When Laura’s marriage falls apart she needs to find a home for her and her daughter. And quickly.
Welcome to The Close, a beautiful street of mansions, where Laura rents a tiny studio above a garage, and gorgeous Stella is the indisputable Queen Bee – who soon suspects Laura of having designs on her fiancé.
But when Laura unearths the ghastly secret he is hiding, it threatens Stella’s perfectly curated world as well as Laura’s career.
Hatching an elaborate plan to beat him at his own game, these former enemies are now best friends.
But has Laura forgotten that revenge always comes with a sting in the tail?
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK -Michael Joseph in return for an honest review.
There’s excellent escapism in this story whose characters are just on the right side of stereotypical. Laura finds herself in an upmarket area of London when she needs a bolt hole at the end of her marriage. Finding a nanny annexe in the exclusive close seems serendipitous until she meets the locals.
Think ‘Gossip Girl’ but older and you’ll appreciate the hierarchy among the female residents. Stella ‘Queen Bee’ sees Laura as a rival and sets out to cold-shoulder her from the group. Al Stella’s fiancé is the cause of the discord. Laura is determined to uncover his secrets. This leads to a strange alliance with Stella, as they plot revenge.
This amusing, often satirical observation of ‘The Close’s’ residents is easy to read. The shallowness and lack of self-worth evident, in some of the women, is poignant and adds another layer to this absorbing story.
Nick and Lesley’s desire for a better life in the countryside was a long-held dream. Unforeseen events and a leap of faith forced that dream into reality, but moving to rural Ireland was only the beginning of their story. Foreigners in a foreign land, they set about making new friends, learning the culture and expanding their collection of chickens and unruly dogs. But their dream home was in desperate need of renovation, a mammoth task they attacked with the aid of a DIY manual, dwindling funds and incompetent enthusiasm. With defunct diggers, collapsing ladders, and shocking electrics, what could possibly go wrong? Will their new life live up to expectations, or will the Irish weather, dangerous roads, and a cruel twist of fate turn this dream into a nightmare?
I received an audiobook from the author in return for an honest review.
Living the country dream in Ireland was how we left Nick and Lesley at the end of book 1. Book 2 details what life is like and the ups and downs of renovation. The honesty and humour are the unique selling point of this series. It’s not just the good bits it’s the bad bits too. There are many poignant events in this memoir that make the listener empathise.
For anyone who’s ever renovated their home, you’ll be agreeing with Nick’s observations and chuckling at the mistakes and the near disasters. Add in the peculiarities of an unfamiliar country and its a recipe for misunderstandings and subsequent laughter.
The animals are still front and centre in Nick’s life, and there are many anecdotes some hilarious, some sad in this story. What shines through is the sharing of a dream, the courage and the innate sense of humour of the storyteller and his wife.
I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment. The narration is first-class brings the characters to life.
Nick Albert was born in England and raised in a Royal Air Force family. After leaving College he worked in retail management for several years before moving into financial services where he quickly progressed through the ranks to become a training consultant. As a very passionate and reasonably talented sportsman, Nick had always wanted to use his training skills towards creating a parallel career, so in the mid 1980’s he qualified and began coaching sport professionally. After a health scare in 2003 and in search of a simpler life, he and his wife Lesley, cashed in their investments, sold their home and bought a rundown farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland – a country they had never before even visited. With little money or experience and armed only with a do-it-yourself manual, they set about renovating their new home, where they now live happily alongside a flock of chickens, two ducks and several unruly, but delightful dogs. In 2017 Nick was signed to Ant Press to write a series of humorous memoirs about his life in rural Ireland. Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds (book one) was published in September 2017 and soon became an Amazon bestseller. Book two in the series was published on 1st June 2018 and book 3 in August 2019. Book four is due out in 2020.
Nick is also the author of the twisty thriller, Wrecking Crew, the first in a series of books featuring reluctant hero Eric Stone.
Kat swore off dating many years ago, after her marriage ended in a catastrophic mess. Having moved to the Canary Islands for a fresh start, she has never had much time for romance, channelling all her energy into managing all-male dance troupe – the Heavenly Hunks.
With golden beaches, sparkling blue water and relaxing after work with a glass of sangria – or three – for Kat, it’s summer all year round. But despite life being postcard perfect, Kat can’t help but wonder if she is missing out on the most important thing of all… love.
The dancers are all well-known for their flirtatious antics and aren’t looking for anything serious… except Jay. Sitting by the pool, watching the sun reflecting in the water, Kat feels like she can tell him anything.
Handsome, caring and a good listener, he ignites a fire in Kat’s heart that scares her witless. But her relationship with Jay should stay strictly professional… right? There is absolutely no way that she can be his boss and his date.
As the temperature rises, will Kat be able to take the plunge, let go of her past and find romance in paradise?
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
If you’re looking for some sunshine and a little romance, this story is for you. Kat’s the manager of an all-male exotic dance troupe in the Canary Islands, sound interesting? Well, it is, but she’s more of a mother than a lover, keeping her relationships strictly business until Jay joins the group and threatens the status quo.
Kat fled to the islands, in the wake of a disastrous controlling marriage. Jay makes her take a look at her life and risk dating again with some hilarious and sometimes poignant results. Jay’s past threatens his future happiness, but his attraction to Kat is hard to ignore.
The story balances fun and more serious moments in a relatable holiday setting. With believable characters and gentle romance, it’s easy to lose yourself in this story. A must-have Summer read.
Victoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and travelling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, ‘The Secret to Falling in Love,’ in 2016.
Her third novel, Who Needs Men Anyway? became a digital bestseller in 2018.
As an agony aunt, Fliss Carmichael should have all the answers but when her own marriage begins unravelling at the seams, she hasn’t a clue where to start. After a simple mistake causes an unintended role swap, she becomes the one seeking advice from an unlikely source!
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Based on an unusual idea, which is always good, this story features an agony aunt and a young woman who emails her. Are agony aunts commonplace nowadays? They were in the second half of the twentieth century, which gives this story a retro feel, adding to its originality.
There are two stories, both entertaining, with poignant moments, but this is a mostly humorous romantic read. The characters are likeable and relatable and the situations they find themselves in very amusing.
This is an engaging escapist read.
Julie Butterfield belongs to the rather large group of ‘always wanted to write’ authors who finally found the time to sit down and put pen to paper – or rather fingers to keyboard. She wrote her first book purely for pleasure and was very surprised to discover that so many people enjoyed the story and wanted more, so she decided to carry on writing. It has to be pointed out that her first novel, ‘Did I Mention I Won The Lottery’ is a complete work of fiction and she did not, in fact, receive millions in her bank account and forget to mention it to her husband – even though he still asks her every day if she has anything to tell him
Robyn Bloom thought Ash Barnes was the love of her life – until one day he announced he was leaving her to fly halfway across the world.
Months later, Robyn is struggling to move on – but then she has a brainwave: The Never Have I Ever Club. Her handsome next-door neighbour Will helps her bring their fellow Yorkshire villagers together for some carpe-diem-inspired fun.
From burlesque dancing to Swedish massages, everyone has plenty of bucket-list activities to try, but it doesn’t take long for Robyn to realise what – or who – her heart truly desires: Will.
There’s just one problem: he’s Ash’s twin brother.
Make that two problems: Ash is moving home… and he wants Robyn back.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story is full of charm and humour, which engages you from the first page. Robyn and Will are both likeable protagonists, and you want their attraction to mean something good. Ash is harder to empathise his callous treatment of Robyn is hard to forget. Freya and Eliot are notable characters too.
The story’s multigenerational aspect provides lots of laughs and some poignant moments. It adds authenticity, depth and variety to the story, which is much more than a romance.
Mary Jayne Baker grew up in rural West Yorkshire, right in the heart of Brontë country… and she’s still there. After graduating from Durham University with a degree in English Literature, she dallied with living in cities including London, Nottingham and Cambridge, but eventually came back with her own romantic hero in tow to her beloved Dales, where she first started telling stories about heroines with flaws and the men who love them.
A family reunited on a holiday of a lifetime…what could possibly go wrong?
When 70-year-old Charlotte Perkins submits an essay to the ‘Become a Jetsetter’ contest, she dreams of reuniting her estranged children: Lee, an almost-famous actress; Cord, a handsome Manhattan venture capitalist; and Regan, a harried mother who has never forgiven Charlotte for buying her a Weight Watchers gift certificate for her birthday.
But when she wins the cruise, the reality is not quite as she expected. As they sail from sun-drenched Athens, to glorious Rome, to tapas-laden Barcelona, lovers old and new join the adventure, and long-buried secrets are revealed.
Can four lost adults find their way back to themselves, and to each other? And more importantly, can they do it without killing each other?
A funny and deliciously sun-scented novel about the courage it takes to reveal our true selves, the pleasures and perils of family, and how we navigate the seas of adulthood to cruise – we can only hope – toward joy.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story has the perfect mix of family drama and exciting holiday destinations. Charlotte is determined to reunite her family after losing her closest friend. Entering a writing competition, to win a cruise, seems the right thing to do. The story gives insight into past relationships and secrets the family members are keeping. The cruise ship setting works well. There’s nowhere to run, and this intensifies family tensions.
Brittle and flawed characters gradually share their past and present issues, making them easy to empathise. The family dynamic is complex but relatable. The intense emotion relieved by humorous moments.
The vividly described holiday locations add contrast to the story too. The vibrant imagery makes this story a sensory delight. The perfect balance to the literary dialogue as the family drama unfolds.
Emily Adams has reached a breaking point. Her boyfriend pushed her down the stairs, breaking her arm, and now she’s found herself in an unfamiliar city with fifteen cents in her pocket and nowhere to go. She’s decided that all that’s left for her, is to take matters into her own hands and put an end to her misery…
Until an encounter with a magic man in a dress changes everything.
In a story full of humor and heart, The Very Real World of Emily Adams shows that there is hope in darkness, triumph in tragedy, and the moment when things are at their worst is when you hold on the hardest, because you never know what good things are waiting for you on the other side of despair.
The Very Real World of Emily Adams by Samantha Rose
The first thing I noticed was the silence. It wasn’t the sort of silence we’d had in our conversation on the drive there, where it wasn’t really silence—there’d been the background noises of air rushing past us, of the fan, the engine. This… this was a different kind of silence. There were no crickets. There was no wind. It was the kind of silence I imagined falling over the funeral of a horrible person who’d died a horrible death, where the few in the audience were too shocked and disturbed to shed a single tear, and the pastor had no words of solace to give.
Then there was the darkness. I couldn’t see anything beyond the still blades of grass and the figure of the farmhouse touched by the headlights. Off in the distance, I thought I could see the very first violet rays of morning, but other than that…
Nothe wrung his fingers a little. A faint, uneasy emotion radiated from him. “You know, maybe you should stay in the truck.”
I remembered what had happened the last time I’d done that. I grabbed the notebook and pen, saying, “That’s okay. I’m here to help and take notes, so yeah! Put me to work.”
He looked as though he were about to argue against this, but then he brightened. “Well, okay then. If you insist.” He popped open the door and got out. I did likewise, meeting him in the glow of the headlights. We stared up at the quaint, country style house. It had a porch lined with chipped, white columns that wrapped all the way around the eastern corner. It would’ve been a darling home that reminded me of my grandma’s, if not for the darkened windows and the feeling of gloom that weeped from them, and the smell of dead, decaying things that permeated the air.
Nothe said cheerfully, “Let’s start with the house.”
My eyes widened. “Why? I thought we were trying to avoid the farmers.”
“Well, I think if they were home, they’d have seen us pull up, don’t you?”
“Yes. Let’s make things worse by spying on them through their windows.”
“Oh, no. That won’t be necessary. The front door is wide open. See?”
He pointed to the wall where the porch ended. I wasn’t sure how I’d missed it, but he was right. The door was wide open, leading into black emptiness. I swore, for the briefest moment, I saw two, glowing yellow orbs peering out from the edge of the doorway before disappearing from view.
I blinked. I rubbed my eyes, my face. That’d just been a trick of the light, right? I hadn’t actually seen… what I thought I saw…
I looked up at Nothe. It might’ve been my imagination, but I thought he looked a little paler and slightly more serious than he had the last time I’d glanced at his face. I asked him, “Did you see that, too?”
Samantha Rose is a forever-student at Utah State University, who will one day have her Masters Degree in Psychology. She wrote her first novel in permanent marker on her sister’s vanity chair when she was three-years-old. It wasn’t well received.
She currently resides in the mountains, in a little house full of toys, where she’s enjoying her happily ever after with her Prince Charming and three adorable, little bears.
Sometimes the best holidays are the ones you least expect…
After a long and turbulent year, Sarah is dreaming of the five-star getaway her sister has booked them on. White sands, cocktails, massages, the Caribbean is calling to them.
But the sisters turn up to tatty beaches, basic wooden shacks, a compost toilet and outdoor cold water showers. It turns out that at the last minute Amy decided a conservation project would be much more fun than a luxury resort.
So now Sarah’s battling mosquitos, trying to stomach fish soup and praying for a swift escape. Life on a desert island though isn’t all doom and gloom. They’re at one with nature, learning about each other and making new friends. And Sarah is distracted by the dishy, yet incredibly moody, island leader she’s sure is hiding a secret.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus – Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Humour, originality and romance are all integral to this motivational story. There are good intentions, misunderstandings and an idyllic if not expected setting. Deeper issues of controlling behaviour and conservation add depth and engagement.
Forced out of her comfort level, Sarah confronts issues caused by her difficult childhood. She is conflicted but easy to empathise. Gentle romance is the catalyst for her emotional journey, which is positive and satisfying.
Extract from Summer Island Swop – Samantha Tonge
‘I’ll still have to clear it at work. I’m not sure how Prue will feel about me taking a month off.’
Just the mention of my boss’s name made my stomach knot.
‘No one’s indispensable. Not even wonderful you,’ she called back.
My chest felt warm. Over recent years, Amy had matured and started to look out for me, cooking dinner and mowing the lawn. However, I’d never lose my maternal feelings towards her. When we were ten and six ours was quite an age gap. As was eighteen and fourteen when I’d had to leave her behind with Dad but promised we’d live together again. I beat the sugar and butter, remembering her tears and his folded arms as I dragged my suitcase past the fountain and out of the huge driveway, into the street. I’d finally realised I had to leave after… I swallowed. No. I wasn’t going to think about that now.
I let Nelly into the back garden, busied myself with ingredients and cleaned up whilst the cookies baked. Their sweet aroma wafted through the air as I carried them into the lounge, on a tray, with two coffees.
‘Good timing,’ said Amy and turned off her screen, looking pleased with herself. I put the tray on the table and joined her.
‘Is it all booked?’
She nodded. ‘A modest deposit paid. The rest is due in the middle of June, two weeks before we leave.’
‘Can’t you at least share which part of the world we’re visiting?’
‘That would be telling,’ she replied airily and took the largest cookie.
I jumped up and held her right arm firm whilst tickling the armpit. ‘I won’t stop until I find out, Amy Sterling.’
However, she was as strong as me these days and, giggling, held the cookie in her mouth and forced both of my hands away. I sat down once more. I recognised that expression. She was determined to keep her secret. Sometimes, with my impulsive sister, that could be a dangerous thing, like when she’d agreed to do a charity skydive with colleagues at work. She didn’t tell me until the morning of the jump.
‘Just a clue. A teeny one,’ I said. ‘Please…’
‘I’ve never seen you this excited before. Well, not since you were made assistant manager. Oh, and the time you found that fancy moisturiser for half price.’
‘It wasn’t just any moisturiser. The Duchess of Cambridge uses it.’ I pressed my palms together. ‘At least let me guess… the Canary Islands? Barbados? Australia’s an island, right? I mean, you and me – we share most things, don’t we?’
‘Best buddies, always,’ she said solemnly.
It was a promise we’d made to each other, the day after Mum’s funeral. And sure enough, we confided in each other about our latest celebrity crushes, about our dreams for the future; we put the world to rights over Chardonnay and Pringles. I knew her favourite colour, favourite food, favourite band. She could always tell when I’d had a stressful day at work and, without prying, would make me a hot chocolate, fetch a blanket and switch on my current Netflix obsession.
Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.
When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines.
She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo and in 2020 her novel Knowing You won the RNA’s Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award.
Regan is holding a winning lottery ticket. Goodbye to the boyfriend who never had her back, and so long to the job she can’t stand! Except it’s all a bit too good to be true…
When Regan gets pranked, she finds herself jobless, homeless and boyfriendless in one fell swoop.
Luckily her friendly seaside community provides a beacon of hope, proving to Regan that sometimes you really can rely on the kindness of others – and one local in particular, a handsome fireman called Charlie, helps Regan realise that this could be her chance for a fresh start.
Armed with a list of ways to change her life, Regan decides it’s time to step out of her comfort zone. Because – as Charlie knows all too well – life is for living . . .
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Regan didn’t immediately appeal to me. I’m a neat freak and sympathised with Jarvis, her ultra tidy boyfriend, but she redeemed herself, within a few pages, with her caring attitude and sense of humour. Regan thinks her life is changing for the better then it doesn’t, but maybe, it does? Just when you think things may be okay fate intervenes.
Humour and poignancy give way to darker issues and real sadness as this story progresses. Regan and Charlie’s conflicted romance forces her to concentrate on finding a new career and move her life forward. Kevin and Elvis are poignant characters and easy to empathise. Friendship, humour, mystery, romance and sadness are all integral to this story.
Regan grows in insight and understanding as she faces heartbreak and tough choices. Her honesty endears her to her friends and the reader. The book concludes with questions answered, mysteries solved and an innate sense of justice.
With relatable characters, humour, poignancy, romance and secrets, this story engages from its exciting beginning, through heartbreak to its positive ending.
Sometimes in Bath is a captivating story-tour through the city’s history conducted by Charles Nevin, the award-winning journalist, national newspaper columnist, author and humorist.
Beau Nash, Old King Bladud, young Horatio Nelson, Jane Austen’s Mr Bennet, the Emperor Haile Selassie and many more spring to life in episodes shimmering with the curious magic of Britain’s oldest resort and premier purveyor of good health, happiness and romance for the last 2000 years.
Each story has an afterword distinguishing the fiction from fact, adding enthralling historical detail – and giving visitors useful links to Bath’s many sights and fascinations Sometimes in Bath is warm, witty, wistful and will be loved by all who come to and from this most enchanting and enchanted of cities.
How do you like your historical fiction? Romantic, an exciting escape into the consolations of the beguiling past? Realistic and instructive as well as entertaining? Or all of that?
I’m all for the all-in approach. And I have a great weakness for a touch of humour being thrown into the mix. Which is why one of my very favourite pieces of historical fiction is the marvellous ‘No Bed For Bacon,’ by Caryl Brahms and S J Simon, a wonderfully entertaining re-telling of Shakespeare and his life which clearly inspired the Oscar-winning Shakespeare In Love of Gwyneth Paltrow and Judi Dench fame.
So when I moved to Somerset and fell under that old Bath magic of healing waters, mythic origins, Roman bathing, Georgian larks and the finest cast list ever encountered of charmers, chancers, characters and charlatans, I didn’t need much encouragement to set them down in a series of stories set throughout this richest of histories. Step forward, to name but a few, Bladud, mythical founder and wannabe aviator; a Roman governor with gout; Alfred the Great; Sir John Harington, Elizabethan inventor of the water closet; Beau Nash, Georgian master of its revels; Dr Johnson; Horatio Nelson; Charles Dickens; the Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, in Bath in exile; and, oh, yes, Jane Austen’s Mr Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.
Thus, Sometimes In Bath; which was tremendous fun, and is, I hope tremendous fun, a happy canter through the city’s history, with some balancing poignancy and wistfulness mixed in.
But possibly not that realistic, which presented me with a problem. A career as a journalist entails many things: and one of them (believe it or not) is a compulsion to establish fact and differentiate it from the speculative and the unfounded. I’m one of those sad people who cannot watch any drama ‘based on’ historical events and characters without afterwards rushing to Wiki to find out how based and how true.
So how to combine this with my flights of Bath fantasy? Just expect readers to do their own research? That seemed a little unmannerly, a touch unfriendly, somehow ungenerous, mean.
The solution I hit upon was to follow each story with an afterword explaining what was fact and what was my invention. And, further, to set the story in its historical context.
This has the added benefit of building up a history of the great city chapter by chapter, with an interesting further dash of fascinating fact and anecdote. So you will learn of the theories of Bath’s great architect, John Wood, on magic and druids, and the significance of the layout of his crescent, circus and square, of the mysterious symbols decorating his buildings; of the origin of the Bath Bun and the end of the noted Bath dandy highwayman, Sixteen String Jack Rann; of how the great Roman bath was rediscovered in Victorian times; of John Betjeman and his fight to save fine Bath buildings, and the truth behind his famous poem, “In A Bath Teashop”; of how Haile Selassie regained his Ethiopian throne in a remarkable campaign of the Second World War; and of the city’s great goddess, Sul, begged in writing on little lead tablets by many a citizen in the time of Rome to curse thieves and vagabonds.
You will learn, too, where to see those tablets and find other places and features mentioned in the book: a veritable cornucopia of Bath, compiled with love and fascination and imagination, and written, as I say in the dedication, for all those come to and from the city. And why not you?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Bath holds a fascination for so many people, even those who have only passed through it. There is a wealth of history, coupled with colourful historical and literary characters embodied in this city. This book, captures many of them, in a humorous, knowledgeable way.
The characters, real or imaginary, are brought to life with astute observation and wit. The engagingly visual descriptions make imagining the characters and settings effortless. Each story completes with a narrative on the fact and fiction and where further historical knowledge is available.
This book is a delightfully different literary adventure to the ancient city of Bath.
Charles Nevin has written for, among others, the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Telegraph, The Times and Sunday Times, and the New York Times. Sometimes in Bath is his second book of fiction following Lost in the Wash with Other Things, a collection of short stories. He has also published three books of non-fiction – Lancashire, Where Women Die of Love, a paean to the neglected romance of his native county; The Book of Jacks, a history and lexicon of the name, and So Long Our Home, a history of Knowsley Road, the famous old ground of St Helens Rugby Football Club. Charles lives in an old watermill near Bath, which is ideally placed for his forays into the enchanting city.