Gigi and Tess aren’t the most obvious of friends. Gigi is a grandmother, Tess is pregnant for the first time. But when they meet, each one is coping with their own secret sadness. Tess is writing letters to her unborn baby with no one else to turn to, and Gigi has reached breaking point in her marriage. Little do they know how much they will come to mean to one another as both of their lives are turned upside-down.
Their story is about love in all its forms: the love between a mother and her unborn child, between a grandmother and her granddaughter, between spouses and between friends. Tess and Gigi will find what they need most in the place they least expect, and learn to understand the future by unlocking the past . . .
Believable, humorous and poignant ‘Letters to Iris’ is a beautifully written life study of three women and their families.
Tess and Iris are granddaughter and grandma, and they have such a strong bond that transcends Iris’s dementia. Grace or Gigi as everyone but her father-in-law knows her comes into Tess’s life serendipitously. They meet when Tess needs someone impartial and caring who knows the traumas associated with losing a loved one to dementia but as you read on you find even more serendipity in their meeting.
A story about everyday life and its momentous occurrences. The characters work well because they are realistic, full of flaws, indecision, selflessness and fear. Love is the overriding theme in this story, what happens when you’re not brave enough to grab it and the pain it can give you when it ends but the message is hopeful, and the story’s cyclic pattern makes the ending happy if tinged with sadness.
There is frustration, laughter, poignancy and tragedy but love is the mainstay of this lovely story which is sure to touch your heart.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Daisy Wickens has returned to Ottercombe Bay, the picturesque Devon town where her mother died when she was a girl. She plans to leave as soon as her great uncle’s funeral is over, but Great Uncle Reg had other ideas. He’s left Daisy a significant inheritance – an old building in a state of disrepair, which could offer exciting possibilities, but to get it she must stay in Ottercombe Bay for twelve whole months.
With the help of a cast of quirky locals, a few gin cocktails and a black pug with plenty of attitude, Daisy might just turn this into something special. But can she ever hope to be happy among the ghosts of her past?
With a title like ‘Gin and Trouble’, you get an inkling that everything isn’t going to go smoothly for the folks in Ottercombe bay. This is my first taste of Ottercombe bay, and obviously, it’s better to have read the first book, but there’s enough backstory to make it readable as a standalone and still enjoy it. Not reading the next instalment is not an option as this ends on a cliffhanger and you have to know what happens next.
Daisy last connection with her mother has been stolen, and she is sad. Her mother’s untimely death is shrouded in mystery, which may become more evident as the series progresses. Her unexpected and unwelcome inheritance is the subject of this book, and it’s an idea from Max her nemesis that leads to her renovating the old railway buildings with Max her unlikely but a willing helper. There is definitely, a romance in the making here. More mystery revolves around the return of Max’s father, and there is angst and guilt as Max comes to terms with this.
I loved the characters in this book, realistic and quirky, and the problems associated with renovation and opening a new venture add interest to this lovely story, can’t wait for the next one.
I received a copy of this book from Avon UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Top reporter Laura Lake has struck journalistic gold.
She’s discovered a super-exclusive English village where the rich and famous own weekend retreats. Where film stars, Turner-prize winners and Cabinet ministers park their helicopters outside the gastropub and buy £100 sourdough loaves from the deli.
Outsiders are strictly forbidden. But luckily Laura’s best friend Lulu, a logo-obsessed socialite with a heart as huge as her sunglasses, suddenly fancies a quiet life in the country. The door to this enchanted rural idyll opens for Laura. Revealing a great professional opportunity.
Can Laura write an exposé before the snobbish villagers suss her true identity? And before the world’s poshest pub quiz triggers a political scandal not seen since Profumo?
Links to buy
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2rwz7Lg
‘‘What did you think?’ She asked Harry. He had seemed rather annoyingly unmoved by the fact she had once gone out with James Bond.
‘I liked that bit when he got clubbed and shoved in the vat of baked beans,’ Harry replied. ‘Shame he came round before he got to the canning machine.’
Laura smiled. Perhaps Harry was jealous after all. The baked beans episode had reminded her of the horrible flat where Caspar had lived at his lowest ebb. The loo had lacked a seat, and the only utensil had been an unwashed spatula that the four or five residents – all male – shared to eat beans straight out of the tin. ‘Do you think that sort of thing really happens?’ she asked.
‘What – a protocol that could destroy the world with poison gas from contaminated baked beans?’ Harry gave an incredulous snort.
‘Well, all of it. The spy thing.’
Harry grinned. ‘If you’re asking me whether James Bond is an accurate reflection of the security services…’
‘Which I could be,’ Laura returned. Harry was always infuriatingly elusive about what he knew of MIs 5 and 6. But he had to know something. All Harry’s exposés involved international miscreants, and it seemed unlikely he investigated them without official help. Their first date had been at the Not Dead Yet Club, a place awash with foreign correspondents and diplomats. That Harry was a spy himself did not seem out of the question. Perhaps he, not Caspar, was the real James Bond.
‘… the answer is…’ Harry went on.
‘That I really wouldn’t know. Shall we get a chicken katsu curry?’ They were passing an Itsu. Laura, who had been brought up on a diet of French classics by her Parisian grandmother, shuddered. She found Harry’s lack of interest in food both baffling and appalling. His idea of Sunday lunch was a bag of steak ridge-cut chips followed by a packet of Skittles.
Inside the takeaway, Laura tried not to wince as she watched the server ladle the curry gloop over what had been a perfectly respectable chicken escalope. ‘I don’t know how you can eat that stuff,’ she said as they walked out, Harry’s dinner in a plastic bag.
‘Boarding school,’ he replied easily. ‘The food was horrendous. Dead Man’s Leg and Nun’s Toenails.’
‘Oh God, yes. We had this thing called Skeleton Stew…’
Only after offering up her own memories of school food did Laura realise he had steered her off the subject of spies completely, and they were now turning into her street.
Laura lived in Cod’s Head Row, Shoreditch. It was an area of London once synonymous with grinding poverty but now synonymous with grinding affluence. Quite literally, given the preponderance of artisan coffee roasters.’
‘Last of the Summer Moet’, is the second book in the Laura Lake series, I did not read the first. It reads as a standalone, but the writing style and characters are easier to understand if you read the first book. It is original in both characters and plot, it demonstrates extraordinary creativity, but the whimsical characters and elaborate storylines border on the farcical and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The quirky humour is notable in this detailed story. Settings are imaginable, characters vividly depicted and following the story does not require any visualisation on the reader’s part and for many, this will be an enjoyable read.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Number-one bestselling author Wendy Holden was a journalist on Tatler, The Sunday Times, and the Mail on Sunday before becoming an author. She has since written ten consecutive Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers. She lives in Derbyshire.
Ellie Browne, landlady of The Dog & Duck, is looking forward to a relaxing Christmas Day before the arrival of her and her partner Max’s baby in the New Year. But with a snowstorm brewing outside, it seems that things might not go quite to plan.
After the dramatic events of the holiday season, Ellie settles into her new life at Max’s huge country mansion Braithwaite Manor, juggling work and family as best she can. When she’s asked to help organise a summer wedding for one of her best friends it’s only natural that her mind turns to her own, non-existent, wedding plans!
But with Max decidedly lukewarm on the subject and other family complications threatening to disrupt life further, Ellie fears there’ll never be wedding bells at the Dog & Duck after all.
Links to buy
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2GqyKnZ
‘ ‘I’m just desperate to get back to some kind of normality.’
Gemma laughed ruefully. ‘Are you kidding? Nothing will seem like normal for a long time to come.’
I gave a weak smile in return. I suppose with five young children of her own, Gemma would know about these things. It was all a mystery to me. Even with Junior’s arrival imminent, I still couldn’t quite believe I was about to become a mother. Honestly, ‘out of my depth’ didn’t nearly cover it. It was almost as if it was happening to someone else. I put that down to the fact that none of this was planned. I’d always thought a baby was something for the future, at a time when I had my whole life in order, but life has a habit of throwing you a curveball when you least expect it. I looked down at my huge bump, cradling my arms around its fullness. Not that I’d want to change anything in the slightest.
‘Still,’ Gemma went on, ‘you haven’t got long to wait now.’
‘A couple of weeks.’ Although from where I was standing that seemed like a lifetime away.
‘Ha, no,’ said Gemma, looking from my bump to my face intently, observing me as though she was a midwife at the maternity unit, and not my barmaid. ‘I reckon the next day or two.’ She nodded sagely. ‘You mark my words.’
Mulling over that thought, our attention was commanded by Max, who was standing at the bar, pinging a spoon against a glass.
Ah, the Max effect. Warm squidgy vibes engulfed me. It hadn’t lessened in the slightest, in all the months that I’d known him. Just to catch a glimpse of him across the room, to see his dark wayward hair doing its own thing, his intelligent questioning eyes, the warm, wide smile on his lips, still stirred feelings inside me which I wasn’t sure were entirely appropriate for a heavily pregnant woman.
‘Okay everyone, if you’d like to make your way out to the barn, lunch will be served shortly. Just a word of warning. You can’t fail to have noticed the crazy weather out there, the snow has been coming down heavily for the last couple of hours. We have cleared and salted the path, but just be careful. We don’t want any broken bones or any nasty accidents.’ Max fixed his brown eyes on me, raising his brows, as though I might be a prime candidate for an accident. Then as his gaze warmed and softened, I felt myself smile, a warm sensation flooding my chest.
‘I can’t believe this weather,’ said Polly, one of my best friends and owner of Polly’s Flowers, the shop next door. She was currently hanging on to the arm of her new boyfriend, George, as though her life depended on it, something to do with the number of glasses of Prosecco she’d been knocking back this morning, I imagined. Still, it was lovely to see her so happy. Seeing them, a proper couple now, so loved-up and content, only added to the festive feeling. George had moved into the village this year, taking up residence in our family home, while my parents were away working in Dubai. It took me a while to figure out what he was doing in the village, and despite my unsubtle attempts to find out, it was Katy, Max’s younger sister, who put me out of my misery by informing me that George was none other than the bestselling author GG Williamson.
That had certainly caused a frisson of excitement in the village. Katy, having read all of his books, was one of his biggest fans and was now hanging onto George’s other arm, leading the way out into the beer garden, chattering away excitedly.
Gemma rounded up her five kids and husband, shooing them in the direction of the back door and Dan, my right-hand man and bar manager, who’d been keeping all our guests’ glasses filled over the last hour or so, took hold of his girlfriend Silke’s hand and stepped backwards, waiting for everyone to go through in front of him.
I owed a huge debt of gratitude to Dan. He’d volunteered to move into the pub with Silke while I was on maternity leave to take up the role of caretaker/manager. As it happened, the narrowboat they lived on was due to go into the shipyard for urgent repairs over winter and was likely to be out of action for a couple of months, leaving them homeless, so them moving into the pub had worked out well for everyone concerned.
My move into Max’s imposing Georgian house, Braithwaite Manor, wasn’t half as traumatic as I suspected it might be, although I realised for most people the idea of moving into a mansion would be far from traumatic. I’d put it off to the last minute possible though, reluctant to leave The Dog and Duck, the place that had been my whole world for almost two years, telling everyone I’d be back soon. What was I thinking? For so long I’d been so emotionally invested in the pub, that I’d been reluctant to let go of the reins. It had been a whirlwind couple of years admittedly. Thinking back to when I first returned home to Little Leyton, from my busy corporate life in London, to take some time out to consider the next steps in life, I could never have imagined just how dramatically my life would change.’
‘Wedding Bells at the Dog and Duck’, is the third book in this series and the first one I’ve read. It reads perfectly well as a standalone novel but having finished it I enjoyed it so much I want to read the first two in the series to discover Ellie and Max’s early love story.
Romance and humour fill the pages of this gentle love story, which depicts English village life centring around the country pub and its charismatic landlady Ellie Browne and her sexy, partner Max Golding. Romantically involved they are about to have their first child and Max wants to marry Ellie, but she is holding back.
It’s Christmas, and most of the villagers are having Christmas dinner at the pub, which leads to one or two surprises for Ellie and Max. There is a wealth of carefully crafted characters who bring the pub and village to life, they all have their own stories, and these subplots continue throughout the book adding interest and realism.
Who is the mysterious character knocking on the pub door on Christmas day, I did guess, but it doesn’t matter because it adds an element of mystery to a story about family, friendship and making the most of what life gives you.
The Dog and Duck is the quintessential village pub, a focal point for village life and Max is the modern day squire breathing life into the village and ensuring all are taken care of. If you fancy a slice of English village life with lots of laughs, a few tears and lashings of romance read on…
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Jill Steeples lives in a small market town in Bedfordshire with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, baking cakes, eating them and drinking wine.
Mia’s dad has always been her idol. Now, she faces losing him, and he is insisting that she leave England to visit her mother’s family on the Italian island of Ischia.
Arriving on the island, Mia is embraced by the warm, crazy relatives she hardly knows. Despite her doubts about the trip, it is in Italy that Mia discovers connections to a part of her life that’s been missing, and during the sun-soaked days and steamy nights Mia falls for handsome local Salvatore. But as the day of her departure draws nearer can she risk having her heart broken twice in one summer?
Extract from Prosecco and Promises…
‘My father had booked the flight and had sprung for business class. I knew he’d probably have tried for first class, but Marjorie would have reined him in, talking about how pointless physical objects wouldn’t make up for my emotional loss. For once, she was right. Plus, it was amazing how I managed to feel guilty about absolutely everything. I felt guilty when I enjoyed the taste of the coffee in the terminal before my flight, the smooth, rich espresso going cold as I hovered around drinking it. Dad loved espresso. Loved.
I felt guilty about my comfortable seat on the plane whilst my father lay in his bed in pain. I felt guilty about the glass of prosecco and the movie I laughed at multiple times before remembering why I was travelling in the first place. I felt guilty at the sheer joy of knowing I had handed in my notice at the make-up counter, because I hadn’t known how long I’d be away for, and they couldn’t wait around – saying goodbye to that place had been a relief.
In the end, all that guilt and remembering to be unhappy was exhausting, and I fell into a dark, dreamless, uneasy sleep, waking up to that jolting feeling as my stomach stuck in my throat and the wheels of the plane extended.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, signore e signori, welcome to Naples.’
As I stepped off the plane into the warm sunshine, I took a deep breath. Not just to rid me of the chemical, ‘fake’ air circulating on that plane for hours, but to see if any memories lingered on the Italian breeze.
‘Every country smells different when you step off a plane, Mia,’ my father had said, a lifetime ago, ‘and soon, when you’ve been on enough journeys, you’ll get off a plane and you’ll smell home.’
Home smelled like wet summer grass and cool air. This smelled like dry air, like sand kicked up by salty seas, sucked into the atmosphere and whipped up in the wind. It smelled like the promise of juicy oranges and crystal waters. It smelled like coconut suntan cream and ice cubes on sticky fingers. But it didn’t smell like any memories at all. Just the warmth before summer began.
The last time I’d been to Ischia, it had been just after Mum died. My dad bought her ashes back to her home; he felt it was where she’d want to be. I’d met all these dark-haired people with clucking voices and sad looks. They’d stroked my hair and pinched my cheeks and paused their bursts of frantic Italian to call me a ‘poor little thing’. We spent a few weeks there, my dad hollow and echoing as he tried to show me the island, but was haunted by memories. He met my mother on Ischia. Stole her away back to England. Sometimes we’d walk past someone or some house, or he’d stop and pick up a shell on the beach, or stare past the pink sunset, like he wasn’t really there, but was back in the memory with her. It wasn’t the best time. And now he was sending me back, to the place I had been dragged to after my mother died, as my father drowned in his memories.
Now I would drown in mine.’
Mia is giving up on love, she lost her mother when she was just a child and can hardly remember her. Now, she is losing her precious father, who has always been there for her. Determined to be strong and stay with him to the end, he makes her promise to visit her mother’s home and meet her maternal family whilst he lives out his remaining days without her.
Anger is Mia’s dominant emotion, she’s furious with her father, her young step mum and most of all herself. Italy proves to be just what she needs but there is a great deal of angst, poignant discovery and forgiveness to be lived through before Mia appreciates this.
I love Mia she is such a beautiful mess, full of fear, guilt, self-reproach and the need to belong. She’s afraid to love, believing she will only experience the pain of losing again, Mia doesn’t feel she’s worth loving and so pushes everyone away. Her maternal family are loud and loving and they slowly get under her skin. Mia learns about her mother and finally feels that she has roots. As her new family relive their memories of her mother, Mia begins to heal, and when her father dies, she finds that life does go on, even though she is devastated.
Meeting Salvatore is unexpected and it’s not love at first sight, he is rude and she is angry but when they find a common goal, they each see something they like in the other and sparks of a different sort begin to glow. The love story is gentle and realistic and lovely to read. A thoughtful, memorable story which is perfectly paced and hard to put down.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review
A.L. Michael is hurtling towards the end of her twenties a little too quickly. She is the author of 10 novels. Her most recent collection of books, The Martini Club Series, started with Cocktails and Dreams, to be followed by Prosecco and Promises, and Martinis and Memories. She likes to write about difficult women. Well, they say to write what you know. Andi works as a Content Writer, as well as a therapeutic facilitator. She has a bunch of degrees in stuff to do with writing and wrote her MSc dissertation on the power of creative writing in eating disorder recovery. She truly believes stories can change your life.
Facebook: A.L. Michael
Website: A. L. Michael
Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a warm, caring and safe place for little Leo.
When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.
Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…
This is the second instalment of Bella Osborne’s seasonal series Willow Cottage. This one has a festive touch and the renovations at the cottage are taking shape. Beth begins to find out the villagers have hearts of gold under their eccentricity. There are some hilarious scenes in this story and all the characters are vividly wtitten but believable.
Jack is still a man of mystery but Beth starts to trust him, even bonding with his delightful dog Doris, who contributes her own brand of humour to the story. Carly and Fergus, Beth’s London friends have their own relationship problems and Nick, Beth’s abusive ex is still in the picture, casting a shadow over Beth’s new life.
Christmas day is certainly cheerful but New Year’s Eve has a sting, which forces Beth back into her shell, although I think she has misunderstood her friend’s well-meant warning. The book ends on a cliff hanger, leaving me hoping the next instalment isn’t far away.
Funny, poignant and romantic, a lovely festive read.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars