Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

The Olive Garden Choir – Leah Fleming – 3*#Review #Friendship #Family #Secrets #Romance #GreekIslands @HoZ_Books @LeahleFleming

On the beautiful island of Santaniki, close to Crete, it’s not all white sands and sunshine. When retired bookseller Ariadne Blunt suggests the English residents form a choir, there are groans of resistance. After a little persuasion, the group gather in Ariadne’s olive garden to rehearse, but each member of this choir has their own anxieties and secrets.

Ariadne’s partner, Hebe, is in failing health. Clive struggles to accept the loss of his wife while Della, the Pilates teacher, drinks too much and Chloe, Queen Bee of the village society, faces a family dilemma. Then there is Mel, the real songbird amongst them, English wife of a taverna owner who hides her talent until the choir inspires her to raise her voice once more.

In this tiny community, the choir brings the residents together like never before in a bittersweet tale of love and loss – and how life can begin again when you let go of the past.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

The setting for this story is sublime and beautifully described, making it the perfect holiday read. The themes are popular at the moment, a group of people drawn together by necessity, in this case, they are Ex-Pats on a small Greek Island, who need a distraction and are intrigued by the creation of an island choir.

There are lots of characters, and through short chapters, the reader shares their stories, finding out why they are on the island, what motivates them, their emotional state, and what they are hiding from the others. I like following the fortunes of many characters, but for some readers, this can be off-putting.

This is an emotional story and you empathise with the characters, not all are likeable, but their flaws make them realistic and relatable. The choir is a good medium for bringing the community together, and whilst not a new theme, it is used to good effect in this book.

The book also explores contemporary issues, focusing on the humanity angle and shows how small communities react.

A nice mix of characters and a well-told story, in a vividly described setting, something for those who read to escape.

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

Full of Grace – 5*#Review – Elizabeth Crocket @CrimsonCloakPub

Angela keeps a roof over her head, albeit a leaking one, by writing romance novels. But, Angela’s never really believed in the traditional happily ever after ending. So, she begins writing the story of Grace, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer shortly after finding out her husband Rick is having an affair. Again.

As she writes the story to dispel the myth of happily ever after, Angela begins a relationship with Mark, the contractor who comes to fix her leaking roof, and ironically, it looks like she may be on the way to her own happy ending. But Angela’s had a difficult past and has a cynical outlook, while Mark’s life has just gotten messy. Angela wonders if this is all going to work out.

Grace lies in bed at night, wondering if what Rick wants to give her, and what he is capable of giving her, are two different things. She asks Rick to move out temporarily, while they try to assess their marriage. She wonders how she can get such comfort and security from a man who cheated on her.

  Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

As with her previous novel ‘ A Path to the Lake’, the author delivers an original plot, believable characters and a story with a unique charm. ‘Full of Grace’ is told from two points of view. Angela, a romance writer, never seems to find the ‘happily ever after’ she writes in her romances, and Grace, the character created by Angela as a conduit of her new writing style.

Through writing Grace’s story as she searches for her new purpose in life, Angela finds challenges in her own life, which make her realise that romance is possible in the real world too.

This is an engaging read, the characters are easy to empathise and you become invested in their lives. The pacing is perfect and the story easy to read. This is a story of ordinary people facing life’s mercurial challenges. It is the strength of the characters and the relatability of the plot that makes it such an enjoyable read.

Posted in Book Review, Literary Humour, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Love Heart Lane – 5*#Review – Christie Barlow @HarperImpulse @ChristieJBarlow

When Flick Simons returns to the cosy village of Heartcross she only expected to stay for a few days. The white-washed cottages of Love Heart Lane might be her home, but the place holds too many painful memories, and of one man in particular – Fergus Campbell.

When a winter storm sweeps in, the only bridge connecting the village to the mainland is swept away. As the villagers pull together, Flick finds herself welcomed back by the friends she once left behind. And as the snow begins to melt, maybe there is a chance that Fergus’s heart will thaw too…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

What I love about this author’s books is that she is a true storyteller, she introduces you to a community full of interesting characters, highlights serious issues affecting women. Particularly, the general perception of what’s expected fo women in given situations, and shows through Flick’s experience, how emotionally damaging it can be for the woman. Especially, if she feels she cannot express her grief or true feelings because of what people may think. There’s also a lovely second chance romance and a beautiful rural setting.

This promises to be a heartwarming series, with a realistic mix of humour, poignancy and romance.

Posted in Book Review, Literary Fiction

Mr Doubler Begins Again – Seni Glaister – 5*#Review @HQstories @HQDigitalUK @SeniGlaister

Baked, mashed, boiled or fried, Mr Doubler knows his potatoes. But the same can’t be said for people. Since he lost his wife, he’s been on his own at Mirth Farm – and that suits Doubler just fine. Crowds are for other people; the only company he needs are his potato plants and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, who visits every day.

So when Mrs Millwood is taken ill, it ruins everything – and Mr Doubler begins to worry that he might have lost his way. But could the kindness of strangers be enough to bring him down from the hill?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

I love the current trend of novels featuring older characters in a protagonist role. Perhaps, its because I am closer to being older than young myself?

‘Mr Doubler Begins Again’, is the story of a man who has lost his wife and retreated into his home and business because it’s what he knows, what he likes, and most importantly it won’t leave him. His children visit, but his main contact with the outside world is Mrs Millwood his housekeeper, who not only keeps his house but also makes sure he receives the emotional support he needs.

His reliance on his trusty housekeeper is shaken when she is hospitalised and he finds his life is lonely, and not as full as he thought.

Told in a charming way, the reclusive Mr Doubler learns to trust others and to give friendship in return.  Just like his potatoes, people are many varieties and some are better suited than others.

The characters are steeped in authenticity, and the rural way of life is celebrated. Not everyone has good intentions, but all have a part to play in Mr Doubler’s reemergence from his grief.

A lovely story full of poignant, relatable moments.

Posted in Book Review

Love in the Dales Series- Mary Jayne Baker – Guest Post and 5* Reviews

In a lost corner of the Yorkshire Dales, Lana Donati runs a medieval theme tourist trap restaurant with her brother. As a distraction to help them get over losing the father, they loved dearly, and as a tribute to his passion for the beautiful area they live in, Lana hatches a plan to boost business for everyone by having the Grand Départ route pass through their village. 

But this entails getting the small community to work together to convince the decision-makers that their beloved village is Tour material. Not an easy task when the people involved include Lana’s shy, unlucky-in-love brother Tom, the man-eating WI chair Yolanda, bickering spouses Gerry and Sue, arrogant celebrity Harper Brady, and Lana’s (attractive) arch-nemesis, former pro-cyclist turned bike shop owner, Stewart McLean, whose offbeat ideas might just cost them everything. 

Amazon UK

mirrorbooks.co.uk

My Thoughts…

Authentic characters that have emotional depth and realistic flaws are the lynchpins of this romantic comedy set in the lovely Yorkshire Dales.

A story about community spirit, village life and honouring those we love. The main protagonist is independent, but with a vulnerability that endears her. The romance she finds is paced realistically and adds interest to this story of family, relationships and friends.

Another charming story by this author who has the knack of bringing her setting to life to enhance her wonderful characters. Looking forward to the next one.

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

After years living in London, costume shop owner Becky Finn is trying to build a new life for herself and fiancé Cole in her old home of Egglethwaite, a sleepy village in the Yorkshire Dales.

Keen to raise funds for the struggling village hall she loved as a child, Becky soon finds herself at the head of a colourful group intent on resurrecting Egglethwaite’s Christmas pantomime. But, as she quickly discovers, there’s more to panto than innuendo and slapped thighs.

As the opening night grows closer, Becky starts to wonder if her embattled panto will ever make it to the stage and, with handsome co-star Marcus on the scene, if shes picked the right man for her after all.

Amazon UK

mirrorbooks.co.uk

My Thoughts…

What I love about this author and this series is the humour that dominates the plot and acts as the perfect counterpoint to the deep emotion of some scenes. Again, this story concentrates on community spirit. How after a little persuasion and give and take, they work as one for the good of the village.

The storyline is engaging and unique, again a characteristic of this author. The quality of characters, the events and emotions bring James Herriot’s Vet stories to mind, which I love.

There’s romance too, which is a realistic mix of poignancy and laughter and adds just the right amount of sweetness and spice to this delightful story.

Love in the Dales is a great series, well worth reading.

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

Guest Post – Mary Jayne Baker 

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Ok, so here’s a tweet of mine from 23rd October 2016, as I was planning out my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those who’ve not come across it) for that year:

That book became A Bicycle Made for Two, the first book in the Love in the Dales series. It was published in April 2018, with the second book in the series, The Perfect Fit, following in November. And yes, it does indeed feature trombones, chips shops and morris dancing, as well as Flash the border collie pup!

I’ve been asked to write a few words about the inspiration behind the series. As the tweet above shows, when it comes to where an author gets their ideas, it’s often a bit of a mishmash, chucking in ingredients as and when they occur to you. Mine go into a big brainstorming document, then are weeded down when I come to write an outline. So, I wanted my heroine to play in a brass band because I used to play in a brass band (saving myself research, basically…). I wanted to include a chip shop because I’d been standing in one when I’d had a vision of a scene I could set there. Morris dancing – I’d noticed that morris dancers were often older, very serious-looking men and I thought there was potential for humour in creating a character who was such a man. And the dog is called Flash for the sole purpose of one Queen-based joke that made me giggle.

In terms of having a plan, all I really knew when I decided to write the first book – which I didn’t know at the time would end up being part of a series – was that I wanted to write about Yorkshire. I wanted my deep affection for my home county to shine through in the story, the characters, the setting and the writing.

I’d written books with Yorkshire characters and settings before. My debut novel, The Honey Trap, was set in London but featured a villainous editor from Bradford, who became my favourite characters to write for. My next book, Meet Me at the Lighthouse, was set on the Yorkshire coast, and Runaway Bride had a heroine from Settle. But I wouldn’t have said Yorkshire was the primary inspiration for those books in the same way as A Bicycle Made for Two. This brings my bit of the West Riding into focus: the glorious blend of moorland and mill towns often referred to as Brontë Country.

I wanted the book to reflect a tight-knit village community such as the one I’d grown up in, and as with all my books, the individual ingredients came more often than not from my own experiences. As mentioned, like my heroine I once played in a brass band (2nd Euphonium). The village, Egglethwaite, is a patchwork of bits and pieces I’ve stolen from other villages near where I live. The viaduct and reservoir are based on Hewenden viaduct and reservoir, near my home in Harden (and although the viaduct is integral to the story and features on the cover, it only occurred to me to include it about a third of the way through writing the first draft – some insight into the writing process there!). The beauty spot of Pagans’ Rock is based on Druids’ Altar near Bingley. Egglethwaite’s cobbled main street was borrowed from Heptonstall, its pub name from Oxenhope. When I come across something that lights a spark for whatever reason – whether that’s a cobbled street, a pub name, a phrase or tic of an individual I encounter, an event or anecdote – I jot it down to add to my brainstorm. Even things that don’t become part of the core plot can add texture and character to a book, and help to flesh out the people who live in its pages.

With this series particularly, I wanted to include all the things I loved best about Yorkshire, from the sweeping beauty of the moors to the dry humour of the people. I wanted this to be Yorkshire as it is, my experience of it, rather than the view of it from the outside as a land of whippets, flat caps and puddings. So I made the decision to set the first book around an event we’re still talking about in the county: the Grand Départ of 2014 when the eyes of the whole world were on the county and it really showed itself at its best. I’m not a follower of professional cycling but like everyone in Yorkshire, I got carried away by that event and the sense of community spirit it brought out.

For the second book, I knew exactly what I wanted to write. Again, I wanted to bring out the community spirit at the heart of Egglethwaite. I’d always wanted to write a story about a village pantomime, and now I had the perfect village and the perfect set of characters to take the job on. With all the old friends I’d got to know writing A Bicycle Made for Two, plus a new hero and heroine and their families, I set about throwing obstacles at my wannabe amdrammers, both romantic and theatrical. These included randy cast members, bad acting, iffy Welsh accents, piddling puppies and deflating boobies. It was so much fun to write, I do hope I’ll get the chance to visit Egglethwaite again in future!

 

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

Blog Tour: Kitty Wilson – The Cornish Village School – Q&A and 4*Review

 

Rosy Winter is definitely not looking for love

Following heartbreak, Rosy has rebuilt her life in the beautiful Cornish village of Penmenna. Now, headmistress of the local school, she is living by The Rule: no dating anyone in the village. Easy right? But Rosy Winter has a new neighbour, handsome gardener Matt.

In Penmenna for his new gardening TV show, this guy next door will do everything he can to persuade her to break her rule and win her heart. Meanwhile, Penmenna Village School is threatened with closure, and it’s up to Rosy to rally the local community and #SaveOurSchool. Can she bring her worlds together and accept help from the most unlikely of sources? One thing’s for sure… she won’t be giving up without a fight.

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Amazon

Q&A with Kitty Wilson – The Cornish Village School Blog Tour

What inspired you to write a story set in a Cornish Village?

They say write what you know and I have lived here for over two decades. Every morning I open my eyes and out of the window there is the sea stretching in front of me just past some fields. I live in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a network of Cornish villages, and there is nothing like it. It’s hard not to be inspired by my surroundings. The villages are quirky, picturesque and a perfect microcosm of all human behaviour. I love the community feel and the things you learn. People are quick to gossip, but they are even quicker to help. Spending time in these villages, and I do seem to be in the village pub with alarming frequency, helped me shape the book. I knew I wanted to write romance, but I also knew I wanted it to be a story of a community and how it pulls together, how it’s supportive and funny and a character in its own right.

There are lots of stories about Cornish life currently, what makes yours different?

A book takes me about a year to write, so I was a bit panicked as I saw Cornish title after Cornish title hitting the shelves. But the truth is that the setting is so magical, memorable and lends itself beautifully to all types of fiction that I am not surprised that many great stories are set here.

What makes mine different? I hope the fact that I am so deeply immersed in Cornish life and culture makes a difference. I know the people intimately, the everyday customs and practices that make this county are ingrained in me and my children. We do like to go at a slow pace although everything is thrown down for the day if the sun shines, then we race to the beach with our bags and BBQ kit which are permanently packed and kept by the door. We have experienced, over two decades, so much that Cornwall has to offer; beach and moors, hidden forests and ancient monuments. I hope my book is weaved through with the spirit of Cornwall in the same way that Cornwall is woven through me, and that Cornwall jumps out from the pages with real depth, a passion, knowledge that can’t always be captured without having lived it. 

Do you draw your characters from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?

My characters tend to start with a real person if for no other reason that then I can picture them in my head and go from there. In this instance, Rosy was made of an amalgamation of a few teacher friends and Matt was a young Monty Don. However, it doesn’t take long before they seem to take over themselves and become very much their own person with barely any resemblance to the initial inspiration at all. So, I start with real life, but that barely lasts ten minutes before they, or my imagination, takes over and runs wild.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read all sorts of books and always have done. I grew up devouring the classics which has helped shape my love of history, and my comfort reads tend to be historical or romance. I love romantic comedies, and there is nothing that lifts the soul as beautifully on a grey day. I read literary fiction occasionally as well but think that the escapism of a commercial novel is a wonderful thing that should be celebrated a lot more than it is. But the truth is I will read anything and do. Why do I love reading? That is an essay worthy question so I shall say simply because it is something I have always done and cannot imagine a life in which I didn’t. It enriches my heart, mind and soul.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

I have always wanted to write, ever since I was a small child and used to create story after story. Rather like reading it was just part of me for as long as I can remember. I did let real life get in the way and found little time to write when I was working full-time as a teacher and was a lone parent with two children, but still, I would occasionally try, although I tended to write poetry, time being in short supply. I think writing is an itch and is always there niggling in your mind if you’re not doing it. I had to stop teaching when I became poorly, but on the upside, I suddenly had time on my hands, and I started to write. This genre was a natural fit, and it just seemed to flow, I have loved to read romance ever since (and maybe a little before) it was age appropriate, so that was what I started with. I found that as I was writing, I was writing things that made me cackle and decided to embrace the humour rather than cut it out. My romantic comedy voice was born, and I love writing this genre. It’s warm, it’s comforting, and it provides an escape – what is not to love?

What’s next for Kitty Wilson? Have you written any more books set in this lovely village?

I am currently writing the second in the series set around Penmenna School and have more planned in my head. Each will centre around a different protagonist, but favourite characters (and mine is Marion) will feature heavily in each. In fact, I am giving Marion a longer-running storyline which I hope will carry over a couple of books, so yes, hopefully, lots more Penmenna village. I have so many stories in all sorts of places that I’m desperate to write, jostling around in my head, so I’m hoping I can carry on writing books for a very long time.  

My Thoughts… 

Strong female characters and the author’s knowledge and appreciation of all things Cornish makes this a welcome addition to growing number of fictional tales set in England’s most south-westerly county.

Rosie, the village school headteacher, sees the village as her new start, nothing will spoil it for her as long as she follows her rules. Matt, a celebrity gardener, moves in next door, and their growing physical and emotional attachment threatens Rosy’s rule book.

Aside from the emotional angst, the school is under threat of closure, and the subsequent campaign to #SaveOurSchool draws the community together and gives the Matt and his sister a chance to become part of something real and worthwhile.

The plot is simple and a little predictable, but the characters are believable, quirky and vividly portrayed, so the complete package makes a satisfying read. 

Romance, humour, trust and community are all themes of this village based tale, and I look forward to seeing who comes under the village spotlight next.

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

Kitty Wilson has lived in Cornwall for the last twenty-five years having been dragged there, against her will, as a stroppy teen. She is now remarkably grateful to her parents for their foresight and wisdom – and that her own children aren’t as hideous. She spends most of her time welded to the keyboard or hiding out at the beach and has a penchant for very loud music, equally loud dresses and romantic heroines who speak their mind.

Twitter: @KittyWilson23