Her daughter, her job and divorcing her untrustworthy ex are Leah’s main priorities. She isn’t really bothered that her life might be missing a few things. But after winning a prestigious travel blogger award, she’s inundated with offers to review glamorous holiday destinations. Lying around drinking exotic cocktails and being paid for it! What could be better? Perhaps a romantic trip to idyllic Greece to find the one man who might make Leah risk her heart again…
For Leah, the last seven years have been hard. After her ex betrayed her in the worst possible way. She ignored her pain and used her anger to make sure her daughter was emotionally and materially secure. Winning a prestigious travel blogger award means she now has choices, and a blogging trip to Greece shows her she is more than a mother, but can she risk her heart and her daughter’s emotional safety on another man? I like the originality of this story, The settings are interesting and vibrant. Harrison is a surprising character but proves important in Leah’s rebuilding of her self esteem and emotional health.
Daniel and Leah feel an instant attraction when they meet, but their road to happiness is fraught with conflict and both need to find the courage to achieve the happy ever after they both long for. That’s not all, the conflicts keep on coming, just like real life, but Leah’s bravery and love help her make the right decisions for Rosie, her daughter, and ultimately herself.
I don’t see this as an escapist read, it’s too full of emotion, real-life conflict and experiences, but it is so worth reading.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
When Anna is dumped by her fiancé, she moves into her own place on the edge of the gorgeous Wildflower Park and pledges to stay off men and focus on her career, but a handsome new colleague seems to thwart her attempts at every turn. And when she receives an accidental text from a mystery man, could it be the new start she needs? Or someone she really shouldn’t be falling for?
Anna’s neighbour Sophie is a stressed-out mum-of-two with a third on the way. Her husband is a constant frustration, and their children are a regular source of newly-invented swear words and unidentifiable sticky surfaces.
Luckily, Anna and Sophie have each other – and Wildflower Park proves to be a sanctuary as they map out a path to find the happiness they both deserve…
It’s always fun to start the New Year with a new series and Wildflower Park promises to be the perfect Winter to Spring read.
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 her career provides the conflict and humour in the first part of this serial. 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 all appear in this short story, in a series which promises to be addictive.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Returning to the heart of her beloved Cornwall, Kate Ryder weaves another deliciously irresistible tale of desire, jealousy and the search for understanding, set against the stunning backdrop of the glorious Lizard Peninsula.
Globally renowned actor Oliver Foxley has made the most difficult decision of all and set the love of his life free, in order to try and bring his family back together. But there’s a magnetic pull back to both Cara and Cornwall that Oliver can neither deny nor resist…
Heartbroken for a second time in her short life, single mother Cara knows she has no choice but to pick up the pieces yet again and carry on. Perhaps a complete change of scenery would help her, and her young family? Yet her mind, spirit and heart yearn for the windswept shores of her Cornish Cove…
Cara and Oliver face the agonising choice between following expectations or following their hearts. How will their story end…?
Guest Post – Kate Ryder: My experiences as a writer
I have been a keen reader since childhood and during my early teens, this evolved into writing poetry and short stories for my own pleasure. In fact, a friend and I – horse mad teenagers at the time – wrote alternate chapters to complete our first novel (surprisingly, never published!). The hero, then, was always a dark, brooding, magnificent stallion…
At school, English Literature was one of the subjects that naturally received my undivided attention. I remember an appointment with a careers advice officer as keenly as if it were yesterday. When asked what I’d like to do when I left school, I replied that I wanted to be an author or a journalist. The careers advisor’s response was to ask me if I’d ever considered becoming a florist! So, my dream of becoming an author was crushed before it ever had a chance to have life breathed into it. I did not follow his advice into floristry but, instead, chose to study acting. However, it soon became apparent that my passion lay more in crafting words than interpreting someone else’s.
Over the years I have enjoyed a variety of careers, mainly within travel, publishing and property. Writing has featured strongly. I have worked in PR and marketing (all those press releases!) and in editorial as a proof-reader, copy editor, assistant editor and writer. It was during a period of employment with a specialist newspaper that I decided to escape news-speak and flex my creative writing muscles by joining a local writers’ group with the intention of writing short stories. However, one particular exercise turned out to be a little longer than intended and I soon had 85,000 words and the semblance of a novel. I self-published that short-story-turned-novel and was thrilled if a little shocked when it was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s 2016 Search for a Star and honoured with a Chill with a Book Book of the Month.
I am a member of the Society of Authors and a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Cottage on a Cornish Cliff is the second of my books published by UK-based digital publisher Aria Fiction, an imprint of award-winning Head of Zeus. It is the sequel to Summer in a Cornish Cove, which saw me shortlisted for the RNA’s prestigious Joan Hessayon award.
Being traditionally published is a dream come true! Thank you, Aria, for taking a punt on me.
I love the first book in this series and although the ending is poignant there is hope for Oliver and Cara’s future. The sequel sees Cara and Oliver living their lives, Cara with another child to love and Oliver trying to help his youngest son and see if there is anything of his marriage to save apart from staying together for the sake of the children.
Cara is emotionally strong and her family give her a reason to live, even though her heart is broken for the second time. Her artistic talent draws the attention of a New York art critic but are his motives as magnanimous as he portrays them? Or does he have a sinister motive for showcasing Cara’s art to the world? He offers security and success but is the sacrifice Cara will have to make worth it?
Exacerbated by his failing marriage and loss of Cara, Oliver’s depression deepens. Is doing the right thing for his family worth sacrificing his emotional happiness?
This is an intensely romantic, emotional story with two leading characters you can’t help but empathise with. The conflicts are frequent and convincing and the ending is worthy of any romantic film. The writing style is easy to read, full of authentic characters and a breathtaking setting.
Definitely one of my favourite romantic series of the year.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Here you go,’ says Janine, placing two mugs of coffee and plates filled with generous portions of chocolate cake on the table. ‘Enjoy!’
Cara picks up a fork. Slicing off a mouthful of cake, she pops it into her mouth. ‘Mmmm… that’s delicious.’
‘My mother’s recipe,’ says Janine. ‘She was a tremendous cook. That’s why all her children have grown to the size we have!’
‘Sorry to interrupt.’ A man’s strong Cornish accent makes them both jump. ‘I’ve come to fix the sign.’ Janine pushes back her chair and rushes over to him.
Toby, who had been falling asleep with his mouth slack around Cara’s right nipple, wakes suddenly and energetically sucks. Cara winces. She looks across at the man who, although talking to Janine, watches her.
‘Well, isn’t that a lovely sight?’ he says, scratching his head. ‘Fair made my day, that has!’
Janine glances over her shoulder at Cara. ‘Probably won’t make your day if you hang around for the nappy-changing part, Jim.’ She bustles the man out of the café.
Toby closes his eyes. Cara carefully removes him from her breast and pulls her sweatshirt down. Her son has incredibly thick black eyelashes and she wonders if Oliver had at that age too. NO! She has to stop doing this. Oliver Foxley does not exist. He is a world and a lifetime away…
‘Sorry about that,’ Janine says, returning to the table.
‘No worries, Janine. Breastfeeding’s only natural.’
‘Yes, but you don’t want any old Tom, Dick or Harry watching you while you do it,’ Janine says.
Janine laughs. ‘He’s a good guy. I’ve known him for years. He’s got eight grandchildren, so I guess he’s used to it. How’s the latte?’
‘Scrumptious. If I get into the habit of this indulgence I’ll have to start running again.’
‘I should take up running as well,’ comments Janine. ‘I don’t suppose customers want to be served by a large, sweaty lump of a woman.’
‘Oh, Janine! Your weight’s perfectly fine for your height.’
‘Yeah, guess so. Anyway, hubby never complains when he’s home from the rigs. Puts slighter men off though,’ Janine says with a laugh, ‘like that American friend of yours. When I first met him he actually cowered!’
Cara raises her eyebrows. She thinks back to the day when Greg visited her at The Lookout and Janine brought Beth and Sky home after school. It’s true! He backed off in Janine’s presence. However, Cara suspects it was not so much to do with her friend’s size and powerful charisma but more to do with keeping himself at a distance from the locals.
‘Why poor?’ Janine asks, loading her fork with cake. ‘When I look at him the word “poor” doesn’t spring to mind!’
‘His wife’s just died. She had cancer. That’s why they visited the cove in the first place, for her recuperation… or so they’d hoped.’
‘Oh, that’s tough.’ Janine pops the cake into her mouth.
‘I wonder what he’ll do now,’ Cara says quietly, a small frown settling on her brow.
Janine considers her neighbour. She witnessed the devastating effect Christo’s tragic death had on her dear friend, and then the all-consuming love affair with Oliver that ended so suddenly, followed by the birth of their love child without the actor being there. She also knows Greg would find any excuse to hang around Cara whenever he was in the cove.
‘He is very attractive, in an older man sort of way,’ she says cautiously.
Cara nods her head.
‘And he has plenty of money.’
Cara gives her friend a questioning look. ‘What exactly are you suggesting, Janine?’
‘Nothing really,’ Janine says airily, ‘just… Well, you know, life’s short and he inhabits the same world as you. He could provide you and your family with a wonderful life.’
‘Janine! He’s only just lost his wife!’ Cara scolds.
‘I know. I’m just saying.’ Janine gives a small smile before adding, ‘You know he’s really keen on you.’
‘I do not!’ Cara exclaims.
‘Oh, I think you do, Cara Penhaligon. The fuss he’s made of you ever since he first discovered your talent, and the way he guided you through all the press nonsense surrounding that prize you won. He wouldn’t let you out of his sight!’
Cara frowns again.
‘And, let’s face it, Cara. Most men would run a mile from a woman who had a baby by another man, but Toby doesn’t seem to have made a bit of difference.’
Cara considers Janine’s words. She’s right. Having supported her through the excitement of winning the Threadneedle Prize, Greg kept in touch throughout her pregnancy and beyond. His attention never waned. She remembers the first day she saw him, walking a dog on the beach in the most atrocious weather. He clocked her watching him from her studio window and acknowledged her. Her first impressions were that he was not only attractive – in an older man, Richard Gere sort of way – but also sophisticated and a league away. However, through their professional relationship, the distance between them has lessened. He has pointed her in the right direction and introduced her to influential people in the art world, and she now considers him a true mentor.
‘What are you thinking?’ asks Janine.
‘Nothing of importance,’ Cara says a little too quickly.
‘Well, I think nothing of importance could grow into something very much of importance if that’s what you want,’ says Janine, rising from her chair as the entrance door opens.
Jim walks in. ‘I’m ready to hang those signs now,’ he says, looking over at Cara and Toby, asleep in her lap. He smiles.
‘Here they are,’ says Janine, picking up the signs off a neighbouring table. ‘I’ll hold the ladder for you.’
As Janine disappears with Jim, Cara contemplates what her friend has said. She’s never really considered Greg in that light. Oh, yes, he kisses her at every given opportunity, but it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s just his way. But now, after Janine’s comments, she wonders if there is something to the way Greg handles her. And then she remembers the way he looked at her – in this very café – the first time they officially met. So much has happened since she had forgotten the look that suggested a different time and place.
Cara’s face flushes and her frown deepens.’
After pursuing a career in publishing and acting, Kate found her passion in writing. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. Her self-published debut novel received a Chill with a Book, “Book of the Month” Award. She currently lives with her husband in the Tamar Valley in a renovated 200-year-old Cornish sawmill. She finds the Cornish landscape a great source of inspiration. When she is not writing she enjoys reading, art, theatre and travel. Facebook TwitterWebsite
Kate Browning longs to experience a life of her own again after caring for her parents the past two years. However, her sister Heather’s escalating depression threatens to thrust Kate into the role of family caregiver once again.
Hungry for companionship, Kate begins a relationship with Frank Fetiscina, who was there when she and Heather needed him. A part-time writer, she is offered an opportunity writing an inspiration column for the local paper by the editor, Tom Smythe. Kate is instantly attracted to him, and they begin a flirtatious and sexual relationship with no ties between them. While Kate is on a date at the bistro with Frank one evening, Tom walks in unexpectedly. Tired of the expectations Frank places on her and the lack of commitment from Tom, Kate tells them she is done and storms out, realizing it’s time to take charge of her own life again.
What are the inspirations behind your story ‘A Path to the Lake?’
Jane, I was sitting on a bench by the lake one day, when a very large man lumbered by walking his dog. We engaged in some small talk that led to an enjoyable conversation. He was kind and lovely, and the character of Frank Fetiscina was born. I already had an idea of who the protagonist, Kate Browning, would be and once Frank entered the picture, the story started to come to life for me.
Do you have a set writing process? If so, can you describe it to us, and say why it works for you?
When I started writing A Path to the Lake, I became consumed with it. I started writing at my kitchen table and went back to it at every opportunity. I have written two more novels since A Path to the Lake, and quickly became consumed each of them, too. I suppose I can say that it worked for me, just because I finished all three. I sometimes wonder if my sense of urgency had anything to do with having had a really challenging cancer journey a few years before. Or maybe it’s just my personality!
How do you create your characters, are they from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?
One or two of the characters in my books may initially have characteristics of people I have known, but quickly the characters all take on a life of their own. The things some of my characters do, surprise even me. They become people that I can visualize, who are completely separate from me.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
If I am reading a book to relax and enjoy, it’s women’s fiction. I have also read many autobiographies over the years, and of course, a book of Japanese short form poetry or contemporary poetry is always on my coffee table.
I know you also write poetry. What made you decide to become a writer and what made you write a novel?
I have always written, in one form or another, whether it was writing poetry or journaling at the end of the day. Writing a novel was a personal goal for me.
What’s next for Elizabeth Crocket? Are you writing another novel?
I recently found out my second novel, Full of Grace will be released this fall or next spring. My third novel, The Smell of Roses, is due out sometime in 2019. All three of my books are women’s fiction, and all have a strong romantic element.
Thank you for this interview, Jane. I am honoured to be a part of your wonderful blog!
It’s lovely to read something different, and this story is like a breath of fresh air.
Kate has spent the last few years as a carer for her parents when her mother loses her battle with cancer, the only light on the horizon is the prospect of getting her life back, but her sister’s mental health deteriorates, and she finds herself in the caring role again.
Kate’s story is poignant, heartwarming and complex. She experiences love and friendship and a creative new career as she forges a new life.
The relationships are typical of any small town, but the dialogue is unique to North America and takes a little getting used to but remains authentic and informative.
The story is peppered with short poems and inspirational quotes, which add depth to the story, and insight into Kate’s motivations, personality and thoughts.
An insightful tale of coping with illness, the importance of family and friends and giving something back.
I received a copy of this book from the author and Crimson Cloak Publishing in return for an honest review.
Elizabeth’s short-form Japanese poetry has been translated into several languages and published internationally. Her chapbook, “Not Like Fred and Ginger”, published by Red Moon Press, was shortlisted for the prestigious Haiku Foundation Touchstone Distinguished Book Award. Her chapbook “Extra Candles” was also published by Red Moon Press.
Elizabeth has had short fiction and poetry widely published online and in print. Samples of her work can be found on her website, elizabethcrocket.wordpress.com. She has a diploma from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Elizabeth is married, has grown children, and six grandchildren.
Local estate agent Tash isn’t convinced about joining the new book club at Berecombe’s beautiful new bookshop and café. Dragged there by her friend Emma, she knows she needs a night out. Her boyfriend Adrian is wonderful, and adores her, but has become a bit clingy of late. So when she is introduced to new local farmer Kit, with his scruffy beard and low-key look, it’s a breath of fresh air to chat to someone so un-Adrian. Maybe this book club idea could be fun after all!
But when Tash starts forgetting things and behaving oddly, over-protective Adrian is determined to keep her from her new interest. But if bookclub has taught Tash anything, she should know not to judge a book by its cover…
I enjoyed Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Cafe series and expected this one to be similar. It does feature some of the characters I met previously, but this story has a much darker tone.
Outwardly Tash appears ambitious and successful, her property developer boyfriend dotes on her, and she has the lifestyle she always aspired to. She’s only attending the book club for her friend Emma and considers it a waste of time. The first book club meeting is pivotal in Tash’s life. It highlights the cracks in her perfect facade and makes her wonder if a different life would suit her better.
Tash’s gradual realisation that something isn’t right in her relationship is accompanied by out of character forgetfulness. Adrian’s attitude towards her is increasingly controlling, and she knows something needs to change but is she strong enough to face the challenge?
Natasha’s character development is extensive as the story progresses, and her strength of character finally lets her be the person she really is. Adrian is a dark, draining individual with dangerous secrets. The suspense and menace in this story intensify with every scene as Tash fights for her identity. The ending is powerful and satisfying and makes me want to see what happens next. I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Not what you’d expect from this author but riveting reading.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Esme Posorsky is an enigma. For as long as people can remember, she has been part of community life in the quaint Cornish fishing village of Tremarnock, but does anyone really know her? She is usually to be found working in her pottery studio or at home with her beloved cat, Rasputin. But when an old school friend turns up with a secret from the past, nothing will ever be the same again.
Meanwhile, teenager, Rosie, is excited to find a bottle washed up on Tremarnock beach with a message from a former German prisoner of war. While the rest of the village is up in arms about a new housing development, she sets out to find him. Little does she know, however, that her discovery will unleash a shocking chain of events that threatens to blow her family apart. Tremarnock may look like a cosy backwater, but some of its residents are about to come face-to-face with tough decisions and cold reality…
Liz had left Lowenna’s pushchair at the bottom of the fire escape, and once the little girl was strapped in, they made their way down narrow winding South Street towards the marketplace, in search of a loaf of bread. But they didn’t get far; as they passed Seaspray Boutique, its owner Audrey came dashing out, waving a copy of the local newspaper, the Tremarnock Bugle, above her head.
Audrey, in her fifties, was tall and eye-catching – even more so today, dressed in a bright pink tunic top that had been on one of her shop-window mannequins only days before.
‘Have you heard?’ she said slightly breathlessly, thrusting the paper into Liz’s hands before turning back to lock the door of her shop, which had a closed for lunch sign on the inside.
Liz stared at the paper as if she wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.
‘The council’s agreed to sell the play park,’ Audrey exclaimed. The paper was upside down, so she turned it around and jabbed at an article on the front page with her index finger. ‘They approved it last night. Look. It’s all here.’
‘Wha-at? How could they?’
Liz started to scan the report, and her mouth dropped open. The issue of the children’s playground was hardly new. Developers had been sniffing around the village for months, with their clipboards and smug expressions, and she’d already signed countless petitions and written objection letters.
More active locals, who’d been making a bigger noise, had warned that their concerns seemed to be falling on deaf ears, but she’d never actually believed that developers would get the go-ahead to build one hundred brand-new homes, most of which would be out of the reach of local people’s pockets. Yet here it was, in black and white:
COUNCIL APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL TREMARNOCK HOUSING ESTATE
A little further down, she read:
Outline plans were eventually given the go-ahead by a single vote during a tense meeting of the council’s district planning committee last night.
Residents had pleaded with councillors to reject the proposals, raising concerns over highway safety and the impact on the countryside and local services. However, chairing the meeting, Lucinda Graham (Lib Dem, Langowan) reminded members that the council had, just one year ago, voted to approve the site for development.
‘If we are to refuse this application, I think there are half a dozen applications which will have to be refused. We have a requirement to provide so many houses, and there’s nothing we can do about it.’
Agreeing, Laurence Nares-Pillow (Con, Porthraden), said, ‘If we can’t provide those houses, the government’s planning inspector will rule on the matter, not where we want to have them but where the inspector wants them.’
Putting the decision to the vote resulted in five votes for and five against the application, with Mrs Graham ultimately casting the deciding vote in favour of the development.
The proposals from Bedminster New Homes will see a mix of three-, four- and five-bedroom homes built on the 0.95-hectare site. The plans also include seventy-five parking spaces and two access points on Fore Street and Cardew Avenue, which would be widened in an effort to improve safety.
Once she’d reached the bottom, Liz exhaled loudly.
Audrey gave a grim nod. ‘Shocking, isn’t it?’ She ran a hand through her dark hair, which was tipped with platinum streaks, cut pixie-short and artfully mussed, before giving Liz a firm push, which sent her and the pushchair bowling slowly down the hill. ‘We’ll go and find Barbara,’ she said bossily. ‘She’s sure to have some ideas.’
Liz sighed. Barbara, landlady of the Lobster Pot on the seafront, was a tremendous source of information as well as an arch organiser. Liz was very fond of her, but she’d been hoping to grab an hour with her book while Lowenna had an after-lunch snooze. As it was, the little girl would probably drop off in her pushchair and wake up hungry and out of sorts. Still, the playground was a major issue; children adored it, and no one wanted an ugly new estate on the doorstep, least of all Liz. If there was a fight to be had then she, for one, was up for it.
They didn’t get far when Barbara herself came bustling up the hill in the opposite direction from the Lobster Pot, her dark blonde hair, normally stiff with lacquer, sticking up untidily. She was in black trousers and a low-cut red top that revealed quite a lot of tanned cleavage, and her face was flushed.
‘The marketplace,’ she said, nodding in the direction of the turning that led to the square, and Liz and Audrey followed obediently. The sound of Barbara’s high heels clopping on the cobbles seemed to act like a muezzin’s call to prayer, as more and more folk appeared from doors and alleyways and trailed after her.
‘It’s a scandal,’ Liz heard behind her. ‘Shouldn’t be allowed,’ muttered someone else.
Emotions were clearly running high, and she wished that Robert were beside her, but he’d be busy with the lunchtime shift at A Winkle in Time, and she didn’t want to bother him.
Word travelled fast in Tremarnock. A sizeable crowd had already gathered in the square, which had a stone cenotaph in the middle bearing the names of local men who had died in the Second World War, and was lined with shops. Liz spotted Ryan, the fishmonger, still in his white overalls streaked with blood; Rick Kane, who owned the gift shop, Treasure Trove; and the couple who ran the popular little bakery. Jean the childminder was there, too, with her husband Tom and two toddlers in a double buggy, as well as pensioners Ruby and Victor, and Jenny and John Lambert, who had a fishing tackle store on the seafront.
Someone had thoughtfully placed an upturned crate in front of the cenotaph and Barbara pushed her way through the throng and climbed onto it. Before she had the chance to speak, however, someone else dug Liz in the ribs, and she turned to find Robert’s niece Loveday grinning at her, with two rather extraordinary buns perched on either side of her head and a glittery blue parting running down the middle. Behind her was her boyfriend, Jesse, and beside him, Liz’s friend Tabitha and her boyfriend Danny.
Liz was surprised that Robert had allowed Loveday and Jesse, his sous-chef, to leave the restaurant. She was about to ask what had happened when Barbara cleared her throat and shouted, ‘Welcome, all!’
A hush descended.
A snapshot of life in a Cornish fishing village that captures angst, camaraderie, gossip and scandal against a picturesque coastal background. The fourth in the series about Tremarnock took me awhile to get into this story having not read any of the previous three books. There is little backstory, and so it is hard to empathise with the characters if you aren’t familiar with them from reading the previous books. Despite this, I enjoyed my visit to the village and the adventures of its inhabitants.
Esme, an artistic person, is an enigma, no one knows much about her, but she is one of the community stalwarts. Caroline, an old school friend, becomes her holiday companion when the two decide to meet after years apart. Their story’s poignancy resonates.
Rosie finds a ‘message in a bottle, that has implications both for her family and the village, not all of which are pleasant and make Rosie questions whether she should have read the message at all.
The prospect of an unwanted housing estates draws the village community together and provides some comic moments for the reader. The three subplots are easy to follow and well-drawn together by the end.
The coastal setting is well-described, and the characters have authenticity and depth. Reading this makes me want to read the previous books in the series.
A perfect beach read whether you’re visiting Cornwall or not; if you haven’t read the previous three books make room for them in your beach bag too and get the best from this series.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Emma Burstall was a newspaper journalist in Devon and Cornwall before becoming a full-time author. Tremarnock, the first novel in her series set in a delightful Cornish village, was published in 2015 and became a top-10 bestseller.
Sometimes getting it wrong is the only way to get it right . . .
Frances Pilgrim’s father went missing when she was five, and ever since all sorts of things have been going astray: car keys, promotions, a series of underwhelming and unsuitable boyfriends . . . Now here she is, thirty-bloody-nine, teaching Shakespeare to rowdy sixth formers and still losing things.
But she has a much more pressing problem. Her mother, whose odd behaviour Frances has long put down to eccentricity, is slowly yielding to Alzheimer’s, leaving Frances with some disturbing questions about her father’s disappearance, and the family history she’s always believed in. Frances could really do with someone to talk to. Ideally Jackson: fellow teacher, dedicated hedonist, erstwhile best friend. Only they haven’t spoken since that night last summer when things got complicated . . .
As the new school year begins, and her mother’s behaviour becomes more and more erratic, Frances realises that she might just have a chance to find something for once. But will it be what she’s looking for?
The general theme of this book is one of self-reflection and loss. Francis at thirty-nine is dissatisfied with her life, things never work out. Still, tormented by her father’s departure from her life at age five she is faced with another family crisis as her mother succumbs to Alzheimer’s. Jackson’s hedonist tendencies lead him into conflict. Drawn together by mutual self-destruction, but as Frances’life implodes Jackson withdraws, and she has to face her past and uncertain future alone.
The excellent writing style elevates this story, it’s easy to read with characters that resonate, the storyline is sombre, no escapist reading here but the plot’s authenticity makes it memorable. I loved Frances’ interaction with ‘Dog’, this speaks volumes about the comfort she’s received from animal friends, and they never let her down like the humans in her life. If you like something different, this is worthwhile, but don’t expect to get a feel-good hug from reading this.
I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
It’s the summer of 1939, and after touring an unsettled Europe to promote her latest book, Romily Temple returns home to Island House and the love of her life, the charismatic Jack Devereux.
But when Jack falls ill, his estranged family are called home and given seven days to find a way to bury their resentments and come together.
With war now declared, each member of the family is reluctantly forced to accept their new stepmother and confront their own shortcomings. But can the habits of a lifetime be changed in one week? And can Romily, a woman who thrives on adventure, cope with the life that has been so unexpectedly thrust upon her?
Vivid characters and locations bring this family saga to life at an iconic time in the 20th-century. Set in 1939 and 1940, Britain at war is the setting for a dysfunctional family brought together by the death of their estranged father.
Romily marries Jack, an older man, soulmates they live the perfect life although Jack regrets his distant relationship with his children. Irreparably changed by grief after the death of his first wife, Jack distanced himself emotionally from his children. Their memories of him are of a strict disciplinarian, judgemental and never to be pleased.
Romily fulfils her husband’s dying wish to try an unite his family, providing the story with conflict, laughter, poignancy and romance as she weaves her magic amongst Jack’s emotionally damaged children. The character development and depth of connections forged with family members make this an absorbing read. The images of war and life in Britain are well-researched and give the story and enthralling authenticity.
The gently paced plot has many dramatic twists that add to the angst Romily faces. The characters are well-drawn and individual, there are many stories within this book, which are concluded well but with enough loose ends to make the reader want to know what happens next in their lives.
I received a copy of this book via Orion via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Amanda Wilkie unexpectedly finds herself alone with three children under five in a rambling Victorian house in London, after her husband walks leaves them claiming he’s just ‘lost the love’, like one, might carelessly lose a glove.
A few months later, Amanda’s heavily pregnant friend, Ali, crashes into her kitchen announcing her partner is also about to abscond. Once Ali’s baby Grace is born, Amanda encourages them to move in. When Jacqui, a long-lost friend and fellow single mum, starts dropping by daily, the household is complete.
Getting divorced is no walk in the park, but the three friends refuse to be defined by it. And, as they slowly emerge out of the wreckage like a trio of sequin-clad Gloria Gaynors singing ‘I Will Survive’, they realise that anything is possible. Even loving again…
For eighteen years I had written children’s books as a jobbing author. For various reasons I was asked to change my name to Jess Bright by my last publisher, so they could relaunch me as a new, box-fresh, younger, cooler Jacqueline Wilson-type for tweenage girls. As with a lot of gambles, it didn’t really pay off because I wasn’t able to be myself, I was pretending to be a big sister to my readers when in fact I was old enough to be their mum. I submitted my last book to them in 2016, it was a story about bullying told from the bully’s point of view, how she became a bully and her journey to redemption when she loses everything. She wasn’t a ‘nice’ character, but she wasn’t meant to be, I wanted her to feel genuine.
At the same time as submitting my book, I slipped disc in my back leading to crippling back pain, morphine patches, and eventually an epidural injection to relieve the pressure on my spinal cord so I could come off the painkillers. On the drive back from the hospital after the procedure, I received an email from my agent telling me the publishers had rejected my book because of the Marmite plotline and the amount of work it needed, and in doing so, didn’t want to carry on the partnership with my brand of Jess Bright. To say I was gutted was an understatement. I think I cried solidly for twenty-four hours. I know it’s only work, no one died, but for me, it was so much more.
Writing had saved me during my darkest hour years previously when I had been left holding three kids under five after my husband had walked out. I had taken a career break, writing the odd book between babies, but essentially remained a stay at home mum. Then overnight I was a single parent and the buck stopped here – this filled me so much fear, doubt, grief, instability, I was a crazy hot mess of emotions and never knew how I was going to be feeling from one minute to the next. One thing I could do, however, was restart my career. I had never had an agent, so I set out to find one knowing this was one journey I couldn’t undertake alone. I remember sitting in Charlie’s office, telling him about my situation, bursting into tears, and him promptly offering to represent me! It was Charlie who encouraged me to write Gaby’s Angel, the first book Oxford University Press bought as part of my working relationship with them.
So when I received the news my collaboration with them had been terminated, I felt the same kind of rejection I’d experienced when my marriage ended. I was facing a real career crossroads. Charlie tentatively suggested writing adult fiction because he knew it had always been a pipe dream of mine. I sent him a secret blog I had written during a time when I lived communally with my friend, Vicky, her baby and my three kids in my house that we jokingly called The Single Mums’ Mansion. He leapt on it immediately and said that it had to be my next book.
The story is set during this tumultuous yet uplifting time in the single mum commune. Another friend, Nicola, was also going through a divorce with her two kids and she practically moved in, spending whole weekends with us, 6 children all squashed in together. We went on holidays, celebrated Christmases as a patchwork family, held wild parties, helped each other through heart-breaking situations when the ex-husbands got remarried and started new families. I can honestly say I do not know how I would have coped with it all had I not had those other two women to stand next to and gather strength from. The Single Mums’ Mansion is my love letter to my two friends, not sparing any visceral details and certainly not sugar-coating the life of a single mum. Here’s to us, ladies, and all those other single parents, bossing the hell out of life and making the best out of a difficult situation!
The first thing that strikes me about this story is its authenticity and honesty. Numerous comic moments provide much-needed light relief amidst the despair and sadness these single mum’s experience at the destruction of their perfect family dreams.
The inspiration for this story is the author’s blog, and the story reads like a journal of her feelings and experiences, as the main character Amanda, comes to terms with life after her husband walks out and leaves her with three kids under five.
Realistic, flawed characters underpin a fast-paced, intricate plot, which shares Amanda. Ali and Jacqui’s experiences of being a single mum. What stands out is the camaraderie between the three women. Despite the sad events this story has many laugh-out-loud moments which make it a worthwhile read.
The language is uncensored, but it isn’t gratuitous, merely an illustration of the characters’ personality and stress experienced. There are also episodes of drunkenness and drug taking, which I didn’t like, especially when the children were present. Again it gives the story authenticity, but the casual attitude took the edge off the enjoyment of the story.
If you enjoy your stories with no filters, crammed full of laughter and poignancy, this is the book for you.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Janet Hoggarth has worked on a chicken farm, as a bookseller, children’s book editor and DJ with her best friend (under the name of Whitney and Britney). She has published several children’s books, the most recent ones written under the pseudonym of Jess Bright. Her first adult novel, The Single Mums’ Mansion is based on her experiences of living communally as a single parent.
The dark days of the war are over, but the family secrets they held are only just dawning.
In the hot summer of 1949, a group of family and friends gather at Harry Denholm’s country house in Kent. Meg and Dan Ranscombe, emerging from a scandal of their own making; Dan’s godmother, Sonia; and her two young girls, Laura and Avril, only one of whom is Sonia’s biological daughter. Amongst the heat, memories, and infatuations, a secret is revealed to Meg’s son, Max, and soon a terrible tragedy unfolds that will have consequences for them all. Afterwards, Avril, Laura and Max must come of age in a society still reeling from the war, haunted by the choices of that fateful summer. Cold, entitled Avril will go to any lengths to take what is hers. Beautiful, naive Laura finds refuge and love in the London jazz clubs, but Max, with wealth and unrequited love, has the capacity to undo it all.
The air was full of the fresh, damp scents of early spring as Meg and Dan Ranscombe turned off the road and walked up the narrow path that led to the back of Woodbourne House. They made a handsome couple – Meg, in her early thirties, was vividly pretty, with dark eyes and chestnut hair curling to her shoulders; Dan, a few years older, was by contrast fair-haired and blue-eyed, his clean-cut features marked by a faint arrogance, a remnant of youthful vanity. They walked in thoughtful silence. It was four years since they had last been to Woodbourne House, the home of Sonia Haddon, Meg’s aunt and Dan’s godmother.
‘I’m glad we took the train instead of driving,’ said Dan, breaking the quiet. ‘I have fond memories of this walk.’
They paused by a big, whitewashed stone barn standing at the foot of a sloping apple orchard.
‘Uncle Henry’s studio,’ murmured Meg. ‘I remember that summer, having to traipse down every morning with barley water and biscuits for him while he was painting.’
Sonia’s husband, Henry Haddon, had been an acclaimed artist in his day, and in pre-war times to have one’s portrait painted by him had had considerable cachet. In Britain’s post-war modernist world, his name had fallen out of fashion.
Dan stood gazing at the barn, lost in his own memories: that final day of the house party twelve years ago, when he had come down to the studio to say farewell to his host. Finding Henry Haddon, his trousers round his ankles, locked in an embrace with Madeleine, the nanny, against the wall of the studio had been absurd and shocking enough, but what had then transpired had been even worse. He could remember still the sound of the ladder crashing to the floor, and the sight of five-year-old Avril peeping over the edge of the hayloft. Presumably the shock of seeing his daughter had brought on Haddon’s heart attack. That, and unwonted sexual exertions. The moments afterwards were confused in his memory, although he recalled setting the ladder aright so that Avril could get down, then sending her running up to the house to get someone to fetch a doctor, while he uselessly attempted to revive Haddon. Madeleine, unsurprisingly, had made herself scarce. And the painting – he remembered that. A portrait of Madeleine in her yellow sundress, seated on a wicker chair, head half-turned as though listening to notes of unheard music, or the footfall of some awaited lover. Haddon had been working on it in the days running up to his death, and no doubt the intimacy forged between painter and sitter had led to that brief and ludicrously tragic affair. The falling ladder had knocked it from the easel, and he had picked it up and placed it with its face to the wall next to the other canvases. He didn’t to this day know why he had done that. Perhaps as a way of closing off and keeping secret what he had witnessed. To this day nobody but he knew about Haddon’s affair with Madeleine. Had the painting ever been discovered? No one had ever mentioned it. Perhaps it was there still, just as he had left it.
Meg glanced at his face. ‘Penny for them.’
‘Oh, nothing,’ said Dan. ‘Just thinking about that house party, when you and I first met.’
What a fateful chain of events had been set in motion in the summer of 1936. He had been a twenty-four-year-old penniless journalist, invited to spend several days at Woodbourne House with a handful of other guests. Meeting and falling in love with Meg had led to the clandestine affair they had conducted throughout the war years behind the back of her husband, Paul. Its discovery had led to estrangement with much of the family. Paul, a bomber pilot, had been killed on the way back from a raid over Germany, and the possibility that his discovery of the affair might have contributed in some way, on some level, to his death, still haunted them both. They never spoke of it. Meg and Dan were married now, but the guilt of what they had done remained. Meg’s mother Helen had been trying for some time to persuade her sister, Sonia, to forgive Meg and Dan, and today’s invitation to Woodbourne House was a signal that she had at last relented.
They walked up through the orchard, and when they reached the flagged courtyard at the back of the house, Meg said, ‘I’m going to the kitchen to say hello to Effie. I don’t think I can face Aunt Sonia quite yet. I’ll let you go first. Cowardly of me, I know, but I can’t help it.’ She gave him a quick smile and a kiss and turned in the direction of the kitchen.
Such an atmospheric book, immersing you in the post-war decades of the 1950s and 1960s. ‘Summer of Love’ is the sequel to ‘ The Summer House Party’, which I haven’t read but it is a complete story, and there is an adequate backstory to make this read well as a standalone.
A tragedy, a mystery and oodles of deceit and passion make this an absorbing story. The vivid setting provides the perfect backdrop for Avril, Laura and Max to find out who they are as adults.
Avril is the least empathetic character, she has a dark nature, which threatens to blight both hers and Laura’s lives. Laura lacks self-esteem, a symptom of her parentage and upbringing as the ‘poor relation’, in the Haddon household. Her lack of self-worth coupled with naivety makes her vulnerable to manipulation. Max discovers a secret that changes his life, reaching adulthood, he is confused about his identity and who indeed to love.
Full of fateful decisions, decadence and prejudice, the story vividly portrays Avril, Laura and Max’s Summers of love, against the evolving times of the 1950s and 1960s. Their character development is believable, and although flawed they are compelling and make the reader eagerly turn the pages to find out what they do next.
A perfect escapist read for the summer.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Caro Fraser is the author of the bestselling Caper Court novels, based on her own experiences as a lawyer. She is the daughter of Flashman author George MacDonald Fraser and lives in London.