Blog Tour: Cornish Dreams at Cockleshell Cottage by Liz Hurley #BookReview

Cornish Dreams at Cockleshell Cottage

Delighted to be on the blog tour today for this beautiful, summery looking read, Cornish Dreams at Cockleshell Cottage by Liz Hurley. Thanks to Rachel Gilbey at 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.

Cornish Dreams At Cockleshell Cottage Cover

Sitting alongside the beach and just up from the gently lapping waves, sat a perfect cottage. She had found where she was going to live. Her own little cockleshell cove.

Ever since the Byrne sisters – ArianaAsterClemPaddy and Nic – discovered they were heiresses to the vast Hiverton fortune, their lives have never been the same. No longer living in poverty in London, they now own an estate in Norfolk, a castle in Scotland and a picturesque village in Cornwall.

When sensitive Paddy, the baby of the family despite her successful career as a model, swaps the catwalks of Paris Fashion Week for the cobbled lanes of Tregisky on the beautiful Cornish coast, it’s time for her to stand on her own two feet.

Soon, she’s settled in her new home of Cockleshell Cottage overlooking the wild surf, the seals her closest companions.

And when she meets ex-soldier Hal, she’s instantly smitten. Funny, considerate, and not to mention drop dead gorgeous, he’s perfect in every way apart from one – he’s engaged. But after a misunderstanding brings the two together in ways they couldn’t have imagined, it seems like they might just change each other’s lives.

Will Paddy fall in love with more than just the glorious blue skies of Cornwall? Or are there storm clouds gathering ahead?

This is the second in the series featuring the Byrne sisters, and I really loved the first book, A New Life For Ariana Byrne, (you can read my review of that book here), so I was looking forward to getting stuck into this one. Having read it, I can tell you that this book works perfectly well as a standalone novel, so don’t be put off if you haven’t read the first book.

This book follows the story of Paddy, one of the de Foix sisters who is a twin, and she is a totally different character to Ari, so this added an intriguing divergence from the first book from the beginning. Despite the fact she has been working as a model since she was 16, her other sisters seem to think she is a bit helpless and they fuss over her and baby her, which she finds infuriating. I wonder if any of my three younger sisters can sympathise! Given how her sisters treat her, I was rooting for Paddy to make a go of her mission in Tregisky from the off, just to prove them wrong! The author very cleverly gets the reader on her side from the beginning.

The setting of this book is escapist perfection, a tiny seaside cottage, covered in shells where Paddy can go sea-swimming with seals. Take me there immediately! I defy anyone not to enjoy being transported to this idyllic Cornish setting for a few hours, especially when we have all been locked in our homes for so long. I guess some people may find it a bit too twee, but if you are a fan of this type of romance novel, you will love it. The premise of the family owning a whole village and having to manage it, and all its eclectic tenants is inspired and novel, and gives the author chance to introduce a great range of fun, eccentric minor characters.

The romance between Paddy and Hal develops nicely along, possibly predictable, but challenging lines that will keep you interested. I like the way that Liz makes us really dislike Hal early in the book so he has to work hard to win us round, and throwing in the scheming and manipulative Bianca gives enough conflict to carry the book along at a nice clip. A very satisfying plot, all in all.

If I had one minor complaint, it would be that the time line is a little disjointed at the beginning, doing time jumps that don’t flow particularly well. I had to check back at one point to make sure there wasn’t some text missing from my proof copy. This made the narrative a little angular to start with. Not a word I have ever applied to a novel before, but it seemed the best way of describing it. I wish the transitions had been smoother. However, this was not a problem that the first book had, and it soon ironed itself out in this one, so I would not say it was too detrimental to my enjoyment of the story.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes this genre of sweet romcom. The relationship between the five sisters continues to delight me, and I am hoping we get Clem’s story next. I think the premise the author has used to bind the series together is fresh and interesting, and I definitely want to read on. A lovely, summer read.

Cornish Dreams at Cockleshell Cottage is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out the other fabulous blogs taking part in the tour:

Cornish Dreams at Cockleshell Cottage Full Tour Banner

About the Author

When I grew up I wanted to be an underwater archaeologist or an astronaut but I ended up in a library. Everyone laughed as I’m not a naturally quiet person but I loved it. I went on to become a professional librarian for the money and the glamour. Not finding quite enough of either my husband and I set up a bookshop.  We didn’t find much there either so I started writing. Now I have loads of money and glamour but only in the pages of my books! In the meantime I dive and look at the stars.

Connect with Liz;

Website: https://www.lizhurleywrites.com

Facebook: The Other Liz Hurley

Twitter: @hello_hurley

Instagram: @liz_hurley_writes

Blog Tour: A Cornish Wedding by Jenny Kane #GuestPost

A-Cornish-Wedding-9781786157843

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

Jenny Kane at Costa

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

41UkvtNY4IL

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

10712565_888811994462761_5352888004587316858_o

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

51hlqD4LuhL._SY346_

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

51y-m4lQ96L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

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.

IMG_3145

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

31wy4mPTYfL._US230_

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.

Buddy Read: The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris #BookReview

41-Aapjf9sL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_

Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about …

I’ve had a copy of this book for ages, in fact it appeared on my Tempted By… feature back in January, but it has taken until now, and the lure of a buddy read by my friend, Kate, to finally bump it to the top of the TBR and now I am wondering why I waited so long!

Kate had just finished reading the author’s new book, Where We Belong, and was waxing so lyrical about how much she loved it that I said I was going to dig out that copy of her first novel that was languishing on my TBR, and Kate said we should do a buddy read, which was great fun. Needless to say, we both loved it. In fact, I’ve not seen a negative comment about this book.

It is an absolutely beautiful story about love, betrayal, loss and the redeeming power of music and friendship. I knew from the very beginning that the book was going to be something special. Anstey took the bold step of introducing two characters and immediately making them morally ambiguous, so to begin with you are wondering if they are people you should be rooting for or not. Grace then quickly becomes someone that you fall in love with and your sympathies are entirely with her from then on. Anstey draws her so clearly and believably, that you can feel her every emotion exactly as she does and, even when she makes bad decisions, you understand and forgive them because you know the place of pain they are coming from. There are very few characters that I have become so emotionally invested in over the course of my reading life and it is a real skill to achieve.

The pacing of this book is perfect, and there are several points where the author introduces truly shocking events that took me entirely by surprise. I found myself sending Kate WhatsApp messages riddled with excited/shocked/horrified emojis when I got to a part of the book that I knew was going to blow her away when she reached them. It is the kind of book that makes you sigh, and scream and cheer out loud, even though this makes you look like a lunatic if you are reading in public, because you are so invested in the story and the characters’ emotions.

I am not a connoisseur of classical music and did wonder if the exploration of instrument making and classical music would be beyond me, but it wasn’t at all. I found it fascinating and enthralling, and I was swept away by the passion that the characters obviously feel for it, even though I don’t share it. It made me want to go and listen to the music the book refers to, and then read the book again with a better understanding of how these particular pieces complement the story. There is a part towards the end of the book involving a musical interlude that almost made me cry, and then another part of the book towards the end which actually did make me cry. I felt sympathy for a character I had recently despised, and genuinely did not know how things were going to end until I had read the conclusion. I felt despair and pain and hope and joy throughout the course of the book, and marvelled at the skill it takes to truly arouse all these feelings in a reader.

The writer excels at using language and phrasing to evoke emotions and paint a very clear picture. I made note of some of my favourite parts so that I could study them, as a student of writing, later. I can’t write down my favourite quote, as it gives away a major plot point, but it is in the second paragraph of Chapter Eighteen! The imagery is so clear and deft, I am in awe of her. The beauty of the descriptions of Paris and the love she espouses for the city will take you straight there. The power of the emotional descriptions will break your heart. The beauty of the friendships will put it back together again. It is just marvellous.

In fact, it is the odd friendships that form the backbone of this book and really make it sing. It teaches you that, however alone you feel, there are always people out there who will reach out to comfort you in times of need, and they are not who you might expect. However much you try and shut the world out, it will creep in at the edges and hold you up when you feel all is lost. And the people who you think matter most may not truly be the ones you can rely on, so you need to keep our eyes and your heart open and trust yourself. It is, ultimately, life-affirming.

I absolutely adored this book and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a powerful read.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

41067kQ19nL._US230_

Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury.

Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby. In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). Her short stories tend not to end quite so well…

Things that interest Anstey include her children and granddaughter, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965), stepfamilies, dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.

Connect with Anstey:

Website: https://www.ansteyharris.com

Twitter: @Anstey_Harris

Instagram: @ansteyharris

Guest Post: The English Wife by Adrienne Chinn #GuestPost

81Q6-F9-W7L._AC_UY218_

Two women, a world apart. A secret waiting to be discovered…

VE Day 1945: As victory bells ring out across the country, war bride Ellie Burgess’ happiness is overshadowed by grief. Her charismatic Newfoundlander husband Thomas is still missing in action.
 
Until a letter arrives explaining Thomas is back at home on the other side of the Atlantic recovering from his injuries.

Travelling to a distant country to live with a man she barely knows is the bravest thing Ellie has ever had to do. But nothing can prepare her for the harsh realities of her new home…

September 11th 2001: Sophie Parry is on a plane to New York on the most tragic day in the city’s history. While the world watches the news in horror, Sophie’s flight is rerouted to a tiny town in Newfoundland and she is forced to seek refuge with her estranged aunt Ellie.
 
Determined to discover what it was that forced her family apart all those years ago, newfound secrets may change her life forever…

Today is publication day for this marvellous sounding book by Adrienne Chin, and to celebrate I am delighted to be hosting a guest post by the author which tells us more about the setting for her new book.

Magical Fogo by Adrienne Chin

Off the northern coast of the rugged island of Newfoundland, in the cold waters of the North Atlantic, a magical island named Fogo sits at one of the four corners of the world. Just outside of the outport village of Fogo, you’ll find Brimstone Head, a jutting climb up prehistoric rock from the top of which you’ll look out to a horizon, at the end of which you’ll fall off – according to the Flat Earth Society. Brimstone Head isn’t signposted – you’ll find it at the edge of the town, on the other side of the local football field. It’s just one of the many odd and magical places you’ll find all around Newfoundland and its outlying islands like Fogo.

newfoundland photo 40

Brimstone Head

My second novel, The English Wife, is a timeslip story set in World War II Norwich and contemporary Newfoundland. I’m a native Newfoundlander, although I’ve been in the UK for thirty years, and I had always wanted to set one of my novels in this ruggedly beautiful place. I spent a month in the spring of 2019, travelling around the island, visiting relatives and researching inspiration for the fictional outport village of Tippy’s Tickle. Which is what brought me to Fogo, a short ferry ride from Twillingate on “The Rock” (as the locals call the island of Newfoundland).

Off the ferry, I headed across the island to the fishing outport of Tilting where I stayed in a old sea captain’s house overlooking the small harbour. Irish settlers arrived in the 1730s, building houses and fishing rooms around the harbour to support the fishery.  It has a rare collection of traditional structures, and the oldest Irish cemetery outside of Ireland, and this contributed to it being designated a Registered Heritage District in 2003. 

newfoundland photo 36

Tilting

Down the road, just outside of Joe Batt’s Arm, you’ll find the Fogo Island Inn, a stunning piece of modern architect inspired by the fishing huts (called “stages”) on stilts all around the Newfoundland coast. Run as a social enterprise by the Shorefast Foundation, founded by local businesswoman Zita Cobb, I made sure to have lunch there while I was on the island. With a view out to the North Atlantic, with humpback whales spouting and icebergs drifting by, it was a lunch to remember. Oh, and if you’d like to hear how Joe Batt’s Arm got its name, here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAVG7IoO6C8

Fogo Island Inn & Joe Batt’s Arm

A short walk past the old cemetery in Tilting and along the coast, I came upon one of the four small artists’ residences dotted in remote spots around the island – another venture of the Shorefast Foundation. What a place to write a novel, with a view over the crashing waves, nothing but Greenland far beyond the horizon!

Artist’s Residence & Fogo Island Coast

Thank you for that quick tour around the setting for your new book, Adrienne, I can’t wait to read it.

if you like the sound of The English Wife, it is out today and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Picture3

Adrienne Chinn was born in an old paper-making town in Newfoundland, and grew up in rural Quebec and Montreal. She retraced her English father’s footsteps back to England, where she now lives and works as a novelist, design lecturer and interior designer. She is a regular interior design lecturer in the UK and China.

When not writing or designing, Adrienne can be found puttering in her Sussex garden, trawling the Marrakech flea market, or in the queue at Gatwick heading off somewhere new.

Connect with Adrienne:

Website: https://www.adriennechinn.net

Facebook: Adrienne Chinn Author

Twitter: @adriennechinn

Instagram: @adriennechinn

Book Review: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens #BookReview

51jXWPV1PoL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_

For years, rumors of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.

But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved.

When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

Unless you have been living under a literary rock for the past few months, I’m sure you have heard of this book. You’ve probably already read it, as I seem to be a little late to the party but, if not, I suggest you pick up a copy as soon as possible because this is one of the best things I have read for a long while and will definitely be one of my top books of 2020.

This is the story of Kya, a young girl abandoned at a young age in the marshes of North Carolina who learns how to survive on her own by studying the wildlife that surrounds her on all sides. Her life is touched by a few souls from the nearby town, but largely she is an outcast, misunderstood and feared by local residents so, when a local man is murdered in the marsh, she is the prime suspect.

This book is a masterpiece in so many ways. It begins as a mystery story with the body of the man discovered in the marsh, so we are immediately engrossed in trying to discover, along with the local police, who is responsible. In this way we are introduced to Kya, the ‘Marsh Girl,’ an outsider who has lived alone in the marsh since she was a child and who is deeply misunderstood by the local townsfolk. The book then runs along two timelines, the current investigation of the murder, and Kya’s past as she grows up in the marsh. The  mystery is compelling and involves many twists and turns and false paths, so the reader can’t really know who did it until the very end. However, despite the fact the mystery is well-developed, this is probably the aspect of the novel that drew me the least.

The things that make this book so special are the exploration of Kya as a character and how she survives alone in the marsh from childhood and how this life affects her emotionally, and the vivid and immersive descriptions of the landscape and nature of the marsh where the book is set. The author writes so captivatingly and movingly about both that the reader cannot help but be swept away in the story.

The development of Kya’s story from her abandonment by her entire family as a young child and how she has to learn to survive alone in a hostile environment with very little contact with or help from her nearest neighbours is tender, believable and completely heart-breaking. It is a damning commentary on the way society frowns upon anyone who chooses to live a lifestyle outside the mainstream and how such choices invite disdain and a cold-shoulder. How people are largely concerned only with themselves and quick to ignore problems they don’t want to address. The only people who have the good heart to help Kya are others who are similarly shunned for their differences, or who want to use her for their own ends.

Kya is a fascinating and wholly endearing character. Her stalwart determination to survive alone, learning from the creatures that surround her, adapting their habits and survival skills to help her and, in doing so, falling in love with the life and creatures of the marsh and studying them in a way few people ever do. The way the author draws parallels between humans and the wildlife of the marsh and uses those parallels to inform the reader about both is deft and clever. We fall in love with both Kya and her delicate and unique environment and come to care deeply about the survival and protection of both by the end of the book.

The marsh, then, is an integral part of the book, as essential to the story as any of the characters. In fact, it becomes a character in its own right, as intricately described and developed as any of the human participants, a living, breathing organism that is vital to Kya’s happiness and well-being in a way no human has ever been. It is the one thing she loves, trusts and knows will never let her down. Their lives are so intertwined that, when she is forcibly separated from it, it feels like a form of death to her. Like removing a fish from the ocean, she feels like she cannot breathe. If you ever wanted to read a book that really transports you to an environment you have probably never experienced but into which you will completely disappear, this is the novel for you.

The writer’s prose is lyrical and flowing. I know some people have found the book a little slow, and it is true that is is very descriptive and languid, but this is a huge part of the beauty of the novel and, if you stick with it, I am sure you will find the whole story as beautiful, heart-rending but, ultimately, uplifting as I did. The languorous nature of the prose is entirely fitting to the plot and the setting, mirroring the slow, warm, unchanging days in the Carolinas and will envelope you in the mindset if you let it. Just kick back and go with the flow and let this exceptional novel float you on a magical journey that will leave you fundamentally affected by it.

Where The Crawdads Sing is out now in all formats here.

About the Author

DSC_0435_redone-2000-60

Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari.

She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and many others.

She currently lives in Idaho. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.

Connect with Delia:

Website: https://www.deliaowens.com

Facebook: Author Delia Owens

Instagram: @authordeliaowens

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

51Yk7XF12lL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

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

61F5CQxnKyL._US230_

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

Book Review: The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins #BookReview

Unknown

‘They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?’

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

The problem that has been plaguing me the last few days is how to encapsulate the many, complex facets that form this novel, and my equally complicated reactions to it, in the form of a few inadequate words. I’m not sure I’ve solved the conundrum completely, but the day has come to plough ahead with my review regardless.

Part of the problem is, this book is too multi-layered and multi-themed to unravel in a single reading, and, reviewing it against the back drop of current events has further muddied my thinking on some of the issues it addresses. I am all too aware that I don’t know enough, I haven’t studied the history in sufficient depth, I don’t feel entitled to discuss some of these topics. All I can give you is my honest reaction to the book on my first reading of it, tempered as it is with all of this knowledge of inadequacy in the background.

This book, is at its heart for me, a gothic horror story, with a mystery and a love story woven in. Horror story, because that is my overwhelming reaction to the events that unfold between the pages. The novel follows the tale of Frannie, born a mulatto, on a sugar plantation in Jamaica, who, through a series of extraordinary events, arrives at a wealthy household in London where she becomes intimately embroiled with the mistress of the house. The book is dark and complicated and rich and thought-provoking.   It has echoes of some of my best beloved classic novels of all time; Jane Eyre, Moll Flanders, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to name but a few. The writing is exquisite in detail, placing the reader firmly at the heart of Georgian society, but mining its seedy underbelly, whilst showing us the glossy front that hides these aspects.

The book is ostensibly anchored by the mystery of who murdered Frannie’s English ’employers’, and we meet her while she is on trial for those murders, telling her story for her lawyer. However, the mystery was probably the least diverting part of the book for me and, by the time the true facts of the crime were revealed, I wasn’t really that invested in the outcome. The most stimulating part of the book is the story of Frannie’s journey from slave to her position in the Benham’s household in London, the reactions people have to her transformation and the feelings she has herself about the things she has done to get there. It is not as straight forward as many stories about people ‘escaping’ from slavery are, and Frannie herself resists attempts by abolitionists to co-opt her tragic story to their cause, as she finds these tales of pity and misery boring. Frannie has, to every degree she is all permitted, refused to be fortune’s plaything and attempted to become author of her own future. How far this is actually possible, even in England where slavery is ‘illegal’ is one of the over-arching themes of the novel. In addition, Frannie has to consider at length the things she has been required to do in order to attain even the limited level self-determination she has and whether it could ever truly be freedom at that price.

This book addresses a lot of uncomfortable issues, particularly the matter of the science of race, which is being researched by Frannie’s original owner, using his own slaves as lab rats, including Frannie herself. In fact, the question of her whole life being a continual experiment is at the forefront of the book, and the whole concept if truly horrifying, particularly as we know it is based on true events. The author very cleverly uses hints at things that are going on in the novel, without specifically spelling it all out in graphic detail, which is actually an extremely clever way of making the reader really think, and using their imagination to fill in the gaps which, as we all know, means we end up conjuring the very worst images we can possibly conceive. This is human nature. However, in this case, the fear is always there that the worst images we can conceive don’t actually come close to the horrors that were enacted, our minds will shy away from accepting the true depths people can plummet in their inhumanity to one another, and this is the truth that is really the heart of the horror story here. I apologise if my thoughts on this come across as a little confused, I am still chasing all of my conclusions about this book around my head, still trying to process all of the emotions it has drawn from me.

The book also centres around a love story between Frannie and her mistress, but this also raises again the question of whether Frannie is a slave to the whims of a capricious woman who may be using the girl for her own ends, rather than seeing her as an equal in the relationship who deserves the same emotional treatment as anyone else. At least, this is what I drew from the book. I have seen some reviews that have characterised the love story as unconvincing but, on my interpretation of it, it worked perfectly, and Madame’s relationship with and feelings for, Laddie, particularly after his emancipation, just supported this reading of the relationship for me. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, I’d love to discuss the book with the author to find out what she had in mind when she was writing it, but I guess the beauty of a novel is that every reader comes at it from a different angle and will take a completely individual experience away from it at the end.

Despite this being a very long and rambling review, I’m really not sure that I have adequately explained what is so marvellous about this book, or why you should be tempted to read it, so let me try and give you a succinct summary. This book is rich, detailed, beautifully written, historically illuminating and absolutely horrifying in the true, gothic sense of the word. If you don’t come away from it feeling deeply disturbed, you haven’t been concentrating, but you absolutely should read it, I have not come across anything quite like it in recent times.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

61TO6sANQJL._US230_

Sara Collins is of Jamaican descent and grew up in Grand Cayman. She studied law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for seventeen years, before admitting that what she really wanted to do was write novels. She obtained a Master’s degree in Creative Writing with distinction from Cambridge University, where she was the 2015 recipient of the Michael Holroyd Prize. In 2016, she was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish prize for The Confessions of Frannie Langton, her first novel, a gothic romance about the twisted love affair between a Jamaican maid and her French mistress in 19th century London. The novel won the Costa First Novel Award 2019.

Connect with Sara:

Website: https://saracollinsauthor.com

Twitter: @mrsjaneymac

Instagram: @saracollinsauthor