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


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.

.

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.

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.

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?

The Books I Read in February 2022.

February was a sunny, sunny month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out why readers love Julia Quinn .

Fans cant get enough of Bridgerton.

My Review.

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

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

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

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

Someone to Romance by Mary Balogh

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams

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

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

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

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

An intriguing cover.

My Review.

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

Romancing The Duke by Tessa Dare.

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

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

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

Ugly duckling turned swan?

Abducted by handsome highwayman?

Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

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

This one.

My Review.

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

The Garden House by Marcia Willett.

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

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

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

My Review.

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

Someone to Love by Mary Balogh.

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

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

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

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

My Review

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

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles.

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Kisses at Mermaids Point by Sarah Bennett

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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


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

Still, the sun blazes down.


What Was I Reading in January 2022?

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

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

The Secret Book, and Scone Society by Ellery Adams.

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

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

The cover appealed to me.

My Review.

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

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

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

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

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

A surprise success.

My Review.

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

Lily’s Little Flower Shop by Lisa Darcy

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

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

The Secrets of Sunshine by Phaedra Patrick.

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

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

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

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

A suitably sunshiny cover.

My Review.

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

The Christmas Tea Shop by Darcie Boleyn.

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

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

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

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

An appealing cover.

My Review.

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

The Wattle Island Book Club by  Sandie Docker

Is it ever too late to rewrite your own story?

COURAGE

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

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

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

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

What a great cover!

My Review.

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

The Royal Governess by Wendy Holden.

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

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

My Kind of Happy by Cathy Bramley

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

‘I think flowers are sunshine for the soul.’

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

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

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

Captures the tone of the book, perfectly.

My Review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

The Secret of Platform Thirteen by Eva Ibbotson.

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

 

Looks exciting!

My Review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Beautifully Illustrated.

My Review.

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

Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron.

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

Growing older doesn’t necessarily mean growing wiser.

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

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

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

My Review

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

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett.

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

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

The Sugarhouse Blues by Mariah Stewart.

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

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

My Review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I loved this cover and the earnest cat.

My Review.

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

The King’s Witch By Tracy Borman.

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

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

My Review.

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

A Year At The Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

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

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

My Review.

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

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




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

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

A book can be company, comfort or escapism.

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

Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand.

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

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

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

Set in Nantucket.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan.

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

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

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

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

An insight into the recent past

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

The Last of The Apple Blossom by Mary Lou Stephens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review.

What a gorgeous cover!

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

One More For Christmas by Sarah Morgan.

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

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

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

A joyful book.

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

Ink and Shadows by Ellery Adams

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

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

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

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

Books about bookshops always appeal to me.

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

The Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson.

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


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


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

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

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

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

The Book Club by Roisin Meany.

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

An appealing cover

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

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

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

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

The heiress . . .
The Resistance fighter . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan.

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

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

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

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

Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry.

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

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

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

Everyone adores Christmas . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow.

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

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

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

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

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

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday by Milly Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Comfort Book by  Matt Haigh

A manual of reflections for an increasingly stressful world

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

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

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

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

Personally, I wasn’t keen on this cover.

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

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

What Did I Read in November 2021?

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

Staying at home with a good book

The Perfectly Imperfect Woman by Milly Johnson 

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

My Review

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

The Man Who Died Twice byRichard Osman

It’s the following Thursday.

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

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

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

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

The Distant Shores by Santa Montefiore ·

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

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

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

My Review.

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

The Cottage at Plum Tree Bay by Darcie Boleyn

One summer can change everything…

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

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

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

My Review.

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

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner.

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

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim

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

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

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

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

My Review.

A winning combination

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

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick 

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

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

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

My Review.

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

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters.

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan 

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t resist this gorgeous cover!

My Review.

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


The comforts of home with books and cats.

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

 

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