April was a busy month, with lots of writing and reading. I read two Royal books, which are not my usual fare, in preparation for the coronation. I was more social than usual too.
I have the best friends- I got taken out to lunch on three separate occasions. The highlight though was lunch at Perth’s revolving restaurant, Restaurant C . Both the food and the views were exceptional.
My So-Called Scoundrel by Fenna Edgewood,Blakeley Manor 3.
When one finds a bleeding, half-naked, indescribably handsome man in one’s bed, does one… • Scream • Faint • Hit him with a large book • Push him back out the window he climbed in • Bandage his wounds like a sensible bluestocking-in-the-making
The most perfectly imperfect debutante… Marigold Spencer was never supposed to have a London Season. For heaven’s sake, she was never even supposed to become a lady! The former housemaid of a duke, Marigold is thrust into the limelight when her siblings marry far above their stations. Suddenly faced with the marriage mart, her escort and chaperone is not only one of ton’s most notorious scoundrels**,** but the utterly infuriating man still won’t tell her where he got the knife wound that led him to her bed that night.
…can still tempt the deadliest of rogues… Lord Leigh Blakeley’s path took a sharp turn from seductive rake to vengeful assassin long ago. Yet when he finally returns home for a visit, he nearly ruins his new sister-in-law’s reputation for good by falling into her bed after a misadventure. Now Leigh finds himself forced to play chaperone to a debutante… one who unexpectedly enchants his cynical heart. And when Leigh foolishly proposes to teach the innocent young Miss Spencer something of the ways of pleasure, he ignites an inferno of passion that quickly turns unquenchable. When another man presents Miss Spencer with an irresistible proposition, Leigh realizes the desire of his heart is quickly slipping away. Though he’s never intended to wed, Leigh finds himself making an offer Miss Spencer can’t possibly refuse… or can she?
In this tantalizing Regency romance by USA Today bestselling author Fenna Edgewood, desire knows no bounds as the most unlikely of lovers succumb to the flames of their passion and defy society’s expectations.
Published March 30, 2023
My Review. Although this can be read as a stand-alone (as I did) you would probably have more understanding of the characters if you had read the previous books. Having said that, I still enjoyed this book.
Marigold isn’t easily swayed, even by the persuasions of Leigh, Lord Blakely. She may have been forced to have a season, but that doesn’t mean she will meekly submit to a loveless marriage. Untutored in the ways of love she may consider a marriage of convenience if it gives her what she wants. Leigh wants to dissuade her from this and attempts to show her how passion can affect her. The trouble is, he didn’t realise that he would also be affected. How can he let her marry anyone else? And does Marigold have any say in this? Great repartee, with an ongoing attraction plus some steamy scenes.
Battle of Brothers by Robert Lacey
The world has watched Prince William and Prince Harry since they were born. Raised by Princess Diana to be the closest of brothers, how have the boy princes grown into very different, now distanced men? From Royal insider, biographer and historian Robert Lacey, this book reveals the untold details of William and Harry’s closeness and estrangement, asking what happens when two sons are raised for vastly different futures – one burdened with the responsibility of one day becoming king, the other with the knowledge that he will always remain spare.
My Review. I expected more from an ‘insider’ and found it surprising that it was less authoritative and read more like a gossip magazine. Of course, it suffers from missing these last crucial couple of years. The narrative that Harry is ‘spare’ has recently been bandied about. Diana always knew this and raised him to love and support his brother. I imagine her telling him he was lucky not to have all that responsibility. It is sad to see the brothers estranged now
Camilla from Outcast to Queen Consort by Angela Levin
A compelling new biography of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, that reveals how she transformed her role and established herself as one of the key members of the royal family.
For many years, Camilla was portrayed in a poor light, blamed by the public for the break-up of the marriage between Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Initially, the Queen refused to see or speak to her, but, since the death of Prince Philip, the Duchess has become one of the Queen’s closest companions. Her confidence in Camilla and the transformation she has seen in Prince Charles since their wedding resulted in her choosing the first day of her Platinum Jubilee year to tell the world that she wants Camilla to be Queen Consort not the demeaning Princess Consort suggested in 2005
Angela Levin uncovers Camilla’s rocky journey to be accepted by the royal family and how she coped with the brutal portrayal of her in Netflix’s The Crown. The public have witnessed her tremendous contribution to help those in need, especially during Covid. Levin has talked to many of the Duchess’s long-term friends, her staff and executives from the numerous charities of which Camilla is patron. She reveals why the Duchess concentrates on previously taboo subjects, such as domestic violence and rape. Most of all, Levin tells the story of how the Duchess has changed from a fun-loving young woman to one of the senior royals’ hardest workers. She has retained her mischievous sense of humour, becoming a role model for older women and an inspiration for younger ones
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is both an extraordinary love story and a fascinating portrait of an increasingly confident Queen Consort in waiting. It is an essential read for anyone wanting a greater insight into the royal family.
My Review. This a very positive portrayal of Camilla, a woman who has been much reviled for being loved by and loving the wrong man. As Diana famously said, “There were three of us in this marriage.” Those were different more conservative times when Prince Charles was expected to marry a virgin and even then, they were thin on the ground. So, he married for duty although his heart lay elsewhere.
I was always in Diana’s camp, but like many people have come to an acceptance of Camilla. I have admired her steadfastness and her dedication to unpopular causes. King Charles has blossomed with his marriage to her and seems so much happier.
Angela Levin has written a very admiring biography detailing the causes that Camilla supports, battered women, terminally ill children, rape victims and literacy causes. I applaud all these choices but a few lines on page 81 made my blood run cold.
“Camilla was out of step with most of the country over fox hunting. Cubbing, which involves training young foxhounds to chase and kill fox cubs was particularly loathed. She and Charles wanted to carry on in defiance of the Commons vote but gave it up when given a warning by the police.’
Elsewhere in the book, we are told that Camilla loves animals, particularly horses and dogs. This to me seems incompatible with happily watching young fox cubs being ripped to pieces by dogs. An interesting biography, but not I feel the whole story.
Don’t Let’s Go to The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller.
In Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with candor and sensitivity. Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, it is suffused with Fuller’s endearing ability to find laughter, even when there is little to celebrate. Fuller’s debut is unsentimental and unflinching but always captivating. In wry and sometimes hilarious prose, she stares down disaster and looks back with rage and love at the life of an extraordinary family in an extraordinary time.
My Review. This book was recommended to me as a good example of a memoir. It’s bleak, stoic, presumably honest and unbearably sad. The cruelties of life in Africa, the tragedies, and the treatment of animals all are explored.
Welcome to Ferry Lane Market by Nicola May
Although thirty-three year old Kara Moon loves her hometown of Hartmouth in Cornwall, she has always wondered if she should have followed her dream of leaving to study floristry. But she couldn’t bring herself to leave her emotionally delicate single father, and has worked on Ferry Lane Market’s flower stall ever since leaving school.
When her good-for-nothing boyfriend cheats on her and steals her life savings, she finally dumps him and rents out her spare room as an Airbnb. Gossip flies around the town as Kara welcomes a series of foreign guests to her flat overlooking the estuary.
Then an anonymous postcard arrives, along with a plane ticket to New York. And there begins the first of three trips of a lifetime, during which she will learn important lessons about herself, her life and what she wants from it – and perhaps find love along the way.
I wanted to read something lighter after a previous book, and this fitted the bill perfectly. Kara is an engaging character, whose main flaw seems to be her empathy and good heart. This has led her to be taken advantage of for too long, by her boyfriend and her boss. The fun really starts when she opens her spare room as an air b and b. This gives her an insight into how other men behave. Then the mysterious postcard arrives, and Kara is finally off on an adventure. It was good to see Kara’s world opening up, but for me, it did feel that the book was a little disjointed as if the two parts came from totally different books. I enjoyed it, it’s nice escapism.
Lying Beside You by Michael Robotham
Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac return in Robotham’s latest page-turning, psychological thriller in this series.
If I could tell you one thing about my brother, it would be this. Two days after his nineteenth birthday, he killed our parents and twin sisters because he heard voices in his head. As defining events go, nothing else comes close for Elias, or for me.
As a boy, Cyrus Haven survived a family massacre and slowly pieced his life back together. Now, after almost twenty years, his brother is applying to be released from a secure psychiatric hospital—and Cyrus is expected to forgive Elias and welcome him home.
Elias is returning to a very different world. Cyrus is now a successful psychologist, working with the police, sharing his house with Evie Cormac, a damaged and gifted teenager who can tell when someone is lying. Evie has gone back to school and is working part-time at an inner-city bar, but she continues to struggle with authority and following rules.
When a man is murdered and his daughter disappears, Cyrus is called in to profile the killer and help piece together Maya Kirk’s last hours. Police believe she was drugged and driven away from the same bar where Evie is working. Soon, a second victim is taken, and Evie is the only person who glimpsed the man behind the wheel.
But there’s a problem. Only two people believe her. One is Cyrus. The other is the killer.
My Review. Taut, tense, engrossing. Cyrus is torn between his high expectations of himself, as of course, he should forgive his brother and his feelings. While intriguing Evie reminds me of Lisbeth Salander from Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. As the book progressed, I got to a point where I could not put it down, I had to finish it.
As well as reading I’ve been writing and have just finished my story for The Regency Abduction Club. It’s been a blast and I fell in love with a spontaneous heroine, Sophia and her counterpart Christopher or Kit. This one is a bit steamy and hopefully fun. It’s with the editor now and available for pre-order on Amazon. Due out early July.
Next, I am embarking on a heart project, one which has been simmering away in my imagination for quite some time. It’s different, and will possibly be a challenge to write a memoir about a difficult time in my life.
More about that next month, meanwhile Happy Reading
My reading was quite a mixed bag in March as I read a memoir, contemporary fiction, domestic noir, historical fiction, as well as romance.
Lunch in Paris; A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard.
In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman–and never went home again. Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pave au poivre, the steak’s pink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce?
Lunch In Paris is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs–one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine. Packing her bags for a new life in the world’s most romantic city, Elizabeth is plunged into a world of bustling open-air markets, hipster bistros, and size 2 femmes fatales. She learns to gut her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen), soothe pangs of homesickness (with the rise of a chocolate souffle) and develops a crush on her local butcher (who bears a striking resemblance to Matt Dillon). Elizabeth finds that the deeper she immerses herself in the world of French cuisine, the more Paris itself begins to translate. French culture, she discovers, is not unlike a well-ripened cheese-there may be a crusty exterior, until you cut through to the melting, piquant heart. Peppered with mouth-watering recipes for summer ratatouille, swordfish tartare and molten chocolate cakes, Lunch in Paris is a story of falling in love, redefining success and discovering what it truly means to be at home. In the delicious tradition of memoirs like A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, this book is the perfect treat for anyone who has dreamed that lunch in Paris could change their life.
First published December 21, 2010
My Review. It’s like having chat with a talkative and foodie best friend. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I would continue reading, memoir isn’t really my thing, but I was gradually won over. There was such a sense of exuberance and enjoyment at finding ingredients and cooking. As well as acute observations on French manners and their way of life. The recipes sound achievable too.
A Secret Scottish Escape by Julie Shackman
When Scotland’s sleepiest hamlet becomes the centre of hot gossip, Layla Devlin finds herself caught in a mystery…
When Layla’s fiancée has an unexpected heart attack and dies – in another woman’s arms, no less – Layla is determined to pack up and leave Loch Harris, the village she’s always called home. But an unexpected inheritance and love for her quiet corner of Scotland send her down a new path.
Now Layla finds herself facing a whole new kind of drama. Rumours swirl that a celebrity has moved into Coorie Cottage and Layla is determined to have him headline her opening night at local music venue The Conch Club. But the reclusive star is equally determined to thwart Layla’s efforts. Rafe Buchanan is in hiding for a reason, and soon his past comes to Loch Harris to haunt him…
My Review. I enjoyed this book although it is difficult to categorise it. Part romance, part mystery, it is written in the first person. Although on two occasions it jarringly left first person to tell us something the narrator could not have known. Apart from that it’s an engaging story, which perhaps needed a little more romance.
The Familiars by Stacey Halls.
Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.
Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
Rich and compelling, set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside (even woodland creatures, or “familiars,” were suspected of dark magic) by capturing “witches”—in reality mostly poor and illiterate women.
My Review. This captured my attention in part by being set in my part of the world, Lancashire. On a trip back to Uk we visited Lancaster Castle and saw the bleak hole in the ground these supposed ‘witches’ were confined in. I had also studied a unit on witchcraft in Salem at university, so I had some background knowledge. Without the benefits of modern medicine people often relied on cunning men or women to cure their ailments. This was fine until something went wrong. Diseases we recognise and can treat today were unknown then. It was a climate where misogyny could be dressed as virtue and poorer and troublesome women could be silenced. The King, James 1st of England had a pathological fear of witches. What better way for an ambitious man to worm his way into favour than by denouncing witches? This book explores this in a story that will hold your attention and make you think how lucky we are today. I enjoyed this immensely.
Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill
Sulari Gentill, author of the 1930s Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, jumps to the post-modern in Crossing the Lines.
A successful writer, Madeleine, creates a character, Edward, and begins to imagine his life. He, too, is an author. Edward is in love with a woman, Willow, who’s married to a man Edward loathes, and who loathes him, but he and Willow stay close friends. She’s an artist. As Madeleine develops the plot, Edward attends a gallery show where a scummy critic is flung down a flight of fire stairs…murdered. Madeleine, still stressed from her miscarriages and grieving her inability to have a child, grows more and more enamoured of Edward, spending more and more time with him and the progress of the investigation and less with her physician husband, Hugh, who in turn may be developing secrets of his own.
As Madeline engages more with Edward, he begins to engage back. A crisis comes when Madeleine chooses the killer in Edward’s story and Hugh begins to question her immersion in her novel. Yet Crossing the Lines is not about collecting clues and solving crimes. Rather it’s about the process of creation, a gradual undermining of the authority of the author as the act of writing spirals away and merges with the story being told, a self-referring narrative crossing over boundaries leaving in question who to trust, and who and what is true.
My Review. Initially confusing reading, but as you get caught up in the story you acclimatise to making the brain switches required. Both protagonists claimed my attention, both for their stories, but also for their musings on the craft of writing and authorship. Is the author the creator alone or do we as readers share a part of that creation? Writers sometimes talk about a character rebelling about how they are written, which sounds absurd but does happen. Here we are left to grapple with just who is the author and who is the character.
The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth
THE HUSBAND A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.
THE DAUGHTERS Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.
THE FORMER WIFE With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.
THE YOUNGER WIFE Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses in all of them?
My Review. A friend recommended Sally Hepworth to me, and I came to the book with no preconceptions. It is simply put, a page-turner, and as each page turns you want to know more. Subtly layered to reveal portions of the story which allows you to make your own assumptions. Some connections seemed to me, while others were more opaque. Recommended.
The Marquess Meets His Match by Laura Martin.
Sparks fly in this fun, romantic Regency!
The marquess she loves to hate
…or the man she can’t resist?
Farmer’s daughter Charlotte Greenacre regrets attending a matchmaker’s party when she has to spend it avoiding her enemy, Lord Robert Overby! Until she learns that the handsome widower is not the villain she thought—and that after his unhappy marriage, he doesn’t want a new wife. It should mean she can now relax in his company…if it wasn’t for the irritating flare of attraction between them!
My Review. An easy and uncomplicated read, with enough dynamic tension between the couple. Charlotte is an engaging heroine and amuses Lord Overby who has little to be amused about for quite some time. He is predisposed to distrust love, but could an unpredictable young lady change his mind? I really disliked the cover.
The Second Lady Silverwood by Emma Orchard.
Sir Benedict Silverwood needs a new wife, an heir and a mother for his young daughter, but he can’t envisage any of the eligible young debutantes taking the place of his late wife. Then Kate Moreton, the granddaughter of a friend, an impoverished spinster and Italian teacher, is suggested and what seems at first an outlandish idea grows on him, alongside his attraction to Kate.
Kate has been hopelessly in love with Benedict for years so the idea of marriage to him is appalling, considering he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings, but also so very tempting…
When Kate steps into her new life as Benedict’s wife, sparks fly, but as it becomes clear that there are incendiary secrets that threaten their fragile new life together, the question is whether Benedict will be able to love and trust the second Lady Silverwood?
Initially a bit of a slow-burn romance that turns sizzling hot. Kate has loved Benedict for years, after one magical dance with him. She saw him turn away from her, mesmerised by another young woman. Now fate has presented her with another opportunity. Can she risk her heart again and if he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings, will the status of being married to him be enough? She learns that he is an enthusiastic and inventive lover, and she matches him, but will she win his heart? A naughtily steamy romance. I enjoyed it. Thanks to Net Galley.
Mrs England by Stacey Halls.
When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby is forced to confront her own demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know.
Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric landscape of West Yorkshire, Stacey Halls’ third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.
My Review. This was an unsettling read, everyone seems to have secrets and a gradual sense of menace crept up on me. I felt the pacing was slow and yet I wanted to read on. It was such a contrast to the previous book of hers I’d read, The Familiars. Perhaps if I had read this first I wouldn’t have chosen to read more by this author. She is certainly versatile.
The One and Only Dolly Jamieson by Lisa Ireland.
The One and Only Dolly Jamieson is a compelling feel-good novel featuring a proud and gutsy heroine with a truly unbreakable spirit.
Life is full of downs and ups . . .
Dolly Jamieson is not homeless, she’s merely between permanent abodes. The 78-year-old spends her days keeping warm at the local library, where
she enjoys sparring with the officious head librarian and helping herself to the free morning tea. It’s not so bad, really.
But it’s certainly a far cry from the 1960s, when this humble girl from Geelong became an international star of the stage. As the acclaimed lead in the Broadway production of The Rose of France, all Dolly’s dreams had come true.
So how, in her old age, did she end up here?
When Jane Leveson, a well-to-do newcomer to the library, shows an interest in Dolly, the pair strike up an unlikely friendship – and soon Jane is offering to help Dolly write her memoirs.
Yet Dolly can detect a deep sadness in the younger woman’s eyes. Perhaps by working together to recount the glittering highs, devastating lows and tragic secrets of Dolly’s life, both women can finally face their pasts and start to heal . . .
I galloped through this book, I wanted to know all about Dolly and through the dual timeline I learned of her past and present. In the swinging sixties, Dolly had a string of stage success, when she had it all. Looks, love and success. In the present, how did she come to need to seek refuge in the local library? There she is greeted with disapproval from some and welcomed by others.
Dolly knows the value of keeping up appearances but it’s particularly difficult when you don’t have a home. She is well aware that her appearance can be rather offputting. Yet, Jane speaks to her and over time a slightly wary and unlikely friendship is formed. Each seems to recognise something in the other.
Dolly doesn’t consider herself homeless, she just hasn’t got anywhere to live and in her seventies that’s not a comfortable position to be in. Once fawned upon, now she is dismissed and ignored. But Dolly has a story worth telling and Jane is the person to help her. Each woman has the ability to help the other.
This story examines uncomfortable topics with sensitivity and heart. I was cheering the indomitable Dolly on.
The Secret Diary of Shirley Sullivan by Lisa Ireland.
The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan is a charming, nostalgic and heart-warming story for women of any age – and it all begins when 79-year-old Shirley kidnaps her husband from his nursing home for one final adventure. .
‘An endearing novel about one gutsy, smart and inspirational woman. I want to be Shirley when I grow up.’ Rachael Johns
‘Elderly. Is that how the world sees me? A helpless little old lady? If only they knew. I allow myself a small smirk.’
When Shirley Sullivan signs her 83-year-old husband, Frank, out of the Sunset Lodge Nursing Home, she has no intention of bringing him back.
For fifty-seven years the couple has shared love, happiness and heartbreak. And while Frank may not know who his wife is these days, he knows he wants to go home. Back to the beach where they met in the early 1960s . . .
So Shirley enacts an elaborate plan to evade the authorities – and their furious daughter, Fiona – to give Frank the holiday he’d always dreamed of.
And, in doing so, perhaps Shirley can make amends for a lifelong guilty secret . .
My Review. It’s very easy to sympathise with Shirley, who has been sidelined by her daughter in caring for her husband Frank. Fiona is a concerned daughter convinced she is doing the best for her parents. But she doesn’t know half of their story. Shirley wants to take Frank on one last adventure, she owes him that. While Frank can’t always remember things, he wants to go home and Shirley has a plan. It’s funny, it’s poignant and as anyone who has dealt with Alzheimer’s will tell you, it’s very true to life. I was cheering Shirley on, up until the last few pages where I felt rather let down.
Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost …
In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell.
My Review. A wry yet sympathetic look at owning and running a bookshop. Presented in the manner of a cautionary tale, with George Orwell’s quotes as chapter headings. His love of books and bookselling is reflected in the pages. The book is in part an advisory tale about the madness of owning a bookshop. Shaun tells dolefully that booksellers are prominent among bad back sufferers.
It’s more a book to be dipped in and out of than to be read in a sitting.
Eleven books that I read this month and as always it’s an idiosyncratic collection. I source books from my local library, they do a terrific job and usually have tempting to displays of new books. I also read on my Kindle, and although I prefer the physicality of a book the Kindle has it beaten for sheer convenience. These days I read on the Ipad, which is even easier.
I’m happy to take a chance on a book because the cover or its blurb appeal to me. I also review some books for Net Galley. Or, I choose a book because I read a review, or because a friend recommended it.
How do you choose books? At random? What appeals from the cover? The blurb- an industry term for the persuasive words on the back of a book that persuade you to read it.
Bookshops and libraries are the places where I feel most at home. The ambience, that sense of being surrounded by so many books, so many thoughts.
Books can connect us through time and space and reading enables us to travel when we have to stay home.
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.
Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan.
From Manhattan with Love 6 She’ll risk everything for her own Christmas miracle…
Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family. But when dog walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list–dealing with Madi’s temporary dog sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.
Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi–how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple–he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide twenty-four-hour care. But there’s nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.
Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all–letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?
384 pages, Paperback.
My Review. An easy and enjoyable read, as fans of Sarah Morgan, have come to expect. It didn’t matter I had not read the other five Manhattan books. Harriet and Ethan make an unlikely couple who are somehow perfect for each other if only they will realise it. As an animal lover, I enjoyed the addition of the dogs into the story and Harriet’s dedication and passion for their care.
The Country Village Christmas Show by Cathy Lane
A feel-good, festive read to keep you cosy this winter. For fans of Heidi Swain, Sarah Morgan and The Archers.
Recently divorced, the family home sold and her son all grown-up, Clare is at a crossroads. She’s dedicated her whole adult life to her family, and now it’s time she did something for herself.
In the lead-up to Christmas, Clare decides that a bit of time in the countryside might be just what she needs, so she moves back to Little Bramble, the village she grew up in. But living with her mum for the first time in years – and not to mention Goliath the Great Dane – can be challenging.
When Clare finds herself running the village Christmas show, it feels like she has purpose in her life again. Bringing together people from all sides of the community, and all walks of life, will Clare manage to pull off a festive feat like no other? And will she find the new start in life – and possibly love – that she’s been looking for?
The Country Village Christmas Show is the perfect romantic read to get cosy with this winter. 400 pages, Paperback
Can you ever go back again? If you do, is it the right move? Clare ponders these questions as she returns to Little Bramble. It is challenging and rather unexpected and at first, she flounders. Who is she now, and what does she want? Sadly, she hardly knows. She gradually finds her feet and is drawn into village life and begins to feel happier. Dog walking puts the colour back into her cheeks, as does an encounter with a certain village vet. Could going back mean a whole new beginning? Easy and enjoyable reading.
The Little Venice Bookshop by Rebecca Raisin.
When Luna loses her beloved mother, she’s bereft: her mother was her only family, and without her Luna feels rootless. Then the chance discovery of a collection of letters in her mother’s belongings sends her on an unexpected journey.
Following a clue in the letters, Luna packs her bags and heads to Venice, to a gorgeous but faded bookshop overlooking the canals, hoping to uncover the truth about her mother’s mysterious past.
Will Luna find the answers she’s looking for – and finally find the place she belongs?
I fell in love with this book, it explored a book lover’s passionate connection to books and bookshops. The cover was just perfect too.There were so many topics which resonated with me, dealing with grief, uncertainty, searching for identity, relationships, family and of course, Venice. Venice, is the setting for so many love stories, falling for the wrong person, or finding the right person.
Rebecca Raisin touches lightly on many of the topics, which perhaps doesn’t portray the depth of thought behind those easy words. I read sentences and found myself nodding, recognising my own experiences and feelings. A book about books and reading and bookshops but also about relationships, and fractured families. Hanging on for true love, refusing to settle and finding unexpected happiness along the way. It may be Rebecca Raisin’s best book yet.
I was fortunate enough to receive an Advance Reading Copy through Net Galley, and I am choosing to leave this review.
Audio Books Experience.
I was recently gifted a superseded I pad and it’s been an almost life-changing experience for me. I now can post to Facebook or email from the comfort of my sitting room. Another bonus has been downloading the library app called Borrow Box. This enables me to borrow and return e-books without visiting the library.
As Borrow Box is new to me, I accidentally downloaded an audiobook. I hadn’t considered audiobooks previously as I derive so much pleasure and relaxation from reading. The book was by an author I have read and enjoyed so I decided to give it a go. I was slightly daunted by the listening time of over 12 hours and thought I would listen at lunchtime.
I settled down to listen, the narrator adopting a different tone for each character, but I found my attention wandering. Much like how I can tune out TV advertisements. I couldn’t picture the scene as I can when reading and then unaccountably, I fell asleep.
I tried again the next afternoon, and with the same result, I fell asleep. I woke with a crick in my neck as the narrator’s voice rolled on. The book had over 7 hours remaining. I debated with myself before returning it. I know many people enjoy audiobooks, but I seem to be an exception.
John Cleese on Creativity. Read by John Cleese.
We can all be more creative. John Cleese shows us how.
Creativity is usually regarded as a mysterious, rare gift that only a few possess. John Cleese begs to differ, and in this short, immensely practical and often very amusing guide he shows it’s a skill that anyone can acquire. Drawing on his lifelong experience as a writer, he shares his insights into the nature of the creative process and offers advice on how to get your own inventive juices flowing.
What do you need to do to get yourself in the right frame of mind? When do you know that you’ve come up with something that might be worth pursuing? What do you do if you think you’ve hit a brick wall?
Not only does he explain the way your mind works as you search for inspiration, he also shows that, regardless of the task you’ve set yourself, you can learn to be better at coming up with a promising idea, refining it and knowing when you’re ready to act on it.
We can all unlock new reserves of creativity within ourselves. John Cleese shows us how.Audio Book. I hour.
I found this interesting and relatable. While there is nothing earth-shattering, what John Cleese said made sense. He explained how our educational system did not encourage creativity, preferencing the safety and comfort of being right. He went on to suggest ways that creativity could be nurtured.
Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson.
London 1926. Roaring Twenties. Corruption. Seduction. Debts due.
In a country still recovering from the Great War, London is the focus for a delirious nightlife. In Soho clubs, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.
There, Nellie Coker is a ruthless ruler, ambitious for her six children. Niven is the eldest, his enigmatic character forged in the harsh Somme. But success breeds enemies. Nellie faces threats from without and within. Beneath the gaiety lies a dark underbelly, where one may be all too easily lost.
Draws the reader in gradually, until you feel you are completely absorbed in post WW1 Soho. Grinding poverty and huge extravagance exist side by side Inspector Frobisher is called in to investigate a string of missing girls and the possibility of police corruption. Two young girls come to the capital to seek their fortunes. Freda, pert, bright, and talented and her friend Florence. When they seem to have disappeared, Gwendolen Kelly, an ex-nurse and York librarian agrees to try to find them.
Frobisher is battling a police station that is hostile and an increasing number of young girls pulled from the Thames. He is frustrated at every turn. Nellie Coker runs successful clubs with a clientele at ranges from aristocrats to low lives. She doesn’t care who they are as long as the money keeps rolling in and the gambling doesn’t stop. There are threats to the clubs, from old enemies and ambitious newer ones. She is the matriarch of a family of six without a maternal bone in her body, she is ambitious for them, because they are hers. Drugs, sex, gambling add a seedy underbelly to the frenetic atmosphere of the clubs. How can virtue win when vice looks so attractive? My favourite characters were dogged Inspector Frobisher, Gwen for her complete unflappability and the enigmatic Niven. I loved the gorgeous art deco style cover.
An absolute tour de force of a book, it confirms Kate Atkinson’s mastery of storytelling.
The Sandycove Supper Club by Sian O’Gorman.
Do what you love. Love what you do…
After a whirlwind courtship, Roisin Kelly ignored the sceptics and objectors and married aspiring novelist Brody Brady.
Fast forward one year and Roisin’s honeymoon is well and truly
over. Brody has become her reclusive, freeloading lodger whilst he pens his masterpiece and she walks on eggshells.
Working in the Council Planning office, Roisin dreams to escape the mundanity of her life. Her true passions are cooking and entertaining her family and friends but she lacks the confidence to take it any further. When a charity supper club is suggested by best friends Jools and Richard, Roisin has no choice and is reluctantly swept along to be head chef for the fundraiser.
With the help of her friends, Roisin starts to believe that there is more to life that moody writers, hamsters and poor hygiene and that maybe she has a few dreams of her own.
And that just when you think life has nothing left to give, your whole world can change.
I got a little impatient with Roisin, as she creeps mouse like around her husband Brody. It can be difficult to confront someone, but she was so subservient. The best part for me were the food descriptions and menu planning sessions. There were some funny bits, she wants a baby, he wants a hamster. Ultimately, just not my book.
A Year at the French Farmhouse by Gillian Harvey
Escape to France with this warm, witty romantic read.
After ten years of loyal service Lily Butterworth has been made redundant. Like any clever woman, she knows the cure to redundancy is a little too much wine and her best friend. Only the next morning, Lily has more than a hangover . . . she has a whole new house – in France!
Seeing this as an opportunity instead of a disaster, she’s excited about finally moving to France, just as she and her husband always dreamed of. However, Lily is in for another surprise. Despite planning to move there for over 20 years, her husband never actually intended to go.
So begins a year in France, alone, renovating the gorgeous old farmhouse that is held together by wallpaper and wishes.
Will a year at the French farmhouse be just what Lily needs? Or could it be the previous owner, Frederique, that is the answer to Lily’s dreams?
Take a break in rural France. I imagine this is a fantasy wish fulfilment for many Britons. Lily has made the impulse purchase to end all impulse purchases, a house, sight unseen. Was it a moment of madness, or an inspired decision? She is about to find out, and her husband isn’t prepared to join the adventure. After much soul searching, she decides to go it alone. Gillian Harvey lives in France and explores the difficulties of navigating a new system, when you don’t speak the language.
Weyward by Email Hart.
Three women. Five centuries. One secret.
‘I had nature in my heart, she said. Like she did, and her mother before her. There was something about us – the Weyward women – that bonded us more tightly with the natural world. We can feel it, she said, the same way we feel rage, sorrow or joy.’
In 2019, Kate flees an abusive relationship in London for Crows Beck, a remote Cumbrian village. Her destination is Weyward Cottage, inherited from her great Aunt Violet, an eccentric entomologist.
As Kate struggles with the trauma of her past, she uncovers a secret about the women in her family. A secret dating back to 1619, when her ancestor Altha Weyward was put on trial for witchcraft…
Weyward is a stunning debut novel about gender and control – about the long echoes of male violence through the centuries. But more than that, it is a celebration of nature, female power and breaking free.
336 pages, Hardcover Expected publication February 2, 2023
My Review .Interesting, thought provoking, and enjoyable reading.
Three women linked in time by both their ancestry and abilities. Explores what it is to be and feel differently.
1619 Althea tries to mitigate the harshness of life with her abilities.
1942. Violet, privileged but unloved is deceived, and eventually is able to extract her revenge.
2019 Kate is little more than a trophy in an abusive relationship, until she decides to escape.
Each woman is trapped by her circumstance, but defiantly refuses to give in. There is a gentleness about the book.
Although the women do use their powers, I would have preferred them to be more proactive. Thanks to Good Reading magazine and the publisher for an ARC.
The Girls on The Shore (Novella) 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 a darkly delicious short story featuring DI Matthew Venn from the Two Rivers series. It was winter. Cold and clear, a different sort of day for this coast where the westerly winds usually blew rain and cloud. Detective Inspector Matthew Venn is standing by his kitchen window when he first spots them. Two young girls, facing away from him, seemingly staring towards something in the distance. They are holding hands, and they are alone.
Though not a natural with children, Matthew knows he must find out why the girls are here, on a school day, unsupervised. And so he meets Olivia and Imogen, a pair of sisters whose secrets Matthew must uncover if he hopes to get them home.
I got this through Borrow Box and was settling down for a good read. However, it was only about thirty pages, the rest of the book filled with prequel for another Vera story. I feel the description on the cover of the version I got is misleading as it was described as a novella and will lead to reader dissatisfaction. It certainly did in my case.
Madly, Deeply. The Alan Rickman Diaries.
By Alan Rickman edited by Alan Taylor.
Madly Deeply is a rare invitation into the mind of Alan Rickman—one of the most magnetic, beloved performers of our time.
From his breakout role in Die Hard to his outstanding, multifaceted performances in the Harry Potter films, Galaxy Quest, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and more, Alan Rickman cemented his legacy as a world-class actor. His air of dignity, his sonorous voice, and the knowing wit he brought to each role continue to captivate audiences today.
But Rickman’s ability to breathe life into projects wasn’t confined to just his performances. As you’ll find, Rickman’s diaries detail the extraordinary and the ordinary, flitting between worldly and witty and gossipy, while remaining utterly candid throughout. He takes us inside his home, on trips with friends across the globe, and on the sets of films and plays ranging from Sense and Sensibility, to Noël Coward’s Private Lives, to the final film he directed, A Little Chaos.
Running from 1993 to his death in 2016, the diaries provide singular insight into Rickman’s public and private life. Reading them is like listening to Rickman chatting to a close companion. Meet Rickman the consummate professional actor, but also the friend, the traveler, the fan, the director, the enthusiast; in short, the man beyond the icon.
Madly, Deeply features a photo insert, a foreword by Emma Thompson, and an afterword by Rima Horton.
Thoughtfully edited, each chapter has a preview of the year and where and what it covers. This makes it easy if you want to check a specific time in Alan’s life, and what a life it was. An enquiring mind, a passion for his craft and a generous spirit that ensured he gave back to the profession that had given him so much. Inevitably name dropping, but then Alan seemingly knew everyone. A travel schedule that would leave many of us breathless. Equally, he seemed to enjoy the simple things of meals at home.
Who will you remember him as? Die Hard’s Hans Gruber? The Sheriff of Nottingham? Harry, the unfaithful husband in Love Actually? Alexander aka Dr Lazarus in Galaxy Quest? Or the supercilious and yet in the end vulnerable Professor Snape? Or Louis XIV from A Little Chaos? Each role showcased his versatility, a talent taken too soon.
A Good Heart is Hard to Find by Trisha Ashley.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man of over forty is in possession of a major defect . . .”
Cassandra Leigh has woken as if from a bad dream: forty-four, childless and twenty-plus years into an affair with a married man. Max assures her they just need a little more patience and for his wife to die (!) but Cass is desperate for a baby and running out of time. Maybe Max is not the only man for her?
There’s her friend Jason – though he’s perhaps a little too rugged, and there’s something strange about the way his wife disappeared . . . Or there’s Dante, the mysterious stranger she meets on a dark night in his haunted manor house . . .
Cass must throw caution to the wind and claim the life she’s always wanted. Suddenly, it’s a choice between Mr Right, Mr Wrong or Mr Right Now . . .
Fantastically funny and whimsical, this heart-warming novel will charm fans of Milly Johnson and Jill Mansell.
This is a re-issue of one of Trish’s earlier books and it has a different tone to her later work. I found the jumps between shlock horror novel writing and the contemporary story slightly disconcerting. The premise was amusing and at times it worked, but at other times it struggled. It worked to the extent that I finished reading although I knew what was going to happen.
Her Worthy Rake by Charlotte Anne.
Sparkling Regency romance full of wit, warmth and mystery from a fabulouSparkling Regency romance full of wit, warmth and mystery from a fabulous new voice. If you like Georgette Heyer or all things Bridgerton, you’ll love this. Is falling for this rake a mistake?
Owen Tattershall might not have a title or immeasurable wealth like other gentlemen of his ilk, but he does have rather excellent taste in the waistcoat department-and taste counts for a lot amongst the ton. It also doesn’t hurt that his adopted mother is the dowager Marchioness of Faye and his kind-of-cousin is the Duke of Woodhal. Unfortunately, prestige didn’t save his family from the ravages of war, and now what’s left is held together by nothing more than heartbreak, hope and bravado. To keep his memories of the war at bay, Owen immerses himself in his work … until the day Sophy Calder comes colliding into his life.
Sophy has been fending for herself ever since her twin brother was press ganged to fight against Napoleon’s forces. But the war ended almost two years ago, and still he hasn’t returned. Knowing something dreadful has happened, Sophy is determined to find her missing brother, even if it means infiltrating the world that snatched him from her. But when she encounters Owen, she quickly finds her growing attraction for the only man who’s taken her seriously threatening her long-mastered control.
An addictive romp from start to finish, this delightful Regency romance is set in the world of The Unworthy Duke but is a standalone read.
I kept thinking that some of the characters were familiar and of course they were, having first appeared in The Unworthy Duke. There is no need to have read that, to enjoy this story.
Sophy’s brother is missing, she knows the ship he sailed on, but the captain now denies all knowledge of him. The Admiralty is also stone walling her attempts to find answers. She suspects that something is very wrong, and her money is running out. Yet, she can’t abandon the search.
A chance encounter with Owen Tattersall changes her circumstances and together they embark on the hunt for Sophy’s brother. There are complications, miscalculations and even a suspicion that her brother doesn’t want to be found. Then there is the growing spark of attraction between them.
The Village Inn of Secret Dreams by Alison Stedman
After escaping her parents’ unhappy marriage to sleepy Cranbridge a long time ago, Belle Clarke dreams of staying at The Black Swan Inn forever.
But with the rundown Inn threatened with closure, Belle may be forced to leave, unless a buyer can be found … quickly.
So, when her oldest friend Pete Kennedy returns from working abroad with a plan to save the Inn, Belle should be overjoyed. The trouble is, Pete has some rather radical ideas for the renovation which Belle disagrees with.
But when a snow storm hits, Belle and Pete are forced to put aside their differences and work together to help the village.
Can Belle realise her dreams to stay in Cranbridge and can Pete ever stop running from his past?
As they try to save The Black Swan Inn, secrets are revealed and just maybe they’ll finally find out how they really feel about each other.
An easy-to-read bit of escapism. Part renovation story and part romance. Cranbridge, which I kept wanting to call Cambridge, is a quintessentially English village. The centre of the village is the ageing Black Swan Inn. No longer glossy and new but dilapidated and dated. It has to be sold, but that would leave Belle homeless. When Pete returns and buys the Inn, she thinks her worries are over.
However, their different ideas and temperaments mean they can’t agree on how the inn should be renovated, or on pub food. Pete’s time in Singapore has made him almost a stranger. Getting them back together might seem impossible, but if they can’t agree, the Inn will be up for sale again.
One Night with her Viking Warrior by Sarah Rodi.
A dramatic Viking reunion romance.
Her forbidden love
Is back to claim her!
Once, Lady Rebekah shared a life-changing night with stable hand Rædan, but he disappeared the morning after. Now she’s consort to a cruel Saxon lord, and when Northmen lay siege to Ryestone Keep, Rebekah’s shocked to see Rædan leading the charge! This Viking warrior is not the man she remembers…and yet she finds herself drawn to him again. Taken as his hostage, Rebekah must decide—can she trust him with her life…and her dangerous secret?
Highly enjoyable, the story keeps you entertained as it follows the pull and push of attraction and the denial of that attraction. They knew each other years ago, but each now feels that the other betrayed them. Add in a shameful secret and a jealously deranged ex-partner and the scene is set for some highly charged action.
Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves.
Shetland Detective Jimmy Perez knows it will be a difficult homecoming when he returns to the Fair Isles to introduce his fiancee, Fran, to his parents. When a woman’s body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isles bird observatory, Jimmy must investigate the old-fashioned way.
Delves into Jimmy Perez’s back story as he returns home to present his fiancée to his parents. They are hoping he may return to the island, but Perez has other plans for a new life with artist fiancée Fran and her daughter Cassie. Storms close in and the Island is cut off, so when a murder happens Jimmy has to rely on his own skills and resources. Can he work without compromising his integrity or that of the scene? How can he replicate forensics? It’s back to old fashioned policing and his knowledge of the community. In a sense it is locked room mystery set on the island, as no-one can get in or out from Fair Isle. The crime comes at a personal cost and we know Jimmy Perez will never be the same again.
————————————————————- January saw record breaking temperatures here and being indoors was often pleasanter than being outside. Once again my reading was mixed bag of lighter and more serious reads.
When the sand burns your feet, its too hot for the beach!
Do you only read one genre? If so what drew you to it? Id love to know!
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.
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 byJoshua 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Notethe 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
February in my part of Australia (Perth)started off hot. I mean frying eggs on the pavement hot, don’t walk out in bare feet hot. We ended up with a climate record-breaking month. Many days reached temperatures of over 40c ( 104F) While it’s not great for much activity, it is perfect for reading under the air-conditioner. It also is a month with a poignant anniversary for me, so most of my reading was light. Additionally, I am hoping to join a Regency romance project, so some of my reading is geared towards that.
It’s in His Kiss by Julia Quinn. (7th Bridgerton Book)
The seventh novel in Julia Quinn’s globally beloved and bestselling Bridgerton Family series, set in Regency times and now a series created by Shonda Rhimes for Netflix. This is Hyacinth’s story: she’s all grown up and ready to cause havoc . . .
All the ton agree: there is no one quite like Hyacinth Bridgerton..
Fiendishly smart, devilishly outspoken and – according to some, particularly Gareth St. Clair – probably best in small doses. But there’s something about her – something charming and vexing – that grabs one and won’t quite let go.
Gareth and Hyacinth cross paths at the annual – and annually discordant – Smythe-Smith musicale. To Hyacinth, Gareth’s every word seems a dare, and she offers to help him out with a knotty inheritance problem he’s facing. However, as they delve into the mysterious St Clair history, they discover that the answers they seek lie not in the past – but in each other; and that there is nothing as simple – or as complicated – as a single, perfect kiss.
Find out why readers love Julia Quinn .
I watched the first Bridgerton series last year, but sadly, had only the vaguest recollections of Hyacinth. As it is the seventh book in the series and I have only read one, Benedict’s story, I expected to have some catching up to do. I wanted to fall in love with the characters and plot, but I didn’t. Eloise has always been the outspoken and witty one and Hyacinth didn’t gel for me. One of Gareth’s actions didn’t sit well with me. One for the fans, I think.
The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
For the first time in 20 years, Ann Cleeves –international bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows– embarks on a gripping new series.
In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.
Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.
The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.
An astonishing new novel told with compassion and searing insight, The Long Call will captivate fans of Vera and Shetland, as well as new readers.
I have always been a fan of Ann Cleeves, so I was interested in reading her new series. Matthew Venn is a quiet thoughtful man, one who I am sure will develop as the series progresses. For now, it is his knowledge of the religious community he left behind that informs part of his investigation. They say you can never go back, but sometimes you have to, so you can move forward. There is a TV adaptation of the book, which altered a couple of the plot points. I preferred the book.
Someone to Romance by Mary Balogh
Love comes when you least expect it in this captivating new novel in the Wescott Regency romance series from New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh.
Lady Jessica Archer lost her own interest in the glittering excitement of romance after her cousin and dearest friend, Abigail Westcott, was rejected by the ton when her father was revealed to be a bigamist. Ever practical, however, once she’s twenty-five, she decides it’s time to wed. Though she no longer believes she will find true love, she is still very eligible. She is, after all, the sister of Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby.
Jessica considers the many qualified gentlemen who court her. But when she meets the mysterious Gabriel Thorne, who has returned to England from the New World to claim an equally mysterious inheritance, Jessica considers him completely unsuitable, because he had the audacity, when he first met her, to announce his intention to wed her.
When Jessica guesses who Gabriel really is, however, and watches the lengths to which he will go in order to protect those who rely upon him, she is drawn to his cause—and to the man.
I enjoyed this. Lady Jessica is a character who is strong-willed, independent and finally ready to settle down to marriage. Somehow none of her current suitors’ appeal, too dull, too slavish in their devotion, or only after her money. At twenty -five she really should be married. Gabriel Thorne, piques her interest, although, of course, he is totally unsuitable and totally intriguing.
Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams
The New York Times bestselling author of Her Last Flight returns with a gripping and profoundly human story of Cold War espionage and family devotion that proves again why Elin Hilderbrand says Beatriz Williams “is writing the best historical fiction out there.”
In the autumn of 1948, Iris Digby vanishes from her London home with her American diplomat husband and their two children. The world is shocked by the family’s sensational disappearance. Were they eliminated by the Soviet intelligence service? Or have the Digby’s defected to Moscow with a trove of the West’s most vital secrets?
Four years later, Ruth Macallister receives a postcard from the twin sister she hasn’t seen since their catastrophic parting in Rome in the summer of 1940, as war engulfed the continent and Iris fell desperately in love with an enigmatic United States Embassy official named Sasha Digby. Within days, Ruth is on her way to Moscow, posing as the wife of counterintelligence agent Sumner Fox in a precarious plot to extract the Digby’s from behind the Iron Curtain.
But the complex truth behind Iris’s marriage defies Ruth’s understanding, and as the sisters race toward safety, a dogged Soviet agent forces them to make a heartbreaking choice between two irreconcilable loyalties
Smart and compelling but you need to pay attention as it moves at a fast pace between places and people. I remember my parents talking about Burgess and Maclean and Philby. The shadowy world of espionage means loyalty is fluid and who knows who a friend or an enemy is. At times I felt impatient with Iris and her devotion to Sasha, a charming but most unsatisfactory husband. The conclusion made it all worth it.
Romancing The Duke by Tessa Dare.
In the first in Tessa Dare’s captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .
As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.
And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.
Ugly duckling turned swan?
Abducted by handsome highwayman?
Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?
No, no, and… Heh.
Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?
A delightful romp of a book. Izzy Goodnight is a unique character, who gained both my sympathy and admiration. She is unfazed by the surly Duke, Ranson Roxbury. He is in turns enraged, baffled and unwilling to admit she may have got through to him. Unless they work together neither will have a home. Surprisingly Izzy’s past is the answer to their present problems.
The Garden House by Marcia Willett.
After the death of her father, El moves into his home just outside Tavistock in Devon. Fresh out of university and dangling on the precipice of adulthood she questions what it is she really wants from life. Although her childhood friend, Will, is there to help her through her grief she soon realises there were things her father was hiding from her…
Jules is also mourning Martin, but they thought it best to keep their relationship secret, she must now grieve entirely alone. All she has to remember her love are the memories of their time spent at a beautiful community garden and teashop nearby. The Garden House is where they met, fell in love and where their secret affair will inevitably be uncovered.
As El and Will begin to piece together her father’s secrets they bring them closer and closer to both Jules and a truth that is difficult to face.
I’ve always enjoyed previous Marica Willet books and anticipated an easy and enjoyable read. Unfortunately, I’d say it’s one for the fans as so many characters from previous books make appearances. I did recollect who a couple were but overall, it left me feeling dissatisfied.
Someone to Love by Mary Balogh.
Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune that will
forever alter the lives of everyone in his family—including the daughter no one knew he had…
Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. Now she discovers that the late Earl of Riverdale was her father and that she has inherited his fortune. She is also overjoyed to learn she has siblings. However, they want nothing to do with her or her attempts to share her new wealth. But the new earl’s guardian is interested in Anna…
Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, keeps others at a distance. Yet something prompts him to aid Anna in her transition from orphan to lady. As London society and her newfound relatives threaten to overwhelm Anna, Avery steps in to rescue her and finds himself vulnerable to feelings and desires he has hidden so well and for so long.
Having read Someone to Romance I was interested to read the story of how Avery and Anna came to be married. It seemed an unlikely pairing. The initial set-up was confusing with so many Dukes, Duchesses, Earls and assorted nobility crowded onto the pages. Anna is perhaps just as a bit too good to be true, while Avery is not as substantial a presence as I would have liked in a romance.
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles.
Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.
Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.
Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.
A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are–family, friends, and favorite authors–The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.
At times a book just speaks to you and for me, The Paris Library was one of those books. It is so obviously a library and book lovers’ book. To some of us, a place without a library is soulless. Libraries bring communities together and none more so during WW2 than the American Library in Paris. This dual timeline story focuses on two women and how their lives become connected. Odile in wartime France and Lily in Montana in 1983.
Odile has memories she’d rather forget, while Lily has longings she can’t even begin to explain.
During the Nazi occupation, even books became dangerous, many were banned and confiscated. And of course, the doctrine of ‘racial purity ‘ meant people were no longer permitted in some areas. The library had welcomed everyone, French, Russian, American, English, Jewish. But now Jews were disappearing, rounded up by the French police.
Long-time library regular Professor Cohen has entrusted her novel to Odile and the first section reads, ‘ The Afterlife is filed with the heavenly scent of musty books. Its walls are lined with tall bookcases full of forgotten tomes. In this cozy mezzanine between worlds, there are no window nor clocks, though an occasional echo of children’s laughter or whiff of chocolate croissant wafts in from the ground floor.’
I stopped reading and held the book close at such a beautiful description. A book for bibliophiles and anyone else who enjoys a good story.
Summer Kisses at Mermaids Point by Sarah Bennett
Laurie Morgan runs a café in the small seaside community of Mermaids Point, named after the beauties rumoured to live in the waters a few miles off the top of the point. When a hazy image is posted online of what appears to be a mermaid, the café and the village are soon full to bursting with curious sightseers.
The most eye-catching of the new arrivals is handsome author, Jake Smith, who has rented a cottage for the summer while he works on his new book. Or so he says. In fact, he is a journalist, burned out and disillusioned with life, whose editor has sent him on a crack-pot hunt for mermaids… Jake quickly finds himself drawn to village life, and to the gorgeous woman who runs the local café. But he soon suspects there’s trouble lurking beneath the idyllic façade, and when it looks like Laurie’s family might be involved, Jake faces a difficult choice. Pursue the truth, or protect the woman he’s beginning to fall in love with…
Warm, escapist, feel-good and altogether brilliant story-telling from bestselling author Sarah Bennett. Perfect for all fans of Trisha Ashley and Milly Johnson.
A fun escapist read. Café owner Laurie has a contented life in Mermaid Point, but something is missing. Life is predictable, and her past has left her unwilling to trust men.
Jake Smith is undercover on what he regards as a stupid assignment, the mermaid hunt. He suspects that some in the village may be involved in what he thinks is an elaborate scam.
Laurie thaws to Jake while he is increasingly holding his cynicism at bay until events take an unexpected turn.
Romancing Mr Bridgerton: Penelope & Colin’s Story by Julia Quinn.
Everyone knows that Colin Bridgerton is the most charming man in London. Penelope Featherington has secretly adored her best friend’s brother for…well, it feels like forever. After half a lifetime of watching Colin Bridgerton from afar, she thinks she knows everything about him, until she stumbles across his deepest secret…and fears she doesn’t know him at all.
Colin Bridgerton is tired of being thought nothing but an empty-headed charmer, tired of everyone’s preoccupation with the notorious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, who can’t seem to publish an edition without mentioning him in the first paragraph. But when Colin returns to London from a trip abroad he discovers nothing in his life is quite the same – especially Penelope Featherington! The girl haunting his dreams. But when he discovers that Penelope has secrets of her own, this elusive bachelor must decide…is she his biggest threat – or his promise of a happy ending?
Like many of us, I have a soft spot for the overlooked Penelope, who has loved Colin from afar. Now he has returned from abroad and she finds him as charming as ever. But, for the first time, he’s noticing her. They share banter and after resigning herself to spinsterhood, a ray of hope grows in Penelope’s heart. Until her secret, threatens to derail the budding love affair. Can he look past it, does he care enough, is she worth it? Will they face the future together?
Most of my reading was escapist reading this month, interspersed with a few more serious choices. For me, reading is about enjoyment and entertainment. Maybe I ‘should ‘ read more serious literary works, but I am content with what I read and I don’t think anyone should shame you for your reading choices.