While Rachel Butler likes her life in a pretty Dublin coastal village, her heart lies in Hawke’s Bay, where she grew up. Visiting for the first time since tragedy tore her family apart, she and her stepchildren fall for its beauty and outdoor lifestyle.
As Rachel picks up the threads of her life as a single parent, she can’t shake off the memories of her loving family in New Zealand – and her dream house, the villa on the bay. But it’s time to move forwards with their life in Ireland, close to the children’s grandparents, amid the familiar surroundings they all know well.
Until the children’s grandmother, still grieving, starts to interfere, questioning Rachel’s position as stepmother.
Until Rachel’s attempts to strengthen the family she loves so dearly backfires, pitting everyone against each other.
And until her late husband’s parents mend the rift that has existed as long as she’s been married – bringing with them an explosive secret . . .
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
Rachel loses the man she loves but still has his children, who she loves dearly. Thankful that he had the foresight to make her an adoptive parent, she faces life without him. Born in New Zealand, she has a close relationship with her family, who adore the children. The children’s biological mother’s parents are not happy with things, and this story explores the conflict, emotion and love of Rachel’s determination to achieve the best family for her children.
Each believably flawed vibrant character enriches the story that shows how grief manifests itself differently and how this affects family relationships. Lyrical writing evokes the settings and adds depth to this character-driven story.
It is a heartwarming, poignant story with strong female characters. Rachel is a lovely woman who places the children’s welfare at the heart of everything she does, making this incredibly engaging to read.
An old house can hold many secrets. Hollowpark in the west of Ireland certainly does. At the heart of the gardens is an intricate maze, named after a deadly poison, Belladonna. If you know the way through, it’s magical, a hiding place and playground like no other. If you don’t, it’s a place of fear and sinister riddles, where a young girl once went missing and was never seen again.
Grace comes to Hollowpark as a nanny for young Skye FitzMahon. Soon the mysterious past of Hollowpark has seduced her. Who is the woman she sometimes glimpses in an upstairs window? Or the apparition who keeps showing up unexpectedly, pleading, ‘Find me.’ And how can she fight her growing attraction to Skye’s father?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
Beginning with a telling incident in The Belladonna Maze in 1825, this story alternates between the nineteenth century and 2007. It is an absorbing medley of literary fiction with gothic and supernatural elements.
Lyrical and full of vibrant characters and vivid imagery, the story weaves its magic on the reader, immersing them in the maze and its secrets. It reads like a contemporary fairytale, and the reader is never sure what is fact and what is fantasy. Belladonna is known for its hallucinatory effects.
One terrible moment changes everything for teenagers Kate and David. Brought together during the darkest of times, a spark of hope is ignited between them – a hand held in the darkness, a promise whispered. Neither of them will ever forget those moments.
It’s another ten years before they meet once more, and their lives are now so different. The promise they made to each other on that fateful day still binds them, but now they have so much more to lose.
Have they missed their one chance at happiness?
The only way they will ever know is to risk everything to be together. Is that too high a price to pay for love…?
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK- Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This author writes about emotion and heartbreak in such an engaging way. The reader is immersed in the characters’ troubled lives, hoping they find the happiness they deserve. This story has these qualities the plot deepens with historical detail and experience of Ireland in the late 1990s. The story is relatable and thought-provoking. It explores Kate and David’s developing relationship from devastation and loss in an insightful and uplifting way. A believable and vividly brought to life setting makes the story memorable.
Emma Heatheringtonhas penned more than thirty educational short films, plays and musicals as well as eleven novels, two of which were written under the pseudonym Emma Louise Jordan.
Emma’s novel, The Legacy of Lucy Harte, was an eBook bestseller in both the UK and US.
She lives in her native Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, with her partner Jim McKee and their children Jordyn, Jade, Dualta, Adam and Sonny James.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
When a stranger utters these words to Allegra Bird, nicknamed Freckles, it turns her highly ordered life upside down. In her current life as a parking warden, she has left her eccentric father and unconventional childhood behind for a bold new life in the city.
But a single encounter leads her to ask the question she’s been avoiding for so long: who are the people who made her the way she is? And who are the five people who can shape and determine her future? Just as she once joined the freckles on her skin to mirror the constellations in the night sky, she must once again look for connections.
Told in Allegra’s vivid, original voice, moving from Dublin to the fierce Atlantic coast, this is an unforgettable story of human connection, of friendship, and growing into your own skin.
Five people. Five stars. Freckle to freckle. Star to star.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Allegra or Freckles is a young woman finding her place in the world. She doesn’t relate well to others but enjoys her role as parking warden in Dublin. It is whilst doing her job she meets someone who tells her something she cannot forget. Her quest is to find the five people who define her. Told from Allegra’s viewpoint, the reader has intimate knowledge of Allegra’s often confusing world. The story has many layers and believable characters. Allegra draws the reader’s empathy, and you want her to succeed and be happy. Allegra develops as a character, learning from each encounter, and by the story’s conclusion, she knows herself.
The ending is poignant and uplifting and gives the reader hope that Allegra’s future is hopeful.
On 31st May 1941, Germany drops bombs on neutral Dublin and Sarah Gillespie loses her family and home that fateful night. Days later, the man she loves leaves Ireland to enlist in the RAF.
A decision that changes her life
With nothing to keep her in Ireland and a burning desire to help the war effort, Sarah seeks refuge with relatives in Hampshire, England. But before long, Sarah’s family history catches up with her.
A mission that could cost her life
Sarah is asked to prove her loyalty to Britain through uncovering a spy at Vickers Supermarine, the manufacturers of the legendary Spitfire fighter plane. But to progress with her mission, she must become involved with a fifth columnist. And so the most dangerous game she’s ever played ensues…
A gripping story that explores a deadly tangle of love and espionage in war-torn Britain.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK in return for an honest review.
This story is told from an Irish woman’s perspective bringing refreshing originality to its WW2 setting. Sarah seeks solace with her Uncle and his family in England after the devastating loss of her family in Dublin. Embracing an English way of life, she does her bit for the war effort.
Sarah’s nationality and skills embroil her in a dangerous espionage mission that threatens everyone she values. This story has friendship, family drama and romance alongside the intriguing world of wartime espionage. There are intricate historical details and believable character development in an ethos of courage and danger, and it’s an engaging read.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.
This is a lovely heartwarming story set on the west coast of Ireland. It explores female relationships and the importance of living life to the full. The setting is an immense part of this story giving the women space to breathe and think. The relationship dynamics are relatable, and the author explores topical issues in an enlightened way.
Character-driven, it immerses the reader in the main protagonists’ lives, which is an emotional experience. Family drama, heartbreaking decisions and romance are interwoven into this literary puzzle, and despite the shocks and tears, it leaves you feeling uplifted.
Guest Post:The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club – Inspiration- Faith Hogan
It’s been a funny old year, I mean to quote those wonderful words, it’s been the best of times, it’s been the worst of times, certainly, it’s been an extraordinary fifteen months on this side of the pond and although I haven’t travelled to the UK since 2019 – that sounds much too long ago – this has been a year like no other in every part of the world.
Apart from the terrible tragedies that have moved each of us, even if they did not touch our lives directly, there has been such a complete upheaval of life as we’ve known it and sometimes, it feels as if we may never fully return to what went before as normal.
At the end of it all, I’ve found a much renewed love of the book that uplift my spirits. It’s been an essential part of my lockdown armoury. Losing myself in the words of favourite writers who can help me escape the worries that might otherwise have dragged me down further and let-s face it, the nightly news was as much as any of us needed to drift into the tragedies of life.
So, I’ve been reading lots of unashamedly uplifting, happy books. I think it’s helped me to see the positives of having been locked down in a way that has balanced out all the losses. And there have been many positives. While less air travel has meant travel is curbed, I’m also very aware that the environment has managed to get some much needed breathing space. It’s given us great family time – now we’re playing scrabble and regularly sitting down to watch TV programmes together that I’d never have watched otherwise. And it’s given us time to think; perhaps savouring the little things that we’d rushed about so much for before and missed out on the simple joy of them. Things like family meals, long phone calls with friends – when once a text flown off seemed to be as much as we could manage. And then, there have been so many who’ve had the opportunity to work from home and in some cases think of re-locating and maybe taking life off hold.
Yes, it’s been the best of times and the worst of times.
But the one thing I’m sure of, is that a good uplifting book is one of those things that has really come up trumps throughout, a little like scrabble and strangely, The Grand Tour – yep ,in the Hogan House we’re on a binge!
I wrote The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club the year before we’d even heard of Covid 19. I’d written it purely for the joy of telling a story that would uplift my own spirits and so far it seems to have had the same impact on readers who’ve picked it up.
It’s unashamedly feel good, gentle and ultimately heartening, you may cry at certain parts, but you will laugh much more and I hope, as you pick up the threads of Lucy, Jo and Elizabeth’s lives, you will feel you are on a journey with old friends – people you’ll root for, people you’ll be sad to say goodbye to at the end. Because, we all want a happy ending, don’t we and there’s nothing that we could want more than a happy ending for the people we love!
And, as we near the end of this extraordinary year, perhaps we’ve all learned something we hadn’t expected – happiness can be found in the most unexpected places and if we’re wise, we’ll grab it when we can. And happiness is the one thing that we can feel, no matter if we are living in the best of times or indeed, the worst of times…
So, go on, choose your own kind of happy today, jump in with the Ladies Midnight Swimming Club, I promise, you’ll feel better once you’ve dived in there….
Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. She writes grown up women’s fiction which is unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring.
She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!
Meet Tom. Or Dr O’Grady, as he used to be called. When you pass him on the street, most people don’t even give him a second glance. You see, Tom isn’t living his best life. Burdened by grief, he’s only got his loyal dog, Bette Davis, for company and a rucksack containing his whole world.
Then there’s Ruth and her son, DJ, who no longer have a place to call home. But Ruth believes that you can change the world by helping one person at a time – and Tom needs her help.
There are a thousand ways to find your home – you just need to be brave enough to look for them. Amazon UK
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I didn’t read what this story is about before reading it because it is written by a favourite, trusted author. I knew I would be taken on an emotional journey, by relatable characters, with sometimes tragic stories, Despite the tears and poignancy, ultimately they would find hope and peace. I wasn’t disappointed,
Ruth is autistic. People find her different from them, and as often happens in such circumstances, they ridicule her. Even her parents constantly find fault, and when her mother feels she behaves unacceptably she is abusive to her.
A serendipitous meeting changes the course of Ruth’s life and brings her into contact with Tom. He helps her, when she needs it most but then they lose touch. Ten years on Ruth and Tom are not where they want to be, but a chance meeting once again changes everything.
The characters are believable, not stereotypical, and you want them to find the happiness they deserve. This story explores autism and what it means for the individual and those closest to them. How it is so easy to be isolated when you appear different. Homelessness is also a prevalent theme. It could happen to anyone, and this is what makes this story disturbingly real.
The story has a powerful, uplifting ending, one you would like everyone in Ruth and Tom’s situation to benefit from. Reality sometimes is less kind, so if this story does nothing else, let it help you to look a little deeper into people who seem different or have fallen on hard times. They deserve compassion and respect, isn’t that what you would want if it were you?