Posted in Book Review, Childrens Books, Cozy Mystery

4* #Review – Agatha Oddly Murder at the Museum – Lena Jones @HarperCollinsCh

A second mystery for thirteen-year-old Agatha Oddly – a bold, determined heroine, and the star of this stylish new detective series.

Agatha Oddlow’s set to become the youngest member of the Gatekeepers’ Guild, but before that, she’s got a mystery to solve!

There’s been a murder at the British Museum and, although the police are investigating, Agatha suspects that they’re missing a wider plot going on below London – a plot involving a disused Tube station, a huge fireworks display, and five thousand tonnes of gold bullion…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins Children’s Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Agatha Oddly – Murder at the Museum is the second in the Agatha Oddly series. I didn’t read the first book, but this has sufficient backstory for the main characters and setting to let you read it as a standalone.

This is intended for the 11-14 year age group of young people, but the great characters, fast pace and easy to follow, yet coherent mystery make it fun to read as an adult too.

Even though a murder features in the title, the story concentrates on Agatha and her two friends’ investigative skills as they try to work out why there was a murder at the museum.

Agatha’s grief about the loss of her mother, and how she is perceived in her school peer group are sensitively written,and highlight issues that often affect young people.

A fun read for everyone who enjoys a good mystery.

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

5* #Review – Susan Lewis – One Minute Later @HarperCollinsUK @HarperFiction @susandlewis@fictionpubteam

You think your life is perfect.

You think your secrets are safe.

You think it’ll always be this way.

But your life can change in a heartbeat.

Behind every secret lies a story.

With a high-flying job, a beautiful apartment and friends whose lives are as happy as her own, Vivienne Shager is living the dream. Then, on the afternoon of Vivi’s twenty-seventh birthday, one catastrophic minute changes everything.
 
Forced to move back to the small seaside town where she grew up, Vivi remembers the reasons she left. The secrets, lies and questions that now must be answered before it’s too late. But the answers lie in thirty years in the past…
 
Shelley Raynor’s family home, Deerwood Farm, has always been a special place until darkness strikes at its heart. When Vivi’s and Shelley’s worlds begin to entwine, it only takes a moment for the truth to unravel all of their lives.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Authentic, emotional, mysterious and romantic are the perfect words to describe this enthralling story. Told primarily from Vivi and Shelley’s points of view, you wonder what there can be to connect two women who are so different in all aspects of their lives. Both their stories are absorbing. Vivi’s story is at the present time, Shelley’s mainly retrospective but one unconnected incident puts their lives on a collision course.

This a story of family life, relationships and friendship but there is an underlying mystery, which is gradually solved as the story develops. The story is suspenseful, as in the midst of ordinary events you are metaphorically waiting for ‘the other shoe to drop’.

So many people’s lives turn on a moment in time and the main body of the story focuses on the fall out from this event, and its consequences. The characters are complex, flawed and so believable. Reading this story is like being a voyeur into the character’s lives, the events are realistic as are their emotional responses and motivations.

The romance is sweet yet passionate, and selfless, it is the basis of the two main protagonist’s lives and what binds the families in the face of adversity. There is a multitude of poignant moments in this book, which enrich it. The plot’s twists make solving the underlying mystery complex and satisfying.

The emotional ending is beautiful to read and surprisingly hopeful. The messages peppered throughout this story are important for the reader to take on board.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Romance

5* #Review – Sophia James -The Cinderella Countess – @MillsandBoon

From rags to riches

By the earl’s side!

Abandoned as a small child, Annabelle Smith has only vague memories of her past. Now living as a healer in London’s poverty-stricken East End, she receives a life-changing visit from the rich and imposing Lytton Staines, Earl of Thornton. He needs a cure for his ailing sister and helping him thrusts Belle into his dazzling life of luxury. But it’s Lytton who makes her world come alive!

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

An elegant Earl is not the usual visitor at Miss Anabelle Smith’s rented accommodation It is her reputation as a healer that draws him to her, but when they meet there is instant chemistry. The plot is fast paced and has clever twists, which gradually reveal the puzzle of Anabelle’s former life.

The romance is charming. Lytton is an honourable character and Anabelle, self-reliant and kind, they deserve their happy ending, but are their backgrounds and the conflicts that befall them too diverse and numerous?

This is the third book in the ‘Gentlemen of Honour’series, but the first one I have read, and it is a good standalone read. However, the characters from previous books, who feature briefly here, make me want to read their stories too,

Romantic, full of secrets and simmering passion this Regency romance is the perfect escape for an hour or two.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Thriller

In Safe Hands-4*#Review- J.P. Carter- @AvonBooksUK @JPCarterAuthor

When nine children are snatched from a nursery school in South London, their distressed parents have no idea if they will ever see them again. The community in the surrounding area in shock. How could this happen right under their noses? No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying.

But DCI Anna Tate knows that nothing is impossible, and she also knows that time is quickly running out. It’s unclear if the kidnappers are desperate for money or set on revenge, but the ransom is going up by £1million daily. And they know that one little boy, in particular, is fighting for his life.

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DCI Anna Tate has ever worked on – not only because nine children are being held hostage, but because she’s pretty sure that someone close to them is lying…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Another interesting female detective with a past that threatens her professionalism. Anna is a likeable protagonist and her dilemmas are both realistic and relatable. She is the Senior Investigating Officer on a mass abduction case. She knows from personal experience what the parents are going through but can she be focused and objective enough to bring a successful outcome to a such a devastating event?

Having your children abducted at gunpoint is every parents’ nightmare and this is uncomfortable reading at times. The stories of the children and their parents help to set the crime in context and present many possible motives and suspects. The characters’ flaws make them believable and many of the parents are not easy to empathise.

Generally, this is a fast-paced story, which produces an authentic kidnap scenario. The suspense is created well and sustained throughout and the ending is satisfactory, although there are questions left for Anna that will no doubt be revisited in subsequent stories.

Posted in Book Review, Crime

Gallowstree Lane – 4* #Review -Kate London @kate_katelondon @CorvusBooks

Detective Inspector Kieran Shaw’s not interested in the infantry. Shaw likes the proper criminals, the ones who can plan things. 

For two years he’s been painstakingly building evidence against an organized network, the Eardsley Bluds. Operation Perseus is about to make its arrests. 

So when a low-level Bluds member is stabbed to death on Gallowstree Lane, Shaw’s priority is to protect his operation. An investigation into one of London’s tit for tat killings can’t be allowed to derail Perseus and let the master criminals go free.

But there’s a witness to the murder, fifteen-year-old Ryan Kennedy. Already caught up in Perseus and with the Bluds Ryan’s got his own demons and his own ideas about what’s important.

As loyalties collide and priorities clash, a chain of events is triggered that draws in Shaw’s old adversary DI Sarah Collins and threatens everyone with a connection to Gallowstree Lane…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This is the third book in the Collins and Griffiths series, although this story reads well as a standalone. I needed more backstory on the two detectives, to fully appreciate their relationship.

This is a story about knife crime and gangs and their omnipotent presence in parts of London in the 21st century. The crimes and the gang’s influence on the young men in the area, make this story believable. The police procedural aspect is authentic and well-written. The problems experienced by the Met as different departments clash, whilst pursuing competing outcomes is realistic.

Told from several points of view, the story gives all sides and the boundaries are blurred. The reader can understand why gangs are so attractive to young men who have no family life and little to look forward to in the future. The infighting within the police force is also seen to be counterproductive to the end goal of crime solving.

A dynamic police procedural with harrowing true to life characters and crimes that will draw you into a world of crime, dysfunction and gangs.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Thriller

5* #Review – The Sting – Kimberley Chambers @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam

TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS

Best friends Tommy Boyle and Scratch always had each other’s backs. Dragged up in care, and cruelly betrayed by everyone they trusted, they made a pact to fight their way out of the gutter – together.

TWO SIDES OF THE LAW

Old loyalties die hard on the streets of London. Tommy throws his lot in with the notorious Darling family – even if it means leaving Scratch to the wolves. She’s destined for a different path, reinventing herself as copper Kim Regan.

ONE DEADLY SHOWDOWN

Now they’re on opposite sides of the law. Running Operation Sting, Kim will rip the heart out of the Darling’s empire – and only her old pal Tommy stands in her way.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

What I love about this story is the author lets you live your characters’ lives, and find out what made them the people they are, before launching into the present day story.

 Set in the seventies and eighties, Tommy and Scratch’s lives are full of tragedy, finding each other is the only light in their dark, young lives. Then events take over and instead of them against the world, they find they’re pitted against each other.

The characters are believable but not always likeable. The motivation for their actions is always clear. This story does highlight the horror of child abuse, which is never an easy subject to read, but it is dealt with sensitively. The abuse the two main characters suffer is integral to their future character development and initially defines the adults they become.

‘The Sting’ is cleverly written, with a unique mix of poignancy and violence. Tommy is an anti-hero and a victim of abuse. The story doesn’t end well, it couldn’t with such a believable plot, but there is hope for some and a lovely twist at the end.

Posted in Book Review, Romantic Comedy

5*#Review I Owe You One Sophie Kinsella- @KinsellaSophie

Fixie Farr can’t help herself. Straightening a crooked object, removing a barely-there stain, helping out a friend . . . she just has to put things right. It’s how she got her nickname, after all.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees, she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank her, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, scribbles her an IOU – but of course, Fixie never intends to call in the favour.

That is, until her teenage crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and needs her help – and Fixie turns to Seb. But things don’t go according to plan, and now Fixie owes Seb: big time.

Soon the pair are caught up in a series of IOUs – from small favours to life-changing debts – and Fixie is torn between the past she’s used to and the future she deserves.

Does she have the courage to fix things for herself and fight for the life, and love, she really wants?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK- Transworld Publishing – Bantam Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is my first Sophie Kinsella novel and what a treat it is. I was smiling as soon as I met Fixie. The characters are vividly depicted, they jump off the page.

The story’s a curious mix of family drama and serendipitous romance. Fixie’s siblings are so irritating, but maybe all the fault doesn’t lie with them. Fixie’s obsessively helpful nature makes it easier for them to let her do everything.

The plot is easy to follow, not too many surprises here for the reader, but many for Fixie, as she embarks on a journey of self-realisation.

The romance is gentle and riddled with conflict, but there’s a satisfying ending. If you like to see ordinary people and situations made extraordinarily, this book will be a perfect read.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Romance, Regency Romance

#BlogTour: Eva Leigh – Counting on a Countess @MillsandBoon #romance #Insiders #romancebloggers @EvaLeighAuthor

Image credit-Megan-Seek My Scribbles 

For a shameless libertine and a wily smuggler in the London Underground, marriage is more than convenience—it’s the strategy . . .

Christopher “Kit” Ellingsworth, war veteran and newly minted Earl of Blakemere, buries his demons under every sort of pleasure and vice. His scandalous ways have all but emptied his coffers . . . until a wealthy mentor leaves him a sizeable fortune. The only stipulation? He must marry within one month to inherit the money. Kit needs a bride and the bold, mysterious Miss Tamsyn Pearce seems perfect.

Husband hunting isn’t Tamsyn’s top priority—she’s in London to sell her new shipment of illicit goods—but she’s desperate for funds. When a handsome earl offers to wed her and send her back to Cornwall with a hefty allowance, Tamsyn agrees.

But when an unexpected proviso in the will grants Tamsyn control of the inheritance, their arrangement becomes anything but convenient. Now, Kit’s counting on his countess to make his wildest dreams a reality and he plans to convince her, one pleasurable seduction at a time…

Amazon UK

My 4* Review of ‘Counting on a Countess’…

An enticing medley of Regency London Society and Cornish smugglers provides an exciting setting for this ‘Marriage of Convenience’ historical romance with a strong feminist theme.

Kit, the Earl of Blakemere is a veteran of Waterloo, he is a consummate rake, who has to marry. Tamsyn is forced to earn money in an unorthodox way when her parents die, and her uncle refuses to support the estate’s villagers. She needs a rich husband to buy back the estate.

Kit and Tamsyn meet at a society ball and the physical attraction is strong, but will a ‘Marriage of Convenience’ succeed when they are both keeping secrets and their emotions are starting to mirror their passion for each other?

This is an exciting story, with complex characters and contemporary exploration of historical themes. Kit has lasting effects from his war service, recognised in today’s society as Post Traumatic Stress. Tamsyn is a society lady, with feminist views and actions, not accepted in Regency society.

The attraction is passionate, the story well-paced and varied, the characters multi-layered and believable, with an adrenaline-fueled satisfying ending.

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

Q&A Eva Leigh #CountingOnACountess #BlogTour #MillsandBoon

What do you find inspirational about Regency England?

I love that there was a mix of different classes, genders, races, and sexualities—particularly in London—and we as readers and authors get to explore the dynamics of shifting borders. The social constructs were more fluid than I believe we realize, and I love playing with that.

Would you have liked to have lived in this era? Why?

Nope! I don’t fancy being considered a man’s property. I’d rather write about hidden pockets of resistance in that world.

How do your stories differ from other Regency romance novels?

Honestly, I don’t like to compare myself or my books to other authors or their works. I like that we each provide different stories, different facets, different characters. My books often consider people who don’t quite conform to societal expectations, and I have a very strong feminist sensibility which plays out in the pages of my work.

Do you draw your characters from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?

I take inspiration from history and do a substantial amount of research to learn about people such as confidence artists or smugglers. The characters are born from what I learn and my own imagination.

Can you tell us a little about the ‘Scandalous Ladies of London’ series?

Regency London existed beyond the ballrooms and private clubs of the elite. As the television series “Taboo” explores, there were thousands of liminal figures in this world, and I wanted to explore it. In particular, women were a major part of this in-between world, and I thought, Wouldn’t it be fascinating to make my heroines shady? Also, I love an across-the-tracks romance.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

Naturally, I love romance, so that constitutes a considerable amount of my reading. Historical, contemporary, erotic, and the occasional paranormal. I’m getting into reading more Young Adult fiction because of the breadth of characters, settings, and topics. It’s really amazing to see marginalized voices finally getting heard—though we have a long way to go as far as representation and #ownvoices are concerned.

 What are you currently writing?

It’s very exciting because I’m currently working on the first book in a new series inspired by classic American ‘80s movies. The heroes all meet during “detention” at Eton—which, yes, is loosely based on The Breakfast Club! I’m really loving writing the first book in the series because I get to be a little silly, a little funny, and also discuss important topics like gender roles, biases in the sciences, and the need for ecological conservation. The usual Eva Leigh book! 😉

Image credit – Megan- Seek My Scribbles

Also in ‘The Scandalous Ladies of London’ series is From Duke Till Dawn.

‘It’s not my habit to seduce impoverished widows…’

The Duke of Greyland lost his heart – and a princely sum – to a charming, beautiful and destitute widow who, after one passionate night, vanished without a trace. Cassandra Blair grew up on the city streets, picking pockets to survive. Greyland was a rich mark – to be fleeced and forgotten – only she’d never forgotten him.

Years later, chance brings them together again, in a London gaming hell. Grayland is desperate to have her… never suspecting everything about his lover was a lie. But finding herself in dire financial straits, at risk of losing everything, Cassandra has no choice but to beg the man she betrayed for help.

The proud Duke will assist her under one condition: she doesn’t leave his sight until her debts are paid! But can the real Cassandra – the smart, streetwise survivor – steal his heart all over again?

Book one in ‘The Scandalous Ladies of London’ series.

Amazon UK

 My 4* Review of ‘From Duke Till Dawn’…

A different trope from the usual Regency romance, this story has some originality, an anti-heroine character rather than an anti-hero. The story creates an interesting relationship between the Duke and the con- artist, but even though she fools him once, Cassandra ultimately needs his help and position to survive, which detracts from her independence.

The Duke of Greyland lacks the arrogance customarily associated with his rank in Regency romance. He has many appealing traits, not least his passionate nature and support of those less fortunate than he. However, he does lack authenticity.

This story scores highly for sensuality, the connection between the Duke and Cassandra is hot, and the love scene leaves little to the imagination. They explain why the Duke acts as he does and their deepening emotional attachment underlines every kiss.

Overall this is a lovely story, which superficially explores the seedier side of Regency England while delivering a passionate love story.

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

Image credit- Megan- Seek My Scribbles

 

#CountingOnACountess

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Revenge Fiction

5*#Review – Jane Fallon – Tell Me A Secret -@JaneFallon @MichaelJBooks

Best friends Holly and Roz tell each other everything.

So when Holly gets a shot at her dream job after putting everything on hold to raise her daughter, she assumes Roz will be waiting to pop the champagne.

But is she just imagining things or is Roz not quite as happy as she should be?

And now she thinks about it, a few things don’t quite add up…

Perhaps it was a mistake to tell Roz all her secrets.

Because it takes two to tango.

But only one to start a war…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

A contemporary revenge novel, that has a multi-layered plot, an authentic setting and complex characters. There is an underlying undercurrent of menace in this story as Holly’s career and life are threatened, but will anyone believe her?

It’s easy for the reader to believe in this storyline, most people who have worked in an office setting have witnessed office politics at some point in their career, and it’s not hard to imagine what Holly experiences. Betrayal is an important theme of this story, and it adds impact to the injustices she suffers because Holly is betrayed by someone she should be able to trust.

Although the action is focused on a few characters, the vibrant setting, and the fast pace make this page-turning, as you want to see what happens next and who will come out the victor. In addition to the main plot, there are parallel friendships, which showcase what good friends really are. Holly’s relationship with her daughter is nicely written and emphasises why her career is so important to her.

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

Posted in Book Review

One Enchanted Evening – Anton Du Beke – 4* Review

London, 1936. Inside the spectacular Grand Ballroom of the exclusive Buckingham Hotel the rich and powerful, politicians, film stars, even royalty, rub shoulders with Raymond de Guise and his troupe of talented dancers from all around the world, who must enchant them, captivate them, and sweep away their cares.

Accustomed to waltzing with the highest of society, Raymond knows a secret from his past could threaten all he holds dear.

Nancy Nettleton, new chambermaid at the Buckingham, finds hotel life a struggle after leaving her small hometown. She dreams of joining the dancers on the ballroom floor as she watches, unseen, from behind plush curtains and hidden doorways. She soon discovers everyone at the Buckingham – guests and staff alike – has something to hide…

The storm clouds of war are gathering, and beneath the glitz and glamour of the ballroom lurks an irresistible world of scandal and secrets.

Let’s dance . . .

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

A delicious, detailed, dance orientated novel, which unfolds against a background of class division, an unprecedented threat to the monarchy and a cosmopolitan hotel whose outward glamour hides a web of secrets.

The characters are believable and vividly depicted, they draw the reader into the story and engender empathy and dislike according to their behaviour. The setting epitomises polite London society in the 1930s. The ballroom’s importance, as a place to see and be seen, is a core theme of this story and is the focal point for the action and dialogue between the main characters.

Like ‘Upstairs Downstairs ‘ and ‘Downtown Abbey’, society’s class division is marked. The ‘lower class’ characters’lives are difficult and provide a thought-provoking reminder of poverty and hardship.

The political unrest in Europe and England make living life the limit a given, for those able to do so. When secrets unfold and people’s livelihood and reputations are in danger, the true heroes and villains emerge.

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