Blog Tour: Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea by Cressida McLaughlin

Christmas Carols Cover

All Meredith Verren has ever wanted is to escape the holiday season without having to wear a Christmas jumper. Her new job at the cosy gift shop in a picturesque Cornish tourist spot is making it impossible for her to maintain her scrooge-like manner.

With their seasonal hampers on everyone’s wish list, Meredith must paste on a smile and fake some holiday cheer. Then she meets handsome new arrival, Finn, who wishes it could be Christmas every day and wants her to feel the same way too.

Can she embrace the holly and the ivy before the decorations are packed away for another year?

What could be more perfect for my first Christmas book of the season than the lastest book in one of my favourite series by one of my favourite authors? Nothing is the answer, which is why I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea by Cressida McLaughlin, which was published yesterday. Huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publicity team at HarperCollins for providing me with a copy of the book for purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

This is the latest book in the Cornish Cream Tea series but the action moves in this book from Porthgolow to the nearby town of Port Karadow, where we meet a new character, Meredith, who is not a big fan of Christmas. This is a bit of a disadvantage when she works in a gift shop and is in charge of pushing and promoting products for the Christmas season. When her neighbour has her house decorated like the outside of the Rockefeller Centre and her best friend is planning the Christmas light display for the town. Christmas is everywhere, and there is no avoiding it, however much she might try.

There is nothing more delightful than a Christmas book set in Cornwall, and Cressida has milked the opportunities presented by this premise to the max. This book is bedecked with as much glitter, cosiness and festive cheer as you could possibly hope for, it is the knobbliest, fullest Christmas stocking of a book that you could possibly pick up and will get you perfectly in the mood for the Christmas season. There are lights, parades, carolling, parties and celebrations galore and you’ll wish you were spending Christmas at Port Karadow by the end of it.

On top of this, Meredith meets a man who charms, thrills and infuriates her all at the same time. Finn has come into Meredith’s life to teach her the real meaning of Christmas and show her that she can enjoy this time of year if she just starts to look at it differently. But Finn has issues of his own, can Meredith help him in return? I absolutely loved the way the relationship developed between Finn and Meredith. I was completely in love with both of them by the end of the book, to the point where I had a real lump in my throat and a tear in my eye at the denouement of the book.

This was only very loosely connected to the Cornish Cream Tea series, and for me this book had a different feel from the previous ones, but this isn’t a negative thing, it is nice to see Cressida taking the books in a fresh direction and I really enjoyed the new characters and setting introduced here. I am really looking forward to seeing what comes next since, in a recent interview, Cressida has confirmed that there are more stories to come in this series. Who wouldn’t want to pay more visits to the beautiful Cornish coast for more romantic encounters?

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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

Christmas Carols BT Poster

About the Author

Cressida Author pic

Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David. When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful Norfolk coastline.

Connect with Cressida:

Website: https://www.cressidamclaughlin.com/

Facebook: Cressida McLaughlin Author

Twitter: @CressMcLaughlin

Instagram: @cressmclaughlin

a-little-book-problem-banner

Blog Tour: A Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack

A Match Made In Venice

My turn on the blog tour today for A Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack. I cannot tell you how much I have been looking forward to reading this book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher and author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

9781801623803

Escape to the breath-taking beauty of Venice – The City of Love.

When pragmatic, sensible and resolutely single Deirdre York (Didi to her friends) is sent to Venice for work she is determined not to be taken in by the romantic clichés. Winter in the floating city may be breathtakingly beautiful, but she’s here with a clear purpose and will not let the magic of Venice distract her.

Piero Zanetti is the epitome of the handsome yet tortured artist. Heart-broken by the end of his love affair with a glamorous opera singer, he has lost his ability to work, and his inspiration has drained away, along with his zest for life.

But Didi needs Piero working – she has been tasked with commissioning him to do a glass centrepiece for a luxury department store Christmas display – some how Didi has to cheer Piero up or at least find him a new muse…

As Didi and Piero slowly become friends, and as Venice starts to melt Didi’s heart and gently nudge Piero out of the blues, something special begins to happen. Can Venice – the City of Love – work a Christmas miracle and help Didi and Piero to find their happiness at last…

My first festive read of the year!

Or so I thought, but the cover of the book and the blurb are a little bit deceptive in this regard, because this isn’t really a Christmas book in the traditional sense of being set at, or revolving entirely around, Christmas. It begins shortly before the festive season and briefly touches on Christmas, and the design of Christmas window display is the hook that unites the male and female protagonists, but Christmas is not the main theme. This didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book, but don’t go into this book thinking you are settling down for a Christmas read.

The book is set in Venice mainly in the winter months either side of Christmas and, for me, exploring Venice at this time of year was one of the big positives of the book. Venice is a place I have only visited and read about and seen in movies in the summer time, so to read the descriptions of how it is in winter, when the streets are not rammed with tourists and the city takes on a completely different mantle, was fascinating. Also, we are guided around the city by Piero, a native Venetian, and we get to see the city as Didi does, through the eyes of an English girl exploring with a local guide. Leonie really brings the city to life, and the book is filled with evocative detail that immediately transports you to Italy, Venice and all the romance it promises. This is a place I am hoping myself to revisit soon (I have been dropping more than enough hints to The Irishman about where I’d like to go for my 50th birthday this year) so having this sneak, better-be-a-preview-or-someone-will-be-in-trouble was a real pleasure.

The characters in this book were easy to warm to immediately. Piero does sterling work as the handsome-but-tortured Italian artist that you would be disappointed not to have as the romantic interest. However, I found Didi, unconventional and down-to-earth, a refreshing protagonist. She did not come across as the typical heroine and I found her all the more charming for it. Both of them have troubled family dynamics that are played out in the book and which draw them together, and I found their relationship completely believable and utterly charming. I was carried along by their growing closeness from beginning to end and was left with a warm glow by the end of the novel, as much as I could possibly wish for in such a novel.

A Match Made in Venice is the perfect book to snuggle up with in these autumn months when the nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping. You will be transported to Venice, with all its romance and beauty, and be warmed by the developing romance between Didi and Piero amongst its shimmering lights. Totally delightful in every respect, just not a Christmas book.

A Match Made in Venice is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for more great reviews and features:

A Match Made In Venice Full Tour Banner

About the Author

IMG_20200907_132257_717

Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great international locations. Having lived in London for many years her home is now in Germany with her husband and three children. Leonie loves train travel, medieval towns, hiking and happy endings!

Connect with Leonie:

Website: https://leoniemack.com/

Facebook: Leonie Mack

Twitter: @LeonieMAuthor

Instagram: @leoniejmack

a-little-book-problem-banner

Blog Tour: The Forgotten Maid by Jane Cable

The Forgotten Maid

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the latest book by one of my favourite RNA authors, Jane Cable. The book is The Forgotten Maid, a dual timeline novel set in picturesque Cornwall. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The Forgotten Maid final cover

Two centuries apart, two lonely women seek a place to call home…

Cornwall, England, 2015

Nomadic project manager Anna Pritchard has arrived in the village of Porthnevek to oversee the construction of a trendy new glamping site. But with many members of the local community strongly opposed to the development, she quickly finds herself ostracised and isolated.

Seeking to ease her loneliness, Anna begins volunteering at a nearby National Trust house in Trelissick, once owned by the aristocratic Daniell family. In her new role, Anna soon feels her attachment to both Porthnevek and Trelissick deepening. And as she spends more and more time steeped in local history, it seems that the past and the present are beginning to collide…

Belgium, 1815

After losing her brother in the Battle of Waterloo, French army seamstress Thérèse Ruguel is taken to London by war artist Thomas Chalmers, becoming his reluctant muse. But with Thomas’s mother unhappy with the arrangement, Thérèse is soon sent to Cornwall as a lady’s maid to Elizabeth Daniell, a kindly relative of the Chalmers family.

Able to speak only a little English — and with the other servants suspicious of her — Thérèse feels lost and alienated. And when she discovers her brother may still be alive, she must decide whether to continue with her new life in England, or brave the dangerous journey back to her homeland…

What became of Thérèse? Can Anna unearth the ghosts of the past?

And has Anna finally found where she belongs…?

This book promises everything I love in a book. Gorgeous Cornish setting? Check. Dual timeline? Check. Exploring a fascinating period of history? Check. I went into it full of anticipation and I can tell you, the book fulfilled its promise in every respect.

The main protagonist is Anna, a rootless young woman who moves from project site to project site around the country with nowhere to call home and some unspecified trouble in her recent past that she can’t quite shake. When she arrives in Porthnevek, she is drawn to the wild beauty of the place, as well as its rich history, but is shocked at the hostility of the locals. She manages to carve out a little community for herself nevertheless, but becomes intrigued by one historical figure in particular.

Back in the Regency period, another young woman is feeling displaced, this time by war and loss, and is equally foreign and friendless in Cornwall. However, she has a saviour in her kind mistress and begins to settle into a new life, until her past also comes back to haunt her.

The parallels in the lives of Anna and Therese are subtly drawn but compelling, and I was equally entranced by the lives of these very different but connected women, separated by two hundred years of history. I had never really given any thought to what might happen to women affected by war in the 1800s, so Therese’s plight but an interesting and fresh spin on the Regency aspect of the story. We still get to read about all of the fabulous balls and social events that form the backbone of Regency novels, but the focus here in more on what happens below stairs and behind closed doors for women who have even fewer options than the monied classes. It is a sobering lesson in how far feminism has come in 200 years.

The detail of the effects of industrialisation on Cornwall, and the vast differences in benefits for the owners and the workers was also woven into the story beautifully and was enlightening. I personally love a book that I feel is teaching me something I didn’t know whilst I am reading it, and Jane has clearly done a lot of research for this book so it feels historically accurate. At the same time, you are not bombarded with historical fact, the balance the author has achieved is perfect.

This is also true in the division of the story between Anna and Therese. I liked the fact that the story switched between the timeline in chunks, rather than chapter to chapter. It allows the reader to develop and maintain a connection to each woman, rather than flitting between the two constantly, which can sometimes interrupt the establishment of relationship between the reader and the characters. I really felt immersed in each story and time period when I was reading those chapters. This was a book in which I did feel like I completely lost myself, and the read flew by very quickly, always the sign that I am engrossed in the tale the author is telling.

If I had any minor complaints they would be, firstly, that Anna is way too fickle with her affections, despite the fact that Jane was trying to persuade us she was exercising caution, and I wasn’t 100% buying it, particularly the first time. Also, I felt the storyline involving her family was not really committed to fully and should either have been developed more fully, or omitted altogether. These are me looking for things to criticise though, they did not detract in any meaningful way from my enjoyment of this book.

If you enjoy a dual timeline novel, and would be interested in a novel exploring the Regency period with a different spin, this is the book for you. It whisked me away and kept me entertained throughout, and I was left very satisfied with the whole reading experience. That’s a pretty good investment of 99p, if you ask me,

The Forgotten Maid is a beautiful time-shift romance set in Cornwall between the Regency era and the modern day. It is the first book in the Cornish Echoes Dual Timeline Mystery series and for a limited time is only 99p. You can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the tour:

The Forgotten Maid Full Tour Banner

About the Author

RNA-48

Jane Cable writes romance with a twist for Sapere Books, and The Forgotten Maid her first novel set in her adopted county of Cornwall. She is lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for more than twenty-five years, and loves spending time outdoors, preferably close to the sea on the wild and rugged north Cornwall coast.

She also writes emotional women’s fiction as Eva Glyn, published by One More Chapter.

Connect with Jane:

Website: http://janecable.com

Facebook: Jane Cable

Twitter: @JaneCable

a-little-book-problem-banner

Book Review: The Chateau by Catherine Cooper #BookReview

41by1WJQQrL

They thought it was perfect. They were wrong…

A glamorous chateau

Aura and Nick don’t talk about what happened in England. They’ve bought a chateau in France to make a fresh start, and their kids need them to stay together – whatever it costs.

A couple on the brink

The expat community is welcoming, but when a neighbour is murdered at a lavish party, Aura and Nick don’t know who to trust.

A secret that is bound to come out…

Someone knows exactly why they really came to the chateau. And someone is going to give them what they deserve.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, for which they have my heartfelt thanks. As always, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I really enjoyed Catherine’s debut novel, The Chalet, when I read it last year (you can read my review here) so I was very much looking forward to this follow up, and I can tell you it didn’t disappoint.

The story is a dual timeline, narrated by a married couple, Aura and Nick, who have just purchased a ramshackle chateau in France to renovate. I’d say ‘happily married,’ except that wouldn’t be accurate. They have moved to France after some issues in the UK, the nature of which are gradually revealed through Nick’s narration of the past timeline and their marriage still seems a little shaky, or certainly it looks that way to Aura who is the narrator of the present tense timeline.

As well as the issues in their marriage, they have all the difficulties of integrating into a new community in a new country, and things are certainly a lot livelier and more interesting that a person might imagine life in a quiet rural area of France to be! There are plenty of surprising revelations gradually fed through the story in both the past and present timelines to keep the reader on the edge of their seat throughout.

The characters in the book are drawn in a very interesting way, because none of them are particularly likeable. This is quite a brave step by the author, because it is quite easy to lose the readers if you don’t love any of the characters, but she has given us enough intrigue to keep us hooked regardless. I had no idea really where the story was going, I didn’t see the ending coming and I think the denouement was a surprising and left field step by the author which really worked for me.

All in all, a gripping and entertaining thriller which will delight readers who enjoyed the author’s first book and new readers alike. Highly recommended.

The Chateau is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

catherine-cooper-author-pic

Catherine Cooper is a journalist specialising in travel, hotels, and skiing who writes regularly for the Telegraph and the Guardian among others. She lives near the Pyrenees in the South of France with her husband and two teenage children, and is a keen skier. The Chalet was her debut novel.

Connect with Catherine:

Website: http://www.catherinecooperauthor.com/

Facebook: Catherine Cooper Author

Twitter: @catherinecooper

Instagram: @catherinecooperjournalist

a-little-book-problem-banner

Book Review: Sleepless in Sicily by Emma Jackson #BookReview

51xJC6n86+S

Under the starry Italian skies, anything can happen…

For most women, getting locked into a storeroom with movie star and undeniable heartthrob Rowan during a pre-production shoot in London would be the stuff of dreams. But for shy makeup artist Lila, it’s more like a nightmare. It doesn’t matter that Rowan is kind, easy to talk to and even more gorgeous up close. With her social anxiety, she can’t bear the idea of being embroiled in gossip and rumours about what exactly they were doing together.

More scandal is also not an option for outspoken Rowan, whose agency is threatening to drop him if he doesn’t toe the line. After the two make their escape, they promise to keep the incident a secret, and when they meet again on set in stunning Sicily, they pretend not to know each other. But between the blue skies and sizzling Italian heat, it becomes impossible to ignore the attraction simmering between them…

Lila and Rowan couldn’t be more different… but can they find a way to bring their worlds together?

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, for which they have my heartfelt thanks. As always, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

The cover of this book leads you to believe that is going to be a certain kind of holiday romance that you have seen many times before, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I absolutely love holiday romance stories, I read them by the stack in the summer and have several waiting for my attention as we speak that I can’t wait to sink back into my deckchair and devour in place of actually going on an overseas trip this summer. However, this book doesn’t fall quite comfortably into that niche, it is something a bit different, but no the less fabulous for it.

When you read the blurb, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is going to develop along the standard lines, and it does contain all the bits of those holiday romances you love. A trip to the sun-drenched shores of Sicily, a glamorous film set location, hunky leading man sets shy, ingenue makeup artist’s heart a-fluttering. However, the book goes beyond this superficial love story to delve deeply into the motivations and personality traits of the leading characters in a way that is painfully observant and so realistic that, if you have any of these traits yourself, it will make your heart hurt in empathy. Or that is certainly what happened to me when I read it.

Whether she meant to or not, it is clear to the reader that the author has left a big part of herself on the pages of this novel. Noone can truly write such an authentic character as Lila if they haven’t had some personal experience of what she is suffering, whether themselves or through a loved one. The portrayal in this book of what it is like to live with social anxiety is the closest thing to reality that I have ever read. Although this is something that I experience to a much lesser extent than Lila, her thought processes are something I recognised all too readily, which meant I felt complete sympathy for her throughout the novel, really living the highs and lows with her, feeling the pain and pleasure. Being so immersed in a character’s story is a rare and precious experience and only happens when the author has felt the same thing as they write. I could feel the author living this book as she created it.

This is a fantastic book that takes the sun lounger novel to a different place. I’m not sure if I felt this just because I could relate so closely to the main character, but it has all the elements I look for in a summer read, as well as a profoundly relatable character in Lila. It left me feeling moved and seen in a way that in unusual in a genre many people deem superficial and fluffy, which just goes to prove that the people who look down on romance, probably don’t read many. True gems are out there if you look hard enough, and this is one.

If you are looking for something both entertaining and insightful to add to your holiday reading, here it is.

Sleepless in Sicily is out now in ebook format and you can buy a copy here. What are you waiting for, go, go, go.

About the Author

rna-conf-head-shot

Author of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE and contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020, 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. Following her debut, SUMMER IN THE CITY and ONE KISS BEFORE CHRISTMAS were released in 2020 and her next contemporary romance SLEEPLESS IN SICILY is scheduled for 29th July 2021.

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://esjackson.co.uk

Facebook: Emma Jackson Author

Twitter: @ESJackson1

Instagram: @emma_s_jackson

A Little Book Problem banner

Book Review: Two Women in Rome by Elizabeth Buchan #BookReview

51PkzWtA+lL

In the Eternal City, no secret stays hidden forever…

Lottie Archer arrives in Rome excited to begin her new job as an archivist. When she discovers a valuable fifteenth-century painting, she is drawn to find out more about the woman who left it behind, Nina Lawrence.

Nina seems to have led a rewarding and useful life, restoring Italian gardens to their full glory following the destruction of World War Two. So why did no one attend her funeral in 1978?

In exploring Nina’s past, Lottie unravels a tragic love story beset by the political turmoil of post-war Italy. And as she edges closer to understanding Nina, she begins to confront the losses in her own life.

I am delighted to be posting my review of Two Women in Rome by Elizabeth Buchan today. I received an advance digital copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, and I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I am all about novels set in Italy at the moment. For some reason, it is a place I am craving a visit to in these times where it is practically impossible to go anywhere at all. So since I can’t hop on a plane there at the moment, I am taking my tours via books, and Two Women in Rome is my latest foray.

A lot of my armchair travelling is done via romcoms, but this is a much more serious book, with a dual timeline that centres on Lottie in the present day and Nina, back in the 1970s when Italy was going through a period of immense political upheaval. Lottie, an archivist, discovers a lost painting, and a cache of papers that tell part of Nina’s story. Lottie becomes almost obsessed with uncovering what happened to Nina, largely because she can relate to her in some way, her struggle to fit in to Roman society as an English woman, and for authenticity when there are parts of your life which cannot be revealed for a variety of reasons.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it was a rather slow burn. The switching between Lottie’s current life in Rome and Nina’s time there in 1970s was easy to follow, and the women have two distinct voices in the book which each spoke to me with equal strength. I found the historical exploration of Italy in these tumultuous years absolutely fascinating. It is not a period of Italian history I am familiar with at all, and it made me want to go and read more about it, always a sign that a book has caught my imagination. I found the things that Nina is forced to do to carry out her work quite shocking, again not something I have ever thought much about before but intrigued me a great deal. I am sure that the author has researched the topic thoroughly and that what she describes is authentic, which makes it even more unbelievable.

Lottie latches on to Nina’s story as a way to explore her insecurities as an alien in a foreign land, especially when she is married to a man who has lived there so long that he is part of the place, and has a long history with the people and the city, part of which makes Lottie feels threatened. She also has parts of her past missing, which she hasn’t really processed, and investigating Nina’s story is a way of working through all this, and finding something in Rome that is hers, anchoring her to the place and marking herself out as an individual, instead of an appendage to her husband. I could really understand where she was coming from, her story really resonated with me and I was invested throughout in her quest.

This is a thoughtful, considered and rich novel that explores a time and place that will be alien to most of us. It takes the reader beyond the superficial tourist experience of Rome and in to the darker, seedier underbelly of the city and part of its history. It gave me a view of the place from a new perspective, as well as pulling me in to an involved mystery that was fascinating. Speckle all that with complex romantic issues, and you have me thoroughly hooked.

An engaging and rewarding read that provides something for anyone looking for a book with a little more depth to take to their sun lounger this summer.

Two Women in Rome is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Authors

elizabeth-buchan-380x473

Elizabeth Buchan was a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time. Her novels include the prizewinning Consider the Lily, international bestseller Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman and The New Mrs Clifton. She reviews for the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail, and has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes. She was a judge for the Whitbread First Novel Award and for the 2014 Costa Novel Award.
Connect with Elizabeth:
A Little Book Problem banner

Book Review: The Queen’s Spy by Clare Marchant #BookReview

51IRuCrmMCS

1584: Elizabeth I rules England. But a dangerous plot is brewing in court, and Mary Queen of Scots will stop at nothing to take her cousin’s throne.

There’s only one thing standing in her way: Tom, the queen’s trusted apothecary, who makes the perfect silent spy…

2021: Travelling the globe in her campervan, Mathilde has never belonged anywhere. So when she receives news of an inheritance, she is shocked to discover she has a family in England.

Just like Mathilde, the medieval hall she inherits conceals secrets, and she quickly makes a haunting discovery. Can she unravel the truth about what happened there all those years ago? And will she finally find a place to call home?

I was provided with a copy of The Queen’s Spy by the publisher via NetGalley for the purposes of review, so my thanks to them. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I was a huge fan of Clare Marchant’s debut novel, The Secrets of Saffron Hall, so I was very keen to read her ‘difficult second novel’ which features a character from the first novel, but has moved forward slightly in time historically to the court of Queen Elizabeth I.

Well, Clare has made the ‘difficult second novel’ look as easy and breezy as the first with this book. Again we are dealing with a dual timeline, in modern day Norfolk, and sixteenth century London, following the lives of two nomadic souls. In the present day, rootless Mathilde has travelled to England to find out more about an unexpected inheritance and family she had no idea existed. However, she has no intention of staying in the ancient house with its hidden secrets any longer than she must. But the ghosts that haunt the place aren’t keen on letting her go until she has uncovered their stories.

Back in the 1500s, Tom also also travelled from France to make a new life. Both deaf and mute, he also finds it difficult to fit in and put down roots, until he finds how useful he can be to England’s powerful Queen in her war against the cousin who would usurp her throne. Tom and Mathilde’s stories run parallel in their quests for a home and a family they never knew they wanted or believed they could ever have.

What I really loved about this book, and what makes it stand out for me in the canon of dual timeline romances, is the featuring of a male protagonist as the vessel for the story in the past timeline. Clare slips as easily into the skin of sixteenth century male servant just as easily as she did the shoes of her female protagonist in the historical part of her previous novel. She has managed to capture life from his perspective – poor, foreign, physically disadvantaged – absolutely perfectly so that he feels fully authentic and really brings the period to life. The peril in which those without power lived day to day, subject to the whims of their capricious overlords and living in a court full of danger and intrigue. You can feel the fear emanating from the pages.

Equally, in the modern day, I loved the prickly character of Mathilde, thrust into an equally strange environment. Fiercely independent but secretly lonely and vulnerable, she has put up a barrier to everyone else that is going to be hard for anyone to break down. However, over the course of the novel we understand, along with the other characters, why she is as she is and how to get at the real person underneath. Despite her awkward character, you can’t help but sympathise with her, and long for her to see what she could have if she lets people in.

The author has woven the two timelines together perfectly again, the transition between past and present not at all jarring to the reader. Bothe timelines are alive with imagery – sights, sounds, scents bringing each setting fully to life. Exploring the flat, open landscape of Norfolk, and the dank, crowded streets of Elizabethan London with equal aplomb, this is a truly transportive novel. Particularly emotionally, I found, as both the plights of Mathilde and Tom moved me, especially the ending.

This is a great read for anyone fond of this historical period, fans of dual timelines, or those who just love a well-written, immersive novel exploring love and relationships and what humans really need to live fulfilling lives.

The Queen’s Spy is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

91EcODqKFoL._US230_

Growing up in Surrey, Clare always dreamed of being a writer. Instead, she followed a career in IT, before moving to Norfolk for a quieter life and re-training as a jeweller.

Now writing full time, she lives with her husband and the youngest two of her six children. Weekends are spent exploring local castles and monastic ruins, or visiting the nearby coast.

Connect with Clare:

Facebook: Clare Marchant Author

Twitter: @ClareMarchant1

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: Dead Secret by Noelle Holten #BookReview

144799407_764244894203765_6610705168778192951_n

Psycopaths can take root in the unlikeliest soil…

DC Maggie Jamieson crosses paths once again with Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood when a domestic violence survivor stumbles into her new refuge, unable to speak, desperate for help.

Then another case hits Maggie’s desk. A young man has been murdered, and a curious constellation of black dots has been inked onto his cheek.

That’s when DCI Hastings goes missing and Maggie uncovers a shocking connection that turns the case on its head.

Every family may hide secrets, but not every family buries them…

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the paperback release of Dead Secret, Book 4 in the maggie Jamieson thriller series by Noelle Holten. It is no secret that I LOVE this series ( you can read my previous reviews here, here and here.) My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books on the Bright Side Publicity for giving me a place on the tour, and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Maggie Jamieson has become one of my favourite characters in detective fiction over recent years, so I was very keen to get back to finding out what was going on in her world. This time, one of their own is caught up in some trouble, just to ramp up the drama.

This book has two distinct storylines to follow. Firstly, Lucy has found an unidentifiable beaten woman at the gates of her as-yet-to-be-opened refuge and feels obliged to take her in. The woman is scared and reluctant to reveal her story; as a survivor herself Lucy sympathises and doesn’t pressure her, but is curious about what she has gone through. Then there is the body of the young man, killed in the woods by a blow to the head. Whilst the investigation into this is going on, it becomes apparent that Maggie’s DCI and his family are missing and may be in terrible danger. Is this enough chaos to keep you entertained?

It definitely was for me as, along with the police, I tried to follow the threads of the different investigations they were juggling. There seemed to be so many loose ends to follow and red herrings to eliminate, and the small team were pulled in all directions trying to follow the different leads, none of which made much sense to begin with. Quite how the author managed to plot all this out and keep it straight I have no idea, in my imagination the plot looks like an impossibly tangled ball of wool with just a few loose ends trailing out which, eventually and with great skill, Noelle manages to gently pull until it all unravels neatly and beautifully into a straight line. So clever.

I was honestly flummoxed through most of the book. I even had a suspicion about someone close to Maggie that has always been one of my favourite characters and now I feel quite guilty about that! Although I did guess one tiny aspect of the outcome, the big reveal I had no idea about and it came as a complete shock, which only happens in the best type of thriller.

Alongside the mystery, we delve further into Maggie’s complex love life and her own tussles with her relationship status and how she feels about it. The portrayal of Maggie as a confused and vulnerable person in her love life contrasts sharply with her confident, maverick work persona and lends her a depth that makes her a more likeable and relatable character. She is someone I become more and more fond of as the books progress, and it parts of what makes me so eager to come back to them each time a new one is released.

All in all, this is an entertaining thriller that makes for compulsive reading. If you are already a fan of the Maggie Jamieson thrillers, this new one will not disappoint. If not, what are you waiting for? Dive one now, you won’t regret it.

Dead Secret is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour and visit some other fab blogs:

Dead Secret Banner

About the Author

unnamed-1

Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog. Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Connect with Noelle:

Website: https://crimebookjunkie.co.uk

Facebook: Noelle Holten Author

Twitter: @nholten40

Instagram: @crimebookjunkie

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: Grown Ups by Marie Aubert; Translated by Rosie Hedger #BookReview

31bAR7sRMbS._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_

Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and starting to panic. She’s navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs, but forces these worries to the back of her mind as she sets off to the family cabin for her mother’s sixty-fifth birthday.

But family ties old and new begin to wear thin, out in the idyllic Norwegian countryside. Ida is fighting with her sister Marthe, flirting with Marthe’s husband and winning the favour of Marthe’s stepdaughter. Some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets tensions simmering even further, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, her whole family.

Exhilarating, funny and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups asks what kind of adult you are without a family of your own.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for Grown Ups by Marie Aubert. My thanks to Tara McEvoy of Pushkin Press for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, provided via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This was such a melancholic book to read, I wasn’t expecting it at all. We are following the story of Ida, as she goes out to her family’s holiday cabin on the edge of a fjord to celebrate her mother’s birthday, along with her stepfather, her sister and her sister’s family. Ida’s life isn’t going to plan at all. She is forty, alone and contemplating freezing her eggs before time runs out.

Ida is quite a hard character to like, to be honest. She seems pathologically jealous of her sister, to the point where she is actively destructive. I understand where she is coming from. Her sister is hugely annoying – demanding and self-centred – and everyone seems to pander to her. At least this is how it looks to Ida, and she feels side-lined by the rest of the family. I have three sisters, and sometimes they can wind me up because we are all very different people, but I would never behave to them the way Ida does. She seems quite sly, which is hard to warm to.

In fact, most of the people in this story, and it is a small cast, are quite dysfunctional. The one person who isn’t, probably because he is so peripheral, Ida hates, probably because he observations on her behaviour are so acute and she doesn’t like having her faults mirrored back at her. In fact, I am sure the author meant Stein to act a little as Ida’s conscience, not that she takes much notice of him.

This is an excoriating treatise on family relationships, and how some people’s are so transactional. If you don’t behave a certain way, affection can be withheld. It is a diatribe against the expectations society has, with the family acting as a microcosm of society here, on women and how women feel when they can’t meet those expectations. How it undermines their own opinion of themselves. I didn’t get the impression that Ida liked herself very much, she certainly isn’t happy, but I also wasn’t convinced she wanted the things she was pursuing particularly for herself, but because that is what society expects her to do.

The book is beautifully written, with very detailed and well-developed characters who were very realistic on the page. Perhaps too realistic. I fully believed in the relationships that were playing out on the page, and they made me deeply sad. It is astounding to me that this book was written by someone young, as it has such a world-weary air. It is a sorry reflection of modern society that this is how it still makes women feel when they do not conform to an outdated stereotype.

This is a fantastically crafted novel, with some beautiful imagery, impressive characterisation and thought-provoking themes. It reminded me of how I felt after reading Sarah Moss’s exceptional Summerwater last year. Moved but profoundly sad. If you are looking for something meaningful to read, look no further.

Grown Ups is out now in paperback and ebook formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Please make sure to visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book as detailed below:

blog-tour-copy

About the Author

download

Marie Aubert made her debut in 2016 with the short story collection Can I Come Home With You, which sold more than 10,000 copies in Norway. Grown Ups is her first novel, and won the Young People’s Critics’ Prize (Norway’s equivalent to the Goncourt des lyceens) and was nominated for the Booksellers’ Prize. Rights have already been sold in ten other countries.

Connect with Marie:

Twitter: @marieau

A Little Book Problem banner

The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021: The Nesting by C. J. Cooke #BookReview

51N-ifxXisL

A house stands alone in the woods.

Deep in the forests of Norway, Lexi finds a fresh start with Tom and his two young daughters, working as their new nanny.

The darkness creeps closer.

But Lexi is telling lies, and she’s not the only one. This family has a history – and this place has a past. Something was destroyed to build this house, and in the dark, dark woods, a menacing presence lurks.

Lexi must protect the children in her care – but protect them from what?

Challenge number 9 was ‘Read a book that is on the TBR of a Fiction Cafe Member.’ As The Nesting by C. J. Cooke was on the TBR of Charlene Mattson, and also on my NetGalley shelf, it seemed like the obvious choice. Two birds, one stone and all that. I actually listened to the audiobook, narrated by Aysha Kala, which is a great option if you are considering it. The narration was excellent.

This book is a really interesting mix of gothic fairytale, environmental parable and exploration of depression. It is dreamy and ethereal and dark and scary, and surreal all at the same time. The threads are so tightly and cleverly woven together by the author that, even by the end, you won’t be quite sure what is real and what has been a dream.

The book is told through the voices of a number of people. Troubled Lexi, running from her demons and her problems, finds herself hiding out in Norway, pretending to be someone she isn’t in an effort to find a life better than the one she has been living. Tom, battling the forces of nature in a remote Norwegian forest to balance building his beloved wife’s dream holiday home with protecting this unspoilt wilderness. And Aurelia, feeling isolated in the aftermath of her second daughter’s birth and haunted by the ghosts of the Norwegian forest. Each of them experiences supernatural events in the dark, Norwegian forest and the remote fjord, but which are real, and which are products of troubled minds.

The dive into Norwegian folklore and stories was the part that most drew me to this book, because anything along those lines fascinates me. I loved the way that the author wove them in to the narrative of the novel, and used them to make commentary on the impact of human beings on the planet and its non-human inhabitants without being preachy. It was also a clever way to explore why we are drawn to stories of darkness to explain things that we are afraid to confront inside ourselves.

Aside from these themes, this is just a cracking good story that is a compelling read. What is actually happening out there in the Norwegian forest? What is Aurelia really experiencing, and what is just a result of the problems that can afflict women after child birth that can go unnoticed and unrecognised by those around her? Is Lexi’s past going to come back to haunt her? Is Tom everything he seems to be? I was eager every time to get back to listening to the book, and it made some mundane chores seem a lot less arduous, I was so engrossed.

The Nesting is a great book for anyone who loves the gothic and the mythic, but also for anyone interested in the human brain and the things it can do for us when we are thrown off balance. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and will definitely be recommending it to a few friends.

The Nesting is out now in all formats and you can buy it here.

About the Author

A1Fz+uUDAwL._US230_

C J Cooke (Carolyn Jess-Cooke) lives in Glasgow with her husband and four children. C J Cooke’s works have been published in 23 languages and have won many awards. She holds a PhD in Literature from the Queen’s University of Belfast and is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. Two of her books are currently optioned for film.

Connect with Carolyn:

Website: https://carolynjesscooke.com/

Facebook: C J Cooke Books

Twitter: @CJessCooke

A Little Book Problem banner