The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson #bookreview

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The story of respectable Dr Jekyll’s strange association with the ‘damnable young man’ Edward Hyde; the hunt through fog-bound London for a killer; and the final revelation of Hyde’s true identity is a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil. The other stories in this volume also testify to Stevenson’s inventiveness within the Gothic tradition.

This was another short story I chose to quick start my Goodreads Challenge for 2018, and also to start my personal challenge to read at least one classic novel a month throughout 2018 that I have never read before. I’m not counting this as January’s effort, as it is not a full length novel, but it was a good warm up.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of those stories that we all know so well, its premise has become so firmly embedded in the lexicon of how we describe people with a split personality, that we feel like we must have read it at some dim and distant point but actually many of us have probably never sat down and actually read the original text. This was certainly the case for me.

The story starts out with the main narrator, a lawyer named Mr. Utterson, taking a walk with a friend who tells him a horrible tale about an assault on a young girl by a sinister figure named Mr Hyde who pays off the girl’s family with money seemingly provided by a respectable acquaintance of theirs named Dr. Jekyll. Later, Utterson is instructed by Dr. Jekyll to rewrite his will, leaving all of his possessions to Mr. Hyde. Utterson takes it upon himself to find out what the connection is between the upstanding Dr. Jekyll and the abominable Mr. Hyde and, by the end of the story, the horrible truth is revealed.

This story is a riveting read on so many levels. Just as a straight-forward horror story it is  gripping in its vivid and terrible descriptions, and how the story moves forward as told through the eyes of the bewildered lawyer Mr. Utterson who cannot understand why the seemingly noble Dr. Jekyll is associating himself with the terrible Mr. Hyde. It also works well as a mystery, in which the clues are unveiled slowly, piece by piece, and this remains true even though we all know the outcome of the tale, which is demonstrative of how cleverly it is written. I let my bathwater go cold as I devoured this story in one sitting. The writing is creepy and atmospheric, bringing to life the horror of the monster stalking the fog-bound streets of Victorian London.

Finally, I think the story is fascinating in pondering exactly what it is the Stevenson is trying to say about human nature in this story and, I have read numerous different theories on what this tale is an allegory of. Is it a religious warning against playing God and straying from the path of virtue and righteousness? Is it a veiled reference to the perils of homosexuality in the Victorian era? Is it a sexual morality tale? Are we to draw the conclusion that Stevenson believed that all men are, at heart, primitive beasts whose base instincts are only suppressed by a thin veneer of civilisation that is just waiting to be scraped aside to let our true natures run amok? Everyone reading the story is going to take something different from it and Stevenson himself said “Everything is true, only the opposite is true too; you must believe both equally or be damned.” It seems that he did not want his story boiled down to a simple, neat explanation. Maybe the mark of a good storyteller is to allow the reader enough room to take from his tale what he will, and it certainly makes for a much more entertaining debate.

You may think you know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but I highly recommend that you read the original text for yourself and see if what you THINK you know, is really the essence of the tale for you. you won’t be disappointed. You can purchase a copy here.

About the Author

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was born in Edinburgh, the son of a prosperous civil engineer. Although he began his career as an essayist and travel writer, the success of Treasure Island (1883) and Kidnapped (1886) established his reputation as a writer of tales of action and adventure. Stevenson’s Calvinist upbringing lent him a preoccupation with predestination and a fascination with the presence of evil, themes he explored in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), and The Master of Ballantrae (1893).

The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe #bookreview

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Horror, madness, violence and the dark forces hidden in humanity abound in this tale of the bloody, brutal and baffling murder of a mother and daughter in Paris.

I ended last year by reading a series of short stories in order to hit my Goodreads goal of 100 books and I really enjoyed the experience. It made me pick up stories that I would never otherwise have read such as The Walk Up Nameless Ridge and which have taught me things I would never have known, such as the loss of Texas Tower 4 in Safety Tips for Living Alone which is a fascinating and moving story that I would highly recommend to everyone. One of the stories I read was Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, which i enjoyed, so I decided to kick off my Goodreads Challenge for 2018 in the same way with The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Well, this is a very different book to The Fall of the House of Usher. It starts off oddly, with  a discourse on the virtues of an analytical mind. The language is dense and hard to navigate and I have to say that I did not enjoy the first few pages of the story at all but I was determined to persevere (I’m stubborn like that!)

We are then introduced to the main character, Auguste Dupin, and the way his brain works – deducing what his companion is thinking from a few small, obscure clues which I felt was so far-fetched as to almost ludicrous.

The gentleman are then drawn to a case in the Paris paper involving two gruesome, violent and seemingly unsolvable murders in the Rue Morgue which lead them to trying to solve a classic ‘locked room’ mystery. They do eventually reach a conclusion, which is a crazy ending in itself, and all is neatly tied up hopefully to the reader’s satisfaction.

This story requires a lot of effort to read, the resolution asks for a huge suspension of disbelief and I cannot say that it was one of the best stories I have read or that I would rush to read it again. However, this story is hailed is one of the earliest detective stories, and is a clear fore-runner to Sherlock Holmes and so is a must-read for anyone who enjoys that genre and wants to read the gamut of stories. I also would not let it put you off reading any more of Poe’s work. I thoroughly enjoyed The Fall of the House of Usher and will definitely be exploring more of his work, as it is interesting and very different to my usual choices.

A copy of The Murders in the Rue Morgue can be purchased here.

About the Author

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) was born in Boston and orphaned at an early age. Taken in by a couple from Richmond, Virginia, he spent a semester at the University of Virginia but could not afford to stay longer. After joining the Army and matriculating as a cadet, he started his literary career with the anonymous publication of Tamerlane and Other Poems, before working as a literary critic. His life was dotted with scandals, such as purposefully getting himself court-martialled to ensure dismissal from the Army, being discharged from his job at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond after being found drunk by his boss, and secretly marrying his thirteen-year-old cousin Virginia (listed twenty-one on the marriage certificate). His work took him to both New York City and Baltimore, where he died at the age of forty, two years after Virginia.

Big Skye Littleton by Elisa Lorello #bookreview (@elisalorello) @AmazonPub

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Skye Littleton said goodbye to her job, her best friend, and her home in Rhode Island to start over in Billings, Montana, with Vance Sandler, a gorgeous guy she met online. On her cross-country flight, Skye shares her happy story with her seatmate, Harvey Wright, a Billings resident who knows Vance—and his reputation for heartbreak. Harvey’s infuriating advice to Skye? Go home.

When Skye arrives, she discovers that Vance has changed his mind and wants nothing to do with her. Despite the setback, Skye is determined to rebuild her life and begin a new chapter in Montana’s largest city, which sometimes feels like a small town. With Harvey’s help, Skye finds a job—and a passion for organizing closets and clearing out clutter. But as she grows closer to Harvey, she finds herself homesick for her former life. Could Harvey be her future, or is she his chance at revenge? Can Skye finally trust her own heart enough to let it show her the way home?

This was my first read of the year for the 2018 Reading Challenge of my online book club,   The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The first challenge was to read a book with food on the cover.

I’m not sure why I picked up this book originally, I think I must have read a review somewhere, but it has been sat on my TBR for a while (as have hundreds of other books, that is no indication of how much I wanted to read it. There are just too many appealing books out there and too few hours in a day!). The setting of Montana was the main draw for this book originally – the USA is my favourite place to travel and Montana is a state that I long to visit – but once I dove in, I was charmed by the whole story, not just the setting.

Refreshingly, the main character in this book is not some fresh-faced, lithe twenty-something, but a real-life, realistically-shaped, flawed but likeable woman in her mid-thirties to whom I could totally relate. At the beginning of the book, Skye Littleton is having a personal crisis which leads her throwing caution to the winds and moving across the country to a strange state where she knows no one, for a man she met on the internet. Predictably, it all goes horribly wrong and Skye has to face up to crawling home with her tail between her legs to the life with which she had become disillusioned or start again from scratch.

I was concerned that I wouldn’t buy in to anyone being so reckless, but Elisa writes Skye’s story so emotively and with such understanding that I totally bought in to why she would do something so foolhardy, and why she then can’t bring herself to go back. I was rooting for Skye from the beginning, wishing her the best and feeling every setback and every triumph with her throughout the book. The story is beautifully put together in this regard.

The location of Billings, Montana was fabulously brought to life in the book, as I’d hoped, and it has only increased my desire to visit this state. The romantic hero of the story is also realistically and sympathetically drawn, and it seems to be the perfect match for Skye, although the path of true love never did run smooth as we all know and, cleverly, I really was not sure right until the end whether Skye would get a happy ending, or even what I wanted that happy ending to be. Ultimately, I found myself wanting what was best for Skye, whether or not that was as part of a couple or single, and I could not decide what that was going to be until Skye herself realised what she wanted.

Ultimately, this is a story about a woman who has lost her sense of self and is trying to find it again, but not in a spiritual ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ way. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, I loved that book, but this isn’t the same). It is the story of someone who doesn’t love or respect herself very much and who is on a journey to understand that, until she learns to do that, she will never find a man who can love or respect her either.

This book is a cut above the standard romantic fiction. It is believable, thoughtful, emotive and warm and I totally loved it. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read an honest story about a real woman and real love.

Big Skye Littleton is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Elisa Lorello is a Long Island native, the youngest of seven children. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and taught rhetoric and writing at the college level for more than ten years. In 2012, she became a full-time novelist.

Elisa is the author of seven novels, including the bestselling Faking It, and one memoir. She has been featured in the Charlotte Observer and, more recently, Last Best News and was a guest speaker at the Triangle Association of Freelancers 2012 and 2014 Write Now! conferences. In May 2016, she presented a lesson for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association spring workshop. She continues to speak and write about her publishing experience and teach the craft of writing and revision.

Elisa enjoys reading, walking, hanging out in coffee shops, Nutella, and all things Duran Duran. She plays guitar badly and occasionally bakes. She moved to Montana in 2016 and is newly married.

SPECIAL POST: Isolation Junction by Jennifer Gilmour (@JenLGilmour) FREE ON KINDLE 8-12 JANUARY 2018

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Today I am sharing a very special blog post for Jennifer Gilmour, whose debut novel Isolation Junction is currently available to download for free on Amazon Kindle for the next two days. Here is Jennifer, in her own words, to tell you why she is currently giving away her book.

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“My name is Jennifer Gilmour and I am a survivor of domestic abuse, I have published two books both with a focus on raising awareness about domestic abuse at their core. Whilst both aim to raise this awareness one is written as a work of fiction whilst the other is a compilation of survivor stories and therefore non-fiction. Both work in different ways to educate and raise awareness of this insidious and unacceptable behaviour.

Over Christmas, incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police rise. Assault and domestic murders increase 25% during the festive period with a third of them been on Christmas Day itself. Bombarded with images of the perfect nuclear family gathered around the gold baubles of a Christmas tree, it can be easy to forget that Christmas is a time of coercion, punishment and violence for many women* and men.

Now I know it isn’t Christmas anymore but January can be just as bad because all those credit card bills come in alongside your usual direct debits. There is even a day in January called Blue Monday and this year its on the 15th. The date is generally reported as falling on the third Monday in January, but also on the second or fourth Monday, or the Monday of the last full week of January. The formula uses many factors, including: weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action. Can you imagine this formula and applying it to an abusive relationship?

For 5 days my debut novel Isolation Junction is going to be FREE on Amazon Kindle, this is the first time ever to happen. It’s the week before Blue Monday, I wonder if those reading will be inspired to take action?

I ask you all to share the link and break the silence surrounding domestic abuse.

UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LX4HLT0
US link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LX4HLT0″

My reason for supporting Jennifer in her giveaway is to help raise awareness of domestic abuse that is still a hidden and relatively taboo issue in our society. Having never been affected myself, I found reading Jennifer’s book both eye-opening and horrifying and it made me realise that I had never considered whether anyone I know might be affected and resolved to be more alert to potential warning signs that might indicate someone needs help. I would be very grateful if you could share this post and news of Jennifer’s giveaway amongst your friends, relatives, acquaintances and followers. If this helps just one person break from the cycle of abuse, it will have been worth all of our efforts.

Book Synopsis:

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.

She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. Through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.

It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.

After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it?

Will Tim help her? Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

About the author:

Born in the north-east, Jennifer is a young, married mum with three children. In addition to being an author, she is an entrepreneur, running a family business from her home-base. Her blog posts have a large readership of other young mums in business.

From an early age, Jennifer has had a passion for writing and started gathering ideas and plot lines from her teenage years. A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, she has drawn on her personal experiences to write her first novel Isolation Junction. It details the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again.

Since the publication of her debut novel, Jennifer has continued to be an advocate for those in abusive relationships through her blog posts, radio interviews and Twitter feed. Jennifer also gained a qualification in facilitating a recover programme for those who have been in abusive relationships.

Jennifer continues to publicly support those who are isolated and struggle to have a voice. Jennifer hopes that Clipped Wings give’s a voice to survivor’s experiences and raise’s awareness further of the types of unacceptable behaviour which fall into the category of domestic abuse.

Links:

If you, or anyone you know may be affected by the issues discussed here and in Jennifer’s book, please contact the UK 24-hour free-phone National Domestic Violence helpline, which is 0808 2000 247. There is also a support page on Jennifer’s website: http://jennifergilmour.com/support/

2018 – The Year of Writing (#amwriting)

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‘And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.’
– William Shakespeare (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

So, 2017 is over and it was a year of mixed results as far as my reading challenges went. I managed to read 101 books to beat my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 100 books last year, which was pleasing. However, as far as my self-imposed ban on book-buying went, I had slightly less success.

I was rock solid until the end of May, which was a huge achievement. However, in June I allowed myself a little loophole when I bid on some signed books in the Authors for Grenfell auction. Turns out this was a slippery slope. I managed to resist through July and August but then, in September, I went to the launch of Cathy Bramley’s new book and decided it would be rude not to buy a copy for signing, and that was that. The floodgates opened and I caved in and bought loads of books in the last third of the year, so my TBR is bigger than ever!

Still, I lasted longer than I, or anyone else who knows me, could have predicted. I also launched my blog and as a result got to meet and interact with lots of great new people, so it was a worthwhile experiment but one I won’t be repeating. I have a book-buying addiction and I have resigned myself to it gladly- after all, there are more harmful vices.

Despite my failure in last year’s challenge, I am keeping my blog alive and have set myself some new challenges for 2018. I have set my Goodreads Reading Challenge 2018 goal at 105 books, please link up with me using the button on the right to follow my progress. I have also joined a fabulous Facebook Book Club called The Fiction Cafe Book Club and will be taking part in their Reading Challenge for 2018, which is bi-weekly. First up we have to read a book with food on the cover so my first read for that will be Big Skye Littleton by Elisa Lorello. I will also be reading at least one of their monthly book choices, starting with The Surrogate by Louise Jensen, a fellow group member.

I have also set myself the individual challenge of reading one classic novel per month that I have never read before. I am going to try and tie this in with my other challenges if possible. The title for January is Howard’s End by E.M. Forster. I am not sure how I have managed to overlook this all these years, especially as I adore A Room with a View, so I am looking forward to reading it.

I am going to endeavour to be much better about reviewing all my reads this year, and be more active on my blog, so watch out for the reviews of these coming up. This is all part of my main resolution for the year, which is to prioritise my writing. The blog is a small part of this, but the bigger part is finishing the novel I have been promising myself that I will write for years.

On turning 45 last year, I realised it was now or never for my writing so I have taken certain steps towards making it happen. I started my novel for NaNoWriMo in November and, as part of that I was lucky enough to spend five days on a writing retreat with the author Veronica Henry. Not only did I get a lot of writing done, I got to pick the brains of one of my favourite authors, and made a great new friend in the process, so that was an amazing experience.

I did not reach 50,000 words in November but I do have the first third of my novel done and, in an effort to push my writing on, I applied for and managed to gain a place on the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme for this year. For those of you who haven’t heard of this great programme, you can find some information here. As a member of the New Writers’ Scheme, no only will I be able to attend the many fabulous events they hold throughout the year and get to meet other (proper) authors, agents and publishers, but I will also get an expert critique of my manuscript by a published author, in an attempt to get it into shape for publication. So, I now have a deadline. I need to have a full manuscript in the best shape possible ready to submit by 31 August at the latest. If that doesn’t motivate me, nothing will.

As well as the above, I will be attending an Arvon writing retreat in Shropshire courtesy of my generous and supportive partner, The Irishman. I have also joined a wonderful writers’ group online, who are full of amazing support, encouragement and advice. I feel like, in them, I have finally found my ‘tribe’ that I am always hearing so much about so, if I don’t get a novel written this year, it will be no one’s fault but my own. Whether or not it gets published will be a story for another time, but I am determined to finish the book at the very least.

So, a busy exciting year ahead and I look forward to sharing my progress with you all. What are your goals for 2018? I’d love to know.

HAPPY NEW YEAR & MAY 2018 BE A SUCCESS FOR ALL OF US!

 

Christmas In St Ives by Miranda Dickinson #bookreview (@wurdsmyth) @panmacmillan #TeamSparkly

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“Heartbroken Cerrie Austin is doing her best to hold it together in the run up to Christmas. Not easy when her cheating ex works in the same school and everyone’s eyes are on her. The last thing she needs is a new teacher meddling in her beloved nativity play, even if he is charming, handsome and a talented musician. The Christmas performance is her pride and joy, and she won’t be undermined.

Seren McArthur has recently returned to her Cornish hometown and is enjoying being close to her family and her oldest friends again. St Ives is at its most magical at Christmas, with fairy lights and tinsel in every shop window, tempting locals and holidaymakers alike as they pick up gifts. But an exciting opportunity is just around the corner: will she stay or will she go?

Meanwhile, the St Ives Christmas celebrations are in crisis: plans for a giant lantern parade through the starlit streets have ground to a halt. As the snow starts to fall, can Cerrie, Seren and their friends Kieran and Aggie rally around in time to save the big day?”

It’s publication day at last! As part of Miranda’s #TeamSparkly, a group of book lovers who have been helping Miranda promote her surprise Christmas novella for the last couple of months, I’ve been lucky enough to have had an advance copy of this book for the last few weeks and I’ve been dying to be able to share my thoughts on it with you and here we are finally, so let’s get stuck in.

Christmas in St Ives is a short, e-novella set in the beautiful Cornish town of St Ives during the run up to Christmas. It introduces us to four main characters, Cerrie, Seren, Aggie and Kieran – a group of friends supporting each other and their close-knit community in St Ives, whilst each dealing with secret struggles, challenges and passions. These characters will be the focus of Miranda’s new novel Somewhere Beyond the Sea which will be published in June 2018, so it is lovely to get a sneak introduction to the characters and the setting and, having met them and had a taster of their stories, I am now tingly with anticipation for the new book. So much so that I already have it on pre-order. (As an added bonus, there is an extract from Somewhere Beyond the Sea at the end of this novella to whet you appetite even further). This book works completely as a standalone book in its own right, though.

As a short novella, this is the perfect read to curl up with and devour in a single, decadent sitting, and you’ll want to make sure you give yourself time to do this because once you dive in to the charming world of St Ives at Christmas, the build up to their festival and the sparkly lantern parade, and into the lives of Cerrie, Seren, Aggie and Kieran, you won’t want to leave until you’ve finished. So grab a comfy chair, a blanket, a cup of something warm and spicy and jump in. Miranda’s writing is beautifully descriptive and so immersive you’ll soon forget where you are and you’ll be right in the heart of the story.

Cerrie is a teacher in the local primary school and she is in charge of the annual nativity play. Her scenes were some of my favourites in the book. My children are sadly now past the cute tinsel haloes, tea towel shepherd headdresses and baby doll Jesus stage, but this took my right back to those days as a proud parent and I absolutely loved it. I’m also now going to be constantly on the look out for sea glass when I go to the beach, which I’d never heard of before but forms an important part of Seren’s story (you’ll have to read the book to find out more!)

This is a gorgeous, warm and fuzzy book that is the perfect thing to get you in the mood for the festive season. I defy anyone who reads it not to want to string up the fairy lights, glug some mulled wine and wrap up warm to visit a Christmas market or other wintry celebration, preferably in St Ives, which sounds magical. So if you are feeling a bit Grinchy about the fact it is only NINE-AND-A-HALF WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS, or you just want something to cheer you up as the nights draw in, you won’t do better than this lovely tale.

Christmas in St Ives is out in e-book format today and you can grab a copy for your Kindle hereSomewhere Beyond the Sea will be published on 14 June 2018 and can be pre-ordered here.

About the Author

Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. From an early age she dreamed of writing a book that would make the heady heights of Kingswinford Library and today she is a bestselling author. She began to write in earnest when a friend gave her The World’s Slowest PC, and has subsequently written the bestselling novels Fairytale of New York, Welcome to My World, It Started With a Kiss, When I Fall in Love, Take A Look At Me Now, I’ll Take New York and A Parcel for Anna Browne. Miranda lives with her husband Bob and daughter Flo in Dudley.

The Magic of Ramblings by Kate Field #bookreview (@katehaswords) @AccentPress

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“Running away can be the answer if you run to the right place…

When Cassie accepts a job as companion to an old lady in a remote Lancashire village, she hopes for a quiet life where she can forget herself, her past and most especially men. The last thing she wants is to be drawn into saving a community that seems determined to take her to its heart – and to resuscitate hers…

Frances has lived a reclusive life at Ramblings, a Victorian Gothic mansion, for over thirty years and now Barney is hiding away there, forging a new life after his medical career ended in scandal. He doesn’t trust the mysterious woman who comes to live with his rich aunt, especially when she starts to steal Frances’ affection – and maybe his own too…”

This might be a very short review today because all I want to say about this book is….I absolutely loved it, and I mean I really loved it, it may be one of my favourite reads of 2017. I started reading it on Thursday evening and had to stay up until I finished it on Friday – I just couldn’t wait to finish it, whilst at the same time not wanting it to end.

It is initially very hard to describe what is so compelling about this book because, on the face of it, the plot seems like a fairly straight-forward premise for a romance novel, nothing startlingly out of the ordinary. If you read the blurb or looked at the cover, it might not jump out at you as anything special. Oh, but how you would be missing out if you over-looked it.

This book, its setting and, most importantly of all, the characters just stole my heart. They have stayed with me and had me thinking about them since I turned the last page; sure sign of a book that has had a meaningful impact on me. Again, I can’t really tell you why, the story-telling is so subtle and insidious that it grabs you without your really noticing. the writing is really so beautiful and clever.

The setting and the cast of characters are extremely warm and charming, you immediately feel right at home in the big house at Ramblings and the charming village of Ribblesmill. Frances is a woman that you cannot help feeling compassion for (although you know she would hate to think you feel sorry for her!) and the relationship she has with Cassie unfolds beautifully as two people who understand and care for each other, and have found each other just at the right time. Barney is a suitably attractive love interest, but really it is the relationship between Frances and Cassie that for me was at the heart of this novel and I think the reason I loved it so much. It made is so much more than the usual ‘boy meets girl’ romance scenario.

Frances’ children are suitably villainous without descending to caricature and I loved the characters of Mel and Akram and Ethel who brought some light relief, again without descending to pantomime. The whole book is just perfectly balanced and it is actually astonishing to me that this is a debut novel, the writing is so cleverly done.

If I had to make a tiny criticism, I would say that the plot involving Barney leaving the medical profession and the situation with his ex-wife was a little confusing and not very clearly explained and seemed a bit of an after-thought that was not fully developed but this is a totally minor issue and did not detract from the enjoyment of this book one bit.

I feel like I haven’t adequately explained quite why I adore this book as much as I do and why you really must go out and read it immediately and I think that is actually the genius behind it. It isn’t big and flashy and brash, it doesn’t flaunt its charms and trumpet its themes. It is quiet, and clever and sweet and brilliant and it gets under your skin with its warmth. It explores its issues thoughtfully and subtly and balances the ending between melancholy and uplifting perfectly. It is just a joy and I know it is a book I will come back to again and again.

The Magic of Ramblings is out now and you can buy a copy here and I can’t wait to see what is next from this author.

About the Author

Kate Field lives in Lancashire and writes contemporary romance with a touch of Northern grit. The Magic of Ramblings was the winner of the RNA’s prestigious Joan Hessayon Award 2017 for new writers.