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

Heads You Win – 4*Review – Jeffrey Archer – #political #historical #thriller @Jeffrey_Archer

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Leningrad, Russia, 1968. Alexander Karpenko is no ordinary child, and from an early age, it is clear he is destined to lead his countrymen. But when his father is assassinated by the KGB for defying the state, he and his mother will have to escape from Russia if they hope to survive. At the docks, they are confronted with an irreversible choice: should they board a container ship bound for America or Great Britain? Alexander leaves that choice to the toss of a coin . . .

In a single moment, a double twist decides Alexander’s future.

During an epic tale of fate and fortune, spanning two continents and thirty years, we follow his triumphs and defeats as he struggles as an immigrant to conquer his new world. As this unique story unfolds, Alexander comes to realize where his destiny lies and accepts that he must face the past he left behind in Russia.

Amazon UK

Waterstones 

My Thoughts…

If you enjoy political sagas with a twist, you’re in for a treat with this book. The storytelling and characters are believable and polished. The serendipitous storyline adds an interesting twist to a well researched, historically based political thriller.

Alexander a young man in the USSR in the late 1960’s is clever but his father isn’t a party member and wishes for a less totalitarian state. His father’s ‘accident’, and the circumstances that follow mean Alexander and his mother need to leave to survive. Escaping in a crate on a merchant ship is risky, but when there is a choice of two, fate takes over and the story splits into a ‘what if ‘scenario as Alexander’s life is explored with two possible outcomes.

Both stories are engaging, with strong characters and many plot twists, once you accept how the story will progress it is an enjoyable read, the ending has its surprises, but I did guess the main one. The moral of this being, I think whatever path you take the outcome is already decided.

An enjoyable read for those who enjoy political thrillers and family sagas with a twist of fate.

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

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour – Finding Dreams Lauren Westwood – Extract and 5* Review

When Lizzie Green opens up her house to be used as a set for a film based on a bestselling romance novel, she has no idea how her life will change. A heartwarming story of love and second chances.

Lizzie Greene is about to lose everything when her husband suddenly dies, and his debts come to light.

To make ends meet she opens up her quirky old house to be used as a set for a film based on a bestselling romance novel. Her life and household are turned upside down when a whole cast of colourful characters enters her family’s lives: from an enigmatic author, a handsome location scout, a brooding director, to a heart-throb leading man, never mind her now ex-mother-in-law camped out in her drive. As Lizzie delves deeper into the film’s book, all is not as it seems.

Will her desire to save her house and unravel the secrets of the past lead to new love, or to mortal danger?

Links to buy

 Amazon: http://amzn.to/2odyMci

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2EFOozB

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2ESS4Nz

iBooks: https://apple.co/2sCUURQ

Extract

‘Chapter 1

January – ten months later

On the scale of human tragedies, ‘Sussex mum loses husband’ is a drop in the ocean. It’s not like I’ve been forced to leave the country due to war or disease or famine. It’s not like I’m having to live with the guilt of suicide or the drain of terminal illness. I haven’t even suffered the shame of having my husband run off with a toned and tanned other woman many years my junior to start a new life. Dave, it turned out, had a weak heart – it gave out suddenly and unexpectedly. People live, and people die; ashes to ashes, dust to dust…

Even now, I can still hear the voice of the priest intoning these futile words, as the coffin was lowered into the earth. They screamed in my head like fingernails scratching across a blackboard, and I felt like they might pull me down with him. Why hadn’t Dave given instructions to be cremated? Why would he want to be buried in a wooden box in the ground? That little detail became the hook, the outlet for my grief. It just seemed so pointless – so bloody cold – to lie there forever in the dank darkness, all alone except for the bugs and worms. It just seemed so bloody Dave.

A light coating of frost covers the ground as I pull into the car park of Westbury Junior School. The sky is heavy and overcast. Though it’s already the end of January, spring feels very far away. The heater in the car is going full tilt, but still, I can’t stop shivering. Not with the cold, but with the decision I made, last night, lying in bed sleepless and alone. That I can’t put off any longer this thing, I’ve been dreading. I have to do it today.

As I look round for a space, I practise deep breathing like the grief books say to do – trying to find a moment of stillness and inner peace. Life has definitely thrown me lemons, but didn’t some wise old sage say that when that happens, you should ‘make lemonade’?

Jamming on the brakes, I narrowly miss being mown down by a Range Rover reversing into a compact car space.

‘Arsehole,’ I mutter, directed both at that wise old sage and the other vehicle.

‘Jeez, Mum,’ Katie grumbles. ‘You’re such a bad driver.’

‘Thanks.’ I swallow back what I really feel like saying to my nine-going-on-nineteen-year-old daughter. I know she’s having a hard time right now with having lost her dad and the pressures of Year 4, but for some reason, I’ve become the focus of her issues. Even though I’m trying my best to keep my own worries from the kids and be strong for their sake, they aren’t stupid. Once or twice, Katie’s found me crying my eyes out. On those occasions, we hugged each other, and she cried too. I’ve let her go on believing that I’m upset only because I miss her dad – her loveable, squeezable, just-a-little-dull dad, rather than the real reason. The rest of the time, she acts like I’m Colonel Mustard in the library with the lead pipe, solely responsible for how bad she’s feeling at the moment.

I find a space in the far corner of the car park. Katie gets out and unloads her rucksack. I try to hand her her coat, but she looks at me like I’m some kind of alien life force. With a sigh, I get out of the car and go round to the side to unbuckle Jack from his car seat.

‘Luv you, Mummy,’ he says, smearing a sticky hand on my jumper.

‘Me too, pumpkin.’ I lift him out. His trousers are soaking wet. While my love for him in no way diminishes, it blurs right out of focus. ‘Jack!’ I say. ‘You went to the potty before we left!’

His plump little face screws up and all of a sudden he starts to howl.

Katie rolls her eyes. ‘I’m going in, Mum,’ she says. ‘This is just so embarrassing.’ She pokes Jack in the arm. ‘You’re a BIG FAT CRY BABY!’

‘Am not!’ he cries.

‘Katie!’ I yell, but she’s already run off, her rucksack thumping against her back. I suck in a breath and say a silent prayer as she runs in between two SUVs that are poised like bellowing bulls waiting for a parking space. I lay Jack down in the driver’s seat and pull off his welly boots, his wee-soaked socks, trousers and Disney Cars so-called absorbent pants, noting that somehow, he’s also managed to get wee on his T-shirt and coat. I strip him down, my jaw clenched as he kicks at me and yells, ‘Katie’s mean.’

‘You’re a big boy,’ I say, the lie tripping easily off my tongue. ‘Three years old! So just ignore her. Now let’s get dressed and go to nursery.’

Eventually, I manage to wriggle him into a set of spare clothing, wipe off his boots with a baby wipe, and bundle him into his coat and woolly hat.

When I try to lead him across the car park by the hand, he starts screaming for a ‘cuggle’. I give in and pick him up. Ten months on from Dave’s death, and I’ve been surviving by taking the path of least resistance. Besides, as long as I’m carrying him, he’ll serve as a kind of human shield from some rogue mum who might try and ask me how I’m doing. Not today of all days…’

My Thoughts

Lizzie’s life changes overnight from normal to tragic when her husband dies suddenly, leaving her and the children grief-stricken when fate deals her another blow. Her husband had a secret life tainting her memories of their life together and facing debts that threaten their family home.

Lizzie is a great character, and facing more than her share of life’s woes, you have to empathise. Her one asset the family home is historical and striking and is scouted for a film, which brings an eclectic cast of characters, humour and poignant scenes worthy of any Hollywood film.

The vivid setting and believable plot make this imaginable and readable, although the romance’s course is predictably choppy, it is lighthearted and hopeful. An easy to read writing style keeps you turning the pages with just enough conflict and surprises right to the end, it an enjoyable read.

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

Lauren Westwood is also a prize-winning debut YA novelist and a solicitor for a renewable energy company. Originally from California, she now lives in a rickety 400-year-old house in Surrey, with her partner Ian and their three young daughters.

 

Posted in Book Review

Missing Presumed – D.S. Manon #1 – Susie Steiner – 4 *Review

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Mystery Thriller Blurb

Mid-December, and Cambridgeshire is blanketed with snow. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date – the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace.

Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman – door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor. Manon knows the first 72 hours are critical: you find her, or you look for a body. And as soon as she sees a picture of Edith Hind, a Cambridge post-graduate from a well-connected family, she knows this case will be big.

Is Edith alive or dead? Was her ‘complex love life’ at the heart of her disappearance, as a senior officer tells the increasingly hungry press? And when a body is found, is it the end or only the beginning?

Mystery Thriller Buy Links

Amazon UK

 Amazon

Mystery Thriller My Review

A good crime mystery is defined by its detective. Manon Bradshaw is a complex, compelling creature who ensures you keep turning the pages even when the plot is a little pedestrian in parts.

I liked the carefully layered plot, which gradually gives the reader more pieces in the jigsaw, only to add tragic events and new characters which complicate rather than inform. It would have been so easy to write a sensationalised ending but ‘Missing, Presumed’, stays true to its credible roots and is believable. The story’s women’s fiction element is strong and makes it worth reading.The suspense is well written but this is more about familial relationships and friendships than criminals.

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

Posted in Author Interview

Wendy Lou Jones -Author Interview

An Interview with...

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 Today I have the lovely Wendy Lou Jones on my blog. 

What made you become a writer?

Oh, it’s so corny; I just woke up from a dream one day and was so captured by it that I started thinking about what might have happened to my heroine to get her to that place in the story and what would have happened after, if I’d stayed asleep. I wrote it all down, every night for 6 months. I guess it became a way of life.

Do you write full time or in addition to your ‘day job’? What’s your favourite time of day to write and why?

I’m fortunate to be a stay at home mum, so I write when I like. My favourite time of day to write is in the evening until late at night, but my favourite time to think is first thing in the morning. I think my brain is fresh from mulling things over in my sleep in the morning and I have nothing else to do in the evenings mostly, especially now there’s so little on TV, so that’s when I write.

You’re stories are deeply emotional and often contain an unexpected twist. Are these the type of stories you like to read? Has anyone inspired or influenced your writing style?

I do like emotional tales, it’s true. And I don’t like things to be too obvious. I guess you could say I write the kind of story I would like to read, yes. I love reading historical romances though, I’m just rubbish at history. I like their drama. Everything was so much more life and death in those days.

     As for inspiration, it was Lisa Kleypas who got me reading more than a couple of books a year. I love her historicals and have read many of them now.  I also love a lot of Nicholas Sparks’ stories. I guess, in the start, they were the kind of thing I aspired to write.

Traditional publishing or self publishing which do you prefer and why?

I think traditional publishing makes you feel more worthy of the title (it did for me, anyway) and it helps you understand the big picture of businesses. Having a publisher’s backing is like someone saying, read her, she’s great. It’s a very welcome thing for a new author. I do like the speed and control of self-publishing though. A best of both would be good.

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Your latest series is ‘The Echoes of Nutt Hill’ what inspired you write this series?

This series started when I was looking for something to write (years ago) and I went to a ploughing match near my village and saw a man who didn’t quite fit and then I spotted my local vicar walking into the field and I thought, hmmm, what if… Each book in the series has grown from a character in one before.

Read my review of ‘Finding Sarah’ here

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Can you tell us more about ‘Echoes of Nutt Hill series?

These are love stories based in a single village. Think Midsummer Murders, but with less murder. They’re rural and probably because of that, quite old fashioned. The first story, Finding Sarah, is about a woman whose marriage had broken down and moves to the village to make a fresh start. The second book, Sun on Sundays, is about the girl who takes over from Sarah on Nutt Hill after she leaves. The latest book, Chances Are, publishing on Monday, is about Luke, the brother of Tom, the hero in book 2 and the final one, still being written, is about the sister of the girl in book 2. All are independent, you just might recognise some of the characters.

Where do you write? Have you a photograph you can share with us?

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Sadly I’m not a fabulously wealthy JKR yet, so I’m on my laptop at the kitchen table with a spare chair to the side of me, covered in notepads and books. But I do have a wonderful view. You can see the other tat-covered chair in this shot, but you can also glimpse my latest manuscript having been cut and reordered over the weekend, after I had a chat with a policeman about procedure.

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What are the best things and the worst things about being a writer?

Best… network of online friends and satisfaction of creating something.

Worst… backache from writing and the pay!

What’s next for Wendy Lou Jones?

As you can see, I’m busy trying to sort out the final Nutt Hill story, but I’ve also started another book I’m very excited about – reason being: I explained the plot to my hubby and eldest son and both of them seemed impressed!!!?  I just hope I can do the idea justice.

Thanks for having me on, Jane. Always a pleasure to talk books.

The latest book in the  Echoes of Nutt Hill series is out  today. This is the third Echoes of Nutt Hill novel. Individual stories based in the small village of Lower Nutton, in the heart of the English countryside. Love will always blossom, but will it ripen in the sun or rot in the rain? Set against a landscape of farming and families who have lived in the same community for generations, her stories reflect the struggles of a few of their inhabitants, in the ups and downs of village life, where everyone knows everything and nothing stays private for long.

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Poppy - Blurb

Luke is the man with the money, the fast car and the hot woman. There’s no way he would even think about getting serious, but a face he can’t remember soon threatens his calm.

Rebecca isn’t interested in a relationship, and definitely not with him. How could she, after all he put her through? She’s spent the last 4 years hiding away from society, a one woman crusade for children’s road safety. Who would have thought one fateful day, it might almost be her … again.

As two worlds collide, will opposites attract?

Not if she can help it.

Flowers - Buy Links

Finding Sarah 

Sun on Sundays

Poppy - Author Bio

Wendy Lou Jones was born and raised in West Sussex, in the south of England. At 18, she moved to Birmingham to study Medicine at University, where she was lucky enough to meet her husband. She worked in hospitals, general practice and palliative care before starting a family, at which point she took a step back from medical life to concentrate on being a mum.

She now lives in a little village in Herefordshire with her husband and two grubby boys and discovered a love of writing not long after their youngest son started school. And if you were to ask her what it was that made her make the switch, she would tell you quite simply, that it started with a dream.

 

Poppy - Links

 

Website/Blog 

Twitter 

Facebook  

Amazon page

Posted in Book Review

5* Review: Finding Sarah – Wendy Lou Jones (Echoes of Nutt Hill #1)

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Poppy - Blurb

Sarah, a mother of grown children, finds herself without a husband and starts over in the sleepy village of Lower Nutton.
But a chance meeting with a mysterious stranger wakens something inside her. Something long forgotten.
Can people from two different worlds really find happiness together?
In a village where everyone knows everyone, nothing remains private for long…

Flowers - Buy Links

Amazon UK

Amazon

Flowers - My Review

If you like realistic, often surprising, unique women’s fiction, then ‘Finding Sarah’ is for you. Sarah’s reasons for moving to Nutt Hill are not what I originally thought and the twists keep on coming, as her story progresses.

Sarah is a lovely woman, although her lack of self belief is frustrating. The reasons for this are not immediately self evident but when they are revealed, you understand why she doubts herself.

Sarah’s emotional past makes a simple romance unlikely, her children, although adult, still need her and are judgemental when she falls off the pedestal they’ve put her on. This coupled with the shadow of her past love, makes her new life complex and angst ridden right to the end.

Nick is not your typical vicar, or maybe he is? Nick blows away any preconceptions you have about country vicars. His flaws don’t dim his likeability and his attraction to and eventual love for Sarah makes him a keeper.

The village characters are vivid and recognisable. I especially liked Maggie, who is the archetypical fairy godmother, essential for romance to survive. The expert inquisitiveness, only found in small communities, punctuates Nutt Hill’s tranquillity. Some gossips are kindly but there are some with darker motives and these threaten Nick and Sarah’s happiness.

‘Finding Sarah’ is a delicious slice of village life, full of heartache, romance and the best and worst of human emotions. I’m looking forward to reading ‘Sun on Sunday’ and ‘Chances Are’, the next two books in the series.

Poppy - Author Bio

back to fz50 150Wendy Lou Jones was born and raised in West Sussex, in the south of England. At 18, she moved to Birmingham to study Medicine at University, where she was lucky enough to meet her husband. She worked in hospitals, general practice and palliative care before starting a family, at which point she took a step back from medical life to concentrate on being a mum.

She now lives in a little village in Herefordshire with her husband and two grubby boys and discovered a love of writing not long after their youngest son started school. And if you were to ask her what it was that made her make the switch, she would tell you quite simply, that it started with a dream.

 

Poppy - Links

 

Website/Blog 

Twitter 

Facebook  

Amazon page

Posted in Book Review

4* Review: Love’s Misadventure – Cheri Champagne – Mason Siblings #1

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Historical Blurb

Miss Annabel Bradley refuses to accept life as a spinster. Her many years of pouring greedily over Gothic novels has put her head in the clouds; dreaming and hoping for the love she reads about. She has always held a tendre for her best friend, Lane Mason, seventh Earl of Devon, but she does not want to jeopardize their friendship by telling him about those indecent dreams of hers. Anna, therefore, makes a life-changing decision; she is going to accept the proposal of the next suitor to ask!

Lane Mason is an average aristocrat; absorbed in life in general, and content with his status in society. Amid a frequently occurring moment of self-loathing, Lane shockingly discovers his feelings for Anna. Now armed with the awareness of his love for Anna, Lane decides to perpetrate a devilishly clever scheme. He will pay actors to abduct the two of them in order to give Anna an adventure like the ones she reads in her treasured books.

Lane’s plans go awry, however, when they are kidnapped in truth.

Historical Buy Links

 

Amazon UK

Amazon

Historical My Review

Love's Misadventure (Mason Siblings Series book #1)This story lives up to its title. Well paced, with an exciting plot and authentic, complex characters, typical of Regency society. Carefully interwoven historic details bring to life Regency England’s elaborate balls, strict society rules and preoccupation with eating rich food at every opportunity.
Annabel is not the typical society miss; she is educated and prefers to spend her time reading and playing chess rather than shopping for the latest fashion or fripperies. At odds with this is her feminine desire for children, making marriage necessary.
Lane is not the usual Regency hero, although a Lord, he prefers to spend his time with Annabel indulging her whims for play acting, reading out loud and walks in the garden,
The dynamic between Annabel and Lane is intriguing and therein lays the first misadventure
The love scenes don’t need the dialogue. Sensitively written they portray the heat and emotional involvement between the two main characters without the need for conversation.
The secondary characters, notably Charles and the antagonist are well crafted and in the latter case both depraved and sinister. Even the characters we do not personally meet are interesting, Lane’s sister Katherine interests me and I would love to read her story.
The suspense is good and there are lots of twists. The spy theme is the overarching series theme, so this is left open ended, to be continued in book two, which I am looking forward to reading
I received a copy of this book from Pandamoon Publishing in return for an honest review.

Love’s Misadventure
by Cheri Champagne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Love's Misadventure (Mason Siblings Series book #1) by Cheri Champagne

Cheri Champagne

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