March Madness, Those Missing Books-March 2021.

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

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

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes by Trisha Ashley

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

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

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

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

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

The Polly Principle by Davina Stone.

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

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

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

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

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

Published March 29th 2021 by Feathers and Stone Publishing

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

Fiddling with Fate by Kathleen Ernst.

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

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

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

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

Tidelands By Philippa Gregory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

A Home From Home by Veronica Henry

Sunshine, cider and family secrets…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A  Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn.

Previously published as four e -books

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

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

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


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


What Did I Read in April 2021?

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

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jamie Admans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                     Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan.

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

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

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

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

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

The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes.

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

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

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

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

The Carer by Deborah Moggach.

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

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

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

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

Get Witch Quick By Louisa West.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What did I read in February 2021?

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

Reading was my escape and refuge.

        Troubled Blood By J.K Galbraith.

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

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

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

My review

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

The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent.

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

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

My Review

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

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder. 

My Review.

It seems to me that Anthony Horowitz had fun writing this. His fictional detective Atticus Pund is the creation of an unlikable writer, Alan Conway. Few mourn his death, but he has left a fictional puzzle with his last book. Susan Ryeland, his editor wants to track down the last chapter. In doing so she puts herself in danger as the fictional world impinges on the real world. Adding veracity to the tale is the supposed interview from the Spectator magazine between Anthony Horowitz and Alan Conway. Horowitz exercises his considerable talents with wordplay, anagrams, puzzles and extraneous information. A tour de force.

Never Judge a Lady  By Her Cover by Sarah MacLean Award-winning author Sarah MacLean reveals the identity of The Fallen Angel’s final scoundrel in the spectacular conclusion to her New York Times bestselling Rules of Scoundrels series . . .

By day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking–in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered . . . until now.

Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems, and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear . . . including her heart. 

Hardcover, Large Print, 613 pages

Published July 8th 2015 by Thorndike Press (first published November 25th 2014)

The author was recommended to me as someone who wrote whip-smart dialogue. I picked up the first title I saw, not realising at first that it was part of a series. It didn’t matter, the story although improbable, was entertaining and easy to follow. It had the readability factor which kept me entertained, even as my critical faculties were querying the implausibility of the plot. Just what I needed, pure entertainment.

My One True North by Milly Johnson From the bestselling author of the “glorious, heartfelt” (Rowan Coleman, New York Times bestselling author) novel The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew comes a warm-hearted tale about two people brought together by fate.

Laurie and Pete should never have met. But life has a different idea.

Six months ago, on the same night, Laurie and Pete both lost their partners. Overwhelmed by their grief, they join the same counselling group…and change their lives forever.

From their profound sadness, Pete and Laurie begin to find happiness and healing. Except, the more they get to know one another, the more Laurie begins to spot the strange parallels in their stories. Then Pete discovers a truth that changes everything—one which threatens to reverse everything they’ve worked towards.

But, as surely as a compass points north, some people cannot be kept apart.

With Milly Johnson’s signature “warm, optimistic, and romantic” (Katie Forde, bestselling author) style, My One True North is an unforgettable exploration of the power of love, friendship, and hope.

Paperback, 400 pages .Published July 23rd 2020 by Simon & Schuster UK

My Review.

I had requested this book from my local library a while back. By chance, it arrived after a death in my family. I debated whether to read it, would it be too depressing? I didn’t think Milly Johnson could write a depressing book, so I gave it a go. I laughed, and I cried, the characters were real to me. Laurie, the young solicitor, is aware that something was missing from her marriage. Fireman Pete is traumatized after attending the accident where his wife had died. Leavening what could have been a very sad story, were the extracts and malapropisms from The Daily Trumpet newspaper. A wonderful support group and a psychic who is amazed, to discover her powers are real, all propel the story forward to the desired happy ending, but not before a few surprises along the way.

A  Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn.

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

Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester’s bustling streets.
 
They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn’t think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there’s support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Sebs cocktail bar on the third floor!


Paperback, 400 pages

A book, a coffee and time to read.

Published July 23rd 2020 by Simon & Schuster UK

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

A Home Away from Home by Veronica Henry.

Sunshine, cider and family secrets…

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

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

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

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

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

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


What did I read in January 2021?

January was a difficult month as my husband was seriously ill and in hospital . More than ever I was looking for entertainment, escapism. and distraction. What helped? Good friends, books, cats and Netflix.

Being alone felt sad.

                 A Nose for Trouble by D.D. Line.

Betrayed by her lover and left for dead, Senior Constable Ellie Marsden and her canine patrol dog leave Perth and move to the small coastal town of Trinket Bay. Time heals Ellie’s wounds, but not her heart.

When thieves break in and steal drugs from the local doctor’s surgery, she realises it’s similar to her last case back in the city. If her ex-lover is in her town; can she close the case and arrest the man who almost destroyed her?

Brennan Cole has been on the run for almost three years, leaving behind everything he’s ever known and everyone he’s ever loved. He’s never forgiven himself for betraying Ellie, but he’s in too deep to stop now.

Trinket Bay is another perfect target. The police force isn’t as prominent here, the drugs they need are easy to acquire, and its tourists provide a ready market. It’s a simple in and out before they move on to the next town. But then he glimpses the woman he still loves. Can he escape detection before it’s too late?

Or will they learn cases of the heart never grow cold?

A Nose for Trouble is a contemporary romantic suspense novella set in the fictional town of Trinket Bay in South Western Australia.



My review

An exciting beginning to what promises to be an engaging romantic suspense series. Policewoman Ellie Marsden has relocated to Trinket Bay with her K9 companion Miss Charlie. After a heartbreaking betrayal, Ellie has given up on love. She and Charlie share an unbreakable bond and surely that is enough? So why does her heart race when she sees Brennan Cole, the guy who trampled on her hopes and dreams? Ellie suspects its more than a coincidence that he is in Trinket Bay. What is he up to? I loved finding out, and I look forward to reading book two in the Trinket Bay series.

                 The Alice Equation by Davina Stone.

Alice Montgomery’s life is like Groundhog Day. Five years after graduating, she’s still working in her mum’s bookshop, hiding her stash of romance novels under the bed and pining for the gorgeous guy who helped her over a panic attack before her final uni exam.

Aaron Blake loves to party—hard. His idea of commitment to anything other than his legal career is strictly three months. Until landing a job with the most prestigious—but conservative—law firm in town means he has to convince the partners he’s deeply committed to family values.

Aaron needs a fake date fast—and who could be safer than his bookish friend Alice?

Soon Alice finds herself dating her secret crush, sporting a daring new look of vintage frocks and itsy-bitsy lace lingerie.

Now the heat is notching up. Aaron’s feelings for his fake date are proving anything but safe, and Alice is discovering her inner sex-goddess.

But when secrets are revealed and lies uncovered, both Alice and Aaron will have to work out the hardest equation of all… what this crazy thing called loved is all about. 

The Alice equation is a whole lot of fun with a sexy vibe. Alice has secretly loved Aaron forever. Aaron is a player, his cut off point for relationships is three months. When he joins a law firm with ‘family values’ he needs to come up with a suitable partner and fast. So, Alice and Aaron begin a fake relationship. Alice is a newbie at the dating game. Her popular and gregarious friend Polly tells her that , ‘amazeballs sex, equals true love.’ Coached by Polly, Alice embarks on a  revamp of her wardrobe and her ideas. Aaron responds to the new Alice and they become’ friends with benefits’. There is great chemistry between them as Alice releases her inner sex goddess. Until it all goes horribly wrong. I really appreciated the drama and conflict. I enjoyed getting Aarons point of view as well as Alice’s. They both grew throughout the book which made it a satisfying read. Looking forward to book two in the Laws of Attraction series.  I received an Advance Reader Copy through Book Funnel and the author but was not obligated to post a review.

 We Witch you A Merry Christmas by Louisa West.

All she wants for Christmas is some peace and quiet. But Santa—and the local sheriff’s office—might just have her on the naughty list.

Rosemary Bell’s got a brand new bag. She has a great circle of friends, a sexy Irish boyfriend, and a daughter following in her witchy footsteps. But when she becomes the prime suspect in her grinch husband’s disappearance, the halls she’ll be decking might be behind bars.

Things get even bleaker when she’s called home to clean up her husband’s mess. When Rosie finds clues about a family she never knew she had, she realizes she doesn’t know as much about her past as she thought. And her present isn’t much better, when the local sheriff joins the investigation into her crimes.

With the local Sheriff breathing down her neck, it’ll take a Christmas miracle to keep her new family together for the holidays. This year Rosie might find herself witching for a Merry Christmas.

Charmed meets The Santa Clause in this short novel about the families we’re born into, the families we choose, and the magic of Christmas.

It doesn’t need to be Christmas ,for you to enjoy this book.

I’ve enjoyed the books in the Midlife in Mosswood series and had this on pre-order. Due to technical glitches, I wasn’t able to read it pre-Christmas. It didn’t matter, it flowed along and kept me entertained and intrigued anyway. Rosie makes intriguing discoveries, while the Sheriff launches a vendetta against her, and her ex discovers a few things for himself. All wrapped up in tinsel and Christmas, but it’s good to read anytime. The latest in the Mosswood series is, in my opinion, the best so far.

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Featuring his famous literary detective Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland, the hero of the worldwide bestseller Magpie Murders, a brilliantly complex literary thriller with echoes of Agatha Christie from New York Times bestselling author Anthony Horowitz.

Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is living the good life. She is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her long-term boyfriend Andreas. It should be everything she’s always wanted. But is it? She’s exhausted with the responsibilities of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, and truth be told she’s beginning to miss London.

And then the Trehearne’s come to stay. The strange and mysterious story they tell, about an unfortunate murder that took place on the same day and in the same hotel in which their daughter was married—a picturesque inn on the Suffolk coast named Farlingaye Halle—fascinates Susan and piques her editor’s instincts. 

One of her former writers, the late Alan Conway, author of the fictional Magpie Murders, knew the murder victim—an advertising executive named Frank Parris—and once visited Farlingaye Hall. Conway based the third book in his detective series, Atticus Pund Takes the Cake, on that very crime. 

The Trehearne’s, daughter, Cecily, read Conway’s mystery and believed the book proves that the man convicted of Parris’s murder—a Romanian immigrant who was the hotel’s handyman—is innocent. When the Trehearne’s reveal that Cecily is now missing, Susan knows that she must return to England and find out what really happened.

Brilliantly clever, relentlessly suspenseful, full of twists that will keep readers guessing with each revelation and clue, Moonflower Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction from one of its greatest masterminds, Anthony Horowitz.  

Published November 10th, 2020 by Harper (first published August 20th, 2020.)

I hadn’t read the first book in the series, but that didn’t matter, as Moonflower Murders reads well as a stand-alone. It was easy and engrossing reading, although at times I stopped to admire the clarity of the prose. Anthony Horowitz is at the top of his game and it certainly shows. The book is elegantly written,  and the descriptions are so clear that I pictured them effortlessly. The concept of a book within a book intrigued me. I have since learned that this was also used to good effect in the first book. There is so much information, so many clues, so many potential suspects. I doubt many people will have solved the murder. A terrific homage to the golden age of crime fiction.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Hardcover, 288 pages.

I raced through this book eager to know the consequences of Nora’s choices. Would any of her new lives be better? Would some be worse? Most people may have a regret or two, so the concept of trying out different lives certainly resonated with me. Some lives lived up to her expectations, while others had unintended consequences.

Books and cats were a comfort this month.

Books have always been refuge for me, and this month I was very happy to escape into other lives and worlds.


Stuck in place- books helped to visit different worlds,

Reconnecting with the Blog. Books and Mayhem in 2020.

        As it has for many others, it’s been a tough ending to the year. I’ve been in waiting rooms, and hospital rooms, and chewing my nails with anxiety. I’ve given up having a social life, or any life, beyond visiting the hospital .I’ve gained a huge appreciation for my friends ,who have been there for me, day in and day out .My gratitude to them is immense.

        Another thing that has kept me going, is the power of books, to entertain, to divert, and even to amuse me.

Photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

         I’ve appreciated my Kindle more than ever, with its ability to contain a whole library in a portable form.

        By October, I‘d reached my yearly goal of reading eighty books. I didn’t stop reading, but I didn’t have the energy to fill in my Good reads. The important thing was that I was still reading.

        I read books related to the craft of writing. Easier than actually writing a book, right? In October I was 50,000 words into the first draft of a new book. With all that was happening in my life that has stalled.

        My taste in books changed, I no longer wanted drama and conflict. Like many others, I began to appreciate the distraction of stories. I wanted a happily ever after, I wanted goodness to prevail. I couldn’t control what was happening in the world. or even in my world, but I could choose the books that I read. One element of control in the chaos.

        Others had their plans disrupted too, and a promised interview didn’t take place. But things are changing, and a new year is a new beginning.

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

        While life isn’t back to normal, I do have a sense of how my days will be. So, I am reconnecting with the blog, and thank you for your patience. You can also find my Facebook page Sonia Bellhouse’s Chatting with Authors, where I post bookish snippets and interviews. There are three exciting interviews lined up for the New Year. Wishing you and yours the Happiest of New Years. See you on the other side in 2021 .

What Was I Reading in September 2020?

Most of the books I read this month were downloaded on my Kindle. I appreciate the benefits of the Kindle but also find it can be frustrating if I want to leaf back over a book.

The Cottage at Hope Cove by Hannah Ellis.

The summer that changed everything…

Lizzie Beaumont has it all: a great career, a wealthy fiancé, and the wedding of her dreams just months away. But when her fiancé puts work before her again, she sets off for a week in the picturesque town of Hope Cove. She’s hoping for time away from the chaos to find herself.

Instead, she finds Max.

When the gorgeous guy next door asks her for decorating help, Lizzie finds herself all too eager to please. The week she expected to drag suddenly flies by, and before she knows it, she has to return to her other life. The life with the impending marriage and the fiancé she loves.

Or does she?

One week with Max has left her questioning her life choices. Is her fiancé the man of her dreams, or just the man who asked? Now Lizzie must decide what her life will be. Will she go for the safe and predictable route, or take a chance on a man she hardly knows? No matter what she does, someone’s heart is going to break. She just doesn’t want it to be hers.

My review:  What if your perfect life began to feel less than perfect?
What if your partner spent more time at the office than with you?
What would it take for you to wake up and question everything?
Has Lizzie been sleepwalking through her life?
Could one week at a Cornish cottage be enough to crack her eyes wide open?
I enjoyed this engaging story and related to the heroine’s dilemma.Should she give up all she knows, for an illusion, or is her previous life the illusion?

After finishing the book I realised it was the beginning of a series and I would be happy to read more.

Book or Kindle- what a choice!

The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman

From the bestselling author of The Land Girls comes a beautifully realised novel that speaks to the true history and real experiences of post-war Australian women.

Sydney 1945 The war is over, the fight begins.

The war is over and so are the jobs (and freedoms) of tens of thousands of Australian women. The armaments factories are making washing machines instead of bullets and war correspondent Tilly Galloway has hung up her uniform and been forced to work on the women’s pages of her newspaper – the only job available to her – where she struggles to write advice on fashion and make-up. As Sydney swells with returning servicemen and the city bustles back to post-war

The Gorgeous cover!

My Review: This book was such are a revelation and an eye-opener to what the older generation went through. Not the elites we so often are told about, but the working class, those at the bottom of the ladder- most people. I was absorbed and immersed in another time and place. Infuriated over the derogatory remarks and dismissive attitude to women. Seething at the unfair treatment of women in general and war widows and their children. It’s a very readable book, one that you feel you want to read just one more chapter.

I received a free copy through a promotion with Book Stack but was under no obligation to review it.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

In Being Mortal, author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. 

My Review :Have you ever thought about death and dying? Unless someone close to you has died you probably haven’t. There is so much focus on ‘living well’ but what about ‘dying well?’ Not in a one-upmanship kind of way, but one that allows the person the right of choice as to what they want as their time approaches. Medical intervention at all costs? What if that results in less quality of life? Prioritize the quality of life, over living? To die at home or in the hospital? What are the things the patient doesn’t want to compromise on? Can hospice care be right for some people? It asks how much autonomy do we want to delegate to some else? A very thought-provoking book.

The Wash by Lisa Wolstenholme.

Clara wants to be a writer  a passion she shares with her older brother, Jake. But when Jake is found dead in the wash on Scarborough beach, it shakes her to the core and she’s desperate to understand why he took his life.

While studying Psychology at uni, she finds herself assisting with a rehab program in a low-security prison. There she meets Michael, an alcoholic and petty criminal with an irresistible pull. He reminds her so much of Jake and constantly challenges her, testing her resolve to stay true to her partner, Dan.

As time moves on, Clara sets up her own practice but cracks are forming in her work and relationship with Dan, not helped by Michael weaving his way in and out of her life. She’s treading water and still plagued by Jake’s death.

Can she overcome her loss and save Michael before it’s too late?

A collision of loss and love. 

My Review:The Wash is a short novella, but a thought-provoking read, asking can we save people, or do they need to save themselves? Do we meet people by chance or is there some purpose to our meeting? Lisa’s insights into the lures of alcohol drugs and sexual attraction make compelling reading. A perfect cameo of a book.

The Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies.

Idyllic location!

There’s blossom in the trees and daffodils as far as the eye can see. Maddie is looking forward to a fresh start in the countryside, but there’s just one little problem…

Following a scandal at her high-flying PR agency, twenty-six-year-old Maddie flees London to help promote what she thinks is going to be a luxurious holiday retreat in the countryside. Everything is riding on her making a success of this new job…

Yet when she arrives, Maddie is horrified to find a rundown old farm in a terrible state. The brooding and secretive owner, Seth, spent all his money on leasing the land when he fell in love with the beautiful, dishevelled farm cottages and the very romantic story behind them.

When Maddie discovers an old painting by the original owner’s wife, she unlocks the secret of the farm’s history and quickly realises she must start getting her hands dirty if this very special place is going to have any chance of survival. As she and Seth begin working together, the stunning view from the top of the hill is not the only thing that’s leaving her breathless…

After weeks of hard work the dream looks like it might become a reality, until a secret from Maddie’s past threatens to snatch it all away again.

 Can Maddie find a way to save the business and herself? Will she finally find a place to keep her heart within the crumbling walls of the little cottage on the hill?
Perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Lucy Diamond and Debbie Johnson who are looking to escape to the countryside and fall in love watching the seasons change.

My review:Such a pleasure to read a book that easily transports you out of your mundane world and leaves you absorbed in the story.For an expat Brit such as myself there is a sense of nostalgia too. A relaxing read that celebrates friendship, finding your place in the world, and following you heart. Perfect escapism.

Aconite & Accusations by Ruby Loren.

Book Five of the Witches of Wormwood series.

 On Midsummer’s Eve, a town will vanish.

A witch, a devil, a detective, and a talking cat are the only ones who can stop it from happening.

That makes the sudden appearance of a mystery body even more inconvenient than usual.

Who is the unidentified man in the river, and why does the invisible barrier around town seem to keep letting in the worst kind of people?

…Like the three annoying ghost hunters who roll into Wormwood with about as much supernatural ability between them as a cheese sandwich.

…And the definitely evil Amber Leroux who arrives intent on digging her claws into DCI Admiral.

Wormwood has always been weird, but things are about to get even more strange.

My review:The series just keeps getting better. As usual, things appear bad in Wormwood and they are about to get worse. The barrier that keeps the town isolated is disintegrating. The town’s Mayor is actively working toward attracting tourists. They will unwittingly aid  in the town’s destruction.

Hazel’s business is booming as quickly her worries are multiplying. Her magical abilities are  better. She fears she won’t be able to stop the destruction of the town she now calls home. Following her instincts, she is drawn towards the river, where she finds a body. The river usually keeps strangers out of Wormwood, but now they are flooding in. D.C.I .Admiral has had to arrive on foot to investigate. He was unable to gain access any other way. As usual, the coven Hazel leads, and which is supposed to have her back, is divided. There is a new witch in town Amber Leroux. And she isn’t friendly. Then there’s the Witch  Council, and the mystery of Hazels father’s disappearance. Jesse is back and appears to be being helpful. Hemlock  is the most unhelpful familiar. He tries not to get involved and now has a protégé of his own to teach his unhelpful ways.

I was sad to see the series end and I have since heard that book six is on its way, so looking forward to it.

Studying Her Vikings by Skye Mackinnon

Travel back in Time. Bring  a Viking  into the present so he can help save the world. Easy, right? Before she can travel back in time, she needs to go back to school to learn Old Norse, decipher runes and try not to fall for the sexy Runology professor who’s hiding a dark secret…

Lainie had given up hope on ever getting out of the slums of New London. Applying to the prestigious Time Travel Academy seemed like a waste of time, but when she’s accepted and assigned Vikings, her life changes forever.

A time travel reverse harem full of action, intrigue and hot Vikings. Part of the Time Travel Academy world.

My review. The Viking and time travel and angles appealed to me and I downloaded it- without realising that it was a series..Of course, I ended up downloading the rest and in parts it’s a steamy read. Three gorgeous men and Lainie ,getting up to all sorts of sexy stuff. Apart from that, its intriguing story and I was sorry to learn that there are no more TTA Vikings books planned

What Did I Read in August 2020?

August was quite a different month to July, and I didn’t manage to complete as much reading as I had hoped.

The convenience of e-books

August had promised to be an exciting month. I’d planned to attend my first Romance Writers of Australia conference. Both the conference and the hotel were booked in January. Usually, its a great event with workshops and talks, as well as award presentations and a Gala dinner. Additionally, there are unofficial events to look forward to. Gossiping, grabbing a cheeky wine, meeting authors informally, sharing cake and confidences.

Empty chairs but the conference went ahead!

Sadly, it was cancelled and transformed into an online conference. This was excellent and well worth attending, with lots of inspirational and practical content. I spent five days at my computer listening to workshops and talks. It was an absolute credit to the organisers who had pulled it together so quickly.

That said, brilliant as it was, it wasn’t the conference experience I had heard about and hoped for. Maybe another year….

I’ve also started writing another book, a historical romance so that is keeping me busy

I’m still staying close to home and indulging in my passion for reading. All the books that I read this month were on my Kindle. I find it is both convenient and annoying

I find it both convenient and at times, annoying.

Convenient: Multiple books in a light and easy to carry format. Backlit for easy reading in bed. Enlarges text size at a touch, ability to add notes and highlights and a dictionary built in.

Personal gripe: I wish I had paid the additional cost for the model that included colour.

Annoying:  This may be personal, but I think my recollection of the books is not as clear. Additionally, where a book has notes, exercises, or appendices with a print book I could print them out I don’t have that option with the Kindle. Unless someone can tell me how?

Death in the English Countryside by Sara Rosett.

Location scout and Jane Austen aficionado, Kate Sharp, is thrilled when the company she works for lands the job of finding locations for a new film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but then her boss, Kevin, fails to return from a scouting trip to England. Afraid that Kevin has slipped back into some destructive personal habits he struggles with, Kate travels to England to salvage Kevin’s and the company’s reputation before word gets out that he is missing.

Things go from bad to worse when Kate arrives in Nether Woodsmoor, a quaint village of golden stone cottages and rolling green hills, only to find no trace of Kevin except his abandoned luggage. Even the rumpled, easy-going local scout they consulted, Alex, doesn’t know where Kevin might be.

Increasingly worried about Kevin and with an antsy director waiting for updates about the preproduction details, Kate embarks on a search that includes a pub-crawl and cozy cottages as well as stately country manors. But Kevin remains missing, and she begins to suspect that the picturesque village and beautiful countryside may not be as idyllic as they seem. 

My Review.

The premise is intriguing- an American location scout searching for places to film a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When the principal of the agency fails to report in, serious concerns are raised. He is usually the soul of reliability unless he’s gone on a rare bender. Kate, his assistant, is despatched to take over and to find out discreetly what’s happened to her boss When his car is found abandoned in the river, Kate’s fears are raised. Once the car is out of the river it proves to be empty. For Kate, it’s both an opportunity to prove her worth. It is also a chance to do some detective work. and location scouting of her own. Unfortunately, when her boss turns up dead, she becomes the prime suspect. Village rivalries simmer over the merits of competing locations. Local contact, Alex is helpful and charming, but is he all that he seems? One clue stood out for me early on, giving me a suspect. It’s the start of what promises to be an engaging new series 

Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes.

What makes a romance novel a romance? How do you write a kissing book?

Writing a well-structured romance isn’t the same as writing any other genre—something the popular novel and screenwriting guides don’t address. The romance arc is made up of its own story beats, and the external plot and theme need to be braided to the romance arc—not the other way around.

My review.

If you have been struggling to fit your romance into the Hero’s Journey story structure and failing, this book will help you understand why. A romance is not apt to work well with that formula. The female journey isn’t and shouldn’t be a carbon copy of the male journey. The author gives examples to illustrate the points she makes.  A quick and easy to read.

Feverfew & False Friends by Ruby Loren

A witch has vanished. The only clue to her whereabouts is a threatening letter and a gory trail that screams foul play.
When Hazel receives a similar letter, she realises that this mystery involves the entire town… and she could be the next witch to disappear.
It’s a race against time to find the missing woman and discover who is using their poison pen to turn the residents of Wormwood against one another..

My review.

Hazel has gained some acceptance in the Wormwood community, both magical and non -magical alike. Her cute teashop is becoming a community hub and D.C. I. Admiral has also gained a grudging respect for Hazel. Her newsletter ,Tales from Wormwood is well received, and life seems to be improving. She is gradually finding her talents are and they are unlike any other witches’ abilities. When threatened she can manifest weapons and has accidentally opened a between worlds chasm. Unfortunately, she has little control over these events. They can surprise her, as well as everyone else. Two similar murders suggest a vampire is on the loose and  put the townsfolk magical or not, on edge. Hemlock, her familiar is as sarcastic and unhelpful as ever. He will only do what she asks for treats and is always trying to sneak a look into the spell books. Meanwhile Hedge, who turns out to be Jesse’s familiar (and spy) is still living with Hazel. Troublingly,  she realises her eyes are a similar colour to those of the local demon. Then , another demon arrives on the scene , with a pack of hell hounds.

The First Draft is NOT Crap by Bryan Hutchinson.

The impetus for this book was from an article Hutchinson wrote nearly a decade ago, the article was titled, ‘The First Draft Is Not Crap’ and it became one of the most viral articles about writing. The assertion is the counter to the all too typical -the first draft is shit- mantra, which has led far to too many writers to give up and quit before their writing has had the chance to blossom. You can’t quit! You can’t. This book will give you not just the mindset, but also the tools to continue and finish. Keep-on-keeping-on even when every fibre of your being wants to quit. Formerly, “Serious Writers Never Quit.”

My Review.

This book is like having your own personal cheer squad, encouraging you to keep going. Most writers experience those moments of self- doubt, the question, what am I doing this for?  This is the book for you.

Belladonna and a Body by Ruby Loren.

Book four of this popular series

What happens when the sleuth becomes the suspect?

Once the town’s hero witch, Hazel Salem is now the prime suspect in a murder investigation.
Her fall from grace is nearly complete when a stranger comes to town and throws a spanner in the works – one large enough to alter the course of the murder investigation.
Hazel knows she’s being framed.
But who is out to get her… and how far will they go to put her out of the picture?
Wormwood has always had its secrets… but this one might be its darkest yet.

My review

Hazel was coaxed into publishing an ancient recipe in the town newsletter ,but she didn’t expect anyone to use it. She had labelled the Belladonna Bottle Curse as of historical interest  and  dangerous. A solicitor shows up with news of her inheritance from her mysterious and disappeared father. After ten years he is presumed dead and she is given the keys to his mansion and told she has money coming to her. Exploring the house, she hopes to find more clues to her parentage. What she does find suggests her father is not magical but points to him  conducting an  investigation of his own. This leaves her with more questions than answers. She returns to Wormwood to find that her creepy uncle, who considers himself the head of the Salem family, has opened a  competing  apothecary shop opposite her tea shop. She can detect traces of magic all over it and it appears to be doing a roaring trade. When a member of the coven Hazel now leads  turns up dead, all the clues point straight to Hazel, salt circle, runes  and the recipe.  D.C I Admiral who initially asked for her help is forced to consider her a suspect .As does the head of the Witch council.

An Unsuitable Lady for a Lord by Cathleen Ross.

Lord Aaron Lyle has one hell of a choice: a bankrupt dukedom, or marriage to some simpering society miss so his spendthrift father can get his hands on her huge dowry. He won’t do it. He has a reputation to maintain, and besides, he’d rather run naked through the streets of London than marry anyone at all. Surely, there must be a third option.
Then Lady Crystal Wilding walks into his life, a bluestocking, full of subversive thoughts, who hates the notion of marriage even more than he does. He is intrigued…and suddenly he has an idea. He invites the totally unsuitable lady home on the pretext of presenting her as a possible match…but in truth, Aaron has something far more pleasurable in mind. For her part, Lady Crystal has her own reasons for going along with his hare-brained scheme.
Imagine their shock when his highly proper family loves her and starts planning the wedding. Will their chemistry be the end or the beginning of them.

My review.

A delightful and entertaining read. Orphaned, Lady Crystal has a low opinion of men and of marriage. Lacking her father’s control, she is apt to do as she pleases. She has many progressive ideas and being tied in marriage to a man she hardly knows is not one of them. After a speaking engagement at Sir Walter Scott’s house goes wrong, she is the talk of the town.

Lord Lyle is being hounded to marry, to save his family estate, to fulfil his duty. Entirely suitable rich young women candidates are continually being presented to him. He can’t stand any of the simpering misses and refuses to marry. He attends Lady Crystal’s talk and is intrigued by her and her outrageous opinions and causes. Soon they are bantering about anything and everything and all they seem to agree on is their low opinion of marriage. With a strong-willed heroine, sizzling sexual chemistry, and a lord apt at seduction, this story will keep you entertained until the last page.

Romance Writers of Australia. Conference .Kindle. Convenient. Annoying. Death in the English Countryside.  Cosy Mystery. Romance. Witches. Writing. Romance. Witches of Wormwood series.


What Did I Read In July 2020?

There were three categories of books this month.

content young woman using laptop in modern living room
July was a bumper month for reading.

First, because you can never learn too much about the craft, books about writing. Next, books that the library sent in its bookbag selection. Finally, my personal choices.

Books about writing

Successful Indie Authorship by Craig Martell.

Indie Aurhor

Demystifying the tangled web of self-publishing to put you on the road to success.
This is a motivational guide based on my two and a half million published words (mostly with Amazon) to help you see past the hurdles that are keeping you from climbing the mountain of success. Nothing is overwhelming once it’s been explained. If you are smart enough to write a book, you are smart enough to do everything else needed to make your indie author business a success.

 My review. I have this on Kindle, and I wish I had it in paperback as well. It’s a book I expect to refer to again and again. It may look like I’m stuck at 78% read, but that because there is a useful appendix recapping all the recommendations, and I want to keep referring to it.

Write to Market by  Chris Fox.

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Have you written a book that just isn’t selling? Would you like to write a book that readers eagerly devour?
Many authors write, then market. Successful authors write TO market. They start by figuring out how to give readers what they want, and that process begins before writing word one of your novel.
This book will teach you to analyse your favourite genre to discover what readers are buying, to mine reviews for reader expectations, and to nail the tropes your readers subconsciously crave.
Don’t leave the success of your novel up to chance. Deliver the kind of book that will have your fans hounding you for the next one.

My review. With a premise like that what writer wouldn’t want to read it? Encouraging and definitely worth considering the marketability of your book.

The Library Bag Selections

Ravenscliffe by Jane Sanderson

Ravenscliffe

For fans of Downton Abbey . . . The peaceful beauty of the English countryside belies the turmoil of forbidden love and the apprehension of a changing world for the families of Netherwood
Yorkshire, 1904. On Netherwood Common, Russian émigré Anna Rabinovich shows her dear friend Eve Williams a gracious Victorian villa—Ravenscliffe—the house Anna wants them to live in. There’s a garden and a yard and room enough for their children to play and grow.
Something about the house speaks to Anna, and you should listen to a house, she believes…Ravenscliffe holds the promise of happiness.
Across the square, Clarissa and her husband, the Earl of Netherwood, are preparing for King Edward’s visit. Clarissa is determined to have everything in top shape at Netherwood Hall—in spite of the indolent heir to the estate, Tobias, and his American bride—and much of it depends on the work going on downstairs as the loyal servants strive to preserve the noble family’s dignity and reputation.
As Anna restores Ravenscliffe to its full grandeur, she strikes up a relationship with hardworking Amos Sykes—who proposed to Eve just one year ago.
But when Eve’s long-lost brother Silas turns up in their close-knit mining community, cracks begin to appear in even the strongest friendships.
As change comes to the small town and society at large, the residents of Netherwood must find their footing or lose their place altogether.

My review. This is the second book following on from Netherwood which I read last month. Fortunately, I had bought it but hadn’t read it-  and of course,I wanted to read it before reading Ravenscliffe.  I am glad I did, as this second book made more sense after reading it.

Life is changing for the families, upstairs in Lord Netherwood’s household, his heir Tobias has no intention of taking his position or his responsibilities seriously. His sister, Henrietta, would be an exemplary heir, but she’s female. A couple of major events alter everyone’s plans. Eve Williams has gained status and the family has moved to a bigger house called Ravenscliffe. Anna, the Russian emigre was the mover in this, and she plays a more substantial part in this story. Some of the stories engaged me and other parts I found dull. Primarily concerning Amos and politics, although some of the mining information also felt a bit laboured to me. The standout for me was the emergence and transformation of Anna. I know there is a third book in the series, but I doubt I will read it.

Don’t  Go by Lisa Scottoline.

Dont GO.

When Dr Mike Scanlon is called to serve as an army doctor in Afghanistan, he’s acutely aware of the dangers he’ll face and the hardships it will cause his wife Chloe and newborn baby. And deep inside, he doesn’t think of himself as a warrior, but a healer.
However, in an ironic turn of events, as Mike operates on a wounded soldier in a war-torn country, Chloe dies at home

My Review I would never have chosen this book for myself but decided to give it a go. Let me say at the onset it’s not for the faint-hearted as surgical procedures are explained in detail. At first, I thought that might be overdone but as the book continued I realised the relevance of Mike’s experiences to his handling of events stateside. He’s now a sole parent and has dual responsibilities to his surgical team and patients and his daughter. It’s a combination of murder mystery and legal procedural and deals with how good people can be torn apart by events.

More Than Words by Jill Santopolo.

Morethen Wrds

From the New York Times, bestselling author of The Light We Lost comes a tender and moving new novel about a woman at a crossroads after the death of her father and caught between the love of two men.

Nina Gregory has always been a good daughter, a good girlfriend. Raised by her father, owner of New York City’s glamorous Gregory Hotels, after her mother’s death, Nina was taught that family, reputation, and legacy are what matter most. And her boyfriend Tim, thoughtful, kind, and honest, not to mention her best friend since childhood, feels the same. But after Nina’s father passes away, she learns he may not have practised what he preached.
As her world falls apart, Nina begins to question everything she thought she knew and to see the men in her life–her father, her boyfriend, and unexpectedly, her handsome and attentive boss, Rafael–in a new light. Soon Nina finds herself caught between the world she knows and loves and a passion that could upend everything.
More than Words is a heartbreaking and romantic novel about grief, loss, love, and self-discovery, and how we choose which life we are meant to live.

My Review Having never heard of the author I did not expect anything of the book, but it resonated with me and I raced through it.  In part, I suspect that as an only daughter I understood Nina’s wish to pleas her father. Nina is her father’s daughter, her choices modelled on what he would approve of. Her life is already mapped out for her, a suitable boyfriend, marriage and maintaining the Gregory hotel and its and her reputation. She is almost sleepwalking through life when Rafael her charismatic boss, makes her look again at all she has. Then her father’ s death disrupts her carefully planned life. Will she continue down the same path or is there another, better way forward?

Personal Choices. Hemlock and Hedge: The Witches of Wormwood Prequel

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Only a witch would poison a cake. And only another witch would blackmail the poisoner.

Hazel Salem is the family disappointment. She isn’t a witch.
She doesn’t believe in magic. And she definitely doesn’t want a black cat for a pet.
But when she discovers an unsolved mystery amongst her inheritance, she is forced to accept that ignoring her heritage is no longer an option.
Hazel is determined to reveal a secret that’s stayed hidden for years.

But the witches of Wormwood have other ideas…

My Review. I enjoyed this prequel, so much so that I bought the first five books in the series. Several things appealed to me. Firstly, the English setting, then the fact that Hazel had no idea she was a witch or had abilities and the brilliant addition of Hemlock, a black cat with catattitude.

The Secrets of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll.

Primrose square Secrets

There are so many stories hidden behind closed doors . . .

It’s late at night and the rain is pouring down on the Dublin city streets. A mother is grieving for her dead child. She stands silently outside the home of the teenage boy she believes responsible. She watches . . .

In a kitchen on the same square, a girl waits anxiously for her mum to come home. She knows exactly where she is, but she knows she cannot reach her.

A few doors down and a widow sits alone in her room. She has just delivered a bombshell to her family during dinner and her life is about to change forever.

And an aspiring theatre director has just moved into a flat across the street. Her landlord is absent, but there are already things about him that don’t quite add up . . .

Welcome to Primrose Square.

My review

All you would expect from an Irish writer in the Maeve Binchy tradition. The book has heart. The women who are the inhabitants of Primrose Square are dealing with a variety of changes and secrets, Nancy who has escaped her past London life. Melissa a girl whose life has changed dramatically and whose mother is barely hanging on. Susan, her mother who is obsessed with loss. Jayne, who lives her life in the past talking to Tom her deceased husband.

New Witch on the Block by Louisa West.

Practical Magic meets Bridget Jones’ Diary in this fun, heart-warming short novel about starting over, putting family first, and finding love when you least expect it.

She thought she was running away from her past, not catching up with it.

Rosemary Bell just wants to live a quiet, happy life and raise her daughter as far away from her toxic ex-husband as she can get. But when they move into a decrepit cottage in the woods of Mosswood, Georgia, Rosie realises her life will never be simple.

NWOTB-MIM1
A fun start to a new series.

My review.

A fun beginning to what promises to be an entertaining new series. I had this book on pre-order, so it was immediately available on release day on my Kindle. The town of Mosswood is a retreat for Rosie and her daughter Maggie, after packing up and leaving everything behind to start again. However, it’s not as straightforward as she might have hoped. Her rental is an almost derelict cottage and her nearest neighbour, Declan has some strange ideas about who she is and what they might accomplish together. After leaving her vicious and controlling ex Rose isn’t ready to get inv.oved with anyone, let alone this hunky Irishman.  I predict some fun and exciting times ahead and I am looking forward to reading book two, Jealousy A Bitch, which is due in September.

The Book of Spells and Such by Jacquie Underdown

The Book of spells and such

When destiny knocks, do you invite it in?

When a spell book lands on Ariana’s doorstep, her world is thrown into turmoil. That’s nothing new for her, except this time it involves bizarre and terrifying creatures who attempt to kill her. Then there’s a little fact that she now has the ability to perform magic.
Hadeon is another new addition in her life. He happened to drop in at the same time the spell book appeared. He’s dark, sexy, and mysterious as hell, and Ariana doesn’t know if she wants to kill him or love him.
But all this chaos is nothing compared to what destiny has in store for her. A future is promised of royalty and immense power, palaces and undying love. But hers is a destiny that is not easily won. She will have to fight to the death against those who want to take it all for themselves. And when the real battle begins, just who the true enemy is will surprise everyone.

My review. Expecting a magical story, I was slightly confused as the story began in the rather sleazy everyday world. In fact, I almost gave up, but I am glad that I persevered. Ariana had no one to turn to as she grew up. She has been treated badly almost her whole life, so she has trust issues. Hadeon could be her protector or her worst nightmare, but she has to trust someone when life takes a totally unexpected turn. To me, a part of the story read like a modern fairy-tale and had some unique magical touches. I am happy I continued to read this book.

 Subterranean by B Michael Radburn.

cover Subterreanean

 

‘The past is my shadow, forever behind me.’

Cassie Belrose was used to looking over her shoulder. Running away was what she did best – away from a possessive husband who wants her back, running from city to city, from job to job, to stay one step ahead of him.

Daniel Woodsman is at home in the dark; in the abandoned railway tunnels below the city where the homeless veteran has built his life since his injuries had taken away more than just his confidence.

Fleeing the Suits dispatched by her husband to bring her home, Cassie enters Daniel’s domain in the subway where their two worlds collide.

Together, can they stop running long enough to begin living again?

My Review.

A fast-paced and immensely readable story that kept me hooked. The story is prefaced and concluded by a charming allegorical fairy-tale. Cassie is a totally relatable character, as is Daniel. He is both an enigmatic and interesting character who we gradually come to understand. There is enough gritty realism to make the story authentic. It makes one think about the fate of those veterans traumatised by their service. I was provided with a free copy of the book by the publisher but was not obligated to write a review.

The Witches of Wormwood Mysteries: Books 1 – 5 A thrilling and funny British witch cozy mystery series, packed with magic, cats, and murder! Perfect for fans of Agatha Raisin and Amanda M. Lee.

Not many people move to Wormwood. The witches aren’t welcoming.
The fortune tellers are frauds. And the recent murder is only going to make things worse.
Hazel Salem just wanted a story for her magazine. Instead, she finds herself at the centre of an investigation that’s about to turn into a witch hunt.

If someone doesn’t solve this murder – and fast – it will be out of the cauldron and into the fire for Wormwood’s witches.

Although I bought this as a boxed set I will be reviewing the books individually.

Mandrake And Murder by  Silver Nord.Mandrake & Murder

 

My Review. Hazel has returned to Wormwood, after the death of her mother to run the failing apothecary shop. Profits are abysmal and so is her reputation. Wormwood is a community divided between those who are magical and ordinary folk who have no idea that anything is unusual. Hazel senses she is an object of scorn as a supposed witch who can’t do magic. Two women who say they are her aunts arrive and reassure her that late-blooming magic could be powerful. When Wormwood has a murder, the first in hundred years everyone in town magical or not is on edge. To make matter worse there are some clues that it could be concerned with magic. Hazel hits on the idea of producing a free local magazine. It’s the perfect opportunity for her to ask questions. D.C. I. Admiral is also investigating and despite an initial speak between them, he doesn’t require any help. Jealously,  fake fortune-tellers and hexes add to the fun.

Vervain and a Victim by Silver Nord.

Vervain and avvictim

A cauldron, a coin, and a corpse.
Three things that don’t belong in the woods.
The man standing over the body shouldn’t be there either, but when Hazel finds him with the victim, she suspects she’s already found the killer.

The only thing that keeps the prime suspect from being arrested is the absence of a murder weapon and a motive.

But in a town as weird as Wormwood, a motive for murder is only one dark secret away.

My Review. Wormwood hasn’t wholeheartedly welcomed Hazel. Although she is invited to join the coven, she suspects they are simply curious about her magical abilities. Her nemesis Natalia Gould is openly hostile. Another problem is she has now got a fake boyfriend, putting her at odds with his admirers. Her cat Hemlock seems to despise her and Jesse Heathen, the supposed detective has tried to charm her. All while murder has shaken the town and there is talk of vampires, the enemies of witches being seen in Wormwood. More fun and suspense, developing relationships and unanswered questions.

What Did I Read in June 2020 As Lockdown Continued?

June and my local library still wasn’t open, so I was still reading from my TBR pile and the books I had on my Kindle. Luckily, there was still plenty to choose from. However, the month was mainly devoted to reading about the craft of writing. I also read books for research, which were Viking romances. This was because I was submitting part of a Viking romance for consideration.  I also read one book from my To Be Read pile.

 

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Reading can take you anywhere

Take Off Your Pants ! by Libbie Hawker.

When it comes to writing books, are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?” Is one method really better than the other?

In this instructional ebook, author Libbie Hawker explains the benefits and technique of planning a story before you begin to write.

Take off your Pants

I have been hearing about this book for it seems like forever. As a confirmed ‘pantser’ I have always resisted the idea of outlining. However, I had a project that required me to submit a synopsis-awkward! So, I worked my way through this book, I found it helped and I made crucial scene cards. However, I used it in conjunction with The Virgin’s Promise as mine was a female orientated journey. This focusses heavily on The Hero’s Journey. Combing the two perspectives helped and gave me the tools to work out a solid synopsis.

Gotta Read it by Libbie Hawker.

Blurbs, product descriptions, query letters… no matter what you call them, they’re a chore to write. And yet the success of any novel can depend on its pitch. What’s an author to do?

Gotta Read it

Gotta Read It! The book is helpful and gives useful guidelines, as to how you can write compelling synopsis for your book. A job that most writers detest. I’m certain I will keep referring to it

Successful Self- Publishing by Joanna Penn.

Do you want to successfully self-publish?

There are thousands of new books being published every day, but many self-published books quickly sink to the bottom of the pile.

Many authors are frustrated because there are so many options for self-publishing, and they don’t know which one to choose or what will be best for their book.

Succesful Self publishing

An easy to understand and comprehensive review of the steps it takes to self- publish. Joanna Penn ( was there ever a more perfect name for an author?)has walked the walk and is now a successful author and speaker. She didn’t start that way, and she lets us know the mistakes and slip-ups that dogged her early attempts to publish. Encouraging and helpful.

 

Vikings by Ashe Barker prequel to Viking Surrender Series.

Vikings Viking surrender

A horde of battle-hardened, ferocious Nordic warriors.

A Pictish village at the mercy of its enemies.
A harrowing bargain struck for nine fearful and reluctant brides
Delivered into Viking hands, claimed and conquered, each bride must accept that she belongs to her new master. But, as wedding nights bring surrender to duty, will fierce lovers also surrender their hearts?

An interesting prequel to the series. At twelve thousand words, it’s not a long read. One that encouraged me to try a couple more of the books.

 

Brandr by Ashe Barker part of the Viking Surrender Series

Forced to wed the fierce Viking warlord in order to save her people, Eithne has no choice but to surrender to her powerful and terrifying husband. She submits to his stern discipline, but his tenderness takes her breath away. A man of his word, Brandr means to keep his side of their bargain and will see her village safe and protected from their enemies. But what of Eithne

Brandr

The prologue hadn’t given me the idea that these stories might be confronting. I refer in particular to the so-called ‘discipline’ handed out by Brandr to Eithne. Now I know modern sensibilities are involved and life was harsher then, but these stories are categorised as romances. Eithne was strong, brave, adaptable and resourceful I would have thought an ideal wife. Brandr comes across as a bit of a brute. If you are into spanking and discipline this will appeal. Adult content

 

Garth by Assa Daniels – Viking Surrender Series.

A proud warrior, he hides a debilitating weakness. The village outcast, she’s plagued by terrifying visions. Their marriage seems cursed from the start. But, as they come to terms with their union, will they find the love they both need?

Garth Vking surredner

More of the same, a reluctant bride and reluctant groom with the question can this marriage work?  Garth has a weakness he doesn’t want to talk about- he suffers headaches that leave him unable to function. Ytha was so much the better character, intelligent, trying to understand and please her new husband. I enjoyed some of the characterisations but once again spanking seems to be to the fore. If that’s your turn on, then it will appeal. Adult content.

Falling for her Viking Captive by Harper St George.

The Viking warrior

In her cellar…

Lady Annis must stop Viking Rurik Sigurdsson from discovering the truth about his family’s death. Her only solution is to imprison him. But as the ruggedly handsome Viking starts to charm his way out of his cell and into her heart, can she be sure he’s not still intent on vengeance—or perhaps an unexpected alliance is the solution?

 

Her Viking captive

Well written and entertaining. Nicely balanced characters who are a foil for each other. A well-rounded plot that delivered a few surprises. I enjoyed this and the repartee between this evenly-matched pair.

Beloved Viking by Ree Thornton

Beloved Viking

The shield-maiden must marry…

Heir to her father’s Jarldom, Rúna Isaksson will soon ascend to replace him as a leader, but first, she must marry a warrior from another clan to form a powerful alliance. When her father creates a contest to determine the strongest suitor, Rúna demands to compete as well—if she wins, she can choose her own husband.

 

A new take on the familiar subject matter and an entertaining read. These two characters are destined for each other but how they get there is the crux of the story. He hurt her once, now she wants to hurt him, but events are not all that they seem. Zips along at a good pace and holds the readers’ interest. Well written and engaging.

 

Netherwood by Jane Sanderson.

Eve Williams is about to discover just how the other half really live, in this epic and absorbing “big house” drama perfect for Downton Abbey fans

 

Netherwood

I bought this book a while ago and hadn’t got round to reading it. My initial impression was that it was like a Catherine Cookson novel all grit and gumption as I read of the realities of life in a Yorkshire mining village. The pit was the centre of life and the miners and their families were living with the dust and dirt. Netherwood, the ‘big house’ was situated so that the Earl and Countess saw none of poverty or squalor. Their home was amid greenery and expansive parkland. Eve is an admirable heroine, dealing with loss, but she wouldn’t have got so far without the prodding of Anna, the Russian emigre. The contrast between the grinding poverty of the village of Gradley and the thoughtless lavishness of the aristocracy is well shown. When Eve’s baking talent is discovered the book the reminded me of The Duchess of Duke Street. Even to the point where she cooks for King Edward VII. Netherwood is a good reminder of the progress we have made toward giving people some measure of security and hope.

 

What Did I read in May 2020?

 

Like many people, I was battling with the restrictions and limitations of our Covid 19 world. This meant no visits to the library, which was closed. Like many readers, I have amassed a significant To Be Read Pile, otherwise known as TBR. What is in it?  It’s a mixture of books I had bought and never started, books I’ve been given, and books acquired at book swop.

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We can always escape into a book

Also, I have learned to love my Kindle. It was an under-appreciated Christmas present that has finally come into its own. Plusses are that it has a book light making for easy reading in bed and the ability to adjust the text size which I have appreciated since an eye operation.

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Light, portable and lots of storage- why didn’t I appreciate it before now?

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch.

Foxglove Summer

One from book swop, with the tagline, “Two missing children. One lost copper.” This is book five in the Peter Grant series, and it would have helped enormously if I’d read the previous four. That said, it was still an enjoyable read, although I suspect some in-jokes and references went completely over my head. The police presence mixed with the supernatural gave it an unusual and amusing twist. Peter Grant is both a cop and a man with an aptitude for magic.

The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones illustrated by Tim Stevens.

Christopher

 

Another children’s’ book from my TBR pile- this book is a precursor to the popular ‘Chrestomanci’ series. As I hadn’t read any of them, I started the book with no preconceptions. It is an engaging story of Christopher, a rather lonely boy, who finds out that he has a destiny. His parents are aloof, his mother beautiful, but always out, his father important and busy. When his uncle takes an interest in him, he’s flattered by the attention. The next bombshell is he’s to be sent away to school. Unexpectedly, he finds fun and friendship at school and as a love of cricket. Then, he is unceremoniously removed from school. Sent into the guardianship of a wizard to learn magic. He is to become the next ‘Chrestomanci.’ magical guardian of all wizards, but he proves inept at magic. However, unknown to anyone else he can go to a place he calls ‘the in-between’ a doorway onto other worlds. The revelation of this secret increases the danger, that he and everyone else is in. Reading a children’s book as an adult, you pick up more of the hints and nuances that would have bypassed you as a child. Even so, there were still a few surprises.

Pawprints of Love- A Gumnut Press Anthology.

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Look! its even colour themed with my laptop.

This anthology is stylishly put together, and the contents do not disappoint either. Ten Australian Authors write stories filled with canine capers, disarming and distracting their human companions. In Stonecrest Bay, at Dee’s dog grooming salon The Funny Bone, dogs always come first. All doggy life is there. The good dogs and the naughty ones. They steal not only their owner’s hearts but yours too. The town is abuzz with a local fundraiser for the Fireys*, and the upbeat vibe catches hearts unaware as they fall under its spell and give love a chance.

* Fireys  is  Australian slang for the fire fighting  men and women

Starting Over At Acorn Cottage by Kate Forster.

Acorn Cottage

As a fan of the TV show Escape to the Country, I was anticipating enjoying this book and I did. However, there is far more to the story than the charming cover might have you imagine. Clara has bought a country cottage over the internet. A betraying boyfriend and best friend and too much wine can do that to you. I snorted with laughter at the nicknames she came up with for the dubious duo.

Inevitably, the pictures don’t tell the whole story- the place is a dump and Clara has nowhere else to live. She need help and fast and it arrives in the shape of Henry, the thatcher who can fix anything. Henry has a daughter Pansy and they live in a gypsy caravan. So far, so predictable. The village of Merryknowe has its mix of strange inhabitants. There is Tassie who is a grandmotherly/ tea leaf reading/ knowing things type. Rachel at the teashop, a sad wisp of a girl, whose storyline is particularly sad. The plot deepens with the addition of these characters and in helping them and being helped by them Clara also helps herself. Despite its light cover, there are serious issued addressed here with family violence and domestic abuse. This might be upsetting for some readers.

The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester.

SANY0282 Paris Secret
Settle down for an unforgettable read.

I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this book in a book giveaway, otherwise, I would have bought it. Every book Natasha Lester has written has surpassed the previous book. The Paris Secret continues this trend, it is superlative and compelling storytelling.

Much of Natasha’s success is in combing topics which interest her and resonate with her readers, such as travel and fashion. The bonus is that she then combines them with historical research into lesser-known topics to craft a compelling story. The authors note at the end of the book details much of this research and show how comprehensive the research process was.

Natasha takes the research and brings it to life, peopling it with characters that we come to care about.

Like Skye Penrose, surely with a name like that she was born to fly? One of two illegitimate sisters to an unconventional mother Skye enjoyed an almost idyllic childhood in Cornwall. As someone who spent part of my childhood in Cornwall, I enjoyed reading about Skye’s halcyon days with Nicholas Crawford an American boy who is destined to return to the States.

Later, when Skye joins the war effort as an Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) pilot the trials and humiliations these women endured just to do a vital job were almost unbelievable. They faced male patronage, misogyny, and hostility in breathtaking amounts. All this is based on documented fact. If we bear in mind that these women were middle class, educated women, who had the funds to be able to learn to fly-  we can only imagine how lower-class women were treated. To still undertake the jobs given to them, to fly in freezing conditions in an open cockpit plane. To smile, to boost male morale, to be treated so poorly and expected to perform to impossible standards. Every single one of those women was a heroine who deserves our respect and thanks.

Christian Dior, that iconic name in fashion had a sister Catherine. The famous Miss Dior perfume is named for her. Again, a little-known story, she was part of the resistance and was captured in 1944 and sent to the infamous Ravensbruek concentration camp. This makes grim but compelling reading.

When Skye meets Nicholas again, he’s engaged to a Frenchwoman  Margaux Jourdan. So, they can only remain as friends and in the camaraderie and tensions of wartime that has to do. But can it be enough? Nicholas still has feelings for Skye and she for him, but he’s an honourable man.

In present-day Australia, Kat Jourdan is a fashion conservator. Sent on a mission by her grandmother Margaux Jordan to visit Cornwall. Kat becomes fascinated by what she has discovered and what she has still to learn. And then there is a collection of sixty-five priceless Dior gowns. They are so well described; it is easy to visualise them and to covet them.

This book takes a reader on an emotional journey, one that makes you laugh and cry, exclaim at the courage and weep at the baseness of some of humanity. Unforgettable.

The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson.

virgin
Botticelli’ Virgin-

I didn’t know how much I needed this book until I read it. As a writer trying to tell a female story fitting it into the heroes journey concept has always felt unsatisfying to me, and now, I know why. The stories may intertwine, but they are immensely different. I found myself nodding as various points were raised. It was like finding the missing piece to a jigsaw, everything finally made sense. I had a submission to complete and using these concepts made it easier and I think more emotionally satisfying.