Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Family Drama, Suspense

The Scarlet Dress Louise Douglas 5* #Review @LouiseDouglas3 @BoldwoodBooks #Extract #FamilyDrama #Secrets #grief #loss #Crime #Suspense #BlogTour #BookReview #Missing #ColdCase #boldwoodbloggers #Psychological #TheScarletDress @rararesources

Alice Lang was wearing her favourite scarlet dress when she disappeared twenty-five years ago, and her memory still casts a long shadow.

The past was like water. Once the tide turned, you couldn’t hold it back.’

In the long, hot summer of 1995, twenty-two-year-old Alice Lang rents a caravan on a holiday park on the outskirts of the lively holiday resort of Severn Sands. She befriends Marnie, a shy, damaged little girl whose father is the park’s caretaker and whose mother died a few months earlier. Will, whose mother runs the bar, falls in love with Alice, and is unbearably jealous of anyone else she sees. Tensions rise until one evening Alice disappears from her caravan. She’s never seen again, and only her scarlet dress is found washed up on the shore.

A quarter of a century later, the town is run down and nobody comes there anymore. Mr and Mrs deVillars, former owners of the holiday park, have passed the failing business onto their son Guy, who promptly sells the land for development. Builders clearing the land to create an expanse of executive homes uncover human bones. It has to be Alice.

Will and Marnie’s lives were entirely shaped by what happened that summer, and now Alice has been found, they must struggle to pin down their memories, to escape the secrets of the past, the lies they told and the unbearable guilt they’re both carrying.

They need to find out what happened to Alice. Who killed her? And why?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This story is wonderfully complex. Character-driven, it draws the reader into a world of decay, deceit and death. The discovery of human bones years after a young woman disappeared reopens old hurts in a town that is a shadow of its former self. Marnie, a child at the time of the disappearance, still bears the emotional scars. Will, obsessed with the missing girl Alice, is drawn back to the dying town of his birth, feeling there is unfinished business.

The story gives up its secrets as it unfolds and undulates between the present day and 1995. There are unexpected twists, emotional moments and relentless tension that builds to the story’s end. The setting is well created and complements the plot perfectly. This is a compelling story with many emotionally damaged characters, of which Marnie is my favourite.

This is an immersive story about ordinary people and extraordinary tragedy. It reads, like a Nordic noir set in the English seaside, an engaging balance of introspection and action it’s a page-turner.

Louise Douglas

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author of novels including The House By The Sea and Missing You – a RNA award winner. The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country.

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Extract from The Scarlet Dress – Louise Douglas

A lively wind danced across the estuary flatlands, shimmying the feathered heads of the reeds that lined the rhynes. Marnie Morahan headed back down the track with the dogs: her own beloved Tessy and the foster dog, a monstrous-looking animal that Jenna at the rescue centre had named Mister. He had short legs and a chest so barrelled that he waddled rather than walked. His head and neck were covered in scars and old wounds from his days as a bait dog, one ear almost completely gone, the other with chunks missing like a leaf got at by snails. His grizzled snout was encased inside a Silence of the Lambs-style muzzle designed to protect him from himself. If another dog came too close, Mister might try to kill it and he was already on his final warning. His next aggressive bite would be his last. 

Marnie loved all animals, even difficult-to-love ones like Mister; especially ones like him. It was people she struggled with. It was a two-way street. Marnie didn’t trust people and most people thought she was weird with her old black clothes and boots, her piercings and tattoos, her hair shaved close to her skull, her sullen expression and downcast eyes; her reluctance to be involved with anyone except for her immediate family, Jenna and her dog-training clients. Her muteness. Marnie knew people called her a misfit, and worse. It didn’t hurt because she was used to it; she’d been the odd one out all her life. Sometimes she worried that her oddness would become an embarrassment to her daughter, Lucy, or worse, that bullies might target Lucy because of her, but fortunately Lucy was a sunny, friendly girl, popular at school. She accepted Marnie as she was and expected others to accept her too. Lucy understood that Marnie could no more change than the sun could rise in the west: she didn’t need to be close to people and people didn’t need to be close to her. 

The track was stony. Gritty puddles had formed in the potholes. The grass that grew in shabby green strips was submerged in the wet. The hedgerows on either side had lost their leaves months earlier and were black and twiggy, and the branches of the wind-worn trees above were jagged, mistletoe growing like ragged hair in the pits of their joints. Deep ruts made by ploughs in undulating stripes across the fields were full of water that reflected the light. 

Clouds raced across a high, wintry sky that morning; a flock of lapwings banked steeply into the air, flashing white then black. Tessy stopped to sniff at a pile of dung and Mister looked up at Marnie with bloodshot, prize-fighter eyes, confused because he did not understand the joys of sniffing. 

Marnie put her hand in the pocket of her ancient coat and pulled out a handful of dried pilchards. She offered one to Mister through the muzzle, but the dog backed away, believing it to be a trick, expecting to be punished. Marnie dropped the treat on the ground. Mister stared at it, but made no move to eat it. 

Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Romance

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird Josie Silver 5*#Review @JosieSilver_ @PenguinUKBooks #BookReview #Romance #Love #Bereavement #Relationships #Friends #TheTwoLivesofLydiaBird

Two love stories. One Impossible Choice.

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’ve been together for almost a decade, and Lydia thinks their love is indestructible.

But she’s wrong. Because on her 27th birthday, Freddie dies in a tragic accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob til her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to live her life well. So, enlisting the help of his best friend and her sister Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world and starts to live – perhaps even to love – again.

But then something unbelievable happens, and Lydia gets another chance at her old life with Freddie. But what if there’s someone in her new life who wants her to stay?

A heart-breaking, uplifting story for fans of PS I Love You and Me Before You, this gorgeously romantic novel will make you laugh, cry and remind you of what a wonderful gift it is to love and to be loved.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This is such an engaging story. Romantic but with realism. The author explores Lydia’s grief with emotion and sensitivity. Her feelings are relatable to anyone who has lost someone close. She doesn’t take her bereavement journey in isolation there’s a cast of believable characters, who support her
along the way.

There’s a twist to this story a parallel life as the title suggests. She has a choice to make, which affects her and the lives of her family and friends. Lydia is a lovely character, easy to empathise who self-deprecating humour lightens this often heartbreaking story.

The ending is romantic and uplifting and makes all the heartbreak and soul searching worthwhile.

Posted in Book Review, Christmas Read, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

Virgin River Series Robyn Carr #Reviews @RCarrWriter @MillsandBoon #BookReview #NetFlix #Romance #SmallTown #StartingOver #Loss #Grief #Friendship #holidayreads #AVirginRiverChristmas #ShelterMountain #MillsandBoonInsiders

I received a copy of these books from Mills and Boon in return for honest reviews.

Shelter Mountian

Discover Paige and Preacher’s Story…

In love, some people are worth fighting for…

For the second time in a year a woman arrives in the small town of Virgin River trying to escape the past.

John “Preacher” Middleton is about to close the bar when a young woman and her three-year-old son come in out of the wet October night. An ex-marine who has seen his share of pain, Preacher knows a crisis when he sees one and this woman is certainly frightened and in need of help. But Preacher’s instinct to protect is more than an engrained sense of duty, for Paige Lassiter has stirred up emotions in him — emotions that he has never before allowed himself to feel.

When Paige’s ex-husband turns up in Virgin River and secrets are revealed, Preacher knows his own future hangs in the balance. But if there’s one thing the marines has taught him, it’s that some things are worth fighting for…

My Thoughts… 5* #Review

The second book in the Virgin River series is Preacher and Paige’s story. It’s an emotional and heartfelt tale of domestic abuse, courage, and love. The book’s focus is Preacher and Paige, but there are other storylines and familiar characters integrated with the main story bringing the characters and setting to vibrant life.

This story tackles contemporary issues with sensitivity and immerses the reader in the story. If you are a fan of the TV series, get to know the characters and their lives in depth by reading the books. I enjoyed the TV series more, after reading some of the books.

A Virgin River Christmas – Book 4

A Christmas Miracle in Virgin River

Last Christmas Marcie Sullivan said a final goodbye to her husband, Bobby. This Christmas she’s come to Virgin River to find the man who saved his life, and gave her three more years with him. Fellow marine Ian Buchanan dragged Bobby to safety in Fallujah four years ago then disappeared. Since then, Marcie’s letters to Ian have gone unanswered.

When Marcie tracks Ian to the tiny mountain town of Virgin River she finds a man haunted by his past and afraid to look to his future. Not easily scared off Marcie pushes her way into Ian’s reclusive life to see beyond his pain to the man he once was. The man he can be again.

Ian doesn’t know what to make of the determined young woman who forces him to look into the painful past and, what’s worse, the uncertain future. But it is, after all, a season of miracles and maybe, just maybe, it’s time to banish the ghosts and open his heart.

My Thoughts… 4* #Review

This story focuses on Marcie a recent widow and Ian, a marine who despite his bravery gives up on his career and life to become a recluse in the mountains near Virgin River.

There are appearances from Virgin River regulars, but this is a story of healing and love between the two newcomers.

This is a gently paced, emotional and festive story. Marcie and Ian build a relationship that moves from animosity to understanding in a remote mountain setting.

It highlights the effect of war on veterans, a recurrent series theme, and also shows how a caring community helps everyone within it,

This is a heartwarming, romantic story which resonates.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

Return to Virgin River Robyn Carr 5*#Review @RCarrWriter @MillsandBoon #BlogTour #BookReview #NetFlix #Romance #SmallTown #StartingOver #Loss #Grief #Friendship #ReturnToVirginRiver #Author #MillsandBoonInsiders #paperback

Struggling with grief after the death of her mother, successful author Kaylee Sloan needs a distraction, to come to terms with life and meet her looming deadline.

With Christmas approaching, Kaylee rents a cabin in Virgin River. She knows the isolation will help her writing and as she drives north through the mountains she immediately feels inspired. Until she arrives at a building that has just gone up in flames. Devastated, she heads to Jack’s Bar to plan her next steps. The local bar is the heart of the town and once she crosses the threshold, she’s surprised to be embraced by people who are more than willing to help a stranger in need.

Welcomed by those in Virgin River, Kaylee starts to see her life in a new light. And as she becomes more involved in the town and the people in it, especially local artist and dog trainer Landry Moore, Kaylee realises she may have found her peace. As Christmas approaches, Kaylee’s dread turns to wonder. Because there’s no better place to mend a broken heart than Virgin River.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Mills and Boon in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Kaylee returns to Virgin River to finish her latest novel and survive Christmas without her mum. An unexpected event forces her to accept the communities help and leads her life, in an unforeseen direction.

The story is relatable with easy to empathise characters in most cases. The animal characters add a heartwarming dimension, and the romance is slow-burning with conflict and a satisfying conclusion. Bereavement and moving on after loss are explored in this story positively and sensitively. Whilst Christmas is not the predominant theme in this book there is a festive twist, as the inhabitants give Kaylee new Christmas memories and show her the true meaning of Christmas.

This is a character-driven story focusing on Kaylee and Landry who both have life-changing emotional journeys to make when they meet. The cast of characters will be familiar to those who follow the series but to new readers, they soon become friends too.

If you enjoy small-town romance with a realistic edge and supportive community, this is a series worth reading.

Read my review of Virgin River

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

Hopeful Hearts at Glendale Hall Victoria Walters 5* #Review @Vicky_Walters @herabooks @rararesources #Love #Life #Highlands #Farming #community #Friends #Romance #choices #BookReview #BlogTour #Fridayreads

What happens when love takes you to unexpected places?

Heather Douglas appears to have it all. But living on a farm in the Scottish Highlands with her partner, Rory Fraser, all while bringing up their adorable toddler, Harry, isn’t easy. As a former librarian, Heather is worried that she’ll never fully fit into life on Fraser Farm. And after the death of her beloved mum five years ago, Heather feels lost, as well as guilty for holding back accepting Rory’s marriage proposal because she can’t imagine her wedding without her mother.

So when ex-boyfriend, Stewart, appears in the village of Glendale, it’s a shock to the system. The man who broke her heart years ago now has big plans for the neighbouring farm and wants Heather to be part of the development. Knowing that she’s living a very different life to the one they had planned at university leaves Heather wondering if she has made the right choices since she and Stewart broke up. Especially when things start to go very wrong on the farm …

This Christmas, Heather will need to face her fears and let go of the past or risk losing everything. She will need love, faith, and a whole lot of hope! Return to the beautiful Highlands village of Glendale with the latest book in the bestselling Glendale series – the perfect cosy, uplifting, romantic read.

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is my first book in the Glendale Hall series, and I loved it. There’s a vibrant highland community with authentic characters who enrich the story and draw you into their world. A wonderfully wintry setting is the backdrop for this story of family, friends and choices. Heather and Rory have a highland farm. Anxiety and grief dominant Heather’s life and make her question her life choices. Rory is supportive but struggles to understand Heather’s worries.

There are characters from previous books featured in this, but it’s a standalone story. Heather and Rory’s future is jeopardised, by someone from Heather’s past, and as this conflict is real, you fear for their happy ever after.

The plot is simple but effective, you empathise with Heather’s dilemma but mostly with Rory whose love never wavers. All this angst is amid threats to the way of life, snow and the festive celebrations. Emotional and relatable this is a perfect festive read.

Victoria Walters

Victoria Walters writes up-lifting and inspiring stories. She’s the author of three novels, THE SECOND LOVE OF MY LIFE, SUMMER AT THE KINDNESS CAFÉ, and COMING HOME TO GLENDALE HALL. She has been chosen for W.H. Smith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for an RNA award. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star, and her books have won wide reader acclaim.

Victoria is a full-time author. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry, and loves books, clothes, music, going out for tea and cake, and posting photos on Instagram.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Travel

Eleven Lines to Somewhere Alyson Rudd 4*#Review @allyrudd_times @HQStories #BlogTour #BookReview #Love #Loss #Mystery #Family #serendipity #LiteraryFiction

In a world of what-ifs, a connection has been made.

When Ryan spots a young woman on the tube on his commute, he can’t take his eyes off her. Instantly attracted and intrigued, he’s keen to find out more about his mysterious fellow passenger.

The woman he thinks of as Millie spends all day travelling the Underground, unable to leave for reasons unbeknownst to Ryan. For some inexplicable reason, he just can’t shake the feeling he wants to help her escape her endless commute.

This is a story of love and loss from the author of The First Time Lauren Pailing Died

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

My Thoughts…

This story relies strongly on its characters to capture the reader’s heart and keep them reading. The plot is detailed and reflective in keeping with literary fiction, but it also relies on serendipity and how one person’s actions can affect others.

The setting on the underground gives the story an iconic quality. It is also relatable for the millions that have ridden the underground. People watching is inevitable when travelling in such proximity. This story stems from people watching and whether they do have mysteries to solve.

Ryan’s fixation with Sylvie, her compulsion to ride the underground, and his quest to help her is the momentum of this story. The characters are emotional and honest and easy to empathise. Their lives are ordinary but fascinating as is their fatalistic overlaps.

Read this book with no expectations and see what you think.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Holiday Romance, Romance

The Hidden Beach Karen Swan 4*#Review @KarenSwan1 @panmacmillan #BookReview #Summer #Sweden #Love #Family #Relationships #TheHiddenBeach

From internationally bestselling author Karen Swan comes The Hidden Beach, an addictive story of heartbreak, loyalty and hope, set in the historic city of Stockholm and along the beautiful archipelagos of the Swedish coast.

In the oldest part of Stockholm, Bell Everhurst is working as a nanny for an affluent family. Hanna and Max Mogert are parents to 7 year-old Linus, and 5-year old twins Ellinor and Tilde, and Bell has been with the family for over two years.

One early Spring morning, as she’s rushing out to take the children to school, she answers the phone – and everything changes. A woman from a clinic she’s never heard of asks her to pass on the message that Hanna’s husband is awake.

Bell is confused. She clearly just saw Max walking out of the house a few minutes earlier, but the woman mentioned Hanna by name . . .

When she gets hold of her employer, the truth is revealed: Hanna’s first husband fell into a coma seven years earlier, following an accident. But now he’s awake. And life is going to change for them all.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Stockholm and the Archipelagos are the evocative settings for this family drama, which capture the Scandinavian ethos, so well. Bell, a nanny, takes a telephone call, intended for Hanna, with unexpected results.

Hanna’s husband awakens from a coma after several years. He has to come to terms with his family’s new situation. Told predominantly from Bell’s viewpoint, the reader gains a comprehensive view of the fallout and how it affects each family member.

This is a gentle, paced book with lots of description and detail. The characters are realistic, relatable and full of flaws. Some are likeable some not so much, but all add to the story.

It’s always an enjoyable experience to read this author’s books. They are full of insightful reflection and complexity which draws you into, another world.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

The Lilac House Barbara Josselsohn 4*#Review @barbarajoss @bookouture #LakeSummers #SecondChances #SmallTown #Romance #Secrets #BookReview #uplit #TheLilacHouse

Can one summer house bring two broken hearts together?Summer escapes to Lilac House have always been a source of comfort for Anna Harris. Though things will never be the same since her husband’s death, she knows that it is there, nestled in Lake Summers in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, that she and her children Zac and Evie can begin to build a new life.

The house is just as beautiful as Anna remembers, and caught up in the rhythm of small town life, helping her Aunt Hope run the little shop on Main Street, Anna begins to feel a sense of herself she hasn’t felt in years. Then she meets Aidan. Handsome, strong and quiet, he also knows what’s it’s like to lose someone. In each other they recognise something they’ve both been missing and they feel a spark.

But Aidan’s past holds a different set of complications. He’s hiding a secret about why he came to Lake Summers. And just as the Lilac House finally starts to feel like home, Anna learns something devastating about Greg’s death that makes her question everything…

The summer might have brought Anna and Aidan together, but can Anna finally let go of the past now she really has the chance for a new beginning?A beautiful story about moving on and finding yourself, The Lilac House will restore your faith in love and teach you that it’s never too late the find the person who will change your life.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

The return to The Lilac House brings mixed feelings for Anna and her two children. Grieving from the loss of Greg, husband and father they approach the summer at Lake Summer with trepidation. Hope awaits Anna’s return with joy and guilt she has a secret and hopes Anna will understand. Aidan has secrets too but meeting Anna makes him realise there is more to his life than he thought.

This story is an emotional journey for the three main characters in the small mountain town. The characters are easy to empathise. Their stories are poignant, but their interactions give them the chance of a positive future.

The exploration of grief is insightful, and the absorbing story is an uplifting read.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Parenting and Famlies

The Family Holiday Elizabeth Noble 5*#Review #TheFamilyHoliday @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks #ElizabethNoble #family #drama #Grief #friendship #holiday #relationships #PublicationDay #BookReview

The Chamberlain family – Charlie and Daphne, and their children Laura, Scott and Nick – had fantastic summer holidays when they were young. But then, inevitably, the children grew up, and their own messy lives got in the way. 

Since their mum died, it feels to them all as if their family just isn’t that close any more. And Charlie fears his kids have all lost their direction. 

For his eightieth birthday, all Charlie wants is to bring his family together again – and by some miracle, they’ve all said yes.

So for the first time in a very long time, the Chamberlains are going on a family holiday. 

It’s only ten days . . . how hard can it be? 

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Like all addictive family drama, this is a character-driven emotional story. Charlie is lost without Daphne, his wife and feels his once-close family is drifting. He plans a family holiday as Daphne would have done and hopes to draw his fractured children together.

The opening chapters explore the main characters and significant events. This illustrates their complexities and flaws and engages the reader in their lives. The characters are easy to empathise and relatable. The family drama is realistic and makes this an emotional read.

The holiday draws the family’s troubles into the open with dramatic and poignant results. Ultimately the family unit survives with help from an unexpected source making you believe in serendipity.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Motivational

The Beauty of Broken Things Victoria Connelly 5*#Review @VictoriaDarcy @AmazonPub @rararesources #BlogTour #BookReview #Bereavement #Grief #Fear #Loss #TheBeautyofBrokenThings #UpLit #Friendship #Love #MondayThoughts #MondayBlogs

United by tragedy, can two broken souls make each other whole?

After the tragic loss of his wife, Helen, Luke Hansard is desperate to keep her memory alive. In an effort to stay close to her, he reaches out to an online friend Helen often mentioned: a reclusive photographer with a curious interest in beautiful but broken objects. But first he must find her—and she doesn’t want to be found.

Orla Kendrick lives alone in the ruins of a remote Suffolk castle, hiding from the haunting past that has left her physically and emotionally scarred. In her fortress, she can keep a safe distance from prying eyes, surrounded by her broken treasures and insulated from the world outside.

When Luke tracks Orla down, he is determined to help her in the way Helen wanted to: by encouraging her out of her isolation and back into the world. But Orla has never seen her refuge as a prison and, when painful secrets and dangerous threats begin to resurface, Luke’s good deed is turned on its head.

As they work through their grief for Helen in very different ways, will these two broken souls be able to heal?

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest reveiw.

My Thoughts…

This story immerses the reader in the characters from the first page. Helen is likeable and about to pursue her dreams when fate intervenes. Helen is integral to the story and resonates throughout. Luke is lost and desperate to hold on to his wife’s memory. Taking a present to her online friend is a positive way to do this, but it fraught with difficulties.

Reclusive Orla is hiding from herself and life, but with good reason. Luke visit draws her back into the world, painful though it is forcing her to confront her fears. I like Orla and enjoyed her courageous fight back to life rather than existence.

The community surrounding the cottage are positive and supportive of Orla. The analogy of seeing the beauty in broken things is the major theme of this story and shows the power of acceptance, understanding and life experience.

This is a lovely story of serendipitous friendship and overcoming fear. It shows that through acceptance and understanding, life can be beautiful, despite being less than perfect.

Victoria Connelly studied English Literature at Worcester University, got married in a medieval castle in the Yorkshire Dales and now lives in rural Suffolk with her artist husband, a young springer spaniel and a flock of ex-battery hens. She is the million-selling author of two bestselling series, Austen Addicts and The Book Lovers, as well as many other novels and novellas. Her first published novel, Flights of Angels, was made into a film in 2008 by Ziegler Films in Germany. The Runaway Actress was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romantic Comedy Novel award.

Victoria loves books, films, walking, historic buildings and animals. If she isn’t at her keyboard writing, she can usually be found in her garden either with a trowel in her hand or a hen on her lap.

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