Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Tell No Lies – Lisa Hartley Extract and 5* Review

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Now they’re coming after Caelan’s team…

A tortured body is found in a basement. Drug dealing and people smuggling is on the rise. Then police start going missing.

There seems to be no connection between the crimes, but Detective Caelan Small senses something isn’t right.

Plunged into a new investigation, lives are on the line. And in the web of gangs, brothels and nerve-shattering undercover work, Caelan must get to the truth – or be killed trying.

And then there’s Nicky… 

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Extract

‘Caelan Small stood by the window, staring up at the sky. Still dark, dawn beginning to send a yellow and red glow across the horizon. The window was double-glazed, doing its best to mask the sound of the London traffic thundering by beyond, but not wholly succeeding. She turned away, closed the curtains. On the bed, the colours of the screen glaring bright against the plain white duvet cover, her phone began to ring again. She stepped closer, checked the caller’s name. Shook her head and ignored the call. The fourth from the same number in as many hours.

‘Take the hint, Nicky,’ she muttered. Eventually, they would have to talk, but not yet. The pain was too raw, too vivid. This was a new kind of heartbreak, one Caelan had no idea how to process. She lifted a hand to her bruised cheek, touched the dressing protecting the wound on her temple. The stitches itched, and she fought the urge to tear off the bandage. She needed clean clothes but would have to buy them. Everything she owned was back at the flat in Rotherhithe, and she wouldn’t be returning there anytime soon. She also needed to eat, though she wasn’t the least bit hungry. Her time was her own; her only instruction to rest and recover. Her injuries would take time to heal, and as for the resting, she had struggled to sleep for more than a few minutes. The ache in her chest had nothing to do with her cuts and bruises.

Her phone was ringing again. Irritated, Caelan snatched it up, glared at the screen. A different name, but someone else she didn’t want to speak to. She sat on the bed, then lay back, the phone still squawking beside her. As a shrill beep informed her that the caller had left a voicemail, Caelan closed her eyes.

‘No answer.’ Assistant Commissioner Elizabeth Beckett shook her head as she set her phone down.

Across the table, Detective Nicky Sturgess bowed her head.

‘I’m not surprised. When she left last night—’

‘She was shocked and in pain. I understand. She’d had a difficult day. All the more reason for her to answer her phone this morning. I told her I’d be in touch.’

‘She’s hurt, ma’am. Emotionally as well as physically. In hindsight, me turning up unannounced wasn’t the best move.’

Beckett held up a hand. ‘Regardless, we need her here. Your personal relationship is irrelevant.’

Nicky looked up, folded her arms. ‘Except if that were true, Caelan would be answering her phone.’

‘You told me you wanted to get straight back out into the field.’

‘And I do.’

‘You know you can’t go back to Edmonton, especially now.’

‘Why not? Who’s going to remember me?’

‘We can’t take the risk.’

‘What aren’t you telling me?’

Beckett’s lips thinned. ‘As I explained to you last night when you were released from the safe house, we have a major scandal to contain. If the press found out one of own officers was responsible for the murder of a ten-year-old child…’

‘I see how it could be awkward.’ Nicky’s voice was ice. Beckett stared at her.

‘It’s not your concern. I had considered sending both you and Caelan to Edmonton to pick up where you left off.’

Nicky snorted. ‘I’m sure she’d be delighted. Why both of us?’

‘It’s a complex operation.’

‘No more than most.’ Nicky inclined her head. ‘Ma’am…’

Beckett tapped a fingernail on the table, considering. ‘I think it would be best if we talked again later.’

Nicky got to her feet. She pushed her chair under the table, gripping the back of it tightly. ‘You mean you want to ask Caelan whether she’ll work with me?’

Beckett shot a warning glance. ‘Not at all.’

‘And there’s me thinking you were in charge.’

‘We’ll speak later, Detective Sturgess.’

Contempt clear in her expression, Nicky strode from the room.

When she woke several hours later, Caelan listened to the voicemail. She slid off the bed and paced over to the window as she waited for Beckett to answer.

‘Caelan. How are you? Good of you to find the time to call.’

She paused, rubbing her forehead. So this was how Beckett was going to play it. ‘How’s Ewan?’

‘Two cracked ribs, bruising. He’s at home, like you.’

‘I’m on leave on your instruction. Take a couple of weeks, you said.’

A sharp exhalation. ‘I remember.’

‘And after I arrived home last night, I had an unexpected visitor.’ Caelan swallowed, the words catching in her throat. ‘I’m sure you can guess who it was.’

Beckett hesitated. ‘It came as a surprise.’

‘You think?’

‘As I’m sure you can understand, Nicky’s sudden disappearance was necessary, for her own protection.’

‘It was cruel. Did you even think about her family? You didn’t have to—’

‘I had no other option. And when you’ve calmed down, had time to absorb it, you’ll see it was the right decision.’

‘With respect, ma’am, I doubt it.’

‘Almost everyone else connected to the case is dead. Nicky going into hiding saved her. Remember that.’ Beckett’s voice was devoid of emotion.

‘I’m not likely to forget.’

‘We need to meet.’

‘Why?’ Caelan turned from the window. She had walked away from the Met once. Maybe it was time to do so again.

‘We have a… situation developing,’ said Beckett.

‘You said you didn’t want to see me for a couple of weeks. That was less than twenty-four hours ago.’

‘I know, but there was an incident this morning. I’d like to discuss it with you.’

‘What’s happened? Is this about Nasenby?’

‘I’m not going to talk about it over the phone. Are you at home?’

‘Home?’ Caelan laughed. ‘I don’t have a home.’

‘What? But you—’

‘Turns out I didn’t inherit the apartment after all. I’m sure you can figure out why.’ Caelan tried to keep the bitterness from her tone, but it was there all the same. There was a silence as Beckett thought about it. It didn’t last long.

‘Then where are you?’ No sympathy, no warmth. Standard Beckett. Yesterday, when Caelan had identified and confronted a killer, been beaten and hospitalised by him, her boss had been concerned, courteous. Almost friendly. Today, she was back to cool and detached.

Caelan rubbed her eyes. ‘A hotel.’

‘I’ll come to you.’

‘I’m going to go out to get some food.’ Caelan picked up her bag. Waited.

Another sigh. ‘Fine. I’ll meet you. Where?’’

My Thoughts… 

It took me a few chapters to get into this story, probably because it was the first Detective Caelan Small novel I’ve read. Undercover police work is both physically and mentally demanding on the people who do it. They are effectively living a lie, and this must have an often catastrophic effect on their personal lives and relationships.

Caelen is a believable, likeable character who makes you want to read what happens next. Mislead about the fate of her partner, Nicky, Caelen feels betrayed and vulnerable. It is questionable whether she is in the right mental state to go undercover again, but circumstances dictate, and she finds herself working amid people traffickers and drug dealers in the wake of two horrific murders.

The fast-paced, detailed plot is cleverly written, with lots of action and crime, without the need for graphic violence. The vividly depicted characters and authentic settings draw you in making this an absorbing read. The story ends on a note of finality, but I hope this isn’t the end for Detective Caelen Small.

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Author Photograph

Lisa Hartley lives with her partner, son, two dogs and several cats. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Studies, then had a variety of jobs but kept writing in her spare time. She is currently working on the next DS Catherine Bishop novel, as well as a new series with Canelo.

 Twitter:   @rainedonparade

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: A Known Evil – Aidan Conway Extract and 4* Review

Blog Tour - A Known Evil

A serial killer stalks the streets of Rome…

A city on lockdown.
In the depths of a freakish winter, Rome is being torn apart by a serial killer dubbed The Carpenter intent on spreading fear and violence. Soon another woman is murdered – hammered to death and left with a cryptic message nailed to her chest.

A detective in danger.
Maverick Detective Inspectors Rossi and Carrara are assigned to the investigation. But when Rossi’s girlfriend is attacked – left in a coma in hospital – he becomes the killer’s new obsession, and his own past hurtles back to haunt him.

A killer out of control.
As the body count rises, with one perfect murder on the heels of another, the case begins to spiral out of control. In a city wracked by corruption and paranoia, the question is: how much is Rossi willing to sacrifice to get to the truth?

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Photo Credit: Megan http://www.seekmyscribbles.com

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Photo Credit: Megan http://www.seekmyscribbles.com

Extract

One

‘They’d found the body in the entrance to their block of flats where, sometimes, bleary-eyed, they would avoid treading on the dog shit some neighbour couldn’t care less about cleaning up – teenagers on the way to school at eight in the morning. They’d been the first to leave the building, apparently, although it was now known the victim didn’t live in the same complex. Paola Gentili, mother of three, a cleaner, on her way to work. Multiple blows to the cranium. No sign of sexual assault. No attempt to appropriate money or valuables. No sign of a struggle.

So, it seemed she had been taken completely unawares. Better for her. Husband had been informed. Distraught. Had given them the few preliminary details they required without the need for any formal interview. That would have to wait until they got the go-ahead from the presiding magistrate. But the guy seemed clean enough going by the checks the new ‘privatized’ IT system had given them in record time. What social media access she had was regular and only moderately used. Meanwhile, they’d started looking into the other stuff. No particular leads. No affairs. No money issues. No links to known families in the organized sector. Worked in a ministry in the centre of the city. No unexplained calls. Just waiting now on the forensics guys to come up with something more concrete to work with.

Inspector Michael Rossi had only just driven through the gates in the Alfa Romeo. He had known immediately that something big was coming by the urgency of Carrara’s steps as he’d emerged from the baroque archway leading from the Questura’s offices to the car park. If Rossi had bothered to switch his phone on before it would have got him out of bed, what? Twenty minutes earlier? But that wouldn’t have saved anyone’s life. Now, the debris of takeaway espressos and sugar sachets violated the bare desk space separating them in his office. Their own cleaner had just been in, chatty as ever, oblivious as yet to the news.

“Other than that,” said Carrara, “we’re totally in the dark on this one. But it does look like there’s a possible pattern emerging.”

“You’ve been busy,” said Rossi.

The second such killing in as many weeks. The modus operandi and the victim profile bore distinct similarities, but no one had dared yet to use the term. Serial? Was it possible? In Rome?

Detective Inspector Luigi Carrara. Five years Rossi’s junior, several years under his belt in anti-mafia, undercover, eco-crime, narcotics, now on the Rome Serious Crime Squad. Recently married, he had the air of one of those men who never seem to have overdone anything in their lives: hardly a wrinkle, haircut every month, bright, fluid in his movements. Just the man Rossi needed on a Monday morning like this one.

“How similar?” said Rossi, still struggling to form what he considered decent sentences, though his mind was already whirring into action. “The weapon, for instance?”

“Blunt instrument. Iron bar or hammer, probably.”

“Who’s on the scene?”

“A few boys from the local station. They got the magistrate there sharpish though. Hopefully, they’ll have disturbed as little as possible. She was carrying ID, so we got to work with that straight off, once the news came in on the police channel.”

“Press know?”

“Not officially. But they will.”

“Silvestre?”

“Out of town, I think.”

“Good. Let’s go,” said Rossi grabbing his battered North Face from the coat stand, feeling more vigorous and even a little bit up for it. “I want to see this one for myself.” ‘

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Photo Credit: Megan http://www.seekmyscribbles.com
My Thoughts…
‘A Known Evil’, is an informative, well- researched international thriller. It details a serial killer’s exploits in a well-paced plot, set against a background of Italian politics and bureaucratic corruption, involving the church, police, judiciary and state.
If you are expecting graphic, serial killing detail, and knife-edge suspense, you may be disappointed. This story concentrates on how the corruption in all aspects of Italian life has facilitated the serial killer. Hampering the police investigation and furthering his and the corrupt officials’ sinister agenda.
Michael Rossi is the senior investigating officer; he is well-educated, a philosopher and a theologer, he sees his police officer role as a vocation. An enlighted individual who looks at the bigger picture, which helps him to be an excellent detective. His success allows him a certain latitude with his bosses, but they still frustrate his progress if he threatens their much-prized status quo. There are shades of ‘Morse’ and ‘Hathaway’ in this character with the Italian influence of ‘Zen’, and he is both likeable and interesting, worthy of more than one book.
I read this story in a day, intricately constructed with multiple settings and subplots that demand concentration to see how they relate to the overall story. The short chapters allow action and detail to be delivered in manageable bites, keeping the story’s momentum and suspense levels high.
There are plot twists and misinformation that keep you guessing. The reader glimpses aspects of the main characters’ past lives, perhaps the springboard for further stories in the series? The atmospheric, edgy ending answers all the questions posed throughout.
‘A Known Evil, ‘ explores in vivid detail the political intrigue, sinister organised crime and apparently random assassinations in a chaotic city drowning in corruption.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Killer Reads in return for an honest review.

 

Posted in Book Review

Don’t Trust Me 4*Review Joss Stirling

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When she arrives at work to discover every trace of the company she was working for has disappeared, Jessica’s life spirals into freefall.

Her romance with Michael, a celebrated criminologist, is already in trouble. He is sick of the unpredictable behaviour caused by her ADHD and is convinced she is a fantasist. When his flat is burgled, and precious belongings that remind him of his dead wife are stolen, he blames her.

Forced to prove her innocence, Jessica sets out to unravel the events of the last few months. But when she stumbles on a dead body, the lies, deceptions and betrayals that have dogged her whole life come back to haunt her.

Can anybody trust her?

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My Thoughts…

A cleverly written psychological thriller, with a charismatic, if flawed protagonist who finds her life in turmoil when her boss and his business disappear without a trace when she returns from holiday.
There is a constant niggle at the back of your mind when you’re reading the early chapters of this story as to whether the unfolding events are products of Jessica’s troubled psyche. She is an unreliable protagonist, who abuses her prescription medication and has a naive attitude to sexual partners that threatens her career and self-esteem.
Despite her self-proclaimed flaws and lack of judgement, Jessica doesn’t lack insight into her problems and therefore comes across as a believable witness as the story progresses.
Almost any of the characters could be the antagonist, and this gives the story a cosy mystery ambience at times. There are conspiracy theory elements and plenty of mysteries to solve before Jessica can vindicate herself and solve the puzzle that has become her life.
The only person who truly stands by her is Drew, a delightfully, quirky character who is often shocked by Jessica’s exploits but always gives her the benefit of the doubt, emotional support that has been missing in her life to date.
The plot has plenty of twists and misinformation which keeps the reader guessing, I did work out most of the story about halfway through, but this didn’t spoil the story for me. However, I do feel that the antagonist is revealed sooner than necessary, making the ending more of an action thriller and losing some of its psychological impacts.
‘Don’t Trust Me’, is an eminently, readable thriller that will hold your interest right to the last page.
I received a copy of this book from Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

Posted in Book Review

A Country Escape – 5* Review Kate Fforde

Fran has always wanted to be a farmer. And now it looks as if her childhood dream is about to come true.

She has just moved into a beautiful but very run-down farm in the Cotswolds, currently owned by an old aunt who has told Fran that if she manages to turn the place around in a year, the farm will be hers.

But Fran knows nothing about farming. She might even be afraid of cows.

She’s going to need a lot of help from her best friend Issi, and also from her wealthy and very eligible neighbour – who might just have his own reasons for being so supportive.

Is it the farm he is interested in? Or Fran herself?

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My Thoughts…

A possible inheritance, a rundown farm, rare breed cows and cheese may seem to be strange themes for a romance but when Fran takes a chance on ‘the good life’, she becomes involved with all of the above and finds that love happens in the most unusual places.

‘A Country Escape’, begins for Fran when she leaves her cheffing job in London to run a distant relative’s farm after she moved into a care home. The farm is rundown but has potential, the question is, has Fran the expertise and finance to realise it?
‘A Country Escape’, gives the reader a chance to do just that. From the first page, you experience life in the countryside with a delightful array of characters both human and animal.

Courage, loyalty and tenacity are all characteristics that aptly describe Fran, she wants to experience something new and is willing to risk everything to have the lifestyle she craves. Antony is a successful businessman as well as the ‘man next door’ he is more than helpful and seems to be the perfect neighbour, but her cousin Amy has warned Fran about his motives, so can she trust him?

Both the characters and the plot are realistic. Dairy farming and artisan cheesemaking are vividly described and allow the reader to experience what Fran does; this makes the story come to life.
There is plenty of angst; the appearance of Roy, a rival for the inheritance, and Amy’s fickleness towards Fran’s attempts at running the farm. Both of these sources of conflict, make Fran believe she will never achieve her goal.

There is a lovely romantic thread to this story; it seems nothing is too much trouble for Antony where Fran is concerned, and Issi finds that everything to do with cows is enthralling when the herdsman Tig shares them with her. Both romances are affected by the outcome of the inheritance. Is this Antony’s real interest in Fran, and what will happen to Issi and Tig, if he loses his home and livelihood? The delightful ending has both poignant and romantic elements.

A lovely romantic tale, which provides the reader with everything they need to enjoy an escape to the country.

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK Cornerstone – Century via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Scandal – Sasha Morgan Extract and 4* Review

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As the new custodian of the ancestral home, Treweham Hall, Tobias Cavendish-Blake soon discovers exactly what he’s inherited. Instant financial action is needed if the Hall is to survive the mounting debts it’s racking up. Adding insult to injury the family is forced to sell the Gate House on the estate to lottery winners Gary and Tracy Belcher – not the kind of neighbours Tobias was hoping for.

Megan Taylor inherits her grandmother’s country cottage in the village of Treweham and decides to make a fresh start there, taking a job at the local country pub.

When Megan meets Tobias, the attraction is clear, but she is determined to resist his charms, put off by his reputation and that of his best friends – the rakish Seamus Fox, son of a millionaire racehorse trainer and dastardly jockey Dylan Delany. But Tobias is a hard man to resist…

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Extract

‘‘I’m due a race soon,’ Dylan chipped in. ‘A substantial wager would bring in the bacon.’

Tobias grinned. ‘What if you lose?’

‘I never do, not when it matters,’ replied Dylan with confidence and a wink. Dylan’s ocean-blue eyes twinkled with mischief. He was fiercely competitive, and his athletic physique made him the hugely successful jockey he was. His ancestry dated back to Romany travellers, and he attributed his gift of the gab to this, as well as his success with the ladies. Dylan Delany was a real catch, everyone knew that, but the trouble was he refused to be caught. He weaved his way through various relationships, ducking and diving, avoiding any commitment. The more unobtainable he became, the more he was desired.

Dylan had a reputation, and it took some upholding. He couldn’t help it if he loved women. He genuinely did like their company. He appreciated their femininity, the way they dressed so elegantly, their fragrance, their beautiful shiny, long hair, or sassy short hair, for that matter – he liked both. He was a sucker for any damsel – he was only human, after all. But deep down Dylan was a decent man and hated to see one of his close friends in any kind of trouble. Seamus was equally protective of his best friend.

‘True,’ agreed Seamus, ‘but it’s too much of a risk in the current climate.’

Dylan looked at him. ‘Says the Fox for whom I’ve made a fortune.’

‘True again,’ said Seamus with a laugh. Fox was a fitting name for him, with his ginger hair and sly, cunning wit.

‘Sometimes I feel like selling the whole bloody place, lock, stock and barrel to some rich American… throw in the title, too,’ moaned Tobias.

‘Surely it’s not that bad,’ sighed Seamus. He’d grown to love Tobias’ home, spending many a childhood summer there, and he smiled wistfully remembering the scrapes they’d got into. He’d also grown to love the family, who always made him feel so welcome. In later years Treweham Hall had acted as a temporary retreat when he had fallen out with his father. Sean Fox was a formidable force. He had a driving ambition where his horses were concerned and ran his stables with a cast-iron fist. Although he loved both his sons, he wouldn’t tolerate any form of subordination and treated them as he would any other member of staff, strictly but fairly. A young Seamus didn’t agree with his father’s authoritarian methods, and his defiance had got him booted out of the Fox household. The Cavendish-Blakes came to the rescue, giving him the full use of the Gate House on their estate. This had proved to be the perfect solution, especially to Seamus’ mother, whose desperate pleas to bring Seamus home had been totally ignored by her hardened husband.’

My Thoughts… 

Treweham is a quintessential English village, full of camaraderie, family life, gossip and the occasional scandal. There are a plethora of characters who are realistic; each has their role in the village life and a story to tell.
An easy to follow the plot, written from multi-points of view, in short chapters, interlocks nicely as the book progresses. Fast- paced the story has multiple themes; saving the ancestral home, winning the lottery, secret love and tabloid scandals being the main ones. Gentle romance, sensual affairs and a mystery hidden in the depths of the cottage Megan inherits from her beloved Grandmother are all explored and make this an interesting read.
This story is pure escapism and has the makings of an excellent series of books.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Morgan, SashaSasha lives in a rural, coastal village in Lancashire with her husband and Labrador dog. She has always written stories from a very young age and finds her fictional world so much more exciting than the real one.

 

Posted in Book Review

Make Me Want Katee Robert 4* Review


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She’s taking control. And it’s driving him wild!

Lucy Baudin’s ex did a number on her self-esteem, but it’s time for her to regain control. In her job as a lawyer, she’s bold, confident. But in the bedroom, she needs inspiration to reawaken her inner seductress. Asking her friend Gideon Novak for help seems wrong…yet so deliciously right! 

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My Thoughts…

‘Make Me Want’ is a friend to lover story with plenty of sizzle.

Lucy and Gideon are both successful career driven individuals. Gideon doesn’t do relationships, and Lucy doesn’t date since her sleazy ex-lover betrayed her. They have been friends for years, but when Lucy dumped her ex, she lost his friends including Gideon too. Gideon feels he owes her and so agrees to her first proposal, even though he thinks it’s crazy, but when she tells him, she needs a  love teacher he should refuse, but can’t.

As her lessons progress, Lucy realises she wants Gideon as more than a friend but he shies away from commitment and she doesn’t want to risk the friendship they have just rekindled.  Gideon has always wanted Lucy, and now he has her, can he hold onto her forever?

Dominated by sensual, hot love scenes, Lucy and Gideon’s emotional angst and engagement increases, as their physical relationship burns out of control. Plot twists are limited in a story that predominantly focuses on Lucy and Gideon’s  internal conflict. They need to decide what they want from each other and whether they can risk their hearts.  Well written love scenes and a fast-paced plot make this a book that’s addictive and easy to read in one sitting. The perfect afternoon delight.

I received a copy of this book from Mills & Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

Posted in Book Review

Coming Home 5*Review Fern Britton

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When the only place you want to be is home…

When Ella’s beloved grandmother dies, she comes back to the beautiful Cornish coast to heal her heart. There she finds her home again and discovers a new life, and new love… But she also opens a treasure trove of secrets.

Sennen left Cornwall a young single mum but unable to cope. She left her children, her family and part of her. She’s spent the years hiding from her past, hiding from herself.
Now it’s time to come back. To Cornwall. To face her mistakes. To pray for forgiveness. To hope for a future with her daughter.

 

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My Thoughts…

‘Coming Home’ is the pain and secrets of three generations of women intricately woven into a beautiful, emotional tapestry of, atonement, forgiveness, love and sacrifice.  Believable, complex, flawed characters struggle to come to terms with their past losses and mistakes. 

The story revolves around  Sennen who at seventeen leaves her two young children in her parents’ care and runs away. Years later after the death of her mother  Adela, Sennen returns, wanting to atone and receive forgiveness from the children she left behind. Ella returns to Cornwall to rebuild her life after her grandmother’s death. She was the only mother she ever knew and learning to live without her is hard, Kit her boyfriend is the rock she needs to lean on, and their deepening romance provides a thread of hope in a sad story full of lost opportunity and misunderstanding.

The cleverly layered plot reveals that Sennen’s actions are not as selfish as they first appear, having two children at such a young age, stems from her insecurity and lack of guidance from her bohemian parents, they love her, but they don’t guide her.Naive, she lacks perspective and makes impulsive decisions without considering the consequences for herself and those she loves. 

With timeslips back to the courtship of Sennen’s parents, Bill and Adela and Sennen’s life after she leaves home, the conflict she faces from her son Henry, her guilt and the reasons why she has left it so long to return to her children are easier to understand.

The pacing makes this story easy to read and the characters draw you into their lives. There is a thought-provoking twist in this gentle story that illustrates that there are always two points of view and sometimes forgiveness and making a new start is the only way to heal.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

Posted in Book Review

The Duchess Deal Tessa Dare 5* Review

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My Thoughts…

‘The Duchess Deal’, is the first Regency romance I’ve read in a couple of years. A clever mix of humour and poignancy laced through with sensual romance, Ash and Emma’s story is the perfect weekend read.

The Duke of Ashbury’s reclusive life is disturbed when desperate seamstress, Emma demands payment for his ex- fiancee’s wedding gown. From their first meeting, you can tell that Emma is a strong, independent woman, ready to defy convention and risk all to ensure her survival. Ashbury believes her intrusion to be serendipitous and wastes no time in making her an unlikely offer, he is brusque, haughty and hurting and the marriage of convenience he proposes riddled with rules designed to protect his already battered heart and self-esteem.

The couples unlikely romance is aided and abetted by Kahn, the butler and Mary, the ladies maid and indeed the whole of the Duke’s staff at his London residence. They want to see the Duke happy and believe Emma is the perfect match for him.

Painfully disfigured from a horrific war injury Ashbury’s prickly nature is exacerbated, he shuns society and human contact and has only allowed the marriage of convenience to get an heir; enabling him to honour his father’s memory and fulfil his duty to his tenants. Emma sees the man beneath the scars, moved by his sense of responsibility and caring nature. Falling in love will make her vulnerable and is something she can’t afford to risk, but is it already too late?

The plot has good pacing, the necessary twists and lots of humour, which counterbalance the angst the couple experience, as they battle their internal demons and external nemeses to get their happy ever after.

Emma’s friendship with an unusual set of ladies gives her courage as she fights to understand her complicated husband, I look forward to reading about their lives in later books.

The Duchess Deal is an engaging, lively, sensual Regency romance with delightfully flawed, likeable characters and a lovely balance of laughter, kisses and tears.

I received a copy of this book from Mills & Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

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Runaway Bride Mary Jayne Baker 5* Review

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Best Friends Carys Jones: Blog Tour – Extract and 4* Review

Four friends, a terrible secret, and one week to stay alive…

Grace doesn’t have a family. That was taken away one dreadful day when she was just six, and her twin brother Peter was killed. Instead, she has her best friends and flatmates – Jasper, Franklin and Aaron – and nothing can tear them apart.

Living in London, and trying desperately to make a living, the four friends are rapidly running out of money and hope. So, when they find a discarded suitcase in a skip, they can’t believe their eyes when its contents seem to answer all their prayers.

But then there is a knock on their door, and a very disgruntled thug with revenge on his mind gives them one week to return his belongings, or they will pay with their lives. Soon the fractures in their friendships begin to show, and when one of them ends up fighting for his life, the stakes are raised even higher.

Will any of them get to the end of the week alive, or will the best of friends become the deadliest of enemies…

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Extract

Fifteen Years Later

It was raining. The streets of London were awash with water. It gathered in rivers beneath the kerb and dripped down from gutters. Grace stepped out of the tube station and smiled as the first wet drops splashed against her. She walked boldly down the street, head held high, savouring the sensation as the rain soaked through her thin trench coat and began to damply settle against her skin.

She moved as her name suggested – with poise and elegance. With the measured steps of a prowling cat, she wove her way through the congested street, dipping beneath low hanging umbrellas and skirting around the larger puddles. Grace was like the water; fluid with her motions and able to fit through the smallest gap. Her body was slight and lithe and when she walked her feet were always turned out, the tell-tale mark of a dancer.

To Grace the rain was glorious. She laughed to herself as she tilted her head up to meet the pewter sky above.

God’s tears.

That’s what her mother believed rain to be. And whenever the sky darkened she’d pluck the twins from their beloved swing set in the local park and hurry them back to their cramped flat. It was a sin to get wet.

“The sorrow,” she’d lament as she closed the curtains and turned up the heating, “you can’t let God’s tears and sorrow touch you else it’ll sink in.”

As she moved further away from the station, the bodies swarming along the street thinned and Grace was able to stretch out her arms. The rain washed against her, purifying and icy. Her hair that was held in a tidy bun became sodden, the tan shade of her coat darkened. Still, Grace dawdled, stretching out every step on her way back to her flat. She was never in a rush, especially when it rained.

“You’ll catch your death acting like that,” a stern-faced woman with a northern accent commented as she scurried past, shielded beneath her Radley umbrella. Grace wanted to laugh in the woman’s face. It was people who brought death, not water. But it wasn’t the stranger’s urge for caution, but her Manchester twang that made Grace begin to hurry home. She had once spoken with a similar cadence, but during her years spent at a prestigious ballet school, she’d learned to phase it out, adopting a more clipped, formal accent.

She didn’t need another reminder of home. Nor had she wanted to give the rest of the girls in her class another reason to see her as an outcast. Grace was already strange in their eyes. They came from homes with front doors, back gardens, places where parents came in pairs.

Up ahead a battered blue door flung open, and a handsome dark-haired guy burst out. He headed directly for Grace, extending his arms which made his long wool coat fan out behind him like a cloak.

“Jesus Christ,” he exclaimed as he reached her. “What have I told you about your damn rain fetish? Now get your ass inside.”

“I don’t have a fetish, Franklin,” Grace assured him as she followed him into the small communal hallway which led up to their two bedroom flat.

“Yes, you bloody do,” Franklin feverishly shook off the minuscule cluster of raindrops which had landed on him during his short time outside. He behaved like the dark clouds lingering over London were releasing acid rather than water. “Whenever it rains I find you swanning around outside like you think you’re Kate Bush. Now get in, hurry.”

“I am hurrying.” Grace ascended a steep staircase, made a sharp right turn and found her front door. It was of bare, unvarnished wood. She gently kicked the base, and it opened without protest. Franklin followed her inside and paused to secure the many deadbolts on the inner side of the door.

 My Thoughts…

Believable characters that are easy to empathise. A realistic, plot and a vibrant easy to imagine setting all make Best Friends worth reading. The pacing is perfect, and the internal and external conflict balance is good.

Four young adults share a small flat and face a constant battle of paying the rent without sacrificing their dreams. They are drawn together because of they are all artists, an actor, dancer, musician and writer. They all have something missing in their family lives, ranging from being different to their siblings to suffering years of unthinkable abuse as a child.  They are family, but this bond is tested when something they thought would be their salvation turns sour.

The friendship is tested to breaking point, but each of them face up to their fears and, finds something worthwhile from the traumatic two weeks they experience.  For me, the plot isn’t as exciting as the blurb suggested, but the character development and the conflict within the group make it worth reading.

I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Carys Jones loves nothing more than to write and create stories which ignite the reader’s imagination. Based in Shropshire, England, Carys lives with her husband, two guinea pigs and her adored canine companion Rollo.

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