Posted in Book Review

The Two Houses 4*Review – Fran Cooper

 

‘The Two Houses sit grey and brooding beneath a pale sky.
They cling to the hillside, cowering from the wind, because always, before everything up here, there is the wind.
The Two Houses were not always two. But if it is human to build – even up here, in this blasted northern hinterland – it is human to break, too.’

After an acclaimed career in ceramics, Jay herself has cracked. Recovering from a breakdown, she and her husband Simon move to the desolate edges of the north of England, where they find and fall in love with the Two Houses: a crumbling property whose central rooms were supposedly so haunted that a previous owner had them cut out from the building entirely.

But on uprooting their city life and moving to the sheltered grey village of Hestle, Jay and Simon discover it’s not only the Two Houses that seems to be haunted by an obscure past. It becomes increasingly clear that the villagers don’t want them there at all – and when building work to make the two houses whole again starts, a discovery is made that will unearth decades-old secrets…

But who in this village has been hiding them?

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

At first glance, this appears to be a ghost story. While the writing style is atmospheric, creepy and gothic, the content is more grounded. The ghosts are emotional, bad memories and entrenched secrets kept by the living rather than the dead.

Escaping to the country seems like a rest cure for Jay and Simon, reeling from Jay’s emotional breakdown when she discovers she cannot have children. A ceramic artist Jay’s work suffers until she shies away from it and everyone attached to it. Simon loves her but doesn’t necessarily understand her. His constant presence is claustrophobic for his free-spirited wife. She doesn’t want to share her emotions just to make him feel worthwhile.

So when they find a quirky, broken down property, two houses severed in their past. Jay loves it, and Simon who wants his wife to recover agrees, although he is looking for a bolt hole and she is searching for a new life.

The villagers are suspicious of the interloper’s motives and the reasons for this gradually become clear as the story progresses. It’s not just because they want to protect the secrets of the old houses, their way of life has disintegrated with the closure of the mines and farms, young people want to leave, and only the old ones and those who cannot survive elsewhere are left. They want to protect their way of life even if it’s not what it once was.

The characters are realistic, as is their behaviour when confronted with newcomers. Jay becomes obsessed with the house’s secrets to the exclusion of all else, but maybe this is part of her healing process?

The plot reveals its clues and misinformation as it progresses, the pacing is slow because of the detailed descriptions and the internal conflict of the main characters.

Mysterious and suspenseful but not written in a commercial, contemporary style, it is all about the characters and their interaction with the setting. It resonates as you read and the two houses’ story is infinitely sadder than you first imagine.

I liked it and found the ending particularly poignant. It conveys the sense of stability and people becoming as one with the land well. It is slow and maybe too detailed in places, but it does fit with a gothic writing style and is a lovely example of this.

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

 

 

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Posted in Book Review

Beneath an Indian Sky Renita D’Silva 5 * Review

 

An unforgettable and heart-wrenching story of love, betrayal and family secrets. In colonial India, a young woman finds herself faced with an impossible choice, the consequences of which will echo through the generations…

1928. In British-ruled India, headstrong Sita longs to choose her own path, but her only destiny is a good marriage. After a chance meeting with a Crown Prince leads to a match, her family’s status seems secured, and she moves into the palace, where peacocks fill the gardens and tapestries adorn the walls. But royal life is far from simple, and her failure to provide an heir makes her position fragile. Soon Sita is on the brink of losing everything, and the only way to save herself could mean betraying her oldest friend…

2000. When Priya’s marriage ends in heartbreak, she flees home to India and the palace where her grandmother, Sita, once reigned as Queen. But as grandmother and granddaughter grow closer, Priya has questions. Why is Sita so reluctant to accept that her royal status ended with Independence? And who is the mysterious woman who waits patiently at the palace gates day after day? Soon Priya uncovers a secret Sita has kept for years – and which will change the shape of her life forever…

A breathtaking journey through India from British rule to Independence and beyond; a world of green hills, cardamom-scented air, and gold thread glinting in the sun, brought to life.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

An evocative, emotional encounter with India from the mid-1920s to the millennium, tracing the lives of three women through their hopes, loves, lies and secrets.
Sita and Mary become friends both finding something in the other that they like and admire, but even at the beginning of their childhood friendship, lies and secrets are evident. A tragic event changes the course of both their lives but fate brings them back together as young women. One suffers the ultimate betrayal, and the other carries a guilty secret that blights her entire life. The women’s lives are full of complex relationships, and the three stories are enthralling, where they intertwine the emotion intensifies, demonstrating their ambition, independent spirit and tenacity.
A beautifully written, thought-provoking story. Set mainly in India, the setting is atmospheric and imaginable through the vividly descriptive prose. Historically the book is set in a pivotal time for India and its people, which provides an opportunity for some and takes away privilege from others, in its wake. A story of childhood dreams, and adult realities and the fine line between good and evil, a lovely way to while away a few hours.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Little Woodford – Catherine Jones – The Secrets of a Small Town Extract and 4*Review

Trouble comes to the sleepy market town of Little Woodford – a world of allotments, pub quizzes, shopping and gossip – the heart of middle England.

Little Woodford has a sleepy high street, a weekly market, a weathered old stone church and lovingly tended allotments. A peaceful, unexciting place, the very heart of middle England.

In Little Woodford, no one has fingers in more pies than Olivia Laithwaite, parish councillor, chair of the local WI, wife, mother and all around queen bee. So, of course, it’s Olivia who is first to spot that The Beeches has been sold at last.

Soon rumours begin to swirl around the young widow who has bought this lovely house. Why exactly did she leave London with her beautiful stepdaughter and young sons? Are they running from someone? Hiding something? Though if they are, they won’t be the only ones. Sometimes the arrival of newcomers in a community is all it takes to light a fuse…

Links to buy

 Amazon: http://amzn.to/2Fe3FEx

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2GuidiU

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2CxMzPe

iBooks: https://apple.co/2C8kPF2

Extract’

Heather walked up the road, under the ancient oaks and yews, across the brook and past the cemetery, the old, rather higgledy-piggledy gravestones basking in the ever-strengthening April sunshine. Above her, the rooks cawed incessantly as they wheeled over the rookery in the trees behind the Norman church, with its weathered grey stone walls and squat tower, and the only other noise was the distant hum of the ring road, the other side of the cricket pitch. The peace of the scene was deeply calming. Sometimes, in the summer, when there was a cricket match on and the bell-ringers were practising, she felt it was the kind of place that John Betjeman could have immortalised in a poem; leather on willow, an occasional spattering of applause, cries of ‘howzat’ and the slightly arrhythmic bing-bong-ding-dong of a peal of bells. Utter cliché but utter English bliss.

She strolled on knowing that she could have phoned Joan to ask about the flowers but she always liked an excuse to take this walk, and besides, she was mindful that neither Joan nor her husband Bert had been in the best of health since the winter – Joan had had a nasty virus and was only recently on the mend – and they might appreciate a visit. Plus, there was every possibility that Bert would offer some of his own flowers from his allotment for the church, and every little helped. Bert’s allotment didn’t just yield a cornucopia of vegetables every year, but dahlias, hellebores, foxgloves, hollyhocks and a dozen other types of flowers that Heather would accept gratefully for the church arrangement whilst having only the vaguest of an idea as to what they were called. And, even if it was a bit early for the best of Bert’s flowers, he would certainly have foliage which, in itself, was very useful.

Towards the top of the road, the quiet was dissipated by the bustle of the high street but Heather didn’t mind. She loved the town’s wide main street with its wiggly roofline, its big market square and pretty Georgian town hall. It mightn’t be the sort of place you moved to for the shopping – Bluewater it wasn’t – but the boutiques and delis, the cafés and the pub and the hanging baskets full of winter pansies and the tubs of daffs and tulips more than made up for the lack of major retailers. And today was market day so there was the extra bustle and activity that always brought. It was a proper small market town, she always thought. Perfect – well, perfect as long as you didn’t scratch too deep. Like everywhere they had problems with poverty, drugs and the occasional crime but there were worse places to live in the country. Far worse. She knew that – Brian had been a vicar in one or two.

She was looking in the window of the cake shop and wondering about treating herself and Brian to a custard tart each when she heard her name being called. She turned and saw the pub’s landlady. As always, Belinda had a smile on her face. She was a life-enhancer, thought Heather. Brian might deal with the town’s moral well-being but Belinda provided an equally important service on the mental health side of things by listening to their woes, being unfailingly cheerful and totally non-judgemental. Her sunny outlook radiated out of her and sparkled out of her blue eyes.

‘Belinda, hello. You well?’

‘Yes, thank you. You?’

Heather nodded.

‘I’ve just been to the hairdresser,’ said Belinda. ‘That always makes me feel better. Good for morale, don’t you think?’

Heather gazed at Belinda’s beautifully cut bob that framed her smiling face and wished she knew. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a professional hair-do. She washed her own hair and pinned it up to keep it out of the way. Not smart or fashionable but suitable for a vicar’s wife. Cheap to maintain, and when it got too long, she hacked bits off with the kitchen scissors.

‘It must be,’ she said, smiling and quenching the tiny pang of envy she felt. ‘By the way, Amy says someone is moving into The Beeches.’

‘Well, if Amy says so it must be true. Anyway, I’d better get on; not long till opening time and I mustn’t keep the punters waiting. Will you be coming to the next book club?’

‘I will. I can’t say I was thrilled by the last choice but it was an interesting read.’

‘Good. Well… Good, you found it interesting, at any rate. If everyone did, it’ll be the basis for a lively discussion.’

‘Will you be there?’

‘Should be if the new girl shows up. We’ve had so much trouble with our part-timers recently. Don’t the young want to earn extra money? And don’t they realise that letting an employer down is more than just bad manners…’ Belinda stopped. ‘Sorry, I was about to go into rant mode.’’

My Thoughts…

Living in a market town is explored in this easy to read story of country life, secrets and gossip. Everyone in the town has secrets, and the characters are complex and vivid, not all of the characters are likeable, and some do border on the stereotypical, but they do work well together in a well-paced plot with lots of opportunity for them to interact and their lives to entwine.

Olivia is the serial committee member, the pillar of the community, so busy doing good; she misses the problems in her own life. Heather is the vicar’s wife; her door is always open, her life is not easy but shares her husband’s calling. She is the community agony aunt, trustworthy, loyal and full of common sense. Bex is the newcomer, attractive, lovely but with a broken heart, children who depend on her and secrets she doesn’t want to share. Amy is a single mum who works hard in the town, she has a good heart but is a terrible gossip which leaves her open to manipulation.

Little Woodford is like a ‘Midsomer’ village without the murders, fun to read with a sense of community, lots of humour, a little romance, and a web of lies and secrets an enjoyable way to pass a few hours.

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

Catherine Jones lives in Thame, where she is an independent Councillor. She is the author of eighteen novels, including the Soldiers’ Wives series, which she wrote under the pseudonym Fiona Field.

Posted in Book Review

A Place to Remember – Jenn McLeod – 5* Review

A multi-generational contemporary romantic saga set in a cattle ranch in Central Queensland, Australia.

A man loses five years of his life. Two women are desperate for him to remember.

Running away for the second time in her life, twenty-seven-year-old Ava believes the cook’s job at a country B&B is perfect until she meets the owner’s son, John Tate.

The young fifth-generation grazier is a beguiling blend of both man, boy and a terrible flirt. With their connection immediate and intense, they begin a clandestine affair right under the noses of John’s formidable parents.

Thirty years later, Ava returns to Candlebark Creek with her daughter, Nina, who is determined to meet her mother’s lost love for herself. While struggling to find her own place in the world, Nina discovers an urban myth about a love-struck man, a forgotten engagement ring, and a dinner reservation back in the eighties. Now she must decide if revealing the truth will hurt more than it heals…

Links to buy

 Amazon: http://amzn.to/2GuGNjy

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2EJp6Ag

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2HyCS6U

iBooks: https://apple.co/2odYDRn

A Place to Remember

Extract

Candlebark Creek, 1985–6

Chapter 1

Young Ava

The massive slab of varnished wood was the biggest tabletop twenty-seven-year-old Ava had ever seen. Still, she almost doubted it could hide the nervous jig in her legs that both hands pressing firmly on failed to stop. She hoped the folder’s contents would be enough to convince the lady of the house that she was perfect for the position.

‘I did say on the telephone that the role is a varied one and not all cookery and not only when we have guests staying. No one on a property like Ivy-May can afford to be picky or precious about their jobs.’ It was fifteen minutes into the interview, and the woman’s expression had yet to shift into anything close to a smile. ‘Your time off is your own, but we all do our share.’

Marjorie Tate paused before slowly rolling up her sleeves as if driving home the point. The action offered Ava a glimpse of hardworking hands: stubby and tanned with a simple gold wedding band and bitten-down nails. Somewhere around forty or forty-five, the B-and-B operator wasn’t old, just plain, as though all her effort went into something other than herself.

‘I do consider myself versatile, Mrs Tate, and I’m always keen to learn new things. I’d also have little need for days off in a town like Candlebark Creek. There aren’t many places to go or things to do.’

For that careless statement, Ava got a raised eyebrow and a minute of the clock ticking above the stove.

‘You seem young to have had so many jobs, although you have provided an impressive CV and an extensive portfolio of dishes.’

‘Thirteen years in the workforce.’ Ava sat straight and proud. ‘The last eleven in hospitality.’ She could see the woman mentally subtracting eleven from twenty-seven. ‘And I was never fired from a job,’ she added, sounding a little too enthusiastic. ‘Some were set contracts, some seasonal. Hospitality can be like that.’

‘Ivy-May B-and-B might be small and out of the way, but I’m aware of the industry’s many facets.’ Marjorie Tate flicked through the plastic sleeves of the folder. She stopped again on the résumé at the front. ‘You have no school certificate listed.’

‘I left school when I turned fifteen.’

‘Before exams?’ Another raised eyebrow, another flick through the folder’s many photographs.

Never before had Ava’s lack of formal qualifications been an issue. Hands-on experience was what landed you a kitchen job, and every role, from waiting tables to making desserts, had added to Ava’s expertise and skills. As confident as she was about her abilities, she still sat with her hands clasped between her knees, fingers crossed.

‘Our son finished high school a couple of years ago and did well. John’s a bit of a dreamer, although there’s no doubting his passion for the land.’ The grazier’s wife with the moon-shaped face – taut, shiny skin, rosy cheeks – reminded Ava of a wooden babushka doll, with its rotund face and multiple hidden layers. The unexpected softness in her voice when she’d spoken her son’s name revealed one. ‘Naturally, he was keen to finish studying early to work with his father. John’s very capable and quite mature for his age. Children in these parts tend to grow up quickly,’ she added. ‘No choice out here. Operating heavy machinery and working bulls requires a sensible head on robust shoulders. But as much as the property had needed more hands at the time, I insisted John stay on at school.’ She peered over the top of thick black spectacle frames. ‘The value of a proper education should not be underestimated. Dreams are more achievable with a thorough education, and it shows discipline. Smart employers insist on such qualities.’

Ava nodded, forcing a smile. Was the woman telling her she was no longer a suitable candidate? Should she try speaking to her feminine side and explain what had happened to drive her from the city to hide in an out-of-the-way country town? Marjorie Tate was more likely to find fault because Ava had allowed herself to be put in such a position in the first place. Unfortunately, Zac had not come with a warning plastered on his forehead. At least he couldn’t find her here and affect her employment chances.

Could he?

My Thoughts…

It’s rare for a story to make me cry, but this tale of lost chances and the abiding love of a mother and daughter did. An epic tale, set in Queensland, Austrailia, Ava and Nina’s story spans over thirty years. You can’t recapture the past, but Ava finds it is not the case but is she prepared to risk her heart again?

Vividly described, you get a sense of the wildness and beauty of the dramatic setting, but mostly the land is unforgiving and demands everything from those who work it. I’ve never visited Australia and probably never will, but this story lets me travel there in my imagination.

It takes a while to get into this story, but each twist and heartbreak and risk Ava takes, draws you into her world past and present until you are emotionally involved and want her to have a happy ending, even when it seems unlikely.

The characters are believable, and their life events realistic, not everything falls into place as Ava’s past collides with her present, but there is hope. She is successful in her career and more importantly her family life, even though she has never forgotten the man she loved and left.

I read the ‘Thorn Birds’ about forty years ago when I was a teenager and still remember it now, and similarly, I think the emotion and poignancy of this story will stay with me too. If you get the chance, read this.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

JENN J MCLEOD photo

After leaving the corporate working world, Jenn J. McLeod decided to travel Australia in a fifth-wheeler caravan and fulfil her lifelong ambition to write. She has since published four novels.

Website: https://www.jennjmcleod.com/

Twitter: @jennjmcleod

Facebook: JennJMcLeod.books

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Behind A Closed Door – Adele O’Neill Blog Tour: 4* Review

Behind a Closed Door blog tour banner

What if everything in your life was a lie? An emotionally tense story of love, loyalty, betrayal and revenge. 

DUBLIN – For the past two years, Jill Ryan has tried to keep her darkest secrets deeply buried and remain relatively anonymous. Haunted by her tragic past and struggling to keep her life together, Jill soon realises that the last person she can trust is herself.

KILKENNY – Only Heather Martin knows the lengths her husband will go to teach her a lesson and Heather has had enough. Faced with the impossible choice of saving herself or staying to care for her ailing father, Heather has a choice to make. But does she have what it takes to survive?

When Detectives Louise Kennedy in Dublin and Tony Kelly in Kilkenny begin to investigate, their dark discoveries collide unravelling a complex web of secrets that stretch far and wide.

Behind A Closed Door cover

Links to buy

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ocWAgk

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2EMCq7n

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2HvfxD1

iBooks: https://apple.co/2EZ1Cqs

 

My Thoughts…

‘Behind A Closed Door’, is an emotionally harrowing story of domestic abuse, family loyalty and friendship. Two female characters are the focus of the story, one in Kilkenny two years previously and one in present-day Dublin. Both are loyal women, who have suffered domestic abuse. Timeslip between the two time periods and locations is seamless and moves the story along at a readable pace.
Character-driven this story centres on a small number of individuals, and their respective lives, cleverly linked. However, it is numerous plot twists later that the full picture is apparent. Sinister intent underscores this story; the antagonist is hateful and your empathy for the victim without question. While the suspense is well-written the major plot twist is not hard to solve, but this doesn’t detract from the story’s menace and the believable dilemmas and conflicts the protagonists face.

‘Behind A Closed Door’ highlights in a sensitive way the horror of domestic abuse using realistic characters and situations.

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

O'Neill_Adele

Having lived and worked in the UK and Dublin since college, Adele now lives in her hometown in Co. Wicklow with her husband and two teenage daughters. She writes overlooking the Irish Sea and is an active member of the Wexford Literary Festival committee.

Twitter: @Adelesbooks

Facebook: AdeleONeillBooks

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

The Birthday Girl – Sue Fortin -Blog Tour -Extract 5* Review

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Dear Carys, Zoe and Andrea
Come and join me for my fortieth birthday adventure weekend, full of mysteries and surprises the like of which you can’t imagine.

When Joanne’s friends reluctantly accept an invitation to her birthday party, it quickly becomes clear that there is more to this weekend than they are expecting.
One of them is hiding a secret.
And Joanne is planning to reveal it…

A weekend away in a cottage in the woods sounds like fun – until no one can hear your cries for help.

Four friends.
A party to die for.
Who will survive?
 

Amazon UK

Amazon

Extract

‘Chapter 1

Friendships are made up of all the little things that matter, the common ground of lives, shared interests, loves, dislikes, the highs and the lows. They matter and they are matter. Like stars in the night sky, friends can light up the darkness. Sometimes we might forget they are there and yet know they will always be there. Others can come in a burst, dazzling us with the excitement of newness, seducing us with promises of adventure. Some will deliver on this promise, others will fizzle away while some will shoot across the night sky in one last hurrah before they disappear from our lives.

I think of my best friends, I can count them on one hand with digits to spare. Joanne, Andrea and Zoe are the stars in my night sky. Together, we make a good constellation. We stick by each other. We look out for each other. We forgive each other.

I remind myself of the last fact as I hold the invitation in my hand, knowing that I should accept, with grace and maturity, the olive branch it represents.

Dear Carys, Zoe and Andrea

My Fortieth Birthday Celebrations

Come and join me for an adventure weekend, full of

mysteries and surprises, the like of which you can’t imagine.

With the grand reveal on Sunday evening.

Friday 8 September – Monday 11 September

Meet at Chichester Cathedral 09.00 Friday morning

Love Joanne

P.S. As it’s also Carys’s birthday on the Monday,

I thought we could celebrate that as well.

Two months ago, Joanne had told us to save the date, or rather the weekend, and said she’d let us know nearer the time what was happening. I could have quite happily ignored my thirty-ninth birthday, but Joanne had been insistent the weekend was to be a double celebration. She also insisted that, despite it being her birthday, the whole weekend was to be a surprise for me too. I had hoped we’d find out the details sooner and, I have to admit, leaving it until the night before is cutting it fine but she has steadfastly refused to give us any more details until now.

I flip the card over and see there is a handwritten message, the tall spiky writing unmistakably Joanne’s.

PPS. I know things have been difficult lately but amends need to be made. Do come, it’s important you’re there.

I sit down at the kitchen table and read the invitation again. I’m not sure what it is about the PPS on the reverse, but it  sounds . . . odd. I think that’s the best way I can describe it. I mull over the significance but before I can settle on anything meaningful, my mobile rings.

Andrea Jarvis’s name flashes across the screen.

‘Hiya,’ I say, kicking off my running shoes. Flakes of dried mud from my afternoon cross-country run scatter across the tiled floor like dirty snowflakes. I sigh inwardly at the mess. Sometimes I’m no better than my teenage son. Stepping over the debris, I go to the fridge, hook out a bottle of wine and pour myself a glass, something I would normally reserve for a Friday night, but seeing as we’re off on our jolly tomorrow, I feel a drop of alcohol is justified. ‘Don’t tell me, you’ve seen the invitation.’

‘Too bloody right,’ says Andrea. ‘Did you get the PPS on yours?’

‘Where it says about making amends?’

‘What is that all about?’

I shrug even though Andrea can’t see this action. ‘No idea. Maybe, she just really wants us to go. Maybe she thought we’d change our minds now that it looks like it’s going to be an outdoor adventure type of weekend.’

‘I’m not bothered about that,’ says Andrea. ‘It’s not like we haven’t done this sort of thing before. Last year we all did that charity walk up Snowdon. Before that, the mountain bike trail. You’ll be in your element anyway.’

It’s true, I am an adventure junkie and working at the local outward-bound centre tends to satisfy my addiction for kayaking, rock climbing and the like these days. I also help with the outdoor activities for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, so I’m not particularly fazed by the prospect of what Joanne has in store for us. ‘It’s going to be like a busman’s holiday for me,’ I say. ‘And you’ll be OK yourself.’

‘Yeah, that’s as maybe, but I’m stuck behind the desk most days since I took over the gym. I headed up a high-impact aerobics class the other day and thought my legs were going to seize up afterwards.’

‘You’ll be fine. Have you spoken to Zoe about the invite?’ I ask, taking my seat at the table again. I glance at the official-looking letter which was also waiting on the doormat when I got in this evening and push it to one side to read later.

‘She hasn’t a clue what it means either. But she’s gone into full-on cute Labrador puppy mode. All excited – can’t wait for the weekend and thinks Joanne is utterly wonderful.’

I give a small laugh into my glass as Andrea does a perfect imitation of Zoe, whose voice gets squeakier the more excited and enthusiastic she gets about anything. ‘It’s too late to change your mind,’ I say.

‘It would be awful if I was struck down with a stomach bug, though,’ says Andrea.

‘Don’t even think about it. We made a deal, remember?’

‘I might have been under the influence of alcohol when I did that one-for-all-and-all-for-one shit.’

‘You promised and you can’t break a promise. Not to one of your best friends. Besides, it’s my birthday too.’

‘I think that’s called blackmail.’

I laugh as I imagine the scowling look on Andrea’s face. ‘No, seriously, Andrea. You can’t back out now. Joanne will kill you.’

 ‘Hmm. When she said it was a surprise, I was hoping it would be more of a spa weekend. You know, fluffy white dressing gowns, manicures. Lots of pampering and relaxation.’

‘Look, like I said before, I think this is her way of making up for being so distant lately.’ In saying this, I silently acknowledge that I’m referring more to the way my own relationship with Joanne has been in recent times. We had once been so close, but things happened and the balance of our friendship shifted, leaving a hiatus in our alliance.

There’s a small silence while we both contemplate the sentiment of the weekend. Andrea speaks first. ‘I suppose I owe it to her. You know, give her a chance to make up for the way she’s been since I took on the gym.’

‘Is all that still going on between you two? I thought the dust had settled.’

‘Sort of. I’ve certainly drawn a line under it all, but not Joanne. I have this sense that she’s still angry at me. I can’t put my finger on it or explain it, but when I speak to her, it’s like an undercurrent of tension. Do you know what I mean?’

‘Mmm . . . I do.’ Andrea could be describing my own rela¬tionship with Joanne.

‘Anyway, as I say, I’ll give her a chance to make amends, but if she starts again, about having to work for me now instead of being a partner, I’m sorry, I won’t be keeping my mouth shut. Fortieth birthday or not.’

‘And when do you ever keep your mouth shut, my darling?’ I say.

‘I think I did once, in 1986 – I might be wrong though,’ says Andrea with a laugh. ‘Anyway, so now you’re not letting me skive off, we’d better sort out what’s happening tomorrow. Is Alfie still coming to mine for the weekend?’

‘He’s not in from college yet – five-a-side football, I think he said. But yes, he’s all good to come to you. He’s going to go home with Bradley. Are you sure Colin is up to this?’

‘Oh, he’ll be in his element. Takeaways and gaming. It’s totally a boy’s weekend.’

‘That’s kind of him. I appreciate it.’

‘Anytime. You know that. Although, I’m surprised Alfie’s not staying at Joanne’s, with Ruby and Oliver.’

I ignore the little drop my stomach gives at the mention of Joanne’s daughter. It’s the sort of weightless feeling you experience when the rollercoaster tips over the edge of the first big dip and it takes a few seconds for your internal organs to catch up with the fall. I’m used to that sensation. As sure as night follows day, I get that every time Ruby comes up in conversation. As always, I make a faultless recovery. ‘Fortunately, Tris is away this weekend too, so Ruby is going to stay with Joanne’s mother.’ I try to keep my tone neutral as my thoughts are thrown off course and on to a different trajectory. If my friends are the constellation by which I navigate life, then Ruby is the black hole whose gravitational pull is so great that nothing, not even light, can escape from being drawn in and swallowed up. I know. I’ve witnessed stars in my night sky pass the point of no return, the absolute horizon of the black hole, and disappear forever, while other stars are teetering around the edges, unwittingly being drawn closer and closer until it will be impossible to turn back.’

My Thoughts…

Four friends head to a country cottage to celebrate a fortieth birthday, what could be more ordinary? Well, the invitation is intriguing, the journey unusual and the invitees hide secrets, even from each other. A suspenseful few days follow, full of sinister happenings, simmering anger and settings so atmospheric you feel like the fifth guest.

Written in the first person, Carys reveals the story, except for the insights into the mind of the antagonist. There are many suspects, but the final revelation of the truth is more horrific than you first believe.

Adrenaline, angst and adversity characterise this fast-paced story, making it an addictive read. The cleverly written roles of the key players, lead to a heart-stopping twist at the end, which makes you shudder.

A classy psychological thriller with realistic characters and an insightful exploration of what happens to human emotions when pushed to their limits.

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

Posted in Book Review

Secrets and Lies – Heirs #1 – Elleby Harper – 4*Review

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Winter Blurb

Welcome to 1985 and a glitzy, ritzy, glam-filled year in Heirs. Maixent, heir to the most glamorous throne in Europe, is as cool as stone-washed jeans and Charley, heir to one of America’s greatest political families, has big hair and is not afraid to use it. But will their hearts find love or will a deadly secret from their mothers’ past rip apart a royal dynasty and a political succession?

Winter Buy Links

Amazon UK

Amazon

Winter My Review

Heirs Book One Secrets & Lies

This is a very readable and cleverly draws on historical events and people to add authenticity to the characters and plot. This story’s secret is a long time coming. It’s not what I imagined it to be. No doubt there will be more secrets in subsequent books.
Split between the late nineteen fifties and the nineteen eighties, the story moves between two generations effortlessly. A possible attraction between the offspring of the two former best friends opens up a ‘Pandora’s box that cannot be closed and threatens the stability of two families and a country.
The eighties setting is unusual and very topical with the current preoccupation with the eighties in fashion and popular culture. The story captures the ethos of this period; the glamour, preoccupation with wealth and the shallowness of society. The characters are complex and flawed, making them interesting and in most cases, easy to empathise with.
I’m intrigued enough to want to read what happens next.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

Heirs Book One Secrets & Lies by Elleby Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Heirs Book One Secrets & Lies by Elleby Harper

Elleby Harper

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