Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

5* #Review – The Girl in the Painting – Renita D’ Silva @bookouture @RenitaDSilva #HistoricalFiction #Literary #Fiction #India #1920s

India, 1926: English Margaret arrives with her new husband Suraj at his family home, set amidst beautiful rolling hills, the air filled with the soft scent of spices and hibiscus flowers. Margaret is unwelcome, homesick and lonely, but her maid Archana, a young woman from an impoverished family, reminds her of her long-lost sister, a tiny glimpse of home in a faraway place.

As Margaret and Archana spend more time together, an unexpected friendship blooms. But in British India the divide between rich and poor, English and Indian, is wide, and the clash between Margaret’s modern views and the weight of tradition on Archana will lead to devastating results…

England, 2000: Emma is at a crossroads. She has discovered the lie at the heart of her relationship, and she worries over the right choice to make for herself and her beloved daughter. When her grandmother gives her a mysterious painting, and asks her to take a message of forgiveness to an old friend in India, Emma is relieved to have some time and space to make a decision about her future. But as she fulfils her grandmother’s wish, a secret kept for over seventy years is finally revealed – the story of a day spent painting by a stream full of water lilies, where a betrayal tore three lives apart forever…

Will the weight of her grandmother’s regrets push Emma towards a mistake that will stay with her forever, or give her the courage she needs to make the right choice?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

‘The Girl in the Painting’ and all of this author’s books are always thought provoking, rich in literary and visual imagery, full of historical detail, and unashamedly emotional. They are a true escapist read, written for the pleasure of writing, and this love and dedication comes across in every word.

The plot is divided between the early twentieth century, particularly the 1920s in England and India, and the end of the twentieth century when Margaret, at the end of her life, asks her grandaughter, Emma, also at a crossroads in her life to seek out an old friend and right a wrong.

The historical plot moves between England from Margaret’s perspective and India from Archana’s perspective, the stories seem so divergent, there are common threads, but it’s only in the late 1920s, when the two women’s lives become inextricably joined.

The story highlights the culturial differences from a unique point of view and allows the reader to better understand , what from a westen perspective may seem unthinkable. The similarites in the outlook and empowerment of women is also explored in this story. At the time when English women were campaigning for equality. They were in many ways as powerless to determine their own destiny, as the women in India at that time. The importance of sisters in their lives, is another thing Margaret and Archana have in common.

The characters are relatable and easy to empathise, you feel their pain and guilt and want them to find some solace. All three women and those who touch their lives are changed by heartbreak.

The historical detail gives the story depth and vivacity, whether it be in India or England, where Margaret tastes life with ‘The Bloomsbury Group, artists and writers who care little for social conventions and eptiomise the 1920s in England.

‘The Girl in the Painting’ is an emotional, evocative , escapist journey for everyone who likes to lose themselves in a story..

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Posted in Book Review, Holiday Romance, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Dreaming of Tuscany – #BlogTour -5*#Review T.A. Williams @canelo_Co @TAWilliamsBooks

The glamour of Hollywood. The magic of the Tuscan countryside. One big decision…

Beatrice Kingdom (Bee to her friends) wakes up in hospital in Tuscany. After an accident on a film set leaves her burned and scarred, she feels her whole life has been turned upside down.

Bee is offered the chance of recuperating in a stunning Tuscan villa in the company of a world-famous film star, the irascible Mimi Robertson. Here amid the vines and olive groves, Bee quickly finds there’s more to the place than meets the eye, not least a certain Luca(and Romeo the dog).

As she comes to terms with her injuries and her new life takes shape, Bee will have to travel a road of self-discovery… and make a huge decision.

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

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

My Thoughts…

Bee’s life will never be the same again. After a near-fatal accident on a film set in Siena, she takes the chance to recuperate and rediscover who she is. Her film star companion, is diva-like, and she’s never lived in the country, but she never been physically scarred before and she needs time to come to terms with the new her. A remote Tuscan villa is a perfect place for this.

The characters in this story are complex and authentic and the well-paced plot is full of romance, self-realisation, mystery and humour. Culture, cuisine and celebrity give the story its vivacity and Romeo, the Labrador is perfectly described, and so lovable. The Tuscan setting comes to life in this story and you can imagine the vineyards, hills and history that epitomises it.

A lovely story of food, glamour, history and love with a memorable Italian flavour and setting.

T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing. Twitter @TAWilliamsBooks

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Kate Ryder – Cottage on a Cornish Cliff – Guest Post -Extract and 5* Review

Returning to the heart of her beloved Cornwall, Kate Ryder weaves another deliciously irresistible tale of desire, jealousy and the search for understanding, set against the stunning backdrop of the glorious Lizard Peninsula.

Globally renowned actor Oliver Foxley has made the most difficult decision of all and set the love of his life free, in order to try and bring his family back together. But there’s a magnetic pull back to both Cara and Cornwall that Oliver can neither deny nor resist…

Heartbroken for a second time in her short life, single mother Cara knows she has no choice but to pick up the pieces yet again and carry on. Perhaps a complete change of scenery would help her, and her young family? Yet her mind, spirit and heart yearn for the windswept shores of her Cornish Cove…

Cara and Oliver face the agonising choice between following expectations or following their hearts. How will their story end…?

 

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Guest Post – Kate Ryder: My experiences as a writer

I have been a keen reader since childhood and during my early teens, this evolved into writing poetry and short stories for my own pleasure.  In fact, a friend and I – horse mad teenagers at the time – wrote alternate chapters to complete our first novel (surprisingly, never published!).  The hero, then, was always a dark, brooding, magnificent stallion…

At school, English Literature was one of the subjects that naturally received my undivided attention.  I remember an appointment with a careers advice officer as keenly as if it were yesterday.  When asked what I’d like to do when I left school, I replied that I wanted to be an author or a journalist.  The careers advisor’s response was to ask me if I’d ever considered becoming a florist!  So, my dream of becoming an author was crushed before it ever had a chance to have life breathed into it.  I did not follow his advice into floristry but, instead, chose to study acting.  However, it soon became apparent that my passion lay more in crafting words than interpreting someone else’s.

Over the years I have enjoyed a variety of careers, mainly within travel, publishing and property.  Writing has featured strongly.  I have worked in PR and marketing (all those press releases!) and in editorial as a proof-reader, copy editor, assistant editor and writer.  It was during a period of employment with a specialist newspaper that I decided to escape news-speak and flex my creative writing muscles by joining a local writers’ group with the intention of writing short stories.  However, one particular exercise turned out to be a little longer than intended and I soon had 85,000 words and the semblance of a novel.  I self-published that short-story-turned-novel and was thrilled if a little shocked when it was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s 2016 Search for a Star and honoured with a Chill with a Book Book of the Month.

I am a member of the Society of Authors and a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.  Cottage on a Cornish Cliff is the second of my books published by UK-based digital publisher Aria Fiction, an imprint of award-winning Head of Zeus.  It is the sequel to Summer in a Cornish Cove, which saw me shortlisted for the RNA’s prestigious Joan Hessayon award.

Being traditionally published is a dream come true!  Thank you, Aria, for taking a punt on me.

My Thoughts…

I love the first book in this series and although the ending is poignant there is hope for Oliver and Cara’s future. The sequel sees Cara and Oliver living their lives, Cara with another child to love and Oliver trying to help his youngest son and see if there is anything of his marriage to save apart from staying together for the sake of the children.

Cara is emotionally strong and her family give her a reason to live, even though her heart is broken for the second time. Her artistic talent draws the attention of a New York art critic but are his motives as magnanimous as he portrays them? Or does he have a sinister motive for showcasing Cara’s art to the world? He offers security and success but is the sacrifice Cara will have to make worth it?

Exacerbated by his failing marriage and loss of Cara, Oliver’s depression deepens. Is doing the right thing for his family worth sacrificing his emotional happiness?

This is an intensely romantic, emotional story with two leading characters you can’t help but empathise with. The conflicts are frequent and convincing and the ending is worthy of any romantic film. The writing style is easy to read, full of authentic characters and a breathtaking setting.

Definitely one of my favourite romantic series of the year.

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

Extract

Here you go,’ says Janine, placing two mugs of coffee and plates filled with generous portions of chocolate cake on the table. ‘Enjoy!’

Cara picks up a fork. Slicing off a mouthful of cake, she pops it into her mouth. ‘Mmmm… that’s delicious.’

‘My mother’s recipe,’ says Janine. ‘She was a tremendous cook. That’s why all her children have grown to the size we have!’

‘Sorry to interrupt.’ A man’s strong Cornish accent makes them both jump. ‘I’ve come to fix the sign.’ Janine pushes back her chair and rushes over to him.

Toby, who had been falling asleep with his mouth slack around Cara’s right nipple, wakes suddenly and energetically sucks. Cara winces. She looks across at the man who, although talking to Janine, watches her.

‘Well, isn’t that a lovely sight?’ he says, scratching his head. ‘Fair made my day, that has!’

Cara smiles.

Janine glances over her shoulder at Cara. ‘Probably won’t make your day if you hang around for the nappy-changing part, Jim.’ She bustles the man out of the café.

Toby closes his eyes. Cara carefully removes him from her breast and pulls her sweatshirt down. Her son has incredibly thick black eyelashes and she wonders if Oliver had at that age too. NO! She has to stop doing this. Oliver Foxley does not exist. He is a world and a lifetime away…

‘Sorry about that,’ Janine says, returning to the table.

‘No worries, Janine. Breastfeeding’s only natural.’

‘Yes, but you don’t want any old Tom, Dick or Harry watching you while you do it,’ Janine says.

‘Or Jim…’

Janine laughs. ‘He’s a good guy. I’ve known him for years. He’s got eight grandchildren, so I guess he’s used to it. How’s the latte?’

‘Scrumptious. If I get into the habit of this indulgence I’ll have to start running again.’

‘I should take up running as well,’ comments Janine. ‘I don’t suppose customers want to be served by a large, sweaty lump of a woman.’

‘Oh, Janine! Your weight’s perfectly fine for your height.’

‘Yeah, guess so. Anyway, hubby never complains when he’s home from the rigs. Puts slighter men off though,’ Janine says with a laugh, ‘like that American friend of yours. When I first met him he actually cowered!’

Cara raises her eyebrows. She thinks back to the day when Greg visited her at The Lookout and Janine brought Beth and Sky home after school. It’s true! He backed off in Janine’s presence. However, Cara suspects it was not so much to do with her friend’s size and powerful charisma but more to do with keeping himself at a distance from the locals.

‘Poor Greg.’

‘Why poor?’ Janine asks, loading her fork with cake. ‘When I look at him the word “poor” doesn’t spring to mind!’

‘His wife’s just died. She had cancer. That’s why they visited the cove in the first place, for her recuperation… or so they’d hoped.’

‘Oh, that’s tough.’ Janine pops the cake into her mouth.

‘I wonder what he’ll do now,’ Cara says quietly, a small frown settling on her brow.

Janine considers her neighbour. She witnessed the devastating effect Christo’s tragic death had on her dear friend, and then the all-consuming love affair with Oliver that ended so suddenly, followed by the birth of their love child without the actor being there. She also knows Greg would find any excuse to hang around Cara whenever he was in the cove.

‘He is very attractive, in an older man sort of way,’ she says cautiously.

Cara nods her head.

‘And he has plenty of money.’

Cara gives her friend a questioning look. ‘What exactly are you suggesting, Janine?’

‘Nothing really,’ Janine says airily, ‘just… Well, you know, life’s short and he inhabits the same world as you. He could provide you and your family with a wonderful life.’

‘Janine! He’s only just lost his wife!’ Cara scolds.

‘I know. I’m just saying.’ Janine gives a small smile before adding, ‘You know he’s really keen on you.’

‘I do not!’ Cara exclaims.

‘Oh, I think you do, Cara Penhaligon. The fuss he’s made of you ever since he first discovered your talent, and the way he guided you through all the press nonsense surrounding that prize you won. He wouldn’t let you out of his sight!’

Cara frowns again.

‘And, let’s face it, Cara. Most men would run a mile from a woman who had a baby by another man, but Toby doesn’t seem to have made a bit of difference.’

Cara considers Janine’s words. She’s right. Having supported her through the excitement of winning the Threadneedle Prize, Greg kept in touch throughout her pregnancy and beyond. His attention never waned. She remembers the first day she saw him, walking a dog on the beach in the most atrocious weather. He clocked her watching him from her studio window and acknowledged her. Her first impressions were that he was not only attractive – in an older man, Richard Gere sort of way – but also sophisticated and a league away. However, through their professional relationship, the distance between them has lessened. He has pointed her in the right direction and introduced her to influential people in the art world, and she now considers him a true mentor.

‘What are you thinking?’ asks Janine.

‘Nothing of importance,’ Cara says a little too quickly.

‘Well, I think nothing of importance could grow into something very much of importance if that’s what you want,’ says Janine, rising from her chair as the entrance door opens.

Jim walks in. ‘I’m ready to hang those signs now,’ he says, looking over at Cara and Toby, asleep in her lap. He smiles.

‘Here they are,’ says Janine, picking up the signs off a neighbouring table. ‘I’ll hold the ladder for you.’

As Janine disappears with Jim, Cara contemplates what her friend has said. She’s never really considered Greg in that light. Oh, yes, he kisses her at every given opportunity, but it doesn’t mean a thing.  It’s just his way. But now, after Janine’s comments, she wonders if there is something to the way Greg handles her. And then she remembers the way he looked at her – in this very café – the first time they officially met. So much has happened since she had forgotten the look that suggested a different time and place.

Cara’s face flushes and her frown deepens.’

After pursuing a career in publishing and acting, Kate found her passion in writing. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. Her self-published debut novel received a Chill with a Book, “Book of the Month” Award. She currently lives with her husband in the Tamar Valley in a renovated 200-year-old Cornish sawmill. She finds the Cornish landscape a great source of inspiration. When she is not writing she enjoys reading, art, theatre and travel. Facebook   Twitter Website

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Summer on the Little Cornish Isles -5* Review – Phillipa Ashley -The Starfish Studio

 

 

 

Poppy has always loved Cornwall – the crisp sea air, the welcoming community. So when her boyfriend Dan suggests they leave their office jobs and take over the Starfish Studio on the Isles of Scilly, Poppy doesn’t need asking twice.

But things don’t go to plan when Dan dumps her, weeks before they’re due to move. Determined not to give up, Poppy accepts the help of local photographer Jake, her landlord’s grandson. But Jake is distracted by a loss from his past.

Can they turn the crumbling gallery into a success in time for tourist season? And will a summer on the little Cornish Isles mend just the studio – or Poppy’s heart too?

Amazon UK

 Amazon

My Thoughts…

Every time I read a book in ‘The Little Cornish Isles’ series, I think that’s my favourite and #The Starfish Studio’ is no different. I love the story, the chemistry between Jake and Poppy, the healing and forgiveness required to move forward and the friendly, loving, nosy community that supports Jake and Poppy find love and happiness again. 

Full of vivid imagery, reading this story is like looking at a detailed canvas, you can feel the sea sway, enjoy the wildlife and scenery and absorb the warmth of the community.

After a moment of serendipity, Jake and Poppy go their separate ways, never expecting to meet again, not knowing their lives will change forever before they do. The chemistry between Poppy and Jake is undeniable if unwelcome, as Jake runs from his haunted past and Poppy’s faces a future alone after her boyfriend’s betrayal.

A romantic story of battling against life’s troubles and learning to let your heart love again, perfect summer reading.

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

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Murder at the Grand Raj Palace – Vaseem Kahn – (Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation #4) – 5* Review

For a century the iconic Grand Raj Palace Hotel has welcomed the world’s elite. From film stars to foreign dignitaries, anyone who is anyone stays at the Grand Raj.

The last thing the venerable old hotel needs is a murder…

When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead – the day after buying India’s most expensive painting – the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Chopra is called in – and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead.

Accompanied by his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesh, Chopra navigates his way through the palatial building, a journey that leads him steadily to a killer, and into the heart of darkness.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

If you’re looking for a 21st-century take on the cosy mystery, this is a must-read. I love Miss Marple, Poirot and Midsomer Murders and this series encompasses the best of these with an enthralling taste of life in India.

Chopra, a retired policeman, is an inherent crime solver and even ill health can’t prevent him from doing what he loves. He is an honest, loyal man who values truth and justice. Sometimes his personal life gets sidelined by his investigations, like this one, which threatens to rock his marriage after twenty-five years. Chopra is a surrogate parent to an orphaned baby elephant called Ganesh, with a talent for crime solving and a young boy who is inseparable from the young elephant. These young characters provide the light relief to Chopra’s often grisly investigations.

The plot plays out like an Agatha Christie with numerous suspects, misinformation and sub-plots. The steady pacing makes these easy to follow, but the storyline keeps its secrets well. Poppy, Chopra’s wife, has her investigation adding to the story’s diversity. Indian culture and society are intrinsic to this series, and there are also pertinent comments about politics, colonialism, religion, and multi-national corporations, which give the story its authenticity. 

I haven’t read the previous books in this series, but this one reads well as a standalone. However, it’s addictive reading, and  I’m sure I will read the other books in the series soon. If you like whodunnit mysteries, charismatic characters and charming animals, this is a book you’re sure to enjoy.

I received a copy of this book from Mulholland Books, Hodder& Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

The Betrayal – The Guernsey Novels #6 – Anne Allen- 5* Review

 

Treachery and theft lead to death – and love

1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…
1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return.
1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.
2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona, buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth…
Searching for the rightful owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother’s ghost to rest?
Who betrayed Leo?
Who knew about the stolen Renoir?
And are they prepared to kill – again?

Amazon UK

Amazon

 

My Thoughts…

 I love this series, it has all the best qualities of a cosy mystery in a breathtaking setting, with just a hint of the supernatural and historical flashbacks that illuminate the present mystery.

Believable, interesting characters are easy to empathise with and draw you into present-day Guernsey and it’s WW2 legacy, most notably the German occupation of the island. The gentle romance and supernatural elements enhance the storyline. The writing is clever as present-day events are determined by their historical roots. 

Whilst they are standalone read; characters and situations from previous novels inform this story. If you haven’t read the other books in the series check out my reviews and read them for yourself.

 This story is a pleasing, page-turning read, that makes me want to reacquaint myself with the mystical island of Guernsey.

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

 

Posted in Book Review, New Books

5* Review: The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett

25345198 Blurb - Coastal

A man is walking down a country lane. A woman, cycling towards him, swerves to avoid a dog. On that moment, their future hinges. There are three possible outcomes, three small decisions that could determine the rest of their life.

Eva and Jim are nineteen and students at Cambridge when their paths first cross in 1958. And then there is David, Eva’s then-lover, an ambitious actor who loves Eva deeply. The Versions of Us follows the three different courses their lives could take following this first meeting. Lives filled with love, betrayal, ambition but through it all is a deep connection that endures whatever fate might throw at them.

The Versions of Us explores the idea that there are moments when our lives might have turned out differently, the tiny factors or decisions that could determine our fate, and the precarious nature of the foundations upon which we build our lives. It is also a story about the nature of love and how it grows, changes and evolves as we go through the vagaries of life.

Buy Links  - Coastal

Amazon UK
Amazon

My Review - Coastal

The Versions of UsThree stories, separate, yet cleverly intertwined at significant times for Eva and Jim. One ordinary occurrence causes a serendipitous meeting, or almost meeting and what happens as a result of this.

Easy to read, the three stories allow Eva and Jim’s characters to develop in differing scenarios. Each story shares the same support cast of players but they take on different significance. Although Eva and Jim’s lives are different in each story they touch at some point.

The story starts when Eva and Jim are nineteen and dips into each succeeding decade until 2014. The research into distinctive events and trends of each time period is evident and enriches the story. Similarly the references to the art, literature and media of each decade are pertinent and give the stories a realistic, diary like quality.

It’s easy to understand what motivates Eva’s decisions, throughout the book, she is a perfect women’s fiction heroine and whichever version of her you’re reading you feel her happiness and sadness and want her to succeed. Jim is not such a strong character but though I didn’t always understand his choices, I did empathise with him.

The general tone of all stories is dark, there is a tendency to focus on the sadness and the tragedy and a little more attention to happy events would have made for a lighter read. The versions of the story share a poignant ending, which imprints the characters and their possible lives on the reader, after the last page is turned.

I received a copy of this book from Orion Publishing Group W&N via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Versions of Us by Laura  Barnett

Laura Barnett

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