Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Revenge Fiction

5*#Review – Jane Fallon – Tell Me A Secret -@JaneFallon @MichaelJBooks

Best friends Holly and Roz tell each other everything.

So when Holly gets a shot at her dream job after putting everything on hold to raise her daughter, she assumes Roz will be waiting to pop the champagne.

But is she just imagining things or is Roz not quite as happy as she should be?

And now she thinks about it, a few things don’t quite add up…

Perhaps it was a mistake to tell Roz all her secrets.

Because it takes two to tango.

But only one to start a war…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

A contemporary revenge novel, that has a multi-layered plot, an authentic setting and complex characters. There is an underlying undercurrent of menace in this story as Holly’s career and life are threatened, but will anyone believe her?

It’s easy for the reader to believe in this storyline, most people who have worked in an office setting have witnessed office politics at some point in their career, and it’s not hard to imagine what Holly experiences. Betrayal is an important theme of this story, and it adds impact to the injustices she suffers because Holly is betrayed by someone she should be able to trust.

Although the action is focused on a few characters, the vibrant setting, and the fast pace make this page-turning, as you want to see what happens next and who will come out the victor. In addition to the main plot, there are parallel friendships, which showcase what good friends really are. Holly’s relationship with her daughter is nicely written and emphasises why her career is so important to her.

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

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Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5*Review – Sue Moorcroft – A Christmas Gift @SueMoorcroft@AvonBooksUK

Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.

To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?

Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

The run-up to Christmas is the starting point for this book and things are not good for Georgine, in debt, she faces a bleak time, and compensates by giving her all to her vocational job at a performing arts school.

Joe is someone from her past who she doesn’t immediately recognise and this gives the story its romance and mystery and source of conflict. Although this story ends happily it is realistic and focuses on life’s rollercoaster ride, family, friends and relationships.

Believable characters, contemporary social situations and a sprinkle of Christmas magic, make this a great festive read.

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

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5* Review: Karen Swan – The Christmas Lights – @KarenSwan1 @panmacmillan

December 2018, and free-spirited influencers Bo Loxley and her partner Zac are living a life of wanderlust, travelling the globe and sharing their adventures with their millions of fans.

Booked to spend Christmas in the Norwegian fjords, they set up home in a remote farm owned by enigmatic mountain guide Anders and his fierce grandmother Signy. Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen falls, everything should be perfect. But the camera can lie and with every new post, the ‘perfect’ life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth.

Something Bo can’t explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives and Anders is the only person who’ll listen.

June 1936, and fourteen-year-old Signy is sent with her sister and village friends to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids, protecting the herd that will sustain the farm through the long, winter months. But miles from home and away from the safety of their families, threat begins to lurk in friendly faces . . .

The mountains keep secrets – Signy knows this better than anyone – and as Bo’s life begins to spiral she is forced, like the old woman before her, to question who is friend and who is foe.

Amazon UK 

Waterstones

My Thoughts…

An atmospheric story, that is deeper than it first appears, following Bo and Zac, two Instagram social influencers to the beautiful but forbidding Norwegian fjords in wintertime. There they meet Anders their mysterious guide and his fiercely independent grandmother, Signy.

The story is told from Bo’s point of view as she faces up to her demons, and questions whether she really is living the dream with Zac, or just running away. Signy’s story told in flashbacks to 1936 is simple, but devastating, and helps understand her fighting spirit and her willingness to face physical hardship to achieve the solitude she needs.

The contrast between the virtual world Bo lives in and the grounded world Signy inhabits is the lynchpin of this story, which explores relationships, the power of social media and the many secrets the story’s characters’ are keeping.

There is an underlying menace in both timelines, reinforced by the danger ever present in the mountainous region. There is poignant romance brought to life by believable characters and situations.

Out of tragedy comes hope and an understanding of love and the true meaning of sacrifice.

An unusual festive story with many layers to engage the reader and a hopeful ending.

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

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

The Hunting Party – 4* #Review – Lucy Foley @lucyfoleytweets @HarperCollinsUK

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Escaping to the wild and wonderful Scottish Highlands seems like the ideal venue for a New Year’s celebration, but what if everyone has a secret? Their university days are long gone, but the pecking order and rivalries are intensified. The cracks in the party atmosphere begin on the train journey north.

This story begins with the tragedy and uses a series of chronological multi-point of view chapters to illuminate the current situation. The characters are complex and realistic, and in most cases not likeable. Everyone has something to hide but how far will they go to keep it under wraps? The setting and inclement weather makes this an atmospheric read that compels you to turn the pages to see what happens next.

This is more of a murder mystery than a psychological thriller because the story is told through the eyes of several characters, both in the group of friends and the two people who work at the venue where they are staying, rather than an individual unreliable protagonist.

The plot is convoluted and sinister, there are multiple suspects and the identity of the victim remains hidden until the final chapters.

The remote party setting and the toxicity of the relationships has parallels with Sue Fortin’s The Birthday Girl, which I also enjoyed. Perfect holiday reading.

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

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5* Review- Zara Stoneley – No One Cancels Christmas @ZaraStoneley#Festive @HarperImpulse

 

A holiday she’ll remember forever…

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl – visits to Father Christmas, husky rides in the snow and hot chocolate by a roaring fire. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling tinsel!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be….

But getting Will into the Christmas spirit is hopeless – he is Bah Humbug personified! But as Sarah gets to know him better, she realises that underneath all the gloom is a man struggling with a pain of his own.

With the big day approaching, Sarah realises that the magic and sparkle can wait. This year, she’s going to spend Christmas day with someone special her very own Mr Scrooge…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Funny, festive and fabulous, everything you want in a Christmas holiday read.

Sarah is such an authentic, believable character, her sense of responsibility makes her confront Will, co-owner of a holiday resort that is threatening the reputation of her aunt’s travel agency. The emails soon turn from caustic to cosy, and when she decides to visit the resort, the fun really starts.

Will has secrets and hides them well under a Mr Scrooge persona. The romance is slow to build but so worth waiting for and really threatens to melt the snow. There are plenty of poignant moments, as Sarah lets go of past hurts and finds out things are not always right or wrong but somewhere in between.

All the supporting characters are vivacious and add to the story’s imagery. The setting is well-described and breathtaking and the plot is full of twists, turmoil and tenderness.

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

Posted in Book Review

The Little Book Cafe – Amy’s Story – Georgia Hill – 5* Review

Amy, the manager of The Little Book Café, is a hopeless romantic who had her heart broken, but quietly refuses to give up on love.

With her friends Tash and Emma, not to mention their shared love of books and delicious cake from the café next door, Amy might just find the courage to fall for a real-life romance this time…

Amy’s Story is the final instalment of The Little Book Cafe series.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Amy’s story is the perfect way to end this romantic series. which spotlights some hard-hitting issues among the books, cakes and romance.

Amy has featured in the first two books in the series, but she deserves her own happy ending and Patrick, the Irish charmer may just be the man to give it to her. Amy has more emotional baggage than most. She has her reasons for being shy of relationships. Her lack of self-esteem is compounded by her overcritical mother, who has her own regrets, which she takes out on Amy. Patrick is her friend, always there to help and doesn’t judge, she’s in love but he seems content to remain just friends.

Amid, the book clubs, parties and solving the local crime wave, love finds a way and this story ends on an undeniably hopeful note. The only drawback, this is the last one. Hopefully, there may be a few more tales to be told in Berecombe yet?

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

 

Posted in Festive Read

#BlogTour T.A. Williams – Dreaming of Christmas- Guest Post -5* Review

Dumped on Christmas Eve by her long-term boyfriend, it’s been a rough year for Zoe Lumsley. But then she gets an invitation she can’t refuse: an all-expenses-paid skiing holiday with old university friends.

The bad news: her ex, Grant, will be there with his new girlfriend. But so will her former flatmate Billy, the organiser, and in the meantime, he’s done rather well for himself.  As Christmas in the Alps approaches, it’ll be great to see the old gang. Some more than others…

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Guest Post –

T.A. (Trevor) Williams talks about his new book, Dreaming of Christmas and how potentially tricky it was to write.

I’ve never been big on Christmas. Like a lot of men, I find it creeps up on me and suddenly it’s Christmas week and I haven’t bought anybody any presents. This realisation has me scuttling off to the city centre on Christmas Eve with little or no idea of what to buy. Mind you, ever since one memorable Christmas forty years ago, I definitely know what NOT to buy for my wife. If any men are reading this, heed my words – underwear is not a good idea. Indeed, clothes of any kind are definitely a risky business and best avoided. Luckily my wife has a definite weakness for marrons glacés, so if all else fails, I go for a ridiculously expensive box of those. Anyway, as Christmas approaches, the pile of Christmas cards on my desk grows ever taller and, with it, so does my sense of guilt. If you are one of the rare recipients of a Christmas card from me, don’t be surprised if it was postmarked 24th December.

So how, you may ask, does such a pathetic specimen manage to write a Christmas book? It’s a question I asked myself a good few times last winter when I sat down to write Dreaming of Christmas. The answer has to be imagination. Just because I’m useless at Christmas, this doesn’t mean I can’t imagine what it must be like for people who know what it’s all about and how to do it properly. Over the course of my writing career, I have written about medieval knights, Hollywood film stars, Italian winemakers and internet billionaires. I have no experience of any of these job descriptions so I have had to use research and imagination. So it was with Dreaming of Christmas. I had to think myself into the mind of a Christmas aficionado and write accordingly.

Even so, when I sent the first draft to my editor at publishers, Canelo, I was unsurprised to receive his subsequent advice to “ramp up the glitter” and I did my best to comply. In fairness, I did make life easy for myself by setting the book in a very posh luxury hotel in the beautiful Austrian Alps. This place in my mind’s eye was smothered in deep snow, surrounded by snow-covered pine trees hung with fairy lights, and inside there were Christmas decorations galore. I even Googled “Christmas decorations” so as to remind me what sort of things constituted a really special Christmas and included as much as possible, from angels on top of trees to presents beneath them. I even gave the hotel manager – a figure I image to be a short, chubby man in an impeccable grey suit – a pair of plastic reindeer antlers on his head.

The characters in Dreaming of Christmas are a group of old university friends meeting up again after ten years. They all spend Christmas together so this inevitably meant I had to think about Christmas presents. The eagle-eyed reader will soon spot that nobody gives anybody else any underwear (when I learn a lesson, I really learn a lesson), but it was a struggle to imagine what, say, a thirty-something billionaire would give to his former housemates. Luckily I hit upon the idea of a “Christmas Market” in the village and that opened to doors to snow globes, candles, mugs, scarves and gloves, as well as a rather fine little silver necklace.

Hopefully, the description of Christmas in the book will satisfy the reader. To be totally honest, I ended up rather liking the environment I created. So much so that Casa Williams this Christmas may well find itself with an all singing and all dancing Christmas tree and ancillary baubles, just like in the book. Who knows? I might even buy a few presents in advance. Maybe writing the book has been good for me.

My Thoughts…

A lovely festive setting, an interesting group of people and an unlikely romance make this an enchanting Christmas story.  Glamour, reunion, troubled relationships and romance simmering under the surface bring this modern-day fairytale to life, and it will have you turning the pages lost in its ambience.

Billy is definitely romantic hero material and Zoe can’t believe how he’s changed in ten years, but he’s married and so she has to look elsewhere for her prince charming. Zoe is faced with numerous dilemmas, as she deals with her former flatmates’ problems, but can she sort out her own life and make it a truly memorable festive time?

This is an easy to read, well written festive romantic comedy, set in the picturesque Austrian Alps, complete with a perfect fairytale ending.

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

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

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

What Happened To Us – Faith Hogan – Extract – 5* Review

Carrie Nolan is devastated when she is dumped by Kevin Mulvey after more than a decade without even a backwards glance! On reflection, she has sacrificed her own long-term happiness establishing their critically acclaimed Dublin restaurant and pandering to his excessive ego.

Meanwhile, Kevin can’t believe his luck. Valentina, their new waitress is a stunner, the kind of girl that turns heads when she walks in a room and surprise, surprise she has chosen him! He is living the dream!

Carrie seeks solace from a circle of mismatched friends who need her as much as she needs them. Jane, who struggles to run the pub on the opposite side of the street, Luke, who has stopped drifting while his father settles in a nearby nursing home and Teddy, a dog who asks for nothing more than the chance to stay by Carrie’s side.

With Christmas just around the corner, all is not quite as it seems and a catastrophic sequence of events leads to the unthinkable…

How far do you need to fall before you learn the true value of family and friends? And is it ever too late to start again…

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Extract

It was over a long time before Valentina walked into the restaurant. It was over between him and Carrie, probably for years. The truth was, he needed her and, as Valentina said, that’s no basis for a relationship.

God, she was hot. Valentina was the love of his life, simple as that.

‘It’s just sex, mate.’ His friend Jim said when he told him. Marriage and kids had made Jim philosophical about sex – these days he was more interested in football and property prices, or at least that’s how it sounded to Kevin.

‘It’s not just sex, it’s…’ Kevin couldn’t begin to explain to Jim. Jim above all people, with his safe marriage to Sandra and their two perfect children. ‘It’s the real thing. Valentina is the love of my life, the kind of woman every man wants on his arm.’

‘Yeah, but not the kind we marry,’ Jim muttered into his pint and Kevin knew it was only because most people settled for what they thought they deserved. Well, the worst was over now. He – or rather they – had told Carrie. It wasn’t even as bad as he’d expected, actually, she’d taken it rather well. He’d been steeling himself for weeks if he was honest. It wasn’t cowardice, so much as picking his moment. In the end, Valentina picked it for them and he knew it was for the best. No more sneaking around – the stress of all that, while no doubt it had added a risky excitement to the sex – he knew, he’d probably have a heart attack if he kept it up for much longer. Kevin just didn’t have that additional layer to him that subterfuge required, although, he was flattered that Valentina assumed he might and that all this was standard for a man about town like himself.

‘Pure and simple, I said it to you years ago. You and Carrie, too young to settle into all that happy families.’ But of course, there was no family, just a partnership that never made it to a marriage. Sometimes, Kevin wondered why they hadn’t married – perhaps Carrie had been waiting for him to ask? Of course, she must have known, after all these years, Kevin would never get around to asking. If they were to marry, it would be down to Carrie to organise it – and, of course, she never had.

‘It wasn’t just that,’ Kevin said. He wanted to tell Jim that he’d pursued Valentina, had seduced her and set about staking his claim on the future that was assembling before him. Although the truth was, they’d fallen into their relationship one night when Valentina had teased him into opening a bottle of red after everyone had left and they’d made ravenous love against the stairs in the restaurant. Red wine always made Kevin tipsy; he just didn’t have the constitution for it. Even now, it was like a dream to Kevin. He was seducing this beautiful woman and he wasn’t entirely sure how he’d managed it, but he could no more halt than the world would stop spinning.

‘No, there was no family, but the restaurant that was your baby. It was hers too.’ Jim shook his head, considered his pint of beer. ‘I suppose you’ve thought about what will happen with that?’

‘With the restaurant?’ Kevin had thought about it, but not in any concrete way. First, he’d had to tell Carrie, now that bit was over, they could make plans, decide what to do for the best.

‘I can’t see her walking away from it, and to be fair, you’d be mad to let her.’

‘How do you mean?’ Kevin was a little affronted.

‘Mate, I’ve known you both a long time, remember, we go back to first-year catering college together. Without Carrie, you’d be like all those other guys. True, you have talent, but let’s face it, Carrie is the brains behind the operation.’

‘Hold on, Jim. It’s my food people come for.’

‘Yes, and they also go to the Shelbourne for food and to McDonald’s. They go to your restaurant for the experience and that’s everything from the food to the people-watching, to the comfy chairs and even just to have Carrie look after them.’

‘Valentina is very good with the customers.’ Kevin might have been insulted if anyone else had said those things, but with Jim, well, he was probably telling the truth.

‘She may well be, but she’s not Carrie.’

‘God, no, she’s definitely not Carrie.’ Kevin smiled, remembering the way Valentina affected him. She did things slowly, spoke slowly, ate slowly. God, but she took off her clothes slowly. Each and every item hitting the ground, and his pulse began to beat rapidly just thinking about it.

‘Stop it, you’re torturing yourself.’ Jim could read his thoughts almost as well as Carrie could. ‘Actually, when I think about it, a Colombian hottie, you’re bloody torturing me as well.’ They sat for a while, looking at the giant TV over the bar, neither of them really following the game, both lost in thoughts of their own. ‘You’ll have to sort something with Carrie, mate.’

‘I suppose.’

‘There’s no suppose about it. It’s a right mess. There’s the house, the business and then all the other stuff that’s going to get tangled up in the crossfire.’

‘What other stuff?’ Kevin didn’t want to hear this, probably it was to be expected, but why couldn’t Jim just be happy for him, well, ideally, if he could be a little jealous too – it wasn’t much to ask, was it?

‘Have you forgotten Melissa and Ben’s wedding?’

‘Oh, Christ.’ Kevin had completely forgotten Melissa and Ben’s wedding. It was all planned, and as best friends of the bride and groom, Kevin and Carrie were asked to be maid of honour and best man. ‘That’ll be a bloody nightmare.’

‘Ah well, fun and games,’ Jim said, draining his pint. He nodded to the barman. ‘Must be off, back to the old ball and chain,’ he looked at his watch, ‘getting late for you too, Romeo.’ He slapped Kevin hard on the back. He took up his newspaper and headed into the night winds; leaving Kevin for another half-hour before he was due at the restaurant for the evening rush.

It was a mess. It was a right bloody mess, but he had no choice. He and Carrie were finished. He was in love with Valentina now and there was no going back. Not even for The Sea Pear.

My Thoughts…

A lovely heartwarming read with a festive edge, the characters are rich in detail and make you interested in their lives, whether you like them or not. Carrie is a strong female lead who you both empathise and admire because she doesn’t give up. Teddy the dog is such a courageous character and I would have loved this story for him alone.

There is a charming festive thread in this autumn- winter story that intensifies the importance of family, friends and caring for others.  An authentic, emotional story perfect to read at any time of year. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Faith was born in Ireland and currently lives there with her husband, four children and two fussy cats. She gained an Honors Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate from University College, Galway. She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair- an international competition for emerging writers. When she’s not writing, she’s an enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger.

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Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Blog Tour: Shari Low – Another Day in Winter 5* Review – Extract

On a chilly morning in December… Forever friends Shauna and Lulu touch down at Glasgow Airport on a quest to find answers from the past.

George knows his time is nearing the end but is it too late to come to terms with his two greatest regrets?

His Grandson Tom uncovers a betrayal that rocks his world as he finally tracks down the one that got away.

And single mum Chrissie is ready to force her love-life out of hibernation, but can anyone compare to the man who broke her heart?

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Extract

George

I’m dying. I just want to say that straight out. Or as the young ones would say, “put it out there”. Bloody nonsense, some of the phrases that folk use nowadays. What’s wrong with just plain speaking?

The boy thinks I don’t know he’s here, but I can hear and feel him fine. Tom. The boy. That’s still how I think of him even though he’s gone thirty now. Fine lad he’s turned out to be. I couldn’t be prouder. It’s a bloody miracle when you consider his feckless father.

I can hear that lassie, the nurse, too. Liv, that’s her name. Cheery thing. She’s got one of those voices that reassures everyone who listens to her. Not that there’s much reassurance to be had for me now. A painless exit is about as much as I can hope for, and these drugs that they’re pumping into me are taking care of that. Don’t half take the wind out of my sails though. Between the medicine and this damned disease, it’s getting harder and harder to open my eyes.

That said, I’m not in any rush to leave this world. I’ve never been one for impatience. I’ve lost track of the days, and I hate to keep asking the nurse, but I’m fairly sure it’s close to Christmas. The sound of festive songs has been drifting in from the corridor – Blue Christmas by Elvis was always my favourite – and on the few occasions I’ve managed to open my eyes, I’ve noticed people walking by the window with gift-wrapped presents. It’s always been my favourite time of the year, especially when our Tom was a boy. We would have Christmas morning at our house and my son Norry and his first wife, Catriona, would bring the boy round first thing. Catriona was a fine woman and so much more than that sour-faced one Norry replaced her with. She was a smashing mother to Tom, too. It shames me to say it, but every bit of compassion and kindness in that boy came directly from her, not from that son of mine.

Anyway, where was I? Christmas. My darling Betty would cook and organise games and make it the perfect day for everyone. It was at times like that Betty, and I wished there’d been more of us, a bigger family for the boy to share the day with, but Norry had been our only son, and then he’d repeated the pattern by only having Tom. Of course, there was more kin out there – I had two sisters, Annie and Flora, that I lost touch with long ago. Those memories pained me, and our Betty knew that, so we left them in the past and we never spoke of them, not to Norry, not to Tom, not to anyone. That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten them though. In fact, now I think of them more than ever.

Tom is shaving me now, and I’m glad about that. No excuses for a shabby appearance, that’s what my father drilled into us, and I’ve always lived by it. I hope it’s the only thing of that man’s that I’ve taken to heart. By God, there was a father that ruled with an iron rod and wasn’t one for sparing feelings. There were no tears shed when Billy Butler went to his maker, although it saddened me when my mother went only a few weeks after. Influenza afflicted the both of them. I wish she’d had a chance to live without him, even for a short while, to breathe without walking on eggshells, waiting for the next rage or rant. All of us kids – Annie, Flora and me – knew the feeling of fear and I vowed that I would never be that kind of father with Norry.

Instead, I tried to be the man who led by example and instilled decency and compassion in his offspring, but I’m sorry to say I failed. It’s always been a great sadness that Norry was more of his grandad’s ilk than of mine. A selfish boy, self-centred and prone to nastiness, who grew into an arrogant bugger of a man. It gives me no pleasure to say that of my own son, but one of the gifts of these last days is honesty. If I can’t be truthful with myself, then what’s the point? These are days of reckoning, of reminiscing, of looking back on eighty years that were well lived but not without mistakes.

The boy is mid-shave when the question the nurse asks him sinks in to my fuddled brain. ‘Are your parents on the way?’ she says.

I try to focus on the answer, so I get it right. I hear him say, ‘Yeah, my dad and stepmother. They’re halfway here. They touched down in Dubai a couple of hours ago, and their connecting flight took off on time. They should be here about three o’clock.’

Bloody hell. So Norry and that wife of his are coming. I must be close to dead if they’re making the effort because they didn’t bloody come when I was alive and kicking, or when my darling Betty was sick and passed away.

And of course, it wouldn’t be Tom’s mother, Catriona, that would be with Norry. That poor lass was treated terribly by my son, and he forced her out of their lives when Tom was sixteen. To be honest, for her sake I was glad she got out of that marriage. She had a lucky escape. I was only too glad to give her as much help as I could to start her new life down south. She kept in touch with me right up until she passed, a few years ago. Cancer. This bastard of a disease. I was only grateful that the lass found happiness with a man who treated her well. I never met him, but Tom would visit them, and he told me he was a decent chap. That made me sleep a bit easier at night. I felt it was the least she deserved after being married to my son.

Norry had barely batted an eyelid when she left. He’d never admitted it to me, but I had a fair idea that he was already up to no good with the next one. Rosemary. She wasn’t like Catriona. This time he’d met his match and someone who was as contemptible as he was. They’d tied the knot as soon as his divorce was final – went off to Bali or someplace like that. Didn’t even invite us. Not that I’d have gone. Not after their antics. Next thing we knew, Norry sold up his business and off they went to Australia, taking our Tom with them. Norry said it was about work-life balance and enjoying the fruits of his labour, or some nonsense like that. The truth was, he’d made a killing and reckoned he could live like a king down under, and he had so much in the bank that he got a visa to live there without a problem. That Rosemary one encouraged him every step of the way. Fancied herself living in a big house in the sunshine, with no ties or commitments, so off they went, and damn everyone else. Losing Tom near broke my Betty’s heart. It was one of the happiest days of her life when the boy came back to live with us a year later. He’d never settled out there, and we were glad of it.

Through the haze of the buggering pills, I can hear the beeping from the monitor beside me getting faster. That’s what I get for thinking about those two. It wouldn’t surprise me if the bloody thing exploded when they walk through the door. I can only hope their plane gets delayed and I get to spend another day without them here.

Days.

Hours maybe.

My Thoughts…

I haven’t read the first book in the Winter’s Day series, so I read this as a standalone and it is a lovely, poignant read, with a festive flavour, complex characters and a web of secrets to explore.

There are many characters whose lives are intertwined; each character has a story to tell which adds to the main storyline and illustrates their reason for being there on this particular Winter’s day. The beauty of this story is its unashamed emotion, the characters’ experience many feelings and because of their inherent honesty, it’s impossible not to empathise.

Something to warm you on a cold Winter’s day, a lovely, heartwarming yet realistic festive read.

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

Shari has written seventeen novels under her own name and pseudonyms Ronni Cooper, Millie Conway and Shari King, of which many have been published globally. She writes a weekly opinion column and Book Club page for the Daily Record. Shari lives with her husband and 2 teenage boys in Glasgow. Twitter Facebook Website