Posted in Book Review, Crime, Domestic Thriller, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller

5*#Review The Other Daughter Shalini Boland @bookouture @ShaliniBoland #PsychologicalThriller #FamilyDrama #DomesticThriller #Secrets

Nine years ago her daughter was taken.

And now she’s back. Two-and-a-half-year-old Holly is playing happily in a pink plastic playhouse, while her mother Rachel sips coffee and chats with a friend nearby. It should be an ordinary day for all of them. But, in the blink of an eye, it turns into every family’s worst nightmare.

Holly is taken by a stranger and never found.

Nine years later, Rachel is living a quiet life in Dorset. She’s tried to keep things together since the traumatic day when she lost her eldest daughter. She has a new family, a loving partner and her secrets are locked away in her painful past.

Until one afternoon when Rachel meets a new school parent Kate and her teenage daughter Bella. Rachel’s world is instantly turned upside down – she’s seen Bella before. She’d recognise that face anywhere – it’s her missing child.

And she will stop at nothing to get her back…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This is my second psychological thriller by this author, and like her previous book ‘The Marriage Betrayal’ this story explores a family tragedy, with two main points of view, and lots of plot twists that make reading it, a mind-blowing experience.

The story begins with Catriona in the past. She is emotionally distraught, something terrible has happened, she finds herself at a shopping mall, and after a while, a young child catches her attention.

Rachel tells her story in the present, she meets a new mother at school, their children become instant friends, but when she meets the older sibling, she cannot believe her eyes. She resembles the child she lost eight years previously.

This is a story of secrets, obsession and tragedy. Neither viewpoint is reliable, and whilst most of the information relayed from the two points of view seems plausible, you are constantly waiting for the twist that says you are wrong.

The characters have many flaws, Rachel is hard to like, even though you empathise with her situation. She trusts no one, and you wonder why she has kept her secrets for so long.

This is an emotionally gripping story, with relentless suspense, that draws you in and keeps you reading. There are some less plausible parts to the story, but this is a psychological thriller, told by unreliable protagonists, you cannot expect events to be conventional.

The twists are well constructed and keep you guessing, and the trademark ending makes you gasp, even though you knew it was coming.

Not to be missed if you love the twisty turns of a good psychological thriller, with a seemingly normal domestic setting.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Romance

This Is Me- Shari Low – 5* #Review #GuestPost @Aria_Fiction @sharilow #FamilyDrama

This is… Denise.

Married to Ray, her first and only love, Denise has never for one moment regretted putting the husband she idolised on a pedestal above everyone and everything else. But, after forty years of marriage, he is gone, leaving Denise to discover that their perfect marriage was fatally flawed. Now she faces a future alone, but first, she must face the betrayals of the past.

This is… Claire.

The estranged daughter of Denise, the woman who put her husband before her children, Claire took the opposite path and devoted her life to raising her family, sacrificing her marriage along the way. With her teenage sons about to flee the nest, she realises she may have left it too late to find her own happy-ever-after.

This is the story of two women, both alone, both cautionary tales of one of motherhood’s biggest decisions.

Who is more important, your partner or your children? And what happens if you make the wrong choice?

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Guest Post – This Is Me- Shari Low – The Writer’s Soundtrack

Once upon a time there was a young teenager who would stay up all night reading Jackie Collins novels under her duvet, using the light of the electric blanket so she wouldn’t get caught. As she read those bonktastic tales of sexy stuff and scandals, she would dream of being a writer and imagine what that life would be like. In her fantasy future as an author, she’d lie by her kidney-shaped swimming pool in LA, sipping a mojito, while the strains of Bon Jovi blared in the background. Oh, and she’d be a size ten, perfectly groomed and the kind of woman who always wore knickers that matched her bra.

Cue sound of that big “uh-uh” buzzer that signifies a wrong answer on Family Fortunes.

The reality? That teenager somehow managed to survive electric-blanket heat-stroke and grew up to be a writer. Yay! But as for the rest of the fantasy? Nope, didn’t happen that way. There’s no kidney-shaped pool, no mojitos, her make up bag is somewhere at the bottom of the ironing pile and her underwear drawer is a riot.

And the soundtrack that plays while she writes her books? Forget rock music. In this house, it’s been a very different cacophony of noise. If it were an album, it would be called 18 Years Of Motherhood.

I’ve penned 24 books since I was pregnant with my first child.

In the early days, with two tiny sons (my second child came 16 months after his brother), I wrote my first few books while listening to the Teletubbies making unintelligible sounds that somehow kept the toddlers transfixed.

Next came a couple of years of, “Muuuuuuuuuuuum, he’s annoying me!”

Then “Muuuuuuuuuuuum, where’s my gym kit/school tie / packed lunch?” My kids did love an elongated vowel.

Thankfully, they soon discovered sports, so for a long time, I typed to the thud of a basketball being bounced outside my window.

Then the teenage years dawned and their dulcet tones dropped a few octaves as they bellowed, “Mum, can I get a lift to the gym / my pal’s house / a party, please?”

It wasn’t what I’d envisaged when I dreamt of being a writer but I wouldn’t change a single moment of it, because now? Silence.

One son has already left home at 16, off to follow his athletic dreams, and the other one is about to follow him out the door.

So what happens next?

That’s the dilemma facing Claire in This Is Me. She’s the daughter of a mother who always made her feel utterly unimportant, so she has dedicated her life to bringing up her children, sacrificing her marriage along the way. Now, she’s facing an empty nest and the prospect of building a new life.

Meanwhile, her mother, Denise, had just lost the husband she adored, and worse, she is discovering that she devoted forty years to a man who may have been living a lie. Two women, both alone, but can either of them find new happiness?

It’s a story of secrets, lies, and the choices that women make.

And as for the woman who wrote this book?

I just need to get used to the new soundtrack of my life. In the meantime, I’ll bung on some Bon Jovi and go find a matching bra and knickers.

This Is Me published by Aria May 2nd.

Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including One Day In December, A Life Without You, The Story Of Our Life, With Or Without You and her latest release, Another Day In Winter. And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift. For all the latest news, visit her on Facebook, Twitter, Website

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

My Thoughts…

‘This is Me’ is a story of ordinary people, who are forced to look back on their lives when a pinnacle person in the family dies, unexpectedly. Denise (the mother), is grief-stricken at the loss of her husband Ray. She has devoted her life to him, and now she has no direction. Claire(the daughter) despised her father, and because of him is estranged from her mother. She chose a different path with her children, but now they’re living their lives and she wonders if she should have done more to save her marriage.

This is a story of regret, hindsight and the possibility of a more positive life for both women, but first, they relive and hopefully learn from the important milestones in their lives’ to date. The retro flashbacks in this book are evocative for anyone who lived through them. Youth clubs and David Soul in the late 1970s and Take That and 1999 in the late 1990s and the millennium.

The cast of characters, some of which have appeared before, add depth and interest to the plot. There is a notable disparity between the network of support Claire has, compared to her mother.

Life choices are the key theme to this story, and ones every woman who has a partner and children has to make. Denise and Claire’s choices are husband or children, most people’s choices are less defined and make accommodations to facilitate different times in the child’s life cycle. However, the scenario’s and the characters are believable and realistic. 

‘This Is Me’ is a story of family, friends and the dynamics that are part of every family. Claire is determined to be the antithesis of her mother, but in doing so fails to find a balance in her family life. The importance of nurturing in childhood is explored in this story because it shapes the adults we become.

A dramatic interpretation of ordinary lives and relationships filled with emotion, guilt, hate, humour and love, demonstrated through believable, flawed characters. It is both emotional and engaging to read.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Rachel’s Pudding Pantry – Caroline Roberts – #BlogTour 5* #Review – #AuthorQ&A @_caroroberts@HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #Puddings #Northumberland #Farming #Sheep #PuddingPantry

Primrose Farm is Rachel’s very own slice of heaven. Come rain or shine there’s always a pot of tea brewing by the Aga, the delicious aroma of freshly baked puddings, and a chorus of happy memories drifting through the kitchen.

But the farm is in a spot of trouble. As the daffodils spring, Rachel must plant the seeds of change if she wants to keep the farm afloat, and it’s all resting on a crazy plan. She’ll need one family cookbook, her Mum Jill’s baking magic – and a reason to avoid her distractingly gorgeous neighbour, Tom . . .

Swapping their wellies for aprons, can Rachel and Jill bake their way into a brighter future? The proof will be in the pudding!

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

‘Rachel’s Pudding Pantry’, is a lovely mix of family drama, friendship, romance and humour, with a sprinkling of poignant life experiences that may have you reaching for the tissues.

Not surprisingly, it is full of delicious puddings, as Rachel and her mother strive to find a way of keeping the family farm. There is an empowering, female family dynamic, spanning four generations, which withstands the heartache and tragedy the Swinton women have to face.

The story’s romance grows from an interesting take on the ‘boy next door’ trope. Tom, the attractive farmer at the neighbouring farm is always there to help out, Rachel grew up with him, so he can only ever be a friend, can’t he? The romance is sweet but embroiled in conflict. Is it worth losing their longstanding friendship for a chance of something deeper but riskier?

The Swinton women are easy to like, and all have a strength of character born out of adversity and familial love. They are believable and are written so that you can visualise them and become invested in their future happiness.

The authentic setting in a North Northumberland farming community is another attractive aspect of this book, I love this area and the descriptions and ethos of the community recounted in this story, make it an even more enjoyable read.

Written in addictive, short chapters that get you hooked, each has a title that includes a pudding or cake, which gives the story an added appeal but also makes you reach for the cake tin.

There is a clever connection between the puddings and the emotion of the story. Warm, soft Brownies equating to a warm, empathic friend. Sweet Sticky Toffee Pudding, synonymous with a comforting, conversation with your family.

The perfect holiday read, ‘Rachel’s Pudding Pantry’, delivers a well-paced story about family, friends, loyalty and love, against a background of community, hard work, heartbreak, and heartwarming romance, as the Swinton women learn how to adapt to change, to secure their family legacy.

ARC
Q&A with Caroline Roberts – Rachel’s Pudding Pantry

Is there a specific place or moment that inspired you to create The Pudding Pantry?

I think the initial spark was when I saw an image in a magazine of a lovely stone barn that had been converted into beautiful cottages in Northumberland, and I also knew of tearooms and farm shops that have been created in old farm buildings in the area. I was interested in the idea of diversification in farming, and the need for Rachel and her family to take this step to give Primrose Farm a future. It was lovely to imagine how The Pudding Pantry would look once finished, and what a cosy, welcoming place it would become, full of scrumptious bakes and cakes.

What did you most enjoy about writing this novel (apart from sampling some delicious puddings of course!)?

The romance! How can I not mention the gorgeous next-door farmer, Tom? There is even a rather wonderful, Poldark-style chest-bearing moment that takes Rachel rather by surprise. We see the relationship grow between Rachel and Tom, despite age differences and being farming neighbours, and it’s lovely how that romance unfolds between them, I enjoyed writing that.

Image Credit – Caroline Roberts

And what were some of your absolute favourite puddings that you sampled along the way?

It’s been such hard research, hah, but somebody had to do it!! Sticky toffee pudding is up there as one of my all-time favourites, and I do love a pavlova with summer fruits, the raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake I adapted myself and was very pleased with the result, Susan Green’s Ginger Pudding is a delight, and you obviously can’t beat some gorgeous apple crumble – I like mine with a little warming spice and cream.

Image Credit – Caroline Roberts

We love seeing photos of your gorgeous dog Jarvis on twitter! Does he help or hinder your writing routine?

Hah, at the moment he is still only nine months old, so I have to admit when I need to settle quietly to write at home, he just wants to play and is a bit of hindrance, bless him. But when we are out and about on our walks together, I do get inspired by the landscapes and changing seasons around me. Both Jarvis and my last dog, Meg, who are cocker spaniels, inspire my doggie characters – being Alfie, the spaniel, in the Chocolate Shop books and now Moss, the wonderful border collie, in Rachel’s Pudding Pantry.

Image Credit – Caroline Roberts

And has your writing routine changed over the course of your career?

I’ve had to become more focussed with my writing; having written seven books in four years. So, I have my own writing room – in the small bedroom. I also have a proper chair and desk now, rather than writing in the conservatory or at the kitchen table as my back was beginning to feel it. But I can write anywhere if need be, as I still write my first draft of each scene longhand then type it up later. If inspiration strikes, I can often be found up at 3am jotting down notes or even whole lines of dialogue that just appear in my head in the middle of the night – strange but true!

What would you most like for readers to take away from Rachel’s Pudding Pantry?

I’d like my readers to be able to escape for a while into Rachel’s world, with a heart-warming read that feels like a hug in a book.

Rachel’s Pudding Pantry, like your previous novels, is so joyful and warm. However, it does still tackle some serious issues. How do you balance writing about things like grief without taking away from the uplifting nature of your stories?

I want my books to reflect real life with all its trials and tribulations, which I know can be so very hard at times, so I’m not afraid to explore the impact of grief and loss. However, I am a very optimistic person and I strongly believe in the power of love, family, and friendship, to help us heal and in being kind to ourselves too. That’s where the journey of the story and our lives take us, and I want readers to feel there is always hope.

Back Cover – ARC
Image Credit Caroline Roberts

Caroline Roberts lives in the wonderful Northumberland countryside with her husband and credits the sandy beaches, castles and rolling hills around her as inspiration for her writing. She enjoys writing about relationships; stories of love, loss and family, which explore how beautiful and sometimes complex love can be. A slice of cake, glass of bubbly and a cup of tea would make her day – preferably served with friends! She believes in striving for your dreams, which led her to a publishing deal after many years of writing.

ARC

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

4*Review-The Plus One – Sophia Money-Coutts

The Plus One [n] informal a person who accompanies an invited person to a social function or a reminder of being single, alone and absolutely plus none

Three little words all single ladies dread…

Polly Spencer is fine. She’s single, turning thirty and only managed to have sex twice last year (both times with a Swedish banker called Fred), but seriously, she’s fine. Even if she’s still stuck at Posh! magazine writing about royal babies and the chances of finding a plus one to her best friend’s summer wedding are looking worryingly slim.

But it’s a New Year, a new leaf and all that. Polly’s determined that over the next 365 days she’ll remember to shave her legs, drink less wine and generally get her s**t together. Her latest piece is on the infamous Jasper, Marquess of Milton, undoubtedly neither a plus one nor ‘the one’. She’s heard the stories, there’s no way she’ll succumb to his charms…

Amazon UK

Amazon 

My Thoughts…

Fun, bubbly and romantic with plenty of hot love scenes and 21st- century humour and wit.

The characters are vivid and the relationships dynamic. A simple plot is the charm of this type of book. There are characters to meet and get to know and romance to enjoy. This book delivers a fast-paced, humorous story, that’s easy to read, the perfect place to escape to plus one or not.

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