What Was I Reading in September 2020?

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

The Cottage at Hope Cove by Hannah Ellis.

The summer that changed everything…

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

Instead, she finds Max.

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

Or does she?

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

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

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

Book or Kindle- what a choice!

The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman

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

Sydney 1945 The war is over, the fight begins.

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

The Gorgeous cover!

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

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

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

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

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

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

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

The Wash by Lisa Wolstenholme.

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

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

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

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

A collision of loss and love. 

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

The Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies.

Idyllic location!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aconite & Accusations by Ruby Loren.

Book Five of the Witches of Wormwood series.

 On Midsummer’s Eve, a town will vanish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Studying Her Vikings by Skye Mackinnon

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

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

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

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

What Did I Read in June 2020 As Lockdown Continued?

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

 

content young woman using laptop in modern living room
Reading can take you anywhere

Take Off Your Pants ! by Libbie Hawker.

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

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

Take off your Pants

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

Gotta Read it by Libbie Hawker.

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

Gotta Read it

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

Successful Self- Publishing by Joanna Penn.

Do you want to successfully self-publish?

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

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

Succesful Self publishing

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

 

Vikings by Ashe Barker prequel to Viking Surrender Series.

Vikings Viking surrender

A horde of battle-hardened, ferocious Nordic warriors.

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

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

 

Brandr by Ashe Barker part of the Viking Surrender Series

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

Brandr

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

 

Garth by Assa Daniels – Viking Surrender Series.

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

Garth Vking surredner

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

Falling for her Viking Captive by Harper St George.

The Viking warrior

In her cellar…

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

 

Her Viking captive

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

Beloved Viking by Ree Thornton

Beloved Viking

The shield-maiden must marry…

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

 

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

 

Netherwood by Jane Sanderson.

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

 

Netherwood

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

 

Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About The Vikings.

My book, Fire & Ice is both a contemporary romance and timeslip love story set in Viking times, so I have been researching the Vikings for a while. Currently, I am trying my hand at another Viking romance.

Viking doll and books
Viking doll and books at the book launch

What we know about them is from the writing of their enemies, so it is hardly an unbiased picture. These churchmen who were often the victims of the raids wrote in their chronicles about them. They disliked and distrusted everything about these pagans.

 

stone castle wall surrounded with green grass
Churches were easy to raid

A bit like asking your ex-partner for a character reference.

The Viking had an oral culture, so they left little in the way of writing. Most of what we know is from the monks or Arab sources.

Viking did employ skalds who told stores and recited poems.

Here are some things you may not know about them

Firstly, they did not call themselves ‘ Vikings’, that happened centuries later. They called themselves .’ Norse’ or ‘North men.’ They came from Scandinavia. Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Viking means raider and many were peaceful farmers or craftsmen.

Viking potter

They didn’t wear horned helmets, sorry ‘Hagar the Horrible.’ The horned helmet was a costume designers’ idea for the staging of Richard Wagner’s The Ring Cycle of operas. If a Viking had a helmet, it was just a domed metal one, but many simply wore a leather cap and often leather armour too.

viking-2379960_1280
Similar to the helmets the Normans wore

Vikings were dirty and smelly. No, they were very hygienic compare to most other people, they bathed at least once a week. Many washed each morning. Most possessed a comb and were scrupulous about grooming. This made them attractive to women and might have inspired some home-grown jealousy. Both men and women wore jewellery, rings, arm rings, necklaces, charms.

viking-3776534_1280
Thor’s hammer amulet

Viking women were not equal as sexual double standards did apply. Pre-marital sex was allowed for both sexes, provided they were discreet, and it did not end in pregnancy. Men could keep more than one woman as concubines called frilles as well as bed slaves. The children of concubines could be recognised as legitimate. Illegitimate children ruined a woman’s chance of marriage and were a burden to her family.

blonde-viking-woman-sword
A few women were fighters, most were busy with a myriad of domestic tasks.

Divorces were mostly instigated by the women.  Reasons could be lack of attention – he was consistently absent-three years was considered desertion, or he was cruel, struck her, he was inclined towards men, or he didn’t satisfy her in bed.

antique bills business cash
She kept her dowry or bride price

However, Viking women had their own money and could own land.

Vikings gave us names for some of the days of the week, Wednesday ( Woden’s/Odin’s Day )Thursday ( Thor’s Day) Friday ( Frigg ‘s or Freya’s Day.)

A Viking carried his bride over the threshold of their new home and into their new life.  She wore a circlet of flowers on her head. Each presented the other with a sword, his from grave goods, the sword of his ancestors. He was entrusting his lineage to her and she to him. The term honeymoon has evolved from the Viking custom of giving the bride and groom a month’s worth of sweet ale. That is the ale which is sweetened with honey.viking-ship-in-the-water