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

I Looked Away – Jane Corry 5*#Review @JaneCorryAuthor @PenguinUKBooks #PsychologicalThriller #DomesticThriller #Secrets #Family #Friendships #MentalHealth #Homelessness

Every Monday, 49-year-old Ellie looks after her grandson Josh. She loves him more than anyone else in the world. The only thing that can mar her happiness is her husband’s affair. But he swears it’s over now, and Ellie has decided to be thankful for what she’s got.

Then one day, while she’s looking after Josh, her husband gets a call from that woman. And just for a moment, Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson. The accident that happens will change her life forever.

Because Ellie is hiding something in her past.

And what looks like an accident could start to look like murder. 

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

My Thoughts…

This is a psychological thriller that resonates. Whilst, it has all the expected qualities of the genre, it contains so much more. A domestic thriller and a family drama, with secrets and tragedy. Mental Health issues and homelessness are major themes woven into the hard-hitting emotional story. The unreliable protagonist Ellie is a grandmother, which affords her a certain uniqueness in this genre, but her life is riddled with neglect, trauma and self-loathing. She is someone you empathise with, as each terrible injustice and secret are revealed. The ending seems just, but there is a twist that leaves you wondering.

The plot is complex and pacy, it keeps you guessing, whilst you are reeling from the horror and injustice of the women’s lives that are explored. It confuses, it’s meant to. The story is addictive, coherent, and full of relevant examples of mental health issues, and the largely overlooked plight of homelessness. It makes you think, and worry about the society we live in.

The thriller aspect is clever and calculating, the emotion is genuine and heartbreaking, the moral issues raised are thought-provoking and worrying. You will carry this story with you, and not many books in this genre can say that.

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Historical Romance, Mystery, Romance

A Postcard From Italy – Alex Brown 4* #Review @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam @alexbrownbooks #Romance #Italy #WW2 #Mystery #SelfDiscovery #Carers #Family

Grace Quinn loves her job at Cohen’s Convenient Storage Company, finding occasional treasure in the forgotten units that customers have abandoned. Her inquisitive nature is piqued when a valuable art collection and a bundle of letters and diaries are found that date back to the 1930s.

Delving deeper, Grace uncovers the story of a young English woman, Connie Levine, who follows her heart to Italy at the end of the Second World war. The contents also offer up the hope of a new beginning for Grace, battling a broken heart and caring for her controlling mother.

Embarking on her own voyage of discovery, Grace’s search takes her to a powder pink villa on the cliff tops overlooking the Italian Riviera, but will she unravel the family secrets and betrayals that Connie tried so hard to overcome, and find love for herself?

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

My Thoughts...

Grace needs to escape from her daily life, she has a broken heart, a controlling mother and a family who take her for granted, no wonder she enjoys her work, where she is appreciated. Finding some letters and treasures in a storage unit whose payments have lapsed, Grace finds a kindred spirit in Connie. She finds both, courage and solace whilst learning her story and tracking down her heirs.

There is a good mystery to solve, romance, but most of all a journey of self-discovery for Grace. The Italian scenes are vividly described and give the story added interest. The historical aspect of the story is well-written and shows the problems faced by women in the 1940s. There are obvious similarities between Connie and Grace’s stories, but some important differences too.

This is an emotion-driven story, you feel for both Connie and Grace as they are constrained by their circumstances, familial demands and society’s expectations.

There is a detailed epilogue, which draws the drama together well, and gives Grace the hopeful ending she deserves.

Posted in Book Review, Literary Fiction

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die -Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay 4* #Review @JohnMurrays #LiteraryFiction

At eighteen, Somlata married into the Mitras: a once noble Bengali household whose descendants have taken to pawning off the family gold to keep up appearances.

When Pishima, the embittered matriarch, dies, Somlata is the first to discover her aunt-in-law’s body – and her sharp-tongued ghost.

First demanding that Somlata hide her gold from the family’s prying hands, Pishima’s ghost continues to wreak havoc on the Mitras. Secrets spilt, cooking spoilt, Somlata finds herself at the centre of the chaos. And as the family teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, it looks like it’s up to her to fix it.

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die is a frenetic, funny and fresh novel about three generations of Mitra women, a jewellery box, and the rickety family they hold together.

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

My Thoughts…

The description attracted me to this book, it was first published in 1993.

Somlata marries into an aristocratic, but cash poor Bengali family, who still have noble aspirations and therefore do not understand the concept of earning a living. To live, they sell off their assets, but even this income source is now in jeopardy. The family lives traditionally in a large house, according to hierarchy. When the matriarch dies, something has to change.

Somlata discovers Roshomoyee’s body, and also her ghost, and a quirky tale of strange occurrences, superstition and change begin. Somlata is effectively the conduit for the ghost’s wishes, and this empowers her and makes her a feared by some members of her new family. Her actions directed by the deceased Aunt bring the family to its lowest ebb, but her sense of empowerment grows and she becomes the key to their survival.

Three generations of women are featured; Roshomoyee, the aunt by marriage who was married and widowed very young, and feels she has been robbed of her rightful life, Somlata, who is bright and brave, and with a little ghostly help, changes all their lives for the better. Boshon is Somlata’s daughter, who believes in herself and her rights, and is not afraid to push against the family’s patriarch model. Interestingly Roshomoyee’s ghost diminishes when Somlata has her daughter?

The story is short but packed with detail, cultural references and family drama, it is humorous in parts and poignant in others. The style takes a little getting used to but it is an interesting story of tradition and female empowerment.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Family Drama, Mystery, Romance, Suspense

The Dead Wife – Sue Fortin 5* #Review @HarperCollinsUK @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam @suefortin1 #Suspense #FamilyDrama #InvestigativeJournalist #DomesticThriller #PublicationDay @rararesources

SINCLAIR WIFE DEAD!  HUSBAND CLEARED! 

Police have ruled out suspicious circumstances in the investigation into the death of Elizabeth Sinclair, wife of charismatic entrepreneur Harry Sinclair, found drowned in the lake of the family’s holiday park.

It’s been two years since the Sinclair case closed but when reporter Steph Durham receives a tipoff that could give her the scoop of the year, she’s drawn deeper and deeper into the secretive Sinclair family.

Elizabeth’s death wasn’t a tragic accident. And the truth will come at a deadly price…

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

My Thoughts…

You are thrown into the deep end from the beginning of this book, as you witness a personal tragedy. These scenes engender your empathy towards the victim. Is she as innocent as she seems?

Steph is the PR and journalist for a travel company based in the South of England. She has always wanted to be an investigative journalist, since her days of cub reporting in the North West, but things didn’t work out. The opportunity to review a new leisure venture in her home town is viewed with mixed emotions, but she needs the money. Her friend suggests she uses social media, to advertise her latest job, with a view to gaining further work. The interest she attracts is unexpected and leads her into a role she has always wanted, but at what cost?

The Lake District setting is always good for fiction. The beauty and danger of the landscape, the perfect foil for accidents, or even murder. The Sinclair family, practically own the town, and you are immediately wondering if their influence could cover up a murder? Steph’s estranged mother ran the initial police investigation and her deceased father worked for the Sinclairs, something that puts her at risk, even before she starts her investigation.

The suspense increases with every chapter, and the dual timeline, of Steph’s present-day investigation of Elizabeth’s death, and the historic revelations of Elizabeth’s life up to her demise, work well.

Only Steph and widower Harry are characters that you can empathise, even Elizabeth has her own agenda, and is not really likeable. The other two brothers Dominic and Owen are not attractive humans. One the dominant bully, the other weak, but manipulative. The clues are well hidden in the plot, disguised by the misinformation, but they are there. The ending is well-written, as the suspense reaches breaking-point.

This story keeps you on tenterhooks throughout, with authentic characters, a twisty plot and an unexpected end, it is an excellent domestic thriller.

Sue Fortin is an award-winning USA Today and an Amazon best-selling author, an international bestseller and has reached #1 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart. Sue writes mystery, suspense and romance, sometimes combining all three. 

Sue was born in Hertfordshire but had a nomadic childhood, moving often with her family, before eventually settling in West Sussex where she now lives with her husband, children and grandchildren. Facebook Page Twitter Instagram Website

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

A Year of Second Chances- Kendra Smith 4*Review #blogtour #GuestPost @KendraAuthor @Aria_Fiction #friendship #familydrama #secondchances @HoZ_books

Three women. Three very different lives. One life-changing adventure.

Charlie is a single mum unlucky in life. Her multiple jobs make barely enough to feed the family cat, never mind being able to give her son the life he deserves. So when an opportunity to make a lot of cash comes along, she simply has to take it.

Suzie has always wanted to be a mother. But fate has been cruel and now time is running out. Soon her final frozen egg will be destroyed and her last chance of having a baby will go with it. With her husband resolved to their childless life, Suzie takes matters into her own hands.

Dawn is about to turn fifty and seems to have misplaced her mojo along with the car keys. But with an interfering mother-in-law and a gaggle of judgemental mums at her children’s school, it’s proving harder to find than a decent fitting bra. Especially after a series of highly embarrassing incidents…

Over the course of a year three lives are about to collide and as they do be prepared to laugh, cry and fall in love with these women as they discover how life can give you a second chance.

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

My Thoughts…

Three women, with little in common, except they are all at a point in their lives where something has to change. Charlie a single mum is in debt, working all hours, and still cannot make ends meet. Suzie is facing infertility issues, and her partner doesn’t share her urgency to take the last chance left to them. Dawn is nearly fifty and is struggling to give her future life meaning.

The start shows the disparity between Charlie and Dawn’s situations, but it also highlights their desperation and willingness to take drastic action. This makes the decisions they take as the story progresses more realistic than they would otherwise have been.

The characters are slightly stereotypical, but this doesn’t detract from the situations they find themselves, and the genuine emotions they feel. It is this emotion that makes the story worthwhile. There are lighter moments, but this is poignant read.

It’s not a story to dip in and out of, you need to stick with it to appreciate its impact. I did, and it is a satisfying, ultimately hopeful book.

Guest Blog – Kendra Smith – A Year of Second Chances

First of all, thank you for letting me guest blog, Jane!

People often say ‘ooh, you write books!’ It’s such a nice feeling, and probably better than if I said I wrote the copy for the back of baby wipe packets – oh, but I’ve done that too! (That didn’t used to get so many ‘oohs’). I have been a journalist for over 20 years, working in both Sydney and London and have written in-house as well as freelance for various women’s magazines, health, food and more – including a famous high street supermarket where I did write the copy for the baby wipe packets!

My heart was always set on writing novels, though, and this is my second book. A Year of Second Chances weaves together the story of three women all with different issues in life. I wanted my book to feature capable but flawed heroines and the 3-way narrative was a new writing challenge for me, but with the help of Post-its, a lot of A3 paper stuck to the walls for timelines, I (hope) I pulled it off!

I had a fairly strong idea of where I wanted the novel to go, but I do remember an early assessment where my writing coach said, ‘try not to throw everything into the plot!’ I had to choose my battles for my heroines – as well as their love stories too…

The early reviews have been really encouraging (“This was a sweet, fast read for me.  I couldn’t put it down!  Five stars for sure!!” NetGalley.) So I hope your readers enjoy it, too!

Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space but quickly made the leap to editorial – and went on to work on several women’s magazines in both Sydney and London. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children.

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Humour, Romance, Romantic Comedy

A Walk in Wildflower Park – Bella Osborne- 5* #Review @AvonBooksUK @osbourne_bella #Romance #RomCom #LiteraryHumour #PublicationDay

A Walk in Wildflower Park was originally published as a four-part serial. This is the complete story in one package. Life’s not always a walk in the park…

Anna thought she’d found The One – until he broke off their engagement exactly a year before their wedding day. Hoping new surroundings will do her the world of good, she moves into a place of her own on the edge of gorgeous Wildflower Park.

With the help and friendship of her neighbour Sophie (a stressed-out mum whose children a regular source of newly-invented swear words and unidentifiable sticky surfaces), Anna quickly settles in and pledges to focus on her career, but a handsome new colleague seems determined to thwart her attempts at every turn. And when she receives a text from a mystery man, it looks as though an unlikely romance is on the horizon…

Is Anna about to be swept off her feet by someone she really shouldn’t be falling for? Or could this be the new start she needs and deserves?

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

My Thoughts…

Anna’s engagement is over, and she decides life without men is the way forward. Moving into a new flat with its own private park is a step in the right direction. There, she plans and schemes with her best friend Sophie, mother of two and pregnant with a third, whose life is not what she imagined.

A difficult male colleague who threatens Anna’s career provides the initial conflict and humour. There’s also a mystery texter who makes her wonder if she’s really sworn off men, and her ex refusing to stay out of her life. The wildflower park is a source of solace as Anna faces her past and tries to forge a future she can live with.

Ambition, angst, conflict, humour and romance are major themes in this story

As the story progresses, Anna’s relationship problems continue. Liam her ex, seems to be regretting his decision, but does she really want to go there again? Hudson is an enigma and proves a supportive friend, and the face behind the text is revealed.

There are some interesting twists in this book, which alter Anna’s perception of certain people in her life. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, especially for those who have looked after young children.

The characters develop in a pleasing way. The plot deepens but still keeps its secrets the end.

Heavily pregnant Sophie’s life implodes. Her story has the perfect mix of emotion and humour, especially when, Sophie and Anna discuss the state of her marriage. 
There are some touching scenes with Bill, humour with Maurice(the cat) and Anna wonders if she really is cut out for the single life.

Anna undergoes significant character development in this story. Illustrated by scenes with her ex Liam, Hudson, her attractive work colleague, and Connor, the man she met by mistake. She’s in a quandary, should she hold out for her soulmate, settle for what’s available, or go it alone?

A new opportunity forces her to face her past fears. Then, the story takes a darker turn. Even though like me, you may have suspected this development, the clues are there, the final events are suspenseful and menacing, and give this story another unexpected dimension. adding depth and interest.

Anna’s character develops further as the actions of others and changes in her career make her face her demons. I love this character and it’s good to see her discovering her true self. Sophie’s story is also resolved in a satisfying way, and she provides her share of angst and laughter as the story draws to a close.

Romance isn’t neglected, Anna finally realises where her heart lies but she faces significant conflict before she finds her true soulmate and her happy-ever-after.

This is a lovely, contemporary story about family, friends and career, with romance, humour and mystery, a very enjoyable read.



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

The House by the Loch – Kirsty Wark – 5* #Review @TwoRoadsBooks @KirstyWark @JMP_Publicity @johnmurrays #Scottish #LiteraryFiction #HistoricalFiction #FamilyDrama #MultiGenerational

Scotland, 1950s
Walter MacMillan is bewitched by the clever, glamorous Jean Thompson and can’t believe his luck when she agrees to marry him. Neither can she, for Walter represents a steady and loving man who can perhaps quiet the demons inside her. Yet their home on remote Loch Doon soon becomes a prison for Jean and neither a young family nor Walter’s care can seem to save her.

Many years later, Walter is with his adult children and adored grandchildren on the shores of Loch Doon where the family has been holidaying for two generations. But the shadows of the past stretch over them and will turn all their lives upside down on one fateful weekend.

The House by the Loch is the story of a family in all its loving complexity and the way it can, and must, remake itself endlessly in order to make peace with the past.

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I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press – Two Roads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Walter witnesses a tragedy as a young boy at the side of the loch, close to his home. It haunts him, throughout his life, even though he could do nothing to stop it. Years later, his family gather at the loch, and once again it is the scene of a tragic event, this time personal, and he wonders if it is his fault and if his family will ever recover.

The setting is beautiful, yet unforgiving, an addiction for Walter, that threatens everything he holds dear.

A multi-generational story, Walter recalls his younger days, his marriage to Jean and their lives at the loch. Addiction and mental health issues irrevocably alter the family, and their effects resonate across the generations. The story’s ethos is predominately sad, but at its conclusion, there is a reckoning, a chance for redemption and a way forward for those left.

The characters are flawed, and therefore believable. Some are self-destructive, but whether the root cause is from nature or nurture, or both is part of what this story explores. The plot is complex, hiding its secrets until the end, The story is engaging and draws you into the family, how they interact and what it means to keep a family together.

Forgiveness, justice and understanding are all important themes. The emotional journey, the characters travel is poignant and often filled with a sense of hopelessness. Ultimately, it is the courage, love and tenacity of the family members, that gets them through the darkness, to survive and make the family stronger.