Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Janet Hoggarth Guest Post and 4* Review – The Single Mums’ Mansion

Amanda Wilkie unexpectedly finds herself alone with three children under five in a rambling Victorian house in London, after her husband walks leaves them claiming he’s just ‘lost the love’, like one, might carelessly lose a glove.

A few months later, Amanda’s heavily pregnant friend, Ali, crashes into her kitchen announcing her partner is also about to abscond. Once Ali’s baby Grace is born, Amanda encourages them to move in. When Jacqui, a long-lost friend and fellow single mum, starts dropping by daily, the household is complete.

Getting divorced is no walk in the park, but the three friends refuse to be defined by it. And, as they slowly emerge out of the wreckage like a trio of sequin-clad Gloria Gaynors singing ‘I Will Survive’, they realise that anything is possible. Even loving again…

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Guest Post 

When one door shuts, another one opens

Janet Hoggarth

For eighteen years I had written children’s books as a jobbing author. For various reasons I was asked to change my name to Jess Bright by my last publisher, so they could relaunch me as a new, box-fresh, younger, cooler Jacqueline Wilson-type for tweenage girls. As with a lot of gambles, it didn’t really pay off because I wasn’t able to be myself, I was pretending to be a big sister to my readers when in fact I was old enough to be their mum. I submitted my last book to them in 2016, it was a story about bullying told from the bully’s point of view, how she became a bully and her journey to redemption when she loses everything. She wasn’t a ‘nice’ character, but she wasn’t meant to be, I wanted her to feel genuine.

At the same time as submitting my book, I slipped disc in my back leading to crippling back pain, morphine patches, and eventually an epidural injection to relieve the pressure on my spinal cord so I could come off the painkillers. On the drive back from the hospital after the procedure, I received an email from my agent telling me the publishers had rejected my book because of the Marmite plotline and the amount of work it needed, and in doing so, didn’t want to carry on the partnership with my brand of Jess Bright. To say I was gutted was an understatement. I think I cried solidly for twenty-four hours. I know it’s only work, no one died, but for me, it was so much more.

Writing had saved me during my darkest hour years previously when I had been left holding three kids under five after my husband had walked out. I had taken a career break, writing the odd book between babies, but essentially remained a stay at home mum. Then overnight I was a single parent and the buck stopped here – this filled me so much fear, doubt, grief, instability, I was a crazy hot mess of emotions and never knew how I was going to be feeling from one minute to the next. One thing I could do, however, was restart my career. I had never had an agent, so I set out to find one knowing this was one journey I couldn’t undertake alone. I remember sitting in Charlie’s office, telling him about my situation, bursting into tears, and him promptly offering to represent me! It was Charlie who encouraged me to write Gaby’s Angel, the first book Oxford University Press bought as part of my working relationship with them.

So when I received the news my collaboration with them had been terminated, I felt the same kind of rejection I’d experienced when my marriage ended. I was facing a real career crossroads. Charlie tentatively suggested writing adult fiction because he knew it had always been a pipe dream of mine. I sent him a secret blog I had written during a time when I lived communally with my friend, Vicky, her baby and my three kids in my house that we jokingly called The Single Mums’ Mansion. He leapt on it immediately and said that it had to be my next book.

The story is set during this tumultuous yet uplifting time in the single mum commune. Another friend, Nicola, was also going through a divorce with her two kids and she practically moved in, spending whole weekends with us, 6 children all squashed in together. We went on holidays, celebrated Christmases as a patchwork family, held wild parties, helped each other through heart-breaking situations when the ex-husbands got remarried and started new families. I can honestly say I do not know how I would have coped with it all had I not had those other two women to stand next to and gather strength from. The Single Mums’ Mansion is my love letter to my two friends, not sparing any visceral details and certainly not sugar-coating the life of a single mum. Here’s to us, ladies, and all those other single parents, bossing the hell out of life and making the best out of a difficult situation!

My Thoughts…

The first thing that strikes me about this story is its authenticity and honesty. Numerous comic moments provide much-needed light relief amidst the despair and sadness these single mum’s experience at the destruction of their perfect family dreams.

The inspiration for this story is the author’s blog, and the story reads like a journal of her feelings and experiences, as the main character Amanda, comes to terms with life after her husband walks out and leaves her with three kids under five.

Realistic, flawed characters underpin a fast-paced, intricate plot, which shares Amanda. Ali and Jacqui’s experiences of being a single mum. What stands out is the camaraderie between the three women. Despite the sad events this story has many laugh-out-loud moments which make it a worthwhile read.

The language is uncensored, but it isn’t gratuitous, merely an illustration of the characters’ personality and stress experienced. There are also episodes of drunkenness and drug taking, which I didn’t like, especially when the children were present. Again it gives the story authenticity, but the casual attitude took the edge off the enjoyment of the story.

If you enjoy your stories with no filters, crammed full of laughter and poignancy, this is the book for you.

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

 

Janet Hoggarth has worked on a chicken farm, as a bookseller, children’s book editor and DJ with her best friend (under the name of Whitney and Britney). She has published several children’s books, the most recent ones written under the pseudonym of Jess Bright. Her first adult novel, The Single Mums’ Mansion is based on her experiences of living communally as a single parent.

Twitter: @janethauthor

Facebook: @JanetHoggarthAuthor

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Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Shari Low – With or Without You – Guest Post – 5* Review

  When Liv and Nate walked up the aisle, Liv knew she was marrying the one, her soul mate and her best friend.

Six years later, it feels like routine and friendship is all they have left in common. What happened to the fun, the excitement, the lust, the love?

In the closing moments of 1999, Liv and Nate decide to go their separate ways, but at the last minute, Liv wavers. Should she stay or should she go?

Over the next twenty years we follow the parallel stories to discover if Liv’s life, heart and future have been better with Nate… Or without him?

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Guest Post – Shari Low

So here we are, on the publication of my 21st book and I’m still as excited and terrified as the very first time.

My first novel, What If? was released in January 2001. The year before, I’d found out that I had a publishing deal and twenty minutes later, I’d discovered I was pregnant with our first child.

What if your whole life changed in the space of a few ticks on a clock?

That year, I went from living in London, with an all-consuming career in sales management and roots that were touched up every six weeks, to a life as a full-time mum and writer back in my native Scotland. I don’t think I found my make up bag for the best part of a decade.

That transition came with countless what if’s.

What if leaving the security of a full-time job is a mistake? What if I only have one story to tell? What if I miss the excitement of a carefree life with no little humans depending on me? And, when my second baby came along the following year, what if these kids don’t sleep through the night until they’re 21 and I never get peace to write?

Thankfully, it wasn’t, I didn’t, I definitely didn’t, and they eventually did.

But that theme of what if was a starting point for my latest novel, With Or Without You. What if one decision changed the rest of your life?

Everyone has reached a crossroads at some point, where they had to move left, more right, go forward, go back. For me, the biggest one happened a few years before that life-changing time in 2000, when my husband and I had only been married for a few years, and we agreed to go our separate ways. There was no drama, no fallout, just an amicable realisation that we both wanted different things.

In the end, we got back together a few months later, and now, twenty-five years after we met, I couldn’t imagine finding more happiness in any other life.

But I’d love to know where fate would have taken us if we’d made a different choice.

That’s the dilemma facing Liv, a palliative care nurse, and Nate, a PE teacher, in the opening chapter of With Or Without You. Married straight out of college, they both feel like something is missing in their relationship, so after a year of trying to reignite the spark, they agree to go their separate ways on the last day of 1999. However, as the clock ticks down to midnight, Nate changes his mind and asks Liv to give it another try. In the moment that the new millennium dawns, the narrative splits, with one storyline following their lives over the next eighteen years if they stay together, and the other covering their future if they stick to their plan to part.

What if staying together is the right thing to do? What if it’s not? What if they miss out on another great love? What if they never find their happy ever after? What if their decision irrevocably changes the lives of the people they love the most? What if they discover they were right for each other after all? What if they don’t?

I hope readers will love following the two different paths as much as I enjoyed writing them. I fell hopelessly in love with Liv, Nate, and their group of friends, flawed as they are, and it brought me to yet another of those deliberations.

What if I bring a few of them back in book number 22?

Happy reading!

Love, Shari x

With Or Without You will be published by Aria – available in ebook on June 1st.

 My Thoughts…

If like me you believe in fate and love the film ‘Serendipity’, you’ll enjoy this well-written ‘what if’ story. Most people in a long-term relationship wonder, whether they are with their soulmate, or if under different circumstances they would be with someone else. This story explores Liv’s decision taken at the cusp of the 21st-century, stay with Nate or split up and live their lives apart.

A story of two halves, the outcome of being ‘without him’ is explored first and then ‘with him’. There’s friendship, conflict, romance and sadness but the ultimate conclusion is satisfying in both stories. The setting and relationships are believable, and though flawed, the characters endear themselves to the reader, and you want them to find happiness and fulfilment.

The pacing of the story makes it easy to read, and even though the storyline focuses on ordinary, everyday life, it is full of suspense, poignancy, laughter and love and makes this a lovely lighthearted read.

Shari Low has published twenty novels over the last two decades. She also writes for newspapers, magazines and television. Once upon a time, she got engaged to a guy she’d known for a week, and twenty-something years later, they live in Glasgow with their two teenage sons and a labradoodle.

Twitter: @sharilow

Facebook: @ShariLow

Posted in Book Review

The LoveBirds – Cressida McLaughlin – #2 The House of Birds and Butterflies – 5* Review

 

It’s winter at Meadowsweet nature reserve. Wildlife-lover Abby is busy trying to lure in the crowds, and although her event planning is a little on the whacky side, her creative efforts are helping to keep Meadowsweet afloat. She’s not having quite the same luck, however, in getting to know the elusive village newcomer, disgraced celebrity author Jack. It’s clear that Jack has mysterious reasons for staying out of the limelight, and the village rumour mill is in overdrive.

Abby’s passion for the great outdoors is nothing short of infectious and when Jack joins her on a special nature walk, sparks unexpectedly start to fly.

As their relationship thaws, should Abby be on high alert? Or would a new romance be the most natural thing in the world…

Amazon UK

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 My Thoughts…

New Year starts off the second book in ‘The House of Birds and Butterflies series. Abby’s hoping for new beginnings, and when she unexpectedly spends New Years Day alone with her mother, she finds her parent wanting to build bridges.

The nature reserve is still in need of new ideas to keep it afloat, and Jack seems determined to be involved. Penelope, the owner of the reserve, is keeping secrets and Abby realises she needs to find out what if she’s going to help.

Abby’s fascination with Swallowtail house continues, and Jack seems to share her interest, leading to sharing and insights into both their troubled pasts. Their chequered relationship dominates ‘The Lovebirds, which ends with more secrets than solutions.

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

Posted in Book Review

Where There’s a Will- Ottercombe Bay #1 – Bella Osborne – 5* Review

 

Daisy Wickens has returned to Ottercombe Bay, the picturesque Devon town where her mother died when she was a girl. She plans to leave as soon as her great uncle’s funeral is over, but Great Uncle Reg had other ideas. He’s left Daisy a significant inheritance – an old building in a state of disrepair, which could offer exciting possibilities, but to get it she must stay in Ottercombe Bay for twelve whole months.

With the help of a cast of quirky locals, a few gin cocktails and a black pug with plenty of attitude, Daisy might just turn this into something special. But can she ever hope to be happy among the ghosts of her past?

 Amazon UK

Amazon 

 

My Thoughts…

I read the first part of this serial for completeness, having already read the rest of the book. Part one is an entertaining read and sets the scene well for what follows. It highlights the mystery and tragedy surrounding Daisy’s mum’s death and lays the foundation for the attraction between Max and Daisy. Daisy is drifting, and the death and legacy of her great-uncle challenge her to evaluate her current life choices and fulfil her potential by coming to terms with her demons.

A lovely introduction to a humorous, poignant and romantic series.

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

Posted in Book Review

The Dawn Chorus – Cressida McLaughlin – #1 The House of Birds and Butterflies – 5* Review

Abby Field is living the dream. As events coordinator at the Meadowsweet nature reserve on the idyllic Suffolk coast, every day is an adventure with the birds and the butterflies, and she couldn’t feel more at home. When another local nature reserve is chosen as the hot location for a new television series, however, Meadowsweet looks set for seasonal hibernation – unless Abby can whip up a creative plan to keep the visitors flocking.

With the help of the Meadowgreen villagers, and her cute rescue huskie, Raffle, can Abby rescue the nature reserve from oblivion? Or will she be distracted by the arrival of a brooding – and annoyingly handsome – new neighbour…

Amazon UK 

Amazon

My Thoughts…

I love the title of this new series from Cressida McLaughlin. The cover epitomises the book’s ethos perfectly. Set against the background of a nature reserve on the Suffolk coast, ‘The Dawn Chorus’ the first book in the series, introduces the mysterious house, abandoned in heartbreak on the edge of the reserve and a cast of delightfully quirky characters whose love of nature brings them together.

Abby loves her job, which brings her into direct contact with the public and the inhabitants of the reserve on a daily basis. She is fascinated by the faded glory of the large house, belonging to the reserve’s owner Penelope. No longer lived it possesses a mysterious, tragic quality that Abby longs to explore. Abby guards her heart fiercely. Let down by her father and drawn to toxic relationships she prefers to share life with Raffle her husky.

The arrival of Jack disrupts her uneventful life, and I can’t wait to read book 2, ‘The Lovebirds’ to see what happens next.

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

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: A Last Goodbye – Dee Yates – 4* Review

In a remote hill farm in beautiful Scotland, Ellen and her father Duncan are enjoying a peaceful life away from the belching mills and hustle and bustle of the growing towns. In time they’re joined by rugged farmhand Tom, come to lend some muscle to Ellen’s ageing father, who has begun to find sheep farming hard to manage alone. Almost inevitably romance grows between Ellen and the new arrival but once married, however, Ellen discovers that Tom has a brutish side to his character. As war in Europe spreads, she begins to dream of him leaving for the trenches as a way for her to escape.

Even with Tom fighting abroad, however, the family cannot hide from the realities of war as a group of POWs are brought to their valley to build a reservoir. And amongst the men, sworn enemies and shunned by all the locals, Ellen finds a gentler heart that she is difficult to resist…

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My Thoughts…

A different perspective on the effect of WW1, which explores the horror of war at the front and the battles fought by those left behind. Told, mainly from Ellen and Tom’s points of view the reader sees life on a Scottish sheep farm and in the trenches before and during WW1.

Tom decides to move from Yorkshire to Scotland for personal reasons, his relationship with Ellen happens by chance when his plans go awry, and it proves to be troubled from the start. Tom’s youth may excuse some of his actions, but his personality has many dark areas, which lead to violence and withdrawal from his new family, these are described well in this story, and the outcome is not a surprise. The trench scenes from WW1 are descriptive and convey the horror for the young soldiers in vivid detail.

Ellen never knew her mother and so has no female guidance when faced with Tom’s interest and questionable behaviour to a such a young girl. She has to grow up quickly and becomes a strong, likeable woman who always puts her family first. The hardship and heartbreak Ellen suffers is poignant reading.

The characters are well-written and realistic and the setting dramatic and unforgiving. The historical element adds depth to this emotional story and puts the characters’ actions and interactions in perspective.

The ending is full of hope for Ellen and has an air of inevitability for Tom. Hopefully, Ellen’s next chapter will be in a sequel?

Born and brought up in the south of England, the eldest girl of nine children, Dee moved north to Yorkshire to study medicine. She remained there, working in well-woman medicine and general practice and bringing up her three daughters. She retired slightly early at the end of 2003, in order to start writing, and wrote two books in the next three years. In 2007 she moved further north, to the beautiful Southern Uplands of Scotland. Here she fills her time with her three grandsons, helping in the local museum, the church and the school library, walking, gardening and reading. She writes historical fiction, poetry and more recently non-fiction. Occasionally she gets to compare notes with her youngest sister Sarah Flint who writes crime with blood-curdling descriptions which make Dee want to hide behind the settee.

 

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2EIO7XI

 

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Secrets and Tea at Rosie Lee’s – Jane Lacey- Crane- Extract and 4*Review

 

Welcome to Rosie Lee’s cafe in the heart of the East End – where there’s not an avocado, slice of sourdough or double-shot no-foam soy milk caramel latte on the menu!

Rosie-Lee’s owner Abby is a woman without a plan….and her beloved little cafe is a business with a serious lack of customers. The Rosie Lee’s fry-up is legendary, but cooked breakfasts alone – however perfectly sizzled the bacon – aren’t going to pay the bills.

Fast approaching forty and fighting a serious case of empty nest syndrome, Abby realises it’s not just her menu that needs a makeover. And when Jack Chance, her The One That Got Away, saunters through the cafe doors and back into her life things definitely look set to change…

Abby has always believed a cup of strong builders tea makes everything better, but Jack’s reappearance is a complication even the trusty sausage sarnie can’t resolve…

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Extract

Chapter 1

Rosie Lee’s Café is a typical example of what a good café can be like – as long as it’s 1988. That’s probably the last time the décor or the menu was updated. This reviewer suspects that the owner may be waiting until its particular interior design style comes back into fashion. They may be in for a long wait.

‘Bollocks!’ I exclaimed. The positive review I’d been hoping for obviously wasn’t about to materialise. I forced myself to read on.

Despite it being located just a stone’s throw from Old Spitalfields Market, a newly regenerated hub of all things creative and on trend, the tide of urban regeneration seems to have passed Rosie Lee’s by. I ordered the traditional breakfast fry-up and, I will say, the food didn’t disappoint. The breakfast was cooked to perfection and my cup of good old ‘Rosie Lee’ (tea) was hot and freshly brewed. And the toast, although not sourdough, was crisp and very tasty. I should mention, though, that there is no gluten-free option.

I winced at the memory of the day this reviewer had visited us. He’d asked Flo for gluten-free bread and she’d told him that if he wanted anything fancy he could take his hipster beard and bugger off somewhere else.

All in all, Rosie Lee’s Café is fairly uninspiring, but it won’t give you food poisoning. Just for that, this reviewer is giving it one teapot out of a potential five. Now, on to more interesting territory. Bare Naked Coffee is an artisanal bakery and coffee house…

I closed the newspaper. I didn’t need to read about how fabulous their unleavened hemp bread was, or how their primo coffee blend ‘was to die for!’

‘Bollocks,’ I repeated.

‘Abby! The coffee machine’s not working! Come and do that thing you do with it, would you, love?’

‘What’s up with it now, Flo?’ Her cries for help brought me out of the kitchen and into the café. A frazzled and sweaty-looking Flo stood in front of the offending machine.

‘The steam’s not working. I’m not getting any froth!’

‘Brilliant,’ I said, reaching for the spanner under the counter. This was the fourth time in the last week that the bloody machine had died on us, so I’d taken to keeping tools handy. There was a small queue of people all waiting for their orders, and I brandished my spanner at them, like some demented warrior queen.

‘Sorry for the wait, folks, let me just try and get this sorted for you.’ They looked at me and then at the spanner, undoubtedly expecting me to do something highly technical with it. Instead, I lifted it up high and brought it down heavily onto the top of the machine. Once, twice, three times. It hissed and wheezed for a few seconds and I held my breath.

‘I think you might have killed it completely this time,’ said Flo from her new, safer position on the other side of the counter.

‘Just wait for a minute, hold on.’ Taking a metal jug full of milk from beside the machine, I dipped the end of the steam nozzle into it. With one eye closed, I turned the handle that forced the steam into the milk and prayed that it wouldn’t explode in my face. From somewhere inside I heard gurgling, then the machine let out a high-pitched whistle as the milk began to bubble. Problem solved. The little queue of customers gave me a small ripple of applause and I turned to take a modest bow.

Flo came back around the counter and took the jug out of my hands.

‘Here, give us that. That bloody thing needs replacing. One of these days you’re gonna take a swing at it and it’ll go off like a rocket.’

‘I can’t afford a new machine, Flo, you know that. I’m barely making enough to cover costs as it is, let alone have any spare.’

‘Maybe you’ll have a bit extra once you’ve finished this catering job?’ she asked, hopefully.

‘Making desserts for some random corporate event isn’t really going to help much,’ I said. ‘Besides, I really only did it as a favour to Liz.’

‘I did tell you to charge her more, didn’t I?’

‘Yes, Flo, you did. Several times actually.’

‘Well, she took the right piss, all that faffing about changing her mind, leaving it all to the last minute. I know she’s your friend, but she was a pain in the arse. Uppity little madam.’ I marvelled at how Flo managed to deliver this speech whilst simultaneously serving customers and wiping up spills on the counter. She was seventy years old, but she was still as feisty and energetic as ever; I couldn’t manage without her, despite her occasional bouts of rudeness towards anyone with too much facial hair.

‘Look, it’s done now. I’ve just got to drop off the last batch of tarts and then it’s over with. No more corporate catering for me.’ I draped my arm around her tiny shoulders and dropped a kiss on her head. I’d known Flo all my life. She was one of my mother’s oldest friends and although she might look tiny and fragile, she was formidable.

‘Well, bugger off, then, go and get rid of those cakes.’

‘I’ll be back as quick as I can,’ I said, pulling on my jacket. Now, where did I leave the van keys? I rifled through the pockets, pulling out old tissues and other assorted bits of crap until Flo jingled the missing keys in front of my face.

‘What would I do without you?’ I said, taking them from her and heading into the kitchen.

‘You’d manage. Look, there’s no need for you to rush back. I can take care of everything here. We’re not exactly rushed off our feet, are we?’

I looked back out to the café. It was true; business hadn’t been brisk. I had been hoping that a glowing review in the local paper might drum up a bit more trade, but there was no chance of that now. The development of the nearby market had been great for anyone in its immediate vicinity, but not for us. We were just that little bit too far outside the ‘development zone’. It wasn’t just my café either – all the shops in this little-forgotten corner of East London were struggling to stay afloat. I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind. There’d be plenty of time to obsess about my failing business later, hopefully, whilst relaxing in a hot bath with a glass or three of wine.

‘Are you sure you’ll be all right on your own?’ I didn’t want to take liberties; Flo might be mighty, but she was still seventy years old after all.

‘Positive. You’ve worked hard on all this.’ She gestured at the last batch of boxes I’d wrestled into my arms. ‘You deserve a few hours off.’

‘Okay. I might go and see if I can find a nice going-away present for Lucy.’

‘Lovely. Off you go, then, and I’ll see you in the morning. And tell Liz I said she got you cheap.’

I took the boxes and pushed my way through the back door. Flo was right of course; Liz had got me cheap, but she was my best friend. What was I supposed to do? She’d begged me to help her out after her other caterers had let her down; I wasn’t going to say no, was I? Charging her more would have felt like taking advantage of her desperation. It would have come in handy though, there was no doubt about that. Between my daughter’s imminent departure for university, the temperamental coffee maker and, now as I stood there looking at it, a delivery van that was on its last legs, my finances were stretched to the limit. The van, with its faded green paintwork and peeling pink cupcake on the side, sat in the yard looking old and knackered. Fifteen years of trips to the cash and carry and school runs in London traffic had taken their toll on the old girl. I knew how she felt. I secured the last of the boxes into the back of the van and shut the doors.

My Thoughts…

If you’re expecting a story that revolves around a cafe, you’ll be disappointed; the cafe does feature in this tale of second chances, family secrets and organised crime but its more about the heroine’s emotional journey than hearty breakfasts and afternoon tea.

Abby is a likeable protagonist, despite having a difficult childhood and teenage, she has enough people around her that care to make a success of life but she finds it difficult to trust and when her first love returns, even though she feels the emotional and sensual pull she runs the other way.

Jack is a dreamy hero, but he finds despite his entrepreneurial success, true love alludes him. He too has an emotional journey to travel, and he struggles to understand Abby and her conflicting signs and what he has to do, to get her in his life again.

Family and indeed community secrets are the backbone of this story, and they come across as believable, organised crime threatens everything Abby holds dear and as the secrets unravel the danger increases.

A mix of romance and crime make this an absorbing read, even if it’s not the feel-good cafe story I expected.

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

 

Born in London, Jane’s writing career began in cable TV, writing true crime documentaries. More recently, Jane has contributed to an anthology of short stories and written two weekly crime serials. When she’s not writing, Jane loves to read good books, binge watch TV boxsets and drink tea. And wine.

Twitter: @JaneLaceyCrane

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jane.crane.33

Posted in Book Review

A Family Recipe – 5* Review – Veronica Henry

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What’s the secret ingredient to your happiness?

Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent – a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga – seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.

But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother’s recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura’s jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.

Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . . .

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

The home is the heart of many families, and it is no different for number 11 Lark Hill in historic Bath. Laura’s family home has been in the family since her great-grandparents day, it’s always been a lively, warm place but now her daughters’ are leaving for University, and she has to find something else to give her life meaning.

When Laura discovers her husband is not the man she thinks he is, her life threatens to fall apart, but she’s tenacious and determined to keep her family together and her life worth living. With timeslips back to Blitz-torn Bath in 1942, the time when her beloved Grandmother Jilly(Kanga) faced a devastating loss, like Jilly, Laura rebuilds her life and finds out exactly who she is.

The characters are real and likeable, they laugh, cry and argue but realise the importance of their flawed but enviable family life. The family recipe book is a beautiful analogy of Laura’s family past and present and provides her with a means to start a new life chapter.

The fast-paced, enthralling plot takes Laura and her grandmother on an emotional journey with laughter, sadness and ultimately self-realisation. Elements of Laura’s family life are instantly recognisable, and it’s easy to empathise with her as she works her way towards happiness again.

A delightful read about family, friendship and overcoming life’s many hardships.

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

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: T.A. Williams – Dreaming of St. Tropez – Extract and 5* Review

The perfect summer escape on the French Riviera. Sun, sea and secrets…

After a disagreement with a billionaire, architect Jess Milton is ‘let go’ from her job. However fortune intervenes – an elderly client asks Jess to dog-sit overweight, but loveable dog Brutus in St. Tropez.

Fed up with the mega-rich, Jess is reluctant to visit the playground of billionaires, but an all-expenses-paid trip and the promise of sunshine seals the deal.

Little does Jess know how much time she’ll be spending with the family living in St. Tropez. The sullen, but very good-looking David and his millionaire father are both welcoming but guarded, haunted by their pasts…

Can Jess bring some sunshine back into their lives – and, just maybe, find love in the process?

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Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Extract

‘Jess had appointments all the next day, and she didn’t get back to the office until mid-afternoon. She exchanged pleasantries with Deanne on the front desk and then took the lift up to the third floor, wondering if Drugoi had carried out his threat to talk to her boss. Either way, she knew she needed to speak to Graham herself about the previous morning’s events. She had had it with this particular oligarch.

To her surprise, as she came out of the lift, she found Caroline from HR waiting for her. Warning bells started sounding in her head.

‘Jess, hello. Listen, we need to talk.’

‘Of course, Caroline. What about?’

‘Could we talk in your office?’

Jess led her along the corridor to her office and offered her a seat. Caroline closed the door carefully behind her before sitting down. She waited until Jess was also seated before delivering the body blow.

‘I’ve been talking to Graham, and I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go, Jess.’

Although Jess had half been expecting it, this demonstration of her boss’s total lack of backbone came as a shock.

‘You’re what? This is about that slimy toad Drugoi, isn’t it?’

‘No, of course, this isn’t because of Mr Drugoi, or any other client. It’s just restructuring.’ Jess noticed that Caroline didn’t meet her gaze, keeping her eyes down as she opened the folder she was holding. ‘You’ve been with us now for almost five years?’

‘Yes.’ Jess felt the anger rising in her veins. She leant forward, resting her elbows on the desk. ‘And you’re firing me? Why? I think you’d better tell me what I’m supposed to have done.’

Caroline looked up, but only briefly, and Jess noted that she surreptitiously pushed her chair back a few inches. ‘Not firing you, Jess. Please don’t think that. Like I said, we have to restructure the business. I’m afraid it’s just that you’re surplus to our requirements. Business is down in the wake of the Brexit vote, and we have to be prudent.’

This didn’t accord with Jess’s assessment of the situation. She had been busier over the past six months than at any time since joining the company. She struggled to get her head round what she was being told.

‘You don’t need me? Who’s going to do all the work I’ve been doing? I’ve got six projects ongoing as it stands, and if we get the Drugoi contract, there’s well over a million pounds’ worth of work in that one job alone.’ Caroline finally raised her eyes, and Jess held them. ‘Have we got the Drugoi contract?’

She caught a flicker of something on Caroline’s face, but it disappeared immediately as she replied in a bland tone. ‘I have no idea. Contractual matters are not part of my remit.’

Jess stared at her for a few seconds until the other woman’s eyes dropped once more. Suppressing a desire to reach across the desk and strangle her, Jess did her best to keep her tone level.

‘So, when do I have to leave? And what about pay and all that?’

Caroline looked up again, clearly relieved to be able to talk about practical matters. ‘We’ve put together a generous severance pay package for you. You’ve been a valued member of staff, and we want to reward you for your efforts on behalf of the firm. Graham told me to make that clear to you. Here… see for yourself.’

She removed a sheet of paper from the folder and slid it across the desk. Jess took it and cast her eye down the figures. It soon became clear that Caroline hadn’t been joking. The settlement was, indeed, generous.

Suspiciously generous.

Dropping the page onto the desktop, Jess raised her eyes towards Caroline.

‘And when am I expected to leave?’

‘With immediate effect.’

‘Now? What, this afternoon?’

‘Yes. I’ll get somebody to bring you a box for your things. You are to clear your desk and leave.’ She caught Jess’s eye. ‘Graham told me to tell you that he will provide you with a glowing reference, without any stain on your character.’

‘Why should there be a stain on my character?’

The cold sensation in the pit of her stomach was turning to anger.

‘No reason.’

Jess got the feeling Caroline was regretting her choice of vocabulary.

‘It’ll be a glowing reference, Jess, but he did ask me to make it clear to you that, in return, he expects you to leave quietly and without fuss. And without contacting any of your colleagues, or any of our clients, now or subsequently. Do I make myself clear?’

‘Crystal clear, thank you, Caroline. I think the expression you’re looking for is gagging order.’

The urge to throttle somebody rose up again and if Graham had been in the room, Jess felt pretty sure she would have been tempted to launch herself at his scrawny neck. She was dimly aware of Caroline standing up and offering her hand across the desk. She took it automatically and shook it, resisting the temptation to squeeze it until the bones cracked.

‘Goodbye, Jess, and thank you on behalf of the firm for all you’ve done.’

‘This is Drugoi’s doing, isn’t it?’

‘Mr Drugoi? How could you possibly think that?’’

My Thoughts…

If you’re looking for the perfect holiday read, for the beach or even the back garden, this is it.

Sun, sea, a troubled hero, a lovable dog and an intelligent, kind heroine who lives her life with integrity make this an absorbing read with plenty of laughs, most of them doggy related. Conflict-ridden romance and a second chance at life mean this story is full of poignant moments too.

The story reveals St Tropez as something more than a rich person’s playground, with its historic past, unspoilt beauty and intrinsically interesting population. The story has a delightful symmetry when Jess unjustly loses her job only to find a 21st- century fairy godmother provides her with a holiday and a chance to make a difference to two people who life has mistreated.

Believably vivid characters bring this story to life, and there are pockets of excitement amongst the romance and angst to keep you turning the pages.

Full of sunshine, a few clouds and the winds of change this is a lovely, easy to read holiday romance.

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

 T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England to a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing.

Twitter: @TAWilliamsBooks

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