Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Romance

That Long Lost Summer – Minna Howard 4* #Review @Aria_Fiction @MinnaHowardMary #Romance #Family #Friendships #Secrets #Summer #HolidayRomance #BlogTour

A gorgeous and bittersweet romance set in the South of France, about an old passion rekindled and the choice between family loyalty and a great love.

Flora and Hugo are devoted to their children, but when their girls leave home for university, their lives seem empty. Hugo is cold and distant, leaving Flora unsure what their future holds. When they are invited to a friend’s villa in the South of France, Flora hopes the summer sun and gorgeous setting may bring them closer together. In a crumbling, picturesque villa in the luscious French countryside, they are introduced to Susie, Matt and their friends. Flora is surprised to meet Xavier, her old flame, who she fell in love with one long lost summer when she was eighteen. They parted suddenly all those years ago, leaving Flora wondering, what if…

Handsome, passionate, sensitive, Xavier is so different from her reliable, predictable Hugo. Both Flora and Xavier have moved on with their lives, but is there something that still lingers between them? Or will Flora’s devotion to her children, and her loyalty to Hugo, show her where her true heart lies…

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

My Thoughts…

A thoughtful story of first love, mature love after children have flown the nest and friendship all in a vividly described South of France setting.

Flora and Hugo are trying to find what life means for them, now their daughters have left the family home. Flora is determined to power through her sense of loss, but Hugo is uncommunicative, distant and lost. When they are invited to stay in France by old friends, Flora sees it as a new opportunity for them as a couple but Hugo it seems has other plans.

I like Flora and the cast of friends and new acquaintances, that gather at the villa. Hugo is harder to like, his attitude towards Flora grates, and his actions are selfish. However, like all the characters he realistic, and his behaviour is the necessary excuse for Flora to question her long marriage’s future validity when she meets her first love unexpectedly.

The story flows well and keeps its secrets until the end. Although the ending is not unexpected and may disappoint some, it is realistic and fitting. A gentle story that contrasts first and mature love.

Minna has had an exciting career in fashion journalism and now writes full time, whilst enjoying time with her grandsons and working as an occasional film and TV extra. She lives in London.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Holiday Romance, Romance

One Last Greek Summer – Mandy Baggot 5*#Review #BlogTour @Aria_Fiction @mandybaggot #Greece #Greek Islands #Corfu #Romance

Beth Martin is 31, newly divorced and wondering just what life holds for her…

Best-friend, Heidi, is adamant that all the answers lie in Corfu – the island where the girls partied away their youth. So cue a trip to a sun-drenched Greek island, ouzo cocktails, a trip down memory lane… and Alex Hallas, the man Beth has never quite forgotten.

As they dance under the stars, the sand beneath their toes, old feelings begin to resurface and Beth might just have a chance to take back her life. If they can learn to love the people they’ve become…

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

My Thoughts…

There is always a generous comic element in this author’s stories, and this one illustrates it perfectly. Beth’s divorce is absolute, and her co-workers are throwing her a ‘Divorce Party’, to mark the occasion. Immediately, you appreciate how well Beth is liked, especially by her best-friend Heidi.

Rekindling, the freedom, high spirits and the simplicity of being twenty-one, on holiday, is their goal for Corfu, at thirty-one. Their adventure takes in the beauty of the Greek Island, even with accommodation disasters, wicked Mothers and having ten extra years of emotional baggage. The chance of romance and self -realisation beckons, and provides the reader with a humorous, picturesque, poignant and romantic trip to Corfu.

Realistically flawed characters, most of whom you warm to, a vividly described setting, a lovely dynamic between Beth and Heidi, whose friendship has strengthened over the ten years. The romance is expected, but no less sweet and makes this a perfect holiday read.

Mandy Baggot is an internationally bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK, with her husband and two daughters.

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Holiday Romance, Romance, Romantic Comedy

A Perfect Cornish Summer – 5* #Review -Phillipa Ashley @AvonBooksUK @PhillipaAshley #Cornwall #Summer #PublicationDay #Family #Coastal #RomCom

Summer is on the horizon, and the people of Porthmellow are eagerly awaiting the annual food festival. At least, most of them are…

For Sam Lovell, organising the summer festival in her hometown is one of the highlights of her year. It’s not always smooth sailing, but she loves to see Porthmellow’s harbour packed with happy visitors, and being on the committee has provided a much-needed distraction from the drama in her family life (and the distinct lack of it in her love life).

When their star guest pulls out with only a few weeks to go, everyone’s delighted when a London chef who grew up locally steps in at the last minute. But Gabe Matthias is the last person Sam was expecting to see, and his return to Porthmellow will change her quiet coastal life forever.

Curl up with this gorgeous novel and savour the world of Porthmellow Harbour.

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

My Thoughts…

The author’s love of Cornwall and all things Cornish is evident in this story. The characters of Porthmellow harbour are authentic, and all have a story to tell and secrets to keep.

Sam loves the food festival, it gives her a focus away from the family drama and helps promote the harbour town she loves. Sam and Gabe have history and working in close proximity threaten more than the festival.

Lots of characters and a taste of their stories make this a complex but interesting book. You know that you will meet them again as the series progresses.

At its heart, this is a story of community, the inherent closeness that means everyone takes an interest in each other’s life, sometimes this is intrusive, sometimes comical but nearly always well meant and important for the harbour to survive.

A charming story full of heart, secrets and love, looking forward to the next one.

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

Swallowtail Summer – Erica James – 4* #Review @orionbooks @TheEricaJames #SwallowtailSummer #FamilyDrama #Friendship #Norfolk #Holidays

They thought they were friends for life – until one summer, everything changed . . . 

Linston End on the Norfolk Broads has been the holiday home to three families for many years. The memories of their time there are ingrained in their hearts: picnics on the river, gin and tonics in the pavilion at dusk, hours spent seeking out the local swallowtail butterflies. Everyone together.

But widower Alastair has been faced with a few of life’s surprises recently. Now, he is about to shock his circle of friends with the decisions he has made – and the changes it will mean for them all. For some, it feels like the end. For others, it might just be the beginning . . .

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


My Thoughts…

When you look at a group of friends what do you see? The answer is you only see what they want you to. Rather like a swan in the water, the surface may seem smooth and easy going, but underneath the water, there is a furious paddling of feet, and turmoil, hidden from the casual observer.

‘ Swallowtail Summer’ is like this, three friends who have known each other since they were young, spend holidays together at a beautiful house in Norfolk, later they include their wives and eventually for some of them their offspring, but then someone dies and the following year even though they know it will be different they are unprepared for how different.

The beginning of the story introduces the characters; shows how they interact with each other and reveals some of their motivations. Even though this is a lot to assimilate and is slow-paced, it’s worth persevering, as it makes the rest of the book easier to follow. Allowing you to appreciate the complex characters and their diversity and secrets.

It is interesting to see how the characters interact, and how the group dynamics remain largely unchanged until Orla dies. This life event forces the group to change. The story’s essence is, will the friendships and family relations survive the need to change?

All of the characters are realistically flawed and many are not likeable, but this doesn’t detract from the story, just makes it more realistic. One of their favourite holiday activities is to search for Swallowtail butterflies. Their elusive quality equates to the finiteness of happiness, love and youth. It makes the story an interesting, but poignant read, with a lovely Summertime, feel.

Published 18 April 2019

Posted in Book Review

My Summer of Magic Moments – Caroline Roberts – 5* Review

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When Claire arrives for her cosy cottage retreat on the beautiful Northumberland coast, she prays that three weeks of blissful peace and summer sunshine will wash away the pain of the last year.

Claire’s a survivor – she’s proud of the scars that prove it – and she’s determined to make the most of each and every day, to seize those little magic moments that give life its colour.

Her plan for peaceful solitude goes awry when handsome, brooding Ed turns up in the cottage next door. The last thing Claire needs is the risk of getting hurt, but she soon discovers that Ed has emotional battle scars of his own.

Will he prove the worst distraction? Or might he be just the perfect remedy?

 

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My Thoughts…

This story turned out to be so much more than I expected. 

Claire has an indomitable spirit.  Despite suffering life-threatening illness and the worst kind of betrayal, she has lived to tell the tale. Spending some time on her own in idyllic coastal surroundings is her present to herself, for getting through the pain.

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The setting for this story is one that I am very familiar with.  Reading it was an added pleasure when I recognised places that I had visited in the last few years. The cover of this book is lovely but doesn’t really reflect the setting, which has a rugged untamed beauty.

 

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The story reflects the title, each chapter illustrates a magic moment. The plot’s beautiful simplicity allows the Claire to tell her story with all its poignant and sometimes humorous nuances.

Ed has an impact on Claire even before they meet and this continues but doesn’t have the obvious conclusion you would expect. He is deeply troubled and Claire isn’t sure she is strong enough to ride the storm with him.

The supporting characters are few but memorable, as Claire realises how important her family and friends are to her happiness.

This book is so much more than a holiday romance or an escape to recharge the batteries. This is about discovering what’s really important to you and appreciating how transient life is. Dark issues are treated with reverence but there is always hopeful ethos in this story, which makes it an absorbing and emotional experience.

Definitely one of my favourite books from 2017.

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

And finally, this story highlighted a magic moment of my own. Watching my lovely dogs frolic in the sea on Beadnall Bay beach, precious because I lost Jazzy last November.

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Posted in Book Review

Millie Vanilla’s CupCake Cafe – Summer Loves – Georgia Hill 4 * Review

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Summer lovin’ never happened so fast…but will it last?

Heartbroken after breaking up with her gorgeous boyfriend, Jed, even baking in her beloved Cupcake Café while the summer sun’s shining on Berecombe Beach can’t cheer Millie up! So it’s time to bring in the big guns – her best friend, Dora.

But when Dora arrives, it’s clear she’s busy licking her own wounds and Millie can only watch as her friend falls head over heels for an old flame. With everyone around her finding love, should Millie give Jed the second chance he’s been asking for or has the time come for a fresh start away from Berecombe?

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My Thoughts

After being introduced to the Cupcake Cafe, I was intrigued to see what would happen in the summer. 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.

Another cliffhanger ending makes reading the festive chapter of this story a must.

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

Posted in #Sale, Book Review, Book Spotlight, Excerpt

Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe – Debbie Johnson – Extract

Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe

Definitely one of my favourite books this summer from the lovely Debbie Johnson,  I’m sharing my review again, now that the paperback has been released.

Blog Image- My review

Even at the story’s poignant beginning, the humour shines through, in the words of the enigmatic Laura, the heroine of this unusual story. I loved that we gathered all the necessary back story information, in letter form, as she answered a unique advertisement for a strange but intriguing, lifestyle job.

Laura is honest, loyal and has a lovely self -depreciating humour that is recognisable to most women, who have families, where they are the unappreciated lynchpin. The journey to their new adventure shares similarities, with most people’s long car journeys, with children and animals. The realistic dialogue and bordering on chaos scenarios made me giggle and reminiscence.

 Despite Laura’s fragile emotional state, a delightful sense of humour runs through this story. From the first meeting with the ‘Tall bloke.’ the visuals are great, so easy to imagine, especially ‘the flying undies as the top box is unpacked’.

The VIPS that make up the cafe regulars, all have a story to share as they reveal idiosyncrasies and secrets. Laura starts to heal as she listens to the cafe’s regulars stories and Matt (the tall bloke), help’s her discover the side of herself she never really knew existed.

This is a story of healing, family and being brave enough to dip your toe back in the pond again, after life’s unpredictable knocks. I would love to find this Cafe that restores your faith in human nature.

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

EXCERPT

‘I am feeling suddenly very tired and very sad. The absurdity of my situation flashes across my mind: I have uprooted my children, myself and my very elderly dog on some kind of wild-goose chase, pursuing God knows what. Happiness? Progress? A break from the underlying misery that seems to have been wrapped around my heart every day since David died?

Well, whatever it is, I’m not pursuing it fast enough – all I’m finding is exhaustion, grumpy kids, senile dogs and a caffeine overload. That and chronic embarrassment as I apologise to a mostly naked man, in the dark, in a place I’ve never even visited before – a place I’ve unilaterally decided to make our home for the summer.

I clench my eyes together very, very tightly, squeezing back any watery signs of self pity that might be tempted to overflow, and force myself to look at the man instead of the dog.

I can only see bits of his face reflected in the silvery lighting, but he looks about my age. Maybe a little older, I’m not sure. His hair is definitely a bit too long, and will probably dry a lighter shade of brown once it’s not soggy. His eyes seem to be hazel or brown or green, I can’t really tell, and he’s not smiling.

He was smiling when he was playing with Jimbo. But now he’s not. Now he’s looking at me. I guess I just have that effect on tall, handsome strangers.

’Are you all right?’ he asks, gruffly, frowning at me with such style and finesse that I instinctively know he frowns at least as much as he smiles. I suspect he’s one of those people who vastly prefers animals to people, and communicates much better with dogs than humans.

’Oh, yes, thank you… just tired. We’ve been driving all day and now we’ve got to find our cottage and unload the roofbox, and I don’t know how I’m going to do that because I didn’t bring the foot stool and I’m too short, and the kids need some dinner and I need some coffee… well, probably wine, to be honest, and…’

I catch a glimpse of his expression as I ramble incoherently, and note that he looks slightly frightened. I realise I sound like a crazy person and as I have the kind of hair that expands in heat and I’ve been stuck in a hot car all day, I undoubtedly look like one too.

’And yes, I’m fine, thank you,’ I say, firmly. ’Do you happen to know where the Hyacinth House is? I have the keys.’

’I can help you,’ he says, looking away from my eyes and gazing off into the distance. He sounds a little bit grumpy, a touch reluctant – as though he knows he should help, but doesn’t really want to engage.

’No, I’m all right…’ I insist, wondering how I’m going to get Jimbo off his feet without appearing rude.

’Let me help. I don’t have any wine, but I can help with the other thing.’

’What?’ I ask, staring up at him in confusion. ’You can help me stop being too short?’

Quick as a flash, a grin breaks out on his face and he lets out a laugh. It doesn’t last long and he seems to clamp down on it as soon as he can, like he’s not used to hearing the sound in public.

’Sorry, no. I’m a vet, not a miracle worker. But I can unpack the roofbox for you. I’ll get dressed and come round. Hyacinth is just back there – next to the swimming pool. This is the nearest you can get the car, but I’ll help you unload. I assume you’re Laura?’

I feel a jolt of surprise that he knows who I am and also a jolt of a stubborn desire to continue insisting that I don’t need any help at all. I settle for just nodding and giving him a half-hearted smile as he extricates his bare feet from underneath the snoring dog’s tummy.

’Thought so. In that case, if I know Cherie, she’ll have left wine in the cottage – so all your problems will be solved.’

Ha, I think, watching him disappear off up the path and noticing Lizzie still tapping away on her phone, face scrunched up in that very deliberate expression of vexed boredom that teenagers specialise in.

If only.’

Want to read more? Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson is just 99p on Amazon!