Posted in Book Review

The Duchess Deal Tessa Dare 5* Review

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My Thoughts…

‘The Duchess Deal’, is the first Regency romance I’ve read in a couple of years. A clever mix of humour and poignancy laced through with sensual romance, Ash and Emma’s story is the perfect weekend read.

The Duke of Ashbury’s reclusive life is disturbed when desperate seamstress, Emma demands payment for his ex- fiancee’s wedding gown. From their first meeting, you can tell that Emma is a strong, independent woman, ready to defy convention and risk all to ensure her survival. Ashbury believes her intrusion to be serendipitous and wastes no time in making her an unlikely offer, he is brusque, haughty and hurting and the marriage of convenience he proposes riddled with rules designed to protect his already battered heart and self-esteem.

The couples unlikely romance is aided and abetted by Kahn, the butler and Mary, the ladies maid and indeed the whole of the Duke’s staff at his London residence. They want to see the Duke happy and believe Emma is the perfect match for him.

Painfully disfigured from a horrific war injury Ashbury’s prickly nature is exacerbated, he shuns society and human contact and has only allowed the marriage of convenience to get an heir; enabling him to honour his father’s memory and fulfil his duty to his tenants. Emma sees the man beneath the scars, moved by his sense of responsibility and caring nature. Falling in love will make her vulnerable and is something she can’t afford to risk, but is it already too late?

The plot has good pacing, the necessary twists and lots of humour, which counterbalance the angst the couple experience, as they battle their internal demons and external nemeses to get their happy ever after.

Emma’s friendship with an unusual set of ladies gives her courage as she fights to understand her complicated husband, I look forward to reading about their lives in later books.

The Duchess Deal is an engaging, lively, sensual Regency romance with delightfully flawed, likeable characters and a lovely balance of laughter, kisses and tears.

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

 

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Prosecco and Promises A.L.Michael – Blog Tour: Extract and 5* Review

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Mia’s dad has always been her idol. Now, she faces losing him, and he is insisting that she leave England to visit her mother’s family on the Italian island of Ischia.

Arriving on the island, Mia is embraced by the warm, crazy relatives she hardly knows. Despite her doubts about the trip, it is in Italy that Mia discovers connections to a part of her life that’s been missing, and during the sun-soaked days and steamy nights Mia falls for handsome local Salvatore. But as the day of her departure draws nearer can she risk having her heart broken twice in one summer? 

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Prosecco and Promises Cover

Extract from Prosecco and Promises…

‘My father had booked the flight and had sprung for business class. I knew he’d probably have tried for first class, but Marjorie would have reined him in, talking about how pointless physical objects wouldn’t make up for my emotional loss. For once, she was right. Plus, it was amazing how I managed to feel guilty about absolutely everything. I felt guilty when I enjoyed the taste of the coffee in the terminal before my flight, the smooth, rich espresso going cold as I hovered around drinking it. Dad loved espresso. Loved.

I felt guilty about my comfortable seat on the plane whilst my father lay in his bed in pain. I felt guilty about the glass of prosecco and the movie I laughed at multiple times before remembering why I was travelling in the first place. I felt guilty at the sheer joy of knowing I had handed in my notice at the make-up counter, because I hadn’t known how long I’d be away for, and they couldn’t wait around – saying goodbye to that place had been a relief.

In the end, all that guilt and remembering to be unhappy was exhausting, and I fell into a dark, dreamless, uneasy sleep, waking up to that jolting feeling as my stomach stuck in my throat and the wheels of the plane extended.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, signore e signori, welcome to Naples.’

As I stepped off the plane into the warm sunshine, I took a deep breath. Not just to rid me of the chemical, ‘fake’ air circulating on that plane for hours, but to see if any memories lingered on the Italian breeze.

‘Every country smells different when you step off a plane, Mia,’ my father had said, a lifetime ago, ‘and soon, when you’ve been on enough journeys, you’ll get off a plane and you’ll smell home.’

Home smelled like wet summer grass and cool air. This smelled like dry air, like sand kicked up by salty seas, sucked into the atmosphere and whipped up in the wind. It smelled like the promise of juicy oranges and crystal waters. It smelled like coconut suntan cream and ice cubes on sticky fingers. But it didn’t smell like any memories at all. Just the warmth before summer began.

The last time I’d been to Ischia, it had been just after Mum died. My dad bought her ashes back to her home; he felt it was where she’d want to be. I’d met all these dark-haired people with clucking voices and sad looks. They’d stroked my hair and pinched my cheeks and paused their bursts of frantic Italian to call me a ‘poor little thing’. We spent a few weeks there, my dad hollow and echoing as he tried to show me the island, but was haunted by memories. He met my mother on Ischia. Stole her away back to England. Sometimes we’d walk past someone or some house, or he’d stop and pick up a shell on the beach, or stare past the pink sunset, like he wasn’t really there, but was back in the memory with her. It wasn’t the best time. And now he was sending me back, to the place I had been dragged to after my mother died, as my father drowned in his memories.

Now I would drown in mine.’

My Thoughts…

Mia is giving up on love, she lost her mother when she was just a child and can hardly remember her. Now, she is losing her precious father, who has always been there for her. Determined to be strong and stay with him to the end, he makes her promise to visit her mother’s home and meet her maternal family whilst he lives out his remaining days without her.

Anger is Mia’s dominant emotion, she’s furious with her father, her young step mum and most of all herself. Italy proves to be just what she needs but there is a great deal of angst, poignant discovery and forgiveness to be lived through before Mia appreciates this.

I love Mia she is such a beautiful mess, full of fear, guilt, self-reproach and the need to belong. She’s afraid to love, believing she will only experience the pain of losing again, Mia doesn’t feel she’s worth loving and so pushes everyone away. Her maternal family are loud and loving and they slowly get under her skin. Mia learns about her mother and finally feels that she has roots.  As her new family relive their memories of her mother, Mia begins to heal, and when her father dies, she finds that life does go on, even though she is devastated.

Meeting Salvatore is unexpected and it’s not love at first sight, he is rude and she is angry but when they find a common goal, they each see something they like in the other and sparks of a different sort begin to glow. The love story is gentle and realistic and lovely to read. A thoughtful, memorable story which is perfectly paced and hard to put down.

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

 
A.L.Michael

A.L. Michael is hurtling towards the end of her twenties a little too quickly. She is the author of 10 novels. Her most recent collection of books, The Martini Club Series, started with Cocktails and Dreams, to be followed by Prosecco and Promises, and Martinis and Memories. She likes to write about difficult women. Well, they say to write what you know. Andi works as a Content Writer, as well as a therapeutic facilitator. She has a bunch of degrees in stuff to do with writing and wrote her MSc dissertation on the power of creative writing in eating disorder recovery. She truly believes stories can change your life.

Twitter: @AlMichael_

Facebook: A.L. Michael

Website: A. L. Michael

Posted in Book Review

Reach for the Stars Kathy Jay 4* Review

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When Layla Rivers’ boyfriend of 12 years skips out on their round-the-world trip of a lifetime – without her – she does what experience has taught her to do best, hide away in the cosy Cornish village she calls home. But any hopes of laying low soon disappear when Hollywood’s hottest star & mutual acquaintance, the gorgeous Nick Wells, crash lands on her couch…naked!

For Nick, Cornwall is supposed to be an escape from both his problems and the limelight, yet as the stars align and disarming Layla bursts into his world, his life only gets more complicated.

Will Nick and Layla fight against the undeniable connection between them or, under the warmth of the Cornish sun, will they follow their hearts’ desires?

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

A lovely, romantic tale, which documents Layla’s roller-coaster emotional ride when her boyfriend of twelve years, leaves her to travel the world when she needs him most. Layla is the family member and friend everybody wants. She always puts everyone’s needs before her own.
Her serendipitous meeting with Nick, film star, and twin of her best friend’s husband gives her the chance to put her needs first by indulging in a no-strings affair. While Nick’s reputation as a ‘player’ appears exaggerated, his fear of commitment is not. He is looking to escape the media attention before the latest scandal in his life hits the headlines. A holiday romance which helps Layla regain her self-esteem is the perfect rest cure.
There are some humorous characters in this story but more poignancy and heartache than laughs but with plenty of sizzling romance and enough conflict to make the plot interesting this is an enjoyable lighthearted read.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera 4*Review – Jennifer Bohnet

 

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A summer of taking chances!

Rosie Hewitt’s dream of opening a little French café on the Riviera is finally coming true. She’s giving up on love and instead chasing her own perfect recipe for happiness…

Only, she never expected the oh-so-sexy, award-winning chef, Sebastian Groc, to set up a rival restaurant next door – or for his freshly-baked croissants to smell quite so delicious.

But with just a few days until she opens her doors and all her sugar-coated dreams crumbling around her, Rosie isn’t prepared to give up without a fight!

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My Thoughts…

The perfect read for a rainy afternoon, the setting is vividly described and you can imagine you are sitting on the terrace of the Riviera cafe. There is an interesting mix of characters all of whom have suffered some degree of tragedy in their lives.  Their stories are separate but they connect through the cafe, which is a good focal point. 

The story’s pacing is good, with just enough detail and conflict to make the plot interesting. The focus is on the female characters, all of which are strong women, who manage to rebuild their lives out of adversity.

 A lovely, holiday story with well-written characters in a feel-good setting.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Sweet Home Summer – Michelle Vernal – 5* Review

 My Thoughts…

What I like about this author is her originality. I preferred this story to ‘The Traveller’s Daughter’, possibly because the author of the historical element in the story was still alive and you could see the possibility of a happy ending for her. The story is well paced. The present interspersed with short flashbacks to an earlier time.

I also enjoyed the mystical element of ‘the matchmaker’.

An unusual, heartwarming romance, which illustrates what’s essential in life and emphasises that the path to true love is often convoluted and painful.

The characters are well-developed and give the reader a flavour of small-town life in New Zealand. An engaging plot, often poignant with interesting twists.

The perfect story, if you enjoy family, small-town romantic fiction with a unique setting and original plot.

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

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The Traveller’s Daughter Michelle Vernal – 4* Review

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Her mother’s secret…

For fifty years Rosa kept the secrets of her past hidden from her beloved daughter, Kitty. The hurt and pain, the guilt over what she’d done, was something she could never face. But now the time has come to share the truth of Kitty’s heritage…

Her daughter’s discovery…

Kitty never knew anything about her mother’s early life. But after her death, the discovery of Rosa’s journal opens Kitty’s eyes to a whole new world—a family she’s never known and a love she’s never dreamed of…

The fate of a family…

Now Kitty must travel to her mother’s homeland, but after fifty years, can the sins of the past be forgiven? Or will history repeat itself? With a decades-old family feud threatening her future, can Kitty put right what once went so wrong?

Join Kitty on her journey as she follows in her mother’s footsteps from the south of France to Ireland, discovering who she is along the way in this beautiful tale of forbidden love and fancy cupcakes!

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My Thoughts… 

I loved the originality of this story and the echoes between the past and the present and different generations. The travellers’ way of life isn’t overly romanticised, which often happens and there are lots of interesting characters.
There were elements of this story that detracted from it. The pacing of the story was problematic at times. The step back in time with Kitty’s mother was very slow. Conversely, the relationship between Jonny and Kitty lacked depth for me. I appreciate the love at first sight idea, but it seemed rushed for its outcome.
Overall it was an enjoyable read, with well-described settings and vivid characters.

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

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Springtime At The Cider Kitchen – Fay Keenan 3* Review

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Caroline Hemingway can’t help but feel a little strange watching her ex-sister-in-law marrying the owner of Carter’s Cider Farm, but she’s delighted Anna’s found happiness after the death of her late husband, and Caroline’s brother, James. If only Caroline could find her own love story…

Desperate to escape the rat race, Caroline decides to take the plunge and move to the idyllic village of Little Somerby, where she is given the task of opening and running a restaurant in one of the forgotten barns on the Cider Farm.

Opening and running The Cider Kitchen is no easy task, and there are many challenges on the way, but slowly Caroline feels she’s being accepted into the local community and starts to believe she may have found her forever home. But secrets from her past seem destined to haunt her, and not even the attentions of the very dishy Jonathan Carter can distract her from all she’s left behind…

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My Thoughts…

Don’t be fooled by the cute cover, this story is not a feel-good romantic romp in the countryside or a heartwarming romance. The main characters are edgy and self-indulgent. Realistic but not easy to empathise with.

This was my first excursion into Little Somerby, and I didn’t need to read the first book in the series to understand the setting and characters of this one. Although, Anna and Matthew are easier to like than Caroline and Jonathan.

The first couple of chapters peaked my interest, and I found I wanted to see what happened to Caroline and Jonathan after their initial encounter. However, they are both such self-absorbed, spiky characters that I can’t honestly say I cared whether they got their happy ever or not.

 Even though I didn’t like the main characters, I still found the story interesting, it was for the most part well-paced, and the plot held my interest.  

An original take on village life and new beginnings with a good cast of supporting characters.

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

Posted in Book Review

Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Cafe- #1-3 Georgia Hill – 4*Review

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Baking, broken hearts and beach weddings…it’s all happening in the gorgeous little seaside town of Berecombe this year!

Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Café is struggling as a multi-national chain of cafés moves in on its territory. Despite baking up a storm in a bid to save it, Millie’s distracted by falling head over heels for the gorgeous, mysterious Jed.

As the seasons change in Berecombe, the loveable, quirky locals rally round Millie, and in return find their own happy ever afters. Millie’s delighted for her friends, but when she discovers Jed’s been keeping secrets, she faces a new dilemma – is it finally time to hang up her apron and start an exciting life somewhere new? Or is everything she’s ever wanted right under her nose, just waiting for her to reach out and take it?

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My Thoughts…

This is a compilation of all the Millie Vanilla stories and is a lovely holiday read, for all those who love stories full of romance, conflict and delicious cakes. The story covers, Spring, Summer and Christmas and is a lovely, heartwarming read.

Spring Beginnings…

Cafe stories are prevalent at the moment, but this one is a little different. It has an old-fashioned quality, which fits in perfectly with the setting in an old-style English seaside town. The characters are varied and accurately reflect the clientele in most seaside cafes. There is a lovely community feel to this story which contrasts vividly with the underhand behaviour Millie is forced to confront when her business is threatened, by a corporate rival cafe.

Romance has been in short supply for Millie who has worked through her grief by fulfilling her parents’ dream. Jed is not her usual type of customer, but the attraction is instant and powerful and makes for some sizzling scenes, that push the boundaries of this sweet romance.

The plot is simple but effective, and this is a pleasant read.

Summer Loves…

Millie is on her own again after her Spring romance with rich boy Jed, but her cafe is surviving and so is she, especially when her school best friend returns to Berecombe unexpectedly.

Dora, a successful actress, returns home and finds Millie’s love life in tatters. Determined to see her friend happy she doesn’t
expect her own heart to be threatened when someone from her past returns to challenge and allure her.

Dora and Mike’s love story is poignant and steamy in equal measures and mirrors the theatre production they both find themselves involved with. Millie and Jed’s path to true love is equally frustrating and seems unlikely to have a happy ending until Millie can trust Jed again.

The older generation is determined not to be outdone in the romance stakes and provide much of the humour in this story, which seesaws between laughter and tears.

Christmas Weddings…

Millie returns from her travels abroad, hoping to complete the sale of her cafe.  Part of her wants to see Jed, but she sent him away, so there is no chance of that?

Another romance dominates this story apart from the loved-up couple who Millie is arranging the wedding for at the cafe. Ri and Alex are an unlikely couple, but their’s proves to be an engaging story, with a mystical slant that I always enjoy.

This is a  gentle, romantic story, which incorporates the festive element beautifully. The ending is charming and full of vivid imagery, which makes it easy to imagine being one of the wedding guests. Thankfully everyone has a happy ending. What more could you ask for?

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

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Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Cafe – Spring Beginnings, Summer Loves, Christmas Weddings.

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Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Charlotte Butterfield – 4* Review

My Thoughts… 

I liked the idea of this book, but it took awhile for me to be involved with the story. The main reason was that I didn’t always believe in parts of the storyline.Despite this, three quarters into the story, it came alive, and I started to believe in the characters and wanted them to find their happy endings. So on balance, this was an enjoyable read with believable characters but a less credible plot.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

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Still Me – Jojo Moyes – Chapter 1 Sampler – 4 * Review

Lou Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She is hurled into the world of the super-rich Gopniks: Leonard and his much younger second wife, Agnes, and a never-ending array of household staff and hangers-on. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her job and New York life within this privileged world.

Before she knows what’s happening, Lou is mixing in New York high society, where she meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past.

In Still Me, as Lou tries to keep the two sides of her world together, she finds herself carrying secrets – not all her own – that cause a catastrophic change in her circumstances. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

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My Thoughts…

Lou Clark certainly makes an impact. I haven’t read the previous books in the series but there are enough clues in the first few pages of this chapter to let me know Lou has had her heart broken. Even though her new boyfriend is still in England she is in New York for the first time and determined to enjoy and experience everything to the full, just as Will would have wanted her to.

There is plenty of humour and definite poignancy in this story. There is clearly going to be a mix of quirky characters in Lou’s new life and I can’t wait to meet them with her.

I received this first chapter sampler from  Penguin UK – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.