Sometimes you need to lose yourself to find your way home…
With only her trusty dogs Peanut, Treacle and Pickwick by her side, Poppy Kirkbride could be forgiven for having doubts about her move to a quiet village in rural France. But as the sun shines down on her ramshackle new home, Poppy knows she’s made the right decision. A lick of paint, and some TLC and her rustic farmhouse will be the perfect holiday retreat – Poppy’s dream come true.
Poppy is welcomed by her fellow villagers, except for brooding local vet Leo Dubois, who makes it clear Poppy isn’t welcome in his village – or his life! Leo might be gorgeous, but Poppy won’t be told what to do by an arrogant Frenchman – no matter how kind and gentle he is to her dogs!
Determined to stay, Poppy tries to understand the enigmatic Frenchman better. But as the two get closer, Poppy sees another side to Leo – a man with heartbreak of his own. Falling in love with Leo is easy, but can he ever return Poppy’s love? And what would this mean for her dream life and place in the sun?
Poppy is a likeable, independent character who makes her dreams reality when she moves to France. Things don’t go to plan, and she finds herself alone in a French village she knows little about, in a property that requires renovation and with a neighbour who makes no secret of the fact he wants her gone. Not the most auspicious of starts but Poppy is determined to succeed and sharing her journey with its ups and downs is a pleasurable read.
Well researched and with a precise local knowledge you learn about village life in France and its history in entertaining conversational bites, the detail is there but cleverly interwoven into the story without inhibiting the pace or the character development.
The book’s stars are the animals, the loveable dogs and quirky donkeys, they have individual personalities which bring them to life, and they provide many of the story’s comic and tender moments.
Another favourite character is Joanna who Poppy helps even though she is running from something. We learn Joanna’s secrets, but she is worthy of her own story and happy ever after too.
Romance is a major theme, and Leo and Poppy have a tempestuous relationship, which is often passionate with realistic, sensual love scenes that underpin the couples emotional development. The ending is believable and happy and makes a satisfying conclusion.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Tabitha Thomas gave up on a happy family life with Michael her absent, high-flying husband long ago. Instead, she concentrated her energies on their daughter, Rosie, and her career as a head teacher at a local primary school. However, trouble looms on the horizon…
While Rosie struggles with the most important exams of her life, Tabitha’s eco-warrior mother is protesting outside the school gates to save some trees from the bulldozer. And best friend, Clodagh, a top TV news broadcaster, is self-soothing with Baileys, as she’s edged out of a job by an ambitious flame-haired weathergirl. Finally, with the return of an old flame and a political expose to deal with, Tabitha is forced to confront a decision she made a long time ago and face the life-changing consequences she has lived with ever since.
A lovely story with warm, believable characters who demonstrate the true meaning of family, friendship and community. There is a reassuring continuity in this story which focuses on a mother and her daughter but encompasses both of their grandmothers too.
Tabitha is a pillar of the community, a primary school headmistress in the village she grew up. Her daughter Rosie is studying for a pinnacle exam and her mother Nora is still an activist despite her advancing years. Tabitha suffered a tragic loss in her early twenties which changed the course of her life when someone from her past returns is this a good thing or bad? Tabitha’s marriage is not happy but convenient she has Rosie her purpose for marriage, but everything else is missing.
Red’s return ruffles her calm life, but they only have past memories, not future ones. There is a liberal amount of serendipity in this story which gives it special magic and makes it enjoyable escapism reading. The plot is simple, and there is a sinister antagonist who threatens the community. There are lots of complex characters who bring the village to life and a touch of romance.
A story of everyday people touched with a little of life’s magic.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Sian was born in Ireland, is an RTÉ radio producer and lives in the seaside suburb of Dalkey, Dublin with her seven nearly-eight-year-old daughter, Ruby.
When best friends, Tina and Jodie, make a drunken New Year’s Eve vow to change their lives before they hit the big 3 – 0, neither expected to end the year with much more than another hangover…
Twelve months later, Jodie is married and living in Provence – and Tina is exactly where she was a year ago (although now her rent is double). Tina can’t help but feel a little bit left behind, but as Jodie reminds her, she’s not thirty yet, there’s still time to quit her job, start her own literary agency and sign the man of her dreams!
Closer to thirty than twenty, two friends make New Years Eve resolutions that they will change their lives for the better by the time they are thirty. For Jodie, the chances come sooner than she imagines and she spends the next New Year on honeymoon. When Jodie moves to the South of France Tina is left behind in London. She wonders if life will change too.
A Year of Taking Chances follows both women’s lives which diverge and connect as they take the opportunities offered them. Jodie has to adjust to life in a different country with a man she doesn’t know well. Still hurting from tragic loss, she makes new relationships and discovers hurtful secrets as she forges a new life in France. Tina takes a courageous step to change her life, which reconnects her with Jodie and opens up the possibility of the life she wants and maybe someone to share it with but it’s complicated.
The plot is fast-paced and absorbing; there are lighthearted and touching moments as the women follow their dreams.Sharing the women’s hopes and dreams is a rollercoaster ride but they are both likeable characters, and you want them to succeed. A story of family and friendship and being brave enough to take a chance even when you don’t know the outcome. An easy read, perfect when you want to escape for an hour or two.
I received a copy of this book from HQ Digital via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Even though this is the sixth in the detective daughter series, you can read as a standalone.
The story begins with the circumstances surrounding the first murder in 1977. After the disappearance of another girl in 1999, the body of the first victim is found. Stella and Jack are offered the case by another detective’s daughter whose father wants them to prove that the murderer is still at large. Other members of the team are not sure if they should take the case, but someone closer to home is keeping secrets that will need to be solved too.
The characters’ stories are sketched out in the first part of the story, so even if you are new to the series, like me you get a feel for who they are. Quirky is the word that sums up both Jack and Stella, both are good people but are damaged by life and find it difficult to relate to others outside their immediate team. There is a good team dynamic both in the ‘Clean Slate’, cleaning company and the detective agency. Everyone has a role and it more of a family than a business.
The crime-solving takes place in the last two-thirds of the story. It is a detailed and lengthy book but is well-paced. The factual details seamlessly merge with clues, misinformation and the characters’ internal and external conflicts. I liked the dynamic between Stella and Jack, they are vividly described and come across as believable.
The plot is intricate with numerous twists, even when you think you’ve solved it something alters to move the goal posts, and you discover you’re only partly correct. Atmospheric and suspenseful twists make ordinary events and settings menacing and chilling.
The ending leaves no loose ends and manages to retain its surprises.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
We were so young when it all happened. Just 13-years-old, making the most of the long, hot, lazy days of summer, thinking we had the world at our feet. That was us – me, Fat Bobby, Jim and Tara – the four members of the Outsiders’ Club.
The day we found a burnt-out car in the woods was the day everything changed. Cold, hard cash in the front seat and a body in the trunk… it started out as a mystery we were desperate to solve.
Then, the Collector arrived. He knew we had found his secret. And suddenly, our summer of innocence turned into the stuff of nightmares.
As a man’s recollections of a life-changing summer when he was thirteen, this story works. The authentic young teen fears, language and obsessions draw you into the mind of a thirteen-year-old. The naivety of the gang of ‘Outsiders’ is evidenced throughout the story as they encounter bullying, extreme racial and sexual prejudice and violence. Joey’s belief that his father can overcome anything is touching and in character but his actions in the face of the strange and dangerous people and events he encounters seem far more mature than his years.
The setting and characters are almost stereotypical, but again they fit with this genre of novel. So from a technical point of view, this story works, but I didn’t get invested with the characters, except in Joey’s connection with his dog Bandit which is vivid and genuine. The story’s pacing is good but everything is seen from a pre-teen point of view, and so the story didn’t enthral me. The target audience for this book is a more young adult than thriller reader, but as a debut, it is worth reading.
I received a copy of this book from Killer Reads Harper Collins via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Catherine Carlisle is trapped in a loveless marriage, and the threat of World War Two is looming. She sees no way out… that is until a trusted friend asks her to switch her husband’s papers in a desperate bid to confuse the Germans.
Soon Catherine finds herself caught up in a deadly mixture of espionage and murder. Someone is selling secrets to the other side, and the evidence seems to point right at her.
Set in a fascinating historical period, where Nazi Germany’s nationalistic aims created unspeakable dark times for many. In stark contrast, the British establishment turned a blind eye to the interwar years’ atrocities, until powerful, forward-thinking people forced them to act. The Carlisle family is wealthy and influential, but the glossy exterior hides emotional cruelty, festering anger and secrets that would rock the society they live in.
Easy to read this is an absorbing novel, the historical detail gives depth to a simple plot, but I would have liked more, to let me feel what living at that time was like. The first chapter set in Germany is pivotal and underscored with menace. What follows is well written, but the danger Cat the heroine faces is narrated rather than demonstrated by the protagonist through actions and emotions. Espionage is a dangerous world, but I didn’t feel the threat, just knew that it existed.
The characters lack vibrancy. Much of Cat’s motivation is as a result of her crumbling marriage, and yet the reader knows little about her husband and the two rarely interact. Isobel and Cat’s relationship is toxic; you can feel the anger and envy. The other character interactions also need strong emotional depth to make them believable.
A good story but for me, it lacks authentic, believable characters.
I received a copy of this book from HQ Digital via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Daisy Wickens has returned to Ottercombe Bay, the picturesque Devon town where her mother died when she was a girl. She plans to leave as soon as her great uncle’s funeral is over, but Great Uncle Reg had other ideas. He’s left Daisy a significant inheritance – an old building in a state of disrepair, which could offer exciting possibilities, but to get it she must stay in Ottercombe Bay for twelve whole months.
With the help of a cast of quirky locals, a few gin cocktails and a black pug with plenty of attitude, Daisy might just turn this into something special. But can she ever hope to be happy among the ghosts of her past?
Part three of Ottercombe Bay – Raising the Bar sees Daisy finally opening her multi-purpose business in the old Railway building left to her by her Great-Uncle Reg. Daisy is joined by some quirky characters who she manages to employ on a part-time basis, now all she needs are the customers.
Romance is also in the air, but it’s not without its complications. Bug, the pug, provides a constant stream of amusement even though he did leave Daisy marooned at the end of part two. Daisy’s problems aren’t over yet, she has uninvited guests, things go missing, and the circumstances around her mother’s death remain mysterious.
This episode ends with a cliffhanger, so I’m looking forward to the fourth and final part of this humorous, yet poignant series.
I received a copy of this book from Avon UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares, the victims were buried…ALIVE.
Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.
Did she get it wrong all those years ago? Or is there something much darker at play?
Catching him will make her career – and change her forever.
August 1999 On the hottest day of the year, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. A master carpenter and funeral director, Larry imprisoned his victims, alive, in the caskets he made himself. Clay effigies found entombed with their bodies suggested a motive beyond the worst human depravity.
June 1969 13-year- old Patsy Wood has been missing for two days, the third teenager to disappear in as many months. New to the Lancashire police force and struggling to fit in, WPC Lovelady is sent to investigate an unlikely report from school children claiming to have heard a voice calling for help. A voice from deep within a recent grave.
August 1999 As she tries to lay her ghosts to rest, Florence is drawn back to the Glassbrooks’ old house, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where she once lodged with the family. She is chilled by the discovery of another effigy – one bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself. Is the killer still at large? Is Florence once again in terrible danger? Or, this time, could the fate in-store be worse than even her darkest imaginings?
An ordinary setting is in stark contrast to the horrific events that take place in a 20th-century Lancashire town, which has a bloody history that many can’t let go. Maybe Florence Lovelady had no choice but to return to the place that changed her and nearly cost her life over thirty years ago?
There are a lot of facts to assimilate in the early chapters. What seems abstract becomes more evident as you travel back over thirty years to the late 1960’s when Florence Loveday was the town’s first WPC.
The story’s ethos is dark and menacing even before the possibility of supernatural influence. The larger than life characters are believable and compelling. Florence is an outsider, a curiosity and a threat to the town’s establishment. She suffers prejudice in her personal and work life. Her isolation increases the suspense as she struggles to solve the missing teenager’s disappearances.
The author creates vivid images of murder with a twist. You are left wondering whether the deaths are the work of a deranged murderer or something less definable but no less menacing. The fast pacing complements the detail, and every line builds towards a hold your breath moment.
The well-constructed plot has many twists incorporating historical fact and myths. While needing your concentration, the storyline holds its secrets well. The clues are there if you want to play detective, but you are unlikely to be prepared for the final twists which leave you with a chill down your spine and menace imprinted on your psyche.
I received a copy of this book from Orion Publishing Group – Trapeze via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Louisa Reeve, the daughter of a successful British gem trader, and her husband Elliot, a charming, thrill-seeking businessman, seem like the couple who have it all. Except what they long for more than anything: a child.
While Louisa struggles with miscarriages, Elliot is increasingly absent, spending much of his time at a nearby cinnamon plantation, overlooking the Indian ocean. After his sudden death, Louisa is left alone to solve the mystery he left behind.
Revisiting the plantation at Cinnamon Hills, she finds herself unexpectedly drawn towards the owner Leo, a rugged outdoors man with a chequered past. The plantation casts a spell, but all is not as it seems. And when Elliot’s shocking betrayal is revealed, Louisa has only Leo to turn to . . .
‘The Tea Planter’s Wife‘ is the first Dinah Jefferies novel I read and I love its atmosphere, poignancy and vivid characterisation. ‘The Sapphire Widow’ also takes place in 1930s Ceylon and has all of these qualities.
Louise born in Ceylon to a prosperous gemstone merchant loses her mother at an early age but now feels she lives a charmed life, with Elliot, her successful, maverick husband. Louise regrets the loss of her children to miscarriage and stillbirth and Elliot’s mysterious and frequent disappearances, but she doesn’t realise the true extent of his deceit until a tragic accident occurs.
Louise is a strong character but the revelations that follow her husband’s death make her wonder if anything in her marriage was true and threaten her willingness to risk her heart again. Louise shows great compassion by helping people whose very existence has caused her harm. It is this selfless behaviour that endears. Thankfully her forgiving nature and good works provide the tools for her broken heart and self-esteem to heal.
Leo, the cinnamon plantation owner is the antithesis of Elliot, self-reliant, serious and loyal, he has secrets in his past but Louise comes to realise it is present actions, not past ones that are important.
The cameo appearance of Gwen from ‘The Tea Planter’s Wife’ gives the story authenticity and provides Louise with the necessary support to rebuild her life, from someone who has suffered great loss.
The plot has twists and mysteries, which are not too hard to work out but it is the characters and setting that make this story memorable, especially Louise.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK Viking via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Romantic royal weddings are on trend at the moment, and these three romances capture the essences of the 21st-century royal romance. With a nod to Cinderella, the heroines aren’t princesses but, independent, professional, successful women, who seek passion rather than love because they don’t want to risk their hearts. The three princes are duty bound to marry well, all have well-publicised love lives but meeting their unlikely Cinderella’ makes them want to marry for love rather than obligation. The fast-paced stories have passion with humour and poignancy. Each story highlights, the drawbacks and commitment of royal life with strong conflict both external and internal but they all have fairytale endings.
Crowned for the Prince’s Heir –
This is fashion designer Lisa and Prince Luciano’s story. Before honouring an arranged betrothal, Luciano seeks out the only woman to reject him after a brief affair. Lisa’s emotional scars make her protect her heart at all costs. The second time around doesn’t end well for the couple, but it does leave a legacy that has consequences and leads to conflict and confusion before any chance of a happy ending.
The Ice Prince –
A wrangle over land and a case of mistaken identity throw lawyer Anna and Prince Draco together. The heat created is undeniable but family loyalty is at stake, and there is little trust between the two. I like this story least of the three, but it is full of passion and has a satisfactory ending.
At His Majesty’s Request –
A 21st-century matchmaker and a prince seem an unlikely combination but neither is conventional, and both hide their true feelings from the world. Jessica and Stavros’passion sizzle before they acknowledge it. Stavros has put his country before his well-being, and Jessica’s disastrous first marriage has left her scarred. This is the most romantic of the stories, and Stavros is my favourite prince. If you like passionate romance with a distinctly royal flavour, this trio of royal romances will be a worthwhile read.
I received a copy of this book from Mills & Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.