20 October 2016
Eight months, two weeks and four days. That’s exactly how long Kate had been married before she began to see a very different and slightly worrying side to Damien.
She could still remember it vividly. They had been due to have dinner that evening with a business contact of his, along with his wife. Not just any business contact though – Damien had so many, it was impossible to keep up with them all – this was a guy who’d flown in all the way from Missouri especially for the night and Damien was hoping to persuade him to come on board as a Globtech investor. Kate knew it was a huge deal for him and, as ever, the last thing she wanted to do was let him down.
About an hour before they were due to leave, she was still up in her bedroom at Castletown House, blow-drying her hair before changing into a slinky Armani cocktail dress she’d bought in Harvey Nichols earlier that day, a whispery slip of a thing that only someone as long and lean and elegant as her could possibly carry off. From two floors beneath her, she heard Damien coming home from work and moments later, he strode into the room and was straight over to her, locking his arms around her waist and nuzzling deep into her neck.
‘Missed you,’ he said, kissing at her ear. ‘Did you miss me?’
‘Stop messing,’ Kate laughed, playfully pushing him away from her so she could concentrate on putting in her earrings. ‘We only just saw each other this morning!’
‘Far too long to be apart,’ he said, gripping her even tighter. ‘Nine hours stuck in the Globtech office without you? Completely ridiculous. Might have to start bringing you into work with me.’
He looked adoringly at her and a part of Kate glowed, still unable to believe that it really was possible for two human beings to really be this much in love, even after almost a year of marriage.
Their life was completely perfect in every way and although she worried constantly about something going skew-ways, it never seemed to. Day after unbelievable day, she and Damien had remained as besotted with each other as they’d been since they first met. Everyone commented on it; friends teased them for still acting like newlyweds and even the gossip columns were constantly filled with stories about ‘the loved up Mr and Mrs King’.
But then Kate was still naïve enough to find being in the full headlamps of Damien’s attention endearing and romantic. The way he was so full-on and almost obsessive about her, insisting on being with her every night of the week and when they weren’t together, calling and texting all the time. Wanting to know the tiniest detail about her day, wanting to tell her all about his.
‘Oh that’s so sweet . . . he’s nuts about you!’ all her girlfriends had said, not a little enviously.
‘Keeping tabs on you, is he?’ was her mother’s only comment, when Damien had taken to calling in to the family home at all hours before they were married, even if he knew Kate was out on a modelling shoot. He’d sit with her mother, charming her, buying expensive gifts for her, encouraging her to tell stories about what Kate had been like as a little girl. Never in her whole life had Kate dated anyone so unabashedly besotted with her and she found it intoxicating. Like standing out in full, glorious sunshine.
‘So where are we meeting the Sandersons tonight?’ she asked him, focused on her dressing table mirror and fiddling with the back of an earring that stubbornly refused to go in.
Damien pulled a face and locked his arms even tighter around Kate’s waist, kissing the nape of her neck and playing with her long, fair hair. He was still in his work suit and smelt slightly sweaty and musky from a long day.
‘Oh, sweetheart, does it matter?’
‘You’re messing up my hair.’
‘So what? I like it messy. It’s sexier.’
‘Well shouldn’t we get a move on before we’re late?
If we’ve got to drive into Dublin for this dinner, we need to get going.’
‘Let’s not bother,’ he’d said after a pause, sliding his arms even lower down her thighs and pulling her even closer. ‘Let’s just have a night in, just the two of us. We’ve both had a busy week, so why not have this evening to ourselves?’
‘But won’t that be rude to the Sandersons?’ Kate asked, turning around to face him now. ‘They’ve flown in all this way and you’ve been saying all week how much you’ve got to discuss.’
‘Oh, babe,’ he said, rolling his eyes. ‘I’m putting them up in the Merrion hotel. They’ll be fine there, with a bit of room service. It was only a business dinner anyway, we can always do it some other time.’
‘But they’ve travelled from Missouri just for this!’
‘But . . . I was actually looking forward to going out tonight . . .’
‘Ooh, now, sweetheart, I can think of ways to keep you far more entertained here at home instead,’ he’d said, unzipping her dress, pulling her face to his and kissing her as he gently caressed the small of her back.
Half an hour later, tangled up in bed together in a mess of limbs and discarded clothes and Egyptian cotton sheets, Damien reached out to the bedside table for his phone.
‘Hi, can you put me through to the Sanderson’s room, please? Thanks. Hi, Greg, that you? Damien here. Yeah, good to hear your voice too. Listen, bit of a problem this end, I’m afraid. There we were, so looking forward to seeing you for dinner tonight, only Kate’s been in an awful car accident and I’m afraid she’s a bit shaken.’
Kate sat up and looked across the bed at him, horrified.
‘. . . OK to take a rain check on tonight?’ he chatted on, improvising easily as he went. ‘No, no, she wasn’t hurt, thankfully, but she’s completely rattled as you can imagine . . . yeah, the car is a complete write-off . . . no, not the Jag, the Beamer . . . brand new as well . . .’
Kate lay back against the pillows, astonished at how easily the lie just tripped off his tongue. He even embellished it with all sorts of crazy, elaborate details. Apparently she’d been driving along one of the twisty by-roads that led to Castletown when another car came flying round a dangerous bend, crashing into her front right headlight and sending her reeling off the road. A hit and run, apparently. And yes, the Guards had been called, and were confident they’d find the culprits. Teenage joyriders, more than likely. For good measure, he even threw in that he’d taken her to A&E, where she’d been treated for minor shock, then sent home to rest.
What was really chilling was that he was so persuasive, so utterly convincing. If I listen to him much longer, Kate thought, I’ll eventually start to believe this myself.
‘All sorted, babes, we’re off the hook,’ Damien said, hanging up the phone and cuddling her tightly into him. ‘So it looks like it’s just you and me tonight. Bliss.’
She pulled away and hauled herself up on her elbows so she could look him square in the face.
‘You could have just said one of us had a tummy bug,’ she said. ‘There was no need for the three-act opera.’
‘The bigger the fib, the more easily people will believe it,’ he’d shrugged lightly.
Kate said nothing, just looked steadily back at him.
‘What now?’ he said. ‘Did I say the wrong thing?’
‘Nothing. I hadn’t realised, that’s all.’
‘Just what a good liar you are.’
17 October 2016
After a rocky start, Ellie Hall baked her way into everyone’s hearts at Claverham Castle – even the miserly Lord Henry was won over – and the run-down teashop regained its old sparkle.
Now Ellie has upgraded cupcakes for fairytale masterpieces as the proud caterer for an ever-growing list of weddings at the castle. The teashop team love baking to the tune of happy ever afters, but can they pull together when a certain bridezilla pushes them all to boiling point?
Christmas is just around the corner, and a last minute booking threatens to snow the team under. Ellie and her hunky hubby Joe have their own Christmas dreams to chase, but they’re determined to pull through and give this special couple the winter wonderland wedding they deserve.
Will Christmas at the Cosy Teashop be a showstopper to remember?"
I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour for Caroline Roberts' new festive treat The Cosy Christmas Tea Shop, which is a follow up to her lovely summer novel The Cosy Tea Shop at the Castle, a book I read and thoroughly enjoyed earlier this year. It was lovely to catch up with the familiar cast again and see what they were up to in a book set a few years after the previous one, but this can also enjoyed as a stand alone festive read too!
Ellie and Joe are loving living at Claverham Castle, and Ellie's tea shop is going from strength to strength, with a good daily dose of visitors keeping things ticking over. As well as this, the pair have started to host weddings at the castle, sure that people will want to hold their wedding at their beautiful home, and raise some much needed revenue too. As Christmas time approaches and things start to get quieter, Ellie decides that they can host a Christmas Craft fair to attract some more visitors. As well as this, a last minute wedding ensures that things at the castle certainly aren't going to slow down for the festive season!
As the book began, I have to be honest and confess that I was wondering where the festive feeling was hiding as it didn't begin at Christmastime! However, I needn't have worried because this was a really enjoyable read, and I loved how the Christmas spirit crept up on throughout the book, and by the time the season had arrived, I was feeling well and truly festive. Caroline Roberts' descriptions definitely helped as well - the castle decorated for Christmas sounded idyllic and definitely somewhere I would want to visit at Christmas.
As well as the descriptions of the castle, I also loved the mouth-watering descriptions of the festive treats that Ellie and her crew at the tea shop were cooking up, from brownies to mince pies, brandy laden Christmas cakes and gingerbread - yum yum! These sounded perfect, I could have done with a lovely piece of gingerbread and one of Ellie's hot chocolates with cream while I was reading! Together with this, the lovely Christmas tree, Father Christmas and much more going on at the castle, it added up to a very festive read indeed!
The story is of course set at Christmas, but there are a few threads going on which made it great to read, as there was always something going on .Ellie and Joe go through a bit of an emotional set back of their own, and I felt that Robert's tackled this issue really well, giving it the time it deserved but also not allowing her characters to become too bogged down in their sadness. The way they used the happiness around them to motivate themselves was great, and I loved the final few chapters with the most perfect festive wedding I think I've ever read! I certainly had tears in my eyes at the most inspirational final few chapters, it was such a joy to read! I really hope that this isn't the last we see of Ellie, Joe and Claverham Castle, they've become firm friends of mine and I'd be happy to pay them another visit! A must-read for the festive season!
9 October 2016
Please enjoy the extract below, and make sure you pick up a copy of The Christmas Promise! Thank you to Sue Moorcroft and the team at Avon for asking me to be part of the blog tour!
Saturday 1 December
Battling her way along the crowded pavements of Camden High Street, under the red and green Christmas lights and past the huge boots and aeroplanes displayed on the shop fronts, Ava didn’t feel entirely in the mood for going out and having a good time. Today, her first day as a ‘casual’ stallholder in the West Yard market, had seemed endless. And she was pretty sure there would never be a second.
‘Even though I’ve been home to warm up, my feet are still burning and freezing both at the same time,’ she complained to Izz. They’d linked arms to share body heat as sleet danced in the air around them but she wished her dress would magically transform itself into a thick waterproof coat until she reached the warmth of Blaggard’s Bar. ‘It’s only the beginning of December and I’ve already had enough of Christmas shoppers who browse without buying, try on without buying, and especially, especially those who gasp, “How much? For one hat?” and drop one of my precious samples. Also without buying.’
Izz’s teeth chattered, although she was marginally more warmly dressed in glittery jeans and a top. ‘Sales were a bit thin, were they?’
‘To the point of being anorexic, even though I slashed my prices and prayed that none of my bespoke customers would appear and demand to know why they’d previously paid double.’
‘Your hats are amazing. You should be charging more, not less.’
Ava gave Izz’s arm a squeeze. ‘Aw, thank you! But needs must. I do need to eat, even if I can manage without luxuries like restaurants or the gym. I get anxious every time I think how much I spent on tarpaulin, skirting cloth and display stands, all of which look likely to end up on eBay after Christmas. If another casual hadn’t offered us a lift home I’d probably have stuffed the lot in a bin. I should have listed my stock on Etsy or Notonthehighstreet and saved myself a lot of freezing disappointment.’
She gave a little skip to keep up with Izz’s long stride. ‘I hope this drinks party is worth coming out for. It’s a bit early for a Christmas do, isn’t it?’
‘PR and marketing people will be frantic for the rest of the month with clients. Anyway, three of the associates from Jermyn’s were already over here today with a new client. Oh, look, there’s Tod, going into Blaggard’s.’
Ava watched the back of their mutual bestie Tod with envy as he hopped out of a cab and into Blaggard’s Bar, safe from the December drizzle. ‘Clients on a Saturday?’
‘It’s not necessarily a Monday-to-Friday industry.’ Izz was on a short contract at the communications agency where Tod was an associate. Tod was taking his newish and bossy girlfriend, Louise, to the agency Christmas do, and so Ava had agreed to be Izz’s plus one, Izz not currently having a boyfriend or feeling sufficiently brave to go alone.
Izz’s next words illuminated why giving the event a miss had not been an option. ‘Sam says the agency Christmas bash is a cornerstone of team building, so everyone will probably be here.’
‘Ah! If Sam said it then it must be true,’ Ava teased, shooting thankfully through a midnight-blue door spangled with stars and into the happy and familiar din of Blaggard’s Bar, the rough-hewn wooden pillars incongruously strung with fairy lights and mistletoe tied with red and black ribbon.
Typically Camden, Blaggard’s was about crowds and diversity; suits mixing happily with gothic black or steampunk satin.
4 October 2016
Thanks so much to Lindsey and her publishers for letting me be part of the blog tour, and check back later for my review!
Lindsey Kelk's Top 10 'Friends' Moments!
Season 1, Episode 1: The Pilot
You can’t start a Friends marathon without the first ever episode.
Rachel: Daddy! Daddy listen to me! It's like all my life everyone's told me, "You're a shoe! You're a shoe! You're a shoe!" Well, what if I don't want to be a shoe? What if I wanna be a purse or a hat? No I don't want you to buy me a hat, I'm saying I am a hat. It's a metaphor Daddy!
Ross: You can see where he'd have trouble.
Season 3, Episode 24: The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion
I loved Pete Becker. I know he wasn’t the one for Monica but I loved him so much. And since one of my favourite wrestlers, CM Punk, started his career in UFC in much he same way as Pete, I think we should all take a moment to wonder how he’s getting on. This episode also includes Chandler getting slapped on the butt by his boss and Phoebe introducing Ross to Bonnie (the girl who was supposed to be bald) so you know, it’s pretty great.
Pete: [about becoming the Ultimate Fighting Champion] One day, kids will wonder who'd win in a fight: me or Superman. Of course I can't beat Superman, but you know, kids are stupid.
Season 3, Episode 5: The One with Frank Jr
As much as I enjoy Phoebe’s little brother, I chose this episode for it’s cultural impact of Ross and Rachel’s laminated lists.
Ross: (About Isabella Rossellini) Damn! I can't believe I took her off my list.
Monica: Why? 'Cause otherwise you'd go for it?
Ross: Yeah, maybe.
Rachel: Oh oh, you lie.
Ross: What? You don't think I'd go up to her?
Rachel: Ross, it took you ten years to finally admit you liked me.
Ross: Yeah, well missy, you better be glad that list is laminated.
Rachel: You know what, honey? You go ahead. We'll call her an alternate.
Ross: Okay, hold my crawler.
Rachel: Okay. (He walks up to the counter.)
Monica: Rach, are you really gonna let him do this?
Rachel: Honey, he's about to go hit on Isabella Rossellini. I'm just sorry we don't got popcorn.
Season 5, Episode 2: The with All the Kissing
If you’re unfortunate enough to spend more than seven minutes with me and my best friend, at some point during the evening, one of us will say to the other ‘Mrs Geller, why you cry?’ It’s my all time favourite quote and to me, proves why Jennifer Aniston is a comic acting genius. Her timing is amazing, her delivery is always pitch perfect and basically I love her. That is all.
‘Not to shabby for Rachel.’
‘Mrs Geller, why you cry?’
Season 5, Episode 11: The One With All the Resolutions
Man, season five knocked it out of the park. This episode is notable to me for putting the fear of god into humanity when it comes to leather pants. I mean, fashion did GREAT work I bringing them back, weren’t we all terrified? THE LOTION AND THE POWDER MADE A PASTE.
Ross: They're still not coming on, man! Aand the lotion and the powder have made a paste!
Joey: Really? Uh, what color is it?
Ross: What difference does that make?!
Joey: Well, I'm just... If the paste matches the pants, you can make yourself a pair of paste pants and she won't know the difference!
Season 5, Episode 14: The One Where Everybody Finds Out
This is just one of the best examples of Friends doing what Friends does best. People messing with people but messing out of love. Rachel’s master manipulation, Joey’s shirt opening skills, Phoebe’s dance, the lotion, Ugly Naked Guy, Ross’ breakdown and Chandler and Monica’s declaration of love… it’s got everything.
Phoebe: God, they thought they can mess with us! They're trying to mess with us?! They don't know that we know they know we know! (Joey just shakes his head.) Joey, you can't say anything!
Joey: I couldn't even if I wanted too.
Season 5, Episode 16: The One with the Cop
I will always have time for crazy Ross and who hasn’t shouted ‘pivot’ when trying to move something cumbersome? Also, you get to meet one Phoebe’s best boyfriends, Gary the cop. Before he shoots that bird and ruins everything.
Season 6, Episode 1: The One After Vegas
There was so much to love in the Vegas epsiodes, Joey’s hand twin, Regina Phalange and my favourite wedding in Friends history, Ross and Rachel’s Nevada nuptials. Is there anything funnier than the two of them running out of the chapel in front of Monica and Chandler with their Sharpied faces?
Well, hello, Mrs Ross! Well, hello Mrs. Rachel!
Season 7, Episode 10: The One with the Holiday Armadillo
I love the seasonal episodes and I love the Holiday Armadillo. Ross is at his best when he’s being peevish and even though he’s trying really hard to be a good dad, he still can’t quite help being a bit of a dick. And more to the point, whatever happened to Ben? How come he just vanished? I’m assuming boarding school because he too was a bit of a dick.
Chandler: [sarcastically referring to Joey who's dressed as Superman] My favorite part was when Superman flew all the jews out of Egypt.
Season 10, Episode 16: The One With Princess Consuela
For all her flaws and relationship difficulties, Phoebe dated some pretty great guys. Luckily, she ended up with the best one (shut up, David-shippers, I’m not listening to you) Mike. Phoebe got to marry PAUL FREAKING RUDD. Of course, there was one glorious episode where Mike was no longer Mike but the fantastically named Crap Bag. Because if your wife changes her name to Princess Consuela Bananahammock, what are you supposed to do?
Phoebe: Rita is a massage client.
Mike Hanigan: Oh, why don't you introduce me?
Phoebe: Rita, this is my husband.
Mike Hanigan: Why don't you tell her my name?
Phoebe: Ok, I will. This is... this is my husband, Crap Bag.
Rita - Massage Client: Crap Bag.
Mike Hanigan: If you need an easy way to remember it just think of a bag of crap.
Thanks so much, Lindsey!
29 September 2016
April gets to work immediately, discovering that the orchard still delivers a bumper crop each year, and with the help of some of the villagers – including Matt, the enigmatic Farrier – begins to unravel the mystery of the missing Winnie. Slowly, April can feel things coming to life again – but can Orchard Cottage work its magic on her too?"
I'm a big fan of Alex Brown's books so was really pleased when I was sent her new book, a new story in her Tindledale series, The Secret of Orchard Cottage, for review. While this is a book in a series, it works perfectly well as a stand alone so you don't have to have read the others to enjoy this one. This is the story of a widow, April, who decides its time she visited her elderly Great Aunt Edith, who lives along in Orchard Cottage in Tindledale. She only plans on a flying visit, but soon realises that the old lady needs more help than she initially thought, so decides to stay for a while. While she is there, she meets some new friends, some not as new as she thought, and wonders if perhaps Tindledale is the place to help her finally move on...
This was a lovely story from beginning to end, giving hope to anyone who has lost someone very dear to them that life does go on if you allow it to, and that there are many joys in life to still be discovered. I especially loved the close bond that April and Edith have, despite their age gap and the fact they seldom see each other. Edith was a wonderful character; eccentric, full of life and so sweet, I could see why April enjoyed spending so much time with her. I really enjoyed reading about the family secret that Edith has been hiding to do with her long lost sister Winnie, and April is determined to unearth to help her elderly Aunt, it was a real mystery and I loved how it came to be solved, and the actual truth behind it, it was fascinating to read and a great addition to the story.
Orchard Cottage sounds very idyllic when April arrives, even if it is in a state of disrepair due to Edith not really being in a state to look after it herself. The cottage and the orchard sounded very country-village, the perfect place you would want to be on a warm summers day, and I could see why April was so taken with her new surroundings. The inclusion of some lovely local residents certainly helped matters, and the fledgling friendship that April strikes up with a local teenager in desperate need of some guidance was very charming and a delight to read. I loved how Alex Brown found them something in common and built up a trust from that, people are quick to judge teenagers these days but April was able to look past that and see the scared young girl behind the sulky facade.
I loved being back in Tindledale, meeting some of the residents again from the previous books that I have read, but also learning more about Edith, her past and seeing April find some confidence in life again, ready to move on from her all consuming grief at the loss of her beloved husband. For me, though, the best part of this book and its writing were the relationships within, and how we can be satisfied with life due to our relationships with other people, and the many forms they come in. I loved how in this book age, background, beliefs - they just don't matter, people were judged for who they were and friendships sprang up in the most unlikely of places. It was a joy to read, and I can't wait to visit Tindledale again soon, what a delightful book.
27 September 2016
Sandybridge is the perfect English seaside town: home to gift shops, tea rooms and a fabulous fish and chip shop. And it's home to Grace - although right now, she's not too happy about it.
Grace grew up in Sandybridge, helping her parents sort junk from vintage treasures, but she always longed to escape to a bigger world. And she made it, travelling the world for her job, falling in love and starting a family. So why is she back in the tiny seaside town she'd long left behind, hanging out with Charlie, the boy who became her best friend when they were teenagers?
It turns out that travelling the world may not have been exactly what Grace needed to do. Perhaps everything she wanted has always been at home - after all, they do say that's where the heart is..."
It's been a few years since I have read a title from Ali McNamara but there was something that drew me towards wanting to read her latest book Letters from Lighthouse Cottage. Perhaps it was the gorgeous summery cover, perhaps it was the fact that I know how much I have enjoyed her previous novels, but I dived into this one eager for a fantastic new story. Luckily it didn't disappoint, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.
The story is about a character called Grace, who inherits a typewriter when doing a house clearance with her parents. It isn't her ideal job, but there is sometimes the odd treasure that Grace finds along the way, and the typewriter certainly seems to be one of those special items, especially when it starts giving Grace mysterious advice about her life, friendship with Charlie, her childhood friend and more. Many years later, Grace finds herself back in her hometown, reconnecting with old friends and family, not having achieved all the dreams she set out to. But is home where Grace really and truly belongs?
What I didn't realise when I began reading this book is there is a bit of a magical element to it, in a way. I'm not usually a fan of things that aren't believable, I prefer my novels to be something set in real life, that could really happen. However, I decided to bear with it and I am pleased that I did because the overall story was so enjoyable, and I found myself getting swept away with Grace's story, the magical element just became a odd little extra for me. It wasn't my favourite part of the book, but it was an interesting inclusion for me.
I really liked the character of Grace, even if it took me a little while to warm to her. She seemed like a bit of a whinger in parts, never happy with her lot despite the fact she had parents who loved and cared for her, a lovely best friend in Charlie, who was there no matter how many times she abandoned him for other boys, and a good life. However, as the book progresses and we find out more about the twists and turns Grace's life takes, she mellows as a character and I grew to like her more and more. By the end, I felt we saw the true Grace and liked reading her path through adulthood to arrive at being a nicer person overall.
The setting of the story mainly takes place in Sandybridge, a small sleepy seaside town with its own lighthouse, fish and chip shop, and lots of gift shops... and Grace's parents antique shop of course. I really enjoyed Ali McNamara's descriptions of the town, it sounded so quintessentially English, and a proper little seaside town, you could see why some people chose to stay there, and I couldn't fathom Grace's reluctance to go back there! I was glad though that she did, if only for the support of her family after things began to go wrong for her as an adult, as they often do in real life.
As I previously mentioned, the typewriter part of the story and what happens surrounding that was a bit of a by-product of the story for me. I enjoyed the inclusion of this, but I could have happily enjoyed the story without it. For me, it was the story, the coming-of-age of Grace and her friends, the friendships, and the feel of home about this book which I truly loved. It was a lovely book to curl up with and escape to, the setting of Sandybridge was lovely to read about, and there was a great cast of characters, my favourite being Grace's best friend Charlie... everyone needs a Charlie of their own, and I just wished that Grace had treated him a little bit better! But a good book is one that moves you and causes you to feel something towards it and its characters, and this certainly did that for me. This was a really enjoyable read, I was pleased to be back reading Ali McNamara's books and this is definitely a recommended read from me!
26 September 2016
Love. Guilt. Heartbreak.
Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance – and their lives – in danger . . .
Kitty Fisher escapes to her great-grandfather’s remote cabin in America, after a devastating revelation makes her flee London. There, on the shores of Lake Akanabee, she discovers the spectacular jewelled pendant that will lead her to a long-buried family secret . . .
Haunting, moving and beautifully written, The Secret Wife effortlessly crosses centuries, as past merges with present in an unforgettable story of love, loss and resilience."
I am very lucky that thanks to my blog, I get to read lots of amazing books. One of my reads of 2016 so far is certainly going to be Gill Paul's new novel The Secret Wife, set both in the present day and in Russia during the First World War. This is one of my favourite periods of history, I studied it for GCSE, A-Level and my first year of University too. I was fascinated to read, at the end of this novel, that the historical part of this story is based mainly in fact and just a few things have been embellished for the sake of the story, which makes it even more exciting to read, and I simply couldn't stop reading once I had started, desperate to find out what was to come.
The Romanov family are certainly very famous in history, and there is of course the historical mystery of whether or not one of the Romanov duchesses, Anastasia, managed to escape the brutal slaying of the family in Russia during the war. However, this story follows Anastasia's older sister Tatiana, who is working as a nurse at the Palace, tending to injured soldiers. Here, she meets Dmitri, an Army officer who has been wounded and is in for medical attention. The pair strike up an unlikely friendship which soon evolved into much more. However, the war creates many problems for the pair, especially when Tatiana is forced into a makeshift prison along with her family. Dmitri is determined to help free his love, and her family, but his actions come at a terrible price.
This historical part of the novel was utterly compulsive to read, and I loved Gill Paul's writing. You can tell that she has done copious research into this topic, because everything read so beautifully, you weren't left wondering anything at all. Everything, from the palace, to the clothes, the gems, the setting, it was all so descriptively written that I enjoyed every single word of it, it set the scene perfectly. As well as these more technical details, the passion and emotion between these two characters comes across beautifully in Paul's writing. Many of the couple's interactions are actually through letters, and again I thoroughly enjoyed reading these exchanges. Their desperation, fear and love for one another really comes across and I was really praying for a happy ending for the pair.
The book alternates this story with another set in the modern day. We meet a character called Kitty, who has a link to someone in our historical story, which I loved straight away. Kitty has had her own personal trauma, and so has fled to a cabin in the woods on the shore of Lake Akanabee. There, she unearths a beautiful necklace, and finds out a lot more about the great grandfather who left her the cabin. The secrets are slowly unlocked throughout this book, and the fact that Kitty was discovering them along with the reader makes it all the more exciting because you simply don't know what is going to be revealed next.
There were a few jaw dropping moments that had me really stunned, a few moments where I did guess a couple of twists but it did not detract in any way from my enjoyment of this wonderful story. I loved how the two stories were woven together beautifully, drawing all of those threads together by the end and leaving me feeling like I had been on a real emotional rollercoaster. I honestly wished that it didn't have to end, because I could read about this set of characters forever, and the ups and downs they each went through at the different points in their lives. Gill Paul's writing was simply brilliant, and I cannot fault this book in any way. It is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year, and I cannot wait to read more from her, this was just pure brilliance. Make sure you read it and allow yourself to be swept away with the captivating tale of The Secret Wife!