I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘A Summer to Remember’ is romantic, full of angst with conflicts galore and a clever plot. It starts with a tragic event and this compounds six years later when Clancy finds her life and career in tatters, at the hands of those she trusted most. Serendipity draws her back to Norfolk, her only chance of sanctuary, but she is unsure of her welcome and once again is at the mercy of others for her happiness.
Clancy and Aaron are almost lovers, and so the tension between them is sizzling when they meet again, but it’s a slow burn, as events, the past, and most of the villagers get in the way of their chance of love. I like both characters, their only flaw is that they are so busy helping those closest to them they forget each other and their right to be happy.
There are lots of characters who I don’t like, because of their lack of insight into the needs of others. Having more than one antagonist character increases the opportunity for conflict and this a major theme of this story.
The village life is authentic and interesting and Harry and Rory’s story is particularly poignant and well written.
This story engages the reader from the first page and keeps your interest. An enjoyable read with refreshing originality.
A beautifully written, incredibly original and wickedly funny novel for readers of 10 and older – BLOOM is for everyone who has ever felt like they didn’t fit in, and for anyone who has ever wanted a little more colour and wildness in their lives…
Sorrel Fallowfield is growing up – in a REALLY surprising way…
Sorrel Fallowfield is so good at being good that teachers come to her when they need help remembering the school rules – and there are LOTS.
Luckily, Sorrel doesn’t have any trouble following them, until the day she discovers a faded packet of Surprising Seeds buried under a tree in her backyard.
Now she’s hearing voices, seeing things, experiencing an almost unstoppable urge to plant the Seeds in some very unusual places… and completely failing to win her school’s competition to find The Most Obedient Child of the School.
And all that’s before flowers start growing out of her head…
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins Childrens Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
An entertaining, environmentally orientated story aimed at children from ten years onwards, the important themes it explores come across effectively, resonating with the reader.
The plot is complex, filled with messages about the importance of green spaces, not building on the green belt land we have, the power of corporations, and the damage they can do. On a more individual level, there is an exploration of friendship, and its importance, and how it has to be nurtured to survive. Diversity is also a theme, as is the importance of family, however, it exists.
The need to be different and speak out, rather than saying nothing just to fit in, is perhaps the most dominant theme of this story, and in a world where the young often feel powerless this is a theme worth promoting.
The beauty of this book is that it delivers its messages in the guise of a magical story, with complex characters who demand a reaction from the reader. Sorrel is easy to empathise and admire, whilst the controlling, blinkered headmaster has little to recommend him. Full of vivid imagery, you can easily imagine the setting and action, which is vital in any book.
Perfectly pitched for the age group, and also enjoyable as an adult read, this is a must-read.
Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has an Hons Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector. TwitterFacebook
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!
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When bestselling romance author Chloe Piper’s marriage implodes a week before Christmas, she flees her cheating ex and the village gossips for the solitude of the newly built Sunny Meadow Farm and the company of her hapless dog, Ronnie.
But Chloe is soon pushed out of her comfort zone. Because with a lively development building crew – headed up by charmingAlex – and a larger-than-life neighbour determined to make Chloe’s love life her pet project, Chloe finds herself in a whole new world of chaos…
Faith drained her glass and released a lengthy contented
sigh. The log burner was still glowing orange, and shadows danced across the
floor where Ronnie now lay asleep.
‘You made the right decision to
leave Appletree and start again,’ said Faith, holding onto the stem of her
glass and eyeing it as if it might magically refill itself. ‘This house is much
nicer than your old one and William’s a complete tosser.’
Chloe didn’t respond. She was mellow
thanks to the champagne and reality was replacing the excitement of moving. It
felt strange being in a house without the memorabilia she’d been used to having
around her – the funny animal sculptures she and William had bought together
from a local artist, the teapot collection she’d started, the paintings and photographs
on their walls she’d looked at every day for the last ten years. It was gone.
The smell of the old place, the familiar creaks she’d become accustomed to: the
birds that nested every year under their guttering, the crackle of the fire in
their large open fireplace and the way she’d sink into the cushions on their
old settee were now memories and she had yet to make new ones to replace them.
It would take time. William was also memory now – a bittersweet memory.
‘It won’t last,’ Faith continued,
referring to William’s relationship with Lilly, the Swedish bombshell who was
now part of her soon-to-be ex-husband’s life. Chloe knew her friend was trying
to be supportive but she didn’t want to discuss William’s latest girlfriend.
Whether it lasted or not was irrelevant – the fact was he’d cheated on her and
not just the once. Before Lilly, there’d been others and poor dumb Chloe had
been too stupid to realise. She threw Faith a smile and pushed herself into a
‘Wine?’ she said.
Faith waved her glass in response.
Chloe caught sight of her reflection
in the large windows as she walked through to the kitchen. She ought to draw
the curtains but there was no one to overlook the house, and by the door, she
halted. There was no light pollution at all. The sky was never as inky black as
this in Appletree. There’d always been pavements illuminated by street lights
or light from people’s homes leaking into the manicured front gardens, or car
headlights strobing up and down the road. This was darkness like she’d never
experienced before and yet it wasn’t dark. As her eyes grew accustomed to it,
she saw the sky was dotted with thousands… no, millions of pinpricks of lights
from stars, and the sudden realisation took her breath away. This was
magnificent. Faith shouted out. ‘Oy, where’s that wine? You haven’t gone in
search of the sexy carpenter, have you?’ She followed her comment with a hearty
She turned from the door, catching again a glimpse of her face – pale, heart-shaped and framed with long dark brown hair – a face that had aged ten years in the last ten months. She’d never been what anyone would call pretty but she’d looked well and now-now she just looked drained. William had sucked all the joy from her, little by little at first and then towards the end, in huge amounts. If it hadn’t been for the success of her novel and Faith’s friendship, she’d have gone under. She turned away and grabbed the chilled wine from the fridge door, reached for a corkscrew in the top drawer and smiled: she’d gone to the drawer automatically, instinctively as if she’d lived here far longer than a few hours. She took it as a sign that she’d be fine and yanking the cork from the bottle she raised it victoriously towards the lounge.
‘You want a fresh glass?’
‘Damn right I do… fetch those ones
that look like fish bowls.’
Chloe grinned. Faith was already semi-drunk and would soon be demanding they opened the karaoke app on her mobile and had a sing-along. And why not? The house would probably enjoy it.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A charming romantic comedy, with a sensitive and serious look at social anxiety disorder and its disabling effects. Christmas looms dark and dangerous for Chloe, whose husband has recently left her. A successful debut author, who suffers from anxiety, Chloe is horrified when she is identified as the author CJ Knight, and can no longer find the anonymity she needs in her village. Moving to a new development in rural Staffordshire appeals but is it too remote? Will she master her writer’s block? Can she survive Christmas with only Ronnie the dog for company?
The characters in the new development and those she meets in the singles club are complex, with their own emotional baggage but believable, there are no stereotypes here, only reflections of the people you may encounter in your daily life. The story charts Chloe’s battle against her anxiety, her courage as she learns to trust others and her emotional journey to rebuild her self-esteem through writing her second book.
There are lots of conflicts, as the genre demands, both internal and external, and many hilarious moments, especially involving Ronnie the dog. The story is gently paced and as Chloe is a likeable character you want her to find true happiness, and learn to live her life fully. There are elements in this story that many readers will relate to, which make this more than just a lighthearted love story.
A clever balance of romance, laughs and poignancy make this an enjoyable read.
As a child, Carol Wyer was always moving and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published and journalism in many magazines.
Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.
The town of Little Woodford seems
peaceful and picture-postcard beautiful, with its marketplace, ancient church
and immaculate allotments. But behind the tranquil facade, troubles are
Olivia Lewthwaite, a former town councillor, a pillar of the WI and all-around busybody, has been forced by her husband’s gambling debts to sell their house – her pride and joy. She hates the new estate they’ve moved to and knows she needs to humble herself to apply for a job.
To make matters worse, a thoroughly disagreeable woman has bought Olivia’s beloved Grange and sets about objecting to everything she can, from the ringing of the church bells to the market stall selling organic local meat.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
If you love small town values and interactions, ‘The Bells of Little Woodford’, will appeal. The second book in the series, it reads well as a standalone, but it’s such a lovely series, read my review of ‘Little Woodford – The Secrets of a Small Town’ and enjoy this too.
Olivia, is coming to terms with her fall from grace, too involved in everyone else’s business and the town’s many organisations, her own family took second place, and now she has to pick up the pieces.
Losing her home is part of the price she has to pay, but the new owners seem determined to disrupt and dismantle everything important to the town unless someone stops them.
This story has a comforting, realistic ethos, the characters, values and peccadillos of the town, and it’s residents are recognisable and make this an enjoyable book to read. The plot is simple, but it reflects ordinary life in a small town. Coupled with the complex, easy to like or dislike characters this story is a wonderful escape.
Grab yourself a cup of tea, a slice of homemade cake and wallow in the camaraderie, gossip and ordinariness of Little Woodford.
Guest Post – Catherine Jones – The inspiration behind Little Woodford
‘Write what you know’ is the advice people give to authors. That suits me fine as I’m not a fan of doing research – I’d rather just get on with telling the story. Which is why many of my previous books have an army theme as I was in the army myself, I married a soldier and I am the mother of one. Twenty-five years ago my husband left the forces and we moved to a little middle-England market town, not far from Oxford and where we have lived ever since. I love this town with a passion: it has everything a town could want; three supermarkets, several churches, a weekly market, cricket, tennis and rugby clubs, a bustling high street, a nature reserve, a theatre and seven – yes, seven – pubs! In fact, I love this place so much I’m on the town council. When it was suggested to me I ought to write about the lives of ordinary people and the kind of stuff that goes on behind their front doors – the stuff you might not want your neighbours to know about – I instantly knew exactly where I would set my story. If you know my town, it is pretty recognisable as all the elements are there – with the exception that Little Woodford only has one pub. Of course, as an author, I have to be immensely careful to make sure that everyone in the book is completely fictitious but that hasn’t stopped many of the locals asking me if this or that character isn’t actually based on X or Y. The one character that I haven’t been asked about is Olivia Laithwaite, one of the main protagonists; she’s a councillor, rides a bike, is a bit of a busy-body, likes to know what’s going on and has several children. I’m not saying Olivia and I are clones, but there are a lot of people in the town who are!
Extract From The Bells of Little Woodford – Catherine Jones
waved goodbye to the boys – both engrossed in chatting to their mates in their
lines and both oblivious of her farewell – before she made her way out of the
playground and began to head down the hill towards the centre of the town and
her house. As she turned onto the main road she glanced across it to her friend
Olivia’s vast barn conversion. The estate agent’s shingle, hammered into the
front lawn, announced that it was ‘sold subject to contract’. Olivia must be
moving out soon. Bex paused and thought for a second about the mess her house
was in and how she ought to be dealing with that… sod it, the mess could wait.
Checking for traffic, she crossed the road then scrunched up the gravel drive.
She hadn’t seen Olivia for weeks and she might well want a hand if she was in
the middle of packing up. To offer some help was the least Bex could do for her
friend – after all, when Bex had been swamped by her own unpacking, and Olivia
had been a complete stranger, she’d come to introduce herself to the new arrival
in town and ended up spending the evening with Bex, helping to unpack and
organise the kitchen. When Bex had first met Olivia she hadn’t been sure she
was going to like her. It had been obvious from the start that she was somewhat
bossy and opinionated and, with her blonde bob and skirt-blouse-and-court-shoe
apparel, she looked every inch the town busybody she so obviously was. But she
was a doer and grafter and, even more than that, she was kind. And when Olivia
had discovered that her public-school son had a drug habit and her husband had
gambled away their life savings, her dignity in the face of such a crisis had
been admirable. She was even making the best of having to sell up her ‘forever’
home to stop the family from going bankrupt. Bex was very fond of her.
rang the doorbell and waited patiently for it to be answered. She was slightly
taken aback when it was opened by Olivia’s son, Zac.
Zac – no school?’
Anselm’s doesn’t go back till next week,’ he told her.
Hello, Bex,’ called Olivia from the other side of the monstrous sitting room. She was busy wrapping up an ornament in newspaper. ‘Long time no see. How are you?’ She pushed a stray lock of hair off her face. ‘Zac, be a love and put the kettle on.’
loped off into the kitchen area on the far side of the room, skirting piles of
cardboard boxes and a massive roll of bubble wrap.
Anselm’s always gets a bonkers amount of holidays,’ said Olivia. ‘It seems to
me that the more you pay for a child’s education, the less time he spends in
not quantity,’ contradicted Zac over the gush of the tap as he filled the
raised an eyebrow. ‘I don’t think your last year’s exam results back up that
well…’ The back of Zac’s neck glowed pink. He flicked the kettle on. ‘I’ll take
Oscar out for a walk if you two are going to talk.’ He grabbed his dog’s lead
and whistled. Oscar, a black and white border collie, bounded out of his basket
and headed for the front door.
they’d left, Olivia crossed the room herself and got a couple of mugs out of
it all going?’ asked Bex, following her.
The move, paying off Nigel’s debts or Zac’s recovery from drugs?’ Olivia
sweetie…’ Bex gave Olivia a hug. ‘I’m sorry.’
gave her a thin smile. ‘Don’t be. Honestly, we’re getting there. Zac’s fine –
still clean – and I think I should be grateful he’s sowed his wild oats in a
safe little place like this and that the guy who supplied him with all the
drugs is doing time in nick and out of the picture. Without him around I think
the chances of Zac backsliding are pretty slim although I don’t think he will
anyway – he’s learned his lesson. I dread to think what would have happened if
he’d got addicted at uni where he’d have been just another anonymous junkie
murmured Bex. That’s one way to look at things, she supposed.
Nigel’s debts will be cleared once we’ve got the money for this place and move
into our new home.’
fortnight if all goes according to plan.’
you know who’s bought this?’
Olivia shook her head. ‘Not a clue – to be honest, I don’t want to know. The estate agent handled all the viewings and Nigel’s dealt with the paperwork. I… I…’ She stopped. ‘I found it all a bit upsetting.’
reached out and squeezed her friend’s arm.
Catherine Jones lives in Thame, where she is an
independent Councillor. She is the author of eighteen novels, including the
Soldiers’ Wives series, which she wrote under the pseudonym Fiona Field.
An elderly resident of an inner-city tower block is brutally attacked and left for dead. Her neighbours, a pregnant alcoholic, a vulnerable youth, a failed actress and a cameraman with a dark secret, are thrown together in their search for answers. Misfits and loners, they are forced to confront uncomfortable realities about themselves and each other, as their investigation leads them towards the shocking finale.
I received a copy of this book from Blackbird Books in return for an honest review.
A chilling act of violence on a defenceless person is the starting point for ‘The Lonely Hearts Crime Club. The setting is a sixties style tower block, mainly used for social housing, The residents all have a story, revealed as the book progresses.
All the characters except one know the victim, they all feel threatened in some respect by what happened. Out of adversity comes a camaraderie that is realistic and poignant. Complex, recognisable, but not stereotypical characters are the driving force of this story. We learn their stories in a format reminiscent of ‘talking heads’ and the angst, heartbreak and ultimately self-realisation is enthralling.
The mystery of what happened at Shenstone tower is well-written, all the characters in the story could be guilty. There is a clever twist almost halfway through, which makes you believe that someone else may have the answers to the mystery.
Ella, Ethan, Birdie and Willian are the unlikely sleuths, but they want to find the attacker and driven by Ella, they try to piece together who the attacker is and the motives behind the crime.
The main characters’vulnerability draws them to each other, they find strength in shared mutual experience, and although heartbreakingly vulnerable alone, together they are strong and effective.
The clues are subtle but meaningful and gradually the mystery resolves in a believable, satisfying way.
A powerful, poignant story. The ending is so sad, but something hopeful emerges for the majority of ‘The Lonely Hearts Crime Club’ members.
Tanya Bullock is a college lecturer, writer and award-winning filmmaker. She lives in the UK with her husband and two young children. She has a passion for foreign culture and languages (inherited from her French mother) and, in her youth, travelled extensively throughout Australia, America, Asia and Europe. As a filmmaker, she has gained local recognition, including funding and regional television broadcast, through ITV’s First Cut scheme, two nominations for a Royal Television Society Midlands Award, and, in 2010, a Royal Television Society Award in the category of best promotional film. On maternity leave in 2011 and in need of a creative outlet, Tanya began to write That Special Someone, the story of a mother’s quest to help her learning-disabled daughter find love. It was a finalist for The People’s Book Prize and The Beryl Bainbridge First Time Author Award 2016. Her second novel, Homecoming, a love story with an unexpected twist, was published in 2016. The Lonely Hearts Crime Club is Tanya’s third novel. A psychological thriller with a shocking finale, it will be published in the spring of 2019. All of Tanya’s novels are published by Blackbird Digital Books.
1862 Young widow Eugénie is left bereft when her husband dies suddenly and faces an uncertain future in Guernsey. A further tragedy brings her to the attention of Monsieur Victor Hugo, living in exile on the island in his opulent house only yards away from Eugénie’s home. Their meeting changes her life and she becomes his copyist, forming a strong friendship with both Hugo and his mistress, Juliette Drouet.
2012 Doctor Tess Le Prevost, Guernsey-born though now living in Exeter, is shocked to inherit her Great-Aunt’s house on the island. As a child, she was entranced by Doris’s tales of their ancestor, Eugénie, whose house this once was, and who, according to family myth, was particularly close to Hugo. Was he the real father of her child? Tess is keen to find out and returning to the island presents her with the ideal opportunity.
Will she discover the truth about Eugénie and Hugo? A surprise find may hold the answer as Tess embraces new challenges which test her strength – and her heart.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
A delightful mix of contemporary and Victorian life on Guernsey, with colourfully described historical details, and an engaging contemporary story full of romance, friendship and family drama.
Tess unexpectedly inherits an old house on Guernsey where she spent her childhood, Visiting her inheritance, she is drawn to the rundown house and being at a crossroads in her life decides to renovate and make Guernsey her home again.
Characters from previous stories make cameo appearances, but the story is standalone. The story slips between 2012 and Victorian times, told from Tess and Eugenie’s points of view. Both stories are complex and interesting, and there is a historical mystery for Tess to solve.
The story features a real historical figure, although the story is fictional, his presence as a character adds authenticity and depth.
Domestic abuse is a primary theme in this book, and it serves to highlight, its prevalence, and the differences and similarities between contemporary and Victorian women, in abusive relationships.
The storytelling is enthralling, the setting vividly described and the connections between the past and present meaningful. A lovely mix of believable characters and a realistic but hopeful ending make reading ‘The Inheritance’, a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
Guest Post – Anne Allen – The Inheritance
I would like to start by thanking Jane for
allowing me space on her lovely blog, to talk about my latest offering in The
Guernsey Novels series.
This book marks a slight change of direction for
me in that instead of referencing the German Occupation in Guernsey as in my
previous books, I go further back in time to the late 19th C and we
meet the famous writer, Victor Hugo. It may not be widely known, but he spent
fifteen years in Guernsey while in exile from France, having fallen out with
Emperor Napoleon III. He arrived, complete with his wife, children, mistress
and various other exiles, in October 1855. Hugo had already been kicked out of
Jersey, his port of call, for rude comments about Queen Victoria. The Guernsey
view was that if Jersey didn’t want him, he must be worth having!
The inspiration behind my book was Hugo’s house,
Hauteville House, in St Peter Port. It’s one of a kind – opulent, over the top,
full of quirky features like oak panels carved by Hugo himself, and with a
rooftop eerie made from steel and glass where he wrote his novels and poems. I
have visited it a couple of times, both when I lived there and two years ago
when the idea for this book first surfaced. It is exactly how it was in Hugo’s
day and his descendants gifted it to France some years ago and a French flag
flies outside to proclaim it as French territory. My last visit was just in
time as the house has been closed for nearly two years for extensive
renovation, re-opening on 7th April just before my book is
Hugo finished writing his most famous work here, Les Misérables, as well as several more novels and collections of poetry. In my book, my character, Eugénie, a young French woman living yards away from Hugo, has a life-changing encounter with him and becomes his copyist. No computers or typewriters around then! His mistress, Juliette Drouet, also helped with the copying and the two women became close. Eugénie, recently widowed, has inherited her husband’s family home but has no income and working for Hugo is her salvation. My story is dual-time and the in the modern part, my character, Tess, is a Guernsey-born doctor now living in Devon and she unexpectedly inherits what was Eugénie’s house from her great-aunt in 2012. There has long been a family myth that Hugo and Eugénie were particularly close and that he may have been the father of her child when she remarried. I had to be very careful about this aspect of the story as Hugo’s descendants still have an apartment in Hauteville House and do visit Guernsey regularly. How to avoid upsetting people! Although he was a known womanizer, as far as is known Hugo had no illegitimate children.
Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby. Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.
By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, seven having been published. The books form a series, but each one is a standalone story with links to other books and characters. Although not originally planned, Anne is, in effect, writing a saga of Guernsey; featuring numerous characters and stories covering the German Occupation, Victorian Guernsey and the present day. A mix of family drama, mystery and love, the books have a wide appeal to readers of all ages.
One charming bookshop, two unlikely friends, and a summer in Paris that will change their lives forever…
Grace can’t believe it when her husband of twenty-five years announces he doesn’t want to join her on their anniversary trip to Paris – instead, he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock, Grace makes the bold decision to go on this holiday of a lifetime alone.
Audrey leaves behind heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no knowledge of the French language, her summer adventure seems doomed to fail. Until she meets Grace and everything changes…
Living in neighbouring apartments above the bookshop, Grace and Audrey form an unlikely friendship. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding each other might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them.
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I love this book and I couldn’t put it down. The two main characters Grace and Audrey are so likeable, despite the emotional wasteland they find themselves in. They are realistic and easy to empathise and you want them to appreciate their true worth and find happiness.
David, Grace’s husband and Linda, Audrey’s mum, lead a varied collection of subsidiary characters that make the story realistic and resonate, but not always in a good way, but that’s a true reflection of life, isn’t it?
The women meet by chance and form an unlikely friendship but both fulfil a need in the other. Grace sees her young self in Audrey and wants to help her discover her true importance. Audrey makes Grace realise she has so much to live for and can be the strong, independent woman she dreams of being.
This is a story of family, friendship and forgiveness. Despite their age difference, Audrey and Grace share similar character traits, most notably a self-deprecating sense of humour, which lightens the dark moments in this story. A hopeful ethos pervades this story, even though at times you feel Audrey and Grace may drown in their sadness. The friendship between them is authentic and the serendipity of their meeting gives the story its magic.
The final chapters bring the story to a satisfying conclusion, the believable outcomes make this poignant tale a lovely, heartwarming book.
A great holiday read, for lovers of family drama and friendship stories that take you on a poignant, angst-ridden journey, lightened with humour and romance. Read this book and escape to Paris for the Summer.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review
Three women, one man, it seems that Paul Starr collects wives like other men collect paintings, although he collects those too. In fact, that’s how he met Grace, the starting point for this story. Their attraction is instant and unsettling, she knows he’s married but is drawn like a moth to the flame, and he seems prepared to give up his former life to share hers. It is not until his untimely demise that Grace realises Paul kept secrets from everyone. Grace is running from commitment, from the drudgery of her early life and mostly from herself.
Evie always felt he loved her best despite Grace, but when he dies unexpectedly, she finds out Grace is not the only one. Evie’s story is sad, always living in someone’s shadow, never realising her full potential and now she feels she never will.
Annalise met Paul when she was at an all-time low, he offered her a way of saving face, but somewhere along the way she lost herself. When he died she clings on to her widowhood like a safety net, but maybe falling is better than remaining on the precipice?
Paul is like a child, he wants new toys but doesn’t want to give up his old ones. Unfortunately, his toys are women and their lives are blighted by his treatment. Paul’s lack of awareness is an overriding theme in this story, his character is badly flawed, but despite his controlling and faithless characteristics, as the story progresses, in death he does offer each of his women a precious lifeline.
This story is an excellent family drama and each of the main female characters becomes stronger, it is an empowering book to read. The plot is interesting and whilst the theme is not unusual, it is handled in a unique way and the characters are beautifully written, realistic, flawed, but strong enough to realise they have to accept help from unlikely sources, evolve and most of all forgive – Paul, the other women in his life and most of all themselves.
Lies and secrets are at the heart of this story, but it is courage and transparency that makes it an enjoyable read. Many contemporary issues and attitudes are explored sensitively, and there is a mystery to solve that keeps you guessing. Its resolution ties up the story perfectly.
The relationship that develops between the women is what resonates most in this story, the imagery is vivid, the dialogue realistic, and the plot perfectly paced. This would make a great film.
Guest Post- Faith Hogan
The Ultimate Guide to
Being an Irish Reader
It seems, when St. Patrick’s day rolls around each year, more and more people find a little drop of Irish somewhere along the roots of their family tree. It’s a truly wonderful thing, to think that somehow, most of us are connected in some way that’s becoming more traceable as science and research move forward.
Of course, the thing about being Irish is that it’s like
being French, it’s as much an attitude to life as it is anything else. Often,
it seems that as a nation we’ve been maligned, in terms of being all that goes
along with pints of the black stuff and a propensity to curse midstream on the
most poetic verses.
I think the things that make us Irish – whether it is esoterically or physically are a little more prosaic…
The most important thing that has set us apart over the
centuries is our love for Literature. We’ve been blessed by more than just
shamrock, historically with books that stretch all the way back to the Ninth
The Book of Kells…. can be visited in Trinity College
Library where it’s on permanent display.
Of course, our literary tradition did not begin and end with
the monks and academics.
Some of our most famous writers have written across the genres over the last two hundred years. Everyone associates James Joyce and W.B Yeats with the emerald isle, their writing is so richly invested in our green landscape. We are equally proud however of Brahm Stoker who wrote the internationally famous Dracula and Oscar Wilde whose acerbic wit and tragedy lean towards a much more anglicised tradition.
In recent years, I’m not sure you can close or open an Irish cannon without including some of our most treasured and popular writers. Maeve Binchy is a genre to herself at this point and her stories carry within them a heart and warmth that many pretenders may aspire to, but none has so far reached. There is no nicer compliment than being compared to Maeve, but really, I’ve always felt there is only one Queen of the heart stories and her crown remains untouched.
Roddy Doyle writes a very different kind of book to anyone
else in the world. It is Irish, it is Dublin and all of his stories are
bitingly sharp, poignantly funny and for my money, if we’re comparing, he’s got
his finger on the pulse as a modern day Dickens’. Doyle manages to highlight
the areas of society we’d rather gloss over and he does it in a way that makes
us want to go back for more.
These days, books are a funny thing in Ireland. There are so many fantastic writers out there, a sea of them all bobbing along, but its the ones that make it up onto the big screen that really tend to capture the attention, sometimes to the detriment of equally good books alongside them. One of those books, that made it to the big screen was Brooklyn – based on the wonderful novel by Colm Toibin – if there is a book you think you might read this St. Patrick’s day, this one is light but well written and it is guaranteed to leave you with the whisper of an Irish voice in your ear and a contented smile at the end.
If you’re planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s day with a book, of course, I have to mention, a brand new paperback has just arrived in the shops and it’s called My Husbands Wives and it’s published by Aria Fiction. It’s been compared to all sorts of wonderful writers, but mainly, it’s an unashamedly feel-good story – a blissful escape from these grey days. It’s the story of four women and how they manage to survive and thrive after the unthinkable happens. It is steeped in the warmth, welcome and windy weather of this little emerald isle and it’s guaranteed to leave you feeling as if all is right with the world at the end!
If you do pick it up, I hope you enjoy it!
Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has a Hons Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.