Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Murder on a Winter Afternoon – Betty Rowlands – 4*Review @bookouture

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A snow-covered cottage is nestled in the hills, all ready for Christmas… but inside a body lies dead upon the floor.

Melissa Craig is enjoying her first winter in the Cotswolds, taking brisk walks through the snowy fields and basking in the winter sunshine. The only thing Melissa is plotting is her Christmas shopping.

But after the unexpected death of local writer Leonora Jewell, Melissa is asked to complete Leonora’s final book. However, on her first visit to the cottage, she finds a gruesome object overlooked by the police: a metal bar covered with dried blood.

Terrified, Melissa rushes to the nearest telephone box to call the police. But by the time they reach Leonora’s cottage, the murder weapon has mysteriously vanished.

With no murder weapon, the detective in charge of the case scoffs at Melissa’s suspicions. Furious and frustrated, Melissa focuses on finishing Leonora’s novel. But as she reads Leonora’s notes for the book, she starts to wonder… did Leonora accidentally plot out her own murder?

As Melissa does some investigating of her own, she uncovers some pretty suspicious local characters. But with the police unwilling to help, can Melissa solve this vicious crime alone? By hook, by crook, or by the book, Melissa must find the killers before they strike again…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Winter always seems to enhance the attractiveness of murder mysteries, especially typically English ones like the Melissa Craig series. This is a particularly atmospheric story both in terms of snow and frost and the air of menace that follows the intrepid crime writer around as she becomes embroiled in another murder mystery.

This story sees the reappearance of Bruce, from earlier books in the series and he definitely brings out Mel’s impulsive personality traits. There is a lot going on in the background of this story, some of which seems superfluous to the plot. I worked out whodunnit, early on, this is possibly the author’s intention, as it shows up Mel’s fallibility, and increases the danger she faces.

Perfect for reading on a cold, stormy Winter’s day like today.

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

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Posted in Book Review

Her Brooding Scottish Heir – Ella Hayes – 5* Review @EllaHayesAuthor @MillsandBoon

A kiss under the Northern Lights…

Running from her broken engagement artist Milla O’Brien retreats to the Scottish Highlands. Only to arrive during a lavish wedding on the estate!

She finds the bride’s brother and brooding heir, Cormac Buchanan. Could they heal each other’s hearts?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

An amusing, poignant, romantic tale of Milla and Cormac, who meet in the Scottish Highlands.

Milla still grieving for the loss of her mother when she was younger, has her world decimated when her fiance betrays her. Cormac, a soldier and heir to a Scottish estate, is grieving and guilt-ridden about the death of his boyhood friend in war-torn Afghanistan. 

Milla’s escape to the Highlands turns out to be complicated when she finds herself in the middle of a society wedding, her worst nightmare. Home for Cormac is no longer a place of sanctuary the memories are too painful, but it’s his sister’s big day and he has to be there.

The attraction between the artist and the soldier is sizzling, although it takes a while for them to acknowledge it, given their fragile emotional states. There is conflict from their first meeting but somewhere deep inside they want to be happy again but do they deserve it and are they brave enough to trust again?

The subsidiary characters are charming and add to the story. without detracting from the main characters’ storyline. Written in a contemporary style, it is a quick read and the characters easy to empathise. Romantic but realistic and true to the genre.

Apart from the title, I enjoyed everything about this romantic novel. Given the contemporary storyline and writing style, the title seems outdated and not representative of the content.

An exciting new voice in Mills and Boon’s ‘True Love’ category romance.

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

Posted in Book Review

Fingerprinted Hearts – 3*Review – Amy Spitzfaden

Sisters Fawn and Penny Anderson each have their own reason for loving More Please Bakery. It’s the place that helped Fawn heal after earth-shattering betrayal and an escape from Penny’s stalling relationship. But Fawn can’t forget her bittersweet history with the bakery’s handsome owner, Penny has a growing interest in the delivery boy, and the shop’s bank account is getting low.

When Penny lands them a celebrity client, reality TV star Delaney Roosevelt, Fawn dives in headfirst trying to come up with the perfect design. However, pleasing the starlet isn’t easy and soon heartbreak and scandal descend on the shop.

As the sisters face their romantic and professional demons they are forced to decide what is worth holding onto, and what they need to let go.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

If you’re wanting a break from the wall-to-wall Christmas fiction, but still want romance and something sweet, ‘Fingerprinted Hearts’ is worth a read. Set in a bakery in Boston USA, it follows the lives of two sisters, Fawn and Penny, as they negotiate love, heartbreak and their careers.

It took me a while to get into this story, which throws you straight into Fawn’s emotional angst, but the sisters’ relationship is believable, and the plot has the necessary twists to hold the reader’s interest.

  An easy to read, cosy romance with authentic characters and a popular bakery setting. 

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

 

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5* Review: Karen Swan – The Christmas Lights – @KarenSwan1 @panmacmillan

December 2018, and free-spirited influencers Bo Loxley and her partner Zac are living a life of wanderlust, travelling the globe and sharing their adventures with their millions of fans.

Booked to spend Christmas in the Norwegian fjords, they set up home in a remote farm owned by enigmatic mountain guide Anders and his fierce grandmother Signy. Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen falls, everything should be perfect. But the camera can lie and with every new post, the ‘perfect’ life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth.

Something Bo can’t explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives and Anders is the only person who’ll listen.

June 1936, and fourteen-year-old Signy is sent with her sister and village friends to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids, protecting the herd that will sustain the farm through the long, winter months. But miles from home and away from the safety of their families, threat begins to lurk in friendly faces . . .

The mountains keep secrets – Signy knows this better than anyone – and as Bo’s life begins to spiral she is forced, like the old woman before her, to question who is friend and who is foe.

Amazon UK 

Waterstones

My Thoughts…

An atmospheric story, that is deeper than it first appears, following Bo and Zac, two Instagram social influencers to the beautiful but forbidding Norwegian fjords in wintertime. There they meet Anders their mysterious guide and his fiercely independent grandmother, Signy.

The story is told from Bo’s point of view as she faces up to her demons, and questions whether she really is living the dream with Zac, or just running away. Signy’s story told in flashbacks to 1936 is simple, but devastating, and helps understand her fighting spirit and her willingness to face physical hardship to achieve the solitude she needs.

The contrast between the virtual world Bo lives in and the grounded world Signy inhabits is the lynchpin of this story, which explores relationships, the power of social media and the many secrets the story’s characters’ are keeping.

There is an underlying menace in both timelines, reinforced by the danger ever present in the mountainous region. There is poignant romance brought to life by believable characters and situations.

Out of tragedy comes hope and an understanding of love and the true meaning of sacrifice.

An unusual festive story with many layers to engage the reader and a hopeful ending.

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

Posted in Book Review

The Little Book Cafe Series – Georgia Hill – 5* Review

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.

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.