Blog – First Steps

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

One New York Christmas- MandyBaggot – 4*Review – #FestiveRead @mandybaggot @EburyPublishing

Lara Weeks is heading to New York with best friend Susie for the Christmas trip of a lifetime.

A festive break in the snowy Big Apple visiting the tourist hotspots, not to mention the shopping, seems like the perfect way for Lara to get over her ex-boyfriend. Or maybe make him so jealous he begs for a second chance.

Enlisting the help of gorgeous actor, Seth Hunt, doesn’t quite go to plan, but there’s something about him that has Lara wishing for a different kind of happy ever after…

Amazon UK

Waterstones

My Thoughts

Lara’s practical, no-nonsense attitude to life hides a certain emotional vulnerability. A contemporary romantic heroine, she drives trucks for a living but also finds time to look after her father, and as she describes him’nearly brother Aldo. Travelling to New York for Christmas isn’t on her festive agenda until her boyfriend betrays her and her supportive friend Susie makes her an offer too tempting to turn down.

Lara is a likeable character and her fun-filled adventures in New York are romantic and thought-provoking. Seth is on an emotional journey of his own, and meeting Lara is unexpected but perfectly timed. Both characters are trying to find out what life has in store for them and together they experience a romantic, poignant Christmas experience in New York.

The descriptions of New York are detailed and vivid, letting the reader experience the city’s vibrancy at this special time of year.

A Christmas story with realistic characters, but a fairytale plot filled with lots of Christmas magic.

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

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Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5* #Review -Sarah Morgan- The Christmas Sisters #FestiveRead @HQStories @SarahMorgan_

It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree, but who’s around it that matters most.

All Suzanne McBride wants for Christmas is her three daughters happy and at home. But when sisters Posy, Hannah and Beth return to their family home in the Scottish Highlands, old tensions and buried secrets start bubbling to the surface.

Suzanne is determined to create the perfect family Christmas, but the McBrides must all face the past and address some home truths before they can celebrate together . . .

Amazon UK

Waterstones

My Thoughts…

Such an atmospheric, festive story about a family born out of a tragedy, which defines their relationships and still haunts them years later. The sisters have all followed different paths as adults. Each feels the other has a perfect life but the reality is more complex.

This is a story about mothers, daughters and sisters, and the characters are beautifully written with believable flaws making them easy to empathise. Told from multi-points of view the backstory is cleverly woven into the plot, so that you understand the family dynamics and why Christmas is a source of stress for the McBrides.

This a lovely story, perfect as a festive read. Angst, fear, misunderstanding and romance all wrapped up in a poignant family drama that captures what it’s like to have sisters and how a caring family loves you, no matter what.

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

Posted in Book Review

Murder at the Manor Hotel – Betty Rowlands – 5* Review @bookouture

 

As the stage is set for a local village play in a beautiful countryside manor, Melissa Craig plays the role of detective once again when one of the cast is mysteriously murdered… 

Melissa is delighted when she’s asked to help put on a play at her favourite local Cotswolds hotel. There’s nothing she loves more than getting to know the cast, who are just as colourful behind the scenes as they are on stage.

Rehearsals are running smoothly until the perpetually grumpy supporting actor is found spread-eagled at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs leading to a cellar.

As Melissa tries in vain to save his life, she is sure she can hear voices nearby and suspects there is more to this accident than meets the eye. Why on earth was he trying to get down to the hotel’s private cellar? And why does the hotel manager seem so angry about it?

When the hotel floorplans deliver some unexpected revelations, Melissa is convinced that she’s dealing with a murder. But when all of your suspects are actors, how can you tell the good liars from the bad? Can Melissa find the killer before the final curtain falls? 

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

If you enjoy an escapist read, the Melissa Craig Mysteries will be the perfect fit. The latest in the series takes place at a Cotswold Country Hotel. Melissa has been asked to write a short pantomime or ‘pantocrime’, as she calls it for the owner of the hotel’s birthday. A successful entrepreneur Mitch is popular but does he have a reason for wanting the play performed on his birthday, at the hotel?

The cast is vibrant and seems to be having fun, but when someone has a tragic fall, the mood changes and Melissa finds herself embroiled in the solving the mystery. The setting adds depth to the story, there is a rumour of ghosts and other funny goings-on. Melissa uses her crime writer detective skills, which inevitably puts her in danger, much to the consternation of her friends.

This is an enjoyable easy read, with a well-thought-out plot, believable characters with a little humour and romance to keep the story becoming too dark.

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

Posted in Book Review

Shehanne Moore -Splendor -London Jewel Thieves #2 – 5* Review @ShehanneMoore

He hates to lose. Especially to a man who’s not.
One move to win ten thousand guineas in a chess competition. One move to marry her fiancé. Another to face the most merciless man in London across a pair of duelling pistols. For Splendor, former skivvy to the London’s premiere jewel thieves, it’s all in a day’s work. But when one wrong move leads to another, can she win and keep her heart intact against the one man in London with the potential to bring her down? Especially in a chess game where the new wager is ten thousand guineas against one night with her.

The Endgame to end all Endgames
One move to pay back his ex-mistress. One move to show the world he doesn’t give a damn he’s been beaten in every way. The ton’s most ruthless heartbreaker, bitter, divorcee, Kendall Winterborne, Earl of Stillmore’s, pet hates are kitchen maids, marriage and losing. Knowing Splendor has entered a male chess competition under false pretences, he’s in the perfect position to extort her help, regardless of the fact she’s engaged to someone else. He just doesn’t bank on having to face up to his pet hates. Certainly not over the kind of skivvy who ruined his father and set him on this course.
As one move leads to another, one thing’s for certain though. His next move better be fast if he wants to keep the Cinderella he’s fallen for. But the clock is ticking. When it strikes twelve, which man will she choose?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Lady Splendor was once the lowest of the low, now she needs to find a way to keep her new lifestyle, and that means a chess competition that only men can enter. There is lots of fun in this story as Splendor risks all to achieve everything she desires. 

Kendall Winterborne is a dissolute rake, who dislikes being challenged or made a fool of. Splendor does both and with their history, their relationship is never going to be easy going. Passion escapes, but they are at war, and anything more than physical attraction seems both unwanted and unobtainable.

A thoroughly  entertaining, romantic tale, which is full of witty dialogue, sizzling scenes and unforgettable characters, perfect holiday reading,

I received an ARC of this book from the author.

Posted in Book Review

Loving Lady Lazuli- Shehanne Moore-5*#Review- London Jewel Thieves #1 @ShehanneMoore

A woman not even the ghost of Sapphire can haunt. A man who knows exactly who she is. 

Only one man in England can identify her. Unfortunately, he’s living next door. 

Ten years ago sixteen-year-old Sapphire, the greatest jewel thief England has ever known, ruined Lord Devorlane Hawley’s life by planting a stolen necklace on him. Now she’s dead and buried, all Cassidy Armstrong wants is the chance to prove she was never that girl. 

But her new neighbour is hell-bent on revenge and his word can bring her down. So when he asks her to be his mistress, or leave the county with a price on her head, Sapphire, who hates being owned, must decide… 

What’s left for a woman with nowhere else to go, but to stay exactly where she is?

And hope, that when it comes to neighbours Devorlane Hawley won’t prove to be the one from hell.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Loving Lady Lazuli is a tense, character-driven historical romance which gives the reader a unique perspective on life and love in Regency England. The power of society and its harshness when crossed is implicit from the first chapter. Lord Devorlane Hawley returns to his ancestral ten years after he left in disgrace. Now the unexpected fifth Duke of Chessington he wants revenge for his ten years of exile where severe mistreatment changed him from a naive youth to a cynical man.
The prodigal is thrown into an unexpected homecoming party. Bored a young woman attracts him. Is she the girl who caused his disgrace a decade ago? Cassidy fears her secret is uncovered and leaves the party abruptly. With the threat of the noose for being a jewel thief hanging over her Cassidy (Sapphire) tries to find the documents that prove her claim to Barwych hall.
Their relationship is laced with misunderstanding, humour and poignancy. Both distrust, threaten and cheat each other. Devorlane demands she becomes his mistress for his silence and help. Cassidy (Sapphire) agrees until she discovers his life-threatening secret and reclaims the advantage. The historical attraction between Devorlane and Cassidy (Sapphire) rekindles and ignites despite his hateful behaviour and her scheming. When their passion overwhelms secrets emerge which affect them profoundly and make them face their emotional involvement.
Memorable characters give this unusual historical romance a realistic edge which makes Loving Lady Lazuli a passionate, enthralling read.

Posted in Book Review

His Judas Bride-5*Review @ShehanneMoore

To love, honour, and betray…

To get back her son, she will stop at nothing…

Dire circumstances have forced Kara McGurkie to forget she’s a woman. Dire circumstances force her to swear to love and honour, to help destroy a clan, when it means getting back her son. But when dire circumstances force her to seduce her fiancé’s brother on the eve of the wedding, will the dark secrets she holds and her greatest desire be enough to save her from his powerful allure?

To save his people, neither will he…

Since his wife’s murder, Callm McDunnagh, the Black Wolf of Lochalpin, ruthlessly guards heart and glen from dangerous intruders. But from the moment he first sees Kara he knows he must possess her, even though surrendering to his passion may prove the most dangerous risk of all.

She has nothing left to fear except love itself…

Now only Kara can decide what passion can save or destroy, and who will finally learn the truth of the words… Till death do us part.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Dark, deep and devastating aptly describes this historical romance, set in the beautiful but often brutal highlands of Scotland. 

Kara and Callm are both damaged by life and forced on a path of avenge and revenge, even though it is often at odds with the people they once were before tragedy struck.  Their meeting is unconventional and neither want to surrender to their passions, it’s too dangerous.

Kara needs to keep to her plan to save her son, Callm has already lost too much, his people are everything, and he can never put his personal pleasure above their safety. Love becomes a weapon rather than a balm and the resultant passion reflects this with vivid imagery.

If you want to relive history with all the rough edges and raw emotion, this story with its complex, challenged characters will consume you.

I received an ARC of the second edition from the author in return for an honest review. 

 

Posted in Book Review

The Hunting Party – 4* #Review – Lucy Foley @lucyfoleytweets @HarperCollinsUK

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Escaping to the wild and wonderful Scottish Highlands seems like the ideal venue for a New Year’s celebration, but what if everyone has a secret? Their university days are long gone, but the pecking order and rivalries are intensified. The cracks in the party atmosphere begin on the train journey north.

This story begins with the tragedy and uses a series of chronological multi-point of view chapters to illuminate the current situation. The characters are complex and realistic, and in most cases not likeable. Everyone has something to hide but how far will they go to keep it under wraps? The setting and inclement weather makes this an atmospheric read that compels you to turn the pages to see what happens next.

This is more of a murder mystery than a psychological thriller because the story is told through the eyes of several characters, both in the group of friends and the two people who work at the venue where they are staying, rather than an individual unreliable protagonist.

The plot is convoluted and sinister, there are multiple suspects and the identity of the victim remains hidden until the final chapters.

The remote party setting and the toxicity of the relationships has parallels with Sue Fortin’s The Birthday Girl, which I also enjoyed. Perfect holiday reading.

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

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5* Review- Zara Stoneley – No One Cancels Christmas @ZaraStoneley#Festive @HarperImpulse

 

A holiday she’ll remember forever…

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl – visits to Father Christmas, husky rides in the snow and hot chocolate by a roaring fire. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling tinsel!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be….

But getting Will into the Christmas spirit is hopeless – he is Bah Humbug personified! But as Sarah gets to know him better, she realises that underneath all the gloom is a man struggling with a pain of his own.

With the big day approaching, Sarah realises that the magic and sparkle can wait. This year, she’s going to spend Christmas day with someone special her very own Mr Scrooge…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Funny, festive and fabulous, everything you want in a Christmas holiday read.

Sarah is such an authentic, believable character, her sense of responsibility makes her confront Will, co-owner of a holiday resort that is threatening the reputation of her aunt’s travel agency. The emails soon turn from caustic to cosy, and when she decides to visit the resort, the fun really starts.

Will has secrets and hides them well under a Mr Scrooge persona. The romance is slow to build but so worth waiting for and really threatens to melt the snow. There are plenty of poignant moments, as Sarah lets go of past hurts and finds out things are not always right or wrong but somewhere in between.

All the supporting characters are vivacious and add to the story’s imagery. The setting is well-described and breathtaking and the plot is full of twists, turmoil and tenderness.

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

Posted in Book Review

Faith Martin- 5* Review – Hillary’s Final Case

Hillary Greene has returned to Thames Valley Police HQ, acting as a cold-case consultant for the Crime Review Team, looking into murders which the police have never been able to solve. This is a crime mystery full of well-observed characters, which will have you gripped from start to the absolutely thrilling conclusion.

THE DETECTIVE DI Hillary Greene An attractive, single woman nearing the landmark age of fifty, Hillary Greene was a police officer of many years’ experience (earning the rank of DI) and came up through the ranks. Consequently, she knew how the system worked and was always fiercely loyal to the force without being blinkered to its faults. Forced to retire early through no fault of her own, she has now returned to the force as a civilian consultant on cold cases.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

The final book in the Hillary Greene series answers all the questions both in her professional and personal life. The cases in this concluding book are a continuation from the storyline in the previous book ‘Murder in Mind’.

The crime solving is believable and engaging, not everything is solved, but this adds to the authenticity. All the main characters are featured in ‘Hillary’s Final Case’ and there is a satisfactory resolution of Hillary’s personal life.

I have only read two books in this series, but as they read well as standalone stories this isn’t a problem, Cold cases featuring missing girls are the theme of this book, and all the stories are absorbing and poignant. There are many twists, but it’s rewarding to follow the clues and solve the mysteries and crimes with Hillary Greene and her team.

If you enjoy crime novels and cosy mystery this is a series worth reading.

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

Posted in Book Review

4* Review – Maisey Yates – The Spaniard’s Untouched Bride – @maiseyyates @MillsandBoon #Romance

To save her inheritance…

His price is marriage!

Camilla Alvarez refuses to abandon her beloved horses when formidable tycoon Matias Navarro acquires her family’s renowned rancho. Instead, she disguises herself as his stable-boy! But when Camilla’s charade is discovered Matias offers her an even more shocking role—as his wife! Innocent Camilla is transformed into a bride deserving of his diamonds, but their convenient marriage is transformed by the scalding heat of their wedding night…

Amazon UK

Mills & Boon

My Thoughts…

What if you lost everything you loved, you’d fight to get it back, wouldn’t you? 

That’s exactly what Cam does, even if it means pretending to be a boy to get to be with her beloved horses. An unfortunate event brings her into close proximity with the owner Matias and then she’s really in trouble. Matias is used to being pursued but he is completely floored when he finds out Cam’s secret. He offers a marriage of convenience but their bodies and emotions have other ideas.

This is an emotional romance using well-loved tropes of mistaken identity and marriage of convenience. The characters are believable and likeable. The story has plenty of heat, fun and a rollercoaster of conflicts and emotions, which threaten the chance of a happy ever after.

I enjoyed this romance but felt it should have been more detailed, lots of issues are alluded to but not fully explored, despite their importance to the characters’ emotional development. 

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