Book Review: The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp by Sarra Manning #BookReview

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Beautiful, brilliant, ruthless – nothing can stop Becky Sharp.

Becky Sharp has big dreams and no connections. Determined to swap the gutters of Soho for the glamorous, exclusive world behind the velvet rope, Becky will do anything to achieve fame, riches and status.

Whether it’s seducing society’s most eligible bachelors, or befriending silly debutantes and rich old ladies, Becky Sharp is destined for great things. Because it might be tough at the top but it’s worse at the bottom.

From London to Paris and beyond, Becky Sharp is going places – so get the hell out of her way…

My thanks to the publishers for my digital copy of this book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I finally got round to reading this modern retelling of Vanity Fair. I have to admit, I have not read the original. It is one of those classics that has been sat on my TBR and I have just not got round to picking up, so I went in to this book with no preconceptions and no comparisons to Thackeray’s novel and my review will be of this novel in its own right, not as a retelling.

I absolutely loved the opening chapter of the book, which sets Becky up immediately as a modern woman seeking fame in a way that has become most popular in the twenty-first century. I don’t want to say too much more and spoil the beginning of the book for anyone who has not read it but, as a member of Generation X, the events that open this book played an important part in my life. In fact, I was at school with the very first person to emerge from this experience – one of my claims to fame – and I’ll say no more than that! As soon as I started reading it, i knew this book was something different, smart and relevant.

The main character of the book, Becky Sharp, is determined and ruthless in her pursuit of a better life for herself and, as we hear the beginnings of the story, we have a lot of sympathy for her, because she has not had it easy. However, as the book carries on and she becomes more and more careless with other people in her eagerness for advancement, that sympathy begins to evaporate and, by the end, she is fairly detestable. It is a fascinating story arc, the opposite of the way most books and characters develop and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The book has many interesting and fun supporting characters as well, and the strong streak of humour running through the novel was really well done. I alternating between willing Becky on, and praying for her downfall, largely depending on how I felt about the supporting character she was taking advantage of at the time. This is the genius behind the plot, the constant conflict between the self-serving behaviour of Becky and the nature of the supporting characters leading to the reader sometimes having to choose to support the lesser of two evils.

The book in pacy and entertaining and provided a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. I really ended up caring about the characters and wanting to know if they got what they deserved by the end. It has made me want to pick up that copy of Vanity Fair that has been languishing on my shelf for far too long and see how well this author has interpreted the book into its modern setting. I know this is an odd way round to read them, but it is a great plaudit for the efficacy of this novel.

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Sarra Manning is an author and journalist. She started her writing career on Melody Maker, than spent five years on legendary UK teen mag, J17, first as a writer, then as Entertainment Editor. Subsequently she edited teen fashion bible Ellegirl UK and the BBC’s What To Wear magazine.

Sarra has written for ELLE, Grazia, Red, InStyle, The Guardian, Sunday Times Style, The Mail On Sunday’s You, Harper’s Bazaar, Stylisr, Time Out and The Sunday Telegraph’s Stella. Her best-selling YA novels, which include Guitar Girl, Let’s Get Lost, Pretty Things, The Diary Of A Crush trilogy and Nobody’s Girl have been translated into numerous languages. Her latest YA novel, Adorkable, was published by Atom.

She has also written a number of grown-up novels.

Sarra lives in North London with her Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Miss Betsy, and prides herself on her unique ability to accessorise.

Connect with Sarra:

Twitter: @sarramanning

Instagram: @sarra_manning

Blog Tour: A Cornish Wedding by Jenny Kane #GuestPost

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Abi has what she’s always dreamed of: her perfect Cornish cottage, great friends and a gorgeous boyfriend. But her idyll is shattered when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Rude and obnoxious, Cassandra doesn’t make a good first impression on Abi. But with the unexpected wedding of one of Abi’s friends to prepare for, Abi has bigger things to worry about.

However, avoiding her new neighbour proves harder than expected and Abi and Cassandra soon realise they might have more in common than they first thought. . .

But with the wedding only weeks away, can they set aside their differences before the big day?

I’m very happy to be taking part in the blog tour today for A Cornish Wedding by Jenny Kane. Huge thanks to the author for asking me to take part and for providing me with this fabulous guest post to share with you.

Penwith Dreaming by Jenny Kane

When I initially had the idea to write a story about a young woman poised to escape a suffocating life amongst Surrey’s city wife set, I needed somewhere welcoming and friendly to send her to. The answer was obvious. I had to send my escapee to Cornwall.

More specifically, I had to send the young woman, who was to become Abi, to the Penwith region of Cornwall. This includes Penzance, Lands End, and a multitude of villages and towns in between; including St Just, St Buryan, Sennen and Sennen Cove. 

My father was born and raised in Penzance. I spent every summer holiday there as a child. Consequently, I know the area very well.

There is something special about the memories which we acquire in our childhoods. For me those memories involve over vinegar-ed fish and chips, ice creams on Marazion beach, sitting on the harbour edge in Sennen watching the lifeboat go out, seeing the Salonian Ferry head from Penzance to the Scilly Isles each morning, and listening to the crash of the waves over the boulders that make up the Battery Rocks in Penzance.

All of these recollections helped to form the background to Abi Carter’s new life. However, it is one specific memory that decided me on the exact setting for Abi’s adventures.

 When I was eight years old I was walking up a hill with my parents and brother, through some of the cottages in the village of Sennen. We passed a row of stone built (former) tin miner’s cottages, and I immediately fell in love with the house on the very end of the terrace.

It was a built of light grey stones, its roof was a traditional slate blue. There was a small square front garden, complete with a low white wooden fence. The front door was painted red, and a pair of small wellington boots sat next to it. I couldn’t see into the walled garden at the back, but in my mind it held a green house, a shed, and lots of benches in which to sit in the sunshine. There would be dog- a Labrador – and rows and rows of flowers and vegetables growing neatly side by side.

It was this house that became the house that the young Abi Carter- also at the age of eight – dreamed of owning one day. Now, in her late twenties, that dream has come true.

Sennen and Sennen Cove, with its mile of fine sand beach, traditional pubs, (including the Old Success which is a favourite of the characters in both novels), harbour, art galleries, cafes, and bucket and spade shops, is as much a star of A Cornish Wedding as the human characters.

Max Pendale, Abi’s boyfriend, is an amateur expert on the Penwith area. Fond of general knowledge and local legends, there is very little Max can’t tell you about Sennen, Land’s End and the nearby Gwenver beach in particular. 

If you want to know how Cornish cream teas came into being, or who the Zennor Mermaid was, then you’d better read A Cornish Wedding. Max will be very happy to enlighten you- providing you but him a pint of St Austell Brewery’s Tribute first!

Here’s a short extract from the novel…

Abi felt an atmosphere of unspoken words fill the air between herself and Max.

‘Do you know the story of the Zennor Mermaid?’

Suspecting that Max could feel the slight tension too, and wanted to deflect the situation, Abi stared at medieval church to their left. ‘Only that there is a legend about a mermaid, I don’t actually know the tale. Are you going to tell me one of your local stories?’

Slipping on Sadie’s lead, and taking Abi’s hand, Max began to take them past the quintessentially Cornish cottages. ‘Once upon a time, many years ago, a mysterious beautiful lady occasionally attended the church behind us. Nobody knew who this richly dressed woman was, but her stunning appearance and her heartbreakingly lovely voice made her the focus of much village gossip and speculation.

‘As you can imagine, a woman who – if it’s possible – was even more gorgeous than you had no shortage of men trying to court her.’

Abi was immediately thankful that Max always knew how to break an awkward atmosphere. ‘Even more lovely than me? Fancy that!’

‘Don’t get cocky, woman, especially when we have the breathtakingly lovely Sadie with us!’

Poking Max playfully in the ribs, Abi said, ‘Go on, what happened next?’

‘Well, one of the local young men, a handsome fella called Mathew Trewella –’

‘Like you,’ Abi interjected.

Max rolled his eyes at Abi as he carried on, ‘With the best singing voice in the village…’

‘Not like you after all then!’

Looking at the retriever, Max said, ‘Sadie, lass, shall I tell you the story instead?’

Abi laughed. ‘OK, I’ll be good. What did this devastatingly handsome singing guy do?’

If you have been enticed by this taster to want to read A Cornish Wedding, you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for reviews of the book and other great content:

Cornish Wedding Blog Tour

About the Author

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From the comfort of her cafe corner in Mid Devon, award winning author, Jenny Kane, wrote the contemporary women’s fiction and romance novels, A Cornish Escape,  A Cornish Wedding, Romancing Robin Hood,  Another Glass of Champagne, and Another Cup of Coffee.

She has also written 3 novella length sequels to her Another Cup of…..books:  Another Cup of Christmas, Christmas in the Cotswolds, and Christmas at the Castle . These three seasonal specials are now available in one boxed set entitled Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection.

Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat and Ben’s Biscuit Tin.

Under the pen name, Jennifer Ash, Jenny has also written The Folville Chronicles (The Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw, Edward’s Outlaw), The Power of Three and The Meeting Place. She also created four audio scripts for ITV’s popular 1980’s television show, Robin of Sherwood. 

The Waterford Boy, Mathilda’s Legacy, The Baron’s Daughter and The Meeting Place were released by Spiteful Puppet in 2017/2018/2019. 

Jenny Kane is the writer in residence for Tiverton Costa in Devon. She also co-runs the creative writing business, Imagine. Jenny teaches a wide range of creative writing workshops including her popular ‘Novel in a Year’ course. (www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk)

Connect with Jenny:

Website: https://jennykane.co.uk

Facebook: Jenny Kane Romance

Twitter: @JennyKaneAuthor

Instagram: @jennykaneromance

Book Review: Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane; Narrated by Madeline Gould #AudiobookReview

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You always remember your first love. Don’t you?

It began with four words.

I love your laugh. x

But that was 12 years ago. It really began the day Georgina was fired from The Worst Restaurant in Sheffield (TripAdvisor) and found The Worst Boyfriend in the World (Georgina’s best friends) in bed with someone else.

So when her new boss, Lucas McCarthy, turns out to be the boy who wrote those words to her all that time ago, it feels like the start of something.

The only problem? He doesn’t seem to remember Georgina at all.

This was my first Mhairi McFarlane book and I chose it because I have seen a lot of bloggers enthusing about her writing and I thought I had better see what I was missing out on. Having listened to this book, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed her work and will definitely be seeking out more.

I was intrigued by the premise of the book, how could someone who had been your first teenage love not remember you at all, and how would you deal with that? It seemed like it might be a hard idea to carry through convincingly, but Mhairi manages it, and the book was both funny and very moving. The story she has put together goes far beyond the basic comedic value of the premise and touches on much deeper and more serious issues. Combining the quite troubling aspects of the story with the funny element in a way that is not jarring is a difficult skill, but one Mhiari manages effortlessly. (I’m sure it wasn’t effortless but it certainly looks it in the finished novel.)

Georgina is a great character, hapless and unfocused, but full of chutzpah and I really liked her – an important characteristic for the protagonist in a romantic comedy! Mhairi also gives us an odious ex, plenty of mad family members with internal frictions to enjoy, and a dark, brooding Irishman as the love interest. Most of you will know how much I love a dark, brooding Irishman, in my fiction as well as in real life, so I was pretty much sold from the get go, but the execution of the promise in no way disappointed.

Being from South Yorkshire myself and having worked in Sheffield for a few years, I enjoyed the familiar setting of the book, and Mhairi’s set up of having Georgina as a waitress in a not-very-good Italian restaurant at the beginning gave scope for lots of comedy, not to mention the shenanigans with the odious boyfriend. This book made me laugh out loud as I was walking my dog along the canal bank; probably just as well that it  was usually quite deserted.

I really enjoyed the way the truth about what happened the night of the leavers’ party gradually unfurled and we finally find out what happened between Lucas and Georgina the first time around. The fact that it was so gradual kept me listening avidly; sometimes the pace of a book fails to translate from page to audio version, because the latter takes much longer to get through, but this book definitely did not suffer from any pacing problems in translation. In fact, the audio version of the book is wonderful, I really loved the narrator and even the accents were great (and I’ve heard a few dodgy Irish accents done in the past.) I would not hesitate to pick up another audiobook featuring this narrator again.

Overall, this was a funny, moving, bittersweet story with appealing characters and a fresh premise that the author carried through with aplomb. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and look forward to reading much more of her writing. Highly recommended.

You can buy a copy of Don’t You Forget About Me now in all formats here.

About the Author

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Sunday Times bestselling author Mhairi McFarlane was born in Scotland in 1976 and her unnecessarily confusing name is pronounced Vah-Ree.

After some efforts at journalism, she started writing novels and her first book, You Had Me At Hello, was an instant success. She’s now written six books and she lives in Nottingham with a man and a cat.

Connect with Mhairi:

Facebook: Mhairi McFarlane Author

Twitter: @MhairiMcF

 

Blog Tour: The Place We Call Home by Faith Hogan #BookReview

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Welcome to Ballycove, the home of Corrigan Mills…

Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Irish countryside the famed mills have created the finest wool in all of Ireland. Run by the seemingly perfect Corrigan family, but every family has its secrets, and how the mills came to be the Corrigan’s is one of them…

Miranda and her husband were never meant to own the mills, until one fateful day catapults them into a life they never thought they’d lead.

Ada has forever lived her life in her sister’s shadow. Wanting only to please her mother and take her place as the new leader of the mill, Ada might just have to take a look at what her heart really wants.

Callie has a flourishing international career as a top designer and a man who loves her dearly, she appears to have it all. When a secret is revealed and she’s unceremoniously turfed out of the design world, Callie might just get what’s she’s been yearning for. The chance to go home.

Simon has always wanted more. More money, more fame, more notoriety. The problem child. Simon has made more enemies than friends over the years, and when one of his latest schemes falls foul he’ll have to return to the people who always believe in him.

Ballycove isn’t just a town in the Irish countryside. It isn’t just the base of the famous mills. It’s a place to call home.

I am delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for The Place We Call Home by Faith Hogan. My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books On The Bright Side Publicity for inviting me to take part. I will be reposting my review of this book from earlier in the year, which was drafted having read a digital copy of the book supplied by the publisher. The review is my honest and unbiased opinion of the novel.

We ran out of heating oil on Saturday (due to a combination of a monitor on the blink and the distraction of Christmas – don’t ask.) As a result, our house has been freezing, just as Storm Brendan blew in. Brrrrrr!

Why am I telling you this? Because the one thing that has warmed me through while I’ve been waiting for a fuel delivery is reading this charming novel. It has left me with a happy glow, a bit like the Ready Brek kid from the advert, and I was both loathe and happy to get to the gorgeous ending.

Many of my favourite authors are Irish. Maeve Binchy, Cathy Kelly, Emma Hannigan, Marian Keyes all have pride of place on my bookshelf, because their writing is full of life and passion and warmth and real life characters. Faith Hogan is the latest name to be added to my list of go-tos when I am looking for a warm and genuine story full of Irish charm. This book brings Ireland to life within its pages, filling the story with the countryside, scenery and community of rural Ireland and its people. It tells the story of a village, the woollen mill that has put in on the map and kept its populace in jobs, and the family whose responsibility it is to keep the mill running. The story is told across dual timelines as we discover Meredith’s struggles with her grown children now, and her story growing up in Ballycove as a child and young woman, and how the repercussions from events then have shaped the future.

There is a great and realistic mix of characters in this book, not all of whom were likeable. In fact, I was surprised to read a couple of reviews of this book which said that the readers loved all of the characters, because I did not. (Just goes to show how we all react so differently to the same story!) Despite this, they were all believable, because not everyone in real life is likeable after all! I was fully involved in all of their stories from the beginning and, despite wanting to slap some sense into a least one of them, I was happy with the way everything played out in the end, and the very last paragraph made me sigh with happiness.

If you are looking for a gorgeous, feel-good read, with a good depth of story (someone else has referred to this as a saga, and I think it could indeed be classed as a mini version of such), set in a beautiful landscape with characters and a community you can care about, look no further. You absolutely will not be disappointed.

The Place We Call Home is out now and you can get a copy here.

Please do check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour too, for more reviews and other great content:

The Place We call Home Banner

About the Author

Author Faith Hogan

Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. She writes grown up women’s fiction which is unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring.

Faith’s latest book, The Place We Call Home is published in January 2020.

She writes crime fiction as Geraldine Hogan – Her Sisters Bones is available now!

Faith gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway.

She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!

Connect with Faith:

Website: https://faithhogan.com

Facebook: Faith Hogan Author

Twitter: @GerHogan

Instagram: @faithhoganauthor

Desert Island Books: Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

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Generous-hearted Benny Hogan and the elfin Eve Malone have been best friends for years, growing up in sleepy Knockglen. Their one thought is to get to Dublin, to university and to freedom…

On their first day at University College, the inseparable pair are thrown together with fellow students: beautiful but selfish Nan Mahon and the handsome Jack Foley.

But trouble is brewing for Benny and Eve’s new circle of friends and, before long, they find passion, tragedy – and the independence they yearned for.

The sixth book I am taking to my desert island to be read endlessly until my sad demise is Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy.

Maeve Binchy is one of my all time favourite authors, and a huge inspiration to me, as she writes in the genre that I am attempting myself, emotional women’s fiction. Not only writes in it, is the doyenne of the genre. I have been a huge fan since I first borrowed a copy of Light A Penny Candle from my mother’s book shelf in my late teens. From that very first reading, I fell in love with her writing. Her gimlet eye for human nature. Her empathetic portrayal of emotion and the intimate frailties of the lives of real people. Her vivid portrayals of daily life in rural Ireland from the 1950s until modern times, and particularly the lives of Catholic women. Her books are a masterclass in how to write women’s fiction, and I am a true disciple, as my Maeve Binchy shelf will attest. I once saw someone dismiss her writing as ‘chicklit.’ Leaving aside the hot debate about the use of this intentionally derogatory term for books that are enjoyed by millions of women – and men – the world over, to label her work as chicklit is to fundamentally misunderstand it.

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Of all of her wonderful books, Circle of Friends has always been my favourite. It had a big impact on me when I first read it, and that impact has not lessened over the dozens of re-readings I have made of this book over the years, including the latest. The story still moves me emotionally, draws me in to its world and holds me in its grasp until the very last page, even though I know what is coming and how it ends. The ability to do this, to include layers of complexity and feeling so that the reader is held in thrall every time is a rare and beautiful skill that she possessed in boatloads and is the reason that her books have been bestsellers for decades, and are still popular many years after her death. Even now, new stage adaptations of her books are being written to delight audiences who can’t get enough of her intimate portrayals of women.

This book tells the story of the friendship of Benny Hogan and Eve Malone as they grow up as children in rural Ireland in the 1950s and eventually leave their small town to go to university in Dublin, and how the contrast between the small, safe childhoods they have known and navigating the expanded world of college, new friends and the city, impacts them individually and as friends.

Ireland, a strict Catholic country in the 1950s, held specific difficulties for women, but also the same challenges that we have faced the world over for centuries and, how the two girls navigate these challenges and support each other at the same time is at the core of the book and what will speak to women reading this book everywhere. Many of the issues that Maeve addresses are universal and will inevitably lead to the reader being able to identify with at least one of the characters in the book or one of the situations they have to face. Female friendship is an enduring topic in women’s literature, and one that is at the centre of many of Maeve’s books, and this one in particular.

Benny Hogan is one of my favourite ever characters in a novel, and one I always have, and still do, identify with strongly. The author does such an amazing job of portraying her insecurity and vulnerability through childhood and into her teenage years that I defy anyone not to be firmly on her side from the beginning of this book, not to see some aspect of themselves and any fear they have ever had about their place in the world reflected back at them. This then makes Benny the perfect character to draw us in to this story of a young, gauche girl trying to navigate the new and intimidating world of university, far away from home and all the security she has known. These are emotions that most of us can relate to in one way or another and, as such, it is impossible not to celebrate her successes in this new world and suffer her heartbreak at the same time she does. This book takes me back to my teenage years, the overwhelming emotions that you feel falling in love for the first time, how one person can come to mean everything to you and that relationship, the tornado of feelings that are unleashed and seem uncontrollable, how the end of the relationship feels like the end of the world; I remember it all and relive it again through the pages of this book.

Maeve’s writing is so tender and knowing, she really understands what makes people tick and is able to portray this in a way that makes us understand it too, but effortlessly, so you can’t even see how she is doing it. The lives of these women, their relationships and the settings of the stories come alive on the page, it is like watching a technicolour movie, and you can’t even see the joins. She writes the way I want to write, and I have spent a lot of time looking at how she does it, in the vain hope I can emulate her to some small degree. There was a discussion in my writing circle only yesterday about describing settings in books, how to do it vividly but discretely. Anyone wanting to see how it is done could do a lot worse than reading this book.

Maeve’s work led me on to reading a lot of other Irish writers who quickly became huge favourites of mine, Marian Keyes and Cathy Kelly to name but two, and on to people such as Veronica Henry and Erica James, who also write this genre similarly beautifully and who are all heroes of mine. But Maeve Binchy is the reason I feel in love with this genre in the beginning and she will always hold a special place in my heart. I miss her still and my desert island would not feel like home without my copy of Circle of Friends.

You can buy a copy of Circle of Friends here.

About the Author

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Maeve Binchy was born in County Dublin and educated at the Holy Child convent in Killiney and at University College, Dublin. After a spell as a teacher she joined the IRISH TIMES.

Her first novel, LIGHT A PENNY CANDLE, was published in 1982 and she went on to write over twenty books, all of them bestsellers. Several have been adapted for cinema and television, including TARA ROAD. Maeve Binchy received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Book Awards in 1999 and the Irish PEN/A.T. Cross award in 2007. In 2010 she was presented with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards by the President of Ireland.

She was married to the writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell for 35 years, and died in 2012.

Book Review: The Complete #LoveLondon Collection by Nikki Moore #BookReview

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Six couples. One city. A year to remember.

Now you can get all of Nikki Moore’s gorgeously romantic stories from the #LoveLondon series in one book! This is THE book to fall in love with …

Includes the short stories

Skating at Somerset House
New Year at the Ritz
Valentine’s on Primrose Hill
Cocktails in Chelsea
Strawberries at Wimbledon

and the full length novel…

Picnics in Hyde Park

It has taken me so long to finally get round to writing this review, apologies Nikki! I don’t know why, because this book provided the perfect blast of much-needed joy and escapism just when I needed it at the beginning of this coronavirus pandemic. They lifted me at one of my lowest points, and I’m not sure that you can ask mush more of a book than that.

This book is actually a compendium of five novellas and one full-length novel, all themed around romance blossoming in some of London’s most popular haunts at different times of year, so it is a great title to be able to pick up for a short and satisfying burst of romantic pleasure when you aren’t in the mood for tackling a full-length novel, but need a quick, sweet fix. The characters in the stories are tenuously linked, but they all operate really well as standalones, so if you’d rather just read one or two of the novellas, knock yourself out, but all are equally deserving of your attention.

I absolutely love to visit London. I lived there for six months and wasn’t happy as a resident but, as a tourist, I am an enthusiastic and frequent visitor and I got the impression from reading these stories that Nikki feels the same way as I do about the place. She perfectly encapsulates the draw of the city, the glamour, bright lights, excitement and romance that you see in films and TV shows. By visiting some of the most famous tourist landmarks- Somerset House, Wimbledon, The Ritz, Hyde Park, The King’s Road, Primrose Hill – at some of the most exciting times of year – Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day – she manages to make me feel all the excitement and enjoyment I get from a trip to London at high days and holidays. Honestly, I have not come across stories that have given me the same frisson I get when I board the train from Doncaster for a trip to London as I did from this book.

As well as the locations, which are the real highlight of the book, the love stories captured between the pages are also absolutely charming and really, really sexy! The author has managed to perfectly tread the line between the two, and I really enjoyed each of them. They explore different aspects of beginning a love affair – friends to lovers; rekindling old flames; holiday romance – but manages at the same time to bring a particular freshness to them. To do this within the confines of 50 pages for the novellas is a real skill and, I have to say, I actually preferred the distilled passion of the novellas to the full-length novel, although I enjoyed that too. I would really like to read more novellas by this author.

Anyone who is a fan of romance and a lover of London will really enjoy this collection (I am particularly thinking of you, Kate Baker!) and I could highly recommend it. It is a book that is going to live on my shelves and be picked up whenever I feel the need to take a quick trip to London, even when I can’t get there in person. At a time when we are missing our travel more than ever, I am glad I have this volume to turn to.

The Complete #LoveLondon Collection is out now in paperback and ebook, or you can buy the individual short stories as separate ebooks, and the full length novel, Picnic in Hyde Park, is also available as a separate paperback or ebook. You can get them all here.

About the Author

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A self-confessed reading addict, Nikki Moore has a HR day job, two teenagers and a lovely Fiancé to keep her busy alongside writing. She’s the author of the popular #LoveLondon series, which attracted four and five star reviews on Amazon. A number of the novellas featured in the Top 100 short story charts on Kobo and the Top 20 in the Amazon UK bestsellers Holiday chart. It was subsequently published as a collection, and in 2018 was released in Italy as an ebook in two volumes. She is currently writing commercial women’s fiction set in her beautiful home county of Dorset.

Her first published work was the short story A Night to Remember in the best selling Mills & Boon / RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply, edited by author Sue Moorcroft. Best-selling authors including Carole Matthews, Katie Fforde and Adele Parks also featured. Her debut novel Crazy, Undercover, Love was shortlisted for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2015 and being before offered her first contract, she was a finalist in several writing competitions including the Elizabeth Goudge trophy and Novelicious Undiscovered.

Nikki was in the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme for four years before graduating to full RNA membership and has contributed to their magazine Romance Matters. She has also chaired a panel and taken part in workshops at the Festival of Romance, as well as co-tutoring a ‘How to Write & Sell Your Novel’ workshop with Sue Moorcroft for the Purbeck Literary Festival.

When not writing or reading, Nikki can probably be found singing, walking the family’s cute beagle puppy or watching drama series on Netflix.

Connect with Nikki:

Facebook: Nikki Moore

Twitter: @NikkiMoore_Auth

Blog Tour: The Little Teashop in Tokyo by Julie Caplin #BookReview

The Little Teashop in Tokyo

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for the latest book in one of my favourite series by one of my favourite authors. It is The Little Teashop in Tokyo by Julie Caplin. Huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, received via NetGalley, that I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The Little Teashop in Tokyo cover

For travel blogger Fiona, Japan has always been top of her bucket list so when she wins an all-expenses paid trip, it looks like her dreams are coming true.

Until she arrives in vibrant, bustling Tokyo and comes face-to-face with the man who broke her heart ten years ago, gorgeous photographer Gabe.

Fiona can’t help but remember the heartache of their last meeting but amidst the temples and clouds of soft pink cherry blossoms, can Fiona and Gabe start to see life – and each other – differently?

My reading of late has taken me far from the confines of my armchair and travelling on adventures on distant shores, and today’s book is no different, except this time we are heading east instead of west. To Japan, in fact, a place I have never visited but now feel like I have, and at the same time cannot wait to go.

I don’t know if you have read any of Julie’s Romantic Escapes series, but she I an absolute genius at taking her readers on a journey, both geographically and emotionally, and this one is no exception. In fact, I think it may be my favourite one yet. It has left me feeling enriched in mind and spirit and emotionally uplifted by the love story. I have to confess to having a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye when I closed the book.

It is really obvious from the beginning that the author has spent a lot of time in the country she is writing about, has made close observation of the people, traditions and energy of the place and has fallen in love with it. You can feel the admiration and affection oozing from every delicious description of the sights, the tastes and the rituals of Japan. She writes with such warmth and appreciation and joy, that it has made me so eager to visit a country that I had never, even as a keen traveller, had any great yearning to visit before. This is a book that has brought Japan alive for me, and I am sure anyone picking up this book will have the same reaction.

As for the characters, I loved every single one. She has created a very sympathetic, but not at all patheti,c heroine and a flawed but redeemable love interest. But it is the Japanese host family that really stood out in this book for me. I wished I could sit around their kotatsu table to share some tea with them, especially at this time of great worry and stress for us all. Julie has woven so many Japanese words in to the book, it feels like a real education while you are reading, and made me keen to learn more. So much research and time and care has gone in to this book to form a rich, immersive tapestry of Japanese life, it makes an exceedingly rewarding read for the internationally curious.

Julie’s books are a cut above a lot of the romance novels that are out there (and I mean that in no degrading way to romance novels, I am a huge fan of the genre and extremely admiring of romantic novels and novelists). Her writing has such care and depth and such…heart… that it cannot help but elicit an equally heartfelt response. An absolutely beautiful and moving read.

The Little Teashop in Tokyo is out now in ebook and paperback, and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure you follow the rest of the tour:

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About the Author

Julie Caplin Bookshelf

Jules Wake announced at the age of ten that she planned to be a writer. Along the way she was diverted by the glamorous world of PR and worked on many luxury brands, taking journalists on press trips to awful places like Turin, Milan, Geneva, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam and occasionally losing the odd member of the press in an airport. This proved fabulous training for writing novels as it provided her with the opportunity to eat amazing food, drink free alcohol, hone her writing skills on press releases and to research European cities for her books. 

She writes best-selling warm-hearted contemporary fiction for HarperImpulse.

Under her pen name, Julie Caplin, her thirteenth novel, The Little Teashop in Tokyo will be published in ebook and paperback this June.

Connect with Julie:

Website: http://www.juleswake.co.uk

Facebook: Julie Caplin Author

Twitter: @JulieCaplin

Instagram: @juleswakeauthor

Blog Tour: Summer in the City by Emma Jackson #BookReview

Summer in the City

Delighted to be one of the blogs closing off the blog tour today for Summer in the City by Emma Jackson. Huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Summer in the City_cover

Sometimes the one thing you’re looking for is right in front of you…

Stephen is on a very personal mission to find his father as per the wishes in their mother’s will. But he has no idea where to start, not that he’s going to tell anyone that… When Noelle, native New Yorker, daughter of a detective and desperate for a distraction from the novel she’s been struggling to write, offers to help, it feels like the perfect solution.

Except the last time she spoke to Stephen he thought they’d be seeing the New Year in together and instead she stood him up and sold him out! Stephen’s big enough and been around the block enough times to understand that all is fair in love and war, isn’t he? But when Stephen accepts her offer and they begin their search across the city, it soon becomes clear that the weather isn’t the only thing that’s heating up.

I absolutely love New York. I was there in early February, just before the whole coronavirus pandemic shut the world down, and who knows when I’ll get back there again, so I was very much looking forward to an armchair visit back to the Big Apple via this book.

The author definitely does not disappoint on this front. As someone who has been to NYC multiple times, I found her descriptions of the city accurate and very evocative of my happy memories of the place. I particularly like the fact that she explores some of the more off-beat neighbourhoods of New York, rather than just sticking to the familiar tourist trail, and the plot device of a manhunt across the city was an inspired way of doing this. It gave the book a slightly different twist than you often see in NYC-set romance novels.

I really enjoyed the fact that this book was a combination of mystery story and romance. A mystery writer helping someone solve a real-life mystery to unlock her writer’s block was a really cute idea and, as pointed out before, allowed the story to range across a large area of New York. It worked really well, and I was intrigued to see how that mystery would pan out for both Noelle and Stephen. The chemistry between the two was sizzling, and I was very invested in the outcome, although the repeated misunderstandings and will they, won’t they had me practically screaming for them just to give in and get on with it by the end!

As well as being a romance, a mystery and a travelogue, the particular strength of this book is its exploration of family. What they mean to us, how they shape us and affect our choices going forward in life. I found the author’s exploration of this topic very thoughtful, and I particularly liked the way that there was one aspect that wasn’t all tied up in a neat, happy bow. It’s important that romance novels retain the ability to be shocking and disappointing in some regards, if they are not to end up too saccharine and predictable as a genre, and I’d like to see more of this. Bittersweet is a good take for me in women’s fiction, and I’d really like to see more of it, it lends books the authenticity I need for me to remain invested. After all, this is how life is for most of us.

Emma’s writing is light, fun but sensitive and honest and the book is a very enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys a charming but easy romance with a bit of spark. Plus, since it may be the only holiday any of us get this year, this virtual trip to New York provides a welcome break from our own four walls.

Summer in the City is out now as an ebook and you can get a copy here.

Please make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

RNA Conf Head Shot

Author of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE, published in 2019 by Orion Dash, Emma has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. Her next romantic comedy, SUMMER IN THE CITY, is due for release in June 2020.

Emma also writes historical and speculative romantic fiction as Emma S Jackson. THE DEVIL’S BRIDE will be published by DarkStroke in February 2020.

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://esjackson.co.uk

Facebook: Emma Jackson Author

Twitter: @ESJackson1

Instagram: @emma_s_jackson

 

Blog Tour: A Cornish Summer Holiday: Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green #BookReview

A Cornish Summer Holiday at the Little Duck Pond Cafe

I am delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for the latest book in one of my favourite romance series, The Little Duck Pond Cafe. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part once again and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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The Little Duck Pond Cafe girls are looking forward to a well-earned break in the Cornish seaside town of Pengully Sands, where Sylvia’s sister, Aggie, owns a holiday home. With the glorious golden sands, sparkling azure sea and an ice-cream parlour only yards away, it seems like the perfect location to relax and watch the surfers riding the waves (and maybe even have a go themselves). But when they arrive, the girls find it’s not quite the seaside idyll they were expecting.

The house is less ‘holiday home’ and more ‘creepy, dilapidated haunted house.’ Gracie, who runs the ice-cream parlour, has problems of her own and the last thing she needs is a bunch of high-spirited girls arriving to disturb the peace and isolation she craves. And when a handsome stranger looks set to destroy her livelihood, it seems like the last straw.

Will Gracie get her happy ending – and maybe even make friends with the girls next-door? This wasn’t the relaxing break the Little Duck Pond Cafe girls were expecting, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be the holiday of a lifetime!

Regular readers of the blog will know that I have been a big fan of this series from the start. I loved the setting of the novels in Sunnybrook, centred around the little Duck Pond Cafe, so it was with some trepidation that I approached this new instalment set away from the familiar location and in the seaside town of Pengully Sands.

I need not have worried, Rosie handled the transition smoothly by having all our favourite familiar characters from the books travel en masse to, what was supposed to be, an idyllic holiday cottage on the Cornish coast. As one would expect, however, nothing is ever straight forward and the cottage is less, coastal idyll, more ghost-infested nightmare. Still, the Duck Pond Cafe girls are nothing if not inventive and they soon get stuck in to solving the problems, including the ones of their new friend in Pengully Sands, Gracie.

Gracie is a great new character in the series. Her story was so melancholic, I felt so sorry for her from the beginning which made me invest in the story and root for her from beginning to end. My concern for her soon overrode my misgivings about leaving my beloved Sunnybrook behind and made sure a little piece of my reading heart will always be in Pengully Sands, which bodes well for Rosie’s first, full length novel.

Part romance, part ghost story, all entertainment, this was a lovely, moving and engaging read from start to finish. I highly recommend it for anyone craving a virtual breath of sea air and a sweet diversion from reality for an hour or so. Previous fans of the series will love it, new readers will want to go back and catch up with the previous books. Thanks for another great story, Rosie, looking forward to seeing what you can do with more words!

A Cornish Summer Holiday: Little Duck Pond Cafe is out now and you can buy a copy here.

For more fantastic reviews, do please visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Rosie Green Author Pic

Rosie has been scribbling stories ever since she was little.

Back then, they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’.

Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all – unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

Her series of novellas is centred around life in a village cafe. The latest, ‘Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe’, is out now.

Rosie is currently writing a full-length book, ‘Lucy’s Great Cornish Escape’, which – in a fun twist – will feature favourite characters from the Little Duck Pond Café series.

Connect with Rosie:

Twitter: @Rosie_Green1988

Blog Tour: Art and Soul by Claire Huston #BookReview

Art and Soul

I am so delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for the debut novel by my fellow RNA New Writers’ Scheme member, Claire Huston, with her book Art & Soul. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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There’s no problem Becky Watson can’t fix. Except her own love life…

Struggling single mother Becky Watson longs to revive her career as a life-fixer, working miracles to solve her clients’ problems, no matter how big or small. Since the birth of her two-year-old son she has been stuck preventing wedding fiascos for the richest and rudest residents of the Comptons, a charming, leafy area of southern England known for its artistic heritage.

So when semi-reclusive local artist Charlie Handren reluctantly hires Becky to fix his six-year creative slump, she’s delighted to set him up with a come-back exhibition and Rachel Stone, the woman of his dreams.

Though they get off to a rocky start, Becky and Charlie soon become close. But as the beautiful Rachel becomes Charlie’s muse, Becky is forced to wonder: will giving Charlie everything he wants mean giving up her own happily ever after?

A bit of love and warmth was just what I needed this week, as it has been a really tough one for a variety of reasons, so this lovely book which took me away from my everyday problems and gave me some positivity and hope was the perfect tonic. It was a really easy read, but made me feel a lot of different emotions too, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is the story of two people who are very different and meet in inauspicious circumstances, which is pretty much par for the course in romance novels, but what elevates this above the herd are the fantastic and believable characters that the author draws, and the novel and interesting situation she puts them in.

Our female protagonist is Becky, a life coach with a difference, because rather than just telling people what changes they can make to improve their lives, she is also kind of a fixer who sorts out ‘problems’ discreetly. Remember Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction? She is kind of a female version, without the blood and crime! Some of the scenarios Claire created around this premise were really funny, I loved the wedding one with Virgil and his cousins. Do people like this really exist? Is this a real job? I’ve never heard of it but if it is, I think I missed my vocation!

Becky finds herself hired to help Charlie, an artist whose career is in the doldrums after a hatchet job in an art magazine and some personal traumas that have disrupted his work. To say he is reluctant to accept Becky’s help is an understatement, but boy does he need it. Their relationship gets off to a fiery start, but Becky is nothing if not persistent, and she has her own personal reasons for needing to keep the contract with Charlie.

I was really drawn in to the book by the genuine, complex relationship that develops between Becky and Charlie and the extended characters that surround them, and by the really interesting dynamics of the two worlds they inhabit, neither of which I know much about. The writing is clear and lively and engaging and I romped through the text, enthralled on every page. There are no dull moments in the book, so slack passages where the plot fails to move on. You can forget you are in the pages of a book and feel like you are listening to a friend telling you a story.

For anyone who enjoys a light but moving romance, this would be a perfect book to add to your list. I highly recommend it to you, one and all.

Art & Soul is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for more great reviews and other fantastic content:

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About the Author

Claire Huston author photo 2020

My name’s Claire Huston (pronounced as in “Houston, we have a problem”).

I’ve written my first novel – an uplifting contemporary romance – and I’m getting ready to publish in April 2020. You can read more about that in Art and Soul.

I live in the Midlands, UK, with my husband and two children. I work as a Spanish-English translator and when I’m not struggling to write, I try to read, bake, and generally keep chaos at bay.

I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.

Connect with Claire:

Website: https://clairehuston.co.uk

Facebook: Claire Huston Author

Twitter: @ClaraVal

Instagram: @clairehuston_author