What Did I Read in the Chilly Southern Hemisphere in August 2022?

August was definitely a month to curl up with a good book, a favourite beverage and a contented cat. It was a wetter than average month in Perth, Australia. There was rain virtually every day. What better excuse did I need to turn on the heater, grab a book and read? The cat made his own choice whether he’d join me or not. Mostly, he did, which made turning the pages more difficult while he sprawled against my arm.

You are not paying me enough attention!

The Impulse Purchase by Veronica Henry.

Sometimes you have to let your heart rule your head . . .

Cherry, Maggie and Rose are mother, daughter and granddaughter, each with their own hopes, dreams and even sorrows. They have always been close, so when, in a moment of impulse, Cherry buys a gorgeous but rundown pub in the village she grew up in, it soon becomes a family affair.

All three women uproot themselves and move to Rushbrook, deep in the heart of Somerset, to take over The Swan and restore it to its former glory. Cherry is at the helm, Maggie is in charge of the kitchen, and Rose tends the picturesque garden that leads down to the river.

Before long, the locals are delighted to find the beating heart of the village is back, bringing all kinds of surprises through the door.

Could Cherry’s impulse purchase change all their lives – and bring everyone the happiness they’re searching for?

Escape to the glorious Somerset countryside with this joyful and uplifting story of family, love and hope.

My Review. Just what I was looking for in a book, a relaxing, comforting read. Many of Veronica Henry’s books concern property, food and relationships. This does too, and it also includes old friends from previous books( which you don’t need to have read.)It’s a bit of an escapist fantasy, of remodelling, putting down roots and family relationships.

Love People Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

How might your life be better with less?

Imagine a life with less: less stuff, less clutter, less stress and debt and discontent—a life with fewer distractions. Now, imagine a life with more: more time, more meaningful relationships, more growth and contribution and contentment—a life of passion, unencumbered by the trappings of the chaotic world around you. What you’re imagining is an intentional life. And to get there, you’ll have to let go of some clutter that’s in the way.

In Love People Use Things, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus move past simple decluttering to show how minimalism makes room to re-evaluate and heal the seven essential relationships in our lives: stuff, truth, self, money, values, creativity, and people. They use their own experiences—and those of the people they have met along the minimalist journey—to provide a template for how to live a fuller, more meaningful life.

Because once you have less, you can make room for the right kind of more.

My Review. Most of us are drowning in choices, we have so much stuff, but is it making us happier? Do we feel more fulfilled? More and more of us are discovering that beyond the initial thrill of purchase and possession, stuff isn’t the answer. What we do want is connection and living a life consistent with our values. But before that, we have to learn why we got the stuff and how to release it. You have probably heard this all before, but put together in one place it makes a more compelling argument

The pleasure of a fire and a good book.

An Incantation of Cats by Clea Simon.

The new novel in Clea Simon’s spellbinding Witch Cats of Cambridge series! When two new clients seek Becca’s professional services, the fledgling witch detective is overjoyed. Finally, she can use her skills to help her magical community. But as the young witch finds the new cases intertwining, things grow more complicated. Becca’s three cats – the ones with the real power – can smell something is wrong with these clients. But not even Clara, the calico, knows what to do when a man ends up dead and a powerful and poisonous root appears – and disappears – in the case. To make matters worse, Clara and her littermates are feuding – and she can’t tell them about an unsettling interaction she’s had with one of the client’s sisters. Is it possible that some humans may have the same powers as the magical felines? What does that mean for Clara’s beloved Becca – and for the potent poison that has already taken one person’s life? In this second Witch Cats of Cambridge mystery, Clara and her sisters must learn to work together if they are to save the person they all love.

My Review. I’d read the previous book and was expecting to enjoy this one. I did enjoy the interaction between the cats, especially dear protective and anxious Clara. However, I felt that they overshadowed their human, Becca for much of the story, making it read unevenly.

Absolutely by Joanna Lumley.

The absolutely fabulous Joanna Lumley opens her private albums for this illustrated memoir. The real-life scrapbook of the woman known as Ab Fab‘s Patsy Stone, this is an intimate memoir of one of Britain’s undisputed national treasures. A former model and Bond girl, her distinctive voice has been supplied for animated characters, film narration, and AOL’s “You’ve got mail” notification in the UK. She discusses speaking out as a human rights activist for Survival International and the recent Gurkha Justice Campaign for which she is now considered a “national treasure” of Nepal because of her support. She has won two BAFTA awards, but it is the sheer diversity of her life that makes her story so compelling; early years in Kashmir and Malaya, growing up in Kent, then a photographic model before becoming an actress, appearing in a huge range of roles.

National treasure and campaigner.

My Review. A visual feast covering the Ab Fab’s actresses’ life. Far more than just a model or even an actress. Personally, I would have liked more text to go with the pictures.

The Palace Papers by Tina Brown.

The gripping inside story of the British royal family’s battle to overcome the dramas of the Diana years—only to confront new, twenty-first-century crises

“Never again” became Queen Elizabeth II’s mantra shortly after Princess Diana’s tragic death. More specif­ically, there could never be “another Diana”—a mem­ber of the family whose global popularity upstaged, outshone, and posed an existential threat to the Brit­ish monarchy.

Picking up where Tina Brown’s masterful The Diana Chronicles left off, The Palace Papers reveals how the royal family reinvented itself after the trau­matic years when Diana’s blazing celebrity ripped through the House of Windsor like a comet.

Brown takes readers on a tour de force journey through the scandals, love affairs, power plays, and betrayals that have buffeted the monarchy over the last twenty-five years. We see the Queen’s stoic re­solve after the passing of Princess Margaret, the Queen Mother, and Prince Philip, her partner for seven decades, and how she triumphs in her Jubilee years even as family troubles rage around her. Brown explores Prince Charles’s determination to make Camilla Parker Bowles his wife, the tension between William and Harry on “different paths,” the ascend­ance of Kate Middleton, the downfall of Prince An­drew, and Harry and Meghan’s stunning decision to step back as senior royals. Despite the fragile monar­chy’s best efforts, “never again” seems fast approaching.

Tina Brown has been observing and chronicling the British monarchy for three decades, and her sweeping account is full of powerful revelations, newly reported details, and searing insight gleaned from remarkable access to royal insiders. Stylish, witty, and erudite, The Palace Papers will irrevoca­bly change how the world perceives and under­stands the royal family. 

We are continually fascinated by the royals.


My Review
A truly in-depth look at The Royals. Tina Brown knows her stuff and has plenty of evidence to back up her assertions. Are they all admirable? No. Do they live in gilded cages? Yes. After reading this I feel there is plenty to recommend a slimmed-down monarchy

The Duke of Desire by Jess Michaels.

The 9th Book in the beloved 1797 Club series from USA Today Bestseller Jess Michaels

Robert Smithton, Duke of Roseford is known for his lusty appetites and his cold, cold heart. Still thanks to his title and his fortune, everyone wants him and he’s bored of it all. He wants something, but he cannot place what exactly that is. Until he meets Katherine, the Countess of Gainsworth.

Married for six months to an old man who died when they were making love, Katherine is just returning to Society. Although scandal follows her, so does interest, as the men of Society wonder about her prowess if it could kill a man. When Robert pursuse her, she is horrified. After all, she blames him for the circumstances that sent her into her loveless marriage in the first place.

When Katherine ignores him, Robert only pushes harder and ultimately she begins to wonder if revenge is a dish best served through desire. What she finds when she touches him at last is pleasure unlike any she’s ever known, and a connection she does not wish to feel. Now she must decide if she wants revenge or happiness and Robert must determine if love is worth fighting for.

Length: Full-length novel Heat Level: Seduction, scandal and lots of sin!

This book is part of a series (The 1797 Club) but can be read as a standalone book.

My Review. I read this without having read any of the previous books. I was still able to follow the plot and enjoyed it. Treated harshly by her father and married off to an old man, Katherine’s life hasn’t been pleasant. Unused to passion, beyond one fatal kiss, she’s shocked to find that she is notorious. Men want her as a mistress, but a respectable marriage is impossible. Can her father’s disparaging comments about her possibly be true? Then Robert, Duke of Roseford shows an interest in her, can she trust him and believe in him?  He’s the most notorious rake. In spite of what her life has been Katherine is quite innocent, while Robert is anything but that. I liked the attraction and spark between them. Warning, it is a sexy read.

 The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett.

The first book in a highly original and delightfully clever crime series in which Queen Elizabeth II secretly solves crimes while carrying out her royal duties.

It is the early spring of 2016 and Queen Elizabeth is at Windsor Castle in advance of her 90th birthday celebrations. But the preparations are interrupted when a guest is found dead in one of the Castle bedrooms. The scene suggests the young Russian pianist strangled himself, but a badly tied knot leads MI5 to suspect foul play was involved. The Queen leaves the investigation to the professionals—until their suspicions point them in the wrong direction.

Unhappy at the mishandling of the case and concerned for her staff’s morale, the monarch decides to discreetly take matters into her own hands. With help from her Assistant Private Secretary, Rozie Oshodi, a British Nigerian and recent officer in the Royal Horse Artillery, the Queen secretly begins making inquiries. As she carries out her royal duties with her usual aplomb, no one in the Royal Household, the government, or the public knows that the resolute Elizabeth will use her keen eye, quick mind, and steady nerve to bring a murderer to justice.

SJ Bennett captures Queen Elizabeth’s voice with skill, nuance, wit, and genuine charm in this imaginative and engaging mystery that portrays Her Majesty as she’s rarely seen: kind yet worldly, decisive, shrewd, and most importantly a great judge of character.

My Review. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the insight into the workings of Buckingham Palace. The interactions between HM the Queen and HRH Prince Philip are suburb and read as if they were taken from life. How sad that there can’t be more of those, displaying genuine warmth and affection between them. Rozie is a character who I expect to grow throughout the series.

To Sir Phillip With Love by Julia Quinn.

Bridgerton 5 Eloise’s Story

My dear Miss Bridgerton,

We have been corresponding now for quite some time, and although we have never formally met, I feel as if I know you.

Forgive me if I am too bold, but I am writing to invite you to visit me. It is my hope that we might decide that we will suit, and you will consent to be my wife.

—Sir Phillip Crane


Sir Phillip Crane knew that Eloise Bridgerton was a spinster, and so he’d proposed, figuring that she’d be homely and unassuming, and more than a little desperate for an offer of marriage. Except… she wasn’t. The beautiful woman on his doorstep was anything but quiet, and when she stopped talking long enough to close her mouth, all he wanted to do was kiss her… and more.

Did he think she was mad? Eloise Bridgerton couldn’t marry a man she had never met! But then she started thinking… and wondering… and before she knew it, she was in a hired carriage in the middle of the night, on her way to meet the man she hoped might be her perfect match. Except… he wasn’t. Her perfect husband wouldn’t be so moody and ill-mannered, and while Phillip was certainly handsome, he was a large brute of a man, rough and rugged, and totally unlike the London gentlemen vying for her hand. But when he smiled… and when he kissed her… the rest of the world simply fell away, and she couldn’t help but wonder… could this imperfect man be perfect for her?

My Review. I wanted better for Eloise. I wanted someone who adored and appreciated her, not as a potential mother to his children, or as a convenient wife. Someone who saw what a unique and wonderful character she was and who welcomed her wit and sense of fun. Someone less dour than Sir Phillip, who frankly is a bit of a bore. He sulks off to the greenhouse and communicates with the plants. He is baffled by his children, leaving them to the care of a governess. Recasting him as a romantic hero took more imagination than I possess. Yes, he wanted her sexually, but then his marriage had been passionless for a long time.

The It Girl by Ruth Ware.

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of One by One returns with an unputdownable mystery following a woman on the search for answers a decade after her friend’s murder.

April Coutts-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.

Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the second, April was dead.

Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder. 

My Review. I couldn’t put it down,  it completely drew me in. Then, when I began considering suspects, several seemed to suggest themselves.  I galloped through the last fifty or so pages. There was an aha moment, but very late in coming for me. I was provided with an advance copy through Good Reading magazine and Simon and Schuster but was under no obligation to leave a review.

Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick

Miss Amity Doncaster, world traveler, is accustomed to adventure and risk. Benedict Stanbridge, a man of science and a spy for the Crown, has faced danger in the darker corners of foreign lands. But they are about to face a threat that is shockingly close to home . . .

One does not expect to be kidnapped on a London street in broad daylight. But Amity Doncaster barely esca th her life after she is trapped in a carriage with a blade-wielding man in a black silk mask who whispers the most vile taunts and threats into her ear. Her quick thinking, and her secret weapon, save her . . . for now.

But the monster known in the press as the Bridegroom, who has left a trail of female victims in his wake, has survived the wounds she inflicts and will soon be on his feet again. He is unwholesomely obsessed by her scandalous connection to Benedict Stanbridge—gossip about their hours alone in a ship’s stateroom seems to have crossed the Atlantic faster than any sailing vessel could. Benedict refuses to let this resourceful, daring woman suffer for her romantic link to him—as tenuous as it may be.

For a man and woman so skilled at disappearing, so at home in the exotic reaches of the globe, escape is always an option. But each intends to end the Bridegroom’s reign of terror in London, and will join forces to do so. And as they prepare to confront an unbalanced criminal in the heart of the city they love, they must also face feelings that neither of them can run away from.

My Review.   Amity Doncaster is a thoroughly modern and independent woman – a female travel writer, at a time when women were supposed to stay at home and behave. Rescuing a wounded man unwittingly involves her in a complicated plot and also brings her to the attention of The Bridegroom. The Bridegroom is reminiscent of Jack the Ripper and quite chilling. Benedict Stanbridge  ( the wounded man) is distracted by Amity, he wants to keep her out of danger. Any woman who is a fearless solo traveller and who wields a fierce Japanese Tessen is unlikely to agree to his requests. At times the plot felt slightly confusing but it’s an enjoyable read.

Death of a Diva at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison

‘Just the thing to chase the blues away’ M. C. Beaton

Spring is in the air … and so, too, is the sound of music as the residents of Honeychurch Hall are stunned to learn that the Dowager Countess Lady Edith Honeychurch has agreed to the staging of a production of The Merry Widow in the dilapidated grand ballroom.


Fears that the fiercely private octogenarian must be going senile are soon dismissed when our heroine, Kat Stanford, learns that the favour is a result of a desperate request from Countess Olga Golodkin. As one of Edith’s oldest friends Olga is the director of the amateur Devon Operatic Dramatic Organization.

Just a week before, D.O.D.O’s original venue was destroyed in a mysterious fire but since tickets have been sold, costumes made and lucrative local sponsorships secured, Olga is determined that the show must go on. After decades at the helm of D.O.D.O., The Merry Widow will be Olga’s swansong and she wants to go out with a bang . . .

My Review. Once again, a random choice based on the title and the cover that I picked up at the library. It’s the seventh in a series, but I was still able to follow it as the author had filled in with sufficient backstory to make that possible. The interchanges between Kat and her mother are possibly the most amusing. I would have liked to have known more about her relationship with Shawn, which of course I would have done if I had read the previous book.  The story had the feel of a rather frantic French farce.

The Little French Bookshop by Cécile Pivot.

A letter writing workshop.
Five strangers.
Countless secrets bursting in between the pages.

When French bookseller Esther loses her father, she decides to place an ad in a newspaper, inviting struggling readers to join her secret letter writing workshop.

To Esther’s surprise, applications pile in by the dozens – and before long, an elderly lady, a disillusioned businessman, a disheartened couple and an awkward teenager find themselves sharing stories, seeking advice, and forging new friendships.

As Esther’s students uncover the hopes, dreams and fears that were hiding behind the pen, Esther, too, finds herself thrown into a new world full of unexpected adventures. 

Both the tile and book design enticed me but are unrepresentative of the book’s content.

My Review. The perils of judging a book by its cover and title. The cover design indicated a light chic-lit type of book. The title, with the word bookshop, drew me in, but the bookshop was peripheral to the story. This is a slower and perhaps more literary fiction than I was expecting.  Letter writing is an almost lost art and letters feel so much more personal than an email. You see the choice of paper, the pressure of the pen on the page, and the style of handwriting. None of which you see in an email, or in the pages of a book. I would have liked to see just a snippet of their letter before each character, Samuel writing on a paper towel for example. Samuel was probably my favourite character but each of the others had their own challenges and dreams, including Esther.

Note the topics are serious and cover postnatal depression, grief, cruelty, and disillusionment.

Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine Heath

She wants lessons in seduction

Althea Stanwick was a perfect lady destined to marry a wealthy lord, until betrayal left her family penniless. Though she’s lost friends, fortune, and respectability, Althea has gained a scandalous plan. If she can learn to seduce, she can obtain power over men and return to Society on her terms. She even has the perfect teacher in mind, a man whose sense of honor and dark good looks belie his nickname: Beast.

But desire like this can’t be taught

Benedict Trewlove may not know his parentage but he knows where he belongs—on the dark side of London, offering protection wherever it’s needed. Yet no woman has ever made such an outrageous request as this mysterious beauty. Althea is out of place amongst vice and sin, even if she offers a wicked temptation he can’t resist. But as the truth of his origin emerges at last, it will take a fierce, wild love to overcome their pasts.


My Review. A fitting end to the Sins for all Seasons series. Lorraine Heath writes about exciting and desirable men. Despite a sometimes-rough exterior they know how to woo and cherish their woman. Benedict aka Beast may be of supposedly low birth but in behaviour and manners, he puts many of the ton to shame.

Althea and he would never have crossed paths, but for her father’s fall from grace. This has opened her eyes to so much, to the friends who have abandoned her as well as her casual assumptions of entitlement.

She arouses his natural protective instincts and begins to understand that birth is no indication of a true gentleman. They spark off each other and the steamy scenes are well done. Heat level: Hot.

Coming Home to Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn

On paper, Merina Wilde has it all: a successful career writing the kind of romantic novels that make even the hardest hearts swoon, a perfect carousel of book launches and parties to keep her social life buzzing, and a childhood sweetheart who thinks she’s a goddess. But Merry has a secret: the magic has stopped flowing from her fingers. Try as she might, she can’t summon up the sparkle that makes her stories shine. And as her deadline whooshes by, her personal life falls apart too. Alex tells her he wants something other than the future she’d always imagined for them and Merry finds herself single for the first time since – well, ever.

Desperate to get her life back on track, Merry leaves London and escapes to the windswept Orkney Islands, locking herself away in a secluded clifftop cottage to try to heal her heart and rediscover her passion for writing. But can the beauty of the islands and the kindness of strangers help Merry to fool herself into believing in love again, if only long enough to finish her book? Or is it time for her to give up the career she’s always adored and find something new to set her soul alight?

My Review. Escapism? Tick. Romance? Tick. Writing about writing? Tick. I empathised with Merry after she was unceremoniously dumped in public. It was easy to understand her wishing to get away. A writer-in-residence program offers an escape. The Orkney Islands appear to be a magical destination and Holly Hepburn’s descriptions made me want to visit. It didn’t hurt that there were a couple of available and dishy men to console Merry either. Great location, and characters, but with enough turbulence to make life interesting. Enjoyable.

A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting by Sophie Irwin.

The season is about to begin—and there’s not a minute to lose.

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.

With only twelve weeks until the bailiffs call, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her, and Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.

The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost, especially when it comes to his own brother falling for her charms.

Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one—not even a lord—will stand in her way…

My Review. I loved this romp of a book! It is hard not to feel for Kitty in her determined quest to find a rich husband. Her feelings and sensibilities must be set aside, in pursuit of her goal. A tolerably rich husband, and if he wasn’t detestable, so much the better.  She reminded me a little of Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair, a woman who must make her luck. Those of the Ton, insular and uncaring as they were, were the key to her and her sister’s survival. The repartee is sparkling, the dangers real and each day her time to find a husband is diminishing.

The Angry Women’s Choir by Meg Bicknell.

By the acclaimed author of Welcome To Nowhere River comes a heart-warming and uplifting story about a remarkable group of women who discover they are all capable of incredible things – if they’re strong enough, and angry enough, to take up the cause.

Once in a while, everyone needs to be heard.

Freycinet Barnes has built herself the perfect existence. With beautiful children, a successful husband and a well-ordered schedule, it’s a life so full she simply doesn’t fit.

When she steps outside her calendar and is accidentally thrown into the generous bosom of the West Moonah Women’s Choir, she finds music, laughter, friendship and a humming wellspring of rage. With the ready acceptance of the colourful choristers, Frey learns that voices can move mountains, fury can be kind and life can do with a bit of ruining.

Together, Frey and the choir sing their anger, they breathe it in and stitch it up, belt it out and spin it into a fierce, driving beat that will kick the system square in the balls, and pos

My Review. At times serious and at times feeling like a farce. There is no doubt about the passion that fuelled this book. There is so much in it and I would have loved it when I was younger. Sad to say, having heard it all before it didn’t surprise me. To me, the book felt overwhelming and somewhat didactic.

Cats are wonderful companions.

I’m excited to tell you that this month I was writing a Regency romance novella. It went to the editor and I implemented her suggestions. Wondered how and why I had four characters whose names all began with J? I sent my story to join the Swain Cove anthology series. This series is set in 1815 in the fictional Cornish village of Swain Cove. There smuggling is a way of life. My story is called A Scandalous Woman and is in the Sexy Scandals at Swain Cove anthology. While for those who prefer their romance sweeter there is the Sweet Secrets of Swain Cove anthology.

From at all digital stores and for pre-order.

A bit about A Scandalous Woman.

The arrival of Jack Cizeron to secretive Swain Cove causes wariness and suspicion.  Especially as the supposed gardener, he knows little about plants, but plenty about pistols. In spite of a growing attraction to him, healer Kerensa Tregonning suspects he means trouble.

Sexy is here https://books2read.com/SwainSexy and sweet is here https://books2read.com/SwainSweet

Thank you for joining me and I hope to see you next month


Try To Avoid Conflict. Unless You Are Writing Fiction, Then Pile It On!

The New Conflict Thesaurus Silver Edition Writing Guide Is Here!

In real life, we prefer to avoid conflict, it’s uncomfortable and makes us face up to people and things we’d prefer to avoid. In fiction though, it’s a different matter. When things are going smoothly, and nothing much is happening, then readers put the book aside.

Do you want to improve your story?

I always get a bit excited when a book I’m waiting for finally releases, so it’s great to finally share that The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggle (Vol. 2) is now out!

I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

You will surprise yourself with how many times you use these books.

This SILVER EDITION is the twin of the GOLD EDITION, and continues to explore all the ways we can better leverage the conflict in our story.

If you are new to these “thesaurus” books, each one is part writing guide, part brainstorming tool.

The first part of this book dives into how conflict powers your plot and is the golden thread that weaves your inner and outer stories together. It also digs into how to craft great villain clashes, character agency, how to maximize tension, what goes into a satisfying story climax, and more.

The second part of the guide is a mother lode of conflict scenarios (115 to be exact) built to get your imagination thrumming with ideas. You must see it to believe it.

You don’t have long to enter! The deadline is September 16th 2022

I’m part of Angela & Becca’s Street team, and I have news:

Writers Helping Writers is hosting a Writing Contest!

A book about conflict needs a FIGHT CLUB Story Contest, right? Exactly! So if you want to show Angela & Becca how good your conflict-writing skills are, check out this contest and see what you can win.

GIVEAWAY ALERT!

Angela and Becca are also hosting a must-enter giveaway. They’ve filled a vault full of their favourite writing books and are giving away some digital 5-packs, winner’s choice!  

So much fun. Make sure to head over and enter, and good luck!

The real prize though is getting your hands on this amazingly helpful book. I think it would be impossible to run out of ideas if you use this book.

Inspiration?

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

Meet Margaret Cameron, Author of Under a Venice Moon.

I was delighted that Margaret Cameron agreed to join us and answer some questions about her recent memoir Under a Venice Moon.

The classic view of Venice.

Have you secretly longed to do something different? Could you throw it all in and start somewhere new? Would you risk it and would you want to? Maybe it’s something you dream of? Reading this memoir may just give you the inspiration you need!

Margaret Cameron.

Thank you so much for joining us, Margaret. We will explore a little more about the memoir, but first some quickfire questions

Late nights or early mornings? Late nights, most definitely.

What’s for breakfast? One slice of mixed grain toast with avocado and three cups of tea. It never varies. I don’t like decision-making as a start to my day.

Night out or Netflix? Night out. G&T or Tea/Coffee? Tea.

Perfect Weekend? Catching up with friends for a meal or a game of bridge one day, working in the garden the other.

Many people enjoy a spot of gardening

What did you want to be when you grew up? My plans varied at different ages and stages, ranging from a cloistered nun to an air hostess (as they were then called). In other words, I had no idea – the future seemed so far away.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating?Dinner tonight will be pasta with tomatoes, chilli, garlic and lots of fresh herbs from the garden. Perfect for a cold night: there’s nothing I’d prefer. If pressed, I can whip up some half-decent meals, but I’d rather be reading a book – or writing one.

A selection of herbs.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits and chases away a down mood? Small things, I guess. A day of sunshine after rain, a kindly word, doing something that’s been languishing on the must-do list. Or persuading someone else to do it.

Not a job for the faint-hearted.

Your hero? So many to choose from. I’ll go with my brother-in-law David, for his courage and unrelenting good humour through seventeen years of health adversity. An everyday hero.

If you could ask three people for a dinner party (dead or alive) who would they be and why? I don’t mean to be controversial here but: Jesus Christ. Did he really say what we now attributed to him? And, if so, did he really believe it? Or was it like the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Superstar suggests, and things got out of hand? That concept has always intrigued me. I think it would be such a compelling conversation I wouldn’t need /want other guests.

Questions about Writing.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I grew up in the Perth foothills and my childhood was idyllic; riding my bike with my mother and sister, playing in empty paddocks with the children next door, pinching apricots from the trees when I knew my mother wanted them for jam.

An idyllic childhood.

School was a treat – learning turned out to be fun, homework was never a chore (what a nerd!) My eventual career in nursing brought huge satisfaction; I worked as a senior RN in the busy intensive care unit of a public hospital. It was my husband who suggested I undertake a university degree program. I thrived on it. I completed a research-based degree at the University of Western Australia, and my love of reading, writing and words returned after years of taking a back seat to a career.

Have you always written? Apart from letters to magazines and the like, no. But I’ve always thought about it. I remember reading Nancy Friday describe an afternoon walk she took in New York’s Central Park, to clear her mind and prepare for the next chapter of her book. I thought ‘How cool would that be?’ Now I walk through Bold Park for the same reason. Fortune smiled, and I’m grateful.

A walk calms the mind.

What inspired your new book? How long did it take you to write it? Inspiration came during my second visit to Venice in 2014. I couldn’t believe the changes – and not for the better – since my initial trip there forty years previously. Tourists! Everywhere! But I found an off-grid neighbourhood, reminiscent of the city I’d loved on that first trip, and decided to return the following year for a one-month stay. I wanted to find the Venice of the Venetians. And by then I’d done a bucket-load of research and was totally caught up in the quirky stories from the city’s history.

Ageless Venice.

            I met Rossano (caro mio di Venezia) during that 2015 holiday and started writing straight away. I was smitten; love-struck. With him. With Venice. I decided to weave my adventures in Venice around the broader story of Venice itself. The book was completed on my last trip to Venice, pre-Covid, in 2919. So four years of writing, were interrupted by a year away from the keyboard as I struggled to improve my French language skills. Rossano spoke no English but fluent French; I spoke no Italian but (I thought) reasonable French. It made sense to build on what I had.

            After the writing came another two years of manuscript assessment, submissions to publishers and the whole editorial process. Writing the original manuscript – and those annual trips to Venice – was by far the most enjoyable part!

Margaret wanted to find more than the tourist’s Venice.

In memoir writing, is it about selecting what is interesting to others or making it interesting? Both, I think. I wrote about what I found interesting, reasoning that if I found it interesting, then my readers would too. A clear notion of my readership demographic allowed this. But a story still has to be told with a certain voice, a certain energy, that makes it engaging

Do you have a writing routine? No. It tends to be late at night when all the household tasks are done and I can relax.

Choosing the most productive time to write

Are you an ‘edit as you go’ type, or do you go back and do it later?

I’m attending a series of writing workshops by David Allan-Petale; excellent, by the way. He endorses the ‘get it down’ approach, as do just about all the writer-presenters I’ve come across. I see their point: why spend time perfecting something which may later be omitted? Author Portland Jones said in a recent talk that she perfects – polishes to a high sheen, really – each chapter as she goes along. I fall halfway between, in that I take pleasure in getting the first chapter the way I want it,  and then I just write.

What is the best and worst advice you’ve received as a writer? The best advice ever came from John Harman. The nine rules of writing, he maintains, are read, read, read; write, write, write; edit, edit, edit. And I so agree. Worst advice? I’m not sure I’ve had really bad advice. Writers are pretty canny folk, I find.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Just to reiterate John Harman’s advice. And to believe in what you are doing: persevere, and be kind to yourself during the journey.

Are you working on anything now? I’ve delved into that bucket of research I mentioned earlier and decided to go down the historical fiction path. The plot follows a braided narrative of three sisters living very different lives. It’s set in late sixteenth-century Venice and has as its theme changing fortunes and circumstances.  To quote one twentieth-century icon ‘You don’t always get what you want.’

Now that sounds intriguing! I will look forward to reading it.

Here is information about Under a Venice Moon.It’s on my TBR pile and it should be on yours!

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 . . .

Published February 23rd 2022 by Hachette Australia

ISBN0733648312 (ISBN13: 9780733648311

Available at good book stores and on Amazon.

What Did I Read in July 2022?

July here in Australia was a month for sitting by the fire with a good book. It rained, then it rained some more. The weather was dismal, and television held little of interest for me. Covid was still about and restrictions were in place. Time to settle in with a good book. There are more than usual romances and Regency books. I have written one Regency novella and have plans for another.

Perfect time to sit by the fire and read.

Lord Somerton’s Heir by Alison Stuart.

First love left them desolate … can a new love heal their wounds? A tale of second chance love in aristocratic Regency England, for lovers of all things Bridgerton.

Sebastian Alder’s sudden elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of fairy tales, but the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition leaves him little time for fantasy, and the memory of his wife’s brutal death haunts his every moment. When he learns of the mysterious circumstances of his cousin’s demise, he must also look for a potential murderer … surely not Isabel, his cousin’s ladylike widow?

Isabel, Lady Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. Her hopes are shattered from beyond the grave when she is left not only penniless but once more bound to the whims of a Somerton … although perhaps the new Lord Somerton is a man she can trust … or even care for?

Suspicion could tear them apart … honesty and courage may pull them together.

(Winner of the 2012 Romance Through the Ages Award for an unpublished manuscript – Romance Writers of America Historical Chapter) 

Gorgeous cover.

My Review A mystery and a romance combined. The interaction between the couple is engaging and fun. Sebastian isn’t your typical aristocrat and has no pretension to be one. Initially, Lady Isabel is all an aristocrat should be, apart from her concern for the less fortunate. After a shaky start, they begin to appreciate each other, but then the past comes back to disrupt the budding relationship. Can they trust each other?

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn.

The New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code returns with an unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history’s deadliest female sniper. Based on a true story.

In 1937 in the snowbound city of Kiev (now known as Kyiv), wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son–but Hitler’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper–a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her three hundredth kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour.

Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC–until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life.

Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever.

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A sharp cover.

My Review.

The story seems unbelievable and yet it is based on fact. Like many people, I was fascinated and slightly repelled by the idea of a female sniper. The question lurking at the back of my mind was, ‘how could she?’ Once you start reading your doubts and misconceptions are swept away. It was the time and place and the circumstances that made Mila Pavlichenko. It wasn’t a life she had wanted or planned, she simply had to learn to survive. For her son, for her family and for her country. Russia bore the brunt of Hitler’s war for so long, sacrificing far more than any other country. Conditions were harsh and Mila learnt to adapt and earned respect, she had to set her sensibilities aside in a deadly certainty of kill or be killed.

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

Horry Winwood doesn’t play by the rules.
So when her family are near ruin and her sister is about to enter a loveless marriage to a wealthy man to settle the family debts, young and headstrong Horry proposes to marry him in her sister’s place.
As her new husband’s attentions fall elsewhere, Horry begins to feel increasingly unhappy.
Then she meets the attractive and dangerous Lord Lethbridge and her days suddenly become more exciting.
But there is bad blood between Horry’s husband and her new acquaintance, and as complications and deceptions mount, the social tangle grows ever trickier to unpick.

Will Horry’s gamble cost her everything she holds most dear?

A rebranded Georgette Heyer

My Review.

It’s not often I read a book and want to slap the heroine. Bad enough she is called Horrie, surely, they meant Horror?  Frankly, she is a spoiled brat and whilst initially, she appears to have some sense, it rapidly deserts her. The background of Regency life is good. Lord Rule is amiable and lazy but twice Horrie’s age. It didn’t sit particularly well with me, although obviously historically accurate.

The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer.

“Skillfully researched and powerfully written, The German Wife will capture you from the first page.” —Madeline Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Bookshop in London

The New York Times bestselling author of The Warsaw Orphan returns with a gripping novel inspired by the true story of Operation Paperclip: a controversial secret US intelligence program that employed former Nazis after WWII.

Berlin, Germany, 1930—When the Nazis rise to power, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes and her academic husband benefit from the military ambitions of Germany’s newly elected chancellor when Jürgen is offered a high-level position in their burgeoning rocket program. Although they fiercely oppose Hitler’s radical views, and joining his ranks is unthinkable, it soon becomes clear that if Jürgen does not accept the job, their income will be taken away. Then their children. And then their lives.

Huntsville, Alabama, 1950—Twenty years later, Jürgen is one of many German scientists pardoned and granted a position in America’s space program. For Sofie, this is a chance to leave the horrors of her past behind. But when rumors about the Rhodes family’s affiliation with the Nazi party spread among her new American neighbors, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results tears apart a family and leaves the community wondering—is it an act of vengeance or justice?

“An unforgettable novel that explores important questions highly relevant to the world today.” —Christine Wells, author of Sisters of the Resistance.

My Review. An interesting and informative read, I am hesitant to use the word entertaining, perhaps engaging would be better. What I found remarkable was the subtle and incremental erosion of freedoms. So many tiny decisions to make, all of them adding up. How could any of us know how we might act? It was so well researched, which must have been harrowing to do. Believable.

When a Duke Loves a Woman by Lorraine Heath.

Gillie Trewlove knows what a stranger’s kindness can mean, having been abandoned on a doorstep as a baby and raised by the woman who found her there. So, when suddenly faced with a soul in need at her door—or the alleyway by her tavern—Gillie doesn’t hesitate. But he’s no infant. He’s a grievously injured, distractingly handsome gentleman who doesn’t belong in Whitechapel, much less recuperating in Gillie’s bed.

Being left at the altar is humiliating; being rescued from thugs by a woman—albeit a brave and beautiful one—is the pièce de résistance to the Duke of Thornley’s extraordinarily bad day. After nursing him back from the brink, Gillie agrees to help him comb London’s darker corners for his wayward bride. But every moment together is edged with desire and has Thorne rethinking his choice of wife. Yet Gillie knows the aristocracy would never accept a duchess born in sin. Thorne, however, is determined to prove to her that no obstacle is insurmountable when a duke loves a woman.

My Review. While readable, I don’t think this quite worked on the same level as the first book in the series. Maybe it’s how Gillie is described for much of the book. Somehow, the handsome Thorne sees past the forbidding façade she has built up to the kind, caring and passionate woman she is.

The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss by Mary-Frances O’Connor 

A renowned grief expert and neuroscientist shares ground-breaking discoveries about what happens in our brain when we grieve, providing a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and learning.

For as long as humans have existed, we have struggled when a loved one dies. Poets and playwrights have written about the dark cloak of grief, the deep yearning, how devastating heartache feels. But until now, we have had little scientific perspective on this universal experience.

In The Grieving Brain, neuroscientist and psychologist Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD, gives us a fascinating new window into one of the hallmark experiences of being human. O’Connor has devoted decades to researching the effects of grief on the brain, and in this book, she makes cutting-edge neuroscience accessible through her contagious enthusiasm, and guides us through how we encode love and grief. With love, our neurons help us form attachments to others; but, with loss, our brain must come to terms with where our loved ones went, or how to imagine a future that encompasses their absence.

Based on O’Connor’s own trailblazing neuroimaging work, research in the field, and her real-life stories, The Grieving Brain does what the best popular science books do, combining storytelling, accessible science, and practical knowledge that will help us better understand what happens when we grieve and how to navigate loss with more ease and grace

My Review. Perhaps one more the scientists and researchers than those experiencing grief.

The Scoundrel in Her Bed by Lorraine Heath.

The bastard son of a nobleman, Finn Trewlove was a shameful secret raised by a stranger. As Finn came of age, he had secrets, too—the clandestine nights spent with an earl’s daughter. But her promise of forever ended in betrayal.

Driven by a past that haunts her, Lady Lavinia Kent seeks redemption in London’s underworld, engaged in a daring cause inspired by the young man to whom she gave her innocence, and who then proved himself a scoundrel by abandoning her.

When their paths cross again, they can’t deny the yearning and desire that still burns. As they discover the truth behind the deceptions that tore them apart, Finn and Lavinia must fight to reclaim what they’ve lost, no matter how dangerous—because love is worth the risk.

My Review.

Their love story is unique as each navigates past hurts and wonders if it is possible to trust again. I was cheering this couple on hoping they would find their way to happiness. A hot and steamy romance.

Dressing the Dearloves by Kelly Doust

One crumbling grand manor house, a family in decline, five generations of women, and an attic full of beautiful clothes with secrets and lies hidden in their folds.

Kelly Doust, author of Precious Things, spins another warm, glamorous and romantic mystery of secrets, love, fashion, families – and how we have to trust in ourselves, even in our darkest of days. One for lovers of Kate Morton, Belinda Alexandra, Fiona McIntosh and Lucy Foley.

Failed fashion designer Sylvie Dearlove is coming home to England – broke, ashamed and in disgrace – only to be told her parents are finally selling their once-grand, now crumbling  now crumbling country house, Bledesford, the ancestral home of the Dearlove family for countless generations. Sylvie has spent her whole life trying to escape being a Dearlove, and the pressure of belonging to a family of such headstrong, charismatic and successful women.

Beset by self-doubt, she starts helping her parents prepare Bledesford for sale, when she finds in a forgotten attic a thrilling cache of old steamer trunks and tea chests full of elaborate dresses and accessories acquired from across the globe by five generations of fashionable Dearlove women.

Sifting through the past, she also stumbles across a secret which has been hidden – in plain sight – for decades, a secret that will change the way she thinks about herself, her family, and her future.

Romantic, warm, and glamorous, moving from Edwardian England to the London Blitz to present day London, Dressing the Dearloves is a story of corrosiveness of family secrets, the insecurities that can sabotage our best efforts, and the seductive power of dressing up

My Review.

Not quite an impoverished aristocrat, but from a landed family now fallen on hard times, Sylvie Dearlove is marking time. New York is behind her and with no discernible future, she is at home at her family estate. I found some of the transitions into the past slightly confusing. Overall though the story comes together and like a kaleidoscope the pieces shift to form a different pattern.

A Three Dog Problem: The Queen Investigates a Murder at Buckingham Palace by S. J. Bennett.

HM the Queen Investigates Book 2

In the wake of a referendum which has divided the nation, the last thing the Queen needs is any more problems to worry about. But when an oil painting of the Royal Yacht Britannia – first given to the Queen in the 1960s – shows up unexpectedly in a Royal Navy exhibition, she begins to realise that something is up.

When a body is found in the Palace swimming pool, she finds herself once again in the middle of an investigation which has more twists and turns than she could ever have suspected. With her trusted secretary Rozie by her side, the Queen is determined to solve the case. But will she be able to do it before the murderer strikes again? 

My Review. I enjoyed this book. It’s as fascinating for the insights into the running of the palace as much as for the mystery itself. HM’s sense of humour comes through in several places. Why should one of the richest women in the world care about a little painting? It’s not the painting itself, it’s what it represents. Rozie is the most admirable of assistants, loyal, discreet and not above breaking the rules.

 Undercover Duke by Sabrina Jefferies.

Bridgerton fans and readers of Madeline Hunter, Eloisa James, and Lisa Kleypas won’t want to miss this humorous and clever new love story from the historical romance legend.

Along with his stepsiblings, Sheridan Wolfe, Duke of Armitage, is determined to finally solve the mysteries behind the suspicious deaths of their mother’s three husbands. Tasked with investigating a possible suspect, Sheridan finds himself in dangerous proximity to her captivating daughter, Vanessa Pryde. But still haunted by a tragically lost love, the duke is resolved to resist the attraction—and avoid any “scheming” husband-hunters. Besides, lovely Miss Pryde seems utterly smitten with a roguish London playwright…

Vanessa thinks a little scheming may be in order—for it’s Sheridan she truly has her sights, and her heart, set on. Her theatrical flirtation is intended only to break through his business-like demeanor and guarded emotions. And as Sheridan’s jealousy becomes aroused, the two soon find themselves propelled into a scheme of an altogether different kind, involving a pretend engagement, a secret inquiry—and a perhaps not-so-secret leap into true love…

My Review.

When I picked this book, I hadn’t realised it was part of a series. The perils of a quick library book grab! My understanding of the story would have been enhanced if I had read the others. Perhaps the proposition that three Dukes had been murdered was a little farfetched, but this is fiction after all. Vanessa is an engaging heroine and I felt for her having to pretend an interest in playwright Konrad Juncker when in reality it’s Sheridan she wants. He needs a wife but is determined not to marry just for a dowry to prop up his estate. The tragic end of his previous relationship has affected him. Anyway, in his eyes, Vanessa is a chit of a girl, far too young for him. How the story progressed was entertaining and it amused me that Sheridan can’t see the games Vanessa is up to.

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson

London, 1944.

Clara Button is no ordinary librarian. While the world remains at war, in East London Clara has created the country’s only underground library, built over the tracks in the disused Bethnal Green tube station. Down here a secret community thrives: with thousands of bunk beds, a nursery, a café and a theatre offering shelter, solace and escape from the bombs that fall above.

Along with her glamorous best friend and library assistant Ruby Munroe, Clara ensures the library is the beating heart of life underground. But as the war drags on, the women’s determination to remain strong in the face of adversity is tested to the limits when it seems it may come at the price of keeping those closest to them alive.

Based on true events, The Little Wartime Library is a gripping and heart-wrenching page-turner that remembers one of the greatest resistance stories of the war

Hardcover, 496 pages.

My Review.

Gives such a great sense of time and place and peopled with characters we come to care about. It’s a good story and based on facts. Ingenuity and spirit were the defining things about the Bethnal Green underground library. Should people be deprived of books because there’s a war on? Defiantly the answer was no, people needed books more than ever.  Public libraries are egalitarian and provide a free service for anyone who has a ticket. Maybe they weren’t all reading highbrow improving books, but they were reading for escapism, for romance, for history.

The Earl Takes a Fancy By Lorriane Heath.

New York Times bestselling author Lorraine Heath pens another richly satisfying romance in her Sins for all Seasons series.

She’s looking for a nobleman to wed…

Though born out of wedlock, Fancy Trewlove is determined to fulfill her mother’s wish that she marry into nobility. Fancy’s keen intellect and finishing school manners make her the perfect wife for any gentleman—if he’s willing to overlook her scandalous lineage. But Fancy’s plans are thrown into chaos when an intriguing commoner begins visiting her bookshop—and she finds herself unable to stop thinking about him.

He’s looking to escape his title…

Widowed just a year ago, the reclusive Matthew Sommersby, Earl of Rosemont, has been besieged by women hoping to become his next wife. Desperate for anonymity, he sheds Society life to search for the peace that eludes him. Fancy’s shop is his one refuge, until the night their passion erupts into a kiss that nearly leads to her ruin—and leaves both longing for much more.

Together, they discover an unlikely love…

As Fancy finds herself torn between her family’s expectations and her growing feelings for Matthew, secrets are exposed—secrets that force Fancy to question if she can trust her heart’s desire.

My Review.

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book as Fancy is both the youngest and most protected of the siblings. It seems as if she has had a far easier time than any of the others. Although that comes with expectations, that she will marry well, preferably a lord. Her passion for her book shop and love of books went part of the way to winning me over.

Matthew was incognito, playing a part and with each day getting more involved with Fancy. She is everything he admires but she has told him she has to marry well and this makes him doubt her. So, the man who hates subterfuge justifies keeping deceiving her.

Then an event forces them to confront each other. Is he the man she hoped he was and is she the woman of his dreams? Before this can resolve, hurt and pride need to be put aside.

I will always find time to read!

I read thirteen books this month, which when I counted them up surprised me. I would be hard pressed to name a favourite, although I relished the humour of A Three Dog Problem, after the more serious books. I’ve almost finished the Sins For All Seasons collection. They are on the steamier side of romance. I believe we should read whatever we want, for pleasure and enjoyment. While romance celebrates relationships, books based on fact illuminate the past in ways that resonate with us and connect us to that experience. Crime and murder intrigues us, as long as we are safe and only reading about them.

Now ,I am already four books into my August reading.

The Books I Read in June 2022.

In the southern hemisphere, June is the beginning of the winter months. It’s perfect for curling up with a good book. Here are the fourteen books that impressed me the most this month. I settled in my armchair, with a cuppa and with my cat on my knee. Then, I opened a good book. It’s a perfect recipe for a cold and dreary winter day or evening. In addition to reading, I’ve also been writing. This time it’s a submission for a Regency romance anthology. Of course, to some extent, my reading has reflected this.

This cutie isn’t my cat.

Elodie’s Library of Second Chances by Rebecca Raisin.

An uplifting story about fresh starts, new beginnings and the power of stories, from the bestselling author of Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop!
When Elodie applies for the job of librarian in peaceful Willow Grove, she’s looking forward to a new start. As the daughter of a media empire, her every move has been watched for years, and she longs to work with the thing she loves most: books.

It’s a chance to make a real difference too, because she soon realises that there are other people in Willow Grove who might need a fresh start – like the homeless man everyone walks past without seeing, or the divorcée who can’t seem to escape her former husband’s misdeeds.

Together with local journalist Finn, Elodie decides these people have stories that need sharing. What if instead of borrowing books readers could ‘borrow’ a person, and hear the life stories of those they’ve overlooked?

But Elodie isn’t quite sharing her whole story either. As the story of the library’s new success grows, will her own secret be revealed? 

My Review. Anyone who is passionate about books and libraries would enjoy this book. Elodie has never wanted the glamorous PR role she’s been given. Family loyalty has kept her tied to a job she has come to resent. Her previous attempts to leave have failed. This time she is determined. Her brother Teddy could take over her role and would love to. Applying for the job of Librarian at Willow Grove is an act of defiance. Willow Grove is where her love of books started. Elodie decides if she gets the job, she will resign. She does, but Willow Grove isn’t quite as welcoming as she had hoped. Maisie, the library assistant seems to resent her. Unless they can make a success of the library. it is due for closure and Elodie isn’t about to let that happen. Why does someone want to sabotage her efforts? Then there is Finn, the journalist. He wants to help her, but would he if he knew the truth? Her plan for ‘The Peoples’ Library’ may give both the participants and the library a second chance. Can telling a story be a step on the way to healing? Can hearing a story be a step to changing someone’s mind?

With thanks to Rebecca Raisin and Net Galley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review

Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath. Sins for All Seasons 1.

At birth, Mick Trewlove, the illegitimate son of a duke, was handed over to a commoner. Despite his lowly upbringing, Mick has become a successful businessman, but all his wealth hasn’t satisfied his need for revenge against the man who still won’t acknowledge him. What else can Mick do but destroy the duke’s legitimate son—and woo the heir’s betrothed into his own unloving arms . . .

Orphaned and sheltered, Lady Aslyn Hastings longs for a bit of adventure. With her intended often preoccupied, Aslyn finds herself drawn to a darkly handsome entrepreneur who seems to understand her so well. Surely a lady of her station should avoid Mick Trewlove. If only he weren’t so irresistible . . .

As secrets are about to be exposed, Mick must decide if his plan for vengeance is worth risking what his heart truly desires.

A steamy romance.

My Review. They should never have met, and when they did, they shouldn’t have connected. Lady Aslyn shouldn’t meet anyone like Mick Trewlove. She finds him fascinating, dangerous, and disturbing. Her life is already mapped out for her, betrothed to her guardian’s son Lord Kipwick , who treats her more like a sister than a potential wife. Viewing the fireworks at Vauxhall Gardens with Mick Trewlove, Lady Aslyn experiences the beginnings of desire. She is a novice in love, but longs to learn and who better to teach her than Mick?

Classified As Murder by Miranda James

Aging eccentric James Delacorte asks Charlie the librarian to do an inventory of his rare book collection—but the job goes from tedious to terrifying when James turns up dead. Relying on his cat Diesel to paw around for clues, Charlie has to catch the killer before another victim checks out.

A cat on a cover will always grab my attention!

My Review.An engaging mystery with enough bookish facts to satisfy the bookworm in me. An appalling family each of whom is a potential suspect. Charlie and Diesel are delightful and I plan to read more of this series.

How to Live to 100 by Ariane Sherine & David Conrad

If you’re reading this, you probably want to live to a hundred.

And why wouldn’t you want to live a super-long life, if you could remain in good health? You’d get to meet your great-grandkids, try out space travel and the teleporter, and gross out all your descendants by having noisy old-person sex.

Comedian Ariane Sherine has always been determined to live into her hundreds, but never knew how. With so much conflicting and confusing health information out there, she didn’t have a clue where to start until she met David Conrad, a public health expert, who helped her to weigh up all the research and evidence and explained exactly what to do to live a long and healthy life.

And together, they’ve decided to tell you how to live to a hundred too.

This book has all the facts, stats, inappropriate jokes and shameless puns you could ever need to make it to your eleventh decade. The evidence is given for a hundred factors that affect life expectancy – everything from green tea to gardening, sex to sweeteners. And celebrities weigh in with their own thoughts too, so you’ll find contributions from Derren Brown, Richard Osman, Lou Sanders, Charlie Brooker, Konnie Huq, Robin Ince, Jeremy Vine, Clive Anderson and many more. 

My Review The book is divided into sections, making it easy to access the information you want. It would be a useful reference without getting in too deeply into any topic. I browsed, rather than read and picked the sections that interested me.

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett.

It’s time to solve the murder of the century…

Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. He took it to his remedial English teacher, Miss Isles, who became convinced it was the key to solving a puzzle. That a message in secret code ran through all Edith Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Isles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven’s memory won’t allow him to remember what happened. Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Isles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today? Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Isles, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn’t the only one trying to solve it…

My Review. An interesting concept, the whole book is told in a series of transcribed recorded messages. It can make for fragmented reading and the book requires concentration. Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing story as forty years late Steven is trying to make sense of what happened that summer. There are no certainties because what people say or believe may not necessarily be the truth. A satisfying conclusion but after the mental work out I felt I needed to read something lighter.

Poison At The Village Show by Catherine Coles.

Westleham Village 1947.

It’s the Westleham village show and with the war finally over, everyone is looking forward to a pleasant day.

But newcomer, Martha Miller doesn’t share the excitement. Because since her husband Stan left for work one day and never returned, Martha has been treated as somewhat of an outsider in Westleham. The village gossip is that Martha must be to blame….

Martha hopes she can win her fellow villagers over with her delicious homemade plum gin. But as glasses of the tangy tipple are quaffed, disaster strikes! Chairwoman of the village show, Alice Warren, slumps to the ground – poisoned!

As fingers of suspicion again point Martha’s way, she’s determined to prove her innocence and find the real culprit. And she’s ably helped by the new vicar, Luke Walker.

But who would kill Alice and why? And will Luke and Martha discover who is behind the poisoning before it’s too late? 

 My Review. A promising beginning to a cosy murder series. Quite reminiscent of Agatha Christie, with its picture-perfect village and villagers. Martha is an outsider and still struggling to gain acceptance. Disaster strikes when her plum gin is implicated in poisoning. New vicar Luke Walker is sympathetic and joins her in investigating. We are sure to see more of this likeable duo.

Shatter By Michael Robotham. Joe O’Loughlin 3

Joe O ‘Loughlin is on familiar territory—standing on a bridge high above a flooded gorge, trying to stop a distraught woman from jumping. She is naked, wearing only high-heel shoes, sobbing into a cell phone. Suddenly, she turns to him and whispers, “You don’t understand,” and lets go. Joe is shattered by the suicide and haunted by his failure to save the woman, until her teenage daughter finds him and reveals that her mother would never have committed suicide—not like that. She was terrified of heights. Compelled to investigate, Joe is soon obsessed with discovering who was on the other end of the phone. What could have driven her to commit such a desperate act? Whose voice? What evil?

Having devoted his career to repairing damaged minds, Joe must now confront an adversary who tears them apart: a man who searches for the cracks in a person’s psyche and claws his fingers inside, destroying what makes them whole.

My Review. Compelling fiction, tense, edge-of-your-seat stuff. Joe might never have got involved but for chance. Once he is, he can’t look away. If anyone can unlock this killer’s mind, Joe believes he can. He just doesn’t know what it will cost him.

The Year of Mr Maybe’s by Judy Leigh

Never say never to falling in love…Val didn’t expect to be starting again in her seventies, but when life gives her lemons, Val is determined to make lemonade.

Settled into her new home – a picture-perfect fisherman’s cottage in the small Cornish seaside town of Lowenstowe – Val is ready to start a new chapter. And with her son due to get married next Christmas, there’s also the little job of finding herself a plus-one to help her face her ex-husband and his new girlfriend.

With the support of her neighbour Connie, and after decades of married life, Val takes the plunge back into the world of dating with trepidation and excitement. But can she remember how the single life works, let alone what her type is? There seem to be plenty of Mr Maybes, but no sign of Mr Right.

As the year passes, and as friendships and community life flourish, Val begins to blossom. And as Christmas approach, she might just decide she doesn’t need that plus-one after all – although never say never… 

Judy Leigh is back with her trademark promise of laughter, love and friendship. The perfect feel-good novel for all fans of Dawn French, Dee Macdonald and Cathy Hopkins.

My Review. I was intrigued to read a book with a lead character in her seventies. Val is facing the problem that many women face, her husband has left her for another woman.

She is determined to start again. Moving to another Cornish town is a start. Here she makes friends and decides that there may be a man who is right for her. Then there is the almost invisible guy next door. I found this a fun but quite realistic read. The friendship between Val and Connie gave her the courage to pursue new ideas and relationships.

The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern. By Robert Morrison

The Victorians are often credited with ushering in our current era, yet the seeds of change were planted in the years before. The Regency (1811–1820) began when the profligate Prince of Wales—the future king George IV—replaced his insane fa her, George III, as Britain’s ruler.

Around the regent surged a society steeped in contrasts: evangelicalism and hedonism, elegance and brutality, exuberance and despair. The arts flourished at this time with a showcase of extraordinary writers and painters such as Jane Austen, Lord Byron, the Shelleys, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner. Science burgeoned during this decade, too, giving us the steam locomotive and the blueprint for the modern computer.

Yet the dark side of the era was visible in poverty, slavery, pornography, opium, and the gothic imaginings that birthed the novel Frankenstein. With the British military in foreign lands, fighting the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and the War of 1812 in the United States, the desire for empire and an expanding colonial enterprise gained unstoppable momentum. Exploring these crosscurrents, Robert Morrison illuminates the profound ways this period shaped and indelibly marked the modern world. 

My Review. in spite of the catchy strapline on the cover, this book is full of serious research. The book gives a good overview of the era and what a dynamic time it was. I focused on the areas that were of interest to me so a little on the political scene, the ton, Waterloo, fashion, and class. Although there was much more that could have been explored. I’d regard it as more of a reference book than one to read in a sitting.

Talk Bookish To Me by Kate Bromley

Inevitable that a title like this would appeal to me. Overall, I found it an enjoyable read. Ryan and Kara have a relationship that challenges them both. Ryan’s goofy dog added another dimension and her struggle to reach her book deadline added another strand. How can the guy that annoys her the most inspire her fiction?

Kara Sullivan’s life is full of love—albeit fictional. As a bestselling romance novelist and influential bookstagrammer, she’s fine with getting her happily-ever-after fix between the covers of a book.

But right now? Not only is Kara’s best friend getting married next week—which means big wedding stress—but the deadline for her next novel is looming, and she hasn’t written a single word. The last thing she needs is for her infuriating first love, Ryan Thompson, to suddenly appear in the wedding party. But Ryan’s unexpected arrival sparks a creative awakening in Kara that inspires the steamy historical romance she desperately needs to deliver.

With her wedding duties intensifying, her deadline getting closer by the second and her bills not paying themselves, Kara knows there’s only one way for her to finish her book and to give her characters the ever-after they deserve. But can she embrace the unlikely, ruggedly handsome muse—who pushes every one of her buttons—to save the wedding, her career and, just maybe, write her own happy ending?

My Review Inevitable that a title like this would appeal to me. Overall, I found it an enjoyable read. Ryan and Kara have a relationship that challenges them both. Ryan’s goofy dog added another dimension and her struggle to reach her book deadline added another strand. How can the guy that annoys her the most inspire her fiction?

The Village of Happy Ever Afters by Alison Sherlock

Molly Hopkins has happily watched all of her friends’ dreams come true on Riverside Lane.

Deciding to follow her passion for baking, Molly with the help of her friends takes the plunge and opens a Tea Garden in the village hoping to make it a summer to remember!

Meanwhile, after a rather public end of his marriage, Logan Armstrong trusts no one but his beloved Grandad. He just wants his brief stay in Cranbridge to be as quiet as possible. But his Grandad has other ideas; he dreams of seeing the old watermill working again which might just mean Logan has to ask the village for help.

Can Molly finally overcome her lack of confidence and believe in her abilities to make the tea garden a success?

Will Logan discover that Molly might just be the one to mend his broken heart? And will both of them realise that life is for living and loving?

Over a long hot summer in Cranbridge, perhaps everyone’s dreams of a happy-ever-after can finally come true. 

My Review. Ah, the perils of picking up random books from the library. I had no idea this was part of a series. I try to balance my reading between serious/ darker books and lighter ones. The cover indicated that this was going to be a light read. The beginning when Molly meets Logan was promising of an uncomplicated read. However, I got quite frustrated at Molly’s lack of confidence. She seemed to be capable but is filled with self-doubt. I almost gave up. I  read to the end, but it wouldn’t inspire me to go back to read the previous books.

The A List of Death By Pamela Hart

Shooting for fame could end your career … and your life. A sparkling mystery from a stylish new voice in crime fiction, in a book that will delight fans of Richard Osman and Kerry Greenwood.

TV researcher Poppy McGowan has never sought the spotlight and is none too happy to be photographed with rock god Nathan Castle. When the photo pops up on celebrity gossip sites, it sparks a media feeding frenzy, forcing Poppy to go to ground, don a wig, and pull some nifty moves to escape a tailing car. And she cops abuse from Nathan’s outraged fans.

None of this would have happened if Poppy had not found Nathan’s mother Daisy, one-time glamour girl and elderly best friend of her Aunty Mary, bleeding and unconscious in her bathroom. The police dismiss the case as an accident, but Poppy is sure there are questions to be answered. Who attacked Daisy, and why? Will she come out of her coma? What secrets are her gathering family hiding? What happens to Daisy’s money if she dies?

When a murder occurs outside Daisy’s flat, the police step in at last. Unfortunately, they finger Poppy’s boyfriend, Tol, for the crime – after all, he had bad blood with the victim. As Daisy’s money-hungry family circle, amid hints of poisoning, bribery and blackmail, Poppy must find a way to clear Tol’s name and ensure Daisy’s safety

My Review. I enjoyed this book. Poppy is a great character with an interesting job who isn’t easily overawed by fame and celebrity. She also has skills as a researcher and an inability to ‘ leave things alone,’ as advised by the police. You don’t need to have read Digging Up Dirt to enjoy this and, in my opinion, it’s even better than the first book in the series.

Dreams of a Little Cornish Cottage by Nancy Barone.

In her huge mansion overlooking Wyllow Cove, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Natalia Amore had everything she could possibly want. But having kicked out her adulterous ex-husband, her house is filled with nothing but echoes and Nat yearns for the coziness and bustle of seaside living. In particular, the rundown Lavender Cottage that has gone up for sale.

But when her mother has a fall, Nat’s dream of a quiet new life crumbles as she instantly brings her into her home to care for her. With her two energetic nieces then dumped on her doorstep and her recently heartbroken daughter moving back into the nest, Nat can’t possibly abandon her family… Lavender cottage will just have to wait.

That is until Irishman Connor enters Nat’s life and makes her realize that it’s okay to put herself first, and she’s allowed to wish for more. 

My Review. Nat has come out of an unhappy marriage. The house is too big and too reminiscent of her ex who was all about status. Nat dreams of a simpler life in a seaside cottage. However, all the niceties of divorce and separation have to be got through. Connor, her new lodger is a bit of a charmer, is he too good to be true? Nat’s sister exploits her good nature by leaving her daughter with Nat and then her mum has a fall and Nat’s ex who is a doctor gets involved. Oh, and her job as a columnist is under threat too. A lot is going on and this makes for a bit of a confusing book. Is it a feel-good romance? Is it more women’s fiction?

Hearts on Fire: A’firey’ novelette by Jenny Lynch.

Erin Barber works as a junior stylist at her sister Amelie’s popular hair salon and is forever in Amelie’s shadow. When Erin and Amelie attend their cousin Chelsea’s Hen Night at swanky nightclub, Nirvana, sparks soon fly as hunky firefighters put on a sizzling revue to raise money for the Burn’s Unit at a local Children’s Hospital. The fireys-adorning next year’s charity calendar-don’t disappoint, setting the house on fire. And Erin has already become accidentally acquainted with the incredibly ripped and cheeky Mr November! After the smoking-hot performance, the emcee announces a silent auction. The prize? A dinner date with the firey who gets the highest bid. Mr November has already stirred the flames of desire in Erin, but she knows she could never afford to put up the cash for a date with him. Will her dreams of a night with the gorgeous firey go up in smoke? And just what is Erin’s gran, Lizzie, up to? 

My Review. A quick and enjoyable read, perfect for when you settle down with a cuppa or a cheeky glass of wine. The two main characters seem just right for each other. Erin is slightly overawed by her older sister. Not seeing her own potential. Gotta love a ‘firey’ called Cole, the subtle pun amused me. Sparks fly between this couple and it could easily have developed into a longer book. With thanks to Darognfly publishing who provided me with a copy of the book.

Ideal weather to stay in and read a good book.

July has also been a big reading month. We have had lots of stormy weather. Mainly through chance, a few of next month’s books are based on World War Two. I am still reading Regency romance. There is another anthology opportunity I have my eye on. I’m also thinking about the Viking romance I submitted which was awarded a Judges’ choice in the Ink and Insight contest.

Meet Hearts On Fire Author, Jenny Lynch.

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Jenny Lynch to talk about her new book.

Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book Hearts on Fire which releases on 25th July 2022.

Jenny Lynch

“Hearts on Fire” is my new novelette, which began its life as a (long) short story. I wrote it to submit to Dragonfly Publishing earlier this year. They’d put a call out for submissions for a romance anthology. Unfortunately, the anthology is not going ahead, but I was offered a contract for my story to be published as a stand-alone novelette. I was rather flattered…and extremely excited!

A hot heartthrob features in Jenny’s book.

This fun-filled little book is going to be launched on Monday 25th July, at 2pm, at the Gosnells Bowling Club on Albany Highway, Gosnells. The event is free and anyone is welcome, but registration is essential through Eventbrite.

Perth Australia people book your tickets via Eventbrite

Are you writing anything else?

I’m currently writing another children’s Christmas book for Pink Ribbon Books (my fundraising project). Plus, I’m always writing something—whether it’s flash fiction, short stories or rhymes for my writing group (Gosnells Writers Circle), or a piece of writing for a writing competition.

Some quick-fire questions. Late nights or early mornings?

Definitely late nights (and lazy sleep-ins with breakfast in bed).

What’s for breakfast?

I’m not a huge big breakfast fan unless it’s for a special occasion. So, usually just cereal or toast, and definitely a nice hot cup of tea or two.

A light breakfast to start the day.

Night out or Netflix?

Netflix…or other streaming services, of which there are now plenty to choose from.

G &T or Tea/coffee?

Tea at home mostly, but a nice, large flat-white coffee when out. I must admit though, I am rather partial to a G&T on the odd occasion…with lemon or lime, and lots of ice.

Perfect weekend?

Spending time with family and friends is always a perfect way to spend a weekend. The simple things in life are usually the best.

Time spent together.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Believe it or not, a teacher…which I never did become! I studied computer programming and systems design instead, gaining a Bachelor of Business degree. My husband and I ran our own computer consulting company for 34 years.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating?

Dinner is whatever my wonderful Masterchef husband is cooking. I think tonight might be green chicken curry. I can cook (if I have to) but truth be told, I have been known to burn boiled eggs…more than once!

Curry and rice.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits and chases away a down mood.

Spending time with family and friends; doing good deeds for others; fundraising for worthy causes, especially breast cancer research—which is why I created Pink Ribbon Books. I donate all profits to the Breast Cancer Research Centre-WA, as I am a breast cancer survivor. It’s my way of ‘giving something back ‘for my good health.

Supporting breast cancer research.

Your hero?

I’d have to say, my mother and late grandmother. I can’t think of anyone else who could reach the height of their pedestals. Whatever good values I possess, they were instilled in me by these two remarkable women.

If you could choose three people (living or dead) to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Celebrity guests for an informal dinner party

J.K. Rowling (because I admire her literary success and creative imagination)

Celeste Barber (because that crazy woman cracks me up! She’s the only celebrity I follow on Instagram, and she’d be the life and soul of the dinner party.)

Regé-Jean Page from season one of Bridgerton (no explanation required J!)

I applaud your choice!

Do you have any non -writing-related interests?

I’m a wedding celebrant, so I enjoy being part of couples’ special day, creating a beautiful ceremony and taking care of all the legal paperwork. I also TRY and exercise, so I belong to a local walking group and exercise class.

Helping couples celebrate their special day.

Questions about Writing.

What writing resources have been most helpful to you?

Joining a local writers’ group has taught me so much about writing. We not only learn from various workshops, but we learn from each other, simply by sharing our written work. We have been taught how to edit each other’s work too, and that has been extremely beneficial to me.

Creativity can bond people of all ages.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey?

How to ‘show not tell’, and what POV and head-hopping are!

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Trying to think up plots and characters that are unique but still believable, so that my story is unlike any others.

Did you do any research for your current book?

Answers can be just a tap away.

Of course. Google is my best friend!

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?

From my novelette “Hearts on Fire”, I adore the character of Lizzie. She was such a fun grandmother to create! I hope I’m just like her when I’m in my eighties.

From one of my children’s picture books, “Bootsie and Snudge”, I adore the two cute little elves who help Santa out when he’s tired and has become forgetful. Obviously, the elves’ names are Bootsie and Snudge and they are adorable. Personally, I think ABC should turn them into a cartoon show…they’d certainly give Bluey a run for his money.

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

I certainly think it would be hard to ‘show’ and not tell if the writer lacked emotions.

Creativity allows us to express our dreams.

Best writing advice: edit, edit, edit and then when you finish, edit again! And then get someone else to proofread your work.

Worst advice: Write what you know. With the internet at my fingertips, I have written lots of stories about places and events I’ve never visited or experienced. All you need is a little bit of online research time and a lot of imagination!

Best money you have spent as a writer?

Some money is worth saving and some is worth spending.

My annual fees at my writing group and an online ‘Writing and Editing’ course run by Nas Dean. I learnt so much from that course.

Do you have a favourite author and why?

I have several favourites actually: Jane Harper, Trent Dalton, and Liane Moriarty to name a few.

What are you reading now?

“Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. I absolutely love it and I can’t wait for the movie to be released here in July. (But I always read the book first…that’s a golden rule!)

Favourite quote (does not matter the source)

“Believe you can, and you’re halfway there!”  (Theodore Roosevelt)

Words to live by!

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult?

“A Fortunate Life” by A.B. Facey. I can’t find enough superlatives to describe how much I loved this extraordinary book. It’s an autobiography of Albert Barnett Facey’s life, growing up in Western Australia in the early 1900s. I have actually read it several times now. It’s modestly written but is such a moving memoir, I highly recommend it to everyone. It certainly opened my eyes to how hard life was back then, and how privileged we are these days.

Favourite book/story you have read as a child?

Absolutely everything and anything written by Enid Blyton.

 Jenny’s book is available on Amazon for pre-order before it is released on 25th July.

I was lucky enough to read an early copy and I enjoyed it. My review appears on Good reads.

_________________________

What was I reading in May 2022?

Here in Australia, it was still quite warm as we edged towards Autumn. As usual, my reading was a mixed bag of library finds Kindle downloads and serendipitous discoveries. I can’t fault our public library, they have a good selection of current books across genres. How do I pick which books to read? Randomly. A review, a recommendation, or a library display. Do I always get it right? No, but I am not here to bash books, these are books I’ve read and enjoyed.

The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher.

The dramatic story of how a humble bookseller fought against incredible odds to bring one of the most important books of the 20th century to the world in this new novel from the author of The Girl in White Gloves.

When bookish young American Sylvia Beach opens Shakespeare and Company on a quiet street in Paris in 1919, she has no idea that she and her new bookstore will change the course of literature itself.

Shakespeare and Company is more than a bookstore and lending library: Many of the prominent writers of the Lost Generation, like Ernest Hemingway, consider it a second home. It’s where some of the most important literary friendships of the twentieth century are forged–none more so than the one between Irish writer James Joyce and Sylvia herself. When Joyce’s controversial novel Ulysses is banned, Beach takes a massive risk and publishes it under the auspices of Shakespeare and Company.

But the success and notoriety of publishing the most infamous and influential book of the century comes with steep costs. The future of her beloved store itself is threatened when Ulysses‘ success brings other publishers to woo Joyce away. Her most cherished relationships are put to the test as Paris is plunged deeper into the Depression and many expatriate friends return to America. As she faces painful personal and financial crises, Sylvia–a woman who has made it her mission to honor the life-changing impact of books–must decide what Shakespeare and Company truly means to her. 

Iconic Shakespeare and Company

My Review.

As a reader and book lover, of course, I had heard of Paris’s famous Shakespeare and Company. What I hadn’t known, was the fascinating story behind the establishment of Paris’s first English language bookshop, and the woman behind it. Sylvia Beach was a woman of conviction and she believed passionately that James Joyce’s Ulysses‘ was a masterpiece that the world needed to read.

The Rose Code by  Kate Quinn.

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of East-End London poverty, works the legendary code-breaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter—the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger—and their true enemy—closer…

A blend of fact and fiction.

My Review.

You might think a 600+ page book would drag or be difficult to read. You’d be wrong. I read this book in a few days, becoming engrossed in the lives of these different women. Osla with a burgeoning romance with the dashing and handsome Prince Philip. Mab remaking her life after a false start and mousy and beleaguered Beth escaping her family. I’d watched The Bletchley Circle and The Imitation Game, but The Rose Code gave me a different perspective on the same events. I lived vicariously through these women, feeling their feelings, and understanding more about the strains and stresses of wartime. I thoroughly recommend this book.

A Life Worth Living by Louise Guy.

Are some white lies simply too big to forgive?

Eve and Leah are identical twins—but beyond that, they’re polar opposites. Struggling journalist Leah envies Eve’s seemingly perfect life—the loyal husband, the beautiful twin daughters, the stellar career—little knowing that what Eve longs for most is Leah’s independence.

When a shocking event upends their world, one woman seizes a split-second chance to change everything and follow her sister down a different life path. It’s a spontaneous choice, but there’s no going back. How will she deal with the fallout when covering up one untruth means lying to everyone—about everything?

One thing is clear: both twins have secrets, and both just want to be happy. But what price will they pay to live the life they’ve always wanted?

My Review.

I found this easy reading and raced through the book. It was always tempting to read ‘just one more page.’ Twins can look alike, but not think alike and that is evident here. The grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, but what are the pitfalls? What do you do when one decision affects everything and everyone

Autumn Leaves At Mill Grange by Jenny Kane

At Mill Grange, the work – and the fun – never stops! As autumn brings coolness and colour, change is in the air for all at the manor…

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

Welcome back to Mill Grange and the beautiful village of Upwich, full of larger-than-life characters you can’t help but adore. 

A random library choice.

My Review.

This was an interesting read, picked up on a whim at my local library. The topic was unusual, and the cover appealed. Subsequently, I found that it was the second book in a series, and I hadn’t read the first book. The archaeology was perhaps a bit in-depth for a lay person, but overall, the characters and plot made it a good story. Sam’s claustrophobia was well conveyed and showed how limiting it could be.

Summer Intrigue by Linda Tyler.

SUMMER INTRIGUE
Summer, 1812, Scotland.
Invited to a house party, Lucinda Banbury soon discovers someone there is passing British secrets to the French. But who should she believe – her suave host or the enigmatic naval officer? It is important she finds out soon, as Lucy finds herself falling in love with Captain Nathaniel Lambert!

This isn’t the cover of the book I read, but this is the only one available.

My Review.

A pleasant and easy-to-read Regency romance. No real surprises as the spirited heroine and the dashing naval captain hit it off. I read this in a paperback edition.

Bridgerton’s England by Antonia Hicks

Stunning buildings and photography.

My Review

A great pictorial reminder of all the iconic locations used in the series. At the back of the book are the details of where they are and when they are open to the public.

Under The Whispering Door by T.J.Klune.

A Man Called Ove meets The Good Place in Under the Whispering Door, a delightful queer love story from TJ Klune, author of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller The House in the Cerulean Sea.

Welcome to Charon’s Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.


When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.

 

My Review.

A slightly slow start but the book is so worth it. I laughed, I cried and more than anything else I marvelled that words on a page could convey so much. I read that T.J wrote this when he was grieving, and it felt like a warm and compassionate hug as I too was grieving. A joyous book

The Duchess in His Bed by Lorraine Heath.

(Sins for all Seasons Book 4).

For a duchess with practical desires, falling in love is an inconceivable part of her plan…

As owner of the Elysium Club which caters to women’s fantasies, Aiden Trewlove is accustomed to introducing adventurous ladies to sin and vice. But he is uncharacteristically intrigued by the mysterious beauty who visits his club one night, yearning to indulge in the forbidden—with him. Drawn to her indomitable spirit, he breaks his rule of never becoming personally involved with his clientele and is determined to fully awaken her desires.

A recent widow, Selena Sheffield, Duchess of Lushing, has never known passion, not until Aiden’s slow, sensual seduction leads her on a journey of discovery and incredible pleasure. But her reasons for visiting the notorious club are not all that they seem.

As Selena’s motives become complicated by love, she finds herself with a most unexpected choice: forge ahead with a secret plan that could secure her future—or follow her heart which could prove ruinous. 

A Steamy Romance.

My Review.

It would be difficult not to sympathise with Selena, or to fall for Aiden. She is a recent widow, supposedly constrained by the rules of society. While he, as the proprietor of a scandalous ladies’ club, follows no rules at all. Both characters are appealing, and the sparks soon start to fly, with delicious conversations, and even more delicious love scenes.

This is the first book in the series that I’ve read. Luckily, there was sufficient information for me to pick up who the other characters were. I will be reading more of this series.

That brings me to the end of my May reading. Funnily enough, and for no particular reason, June sees me reading more crime and thrillers. I look forward to your company then. Meanwhile, if TV is boring, can I suggest you get lost in a good book?

What Was I Reading in April 2022?

My reading was of two types this month. There was more research for writing a Regency romance and a browse through other fiction. It was also my birthday and somehow along the way, it became almost a week of birthday celebrations. Not that I am complaining! Thanks to wonderful friends I was taken out to lunch, twice, as well as being treated to my first pedicure.

Saying it with flowers and lunches and pedicures.

Changeless.( Parasol Protectorate 2 )by Gail Carriger.

Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. So even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

CHANGELESS is the second book of the Parasol Protectorate series: a comedy of manners set in Victorian London, full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking. 

My Review.
Having enjoyed the first book in the series so much, I was looking forward to reading this.it continues the story than began in book one. Unfortunately, for me personally, it lacked the verve of the first book.

From Where I Fell by Susan Johnson

An anguished email from Pamela Robinson in Australia to her ex-husband in Paris accidentally ends up in the inbox of New York State teacher Chrisanthi Woods. Chrisanthi is sympathetic to Pamela’s struggles and the women begin to tell each other the stories and secrets of their lives.

Pamela, responsible for raising her three sons, must re-invent the meaning of home following her divorce, and Chrisanthi, her dreams long dampened, must find home by leaving it. Temperamental opposites, their emails turn into an exhilarating and provocative exchange of love, loss and fresh beginnings, by turns amusing, frank and confronting

My Review. Having formed friendships online, this book resonated quite strongly with me. I enjoyed the exchanges between the women and their differing perspectives.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal.(Spindle Cove 5) by Tessa Dare

On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.
• Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
• Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
• Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit… and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love? 

My Review.

I enjoyed this book and its hero and heroine. Charlotte is determined to prove the person trysting in the library was not her. Piers and Charlotte are well-matched and each instance of them coming together proves it, but Charlotte isn’t about to marry anyone. The repartee is fabulous. I was cheering the couple on waiting for their happily ever after. 

Dressed by Iris by Mary-Anne O’Connor

A vivid, romantic story of Sydney in the 1930s Depression – the heartbreak, the glamour, the dark underbelly, the struggle towards a better day – and one young woman’s dream of designing her way from rags to riches. For readers of Natasha Lester and Victoria Purman.

1930: Seventeen-year-old Iris Mitchell dreams of designing clothes, but there’s little spare cash for fashion in their shanty-town home. The gift of a single purple ribbon from would-be boyfriend John Tucker, however, creates an unexpected opportunity … and when Iris’s brother Jim joins the Sydney Harbour Bridge construction, the large, dirt-poor but loving Mitchell family can move to the city. Iris will be torn away from John, but he’s Protestant and she’s Catholic, taboo in their world, so perhaps it wasn’t meant to be …

1932: By day, Iris scrubs the floors at Caron’s, an upmarket department store. By night, she designs and sews in her family’s tiny, crowded house. Friendship with gorgeous, livewire Natasha, one of Caron’s models, allows Iris to show her skills, but will her talent be acknowledged … or exploited?

When John reappears, passions are reignited, and Iris must face not only their religious divide, but the apparent impossibility of having both marriage and a career. Meanwhile, the Mitchells must navigate life in a city riven by corruption, dirty politics and gambling. Will their faith, determination and deep family bond save them when tragedy and adversity strike? In 1930s Sydney, the stakes have never been higher … 

My Review.
An interesting take on an Australian rags to riches story. The depictions of the harshness of life in 1930s Australia are sobering. Iris has talent, but no opportunity until one comes along, but even that isn’t all it promised to be. Friendship is what gets her through these tough times. When she has the opportunity to shine, she does so. Personally, I would have liked a little more about Iris’s success.

The Emporium of Imagination by Tabitha Bird

From the author of A Lifetime of Impossible Days (winner of the Courier-Mail People’s Choice QLD Book of the Year Award) comes this beautiful and uplifting story, that will make you laugh and make you cry.

Welcome to The Emporium of Imagination, a most unusual shop that travels the world offering vintage gifts to repair broken dreams and extraordinary phones to contact lost loved ones.

But, on arrival in the tiny township of Boonah, the store’s long-time custodian, Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, makes a shocking realisation. He is dying . . .

The clock is now ticking to find his replacement, because the people of Boonah are clearly in need of some restorative magic.

Like Enoch Rayne – a heartbroken ten-year-old boy mourning the loss of his father, while nurturing a guilty secret.

Like Ann Harlow, who has come to the town to be close to her dying grandmother. Though it’s Enoch’s father who dominates her thoughts – and regrets . . .

Even Earlatidge in his final days will experience the store as never before – and have the chance to face up to his own tragedy . . . 

My Review

Beautiful book. Spellbindingly magical, a fairy tale for adults. Wonderful phrases and concepts. Inspired by a personal loss, this book should resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one. It’s a joyful book, filled with happiness. 

The Whispered Word by Ellery Adams. Secret, Book & Scone Society 2

In New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams’ intriguing new Secret, Book, and Scone Society novel, Nora Pennington and her fiction loving friends in small-town Miracle Springs, North Carolina, encounter a young woman desperately in need of a new beginning . . .

Nora Pennington, owner of Miracle Books, believes that a well-chosen novel can bring healing and hope. But she and the other members of the Secret, Book, and Scone Society know that sometimes, practical help is needed too. Such is the case with the reed-thin girl hiding in the fiction section of Nora’s store, wearing a hospital ID and a patchwork of faded bruises. She calls herself Abilene, and though Nora and her friends offer work, shelter, and a supportive ear, their guest isn’t ready to divulge her secrets. But when a customer is found dead in an assumed suicide, Nora uncovers a connection that points to Abilene as either a suspect—or another target.
 
Summer’s end has brought other new arrivals to Miracle Springs too. Entrepreneur Griffin Kingsley opens Virtual Genie, a cyber business that unloads people’s unwanted goods for cash. With the town in an economic slump and folks hurting for money, Virtual Genie and its owner are both instantly popular. A patient listener, Griffin dispenses candy to children and strong coffee to adults, and seems like a bona fide gentleman. But Nora’s not inclined to judge a book by its cover. And when a second death hits town, Nora and her intrepid friends must help the new, greenhorn sheriff discern fact from fiction—and stop a killer intent on bringing another victim’s story to a close . .

 My Review

Nora Pennington has a knack for knowing which books a customer needs. Her quirky bookstore is a hub for the Miracle Springs community. So why can’t she get a sense of the mysterious girl who has shown up in her bookstore? I enjoyed this story and the book-related quotes and recommendations. 

How to Avoid the Marriage Mart by Eva Shepherd.

A notorious rake.

Meets a spirited spinster…At a weekend shooting party, where the guests are as determined to bag a marriage partner as they are a pheasant, two attendees are under siege. The Duke of Kingsford from a clutch of desperate debutantes, and Charlotte FitzRoy from her matchmaking mother! A pretend courtship between them should keep the others at bay, but an unexpected, impassioned kiss may just bring about the marriage they both sought to avoid!

My Review.

This is actually outside the era I wanted to read about, but I began reading and found it quite engaging. Of course, it has the essential elements,  meddling mammas, rebellious daughters, reluctant grooms and a previous encounter between the couple which had not gone well. Charlotte is a rebellious young woman with no interest in marriage, the despair of her mamma. Charlotte is into causes. Nicholas is at the house party purely to gamble; he has no interest in either shooting or picking a wife. They have a previous acquaintanceship which has left both of them bruised but they decide to help each other with a fake courtship. Of course, nothing is as simple as that sounds.

The Jane Austen Society by  Natalie Jenner  

(2020 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction and for Debut Novel!)

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society. 

My Review. Quite a slow-paced read but brimming with character and connections. Sleepy Chawton just after the war, impoverished, little changed. Unaware of the potential goldmine they have in being Jane Austen’s last home.  Similar to Jane Austen’s books here a cast of characters in a small village come together to form The Jane Austen Society. The diverse group have one thing in common they are all devotees of her work and that is what initially binds them together. Relationships are tested and changed. When love blossoms it is unrecognised and almost lost.

The Truth About Dukes.( Rogues to Riches 5)  by Grace Burrowes 

A new duke and a woman with a secret in her past get a second chance at love in this delightful and charming Regency romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the Windham series.

Robert Rothmere is hiding a past no duke should have endured, but he’s not hiding it well enough. Sooner or later, his enemies will learn that he spent years locked away at a private asylum. To get their hands on his wealth, they’ll try to send him right back to his worst nightmares. If Robert is to foil their schemes, he needs to marry a perfectly proper, blessedly boring, deadly dull duchess, immediately—and he knows exactly which quietly delightful lady he’d love to entrust with that role.

Lady Constance Wentworth has cultivated a reputation for utter forgettability. She never speaks out of turn (in public), never has a daring thought (that she admits aloud), and never comes close to courting scandal… as far as anybody knows. Her path crossed Robert’s years ago, though, and she’s never forgotten the extraordinary lengths he traveled to keep her safe when she hadn’t a friend in the world. She longs to be his demure duchess…but little does he know that to marry her would be utter madness.

My Review.

A romance with more substance than most, possibly because of the sensitive nature of parts of the story. I hadn’t read the previous books, in fact, I didn’t know there were previous books. Robert’s epilepsy offended his father who condemns him to life in a private asylum. Now returned to his estate, he is living the life of a recluse. Can a man who has suffered so much begin to live a normal life?

The Viscount Who Loved Me Bridgertons2)  by Julia Quinn

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn comes the story of Anthony Bridgerton, in the second of her beloved Regency-set novels featuring her charming, powerful Bridgerton family, now a series created by Shondaland for Netflix.

ANTHONY’S STORY

This time the gossip columnists have it wrong. London’s most elusive bachelor Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry—he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield—the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams…

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands—and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister—but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself…

My Review.
After seeing Bridgerton 2 on Netflix I wanted to read the book. There has been so much debate about which storyline people prefer, as they differ markedly. I thought I’d like to judge for myself. To my mind, the book has a better, more involved, and frankly, sexier story than the series. I enjoyed the show but felt it lacked the edge that season one had.
I have read a few of the Bridgerton series-(obviously not in order) and so far, this is the best one. 

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.


But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love

My Review.

A sparkling romance that will make you laugh out loud. There may be a power imbalance in the relationship initially, but bit by bit Emma demolishes both the Duke’s rules and his objections. Can the disfigured Duke stop himself from falling for her? Dare he risk his heart and happiness? More importantly, does he want to?

You should definitely eat the delicious cake

I am already way ahead of my reading goal for the year, but for now, I need to concentrate on my writing. A submission deadline looms. As for my birthday, well it was such a success, I think I will have another next year.

It was my first pedicure, but it won’t be my last.

Meet Ruth Morgan, Author of The Whitworth Mysteries.

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Ruth Morgan to talk about her  book The Whitworth Mysteries

Ruth Morgan.

Ruth lives in Lismore, New South Wales where the whole community has been devastated by flooding. We are talking unheard of flood levels of up to 14.4 metres. Lives and homes and businesses were lost. Even more cruelly, a month after the first flood, when the cleanup was well underway, Lismore endured a second flood. While helping out in her local area, Ruth is still writing. She is also promoting a re-stocking drive for the Lismore library which lost 29,000 books.

A sight to hurt any book lover.

DETAILS HERE. https://rtrl.nsw.gov.au/  – Flood Recovery Donation page.

So, I am very grateful that Ruth has taken the time to talk to us. We will discuss her writing later, but first some quick-fire questions.

Late nights or early mornings? Always early mornings.

What’s for breakfast? Toast and coffee.

Night out or Netflix? Night in, with a good book.

G &T or Tea/coffee? All three – but not at the same time!

A night in, with a good book.

Perfect weekend? Going for a walk, catching up over coffee with friends, and time spent in the garden getting dirty.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I’m not sure I’ve grown up yet! Everything! Reader, writer, dancer, nurse, vet, work in a zoo..

Cooking can be fun.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating ?Love cooking. Dinner tonight – probably leftovers! Preference these days is vegetarian, and when the veggie garden is productive, whatever is in season is usually what’s for dinner. I love it though when someone else cooks.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Cats – always cats. The sound of a purring cat, being head-butted, sat on – magic. Or going for walk, sitting by the ocean, listening to beautiful music.

Two of Ruth’s cats.Muscat and Champurrs.

Your hero? I don’t know that I have a hero. If I look around me at the moment my community is full of heroes. To deal with two floods a month apart makes heroes of us all. A hero is someone who doesn’t quit, although they may want to, even when the odds appear overwhelming, they just keep going. Those who help clean up after the flood, those who listen, those who are running a business from their damaged premises and are operating through the back door, yet still going. The battlers, the fighters, those putting one put in front of the other… Those wonderful heroes who came from nowhere in droves to help, the wonderful Sikhs who drove 27 hours to come and cook the most amazing food for everyone, groups who turned up offering food, water and fruit to the mud army, those who run the Resilient Lismore FB group…

Ordinary people, emergency services, the fire service and even the army were called in to help.
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash
It seemed perfect as a representation of the Lismore Heart symbol

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party,( dead or alive)who would they be and why?

Only three! Probably Laurens van der Post, Arthur Upfield, Agatha Christie and Carl Jung – maths was never my strong point!

Coco as a kitten

Questions about Writing.

Have you always written? I’ve been a storyteller since childhood. Growing up in a very isolated location threw me back on my own resources for entertainment. So I learned at a young age to see stories everywhere and in the most mundane events. In my first years of primary school, I began writing. There have been long periods when I haven’t though and always felt something was missing. Now it’s a full-time occupation, and I’ve never been happier.

What inspired your new book?

Mildura. My home town renamed Whitworth for the book. I love the wide-open spaces, the red dirt, the river red gums, the river… The breathtaking sense of solitude that standing in the middle of somewhere like the Hay Plains brings. The sense of peace. I grew up in Mildura when there were lots of interesting things going on – especially for a budding crime fiction writer. I wanted to explore links between events, characters, to explore what was hidden,  and always to learn why people do what they do.

What time of the day do you usually write? Much prefer mornings. Brain is fresher and ideas emerge more easily.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? When my characters refuse to co-operate, or tell me what’s going on. Sometimes threats work, cajoling, offers of tea or something stronger. They fall silent when I’m taking the story in the direction I want it to go, rather than how they want it told. When we work in harmony it’s so much easier.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing? It depends on where I’m up to in the process. Always start early and often work through. If I have a deadline, I just keep going. If I have time, usually finish about lunchtime and do other things in the afternoon.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?  Being able to close my eyes and watch the characters interact, eavesdrop on conversations, see what’s unfolding through someone else’s eyes. And if the characters are playing nicely, be able to ask questions. That’s a fabulous quirk to have!

Did you do any research for your current book? Yes. Because it’s a police procedural I need to understand how things are done, interviews conducted, the treatment of a crime scene. A lot of information can be gathered by reading widely, asking questions, but in the end how you put the research together, which sections you use are all determined by how the story wants and needs to be told.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? It would have to be David. The man in my current novel who didn’t want to be the hero. His refusal to take on the role ground the entire story to a screeching halt. It was only when I asked a writing group I’m part of why he was being unhelpful that someone made the suggestion that perhaps the wrong person was in the hero role. I listened to the characters, to the story, and swapped the hero. A flood of ideas and events, layers and understanding emerged and I have to type more quickly in order to keep up.

Coco all grown up! .Cats just get everywhere..

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? Possible. But perhaps not fiction. So much of what goes on in a story, love, loss, anger, grief, hope – are strong emotions and for many felt physically as well as in the mind. It would be hard to be convincing if the emotion wasn’t felt.

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Best advice – get the story out of your head in whatever way works for you. Worst advice – draft everything. That takes out all the fun of discovery.

Best money you have spent as a writer? The first course I did at the NSW Writer’s Centre, was in about 1996. I don’t remember now what it was, but I remember the teacher and her belief that I had the capacity to tell gripping stories. No one had ever given me that backup before.

Do you have a favourite author and why? Favourites change from month to month, there are always new discoveries to make. I always come back to Garry Disher and Peter Temple. I love the speed in Temple’s work, and the dark depths and how he handles dialogue. I love the spartan writing in Disher’s work and how the landscape is a powerful part of what unfolds.

What are you reading now?  Gary Jubelin’s I Catch Killers, and Fiona Macintosh’s The Spys Wife.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I think everything I’ve ever read has added something. The way of describing a scene, an emotion, a discussion between characters – I’ve taken some piece of information, view, learning from every book I’ve read. Some books show me how NOT to tell a story. The influences can be positive and negative.

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? How much paper do you have! So many remarkable books and all have had a different impact on how I see stories. I loved the Far Pavilions, Len Deighton’s Hook, Line and Sinker series, Ruth Rendell, Simeon, Arthur Upfield. Arthur Upfield’s, Death of a Swagman has a special place in my memory. It was the first book set in a country that I knew well and had grown up in. Jon Cleary, Trent Dalton, Kate Forsyth….

Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Lord of the Rings was the first book I read as an early teen that has stayed with me and is reread on a regular basis. But I don’t write or read fantasy. There is such depth to the story that it always enriches anything I’m working on. LOTR is a place to retreat, to emerge inspired and restored and after, well, some decades, it always has something new to offer that I hadn’t discovered before.

Flood waters at the second floor of The Lismore library.Photo taken by Dannika from the Lismore library page.

If you would care to donate to the library appeal ,as I did,  more details can be found on the Lismore library home page.

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Endless summer! The Books I Read in March 2022.

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

Hot days and steamy nights

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins.

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

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

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

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

Old-time Hollywood glamour.

My Review

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

The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape.

This is the only money guide you’ll ever need

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

So what makes this one different?

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

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

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

You’ll also get the skinny on:

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

Sound too good to be true? It’s not.

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

And you’re next

He knows his stuff.

My Review

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

Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown.

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

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

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

My Review

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

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan.

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

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

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

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

Gorgeous cover!

My Review.

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

The Marlow Murder Club by Richard Thorogood.

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

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

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

Together, they are the Marlow Murder Club.

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

My Review

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

Sunrise by The Sea by Jenny Colgan

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

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

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

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

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

My Review

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

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

Family For Beginners by Sarah Morgan

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

The Design of the Dukes by Kathleen Ayers

The Beautiful Barrringtons  Book2

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

At least in the Duke of Granby’s opinion.

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

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

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

Andromeda is the victim of infatuation and bad luck.

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

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

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

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

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

A steamy romance.

My Review.

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

Bewitching by Jill  Barnett

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

Reads a bit like a fairytale.

My Review.

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

The Red Hot Earl by  Darcy Burke  

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

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

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

This one appealed to a lot of people.

My Review.

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

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves

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

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

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

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

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

Lovely evocative cover.

My Review.

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

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

Hot summer nights.

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

Why not treat yourself?

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