Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat by Angela Britnell #BookReview #BlogBlitz (@angelabritnell) @ChocLituk @RaRaResources #RaRaResources #ChristmasAtBlackCherryRetreat

Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat

Delighted to be taking part in the blog blitz today for Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat by Angela Britnell. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to Choc Lit for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

CHRISTMAS AT BLACK CHERRY RETREA _FRONT_RGB150dpi

What if you had nowhere to call home for Christmas? 

When Fee Winter books a winter break at the remote Black Cherry Retreat in the small town of Pine Ridge, Tennessee, it’s with the idea that the peace and quiet will help her recuperate from her hectic life as a photographer.

But what she didn’t bank on was meeting Tom Chambers and his huge, interfering yet lovable family. With them, could Fee finally experience the warmth and support that’s been missing from her own life – and maybe even find a place to call home in time for Christmas?

I knew this was going to be a Christmas book with a difference when I picked it up, as it is not set in the UK, but in a remote town in Eastern Tennessee, not a standard setting for a Christmas novel. However, this book is actually not particularly a Christmas-centric story at all, given that it starts around Halloween and focuses on this, and Thanksgiving, rather than just Christmas. However, this does not stop it being a good book in any way.

We meet Fee just as she is arriving at the remote Black Cherry Retreat as Fall has taken hold in the mountains of Tennessee. Fee is running away from horrors in her past an is looking for solitude and isolation to try and heal herself. However, she is immediately drawn to Tom Chambers, a retired police officer who owns Black Cherry Retreat and who has reasons of his own for withdrawing to his remote cabin. The story then focuses on the development of the relationship between this two reluctant characters.

I really loved the setting of this book. It was somewhere very different and the author does a fantastic job of bringing the setting to vivid life with her descriptions. I defy anyone reading this book not to wish they could spend a month or two there with nothing for company but some books, a deer or two and a hunky Tennessean man! I really enjoyed the descriptions of the little town of Pine Ridge and the close knit community there, most of whom Tom is related to.

Which brings us neatly to the characters who are all delightful. I was very drawn to both Fee and Tom and fascinated by their burgeoning relationship, hampered as it was by their pasts. Fee, in particular, seems to be  a mass of contradictions and the author has done very well to develop a really interesting character in Fee. The subsidiary characters are a lovely bunch, particularly little Lulu, and added great charm to the story.

Although this book does not focus particularly heavily on Christmas as a theme, despite the title, it includes great descriptions of various holiday events which gives it a lovely, warm, festive feeling and I am sure anyone looking for a seasonal read will not be disappointed. It also includes a little mystery element, which was a nice sub-plot, and gave the book extra interest for me. All in all, a rewarding read. I could actually envisage this book making a great Hallmark movie, albeit one with a slightly deeper twist than some of the very twee, fluffy ones you see, so if that is the kind of thing you like, this will be right up your street.

Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat is out now and is available here.

Please check out the reviews by the rest of the amazing bloggers taking part in the blitz. You can find their details on the poster below:

Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat Full Tour Banner

About the Author

Angela RONA Award Pub Photo

Angela grew up in Cornwall, England and returns frequently from her new home in Nashville, Tennessee. A lifelong love of reading turned into a passion for writing contemporary romance and her novels are usually set in the many places she’s visited or lived on her extensive travels. After more than three decades of marriage to her American husband she’s a huge fan of transatlantic romance and always makes sure her characters get their own happy-ever-after. Over the last twelve years she’s been multi-published and sold over 25 novels. She also writes short stories for women’s magazines. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Romance Writers of America and the Music City Romance Writers.

Connect with Angela:

Website: http://www.angelabritnellromance.com

Facebook: Angela Britnell

Twitter: @angelabritnell

Instagram:@angelagolleybritnell

A Little Christmas Charm by Kathryn Freeman #BookReview #BlogTour (@KathrynFreeman1) @ChocLituk @RaRaResources #ALittleChristmasCharm #RaRaResources #Giveaway

A Little Christmas Charm

Delighted to be taking part today in the tour for this festive book by Kathryn Freeman. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. There is a giveaway for another title by this author further down the post, so make sure you read to the end.

A LITTLE CHRISTMAS CHARM_FRONT2_RGB150dpi

Would you swap sea and sunshine for tinsel and turkey?
Gabby Sanderson is used to being let down – even at Christmas. Which is why she’s happy to skip the festive season completely in favour of a plane ticket and sunnier climes.

But this Christmas could be different, because this time she might not be spending it alone. Can Owen Cooper charm Gabby into loving Christmas in the same way he’s charmed his way into her life, or is he just another person who’ll end up disappointing her?

I wasn’t sure what I expected from the cover and blurb of this book, but it wasn’t whatt I got. I think I was anticipating a fairly twee, boy-meets-girl-at-Christmas story – pleasant in a superficial, passes-a-couple-of-hours kind of way. I love that kind of book when I am in a relaxed festive mood, with a cup of hot chocolate, cosy room, and my brain and emotions want something undemanding. However, this wasn’t that.

This book has a lot more depth of emotion and thematic range than I was imagining and really took me by surprise, in a good way. It just goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover.

This is the story of Gabby and Owen, two very different people who meet and feel attraction. However, they both come with a lot of baggage and hang ups, which look like getting in the way of their relationship developing into something meaningful. Possibly predictable so far, but the author really gives them some genuine, painful issues to deal with and develops these in a very realistic, detailed and compelling way that brings that depth to the novel that I was talking about before. I was completely captivated by the characters and their story to the point where I was totally engrossed, feeling all the ups and downs of their emotions, willing them to work things out and unable to put the book down until I knew how it ended. I read it in a single sitting.

This is a very modern story with people who are in unconventional families, which are actually becoming more and more the norm these days and I love the fact this is being reflected in the novels that are available for us to read. Diversity is becoming the new normal, thankfully, and it is about time this was reflected in the literature we buy. I loved all the characters in this book. Gabby is a strong, independent woman who is totally self-reliant but events from her childhood have left her with trust issues and she is struggling to decide whether to let own in, especially given his reputation. But like the book, Owen is someone it would be wrong to judge by first impressions, he has a lot more depth to him than one might think and I defy anyone to read this book and not fall a tiny bit in love with him themselves.

The secondary characters were also delightful and the books rolls along at a smooth and fluent pace which was a pleasure to read. That is not to say it was all plain sailing. The behaviour of both protagonists had me inwardly screaming in frustration at times, but I am absolutely sure this was fully the intention of the author to reflect how the characters felt and to ramp up the tension and it definitely made the book more compelling.

This book has a lovely festive setting, but one which reflects a normal Christmas, rather than the OTT Yuletide fantasy portrayed in some seasonal stories, which perfectly fitted in with the story. I really enjoyed this down-to-earth, romantic read and I am sure you will too.

A Little Christmas Charm is out now and you can get it here.

Giveaway

A LITTLE CHRISTMAS FAITH_FRONT_150dpi

To be in with a chance of winning a paperback copy of A Little Christmas Faith by Kathryn Freman, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

Rafflecopter

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

This book is taking a big blog tour, check out the poster for details of the other blogs taking part:

A Little Christmas Charm Full Tour Banner

About the Author

5707-2

A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero. 

With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes come in many disguises.

Connect with Kathryn:

Website: http://kathrynfreeman.co.uk

Facebook: Kathryn Freeman

Twitter: @KathrynFreeman1

Five Ladies Go Skiing by Karen Aldous #BookReview #BlogTour (@KarenAldous_) @HQDigitalUK @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #FiveLadiesGoSkiing #Giveaway #RNA

Five Ladies Go Skiing

It’s freezing outside as the pinch of winter takes hold so it is apt today that I am on the blog tour for Five Ladies Go Skiing by Karen Aldous. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the author and publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you visit the giveaway further down the post.

Five Ladies Go Skiing_FINAL

When Ginny Watts’ husband passes away, she is left grief-stricken, not only over her husband’s death but the secrets he has left behind…

Luckily for Ginny, she has four wonderful friends – Lou, Cathy, Angie and Kim – poised to whisk her away on a ladies’ skiing holiday to beautiful La Tzoumaz, Switzerland.

While all of them appear to have their lives together from the outside, little do the ladies know that every single one of them is fighting a secret battle.

As the trip unfolds, they realise that fears of tumbling down the slopes after too much après-ski fun is the least of their worries and all is not what it seems…

I was really looking forward to reading this book, attracted by the cover and the title and the blurb. I am really enjoying the current trend of books featuring older protagonists and I have thoroughly enjoyed the ones I’ve read this year. I think it is refreshing to read about women who are a bit older, although there was quite a lot of talk in this book about having a body of a younger woman which actually slightly detracts from the appeal of a book of this nature for me. I like heroines who are happy to be and look their age!

The setting of the Swiss Alps, a cosy chalet in a bustling ski resort and all the trappings that go with a ski holiday were the main draw of the book for me and this aspect fully lived up to my expectations. I love to ski, and I think the author did a fabulous job of bringing the scene and the whole experience to life, especially the food! I loved the fact that four of the ladies had never skied before and the trials and tribulations of that learning experience in later life were marvellously portrayed. The theme of being young at heart and it never being too late to experience new things were delightful and the book gave me everything I had hoped for in this regard.

The heart of this story is the friendship between these five women, which has lasted through the years and seen each of them through some tough times. However, it also explores the ideas that people still keep secrets from each other, however close they are, and that these secrets have the potential to destroy even the closest of relationships. Again, I think the author brings the characters to life very well and they are all warm and likeable and the relationships they have are genuine and plausible and really reflect how women interact and relate to one another. So far, so great.

However, there were parts of the prose that needed cutting because they dragged the pace of the book to a crawl, especially at the beginning. I understand that the author was trying to establish the characters, and this took some doing as there were five of them and the book is telling the story from multiple points of view. However, there was simply too much description early on, too much telling, rather than showing, of the ladies’ back stories and a lot of repetition of points that had already been covered.

It was a bit of a shame, because it made the reading a little laborious to begin with of what was otherwise a warm, seasonal, uplifting  and enjoyable book about female friendship and enjoying life.

Five Ladies Go Skiing is out now in e-book format and will be available in paperback on 13 December. You can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

To enter a giveaway to win one of 5 paperbacks of Five Ladies Go Skiing, please click on the Rafflecopter link below.

Rafflecopter

*Terms and Conditions –Please note prize will be distributed once the paperback is available (published 13th December).  UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

If you would like to check out the other blogs on the tour, you can find them on the poster below:

Five Ladies Go Skiing Full Tour Banner

About the Author

Author Karen Aldous High Res

Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!

Much of Karen’s inspiration comes from her travels and meeting people. The UK, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and parts of the USA and Asia are just some you will experience in her books to date. However, wherever she goes, new characters emerge in ‘Karen’s World’ screaming at her to tell their stories; past or present. She loves to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives – but struggle to control them! And, of course there’s always a gorgeous hunk or two!

Connect with Karen:

Website: http://www.karenaldous.co.uk

Facebook: Karen Aldous Author

Twitter: @KarenAldous_

Instagram: @karenaldous_

The Barn of Buried Dreams by Chrissie Bradshaw #BookReview #BlogBlitz (@ChrissieBeee) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #The BarnOfBuriedDreams

The Barn of Buried Dreams

I am so excited today to be taking part in the blog tour for The Barn of Buried Dreams by my fellow RNA member, Chrissie Bradshaw. My huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for asking me to be on the tour and to Chrissie for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly. Make sure you check out the giveaway further down the page.

the_barn_of_buried_dreams_a

“Erin and Heather Douglas are struggling. Their mother’s death has left a void in their family and everyday life has side-lined their dreams. 

Erin has buried herself away in the family home and left her stage career. By hiding away, she is evading the pain of returning to London and the acting world where her ex-fiancé is enjoying success and a new relationship. When she meets charismatic Texan Jackson McGee, she wrestles with her feelings for him. Should she trust another man?

Heather is juggling babies, work, a rocky marriage and running on wine. An overheard conversation makes her ask, would Mark cheat on her?

Can the sisters help one another to face their fears, dust off and revive those dreams and find joy in life?”

After reading the blurb, I was really eager to get in to this new book by the delightful Chrissie Bradshaw to see if she is as friendly and approachable on the page as she is in real life. I am fascinated by the dynamics within families, particularly between sisters as I have three myself, so I was sure this book would be right up my street.

Now I have finished the book, I can confirm that I was not at all disappointed following my high expectations. This is a very readable, warm and enticing novel which was engrossing and satisfying to the end.

The characters of Erin and Heather were well-drawn and their relationship recognisable to me as an accurate dynamic between female siblings. I felt particularly for Erin. The book starts showing the close and loving relationship between Erin and her mother and I felt her loss and despair keenly when her mother passes, particularly as she is already reeling from rejection by her boyfriend and further personal trauma. No wonder she finds it almost impossible to cope and move on.

Heather was harder to like, as she comes across as very selfish and self-centred at the beginning, but the author does a wonderful job of gradually revealing what is driving her behaviour and by the end I was much more sympathetic towards her and happy with the way everything is finally resolved at the end of the book.

I particularly loved the setting of the book in the border country between Scotland and Northumberland, an area I know very well from many childhood holidays and a beautiful part of the country which is filled with warm and friendly people, and I feel like Chrissie brought this to life perfectly and got it across in her writing, so that I really believed in the setting and the characters in the book and became invested in their stories.

Chrissie has quite a formal writing style which is unusual in a book of this type in current times, but I actually really liked it and found it gave her a very distinctive voice. Her writing and the story flows very smoothly and is very easy to read and I am sure that anyone wise enough to pick up this lovely book will be carried along with it and close the last cover with the satisfaction that follows a pleasing read. Highly recommended.

The Barn of Buried Dreams is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

The Barn Giveaway Prize - IMG_2270

To win a Paperback copy of ‘The Barn of Buried Dreams’, limited edition mug featuring both of Chrissie Bradshaw’s  novels and  a box of fresh macarons delivered from ‘Urban Cakehouse’, click on the Rafflecopter link below.  (Open to UK Only)

Rafflecopter

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Make sure you check out the rest of the posts on Chrissie’s Blog Blitz below:

The Barn of Buried Dreams Full Tour Banner

About the Author

The Barn IMG_0956

Chrissie, 2016 winner of the Romantic Novelist’s Elizabeth Goudge writing trophy, is a seasoned tea drinker and a tenacious trainer of her welsh terrier, Oscar. She has always loved match-making a book to a reader. Writing the kind of book she loves to read takes this a step further. When Chrissie is not writing or reading, you will find her walking Oscar on the beach, trying to avoid the gym and spending time with her family and friends.

Her new release, THE BARN OF BURIED DREAMS – when will they see daylight?, is a contemporary story about two sisters who are struggling after the death of their mother. It starts in Dunleith, the same Northumbrian setting as her debut novel ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’, and some characters cross both books. Readers can enjoy either book as a stand alone

Connect with Chrissie:

Website: http://www.newhenontheblog.com

Facebook: Chrissie Bradshaw Author

Twitter: @ChrissieBeee

Instagram: @chrissie_bradshaw_author

 

Friday Night Drinks with….Veronica Henry @veronica_henry @orionbooks #GuestPost #FridayNightDrinks #ChristmasAtTheBeachHut

cocktail-2098458_1920

It’s Friday again and tonight I am beyond excited to welcome to my blog for Friday Night Drinks, one of my favourite authors and someone I hope I can now call a friend, the lovely Veronica Henry. Veronica’s new book, Christmas at the Beach Hut was published yesterday and she has agreed to join me for a celebratory tipple.

Veronica image _Biblio

Veronica, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. Now, I know you mix a mean gin and tonic but what are you drinking this evening?

An Americano, which is Campari and Vermouth topped up with soda with lashings of ice and a twist of orange. Basically a slightly less ferocious Negroni!

If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Oooh. How about the Canary Gin Bar in Bath? You can’t not have fun in there. I have a tale or two!

Unknown

I’ve got a feeling that The Irishman and I might have spent an evening in there once, although it’s a bit of a hazy memory! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Lovely lovely lovely Anthony Bourdain. I could listen to him forever, and I would have loved to have met him. Maybe we could have Nigella along, as they were friends. I’m a big admirer of their writing, so it would be fun to chat and get up to no good.

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I am writing my 20th novel, which is a bit scary!! I’ve written two books this year so I had to plunge straight in. No time for wafting about cogitating! But pressure focusses the mind rather, I find. Everything has clarified more quickly than usual.

Twenty novels! That’s an amazing achievement. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

Recently, I was very proud to write an introduction to the re-issue of This Year it Will Be Different, by Maeve Binchy. She is a hero of mine, and to be asked was a huge honour. My biggest challenge was to keep writing after my father died, and still be uplifting. I just wanted to curl up in a ball but I couldn’t.

I love Maeve Binchy, her writing is such an inspiration to me. What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all! 

I’d love to dramatise one of my books for TV, but I suspect there aren’t enough murderers or stalkers in my novels. 

Oooh, that would be great! Which would you pick? The Honeycote books would make a great serial for a Sunday evening, wouldn’t they? What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m really enjoying writing my current novel – there’s something about the dynamics between the characters that keeps driving it forward so it’s got real momentum, but it’s also set somewhere beautiful. I love description. It’s one of the reasons I found scriptwriting frustrating and turned to novels. Just one word can convey so much.  

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

The best fun I’ve ever had is a weekend at Soho House Berlin. I seemed to cram in so much – literally and metaphorically! Food, history, culture and cocktails – it’s such a great city.

Bucket list wise, I’ve got my eye on Turin. Just a gut feeling. Or a cycling trip around the Piedmont. I am not by nature energetic but I feel the cycling might offset the gourmandising.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

Hmmm. I’m going to have to go and have an intimate piercing just so I can answer this!

Ha, ha, neatly dodged! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, going back to question 3! It’s shocking and exciting and inspiring and coruscating. It’s one of my all time favourite books.

51+D1I2NUFL._AC_US218_

Interesting choice! I’ve not read that so I’ll have to add it to the increasing TBR. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Oh my, I could write a book.  Don’t drink on an empty stomach, don’t mix grape and grain, alternate with water, if the room starts spinning it’s too late . . . Basically, if you don’t want a hangover, don’t start drinking. Once you’ve tasted blood it’s all out the window. Cure wise: water before bed; Berocca and painkillers on rising, then egg sandwich, crisps and fat Coke. But time is the only real cure.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I do love an art gallery, especially if it has a cool shop to browse in afterwards. I find art really inspiring. I recently went to the Colombe d’Or in St Paul de Vence and just looking at all those paintings made me tingle. Artists take more risks than writers, I think, and sometimes that energy is really apparent. I can remember the first time I saw a Jackson Pollock and thought ‘Oh, I get it now.’ Sometimes I find reading books inhibiting or dispiriting, but never looking at paintings.

Veronica, thank you so much for coming and chatting to me this evening, it has been really lovely and I look forward to catching up with you in person soon.

Outlook-njbovbjr

Veronica’s new book, Christmas at the Beach Hut is out now and you can buy a copy here or pick up a copy in any supermarket. It can be read as a standalone but you should really check out the other Beach Hut novels too. Watch out for a review of the book on the blog soon.

If you would like to connect further with Veronica, here are her social media links:

Website: www.veronicahenry.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veronicahenryauthor/

Twitter: @veronica_henry

Instagram: @veronicahenryauthor

Next week I will be having drinks with my great friend, fellow blogger, aspiring writer and partner-in-crime, Kate Baker.

Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes #BookReview (@MarianKeyes) @penguinrandom @PenguinUKBooks @PenguinRHUK @BleuViola #RachelsHoliday

41yJFyhc3YL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

“They said I was a drug addict. But my occasional drug use was strictly recreational. And, hey, surely drug addicts are skinny?’

Rachel is living it up in New York City, spending her nights talking her way into glamorous parties before heading home in the early hours to her hot boyfriend Luke.

Then her sensible older sister shows up and even though it seems like a bad joke, she finds herself in actual rehab.

It’s there that she’s supposed to kick her non-existent drug habit – and to get over losing Luke. Luke’s a fox; he’s also strong and kind, but he has had more than he can take of Rachel.

None of this was part of her plan and saying goodbye to fun will be hard.

But not as hard as losing the man that, too late, she believes might be the love of her life.”

Bit of a retro review today which might make a nice change! I’ve not signed up for many blog tours this month, as I wanted to take the pressure off during NaNoWriMo, so I was planning on using the break to make a dent in my TBR. Then my friend, Kate, over at Ideas Become Words mentioned that she had started reading the copy of Rachel’s Holiday I had given her (she’d never read a Marian Keyes book, can you believe it?) and I was suddenly overcome with the urge to re-read it myself. It is my favourite of her books and it has been a few years since I read it. Then I felt guilty, because I have loads of new books languishing unread on my TBR. Then I thought how ridiculous that was, I read for pleasure so, if I want to re-read an old favourite, why not? Book blogging can warp your mind sometimes!

This is no small book. At 625 pages, it takes a commitment of time, but it is oh so worth it. As I went through, I remembered exactly why Marian Keyes is one of my favourite authors, and why I am not alone in adoring her. I think it also came along at an auspicious time in my own writing journey, to give me some insights into writing that I need to be able to move my own project forward.

This book is an exploration of addiction through the eyes of Rachel, who can’t see that she has a drug problem until her friends and family stage an intervention and force her into a treatment facility. We follow her progress through all the steps of her recovery, and it is an eye-opening, painful and emotional experience.

And this is the genius of Marian’s writing. It is completely truthful. She doesn’t shy away from showing things exactly the way they are. She writes with complete emotional honesty, without pulling any punches or shying away from things that are painful and laying everything bare. her writing isn’t sugar-coated or glittery, but it is real and her readers respond to this. They can see truths about the human experience, their experience, reflected back at them.

Rachel is not a very likeable character for most of the book. She is monstrously selfish and self-involved, refusing to see her issues and blaming everyone but herself, but Marian manages to make us care what happens to her by giving us glimpses of why she is the way she is and hints that maybe she is capable of redemption and worth rooting for and we can see it is important that we are shown the truth of what addiction does to a person. She is also not the stereotype of a drug addict, so we are left thinking, ‘there but by the grace of God,’ which draws us in to the story even more. It is a masterclass in hooking the reader and exactly the kind of thing I wish I could do with my own writing. Well, we can all dream!

Anyone who had read any of Marian’s non-fiction writing or follows her on Twitter will know that this is how she is in real life too. She is very honest about the struggles she has had herself with alcohol dependency and depression and is a vocal advocate of the things that she believes in. Plus, she is absolutely hilarious. All of this spills through and is very evident in her writing, which is a clear reflection of who she is. If you gave me an anonymously bound book written by Marian Keyes, I would know who the author was immediately, her voice is so strong and distinctive. I have been through a phase recently of not making much progress on my book for various reasons, one of which is that I am afraid my author voice is too light to do justice to the serious subject matter it covers, and that my prose style is too bare. Reading this book has reminded me of the value of being honest and open and authentic in your writing. Of just letting your voice speak out and putting the passion for your story and the truth of your experience into your book. This is what we, as readers, respond to. It shines from the pages and lights up the work, drawing the reader to it.

Re-reading this book has been one of the most useful experiences I have had this year and I feel motivated to crack on and be more Marian in my own writing – except the Yorkshire version, of course!

You can get a copy of Rachel’s Holiday here.

About the Author

contributor.jpg.rendition.460.707

Marian Keyes’ international bestselling novels include Rachel’s Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, Angels, The Other Side of the Story, Anybody Out There?, This Charming Man,The Brightest Star in the Sky, The Mystery of Mercy Close and The Woman Who Stole My Life. Two collections of her journalism, Under the Duvet and Further Under the Duvet, are also available from Penguin. Marian lives in Dublin with her husband.

Connect with Marian:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MarianKeyes

Twitter: @MarianKeyes 

Instagram: @marian_keyes

Website: www.mariankeyes.com

Fierce Grace by Jess B. Moore #BookReview #BlogTour (@authorjessb) @crookedcatbooks @RaRaResources #FierceGrace #RachelsRandomResources

Fierce Grace

Back in July I read an amazing book which has become one of my favourites of the year (read my review of The Guilt of the Sparrow here), so I am delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for the author’s new book, Fierce Grace. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for offering me a place on the tour and to the author and publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly.

Fierce Grace Cover

“Annabelle Dare is in a good place. She landed a sweet job, teaching at the quaint Fox River Elementary School. She has everything she needs: teaching music and sharing an apartment with her best friend. A simple life, she’s convinced, is all she needs.    

Asher Grace knows who he is and what he has to offer. Nothing. A poor boy from the wrong side of town, steel worker, with too much weight on his shoulders as he is trying to hold his family together. Best choice is avoiding too-sweet-for-her-own-good Annabelle at all costs.    

Annabelle falls in love with the way she comes to life with Asher. He awakens a hunger for life and love in her that she didn’t know she possessed.  

Asher must learn his worth beyond his upbringing and his past. Annabelle must learn to stoke the fire of life as it burns within her and learn how close she can get before the flames lick her. “

This is the second book by Jess B. Moore set in Fox River, a small town on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and some of the characters from The Guilt of the Sparrow make cameo appearances but this is a whole new story focusing on a different set of central characters so it is effectively a standalone novel and can be read and enjoyed as such by anyone.

What it does have in common with the first book is that it is a character-driven story that deals with the internal, emotional lives of two people, Annabelle and Asher, who are starting out in a relationship and how they explore and develop that relationship in the midst of pressures from their families and histories. As such, there are no major dramas or huge happenings in the book. It is a story about the small, ordinary lives of real people.

Jess is brilliant at drawing characters and really delving into their psyches and pulling out what makes them tick for us the examine and understand. The people come alive on the page and the reader is able to get right under their skin and explore their thoughts and emotions, live their experiences right along with them. Her writing is very powerful and for people who are interested in the psychology of human behaviour and like this kind of story, this is as intimate as writing gets and it can’t fail to move you.

But…and I hate that there is a but because I wanted to love this book as much as the first one …but I didn’t. There was something blocking me from falling in love with this book and I have thought hard about what it is before sitting down to write the review. I think part of it is that the first book was written from the perspective of both protagonists and this was what made me so involved in their story, as we could see it develop from both sides and it felt extremely intimate. In this book, we only get Annabelle’s perspective. I thought maybe I just didn’t relate to Annabelle as much, and this probably was part of it.; I just didn’t get her, I don’t think. For someone supposedly so independent, she seemed a little weak and needy and I couldn’t quite buy in to the fact that this was all caused by unaccustomed vulnerability due to love. It just didn’t quite ring true. I believe my main problem, though, was that this relationship didn’t feel like a particularly healthy one, especially for Annabelle. Even her friend, Kendra, expresses this concern multiple times, right to the very end of the book, so it was obviously something the writer was conscious of and I am just not a fan of books portraying women willingly staying in unhealthy, unbalanced relationships. I don’t find it appealing or romantic, particularly in a modern, rather than historical, setting.

It may have helped if we could get a better handle on Asher’s perspective, as in the first book with Cotton, but we only get Annabelle’s interpretation of what Asher is thinking, which is inevitably skewed. I am sure the writer had a different take on his feelings which just didn’t translate through into the book for me. I also understand that this is just my interpretation of the book and how I felt about it. The literary canon is littered with books where there are romances between unequal partners that people adore. It just doesn’t suit my tastes in a modern setting, I’m afraid.

There is no doubt that this book is beautifully written and the characters vividly brought to life and their emotions explored. I loved the setting again, and a lot of the subsidiary characters are fascinating and I hope Jess returns to Fox River to explore some of their stories further. I am sure many people will love the central relationship in this book, and maybe read it and find a different perspective on it and reaction to it, this is a very personal response. I also think that I maybe I had too high expectations after my reaction to book one which were possibly never going to be met. You should definitely read this book and be your own judge. The story held me throughout, it just didn’t worm its way into my heart this time.

Fierce Grace is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, visit the blogs listed on the poster below:

Fierce Grace Full Tour Banner

About the Author

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jess B Moore is a writer of love stories.  When she’s not writing, she’s busy mothering her talented and stubborn children, reading obscene numbers of books, and knitting scarves she’ll likely never finish.

Jess lives in small town North Carolina with her bluegrass obsessed family.  She takes too many pictures of her cat, thinking the Internet loves him as much as she does.  She is a firm believer of swapping stories over coffee or wine, and that there should always be dark chocolate involved.

Connect with Jess:

Website: https://jessbmoore.com

Facebook: Jess B. Moore

Twitter: @authorjessb

Instagram: @authorjessb

Goodreads: Jess B. Moore