Blog – First Steps

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4*Review Dark Game (DI Kelly Porter#1) Rachel Lynch

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‘Kelly’s gut turned over as she realised the danger she was in. She heard no sirens. She knew that she was simply collateral. To these men who made a lot of money from the suffering of others, they’d have no problem snuffing her out.’

After a scandal forces DI Kelly Porter out of the Met, she returns to her home turf in the Lake District. Crimes in the Cumbrian constabulary tend to be of the minor sort, but Kelly begins work on a cold case that shocked the local community – the abduction and brutal murder of ten-year-old Lottie Davies.

Meanwhile, Kelly is also investigating two seemingly straightforward crimes: a case involving an illegal immigrant, and a robbery following the death of local businessman Colin Day. But evidence comes to light that reveals a web of criminal activity beyond anything Kelly imagined. Behind the veneer of sleepy, touristy towns lies a dark and dangerous underworld. As Kelly threatens to expose those with much to lose, she risks paying the ultimate price to get to the truth…

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My Thoughts…

Kelly Porter is a career-driven female detective, committed to giving the best to her job, regardless of the personal cost. After a spell in the Metropolitan Police force, she returns ‘under a cloud’, to her birthplace to regroup and heal, expecting the quiet life. She finds a professional team who are willing to give her a chance and more serious crime than she ever imagined possible in such a seemingly peaceful, picturesque setting.
I have spent many happy hours in Cumbria and the Lakes, and it was pleasant to revisit some of these in the well-described settings. The plot of this novel and many of the characters are in sharp contrast to the beauty of the surroundings.
I loved the female protagonist, Kelly Porter. Living in a competitive world hasn’t made her bitter, she’s just made sure she’s better than the rest. This positive trait is easy to empathise. She cares about her mother, her friends and the victims of crime and this compassionate quality is both a plus and a risk in her job.This story has many antagonists, some you don’t expect, and they are believable and complex.
There are many explicitly written gruesome events. For me, the violence was excessive and spoilt my enjoyment of the story. I appreciate these were hardened criminals, but I’m sure most readers could imagine the outcome, without having it so graphically described.
This story is full of detail, again I think a little less would have made it more readable but I’m sure some readers will enjoy this fact-packed read, which seems well researched. The story’s pacing is excellent and the short chapters, build the suspense.
In conclusion, this a good story with an interesting female lead and I look forward to reading what DI Kelly Porter does next. I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Book Review

The War Widow – Lorna Gray 4* Review

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The echoes of war live long in the mind…

Wales, 1947

Injured and terrified after an attempted abduction, desperation drives artist Kate Ward to the idyllic scene of her ex-husband’s recent suicide. Labelled a hysterical, grieving divorcée, no one believes she is being pursued by two violent men demanding answers she cannot give. Not the police, not the doctors, and not the guests at the Aberystwyth hotel she has come to in an attempt to find out what happened to her charismatic photographer ex-husband, and why her sanity—and her life—are now at risk.

Kate can trust no one, not even the reclusive war-veteran-turned-crime-novelist, Adam Hitchen, a reserved widower and the only source of kindness in a shadowy world of suspicion and fear. And as ghosts old and new rise to haunt her, Kate must rely on all her strength and courage to uncover the shocking truth hidden within a twisted web of lies…

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My Thoughts…

This story isn’t the traditional World War 2 or post-war story. It’s a mystery with elements of a psychological thriller set in post-war Wales and England. The central theme of the story is Kate’s journey of self-discovery. After years of having her self-esteem eroded, facing extreme danger, hardship and loneliness force her to acknowledge her real worth.

There is a clever mystery to solve and carefully built suspense, in this twisty plot, which is a little slow paced in parts. Character-driven this story has a complex protagonist who feels utterly alone, yet this doesn’t quell her survival instinct, and she continually faces her demons and forces her adversaries to meet her head on. The cast of characters are not easy to empathise with, but they are beautifully intricate and seen through Kate’s eyes many take on sinister characteristics. The reader is left wondering whether the threat she perceives is real or paranoia.
The story has various settings, all of which are vividly described with just the right amount of historical detail to make the period setting realistic.

An original, authentic period mystery that keeps you guessing, with a strong female protagonist who is easy to empathise.

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

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: The Woman in the Window A.J. Finn- Extract and 5*Review

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It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

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The Woman in the Window

Extract

TUESDAY, October  26

Chapter 3

‘This time last year, we’d planned to sell the house, had even engaged a broker; Olivia would enroll in a Midtown school the following September, and Ed had found us a Lenox Hill gut job. “It’ll be fun,” he promised. “I’ll install a bidet, just for you.” I batted him on the shoulder.

“What’s a bidet?” asked Olivia.

But then he left, and she with him. So it flayed my heart all over again when, last night, I recalled the first words of our stillborn listing: lovingly restored landmark 19th-century Harlem gem! wonderful family home! Landmark and gem up for debate, I think. Harlem inarguable, likewise 19th-century (1884). Lovingly restored, I can attest to that, and expensively, too. Wonderful family home, true.

My domain and its outposts:

Basement: Or maisonette, according to our broker. Sub-street, floor-through, with its own door; kitchen, bath, bedroom, tiny office. Ed’s workspace for eight years—he’d drape the table in blueprints, tack contractor briefs to the wall. Currently tenanted.

Garden: Patio, really, accessible via the first floor. A sprawl of limestone tile; a pair of disused Adirondack chairs; a young ash tree slouched in the far corner, gangling and lonely, like a friendless teenager. Every so often I long to hug it.

First floor: Ground floor, if you’re British, or premier étage, if you’re French. (I am neither, but I spent time in Oxford during my residency— in a maisonette, as it happens—and this past July began studying français online.) Kitchen—open-plan and “gracious” (broker again), with a rear door leading to the garden and a side door to the park. White-birch floors, now blotched with puddles of merlot. In the hall a powder room—the red room, I call it. “Tomato Red,” per the Benjamin Moore catalogue. Living room, equipped with sofa and coffee table and paved in Persian rug, still plush underfoot.

Second floor: The library (Ed’s; shelves full, cracked spines and foxed dust jackets, all packed tight as teeth) and the study (mine; spare, airy, a desktop Mac poised on an IKEA table—my online-chess battlefield). Second half bath, this one blued in “Heavenly Rapture,” which is ambitious language for a room with a toilet. And a deep utility closet I might one day convert into a darkroom, if I ever migrate from digital to film. I think I’m losing interest.

Third floor: The master (mistress?) bedroom and bath. I’ve spent much of my time in bed this year; it’s one of those sleep-system mattresses, dually adjustable. Ed programmed his side for an almost downy softness; mine is set to firm. “You’re sleeping on a brick,” he said once, strumming his fingers on the top sheet.

“You’re sleeping on a cumulus,” I told him. Then he kissed me, long and slow.

After they left, during those black, blank months when I could scarcely prize myself from the sheets, I would roll slowly, like a curling wave, from one end to the other, spooling and unspooling the bed- clothes around me.

Also the guest bedroom and en-suite.

Fourth floor: Servants’ quarters once upon a time, now Olivia’s bedroom and a second spare. Some nights I haunt her room like a ghost. Some days I stand in the doorway, watch the slow traffic of dust motes in the sun. Some weeks I don’t visit the fourth floor at all, and it starts to melt into memory, like the feel of rain on my skin.

Anyway. I’ll speak to them again tomorrow. Meanwhile, no sign of the people across the park.

WEDNESDAY, October 27

Chapter 4

A rangy teenager bursts from the front door of number 207, like a horse from the starting gate, and gallops east down the street, past my front windows. I don’t get a good look—I’ve awoken early, after a late night with Out of the Past, and am trying to decide if a swallow of merlot might be wise; but I catch a bolt of blond, a backpack slung from one shoulder. Then he’s gone.

I slug a glass, float upstairs, settle myself at my desk. Reach for my Nikon.

In the kitchen of 207 I can see the father, big and broad, backlit by a television screen. I press the camera to my eye and zoom in: The Today show. I might head down and switch on my own TV, I muse, watch alongside my neighbour. Or I might view it right here, on his set, through the lens.

I decide to do that.

It’s been a while since I took in the facade, but Google furnishes a street view: whitewashed stone, faintly Beaux-Arts, capped with a widow’s walk. From here, of course, I can set my sights only on the side of the house; through its east windows, I’ve a clear shot into the kitchen, a second-floor parlor, and a bedroom above.

Yesterday a platoon of movers arrived, hauling sofas and television sets and an ancient armoire. The husband has been directing traffic. I haven’t seen the wife since the night they moved in. I wonder what she looks like.

I’m about to checkmate Rook&Roll this afternoon when I hear the bell. I shuffle downstairs, slap the buzzer, unlock the hall door, and find my tenant looming there, looking, as they say, rough and ready. He is handsome, with his long jaw, his eyes like trapdoors, dark and deep. Gregory Peck after a late evening. (I’m not the only one who thinks so. David likes to entertain the occasional lady friend, I’ve noticed. Heard, really.)

“I’m heading to Brooklyn tonight,” he reports. I drag a hand through my hair. “Okay.”

“You need me to take care of anything before I go?” It sounds like a proposition, like a line from a noir. You just put your lips together and blow.

“Thanks. I’m fine.”

He gazes past me, squints. “Bulbs need changing? It’s dark in here.”

“I like it dim,” I say. Like my men, I want to add. Is that the joke from Airplane? “Have . . .” Fun? A good time? Sex? “. . . a good time.”

He turns to go.

“You know you can just come on in through the basement door,” I tell him, trying for playful. “Chances are I’ll be home.” I hope he’ll smile. He’s been here two months, and I haven’t once seen him grin.

He nods. He leaves.

I close the door, double-bolt the lock.

I study myself in the mirror. Wrinkles like spokes around my eyes. A slur of dark hair, tigered here and there with gray, loose about my shoulders; stubble in the scoop of my armpit. My belly has gone slack. Dimples stipple my thighs. Skin almost luridly pale, veins flowing violet within my arms and legs. Dimples, stipples, stubble, wrinkles: I need work. I had a down- home appeal once, according to some, according to Ed. “I thought of you as the girl next door,” he said sadly, toward the end.

I look down at my toes rippling against the tile—long and fine, one (or ten) of my better features, but a bit small-predator right now. I rummage through my medicine cabinet, pill bottles stacked atop one another like totem poles, and excavate a nail clipper. At last, a problem I can fix.’

To read chapters 1 and 2 see Liz Loves Books

 

My Thoughts…

Anna’s life is tragic, and circumstances force her to become a voyeur, vicariously living through her window. The world of black and white noir thrillers her only escape. She drinks to forget and to soften the edges of her painful, lonely existence. Ten months she has lived alone, terrified to leave what should be her dream home. She exists on a cocktail of medication, which she either forgets to take or overdoses on, so when Anna sees something shocking,  though the neighbour’s  window she is not a reliable witness.

Everything is seen through Anna’s eyes but is what she sees, part of her delusional state or something sinister? I like Anna and feel a connection with her. Is she a victim of paranoia, or a conspiracy? Or does the truth lie somewhere in between?

 Perfect pacing means that even where there are lots of details and drunken confusion, these don’t hinder the story but inform the reader. Although, given the unreliableness of the narrator, not everything you discover is true.

The characters are vivid, as is the setting and the suspense building is cleverly done. The atmosphere moves from mundane to terrifying seamlessly and has more impact because of this.The plot is twisty and the shocks when they come, alter facts you were sure of, making it essential to turn the page and see what happens next.

Anna’s condition is treated sensitively, Sharing poignant memories and longings with the reader, which keep her character and the story believable.

A worthwhile read, some of the twists you may guess, but there are some you won’t. The ending brings the suspense to a crashing crescendo as the mystery is solved and Anna has to decide whether she wants to live or die. Reading these scenes is like watching a film, just like the black and white thrillers Anna loves.

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

A.J. Finn is the pen name of Dan Mallory, vice president and executive editor at William Morrow. Dan has written for numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Times Literary Supplement. A native of New York, he lived in England for ten years before returning to New York City. He is an Oxford graduate, with a life-long love of the thriller noir genre, and a particular appreciation of Hitchcockian cinema.

 #TheWomanintheWindow

@AJFinnBooks

@FictionPubTeam

 

 

Posted in Book Review

The Easy Way Out – Stephen Amsterdam – 3* Review

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Mystery Thriller Blurb

Evan’s job is to help people die.

Evan is a nurse – a suicide assistant. His job is legal – just. He’s the one at the hospital who hands out the last drink to those who ask for it.

Evan’s friends don’t know what he does during the day. His mother, Viv, doesn’t know what he’s up to at night. And his supervisor suspects there may be trouble ahead.

As he helps one patient after another die, Evan pushes against the limits of the law – and his own morality. And with Viv increasingly unwell, his love life complicated, to say the least, Evan begins to wonder who might be there for him, when the time comes.

Mystery Thriller Buy Links

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Mystery Thriller My Review

A well-written book on a sensitive subject. Death is often considered a taboo topic and assisted suicide has both moral and legal ramifications.
Evan the main character is complex. He has seen death in both his personal and professional life and finds that his work life impinges on his own life. Full of poignant moments, some dark humour and full of informed facts and opinions on ‘assisted suicide.’ A fascinating book but not surprisingly I couldn’t recommend it as an entertaining read.
I received a copy of this book from Quercus books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Girl Targeted – Blog Tour – Val Collins Extract and 4*Review

 

GIRL TARGETED BLOG TOUR

Office jobs can be stressful. Aoife’s may be lethal.

Aoife’s life is finally on track. She’s happily married, pregnant with her first child and has the world’s best mother-in-law. But when Aoife accepts a job as an office temp, her entire life begins to unravel. 

Is one of Aoife’s colleagues a murderer? Is Aoife the next target? Why is her husband unconcerned? 

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Extract…

Three Days Later

‘‘Morning,’ Aoife shouted over the noise of the hoover. ‘Josie, isn’t it?’

Josie switched off the hoover and put both hands on her hips. ‘You’re the new one, right? Did you take my key?’

‘What key?’

‘The key to the HR office. That Delia one says the office has to be locked every night, so Laura gave me a key. I keep it in the cupboard with the J-cloths and the dishwasher tablets. It’s never gone missing before.’

‘I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about it, but I can let you in now.’

‘Are you having me on? Do you know what time it is? I already wasted half the morning looking for the blooming key. I have grandkids to get to school. You think I’m going to start cleaning the office at this hour? It’s not my fault someone nicked the key.’

‘No, of course not. I’ll explain to Laura why you couldn’t clean the office, and I’m sure she’ll get you a new key. Is there anything else I can do to help?’

Josie smiled. ‘Sorry, love, it’s not your fault. It’s just that snooty cow gets up my nose. You know she wrote me a note once? Two inches high each letter was. Does she think I can’t read? “THERE IS DUST ON MY TABLE. DO NOT LET ME SEE DUST HERE AGAIN.” I’m telling you, it’s a good thing I’ve never run into her. I’d give her a piece of my mind, you can be sure of that.’ She unplugged the hoover. ‘What are you doing here at this hour, anyway? You should be taking it easy in your condition.’

‘You sound like my husband. He won’t let me take the train “in my condition”, so we have to be in Dublin before rush hour. Why he thinks that’s better for me than an extra hour in bed, I’ve no idea.’

‘You’re lucky to have him. My young one’s fella took off the minute he heard she was pregnant. Never saw him again, any of us.’ She picked up the hoover. ‘I’m off. You take care of yourself now, love.’

Aoife made herself a cup of tea, read her newspaper and phoned Jason. She had been hired to do a compliance check on the HR files, but, as she didn’t have keys to the filing cabinet, she couldn’t start work until Laura arrived. She finished her tea and headed for the office.

The interconnecting door to Delia’s office was slightly ajar. As Aoife removed her coat, several loose coins fell out and rolled around the room. Holding on to the desk for balance, Aoife got down on her knees and shuffled around, collecting them. The last one had rolled into Delia’s office. Aoife shoved open the door and picked it up. She was manoeuvring herself into a standing position when she noticed the shoe. Black suede with a gold buckle and a six-inch heel. It was lying on its side in the middle of the floor. As she straightened up, Aoife saw two stockinged feet dangling in the air. She let her eyes travel up to the woman’s knees, then, covering her mouth with both hands, she clamped her eyes shut and backed out of the room.’

My Thoughts…

Psychological thrillers depend on perfect pacing and carefully built suspense to work, and this novel has both. The ordinary setting makes the story believable, and lots of suspicious characters could be behind the incidents that make Aoife fear for her life. 

Her home life is not idyllic, but is her husband just disinterested, or is there something more going on? Working as a temp in an office doesn’t usually involve danger, but after her dreadful, first-day discovery, Aoife knows this is no ordinary office.

If you enjoy working out whodunnit and can keep track of numerous false leads, you will enjoy this well-written thriller, which not only leads our heroine into danger but also questions her decisions and morals.

 I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review. 

 

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Website: https://valcollinsbooks.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Val-Collins-Books-125273274834187/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/valcollinsbooks

 

Posted in Book Review

Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera 4*Review – Jennifer Bohnet

 

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A summer of taking chances!

Rosie Hewitt’s dream of opening a little French café on the Riviera is finally coming true. She’s giving up on love and instead chasing her own perfect recipe for happiness…

Only, she never expected the oh-so-sexy, award-winning chef, Sebastian Groc, to set up a rival restaurant next door – or for his freshly-baked croissants to smell quite so delicious.

But with just a few days until she opens her doors and all her sugar-coated dreams crumbling around her, Rosie isn’t prepared to give up without a fight!

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My Thoughts…

The perfect read for a rainy afternoon, the setting is vividly described and you can imagine you are sitting on the terrace of the Riviera cafe. There is an interesting mix of characters all of whom have suffered some degree of tragedy in their lives.  Their stories are separate but they connect through the cafe, which is a good focal point. 

The story’s pacing is good, with just enough detail and conflict to make the plot interesting. The focus is on the female characters, all of which are strong women, who manage to rebuild their lives out of adversity.

 A lovely, holiday story with well-written characters in a feel-good setting.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

A Week to be Wild – J.C. Harroway- 4 * Review

 

 

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Libby Noble is done with men who live on the edge, but sexy British billionaire Alex coaxes her out of her comfort zone—professionally and very personally! She’ll agree to play his game…but only by her rules!

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My Thoughts… 

A refreshing new take on the ‘battle of the sexes’.

English billionaire Alex, who likes risks and getting what he wants, engineers a face to face meeting with a successful New Yorker Libby. There is an instant sizzle, but can they work together? Or will the barely held in check passion make keeping it professional impossible?

The plot is simple. Physical attraction and gratification dominate the story but accompanied by growing emotional attachment and a lowering of barriers between Alex and Libby. Physical closeness makes sharing their past tragedy and guilt possible and helps them both believe that love may be worth the potential for pain if it all ends badly again.

The characters are likeable if a little unrealistic. The conflict is primarily internal, but Libby’s emotional battle keeps the reader wondering whether she is capable of letting love into her life again.

Fast-paced, the characters aren’t memorable, but I don’t think this is the role of this type of book. The perfect story for escapism, passion and a happy ever after.

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

Posted in Book Review

A Part of Me and You – Emma Heatherington 5* Review

 

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You always think you have more time…

Juliette always thought she’d have more time. But as her fortieth birthday approaches she is dealt the deadliest of blows – she has just weeks to live. As the terrible news sinks in, Juliette’s only concern is for her fifteen-year-old daughter, Rosie. Who will take care of her precious child? Who will love her daughter with the same fierce love? The answer lies in a secret Juliette hoped never to reveal…

Devastated at the loss of her own baby daughter, Shelley is barely managing to survive. Consumed by her grief, she has pushed everyone away – including the man who loves her the most. With her once happy marriage now in tatters, Shelley has nothing left to live for.

But as the lives of these two women collide, could Juliette’s secret be the key to solving Shelley’s heartache? And could Juliette’s death give Shelley one final chance to live again…

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My Thoughts…

Most mothers have two greatest fears when it comes to their children and ‘A Part of  Me and You’ tackles them both in an amazingly poignant story about Juliette and Shelley. Juliette is terminally ill and her greatest fear is what will become of her fifteen year old daughter Rosie when she dies. Shelley’s three year old daughter Lily died in a tragic accident, which she blames herself for. She is emotionally dead and  has merely existed for three years since Lily’s death.

Juliette is a strong, vibrant character, her support network is failing because they can’t see their way forward without her but she remains determined to enjoy her remaining days and make sure her daughter has lots of positive memories to draw on when her mother is no longer around. 

A serendipitous meeting between Shelley and Rosie changes all their lives and tentative threads of hope draw them together as they support Juliette’s last plan. The characters in the coastal town bring the story alive. Coupled with the charismatic setting you can’t help but empathise with Juliette’s choice for her last holiday. This is a character driven story but the plot is interesting and varied and amidst all the angst and love there is a mystery to solve.

The ending is tasteful and beautifully sad. The reader is left with tear filled eyes but a strong belief that love will prevail.

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

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

The Legacy of Lucy Harte – Emma Heatherington – 5* Review

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‘Sometimes time is all we have with the people we love the most. I ask you to slow down in life. To take your time, but don’t waste it….’

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My Thoughts…

Reading this book is an emotional experience but so worth it. 

Maggie has a second chance at life when she receives a donor’s heart. She feels a unique connection with her donor and longs to connect with her family to thank them.  Seventeen years after her transplant Maggie’s emotional well-being is threatened she feels she is on borrowed time but seems set on hastening her demise.

Maggie is a strong character with a supportive network of family and friends, but she pushes them away, as she battles with the ever-present survivor guilt and her tumbling self – worth issues. I like the serendipity of the letter arriving just when Maggie is teetering on the edge of self-destruction. Lucy’s legacy forces Maggie to focus on the gift of life she has been given, and the story takes on a hopeful theme from this point. There are many slip-ups and misunderstandings, but  Maggie realises her life’s purpose.

A well-paced plot full of vivid characters and unexpected adventures is both poignant with many lighter humorous scenes. The importance of love and living life to the limit, whatever this may be for you, is reaffirmed.  Reading it is like riding an emotional roller-coaster, but the overall feeling that remains is of hope and love and the importance of giving the gift of life.

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

Posted in Book Review

Sweet Home Summer – Michelle Vernal – 5* Review

 My Thoughts…

What I like about this author is her originality. I preferred this story to ‘The Traveller’s Daughter’, possibly because the author of the historical element in the story was still alive and you could see the possibility of a happy ending for her. The story is well paced. The present interspersed with short flashbacks to an earlier time.

I also enjoyed the mystical element of ‘the matchmaker’.

An unusual, heartwarming romance, which illustrates what’s essential in life and emphasises that the path to true love is often convoluted and painful.

The characters are well-developed and give the reader a flavour of small-town life in New Zealand. An engaging plot, often poignant with interesting twists.

The perfect story, if you enjoy family, small-town romantic fiction with a unique setting and original plot.

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