What was I reading in December 2022? Did I Meet My Reading Challenge?

December, so much going on, gifts to buy, events to attend, and more socialising. Luckily television provided me with few distractions so I kept up with my reading. As you can see it’s quite a mixed bag, some were Christmas themed, but the majority were not.

The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan

Indulge in the perfect winter’s day treat and escape to the snow-fringed fjords of Norway with The Christmas Lights, a delicious tale full of drama and mystery, heartache and hope by Sunday Times bestseller Karen Swan.

Bo lives a life most people can only dream of. She and her boyfriend Zac are paid to travel the globe, sharing their adventures with their online followers. And when Zac proposes, Bo’s happiness is complete.

With Christmas coming up, Bo can’t wait to head to the snow-fringed fjords of Norway. Arriving at the picturesque and remote hillside farmhouse that will be their home for the next few weeks, Bo’s determined to enjoy a romantic Christmas under the Northern Lights. Everything should be perfect

But the mountains hold secrets from the past and as temperatures plunge and tensions rise, Bo must face up to the fact that a life which looks perfect to the outside world may not be the life she should be living…

My Review.

The Christmas Lights was not quite the cosy book I was expecting, as it had a darker, grittier edge to the story. Having visited Norway of course this book already appealed to me. I enjoyed its exploration of how an ‘Influencer’s’ life operates and can understand the blurring of fiction and reality. We can see how easy it is to be swept away by fame and skim the surface of your own life. After four years Bo wants to slow down and have some privacy and private life. Zac her fiancé wants more of the same, more fame, bigger opportunities. In this, he is seconded by their cameraman-Lenny the third and ever-present wheel in their success. Zac has made a deal without consulting Bo who is struggling with problems of her own. The remote location of their Norwegian shelf-farm hideaway gives everyone time to think. As does advice from Sigi, the grandmother who took their booking and Anders, her taciturn, and at times enigmatic grandson.

 Under a Venice Moon by Margaret Cameron

Life isn’t a sort of practice run, something you can afford to play around with. They don’t offer second and third chances to get it right. Use it better. Live it fuller.

A week in Venice ignites Margaret Cameron’s interest in the private city behind the tourist facade and the obscure tales from its history. Tantalised by stories of this lesser-known Venice she returns the following August for a month-long stay, determined to uncover the Venice of the Venetians.

Stepping out from her comfort zone, Margaret finds that friendships – unexpected and spontaneous – blossom within palazzi walls and she makes a discovery: life can lead you along rewarding paths, if you let it.

As each day passes, her time in Venice becomes more than just an interlude; soon, the city feels like home. Could she leave her satisfying life in Perth and start anew in Venice? The question becomes urgent when romance waits where she least expected to find it . . .

352 pages, Paperback

My Review.

Under a Venice Moon is hard to categorise, in part a travel guide and in part a memoir. Margaret Cameron has been visiting Venice for years and in that time, she has come to appreciate the Venetians’ contradictory attitudes to tourists and tourism.

Living in a neighbourhood that is off the tourist path enabled her to live a more authentic Venetian life. She understands the pressure that Venice and Venetians face. They are victims of Venice’s success, all other industry has gone, and their children have to leave to find work. While Venice itself is slowly sinking, unable to withstand the pressure of so many more people.

Margaret Cameron’s impressions of artworks and architecture are interspersed with the day-to-day realities of living in a foreign city. Could this be her lifelong reality or will it be a transitory dream?

City of Time and Magic: Book Four in the Found Things Series by Paula Brackston

Published February 23, 2022, Xanthe meets Paula Brackston’s most famous heroine, Elizabeth Hawksmith from The Witch’s Daughter, in this crossover story with all the “historical detail, village charm, and twisty plotting” of the Found Things series (Publishers Weekly).

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.

My Review.

I was pleased that I hadn’t had to wait for this last instalment and that the events of the previous books were clear in my mind. I’ve enjoyed this series and the gradual transit through time. Xanthe has help, but ultimately, it’s her choices and her decisions that will affect both the past and the future. It was a fitting conclusion although I will always have a soft spot for Samuel from the first book.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

In every person’s story, there is something to hide…

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Libr

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.

Award-winning author Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

My Review.

This is the first book I have read by this author and all I can say is why did I wait so long? It ticked almost all my boxes, set in a library, a book about a writer and writing and a mystery. It was compelling and intriguing. I didn’t want to put it down and kept changing my mind as to who could be responsible as information was revealed.

Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop by Rebecca Raisin.

’Tis the season for mulled wine, mince pies, and magic under the mistletoe…

Flora loves Christmas more than anything else in the world, so she’s gutted when her Scrooge-alike boss fires her from Deck the Halls Christmas emporium. But now she finally has a chance to follow her dreams – and what better place to start than the home of Christmas?

Before she can say ‘sleigh bells’, Flora’s on her way to Lapland in a campervan-cum-Christmas-shop. She can’t wait to spend her days drinking hot chocolate and taking reindeer-drawn carriage rides, but something Flora didn’t expect was meeting Connor, a Norse god of a man who makes her heart flutter and snowflakes swirl in her stomach. There’s just one problem: Connor hates Christmas.

Can Flora convince Connor of the joys of Christmas – and will she find a festive romance along the way?

My Review.

Flora loves Christmas and wants to help everyone enjoy it too. A kind-hearted gesture leaves her boss cold and gets her fired.  It feels like her whole world is collapsing, but Flora is cheered on by her friend to follow her dreams.

There is no one more passionate about Christmas than Flora so why can’t she open a travelling Christmas shop?  She can and is soon on her way to Lapland, having mishaps and adventures along the way.

There is a definite Hallmark Christmas Movie vibe about the story, and it’s even referenced in the plot. Meeting Connor, a brooding Norse man, makes Flora think all her Christmases have come at once. Except, Connor is grumpy, and Connor doesn’t like Christmas. Flora is convinced he just needs a little persuasion to see things her way. Connor is a hoot as he sees through many of Flora’s schemes. But as its Christmas surely, she is going to get her happily ever after

Around the Kitchen Table: Good things to cook, create and do – the whole year through by Sophie Hansen and Annie Herron.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.” – Annie Dillard

A giftable and inspiring source book for easy-to-integrate-into-a-busy-life projects and inspirational ideas to bring more little moments of joy into our lives. Includes seasonal recipes, creativity prompts, craft and seasonal planting and garden ideas. Around the Kitchen Table will deliver inspiration and encouragement on a daily basis – ideas for rituals, repetitions, family traditions, small and big ways to count the days, from the joy of sourdough starters, growing herbs from seed, to making your own Christmas wreath or the liberating act of morning journaling, these are simple pleasures that will fill you up with goodness and encourage you to step even a little outside your comfort zone, grab a pencil and paper and start to draw.

My Review A great book to dip into for inspiration and ideas. The recipes sound delicious, and the illustrations are stunning. Made me grab my pencils and try a sketch or two. A real treasure.

A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder by Dianne Freeman.

Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, returns in Dianne Freeman’s charming, light-hearted mystery series set in Victorian England, and finds her wedding day overshadowed by murder . . .

On the eve of her marriage to George Hazelton, Frances has a great deal more on her mind than flowers and seating arrangements. The Connors and the Doyles, two families of American robber barons, have taken up residence in London, and their bitter rivalry is spilling over into the highest social circles. At the request of her brother, Alonzo, who is quite taken with Miss Madeline Connor, Frances has invited the Connor family to her wedding. Meanwhile, Frances’s mother has invited Mr. Doyle, and Frances fears the wedding may end up being newspaper-worthy for all the wrong reasons.

On the day itself, Frances is relieved to note that Madeline’s father is not among the guests assembled at the church. The reason for his absence, however, turns out to be most unfortunate: Mr. Connor is found murdered in his home. More shocking still, Alonzo is caught at the scene, holding the murder weapon.

Powerful and ruthless, Connor appears to have amassed a wealth of enemies alongside his fortune. Frances and George agree to put their wedding trip on hold to try and clear Alonzo’s name. But there are secrets to sift through, not just in the Doyle and Connor families, but also in their own. And with a killer determined to evade discovery at any cost—even if it means taking another life—Frances’s first days as a newlywed will be perilous indeed . . .

My Review.

I fell for the title and the cover and didn’t realise this was book five in a series. The perils of making a quick book swoop at the library. There was enough information to enable me to follow the story, but obviously, it would have been preferable to have read the previous books. Frances is a resourceful woman, but her love of family is a danger in itself.

Keeping Up Appearances by Tricia Stringer.

As tensions simmer in a small country town, three women are going to need more than CWA sausage rolls and can-do community spirit to put things right. From a bestselling Australian author comes a delightful novel full of practical wisdom and dry humour that examines female friendship, buried secrets and why honesty is (usually) the best policy.

Privacy is hard to maintain in Badara, the kind of small Australian country town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. So discovers single mum Paige when she and her three children arrive from the city seeking refuge. Paige’s only respite from child care and loneliness is the Tuesday gym club, where she had feared the judgement of the town matriarchs, but she is met only with generosity and a plethora of baked goods. Besides, both the brusque Marion and her polished sister-in-law Briony are too busy dealing with their own dramas to examine hers.

Well-to-do farmer’s wife and proud mother Briony is in full denial of her family’s troubles. Even with her eldest daughter’s marriage in ruins and her son Blake’s recent bombshell. Suddenly Briony and husband Vince have a full house again – and the piles of laundry aren’t the only dirty linen that’s about to be aired.

For Marion, the unearthing of a time capsule – its contents to be read at the Celebrate Badara weekend – is a disaster. She was only a teenager when she wrote down those poisonous words, but that doesn’t mean she won’t lose friends and family if they hear what she really thinks of them – especially as the letter reveals their darkest secrets to the world.

When the truth comes out for Badara, keeping up appearances may no longer be an option for anyone …

My Review.

  • Keeping Up Appearances is both readable and relatable. Many of us try to keep up a perfect façade when dealing with personal problems and anxieties. How much harder to do that in a place where your family have been for generations? Where everyone knows- or thinks they know, your backstory. Even so, secrets have been kept in Badara and for some the fear of what will be revealed is devastating.

 Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey

A sizzling, standalone, feel-good holiday romance from Tessa Bailey, New York Times bestselling author of It Happened One Summer.

Two weeks before Christmas and all through Manhattan, shop windows are decorated in red and green satin.
I’m standing alone in front of the famous Vivant department store, when a charming man named Aiden asks my opinion of the décor.

It’s a tragedy in tinsel, I say, unable to lie.
He asks for a better idea with a twinkle in his eye.
Did I know he owned the place? No. He put me on the spot.
Now I’m working for that man, trying to ignore that he’s hot.
But as a down-on-her-luck girl with a difficult past, I know an opportunity when I see one—and I have to make it last.

I’ll put my heart and soul into dressing his holiday windows.
I’ll work without stopping. And when we lose the battle with temptation, I’ll try and remember I’m just window shopping.

My Review. A quick read with a bit of holiday hotness.

Miss Morton and The English House party Murder by Catherine Lloyd.

Catherine Lloyd, author of the critically acclaimed Kurland St. Mary mysteries debuts with the first book in a new series set in Regency England, where circumstances compel one Lady Caroline Morton to become a lady’s companion whose duties will soon entail solving a murder . . .

The options for the penniless daughter of a deceased earl are few indeed in Regency England. So, following the suspicious death of her father, the Earl of Morton, and the discovery that she and her much younger sister have been left without income or home, Lady Caroline takes a post as a lady’s companion to the wealthy widow Frogerton.

Just as Caroline is getting accustomed to her new position, her aunt, Lady Eleanor Greenwood, invites her and her employer to a house party in the countryside to celebrate her youngest daughter’s birthday. Mrs. Matilda (Matty) Frogerton sees this as an opportunity to introduce her own rather wild daughter, Dorothy, to the ton, and Caroline is eager to see her sister, who as a child lives with their aunt.
But all is not well at the Greenwood estate. For one thing, Lady Caroline’s former fiancé, Lord Francis Chatham, is a guest and refuses to speak to her. Far worse, after a series of troubling harassments of the staff, an elderly family member is found stabbed by a knitting needle.
As Caroline and an unexpected ally—Mrs. Frogerton—attempt to solve the chilling crime, they discover the culprit may be leaving bizarre clues as to who will be next in the nursery. But they must make haste, for this heartless killer is engaged in anything but child’s play . .

My Review.

Again, I was intrigued by the title and the fact that it was set during the Regency years. Caroline is just a bit too saint-like for my taste, but she is at least attempting to forge her way without relying on her relations and becoming beholden to them. Her employer Mrs Frogerton, a forthright Northern wealthy widow is by far the most interesting character. The murders are calculated and bizarre, finding out who is responsible and why will tax Caroline and Mrs Rogerson’s ingenuity if they do not wish to become the next victims.

The Christmas Postcards by Karen Swan

Set in a chocolate-box village, a woman makes a surprising connection with a pen-pal that will change her life – and warm your heart – in the new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Swan.

It had been a make-or-break holiday for their marriage, but Natasha and Rob’s rekindled romance is short-lived when their daughter’s beloved soft toy disappears on the journey home.

As Natasha comforts the distraught child, she turns to social media for help. Miraculously, the toy is found, but it has become the lucky mascot of a man named Duffy, who is thousands of miles away.

When Duffy promises to keep Natasha updated with pictures, the pair begin a correspondence that soon becomes more meaningful to both of them. Sometimes, Natasha feels this stranger understands her more than the man lying next to her.

But as the weeks pass and Duffy heads deeper into the mountains, Natasha begins to notice a change in him. Then one day, the messages stop. Too late, Natasha wonders why he had ever needed a lucky mascot at all.

From the picture-perfect Cotswolds to the majesty of the Himalayan foothills, The Christmas Postcards is a novel about how the closest connections can be the furthest apart.

My Review.

I was reading this book during a heatwave, so escaping to the Himalayas was quite enjoyable. The story spans the recent past and two main locations in the present. Natasha is apparently living an ideal life in The Cotswolds, while Duffy is about to tackle a great mountaineering challenge. Their paths crossed when Mabel, Natasha’s daughter, left her toy cow Moolah behind in the Viennese apartment. Duffy who is there overnight. found it and decided it will be his lucky mascot.

Mabel is inconsolable without Moolah and can’t sleep. In desperation, Natasha posts to social media and Moolah is tracked down to Duffy in Nepal. He knows he should send Moolah back, but that is getting more difficult by the day. And he has a superstitious belief that he was meant to find Moolah. Instead, he starts to send pictures of Moolah having adventures.

Natasha and Mabel look forward to hearing from him until the messages stop. How have two strangers become so connected? The final pages will keep you glued to the story. Although some plot points were a little obvious, overall, it’s an enjoyable read.

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman.

Thursday Murder Club 3 Goodreads Choice Award

Nominee for Best Mystery & Thriller (2022)

It is an ordinary Thursday, and things should finally be returning to normal.

Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club are concerned. A local news legend is on the hunt for a sensational headline, and soon the gang are hot on the trail of two murders, ten years apart.

To make matters worse, a new nemesis pays Elizabeth a visit, presenting her with a deadly mission: kill or be killed…

While Elizabeth grapples with her conscience (and a gun), the gang and their unlikely new friends (including TV stars, money launderers and ex-KGB colonels) unravel a new mystery. But can they catch the culprit and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?

My Review.

They say that easy reading comes from difficult writing and this story just flowed along. Richard Osman knows his characters well but allows them to keep surprising us, too. Elizabeth’s husband is gradually progressing into dementia and yet he is acute enough to provide a valuable clue. It’s hard not to have a favourite character among them. While I can admire the steely Elizabeth, gossipy Joyce ( a Mrs Everywoman) is a favourite of mine. Considered Ibrahim, and Ron round out the group. This is a fast-paced story with a conclusion that should surprise most readers.

Dastardly Deeds at St Brides by Debbie Young.

When Gemma Lamb takes a job at a quirky English girls’ boarding school, she believes she’s found the perfect escape route from her controlling boyfriend – until she discovers the rest of the staff are hiding sinister secrets:

– Hairnet, the eccentric headmistress who doesn’t hold with academic qualifications
– Oriana Bliss, Head of Maths and master of disguise
– Joscelyn Spryke, the suspiciously rugged Head of PE
– Geography teacher Mavis Brook, surreptitiously selling off the library books
– creepy night watchman Max Security, with his network of hidden tunnels

Even McPhee, the school cat, is leading a double life.

Tucked away in the school’s beautiful private estate in the Cotswolds, can Gemma stay safe and build a new independent future, or will past secrets catch up with her and the rest of the staff?

With a little help from her new friends, including some wise pupils, she’s going to give it her best shot…

Previously published by Debbie Young as Secrets at St Bride’s

My Review.

A chatty fun read, the story was fast-paced and easy to read. To say the school is peopled with eccentric is putting it mildly. It was slightly reminiscent of Saint Trinian’s although the staff appear to be more eccentric than the pupils.

Lonely in Paris by Lisa Stanbridge.

Jane’s #1 rule in Paris: Don’t fall in love

After ending a disastrous relationship, Jane accepts a job in the City of Love. The trouble is she speaks very little French, has no friends to enjoy Paris with, and she’s awfully lonely.

Then she meets Jacques DuPont.

Rich, handsome, and the cream of the Parisian crop, Jacques is living the dream. Just not his own. His father wants him to follow in his footsteps, but Jacques wants to earn his success. Trapped in a life chosen by his family, he’s always been alone.

Until he meets Jane.

He’s from money. She’s not.
He’s a planner. She’s impulsive.
He’s serious. She’s definitely not.

They couldn’t be more different, but they will fall. Hard.

Together Jane and Jacques will learn why Paris is the City of Love. But when an expiring visa, a jealous colleague, and manipulative family threaten their fledgling relationship, their loyalties will be tested to breaking point.

Jane broke her #1 rule, now they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice for love.

Expected publication January 16, 2023


My Review.

This short, sweet romance is perfect escapist reading. Paris is the City of Lovers, but only if you have someone to love. Jane is single, far from home and lonely. An unexpected meeting changes that, when she meets gorgeous Jacques. She intrigues him, as she is so unlike any of the women he’s met before. It’s perfect until things go wrong. Can they find their happily ever after? I read an Advance Reader Copy of the book, before voluntarily leaving a review.

News!

I will be interviewing Lisa later in the month, so watch out for that. I am always intrigued to find out what inspired a book, how long it took to write and get a glimpse ‘behind the scenes ‘so to speak. Is this stuff you want to know too?

That Reading Goal.

For me, relaxation is a good book.

In 2022 I set myself a goal of reading at least a couple of books a week. I am not in competition with anyone else, only myself. I want to read books I enjoy, and I won’t hesitate in abandoning a book if I am not enjoying it. If I review a book, then I have read it. I don’t post reviews of books I didn’t enjoy and gave up on.  I accept that we all have different tastes and they weren’t my book and that’s ok too.

How Did I Get On? My goal for the year was 100 books and eventually, I had read 147. So what is this year’s goal? It is still at 100 books. I want to read and enjoy books, not mindlessly consume them to meet a challenge that I have set myself.

Additionally, I have other goals in mind. I want to publish at least one book this year and possibly two. More about that next time. Until then, read what you want, when you want for pure enjoyment

November 2022 Was a Busy and Emotional Month.

My reading slowed down in November as I impulsively decided to attempt to do National Novel in a Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, it’s a personal challenge to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Many people prepare in October and have plots all drafted out, character lists, settings and even the high and low points of their novel. Me? I suddenly thought I could do it, I had before. So, I  signed up on October 31st with no plot, no plan just the vaguest of ideas. We will have to see how it goes. ( I was writing this introduction in mid-November.) More on that later. Anyway, reading wasn’t as much of an interest this month as I was writing and then something else caught my attention.

Getting lost in a book- a favourite escape!

The Reading List by  Sara Nisha Adams.

An unforgettable and heartwarming debut about how a chance encounter with a list of library books helps forge an unlikely friendship between two very different people in a London suburb.

Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life in the London Borough of Ealing after losing his beloved wife. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who hides in her room reading while he spends his evenings watching nature documentaries.

Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a list of novels that she’s never heard of before. Intrigued, and a little bored with her slow job at the checkout desk, she impulsively decides to read every book on the list, one after the other. As each story gives up its magic, the books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she’s facing at home.

When Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha passes along the reading list… hoping that it will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between two lonely souls, as fiction helps them escape their grief and everyday troubles and find joy again. 373 pages, Hardcover

My Review.

This delightful book is one for book lovers. As well as meeting the various characters we learn about their journey with The Reading List and what a list it is. Such a pleasure to revisit old favourites and learn people’s reactions to them. More than that though, it is the growing connections formed between people that are the biggest delight of this story A lovely gentle book.

Cats Work Like This by David St John Thomas& Gareth St John Thomas.

Cats Work Like This is for cat lovers who know that even after ten thousand years of living with cats, no one really has a clue what their cat is thinking. In this insider’s guide to the habits of these puzzling animals, the authors offer insights from two generations of watching their cats work. They share the sometimes hilarious and often astonishing observations on cats that have accumulated over ages, and offer some useful insights into how to understand your own cat.

Though there are many famous felines, it is the day to day cat which provides the most enduring interest. Though each one’s behaviour and mannerisms are unique, we can find enough practices in common to guide you to becoming an expert in how cats work.

Chapters include Habits, with an insight into how cats train you to have the right ones; and The Scientific Cat, with observations and empirical learning following the classic scientific method, as cats don’t listen well enough to be subjects in any other kind of experimentation.

Learn how cats practice their values and explore what your cats know about you. Find out what cats do while you sleep, what a cat’s eyes can tell you and what there is to understand about political and ‘eco’ cats. With a focus on attention, emotion, cute affection, manipulation, cunning and cussedness, Cats Work Like This gives a rare insight into the workings of a cat’s elusive mind. 176 pages, Hardcover

My Review.

One to please most cat lovers in your life. It certainly enchanted me, with its delightful photographs and informative text. The book is written from the point of view of someone who has a deep love for cats and a wish to understand them better. I learnt things I didn’t know whilst chuckling at the insights into our cats’ manipulation of their willing humans.

The Austen Girls By Lucy Worsley

By turns thrilling, dramatic and inspiring, this is the story of Jane Austen’s life as you’ve never heard it before.
It is 1809 and Fanny and Anna have just been launched on to the ruthless Regency marriage market by Fanny’s mother (think Mrs Bennet). But luckily their mysteriously wealthy Aunt Jane is there to guide them and help them make better choices – i.e. don’t get married at all!
Jane plays detective to help them rescue a falsely accused friend from being transported to Australia, while Anna impetuously makes and breaks an engagement. Fanny is forced to leave the marriage market when her mother dies and she has to look after ten siblings. She learns the secret of Jane’s wealth and self-possession (she is, of course, a writer) and decides to follow in her footsteps.

My Review. While the book is categorised for Young Adult readers, I decided to read it. The focus is mainly on the younger members of the Austen family and their need to get married. It wasn’t what I was expecting- and devolved from a possible romance into mystery. I found it disappointing although the background information is good. 289 pages, Paperback

Cat Prints at the Crime Scene by K.M Waller.

Loretta Hamilton has never owned one cat, let alone seven.

When cat-loving Aunt Ginger passes away, Loretta is left with a farm she doesn’t want. And as if that’s not bad enough, her aunt’s dying wish is for Loretta to turn her home into a cat rescue sanctuary. Loretta doesn’t even know what to feed her aunt’s seven orphaned cats, let alone how to rescue them.

But Felicity, a pushy real estate agent, has plans of her own. She wants the farm for a land development project, and she won’t take no for an answer. After a heated exchange between Loretta and Felicity at a town hall meeting, Felicity is found dead making Loretta the main suspect.

With a superstitious sidekick and a knack for being practical, can Loretta settle into her new role as cat mom and protector while fending off a murderer?

Published August 13, 2020

My Review. An entertaining read and a promising start to a new series. I look forward to reading more of Loretta’s adventures or should they be mis-adventures? I think she is developing an attachment to the cats.

Revenge by Tom Bower.

The British Royal Family believed that the dizzy success of the Sussex wedding, watched and celebrated around the world, was the beginning of a new era for the Windsors. Yet, within one tumultuous year, the dream became a nightmare. In the aftermath of the infamous Megxit split and the Oprah Winfrey interview, the Royal Family’s fate seems persistently threatened.

The public remains puzzled. Meghan’s success has alternatively won praise, bewildered and outraged. Confused by the Sussexes’ slick publicity, few understand the real Meghan Markle. What lies ahead for Meghan? And what has happened to the family she married into? Can the Windsors restore their reputation?

With extensive research, expert sourcing and interviews from insiders who have never spoken before, Tom Bower, Britain’s leading investigative biographer, unpicks the tangled web of courtroom drama, courtier politics and thwarted childhood dreams to uncover an astonishing story of love, betrayal, secrets and revenge.

My Review.

Reading this book is like entering a parallel universe, where reality is simply the next photo op or sound bite or whatever you want it to be. There was so much hope and promise at the beginning and everyone was happy that Harry had at last found his ‘happily ever after.’

Sadly, that hope has been extinguished as brand Sussex does its best to drag the royal family down. History is continually rewritten to suit the current narrative, although Tom Bower can show that while there might be alternative stories only one is embedded in fact.

At last, the ‘racist ’comment is revealed, and it was made before Meghan was pregnant. So, it was not directed at Archie.

Harry sent a statement with their proposal of entitlements after they left for Canada to Prince Charles. “They expected to retain their titles, privileges and income while living in Canada. They would keep Frogmore(their Uk grace and favour home), enjoy round-the-clock protection costing the British taxpayer annually about £2.5 million and continue to receive £ 1.5 million annual income from the Duchy of Cornwall. In exchange, they would occasionally return to Britain, but would otherwise represent the monarchy in Canada.” They were surprised when it was refused. This is an unflattering portrayal of two very spoiled and entitled people who seem to imagine the world revolves around them.

Murder in an Irish Bookshop by Carlene O’Connor

Between training the new town garda and trying to set a wedding date with her fiancé, Macdara Flannery, Siobhán O’Sullivan is feeling a bit overwhelmed. She’s looking forward to visiting the new bookshop and curling up with an exciting novel—only to discover the shelves contain nothing but Literature with a capital L. The owner not only refuses to stock romances, mysteries, and science fiction, but won’t even let customers enter his store unless they can quote James Joyce or Sean Hennessey.
Despite the owner deliberately limiting his clientele, he’s hosting a reading and autographing event featuring up-and-coming Irish writers who will be taking up residency in Kilbane for a month. Among them is indie author Deirdre Walsh, who spends more time complaining about the unfairness of the publishing industry and megastar bestsellers instead of her own creative works, causing a heated debate among the writers. She seems to have a particular distaste for the novels of Nessa Lamb.
Then Deirdre’s body is found the next day in the back of the store—with pages torn from Nessa’s books stuffed in her mouth. Now, Siobhán must uncover which of Kilbane’s literary guests took Deirdre’s criticisms so personally, they’d engage in foul play.

My Review.

I enjoyed this one, it has that indefinable Irish charm as well as a good story. Book shop? Tick. Authors? Tick. Rivalries? Oh yes. I loved the snobbery of the bookseller and his partner’s subterfuge. The murder kept me guessing and it’s part of a series so I will be able to find others by this author to enjoy.

The Vanishing Thief by Kate Parker.

At 30, Victorian bookshop owner Georgia Fenchurch knows she’s considered a middle-class old maid. That’s all right with her. She has the bookshop she inherited when her parents were murdered before her eyes, providing her with a living and something to keep her busy during the day. At night, she has another occupation. Driven by her need to see people rescued and justice done, she works with the Archivist Society.

In the foggy London of coal fires and carriages, glittering balls and Sherlock Holmes, the Archivist Society digs through musty records searching for the truth. They also don disguises and assume identities as they hunt for missing people, stolen treasures, and cunning murderers. Between her efforts for the Archivist Society and her management of the bookshop, Georgia doesn’t have time to be lonely.

When a respectable middle-class woman comes into her bookshop complaining that a duke has abducted her next door neighbor, Georgia thinks the investigation will be a short one. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in theft, blackmail, lies, secret marriages, and murder. The man Georgia is asked to find may be royalty, may be dead, and is definitely missing. The woman who hired her won’t reveal the truth. The accused duke may be a victim or a killer, but he certainly is involved in the hunt for the missing man. And every aristocrat who knew the missing man seems to be hiding their own dangerous lie.
As Georgia crosses London searching for the missing man, she finds herself staring into the face of the one person she has wanted to capture for a dozen years. The one who got away. The man who killed her parents.

My Review.

This is the first in a series and a lot is happening. It is all interesting, but perhaps a bit too much to keep track of in one book. I didn’t find Georgia particularly likeable, but I did enjoy her interactions with the Duke of Blackford, who promises to be an intriguing returning character.

What Else Was Happening?

November became more complicated when I realised that I wanted, no, needed to make a submission to the Australian Government’s Aged Care Review. It had a deadline of November 25th. Almost eighteen months later I was still upset and angry at what I had witnessed in one aged care home. I felt I owed it to my loved one and to myself to complete the questions and submit my responses. Of course, it brought it all back, the shock, the anger, the pain. I sat at the computer crying and reliving it and trying to put my comments into a coherent order. When I finished I completed the questionnaire and had an additional five pages to add to the submission. Once that was done I felt emotionally spent. I then drafted letters to both my state and federal MPS. It felt good to finally speak out.

I was feeling overwhelmed with too much to do

I raced to finish NaNoWriMo, but I suspect it won’t make sense. I can revisit it and edit it later, that doesn’t matter. I prioritised what was most important to me and to the community. I dont want anyone else to go through what we experienced. Promises made and promises kept and now I feel a sense of relief. I can’t change what happened, but maybe it will help someone else.

Time to reflect wasn’t wasted.

                              

October 2022 Was A Busy Reading Month.

October, I dont quite know how I managed to read so many books. I was more selective with my time and only watched TV if something interested me. Obviously, not a lot did last month! The cats and I snuggled up and I read.

A snuggling cat and a good book.

Secrets of the Chocolate House by Paula Brackston.

The second novel in a bewitching series “brimming with charm and charisma” that will make “fans of Outlander rejoice!” (Woman’s World Magazine)

New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s The Little Shop of Found Things was called “a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with its sequel, Secrets of the Chocolate House

After her adventures in the seventeenth century, Xanthe does her best to settle back into the rhythm of life in Marlborough. She tells herself she must forget about Samuel and leave him in the past where he belongs. With the help of her new friends, she does her best to move on, focusing instead on the success of her and Flora’s antique shop.

But there are still things waiting to be found, still injustices needing to be put right, still voices whispering to Xanthe from long ago about secrets wanting to be shared.

While looking for new stock for the shop, Xanthe hears the song of a copper chocolate pot. Soon after, she has an upsetting vision of Samuel in great danger, compelling her to make another journey to the past.

This time she’ll meet her most dangerous adversary. This time her ability to travel to the past will be tested. This time she will discover her true destiny. Will that destiny allow her to return home? And will she be able to save Samuel when his own fate seems to be sealed.

My Review. After enjoying book one, I was eager to read book two and continue the story. Once again Xanthe is called by an object-this time a chocolate pot. Xanthe is trying to ignore the call knowing that her mother’s health means she always needs assistance. But then, Samuel appears to be in danger, and she feels compelled to go to help him. However, nothing goes to plan, and Xanthe is in more danger than she can imagine. She’s facing new hazards and new risks and an unknown enemy.

Bombproof by Michael Robotham.

A kinetic standalone from “first-class storyteller” Michael Robotham (San Francisco Chronicle).

Sami Macbeth is not a master criminal. He’s not even a minor one. He’s not a jewel thief. He’s not a safe-cracker. He’s not an expert in explosives.

Sami plays guitar and wants to be a rock god but keeps getting side-tracked by unforeseen circumstances. Fifty-four hours ago Sami was released from prison. Thirty-six hours ago he slept with the woman of his dreams at the Savoy. An hour ago his train blew up.

Now he’s carrying a rucksack through London’s West End and has turned himself into the most wanted terrorist in the country. Fast, funny, hip and violent, Bombproof is a non-stop adventure full of unforgettable characters and a heart-warming hero–Sami Macbeth–a man with the uncanny ability to turn a desperate situation into a hopeless one.

My Review. it is non-stop action and risk. Suspend disbelief and go along for a fast-paced ride. This could be a Guy Ritchie film, highly visual and at times highly violent. All the seedier sides of life are exposed and yet it is highly plausible.

Seances Are for Suckers by Tamara Berry

When something goes bump in the night . . . it’s most likely a plumbing problem, or something equally mundane. But fake medium Eleanor Wilde is happy to investigate and cleanse your home of spectral presences—for a fee. Hey, it’s a living.

Ellie has an ailing sister to care for, and working as a ghost hunter who doesn’t believe in ghosts helps cover the bills for both of them. When she’s lucky, it also pays for the occasional tropical vacation. Her brother doesn’t exactly approve, but Ellie figures she’s providing a service. On her latest job, though, she may be in for some genuine scares. The skeptical, reserved, and very rich Nicholas Hartford III has flown her all the way to his family’s ancestral estate in England—supposedly haunted by a phantom named Xavier. Nicholas thinks it’s all just as much a crock as Ellie’s business is, but the fact remains that something is causing the flashes of light, mysterious accidents, and other apparent pranks in the chilly, eerie castle. His mother is sure that Xavier is real, and he’s willing to employ Ellie if she can get to the bottom of it and put a stop to the nonsense.

While the food and accommodations are somewhat disappointing (dorm-room furniture? Really?), Ellie is finding it an adventure to get to know this eccentric family and their house-guests, and to poke around in the nearby village for clues. But when an actual dead body appears—and subsequently disappears—at Castle Hartford, she’ll have to apply her talent for trickery and psychological insight to solve a flesh-and-blood murder.

My Review. The first book in a series sets the tone for the rest. Ellie is pragmatic and practical with a useful line between self-belief and scepticism. She’s not above a little trickery if it achieves her objectives. Ellie finds it less amusing though when the tricks are being played on her. Someone wants her investigation to succeed, while an unknown someone wants it to fail. Then there is Nicholas is he a help or a distraction?

The Picture House by the Sea by Holly Hepburn

The brilliant new novel from the bestselling author of A Year at the Star and Sixpence. Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley. All four Picture House novellas in one book!

The picture house by the sea is the Palace at Polwhipple – a lovely art deco cinema, nestled in front of azure Cornish seas. But it is long past its heyday now, and its only saving grace is Ferrelli’s, the family run ice-cream concession in the foyer, which is widely known as the best ice-cream for miles.
 
So when Ferdie, the owner of Ferelli’s, breaks his leg, his granddaughter Gina drops everything to come and help out. But when she arrives she is dismayed by the state of the cinema, which she remembers fondly from summer holidays when she was little, and she is determined to give it the makeover it deserves. Along with local renovation expert Ben, she sets about reviving the Palace to its former glory. 
But the cinema needs more than a lick of paint. Its very future is under threat from a developer with greed in his eyes. Can Gina save the place before it is too late?

** Disclaimer: originally published in four parts as eBooks

My Review. Just what I expected from Holly Hepburn an easy and escapist read. Divided into four parts as the original e-books were released. Each instalment adds to the story of the picture house by the sea. Gina is torn between helping her grandparents and keeping her London life. The longer she stays the more distant London and her boyfriend Max seems. There’s all grown-up Ben,  someone she used to know. Themed around some ‘classic’ movies. It ticks all the boxes for easy reading and escapism

The Witch’s Kind by Louise Morgan

From the author of A Secret History of Witches comes an absorbing tale of love, sacrifice, family ties, and magic, set in the Pacific Northwest in the aftermath of World War II.

Barrie Anne Blythe and her aunt Charlotte have always known that the other residents of their small coastal community find them peculiar — two women living alone on the outskirts of town. It is the price of concealing their strange and dangerous family secret.

But two events threaten to upend their lives forever. The first is the arrival of a mysterious abandoned baby with a hint of power like their own. The second is the sudden reappearance of Barrie Anne’s long-lost husband — who is not quite the man she thought she married.

Together, Barrie Anne and Charlotte must decide how far they are willing to go to protect themselves — and the child they think of as their own — from suspicious neighbors, the government, and even their own family… 

My Review.   A mixed reaction from me. On the one hand, the writing was lyrical and a pleasure to read However, even with the time changes signposted I found the story confusing at times. I kept wondering where the baby was and of course, it was prior to her arrival.  The ending made me think there was a possibility of this being the first in a series.

Elephants: Birth, Life, and Death in the World of the Giants by Hannah Mumby.

What Jane Goodall did for chimpanzees, international ecologist and conservation scientist Hannah Mumby now does for elephants in this compelling, eye-opening account that brings into focus this species remarkably similar to humans—and makes a persuasive argument for saving them.

From early childhood, Dr. Hannah Mumby has loved wildlife, especially elephants. Her first wild elephant sighting at twenty-four changed the course of her life. Since then, she has devoted herself to studying these incredible animals and educating humanity about them. Hannah’s field work has taken her around the world, where she has studied many elephant groups, including both orphaned elephants and the solitary elephant males.

These remarkable animals have so much to teach us, Mumby argues, and The Elephant in the Mirror takes readers into their world as never before, revealing a society as complex as the chimpanzees, maybe even humans. Mumby’s exploration of elephant culture provides an empathetic, humanistic portrait of these majestic animals, illuminating their personalities, memories, and rich emotional lives. Mumby explains how elephants communicate with one another and demonstrates the connection between memory and trauma how it affects individual elephants and their interactions with others in their herd. Elephants and humans, Mumby makes clear, are not very different. From emotional bonding to communication, human and elephant experience similarly nuanced lives, and the commonalities she uncovers are both surprising and heart-warming.

Featuring a 16-page color insert of original photography, The Elephant in the Mirror is a captivating, deeply moving exploration that offers a new way to look at these pachyderms and ourselves and a persuasive, passionate argument for rethinking our approach to animals and their conservation

My Review

Hannah Mumby is passionate about elephants, and it shows in her writing. This is perhaps more for the student than the general reader, but you will learn more about elephants and perhaps rethink how you view them.

An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed(Elderly Lady 2) by Helene Tursten and  Marlaine Delargy (Translator.


Everyone’s favorite octogenarian killer is back in this new collection of stories by Swedish crime writer Helene Tursten that is sure to have you in stitches.

Eighty-eight-year-old Maud is never looking for trouble, but it always seems to find her. First, a woman in her building met an untimely end: tragic. Then, just recently, a dead body mysteriously appeared in her very own apartment, prompting an investigation by the local Gothenburg authorities. Such a strange coincidence. When it seems suspicion has fallen on her, little old lady that she is, Maud decides to skip town and splurges on a trip to South Africa for herself.

In these six interlocking stories, memories of unfortunate incidents from Maud’s past keep bubbling to the surface, each triggered by something in the present: an image, a word, even a taste. When she lands in Johannesburg at last, eager to move on from the bl
oody ordeal last summer, she finds certain problems seem to be following her. Luckily, Maud is no stranger to taking matters into her own hands . . . even if it means she has to get a little blood on them in the process.

Don’t let her age fool you. Maud may be nearly ninety, but this elderly lady still has a few tricks before she’s ready to call it quits-includes cookie recipe
My Review.
Maud isn’t to be messed with. She’s cool, clever and quite ruthless. In real life, she’d be the neighbour from hell, but she is hilarious to read about. Credit to both the  author and the translator

The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown

The 20th Anniversary Edition of Tina Brown’s definitive behind-the-scenes insight into the life of Diana Princess of Wales with a brand new introduction by Andrew Marr.

Twenty years after her death, Princess Diana remains a mystery. Was she “the people’s princess,” who electrified the world with her beauty and humanitarian missions? Or was she a manipulative, media-savvy neurotic who nearly brought down the monarchy?

In this new 20th anniversary commemorative edition, which includes a new introduction by Andrew Marr, The Diana Chronicles parts the curtains on Diana’s troubled time in the mysterious world of the Windsors, as she breaks out of her royal cage into celebrity culture, where she found her own power and used it to devastating effect.

Knowing Diana personally, Tina Brown understands her world, understands its players and has-reaching insight into the royals and the Queen herself. Meet the formidable female cast and get to know the society they inhabit, as you never have before.

My Review.An interesting look at the complex person that was  Diana, Princess of Wales. While the question is posed if Diana was a humanitarian and the ‘people’s princess’ or a manipulative and media-savvy neurotic who nearly brought down the monarchy, I don’t see those positions as being mutually exclusive. I think she could have been both. In fact, she was driven to become both or to disappear entirely. I was always a Diana fan, but it doesn’t mean I can’t see the darker side of her story. She wanted to be loved and thought she had found it with her marriage, only to find that the marriage had never stood a chance.

10 Step Drawing Cats by Justine Lecouffe

Learn to draw your favorite cats and kittens, step by step, with Ten Step Drawing: Cats.

The blank page can be daunting, but the fun and approachable books in the Ten-Step Drawing series offer a quick and easy starting point for any doodler, illustrator, or aspiring artist to be creative. Featuring illustrated tutorials for drawing a variety of different animals, flowers, plants, and people, each book in this appealing series breaks down each subject into 10 simple steps. And all you need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper!

Handy prompts help you learn to draw by encouraging you to express creative individuality, while helpful general drawing tips enable you to try out your drawing skills on other subjects not featured in the book. The projects feature instructions for graphite pencilink, and colored pencil, for a well-rounded introduction to drawing.

Learn to draw more than 50 cat breeds, including:

Ragdolls
American Shorthairs
Persians
Siamese
Sphynx
Maine Coons
And many more!
The perfect reference for your first steps as an aspiring artistTen Step Drawing: Cats is sure to give you the courage to break out a pencil and paper and draw to your heart’s content! 

128 pages, Paperback Published December 14, 2021

My Review. Does an excellent job of simplifying drawing cats. I think that with practice most people could draw a convincing cat. I certainly have had fun trying.

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson

Good Morning America Buzz Pick
A Library Reads Pick


June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.

Lonely librarian June Jones has never left the sleepy English village where she grew up. Shy and reclusive, the thirty-year-old would rather spend her time buried in books than venture out into the world. But when her library is threatened with closure, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the heart of her community and the place that holds the dearest memories of her mother.

Joining a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to keep the library, June opens herself up to other people for the first time since her mother died. It just so happens that her old school friend Alex Chen is back in town and willing to lend a helping hand. The kindhearted lawyer’s feelings for her are obvious to everyone but June, who won’t believe that anyone could ever care for her in that way.

To save the place and the books that mean so much to her, June must finally make some changes to her life. For once, she’s determined not to go down without a fight. And maybe, in fighting for her cherished library, June can save herself,

My Review.

June Jones is the stereotypical librarian, quiet and devoted to the library. Once she had dreams and ambitions. Since her mother’s death, time has virtually stood still for June. Her hopes and dreams are confined to books.
The threat to the local library rouses something in her, the urge to step up and defend the library. But she’s no one, and library staff have been forbidden to get involved.
This book about books and libraries is like catnip to a cat for me. What makes it depressingly relevant are the facts on which it is based. In The UK local councils are cost-cutting and local libraries are often one of the first things to go.

The Pug Who Bit Napoleon by Mimi Matthews Animal Tales of The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

From elaborate Victorian cat funerals to a Regency-era pony who took a ride in a hot air balloon, Mimi Matthews shares some of the quirkiest and most poignant animal tales of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Meet Fortune, the Pug who bit Napoleon on his wedding night, and Looty, the Pekingese sleeve dog who was presented to Queen Victoria after the 1860 sacking of the Summer Palace in Peking. The four-legged friends of Lord Byron, Emily Brontë, and Prince Albert also make an appearance, as do the treasured pets of Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, and Charles Dickens.

Less famous, but no less fascinating, are the animals that were the subject of historical lawsuits, scandals, and public curiosity. There’s Tuppy, the purloined pet donkey; Biddy, the regimental chicken; and Barnaby and Burgho, the bloodhounds hired to hunt Jack the Ripper. Wild animals also get a mention in tales that encompass everything from field mice and foxes to alligators and sharks lurking in the Thames.

Using research from eighteenth and nineteenth-century books, letters, journals, and newspapers, Mimi Matthews brings each animal’s unique history to vivid life. The details are sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, but the stories are never anything less than fascinating reading for animal lovers of all ages.

 My Review. Some stories are humorous, while others are quite tragic. A positive is knowing that these conditions did lead to the formation of societies against cruelty to animals. Interesting to see who of the ‘great and the good’  shared a love of animals. Overall, it is easy and entertaining reading.

The Garden of Promises and Lies by Paula Brackston.

Book Three of the Found Things SeriesThe third instalment of a bewitching series brimming with charm and charisma that will make fans of Outlander rejoice! (Woman’s World Magazine).
New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s second novel in the Found Things series, Secrets of the Chocolate House, was called a time-swapping romance [that] will please fans of Alice Hoffman (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with a third book, The Garden of Promises and Lies.

As the bustle of the winter holidays in the Little Shop of Found Things gives way to spring, Xanthe is left to reflect on the strange events of the past year. While she’s tried to keep her time-traveling talents a secret from those close to her, she is forced to take responsibility for having inadvertently transported the dangerous Benedict Fairfax to her own time. Xanthe comes to see that she must use her skills as a Spinner if she and Flora are ever to be safe, and turns to the Spinners book for help.

It is then that a beautiful antique wedding dress sings to her. Realizing the dress and her adversary are connected in some way, she answers the call. She finds herself in Bradford-on-Avon in 1815, as if she has stepped into a Jane Austen story.

Now in Xanthe’s time, Fairfax is threatening Xanthe into helping him with his evil doings, and demonstrates all too clearly how much damage he is capable of causing. With Fairfax growing ever more powerful, Xanthe enlists the help of her boyfriend Liam, taking him back in time with her. It is a decision that might just ensure she prevails over her foe, but only by putting her life–and his—on the line.

My Review.

An exciting instalment with enough to keep me wanting to get the next book and finish the series. Fairfax is a worthy adversary and Xanthe is wrestling with problems of ethics and possibilities. If she pursues any action, does it have consequences beyond what she can see? Can she harm the innocent while working for good? She can discuss some things with Harley and with Mistress Flyte but longs to confide in her mother and Liam. When she finally does, then a whole new world of possibilities and problems emerges.  It’s such a relief to know the next book is written and available. I can’t leave these characters in peril!

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten translated by Marlaine Delargy.

An elderly lady has accommodation problems
– An elderly lady on her travels
– An elderly lady seeks peace at Christmas time
– The antique dealer’s death
– An elderly lady is faced with a difficult dilemma

Maud is an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends,

and…no qualms about a little murder. This funny, irreverent story collection by Helene Tursten, author of the Irene Huss investigations, features two-never-before translated stories that will keep you laughing all the way to the retirement home.

Ever since her darling father’s untimely death when she was only eighteen, Maud has lived in the family’s spacious apartment in downtown Gothenburg rent-free, thanks to a minor clause in a hastily negotiated contract. That was how Maud learned that good things can come from tragedy. Now in her late eighties, Maud contents herself with traveling the world and surfing the net from the comfort of her father’s ancient armchair. It’s a solitary existence, but she likes it that way.

Over the course of her adventures—or misadventures—this little bold lady will handle a crisis with a local celebrity who has her eyes on Maud’s apartment, foil the engagement of her long-ago lover, and dispose of some pesky neighbors. But when the local authorities are called to investigate a murder in her apartment complex, will Maud be able to avoid suspicion, or will Detective Inspector Irene Huss see through her charade?

My Review.

An easy and entertaining read. Maud is anything but a harmless old lady. Although, at times she relies on that persona to conceal her misdeeds. So far, luck has been on her side, but will Maud eventually rely on luck once too often?

Closing thoughts,

It is certainly an eclectic collection, some serious, others less so. I don’t necessarily stick to one genre or author and my selections are usually a combination of recommendations, research and whatever catches my eye. A good title can grab my attention, for example, the Elderly Lady books, those titles were impossible to ignore.







 

My September 2022 Reading.

Here in the Southern hemisphere, it has been a long- wet winter. We are just beginning to think about Spring. Instead of grey clouds, there is sunshine and the promise of the new season. The daffodils and grape hyacinths have brightened my garden and mood, as I relish the rare sunny days. Those long chilly evenings have been perfect for reading, with TV offering few distractions. I’ve also been dipping into some research for my next stories, but I can’t tell you about that just yet!

How lovely to see the blossoms.

The proof copy of my novella A Scandalous Woman has been checked and returned ready for the Swain Cove Sexy Scandals launch on October 15th. Swain Cove is a fictional Cornish village where smuggling is the main occupation. Sexy Scandals is a warm-to-steamy collection of stories. For those who prefer their romance sweet, The Sweet Delights of Swain Cove will launch on 15th November. Save those dates and don’t forget to preorder your copy while it’s currently 99c but the price will increase once its launch day to $4.99

Miss Amelia’s Mistletoe Marquess by Jenni Fletcher. Secrets of a Victorian Household 2.

The virtuous Miss Fairclough…

…now faces ruin!

Part of Secrets of a Victorian Household. When Amelia Fairclough had sought refuge in a blizzard, a brooding stranger had given her warmth and shelter. She’d even tried to soothe him of his demons in return. But as she scurried home at dawn, she was spotted! Now he’s in the parlour, offering to do the honourable thing. Surely she’d be a fool to turn down the new Marquess of Falconmore! 

Do you like this cover? It didn’t appeal to me

My Review. An impetuous decision will alter Amelia Fairclough’s life. She’s unwittingly ensnared the Marquess, who is now offering to marry her. She’d be a fool to refuse, but the proper man who makes the offer can’t be the man she met last night. Cassius was someone she could talk to and even be herself with. Exploring their relationship and the pull between love and duty. I found it an entertaining read.

The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Volume 2) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

A story where the character gets exactly what they want doesn’t make for good reading. But add villainous clashes, lost advantages, power struggles, and menacing threats…well, now we have the makings of a page-turner. Conflict is the golden thread that binds plot to arc, providing the complications, setbacks, and derailments that make the character’s inner and outer journeys dynamic.
Inside Volume 2 of The Conflict Thesaurus, you’ll find:

• A myriad of conflict options in the form of power struggles, ego-related stressors, dangers and threats, advantage and control losses, and other miscellaneous challenges
• Information on how each scenario should hinder the character on the path to their goal so they’ll learn valuable life lessons and gain insight into what’s holding them back internally
• Instruction about using the multiple levels of conflict to add pressure through immediate, scene-level challenges and looming problems that take time to solve
• Guidance on keeping a story’s central conflict in the spotlight and utilizing subplots effectively so they work with—not against—the main plotline
• An exploration of the climax and how to make this pinnacle event highly satisfying for readers
• Ways to use conflict to deepen your story, facilitate epic adversarial showdowns, give your characters agency, and infuse every scene with tension

Meaningful conflict can be so much more than a series of roadblocks. Challenge your characters inside and out with over 100 tension-inducing scenarios in this second volume of The Conflict Thesaurus. And for more instruction on how to use this element to enhance your story (and an additional 100+ conflict scenarios), check out The Conflict Thesaurus, Volume 1.

Writers, you need this book!

My Review. I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of The Conflict Thesaurus Volume 2. It is impressive the amount of thought that has gone into exploring each scenario. In real life, we are conflict-averse, but it’s an absolute necessity in fiction. This book is a wonderful avenue for exploring sources of conflict for our characters. Character’s responses to conflict won’t all be the same either. It’s a book that I will use constantly, to give myself more insight into broadening and deepening conflict and thus improving my storytelling

The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs

Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world’s most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.

Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, and with recipes that leap to life from the page, The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the most thought-provoking and page-turning historical novel you’ll read this year, exploring the enduring struggle for female freedom, the power of female friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, all while bringing Eliza Action out of the archives and back into the public eye.

England 1837. Eliza Acton is a poet who dreams of seeing her words in print. But when she takes her new manuscript to a publisher, she’s told that ‘poetry is not the business of a lady’. Instead, they want her to write a cookery book. England is awash with exciting new ingredients, from spices to exotic fruits. That’s what readers really want from women.

Eliza leaves the offices appalled. But when her father is forced to flee the country for bankruptcy, she has no choice but to consider the proposal. Never having cooked before in her life, she is determined to learn and to discover, if she can, the poetry in recipe writing. To assist her, she hires seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a war-crippled father and a mother with dementia.

Over the course of ten years, Eliza and Ann developed an unusual friendship – one that crossed social classes and divides – and, together, they broke the mould of traditional cookbooks and changed the course of cookery writing forever.

I think this cover suits the book.

My Review.

This book is about so much more than food, although of course food is the central theme. There is the accepted harsh poverty of the times and the casual cruelty and intolerance from all levels of society. The Reverend Thorpe and his wife are not above shaming the poor. They recommend seventeen-year-old  Ann for a post with Eliza Acton.  In Ann’s family, her father is a drunk and her mother grows more demented daily. Ann has dealt with grinding poverty and hunger and knows her duty and faith. In her new job, she experiences unexpected kindness. Gradually the two women explore how to cook. Unusually Ann is literate and remembers when her mother cooked. I found  Ann’s faith in the authorities of the  Asylum sad and touching. Imagine what an achievement it was for Eliza Acton, a gentlewoman who had not cooked before to not only in teaching herself to cook, but to cook superbly. She explored not the poetry that had previously captured her imagination, but the language of food and made it her own. Before her cookery book, recipes were imprecise and hard to follow. She cooked and refined her recipes until she was satisfied, that they were as good as she could make them Her book was still in print until the early twentieth century. Many modern cooks reference her recipes.

The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook: 175 Super Easy Recipes Made Just for You by Joanie Zisk.

175 single-serving recipes for every solo chef who just wants a satisfying and delicious home-cooked meal for themselves.

Cooking for one is harder than it seems and it can leave anyone wanting to make a healthy, tasty meal either throwing out extra helpings or watching expensive ingredients expire. But it’s possible to prepare single-serving recipes that are full of flavor, easy to make, and economical if you have the right guide.

The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook allows you to make a fresh, delicious, home-cooked meal for one without creating a week’s worth of leftovers or leaving an abundance of unused fresh ingredients that quickly go to waste. Each of the 175 single-serving recipes are quick and simple to make and save you both time and money. And while the ingredients are common, the results are anything but. In addition to flavorful meals, this cookbook includes clever ideas of how to reduce food waste and source single servings of fresh ingredients.

With The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook, cooking solo never needs to be boring (or overwhelming) again whether you live alone or are just looking for a filling and enjoyable meal for yourself

My Review We have always preferred different meals, so I am quite used to making two meals at the same time. Over time though my recipes got boring, and I wanted to see what else I could come up with. I borrowed the book from the library. I thought it was well set out and easy to follow if you had never cooked before. There were a few recipes that I have kept notes of and will try. As I read a cookbook, I can sense what a recipe will be like and find it quite relaxing reading.

The Little Shop of Found Things by  Paula Brackston

A new series about a young woman whose connection to antiques takes her on a magical adventure, reminiscent of Outlander

New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter Paula Brackston returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance to launch a new series guaranteed to enchant her audience even more.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she’s confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.

While Xanthe fights to save her amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.

With its rich historical detail, strong mother-daughter relationship, and picturesque English village, The Little Shop of Found Things is poised to be a strong start to this new series.

My Review.

I found both the title and the cover appealing.

There are some books you want to read at a gallop to find out what happens, but equally, you don’t want the book to end. For me, The Little Shop of Found Things was such a book. Initially, I was unaware it was part of a series. Book two is now on my must-read list. There is a lot of potential in this story, both with the items that will speak to Xanthe to reveal more of the story and with the possibility of two conflicting love interests.

The Work Wives by Rachael Johns

How well do you really know the people you work with?

For work wives Debra and Quinn, it’s a case of opposites attract. They are each other’s lifelines as they navigate office politics and jobs that pay the bills but don’t inspire them.

Outside work, they are also friends, but where Quinn is addicted to dating apps and desperate to find love, Deb has sworn off men. Although Deb is not close to her own mother, her teenage daughter is her life and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect her. But Ramona has other ideas and is beginning to push boundaries.

Life becomes even more complicated by the arrival of a new man at the office. One woman is attracted to him, while the other hoped she’d never meet him again.

But when Deb, Quinn and Ramona are forced to choose between friends, love and family, the ramifications run deeper than they could ever have expected.

The latest novel by bestselling, ABIA award-winning author Rachael Johns will make you laugh, cry and wonder what secrets your friends are keeping! 

My Review.

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of The Work Wives from Net Galley. In keeping with their terms, I am unable to post a full review just yet. I will say though that I thoroughly enjoyed it. More to follow.

Full Review. Where would we be without our female friends? Deb and Quin are unalike and yet they share a treasured friendship. When we spend so much time at work it’s good to have allies. Friends who will tell us when we are out of line or being self-destructive. Deb challenges Quin to do something she doesn’t want to do. In response, Quinn issues a challenge of her own. This takes each woman out of her comfort zone. Deb’s teenage daughter Ramona is demanding more freedom. While Deb has reservations about how far she can let Ramona go. Each is searching for something, love, security, family and belonging. Secrets and lies have a way of being exposed. Can everyone have a happy ending? Rachael Johns has produced another pacy and pleasing page-turner.

A Buccaneer At Heart by Stephanie Laurens (The Adventurers Quartet 2)

Unexpected love—plus passion, intrigue, and danger—challenge our hero to embrace his true nature.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens continues THE ADVENTURERS QUARTET, a riveting blend of Regency-era high seas adventure, a mystery shrouded in the heat of tropical jungles, and the passionate romances of four couples and their unexpected journeys into love.

After a decade of captaining diplomatic voyages for Frobisher Shipping, alongside covert missions for the Crown, Captain Robert Frobisher decides that establishing a home—with hearth and wife—should be his next challenge. But an unexpected mission intervenes. Although Robert sees himself as a conservative businessman-cum-diplomat and this mission is far from his usual sphere, it nevertheless falls within the scope of his abilities. As matters are urgent, he agrees to depart for West Africa forthwith.

To Robert, his way forward is clear: Get to Freetown, determine the location of a slavers’ camp, return to London with the information, and then proceed to find himself a wife.

Already in Freetown, Miss Aileen Hopkins is set on finding her younger brother Will, a naval lieutenant who has mysteriously disappeared. Find Will and rescue him; determined and resolute, Aileen is not about to allow anyone to turn her from her path.

But all too quickly, that path grows dark and dangerous. And then Robert Frobisher appears and attempts to divert her in more ways than one.

Accustomed to managing diplomats and bureaucrats, Robert discovers that manipulating a twenty-seven-year-old spinster lies outside his area of expertise. Prodded by an insistent need to protect Aileen, he realizes that joining forces with her is the surest path to meeting all the challenges before him—completing his mission, keeping her safe, and securing the woman he wants as his wife.

But the villains strike and disrupt their careful plans—leaving Robert and Aileen no choice but to attempt a last throw of the dice to complete his mission and further her brother’s rescue.

Compelled to protect those weaker than themselves and bring retribution to a heartless enemy, they plunge into the jungle with only their talents and inner strengths to aid them—and with the courage of their hearts as their guide.

It’s more of an adventure than a romance.


My Review. Once again, I chose a book based on its title. In that, I suspect I’m like many other readers. And once again it was part of a series. It was relatively easy to fill in the gaps and the chart of characters at the front of the book was helpful. In my opinion, the book was more of an adventure than a romance although the romance was quite steamy.

Potions Are for Pushovers by Tamara Berry 

 It may have been a ghost that led Eleanor Wilde to set up shop in a quaint English village. But now that she’s established herself as the town witch, Ellie’s contentedly casting spells on anyone desperate enough—or gullible enough—to request her mysterious potions…

Selling mystical elixirs and tantalizing tonics is a pretty good way for a fake medium to earn a living. Or at least it’s Ellie’s main source of income—until a villager turns up dead. The cause? Murder by poisoning.  And though Ellie’s concoctions don’t include anything worthy of a skull and crossbones, suddenly she’s the prime suspect. Her only recourse is to find the culprit who did do away with Sarah Blackthorne. No one liked the mean old battle-axe. But did anyone hate her enough to kill her? 
 
It’s enough of a mystery to make Ellie hang up her witch’s hat and take millionaire beau Nicholas Hartford up on his offer to keep her afloat.  Except Ellie is not the kind of woman to lean on a man—least of all a man she adores but whose place in her life is uncertain. Besides, Ellie’s taken on two young witches-in-training—apprentices if you will—and both of them are convinced a werewolf is the murderer.
 
Just as Ellie’s wondering if there really is something otherworldly going on, animals suddenly begin to disappear—including her beloved cat, Beast. Now Ellie’s on the warpath to uncover the wicked truth about the people and the place she’s only just begun to call home.

Of course, this cover appealed to me.

My Review. I found this an entertaining read. There was enough doubt and suspicion to cloud the waters. This is nicely abetted by the two teenage would-be witches and sleuths. Luckily, Ellie doesn’t allow their imaginations to quite run riot, although her imaginings are beginning to worry her. She is also fearful for her cat Beast.

Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews( Somerset StoriesTwo)

 A swashbuckling, second chance Regency romance, inspired by the author’s love of Georgette Heyer romances, and of Henry Fielding’s eighteenth century novel Tom Jones.

She couldn’t forget…

Wealthy squire’s daughter Margaret Honeywell was always meant to marry her neighbor, Frederick Burton-Smythe, but it’s bastard-born Nicholas Seaton who has her heart. Raised alongside her on her father’s estate, Nick is the rumored son of notorious highwayman Gentleman Jim. When Fred frames him for theft, Nick escapes into the night, vowing to find his legendary sire. But Nick never returns. A decade later, he’s long been presumed dead.

He wouldn’t forgive…

After years spent on the continent, John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare has finally come home to England. Tall, blond, and dangerous, he’s on a mission to restore his family’s honor. If he can mete out a bit of revenge along the way, so much the better. But he hasn’t reckoned for Maggie Honeywell. She’s bold and beautiful—and entirely convinced he’s someone else.

As danger closes in, St. Clare is torn between love and vengeance. Will he sacrifice one to gain the other? Or with a little luck—and a lot of daring—will he find a way to have them both?

This was the cover of the library edition that I borrowed.

My Review.

A rollicking good read! Margaret is a spirited character and even under the watchful eye of Fred Burton-Smythe, her spark hasn’t been extinguished. Fred is complacently entitled-  he knows that Maggie has to marry him. Their fathers decreed it and now Maggie is alone. But Maggie doesn’t want to marry Fred, not now, not ever. She knows him too well. When she meets Viscount St Clare, there is something about him that tugs at her memory.


A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers.

A young woman in Belle Epoque France is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist.

In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother — a witch — botches a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly binds Juliet to the artist through time, damningher to re-live her affair and die tragically young lifetime after lifetime as the star-crossed lovers reincarnate through history.
Luke Varner, the worldly demon tasked with maintaining this badly crafted curse, has been helplessly in love with his charge, in all her reincarnations, since 19th century France. He’s in love with Nora, a silver screen starlet in 1930s Hollywood. He’s in love with Sandra, a struggling musician in 1970s Los Angeles. And he’s in love with Helen, a magazine exec in present-day DC who has the power to “suggest” others do her bidding.

In this life, Helen starts to recall the curse and her tragic previous lives. But this time, she might have the power to break the cycle…

A Witch in Time is perfect for fans of A Secret History of WitchesOutlander, and The Time Traveler’s Wife

A suitably mysterious cover.

My Review.

Initially, I found the book a little slow to start, but then I got drawn into the story which was both enjoyable and believable. I raced through Juliet’s story and Nora’s finding their stories added depth and meaning to the tale. Sandra’s story dragged a little for me, although it was good to see her connection to Luke. It’s a huge feat of imagination but sadly, the ending fell flat for me.

The Viscount’s Veiled Lady(Whitby Weddings 3) by Jenni Fletcher 

A lady hidden from society

A viscount with his own secrets…

When Frances Webster meets brooding Arthur Amberton on Whitby shores, he’s a different man from the dashing young gentleman she once carried a flame for. But life has changed her, too. After a tragic accident left her scarred physically and emotionally, she’s led a solitary life. She cherishes their new friendship, yet she can’t help but hope Arthur sees the beauty within her.

The library edition just showed the couple’s heads,

My Review. Two damaged people meet and connect. One is externally scarred, the other equally badly affected, but carrying internal scars. Frances believes her looks preclude her from life, love and happiness. Arthur Amberton believes he’s no longer fit for society or for the title he holds. Meeting each other by chance they form a friendship, but could it be something more?

Sarah’s Gift( Waterfront 2) by Anna Jacobs

At the age of ninety-five, Sarah Blakemere signs her final will and testament, pleased with how it will throw the cat among the family pigeons. She has left her luxurious home in Mandurah, Western Australia, to two female relatives in the UK, on the condition that they live in the house together for a year. After that they can sell and split the money, but if either of them doesn’t last the full year, the next person on the list will be invited to try for the inheritance.


Will the experience do as Sarah had hoped and shake Portia and Fleur out of their ruts? And when they find another surprise bequest from Sarah, what will they do with it? Life-changing decisions lie ahead … 

My Review.

Easy escapist reading. A pleasurable page-turner, in a modern-day Cinderella-like tale. Note: I hadn’t read book one and I was easily able to follow the story

The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife.

For centuries, the Tower of London has been home to a group of famous avian residents: the ravens. Each year they are seen by millions of visitors, and they have become as integral a part of the Tower as its ancient stones. But their role is even more important than that—legend has it that if the ravens should ever leave, the Tower will crumble into dust and great harm will befall the kingdom.

The responsibility for ensuring that such a disaster never comes to pass falls to one man: the Ravenmaster. The current holder of the position is Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife, and in this fascinating, entertaining and touching book he memorably describes the ravens’ formidable intelligence, their idiosyncrasies and their occasionally wicked sense of humour. The Ravenmaster is a compelling, inspiring and irreverent story that will delight and surprise anyone with an interest in British history or animal behaviour.

My Review. I was reading this book for research, but it is entertaining enough to read for pleasure. Christopher Skaife is a lively raconteur, with a way of informing and enlightening at the same time. Like all the Yeomen Warders he is ex-British Military. His attention to detail honed throughout his military career has allowed him to understand and bond with the ravens. There is no doubt of his affection for them although he is quite clear that they are not pets and he wants to retain their wild nature.

Looking forward to Spring.

I read thirteen books this month, more than I expected. Nine were a mixture of subjects, while four were Regency romances. The dismal weather and TV offerings helped increase my reading total.

The joy of a good library.

I am fortunate to have a good local library, which I visit at least weekly. The changing book displays encourage my choices and allow me the opportunity to try books that I couldn’t afford to buy. They also provide me with surprise choices that I wouldn’t have picked for myself. It’s also possible to request books, which I frequently do.

Recently, I have been reading more Regency romance, but as my current work has now been submitted, I can return to more general reading. Cosy crime, mysteries, general fiction, and of course, romance.

While we in the Southern hemisphere are looking forward to Spring, for you in the Northern hemisphere it is Autumn. That too has its own pleasures, rustling through leaves, wearing cosy jumpers and eating warming soups. Cooking more, baked potatoes and roasting chestnuts. Looking forward to Christmas as the days get colder and the nights get longer.

The freshness of Spring.

Wherever you are happy reading!





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

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

You are not paying me enough attention!

The Impulse Purchase by Veronica Henry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love People Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

How might your life be better with less?

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

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

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

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

The pleasure of a fire and a good book.

An Incantation of Cats by Clea Simon.

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

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

Absolutely by Joanna Lumley.

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

National treasure and campaigner.

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

The Palace Papers by Tina Brown.

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

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

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

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

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

We are continually fascinated by the royals.


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

The Duke of Desire by Jess Michaels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett.

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

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

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

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

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

To Sir Phillip With Love by Julia Quinn.

Bridgerton 5 Eloise’s Story

My dear Miss Bridgerton,

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

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

—Sir Phillip Crane


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

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

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

The It Girl by Ruth Ware.

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

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

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

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

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

Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick

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

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

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

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

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

Death of a Diva at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison

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

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


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

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

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

The Little French Bookshop by Cécile Pivot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine Heath

She wants lessons in seduction

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

But desire like this can’t be taught

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


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

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

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

Coming Home to Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Angry Women’s Choir by Meg Bicknell.

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

Once in a while, everyone needs to be heard.

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

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

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

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

Cats are wonderful companions.

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

From at all digital stores and for pre-order.

A bit about A Scandalous Woman.

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

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

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


What Did I Read in July 2022?

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

Perfect time to sit by the fire and read.

Lord Somerton’s Heir by Alison Stuart.

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

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

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

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

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

Gorgeous cover.

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

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn.

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

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

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

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

.

A sharp cover.

My Review.

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

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

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

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

A rebranded Georgette Heyer

My Review.

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

The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

When a Duke Loves a Woman by Lorraine Heath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scoundrel in Her Bed by Lorraine Heath.

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

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

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

My Review.

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

Dressing the Dearloves by Kelly Doust

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

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

HM the Queen Investigates Book 2

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

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

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

 Undercover Duke by Sabrina Jefferies.

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

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

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

My Review.

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

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson

London, 1944.

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

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

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

Hardcover, 496 pages.

My Review.

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

The Earl Takes a Fancy By Lorriane Heath.

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

She’s looking for a nobleman to wed…

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

He’s looking to escape his title…

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

Together, they discover an unlikely love…

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

My Review.

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

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

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

I will always find time to read!

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

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

The Books I Read in June 2022.

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

This cutie isn’t my cat.

Elodie’s Library of Second Chances by Rebecca Raisin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A steamy romance.

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

Classified As Murder by Miranda James

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

A cat on a cover will always grab my attention!

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

How to Live to 100 by Ariane Sherine & David Conrad

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett.

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

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

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

Poison At The Village Show by Catherine Coles.

Westleham Village 1947.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shatter By Michael Robotham. Joe O’Loughlin 3

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

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

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

The Year of Mr Maybe’s by Judy Leigh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk Bookish To Me by Kate Bromley

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

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

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

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

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

The Village of Happy Ever Afters by Alison Sherlock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The A List of Death By Pamela Hart

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

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

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

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

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

Dreams of a Little Cornish Cottage by Nancy Barone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ideal weather to stay in and read a good book.

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

What was I reading in May 2022?

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

The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher.

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

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

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

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

Iconic Shakespeare and Company

My Review.

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

The Rose Code by  Kate Quinn.

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

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

A blend of fact and fiction.

My Review.

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

A Life Worth Living by Louise Guy.

Are some white lies simply too big to forgive?

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

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

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

My Review.

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

Autumn Leaves At Mill Grange by Jenny Kane

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

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

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

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

A random library choice.

My Review.

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

Summer Intrigue by Linda Tyler.

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

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

My Review.

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

Bridgerton’s England by Antonia Hicks

Stunning buildings and photography.

My Review

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

Under The Whispering Door by T.J.Klune.

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

My Review.

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

The Duchess in His Bed by Lorraine Heath.

(Sins for all Seasons Book 4).

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

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

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

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

A Steamy Romance.

My Review.

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

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

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

What Was I Reading in April 2022?

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

Saying it with flowers and lunches and pedicures.

Changeless.( Parasol Protectorate 2 )by Gail Carriger.

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

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

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

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

From Where I Fell by Susan Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

Dressed by Iris by Mary-Anne O’Connor

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

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

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

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

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

The Emporium of Imagination by Tabitha Bird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review

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

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

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

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

 My Review

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

How to Avoid the Marriage Mart by Eva Shepherd.

A notorious rake.

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

My Review.

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

The Jane Austen Society by  Natalie Jenner  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

The Viscount Who Loved Me Bridgertons2)  by Julia Quinn

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

ANTHONY’S STORY

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

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

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

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

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

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

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


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

My Review.

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

You should definitely eat the delicious cake

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

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

Endless summer! The Books I Read in March 2022.

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

Hot days and steamy nights

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins.

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

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

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

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

Old-time Hollywood glamour.

My Review

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

The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape.

This is the only money guide you’ll ever need

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

So what makes this one different?

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

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

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

You’ll also get the skinny on:

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

Sound too good to be true? It’s not.

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

And you’re next

He knows his stuff.

My Review

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

Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown.

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

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

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

My Review

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

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan.

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

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

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

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

Gorgeous cover!

My Review.

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

The Marlow Murder Club by Richard Thorogood.

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

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

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

Together, they are the Marlow Murder Club.

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

My Review

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

Sunrise by The Sea by Jenny Colgan

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

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

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

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

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

My Review

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

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

Family For Beginners by Sarah Morgan

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

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

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

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

My Review.

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

The Design of the Dukes by Kathleen Ayers

The Beautiful Barrringtons  Book2

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

At least in the Duke of Granby’s opinion.

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

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

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

Andromeda is the victim of infatuation and bad luck.

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

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

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

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

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

A steamy romance.

My Review.

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

Bewitching by Jill  Barnett

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

Reads a bit like a fairytale.

My Review.

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

The Red Hot Earl by  Darcy Burke  

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

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

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

This one appealed to a lot of people.

My Review.

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

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves

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

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

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

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

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

Lovely evocative cover.

My Review.

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

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

Hot summer nights.

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

Why not treat yourself?

Suzi Love

SUZI LOVE ~ Writing about romance, history, crazy characters, the Aussie outback and extraordinary places.

Writers In The Storm

A Blog On Writing

Welcome to My World

Land of my Fathers. The Land of Song, Mountains, Myths and Legends, Stunning Scenery and so much more.

valerieparv

Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

N M Cunningham

Fiction for genre fluid readers

Sophril Reads

Books and Tea!

Sonia Bellhouse- Author.

Love Beyond Time.

#1 South Wales Copywriter

No fluff. Just Words.

Josh Langley

- inspiring kids-

How to be eighty

Living and learning at any age

Romance Writers of Australia

Promoting excellence in romantic fiction Helping writers become published and maintain strong careers Providing continuing support and development

The Never Ending Bookshelf

Where dreams are just a bookshelf away ...

Nadia L King

A writer from Perth, Australia

The First Time podcast

Part reality show, part writers' master class. A podcast about the first time you...publish a book.

Mrs B's Book Reviews

Book reviews and recommendations from a self confessed book geek

Cauldrons and Cupcakes

Celebrating Life, Spirituality, Creativity and Kindness!

Wanna be a Writer?

writing tips, information and motivation

The Little Mermaid

MAKING A DIFFERENCE, ONE STEP AT A TIME

Dr. Eric Perry’s Coaching Blog

Motivate | Inspire | Uplift

%d bloggers like this: