly Hepburn an easy and escapist read. Divided into four parts as the original e-books were released. Each instalment adds to the story of the picture house by the sea. Gina is torn between helping her grandparents and keeping her London life. The longer she stays the more distant London and her boyfriend Max seems. There’s all grown-up Ben, someone she used to know. Themed around some ‘classic’ movies. It ticks all the boxes for easy reading and escapism
The Witch’s Kind by Louise Morgan
From the author of A Secret History of Witches comes an absorbing tale of love, sacrifice, family ties, and magic, set in the Pacific Northwest in the aftermath of World War II.
Barrie Anne Blythe and her aunt Charlotte have always known that the other residents of their small coastal community find them peculiar — two women living alone on the outskirts of town. It is the price of concealing their strange and dangerous family secret.
But two events threaten to upend their lives forever. The first is the arrival of a mysterious abandoned baby with a hint of power like their own. The second is the sudden reappearance of Barrie Anne’s long-lost husband — who is not quite the man she thought she married.
Together, Barrie Anne and Charlotte must decide how far they are willing to go to protect themselves — and the child they think of as their own — from suspicious neighbors, the government, and even their own family…
My Review. A mixed reaction from me. On the one hand, the writing was lyrical and a pleasure to read However, even with the time changes signposted I found the story confusing at times. I kept wondering where the baby was and of course, it was prior to her arrival. The ending made me think there was a possibility of this being the first in a series.
Elephants: Birth, Life, and Death in the World of the Giants by Hannah Mumby.
What Jane Goodall did for chimpanzees, international ecologist and conservation scientist Hannah Mumby now does for elephants in this compelling, eye-opening account that brings into focus this species remarkably similar to humans—and makes a persuasive argument for saving them.
From early childhood, Dr. Hannah Mumby has loved wildlife, especially elephants. Her first wild elephant sighting at twenty-four changed the course of her life. Since then, she has devoted herself to studying these incredible animals and educating humanity about them. Hannah’s field work has taken her around the world, where she has studied many elephant groups, including both orphaned elephants and the solitary elephant males.
These remarkable animals have so much to teach us, Mumby argues, and The Elephant in the Mirror takes readers into their world as never before, revealing a society as complex as the chimpanzees, maybe even humans. Mumby’s exploration of elephant culture provides an empathetic, humanistic portrait of these majestic animals, illuminating their personalities, memories, and rich emotional lives. Mumby explains how elephants communicate with one another and demonstrates the connection between memory and trauma how it affects individual elephants and their interactions with others in their herd. Elephants and humans, Mumby makes clear, are not very different. From emotional bonding to communication, human and elephant experience similarly nuanced lives, and the commonalities she uncovers are both surprising and heart-warming.
Featuring a 16-page color insert of original photography, The Elephant in the Mirror is a captivating, deeply moving exploration that offers a new way to look at these pachyderms and ourselves and a persuasive, passionate argument for rethinking our approach to animals and their conservation
Hannah Mumby is passionate about elephants, and it shows in her writing. This is perhaps more for the student than the general reader, but you will learn more about elephants and perhaps rethink how you view them.
An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed(Elderly Lady 2) by Helene Tursten and Marlaine Delargy (Translator.
Everyone’s favorite octogenarian killer is back in this new collection of stories by Swedish crime writer Helene Tursten that is sure to have you in stitches.
Eighty-eight-year-old Maud is never looking for trouble, but it always seems to find her. First, a woman in her building met an untimely end: tragic. Then, just recently, a dead body mysteriously appeared in her very own apartment, prompting an investigation by the local Gothenburg authorities. Such a strange coincidence. When it seems suspicion has fallen on her, little old lady that she is, Maud decides to skip town and splurges on a trip to South Africa for herself.
In these six interlocking stories, memories of unfortunate incidents from Maud’s past keep bubbling to the surface, each triggered by something in the present: an image, a word, even a taste. When she lands in Johannesburg at last, eager to move on from the bloody ordeal last summer, she finds certain problems seem to be following her. Luckily, Maud is no stranger to taking matters into her own hands . . . even if it means she has to get a little blood on them in the process.
Don’t let her age fool you. Maud may be nearly ninety, but this elderly lady still has a few tricks before she’s ready to call it quits-includes cookie recipe
Maud isn’t to be messed with. She’s cool, clever and quite ruthless. In real life, she’d be the neighbour from hell, but she is hilarious to read about. Credit to both the author and thetranslator
The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown
The 20th Anniversary Edition of Tina Brown’s definitive behind-the-scenes insight into the life of Diana Princess of Wales with a brand new introduction by Andrew Marr.
Twenty years after her death, Princess Diana remains a mystery. Was she “the people’s princess,” who electrified the world with her beauty and humanitarian missions? Or was she a manipulative, media-savvy neurotic who nearly brought down the monarchy?
In this new 20th anniversary commemorative edition, which includes a new introduction by Andrew Marr, The Diana Chronicles parts the curtains on Diana’s troubled time in the mysterious world of the Windsors, as she breaks out of her royal cage into celebrity culture, where she found her own power and used it to devastating effect.
Knowing Diana personally, Tina Brown understands her world, understands its players and has-reaching insight into the royals and the Queen herself. Meet the formidable female cast and get to know the society they inhabit, as you never have before.
My Review.An interesting look at the complex person that was Diana, Princess of Wales. While the question is posed if Diana was a humanitarian and the ‘people’s princess’ or a manipulative and media-savvy neurotic who nearly brought down the monarchy, I don’t see those positions as being mutually exclusive. I think she could have been both. In fact, she was driven to become both or to disappear entirely. I was always a Diana fan, but it doesn’t mean I can’t see the darker side of her story. She wanted to be loved and thought she had found it with her marriage, only to find that the marriage had never stood a chance.
10 Step Drawing Cats by Justine Lecouffe
Learn to draw your favorite cats and kittens, step by step, with Ten Step Drawing: Cats.
The blank page can be daunting, but the fun and approachable books in the Ten-Step Drawing series offer a quick and easy starting point for any doodler, illustrator, or aspiring artist to be creative. Featuring illustrated tutorials for drawing a variety of different animals, flowers, plants, and people, each book in this appealing series breaks down each subject into 10 simple steps. And all you need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper!
Handy prompts help you learn to draw by encouraging you to express creative individuality, while helpful general drawing tips enable you to try out your drawing skills on other subjects not featured in the book. The projects feature instructions for graphite pencil, ink, and colored pencil, for a well-rounded introduction to drawing.
Learn to draw more than 50 cat breeds, including:
Ragdolls American Shorthairs Persians Siamese Sphynx Maine Coons And many more! The perfect reference for your first steps as an aspiring artist, Ten Step Drawing: Cats is sure to give you the courage to break out a pencil and paper and draw to your heart’s content!
128 pages, Paperback Published December 14, 2021
My Review. Does an excellent job of simplifying drawing cats. I think that with practice most people could draw a convincing cat. I certainly have had fun trying.
The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson
A Good Morning America Buzz Pick A Library Reads Pick
June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.
Lonely librarian June Jones has never left the sleepy English village where she grew up. Shy and reclusive, the thirty-year-old would rather spend her time buried in books than venture out into the world. But when her library is threatened with closure, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the heart of her community and the place that holds the dearest memories of her mother.
Joining a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to keep the library, June opens herself up to other people for the first time since her mother died. It just so happens that her old school friend Alex Chen is back in town and willing to lend a helping hand. The kindhearted lawyer’s feelings for her are obvious to everyone but June, who won’t believe that anyone could ever care for her in that way.
To save the place and the books that mean so much to her, June must finally make some changes to her life. For once, she’s determined not to go down without a fight. And maybe, in fighting for her cherished library, June can save herself,
June Jones is the stereotypical librarian, quiet and devoted to the library. Once she had dreams and ambitions. Since her mother’s death, time has virtually stood still for June. Her hopes and dreams are confined to books. The threat to the local library rouses something in her, the urge to step up and defend the library. But she’s no one, and library staff have been forbidden to get involved. This book about books and libraries is like catnip to a cat for me. What makes it depressingly relevant are the facts on which it is based. In The UK local councils are cost-cutting and local libraries are often one of the first things to go.
The Pug Who Bit Napoleon by Mimi Matthews Animal Tales of The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
From elaborate Victorian cat funerals to a Regency-era pony who took a ride in a hot air balloon, Mimi Matthews shares some of the quirkiest and most poignant animal tales of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Meet Fortune, the Pug who bit Napoleon on his wedding night, and Looty, the Pekingese sleeve dog who was presented to Queen Victoria after the 1860 sacking of the Summer Palace in Peking. The four-legged friends of Lord Byron, Emily Brontë, and Prince Albert also make an appearance, as do the treasured pets of Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, and Charles Dickens.
Less famous, but no less fascinating, are the animals that were the subject of historical lawsuits, scandals, and public curiosity. There’s Tuppy, the purloined pet donkey; Biddy, the regimental chicken; and Barnaby and Burgho, the bloodhounds hired to hunt Jack the Ripper. Wild animals also get a mention in tales that encompass everything from field mice and foxes to alligators and sharks lurking in the Thames.
Using research from eighteenth and nineteenth-century books, letters, journals, and newspapers, Mimi Matthews brings each animal’s unique history to vivid life. The details are sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, but the stories are never anything less than fascinating reading for animal lovers of all ages.
My Review. Some stories are humorous, while others are quite tragic. A positive is knowing that these conditions did lead to the formation of societies against cruelty to animals. Interesting to see who of the ‘great and the good’ shared a love of animals. Overall, it is easy and entertaining reading.
The Garden of Promises and Lies by Paula Brackston.
Book Three of the Found Things SeriesThe third instalment of a bewitching series brimming with charm and charisma that will make fans of Outlander rejoice! (Woman’s World Magazine). New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s second novel in the Found Things series, Secrets of the Chocolate House, was called a time-swapping romance [that] will please fans of Alice Hoffman (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with a third book, The Garden of Promises and Lies.
As the bustle of the winter holidays in the Little Shop of Found Things gives way to spring, Xanthe is left to reflect on the strange events of the past year. While she’s tried to keep her time-traveling talents a secret from those close to her, she is forced to take responsibility for having inadvertently transported the dangerous Benedict Fairfax to her own time. Xanthe comes to see that she must use her skills as a Spinner if she and Flora are ever to be safe, and turns to the Spinners book for help.
It is then that a beautiful antique wedding dress sings to her. Realizing the dress and her adversary are connected in some way, she answers the call. She finds herself in Bradford-on-Avon in 1815, as if she has stepped into a Jane Austen story.
Now in Xanthe’s time, Fairfax is threatening Xanthe into helping him with his evil doings, and demonstrates all too clearly how much damage he is capable of causing. With Fairfax growing ever more powerful, Xanthe enlists the help of her boyfriend Liam, taking him back in time with her. It is a decision that might just ensure she prevails over her foe, but only by putting her life–and his—on the line.
An exciting instalment with enough to keep me wanting to get the next book and finish the series. Fairfax is a worthy adversary and Xanthe is wrestling with problems of ethics and possibilities. If she pursues any action, does it have consequences beyond what she can see? Can she harm the innocent while working for good? She can discuss some things with Harley and with Mistress Flyte but longs to confide in her mother and Liam. When she finally does, then a whole new world of possibilities and problems emerges. It’s such a relief to know the next book is written and available. I can’t leave these characters in peril!
An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten translated by Marlaine Delargy. –
An elderly lady has accommodation problems – An elderly lady on her travels – An elderly lady seeks peace at Christmas time – The antique dealer’s death – An elderly lady is faced with a difficult dilemma
Maud is an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends,
and…no qualms about a little murder. This funny, irreverent story collection by Helene Tursten, author of the Irene Huss investigations, features two-never-before translated stories that will keep you laughing all the way to the retirement home.
Ever since her darling father’s untimely death when she was only eighteen, Maud has lived in the family’s spacious apartment in downtown Gothenburg rent-free, thanks to a minor clause in a hastily negotiated contract. That was how Maud learned that good things can come from tragedy. Now in her late eighties, Maud contents herself with traveling the world and surfing the net from the comfort of her father’s ancient armchair. It’s a solitary existence, but she likes it that way.
Over the course of her adventures—or misadventures—this little bold lady will handle a crisis with a local celebrity who has her eyes on Maud’s apartment, foil the engagement of her long-ago lover, and dispose of some pesky neighbors. But when the local authorities are called to investigate a murder in her apartment complex, will Maud be able to avoid suspicion, or will Detective Inspector Irene Huss see through her charade?
An easy and entertaining read. Maud is anything but a harmless old lady. Although, at times she relies on that persona to conceal her misdeeds. So far, luck has been on her side, but will Maud eventually rely on luck once too often?
It is certainly an eclectic collection, some serious, others less so. I don’t necessarily stick to one genre or author and my selections are usually a combination of recommendations, research and whatever catches my eye. A good title can grab my attention, for example, the Elderly Lady books, those titles were impossible to ignore.
October 15th2022 was an exciting day after a frustrating week.
Imagine you have spent ages writing and rewriting a story until finally, it’s ready to be published. Your story with eight others is going to be part of a new anthology of steamy romance. You are all excited about the book launch.
The date is set, the pre-orders organised and all you and the eight other writers have to do is sit and wait for the book to launch.
One week to go and there is a glitch. The group moderator who had been tweaking details on one of her other books was locked out of the Amazon account. No one else could act.
Sexy Scandals of Swain Cove disappeared and so did all those pre-orders. She was in daily contact with Amazon, and we were all in daily despair.
Finally, yesterday after the tensest week ever it was reinstated.
In celebration, Sexy Secrets of Swain Cove will remain at 99cents for now.
Here in the Southern hemisphere, it has been a long- wet winter. We are just beginning to think about Spring. Instead of grey clouds, there is sunshine and the promise of the new season. The daffodils and grape hyacinths have brightened my garden and mood, as I relish the rare sunny days. Those long chilly evenings have been perfect for reading, with TV offering few distractions. I’ve also been dipping into some research for my next stories, but I can’t tell you about that just yet!
The proof copy of my novella A Scandalous Woman has been checked and returned ready for the Swain Cove Sexy Scandals launch on October 15th. Swain Cove is a fictional Cornish village where smuggling is the main occupation. Sexy Scandals is a warm-to-steamy collection of stories. For those who prefer their romance sweet, The Sweet Delights of Swain Cove will launch on 15th November. Save those dates and don’t forget to preorder your copy while it’s currently 99c but the price will increase once its launch day to $4.99
Miss Amelia’s Mistletoe Marquess by Jenni Fletcher.Secrets of a Victorian Household 2.
The virtuous Miss Fairclough…
…now faces ruin!
Part of Secrets of a Victorian Household. When Amelia Fairclough had sought refuge in a blizzard, a brooding stranger had given her warmth and shelter. She’d even tried to soothe him of his demons in return. But as she scurried home at dawn, she was spotted! Now he’s in the parlour, offering to do the honourable thing. Surely she’d be a fool to turn down the new Marquess of Falconmore!
My Review. An impetuous decision will alter Amelia Fairclough’s life. She’s unwittingly ensnared the Marquess, who is now offering to marry her. She’d be a fool to refuse, but the proper man who makes the offer can’t be the man she met last night. Cassius was someone she could talk to and even be herself with. Exploring their relationship and the pull between love and duty. I found it an entertaining read.
The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles(Volume 2)by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
A story where the character gets exactly what they want doesn’t make for good reading. But add villainous clashes, lost advantages, power struggles, and menacing threats…well, now we have the makings of a page-turner. Conflict is the golden thread that binds plot to arc, providing the complications, setbacks, and derailments that make the character’s inner and outer journeys dynamic. Inside Volume 2 of The Conflict Thesaurus, you’ll find:
• A myriad of conflict options in the form of power struggles, ego-related stressors, dangers and threats, advantage and control losses, and other miscellaneous challenges • Information on how each scenario should hinder the character on the path to their goal so they’ll learn valuable life lessons and gain insight into what’s holding them back internally • Instruction about using the multiple levels of conflict to add pressure through immediate, scene-level challenges and looming problems that take time to solve • Guidance on keeping a story’s central conflict in the spotlight and utilizing subplots effectively so they work with—not against—the main plotline • An exploration of the climax and how to make this pinnacle event highly satisfying for readers • Ways to use conflict to deepen your story, facilitate epic adversarial showdowns, give your characters agency, and infuse every scene with tension
Meaningful conflict can be so much more than a series of roadblocks. Challenge your characters inside and out with over 100 tension-inducing scenarios in this second volume of The Conflict Thesaurus. And for more instruction on how to use this element to enhance your story (and an additional 100+ conflict scenarios), check out The Conflict Thesaurus, Volume 1.
My Review. I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of The Conflict Thesaurus Volume 2. It is impressive the amount of thought that has gone into exploring each scenario. In real life, we are conflict-averse, but it’s an absolute necessity in fiction. This book is a wonderful avenue for exploring sources of conflict for our characters. Character’s responses to conflict won’t all be the same either. It’s a book that I will use constantly, to give myself more insight into broadening and deepening conflict and thus improving my storytelling
The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs
Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world’s most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.
Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, and with recipes that leap to life from the page, The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the most thought-provoking and page-turning historical novel you’ll read this year, exploring the enduring struggle for female freedom, the power of female friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, all while bringing Eliza Action out of the archives and back into the public eye.
England 1837. Eliza Acton is a poet who dreams of seeing her words in print. But when she takes her new manuscript to a publisher, she’s told that ‘poetry is not the business of a lady’. Instead, they want her to write a cookery book. England is awash with exciting new ingredients, from spices to exotic fruits. That’s what readers really want from women.
Eliza leaves the offices appalled. But when her father is forced to flee the country for bankruptcy, she has no choice but to consider the proposal. Never having cooked before in her life, she is determined to learn and to discover, if she can, the poetry in recipe writing. To assist her, she hires seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a war-crippled father and a mother with dementia.
Over the course of ten years, Eliza and Ann developed an unusual friendship – one that crossed social classes and divides – and, together, they broke the mould of traditional cookbooks and changed the course of cookery writing forever.
This book is about so much more than food, although of course food is the central theme. There is the accepted harsh poverty of the times and the casual cruelty and intolerance from all levels of society. The Reverend Thorpe and his wife are not above shaming the poor. They recommend seventeen-year-old Ann for a post with Eliza Acton. In Ann’s family, her father is a drunk and her mother grows more demented daily. Ann has dealt with grinding poverty and hunger and knows her duty and faith. In her new job, she experiences unexpected kindness. Gradually the two women explore how to cook. Unusually Ann is literate and remembers when her mother cooked. I found Ann’s faith in the authorities of the Asylum sad and touching. Imagine what an achievement it was for Eliza Acton, a gentlewoman who had not cooked before to not only in teaching herself to cook, but to cook superbly. She explored not the poetry that had previously captured her imagination, but the language of food and made it her own. Before her cookery book, recipes were imprecise and hard to follow. She cooked and refined her recipes until she was satisfied, that they were as good as she could make them Her book was still in print until the early twentieth century. Many modern cooks reference her recipes.
The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook: 175 Super Easy Recipes Made Just for You byJoanie Zisk.
175 single-serving recipes for every solo chef who just wants a satisfying and delicious home-cooked meal for themselves.
Cooking for one is harder than it seems and it can leave anyone wanting to make a healthy, tasty meal either throwing out extra helpings or watching expensive ingredients expire. But it’s possible to prepare single-serving recipes that are full of flavor, easy to make, and economical if you have the right guide.
The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook allows you to make a fresh, delicious, home-cooked meal for one without creating a week’s worth of leftovers or leaving an abundance of unused fresh ingredients that quickly go to waste. Each of the 175 single-serving recipes are quick and simple to make and save you both time and money. And while the ingredients are common, the results are anything but. In addition to flavorful meals, this cookbook includes clever ideas of how to reduce food waste and source single servings of fresh ingredients.
With The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook, cooking solo never needs to be boring (or overwhelming) again whether you live alone or are just looking for a filling and enjoyable meal for yourself
My Review We have always preferred different meals, so I am quite used to making two meals at the same time. Over time though my recipes got boring, and I wanted to see what else I could come up with. I borrowed the book from the library. I thought it was well set out and easy to follow if you had never cooked before. There were a few recipes that I have kept notes of and will try. As I read a cookbook, I can sense what a recipe will be like and find it quite relaxing reading.
The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston
A new series about a young woman whose connection to antiques takes her on a magical adventure, reminiscent of Outlander
New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter Paula Brackston returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance to launch a new series guaranteed to enchant her audience even more.
Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.
It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she’s confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.
While Xanthe fights to save her amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.
With its rich historical detail, strong mother-daughter relationship, and picturesque English village, The Little Shop of Found Things is poised to be a strong start to this new series.
There are some books you want to read at a gallop to find out what happens, but equally, you don’t want the book to end. For me, The Little Shop of Found Things was such a book. Initially, I was unaware it was part of a series. Book two is now on my must-read list. There is a lot of potential in this story, both with the items that will speak to Xanthe to reveal more of the story and with the possibility of two conflicting love interests.
The Work Wives by Rachael Johns
How well do you really know the people you work with?
For work wives Debra and Quinn, it’s a case of opposites attract. They are each other’s lifelines as they navigate office politics and jobs that pay the bills but don’t inspire them.
Outside work, they are also friends, but where Quinn is addicted to dating apps and desperate to find love, Deb has sworn off men. Although Deb is not close to her own mother, her teenage daughter is her life and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect her. But Ramona has other ideas and is beginning to push boundaries.
Life becomes even more complicated by the arrival of a new man at the office. One woman is attracted to him, while the other hoped she’d never meet him again.
But when Deb, Quinn and Ramona are forced to choose between friends, love and family, the ramifications run deeper than they could ever have expected.
The latest novel by bestselling, ABIA award-winning author Rachael Johns will make you laugh, cry and wonder what secrets your friends are keeping!
I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of The Work Wives from Net Galley. In keeping with their terms, I am unable to post a full review just yet. I will say though that I thoroughly enjoyed it. More to follow.
FullReview. Where would we be without our female friends? Deb and Quin are unalike and yet they share a treasured friendship. When we spend so much time at work it’s good to have allies. Friends who will tell us when we are out of line or being self-destructive. Deb challenges Quin to do something she doesn’t want to do. In response, Quinn issues a challenge of her own. This takes each woman out of her comfort zone. Deb’s teenage daughter Ramona is demanding more freedom. While Deb has reservations about how far she can let Ramona go. Each is searching for something, love, security, family and belonging. Secrets and lies have a way of being exposed. Can everyone have a happy ending? Rachael Johns has produced another pacy and pleasing page-turner.
A Buccaneer At Heartby Stephanie Laurens (The Adventurers Quartet 2)
Unexpected love—plus passion, intrigue, and danger—challenge our hero to embrace his true nature.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens continues THE ADVENTURERS QUARTET, a riveting blend of Regency-era high seas adventure, a mystery shrouded in the heat of tropical jungles, and the passionate romances of four couples and their unexpected journeys into love.
After a decade of captaining diplomatic voyages for Frobisher Shipping, alongside covert missions for the Crown, Captain Robert Frobisher decides that establishing a home—with hearth and wife—should be his next challenge. But an unexpected mission intervenes. Although Robert sees himself as a conservative businessman-cum-diplomat and this mission is far from his usual sphere, it nevertheless falls within the scope of his abilities. As matters are urgent, he agrees to depart for West Africa forthwith.
To Robert, his way forward is clear: Get to Freetown, determine the location of a slavers’ camp, return to London with the information, and then proceed to find himself a wife.
Already in Freetown, Miss Aileen Hopkins is set on finding her younger brother Will, a naval lieutenant who has mysteriously disappeared. Find Will and rescue him; determined and resolute, Aileen is not about to allow anyone to turn her from her path.
But all too quickly, that path grows dark and dangerous. And then Robert Frobisher appears and attempts to divert her in more ways than one.
Accustomed to managing diplomats and bureaucrats, Robert discovers that manipulating a twenty-seven-year-old spinster lies outside his area of expertise. Prodded by an insistent need to protect Aileen, he realizes that joining forces with her is the surest path to meeting all the challenges before him—completing his mission, keeping her safe, and securing the woman he wants as his wife.
But the villains strike and disrupt their careful plans—leaving Robert and Aileen no choice but to attempt a last throw of the dice to complete his mission and further her brother’s rescue.
Compelled to protect those weaker than themselves and bring retribution to a heartless enemy, they plunge into the jungle with only their talents and inner strengths to aid them—and with the courage of their hearts as their guide.
My Review. Once again, I chose a book based on its title. In that, I suspect I’m like many other readers. And once again it was part of a series. It was relatively easy to fill in the gaps and the chart of characters at the front of the book was helpful. In my opinion, the book was more of an adventure than a romance although the romance was quite steamy.
Potions Are for Pushovers by Tamara Berry
It may have been a ghost that led Eleanor Wilde to set up shop in a quaint English village. But now that she’s established herself as the town witch, Ellie’s contentedly casting spells on anyone desperate enough—or gullible enough—to request her mysterious potions…
Selling mystical elixirs and tantalizing tonics is a pretty good way for a fake medium to earn a living. Or at least it’s Ellie’s main source of income—until a villager turns up dead. The cause? Murder by poisoning. And though Ellie’s concoctions don’t include anything worthy of a skull and crossbones, suddenly she’s the prime suspect. Her only recourse is to find the culprit who did do away with Sarah Blackthorne. No one liked the mean old battle-axe. But did anyone hate her enough to kill her?
It’s enough of a mystery to make Ellie hang up her witch’s hat and take millionaire beau Nicholas Hartford up on his offer to keep her afloat. Except Ellie is not the kind of woman to lean on a man—least of all a man she adores but whose place in her life is uncertain. Besides, Ellie’s taken on two young witches-in-training—apprentices if you will—and both of them are convinced a werewolf is the murderer.
Just as Ellie’s wondering if there really is something otherworldly going on, animals suddenly begin to disappear—including her beloved cat, Beast. Now Ellie’s on the warpath to uncover the wicked truth about the people and the place she’s only just begun to call home.
My Review. I found this an entertaining read. There was enough doubt and suspicion to cloud the waters. This is nicely abetted by the two teenage would-be witches and sleuths. Luckily, Ellie doesn’t allow their imaginations to quite run riot, although her imaginings are beginning to worry her. She is also fearful for her cat Beast.
Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews( Somerset StoriesTwo)
A swashbuckling, second chance Regency romance, inspired by the author’s love of Georgette Heyer romances, and of Henry Fielding’s eighteenth century novel Tom Jones.
She couldn’t forget…
Wealthy squire’s daughter Margaret Honeywell was always meant to marry her neighbor, Frederick Burton-Smythe, but it’s bastard-born Nicholas Seaton who has her heart. Raised alongside her on her father’s estate, Nick is the rumored son of notorious highwayman Gentleman Jim. When Fred frames him for theft, Nick escapes into the night, vowing to find his legendary sire. But Nick never returns. A decade later, he’s long been presumed dead.
He wouldn’t forgive…
After years spent on the continent, John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare has finally come home to England. Tall, blond, and dangerous, he’s on a mission to restore his family’s honor. If he can mete out a bit of revenge along the way, so much the better. But he hasn’t reckoned for Maggie Honeywell. She’s bold and beautiful—and entirely convinced he’s someone else.
As danger closes in, St. Clare is torn between love and vengeance. Will he sacrifice one to gain the other? Or with a little luck—and a lot of daring—will he find a way to have them both?
A rollicking good read! Margaret is a spirited character and even under the watchful eye of Fred Burton-Smythe, her spark hasn’t been extinguished. Fred is complacently entitled- he knows that Maggie has to marry him. Their fathers decreed it and now Maggie is alone. But Maggie doesn’t want to marry Fred, not now, not ever. She knows him too well. When she meets Viscount St Clare, there is something about him that tugs at her memory.
A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers.
A young woman in Belle Epoque France is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist.
In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother — a witch — botches a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly binds Juliet to the artist through time, damningher to re-live her affair and die tragically young lifetime after lifetime as the star-crossed lovers reincarnate through history. Luke Varner, the worldly demon tasked with maintaining this badly crafted curse, has been helplessly in love with his charge, in all her reincarnations, since 19th century France. He’s in love with Nora, a silver screen starlet in 1930s Hollywood. He’s in love with Sandra, a struggling musician in 1970s Los Angeles. And he’s in love with Helen, a magazine exec in present-day DC who has the power to “suggest” others do her bidding.
In this life, Helen starts to recall the curse and her tragic previous lives. But this time, she might have the power to break the cycle…
A Witch in Time is perfect for fans of A Secret History of Witches, Outlander, and The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Initially, I found the book a little slow to start, but then I got drawn into the story which was both enjoyable and believable. I raced through Juliet’s story and Nora’s finding their stories added depth and meaning to the tale. Sandra’s story dragged a little for me, although it was good to see her connection to Luke. It’s a huge feat of imagination but sadly, the ending fell flat for me.
The Viscount’s Veiled Lady(Whitby Weddings 3) by Jenni Fletcher
A lady hidden from society
A viscount with his own secrets…
When Frances Webster meets brooding Arthur Amberton on Whitby shores, he’s a different man from the dashing young gentleman she once carried a flame for. But life has changed her, too. After a tragic accident left her scarred physically and emotionally, she’s led a solitary life. She cherishes their new friendship, yet she can’t help but hope Arthur sees the beauty within her.
My Review. Two damaged people meet and connect. One is externally scarred, the other equally badly affected, but carrying internal scars. Frances believes her looks preclude her from life, love and happiness. Arthur Amberton believes he’s no longer fit for society or for the title he holds. Meeting each other by chance they form a friendship, but could it be something more?
Sarah’s Gift( Waterfront 2) by Anna Jacobs
At the age of ninety-five, Sarah Blakemere signs her final will and testament, pleased with how it will throw the cat among the family pigeons. She has left her luxurious home in Mandurah, Western Australia, to two female relatives in the UK, on the condition that they live in the house together for a year. After that they can sell and split the money, but if either of them doesn’t last the full year, the next person on the list will be invited to try for the inheritance.
Will the experience do as Sarah had hoped and shake Portia and Fleur out of their ruts? And when they find another surprise bequest from Sarah, what will they do with it? Life-changing decisions lie ahead …
Easy escapist reading. A pleasurable page-turner, in a modern-day Cinderella-like tale. Note: I hadn’t read book one and I was easily able to follow the story
The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife.
For centuries, the Tower of London has been home to a group of famous avian residents: the ravens. Each year they are seen by millions of visitors, and they have become as integral a part of the Tower as its ancient stones. But their role is even more important than that—legend has it that if the ravens should ever leave, the Tower will crumble into dust and great harm will befall the kingdom.
The responsibility for ensuring that such a disaster never comes to pass falls to one man: the Ravenmaster. The current holder of the position is Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife, and in this fascinating, entertaining and touching book he memorably describes the ravens’ formidable intelligence, their idiosyncrasies and their occasionally wicked sense of humour. The Ravenmaster is a compelling, inspiring and irreverent story that will delight and surprise anyone with an interest in British history or animal behaviour.
My Review. I was reading this book for research, but it is entertaining enough to read for pleasure. Christopher Skaife is a lively raconteur, with a way of informing and enlightening at the same time. Like all the Yeomen Warders he is ex-British Military. His attention to detail honed throughout his military career has allowed him to understand and bond with the ravens. There is no doubt of his affection for them although he is quite clear that they are not pets and he wants to retain their wild nature.
Looking forward to Spring.
I read thirteen books this month, more than I expected. Nine were a mixture of subjects, while four were Regency romances. The dismal weather and TV offerings helped increase my reading total.
I am fortunate to have a good local library, which I visit at least weekly. The changing book displays encourage my choices and allow me the opportunity to try books that I couldn’t afford to buy. They also provide me with surprise choices that I wouldn’t have picked for myself. It’s also possible to request books, which I frequently do.
Recently, I have been reading more Regency romance, but as my current work has now been submitted, I can return to more general reading. Cosy crime, mysteries, general fiction, and of course, romance.
While we in the Southern hemisphere are looking forward to Spring, for you in the Northern hemisphere it is Autumn. That too has its own pleasures, rustling through leaves, wearing cosy jumpers and eating warming soups. Cooking more, baked potatoes and roasting chestnuts. Looking forward to Christmas as the days get colder and the nights get longer.