28 January 2017
So Clemency returns to St Carys in Cornwall and gets on with her busy life and career alongside best friend, boss and local heartbreaker Ronan. When Clemency's glamorous stepsister Belle appears, smugger than ever now she's found the perfect man, Clemency's happy for her, really she is... until she discovers Belle's perfect man is Sam.
Heart-stopping romantic entanglements, crossed wires and sisterly dilemmas - all the ingredients for an unputdownable read! "
I absolutely adore Jill Mansell's books, and they are always a highlight of my New Year reading, especially when I feel I have had my full of festive reads! The cover for her new book Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay is absolutely gorgeous, a difference from Jill's previous book covers, but sometimes it is nice to have a change! I eagerly got stuck into this, sure I would be guaranteed a wonderful story, and of course, Jill hasn't let me down, this was utterly fabulous!
Clemency has been alone for a while, so when she meets stranger Sam on a plane, the pair hit it off and Clem wonders if it could be the start of a fledgling new relationship. However, Sam disappears as quickly as he came into her life, and Clemency resides herself to being alone once more. She is shocked when he makes a shock reappearance into her life again a few years later, this time on the arm of her (evil) stepsister Belle. Clem knows she has to keep her distance if she doesn't want to ruin her relationship with Belle for good. Will Clem and Sam be able to keep their feelings pushed down far enough so that Belle doesn't suspect anything?
I loved this novel from the very beginning, mainly because I loved the main character of Clemency so much. She's such a kind-hearted person, very good at her job as an estate agent and friend to many people in the small town where she lives. The relationship with her step-sister Belle is a little bit dicey sometimes, due to the pair being thrown together in their teens by their parents marriage, it wasn't exactly a match made in heaven for the girls! However, Clem is determined to be nice to her sister, despite perhaps giving up her own chance at happiness, and I loved her for that. The opening scene on the plane was very funny too, I was laughing out loud as I read, and cringing too!
There aren't too many characters in this book, which I like, as I feel that I can really get involved in the characters who are there, and get to know them well. There's Clem, Belle and Sam, Ronan who is Clem's boss at the estate agency where she works, his mother and another local, Marina. Others make appearances but these are the main protagonists of the story. They were all brilliantly written characters, people you could imagine knowing yourself, and I loved the genuine friendship between Ronan and Clem, it was a joy to read. In fact, Ronan has a few important storylines of his own in the book, and I found these just as gripping as the main tale!
Cornwall is beautifully described in this by Jill, she has clearly done her research as it all comes to life beautifully in my mind as I am reading. I am really determined to get there one day, I want to see why so many authors choose to set their novels there! Everything from the houses that Clem is trying to sell, to the beach is wonderfully written, and it does like a little bit of English heaven. The story itself is full of love, emotion, heart and just leaves you with a big smile on your face. There's quite a few serious storylines tackled within this book, and they were very well-handled, and each added something to their brilliant book.
For me, this is one of my favourite Jill Mansell novels I have ever read, and that is no mean feat, let me tell you! I just loved everything about this book, and have nothing to criticise at all. The characters, the setting, the story; each of them were perfect, and all come together to create an utterly brilliant read. Jill will forever remain one of my very favourite authors, one I know I can go to for a brilliant story and I'll NEVER be disappointed, she's just too darn good! A fabulous read, what a great way to kick off my 2017 reading!
26 January 2017
18 September 1993From the moment I wake up, my eyes still firmly closed, I know something has changed. While my mind struggles to pin down what it might be, a crazy thought flits through it: maybe this has all been a terrible nightmare, and Ed isn’t dead after all. Then I remember all over again and my stomach contracts, my muscles tighten and I feel as though the delicate string keeping me tethered to the earth, to my life, is in danger of breaking forever.
So what, then, is so different about today?
I can tell even with my eyes still closed that the room is flooded with light, which is odd for a start. I like my room dark. Could I just have forgotten to shut my blackout blinds last night? Maybe. But it definitely feels like more than that.
And then something drifts into my mind. It’s not clear, but there’s a vague memory there, lurking in the shadows trying to elude me. I was in the garden. It was raining and I was pulling up weeds, wildly; I remember that. But then I can’t remember much else. There’s just a blank space dotted with the occasional clear image: falling, a pain in my head, roses, Jane’s face, bright strip lights . . . and then nothing.
Could I be in hospital? Perhaps that’s it. I fell, hit my head and now I’m here, in a hospital bed, safe.
It makes sense, but somehow I don’t think that’s what’s so different about today either.
I keep my eyes shut a minute longer and listen carefully to the sounds around me. I can hear a radiator banging as though the heating has just come on. I can make out the distant rumble of a radio and noises like someone clattering around in a kitchen, the hum of an electric shower, someone whistling. It’s familiar, and yet not quite, and it certainly doesn’t sound like a hospital.
Finally, I try to open my eyes and a blurry world slowly swims into focus. I can make out a white ceiling, covered with the same swirls and semicircles as the ceiling in my childhood bedroom. Odd, I haven’t seen that pattern for years. There’s even a small pink mark just the same as the one I made on my bedroom ceiling at home when I’d thrown a lipstick at my sister and missed. I shake my head, confused by the memory. The grey lampshade hanging from the middle is familiar too, tugging at my mind like a child pulling at my coat, desperate for my attention, desperate for the memory to fall into place.
I flick my eyes to the right. There’s a chest of drawers there, pine, with stickers covering it and a mirror on top, surrounded by bulbs. It’s empty of toiletries, but it’s still so familiar.
I sit bolt upright in bed, my heart pounding. I can hardly catch my breath.
I’m scared to look round any more, but I have to. Twisting my head I see the pine wardrobe that I knew I’d see, one door open, a row of empty coat hangers inside. In front of it sits a black suitcase, and a cardboard box with Zoe’s stuff! scrawled on it in black marker pen, and a smiley face sticking out its tongue. On top of that is a wine box with Threshers printed on it, stuck down with white tape with the word Warning repeating all the way along it in bright red letters. I know without looking that it’s packed with my precious CDs, all lovingly sorted the night before.
I move my eyes around the room. An empty hook on the back of the door where a dressing gown would normally be; my old CD player on the floor, wrapped in bubble wrap; a desk stripped of papers and pens, just one lonely pot with a couple of blunt pencils and a marker pen sticking out of the top. It’s my old bedroom, and it looks exactly as it did on the day I left for university.
My heart’s still hammering and I take a few deep breaths, trying to calm it down. This is nothing to worry about, it’s just a dream. Your mind is playing tricks. Go back to sleep and when you wake up everything will be back to normal, whatever normal is.
I settle my head back down on the pillow and close my eyes. But I can’t resist, and when I peek again, nothing has changed.
What the hell is going on?
I yank my duvet off and swing my legs over the side of the bed and pad cautiously towards the mirror. It’s about waist height, and I can already see my short pyjamas and vest top reflected back at me as I approach – pyjamas I haven’t worn for about eighteen years. I’m not sure I’m ready for what I’m about to see, but I sit down carefully on the edge of the stool anyway, and peer into the mirror.
I gasp. Not because it’s awful. It’s me. But it’s not the thirty-eight-year-old me, with dark circles and fine lines under my eyes and a deep V etched into my forehead, that I’m used to seeing. It’s an eighteen-year-old me, with flushed cheeks and no lines – and black make-up smudged under my eyes that makes me look like Alice Cooper. My hair is dyed a strange reddy-purple colour and sticks out all around my head like a halo. Hand shaking, I reach up and pat it down, then squint at my reflection and pull a face. My forehead doesn’t wrinkle and pucker like it usually does, but stays smooth and strangely springy.
I laugh out loud. The sound is unexpected and makes me jump. It’s a sound I’ve not heard for a while. But it seems appropriate because this is utterly ridiculous.
How can this be happening?
I consider going back to bed, burying my head under the pillow and pretending none of this is happening. But I’m curious. Terrified and confused, but curious to see what might happen too. Because the truth is I know this is more than just a dream. I don’t know how I know, but I can just tell. It feels – real. It feels as though I’m really here, however insane that might sound.
I’m clueless as to what to do next, though. What do you do when you wake up in your old life? Is there an instruction leaflet, a set of rules to follow? And how long will it be until it ends and I’m back in real life again? A day, a week, a month? Forever? I shudder at the thought.
24 January 2017
Though the year has brought tragedy, the Quinns have much to celebrate: Kelley has reunited with his first wife Margaret, Kevin and Isabelle have a new baby; and Ava is finally dating a nice guy.
But when Kelley's wife Mitzi shows up on the island, along with Kevin's devious ex-wife Nora and a dangerously irresistible old fling of Ava's, the Inn is suddenly overrun with romantic feuds, not to mention guests.
With jealousy, passion, and eggnog consumption at an all-time high, it's going to take a whole lot more than a Christmas miracle to get the Quinns - and the Inn - through the holidays intact."
I will honest and say that I was drawn to this book entirely because of the cover. I loved it, and straight away felt it was going to be a book that was festive, and that I would enjoy. I wasn't wrong, and I did enjoy it, but I do wish I had known it was a sequel before I started reading it because I was lost for quite a big portion of the book, as this really is a follow-on and it took me a while to settle in to who was who, what the heck was going on and everything else about the story. Now, I want to reread it as part of the series, with the book that follows this also to get the full story about the families on Nantucket!
The book is based around the Quinn family, who own the Winter Street Inn between them. Kelley, the owner, has been surprised by his wife Mitzi admitting a lengthy affair and leaving him for the subject of her new affections, but is shocked when his ex-wife Nora shows up on the scene once more. His son Kevin has had a new baby with his girlfriend, his daughter can't seem to settle down with anyone and his daughter-in-law is struggling to mother her three boys alone while her husband (Kelley's other son) is in prison. Not forgetting of course their Marine son who is MIA in Afghanistan causing the family perpetual worry. Will the Quinn family be able to sort everything in time for Christmas?
As I mentioned, I started this book and really had no clue what was going on, to the point where I was actually going to give up on it. I had no background on any of these characters, I felt I was completely thrown into the middle of the story and there was really no explanation as to what was going on, like I've had in other books that are part of a series. I actually resorted to researching it online myself after a while, because I was getting a tad frustrated. However, once I had got it all sorted, I knew who was who and what was going on, I felt happier and more able to get involved in the story.
One thing I will say here is don't go into this one expecting a happy little Christmas tale. There's quite a bit of upset, sadness, and tears throughout the book, I wondered if the Quinn's every had any happiness in their lives! Each branch of the family had their own problems, and I felt so sorry for all of them. I especially found the story of Kelley's Marine son missing quite hard, you can see how it's impacted everyone, especially his mother Mitzi. It was heart-breaking, and really hard to read, her grief was so profound. She just wants her son back and you really sense that through Hilderbrand's writing.
I really enjoyed how deeply Hilderbrand goes into detail with this book. She isn't afraid to confront a range of emotions within this story, all heightened because of the festive time of year and the pressure that everyone is under due to their own personal problems. One story that resonated a lot with me was Kelley's daughter-in-law Jennifer struggling to raise her three children alone, while her husband is in prison. She was clearly finding things so tough, her children were being typical kids, complete with horrible attitudes, and I could see how she was driven to the drastic steps she took. I just wished someone in the Quinn family had noticed what was going on a bit earlier, she really did help and positive guidance rather than judgment.
Overall, I felt this was a very enjoyable read but as I mentioned, I do wish I had known it was the second book in a series, as I feel it would have read much better straight after the first book. However, now I've read this, I'm desperate to read the third book in the series, Winter Storms, so I can see how the Quinn family story is going to be resolved. It's a very gritty, emotional book set at Christmas, so it isn't over-flowing with Christmas cheer, but does have Christmas woven throughout it. It's my first book by Elin Hilderbrand, and I will be reading more, but certainly looking out for her standalone novels initially!
Note: This book is called Winter Stroll in USA.
23 January 2017
And then, in one sudden moment, life irrevocably changes for both women.
Isla and Sophie have hard decisions to make but above all else they must face up to the uncertainty that lies ahead. It's only when they realise that this is easier together, two friends standing side by side, that each woman can embrace whatever the future holds for them."
I am a huge Vanessa Greene fan and was thrilled to be send a review copy of her latest book The Little Pieces of You and Me. Much like her previous books, this book focuses on a friendship between two women, something that I've always really enjoyed in Greene's earlier books, but this time we just have 2 best friends, each at very different points in their lives but about to be thrown together once more. While this wasn't my favourite read by Vanessa Greene, it was a very enjoyable one, and one that I can recommend.
Isla and Sophie have been friends since they were little, and the ups and downs in their lives so far have done to change that. Sophie, going against her strict parent's wishes, married a much older man and is now settled in her marriage, struggling with the relationship with her ever-resentful teenage step-daughter. Isla is living in Holland, living out her dream of acting, all with a new man on the horizon but when she's dealt a devastating blow, she realises she has to return home and put her other dreams on hold. The pair cling on to their friendship, sure it will help them work through the horrible reality they are both facing.
The book begins with everything seemingly happy for both of the women, but quite soon, the book moves into more uncertain territory. Sophie is a bit concerned for her marriage, worried that her husband might be hiding secrets from her, and struggling with the deteriorating relationship between her and her step-daughter. Isla, on the other hand, is loving her life, and finding out her dream is coming true has made everything just perfect. But when she is given a devastating diagnosis by her doctor, she is in denial, sure that it won't ruin her life as they seem keen to tell her. Unable to face her reality, she turns to her best friend, sure she can help her navigate a tricky time.
While I enjoyed what happened between the women and how they handled their individual problems, I couldn't help but feel it was all a bit too perfect in some respects. Isla came to terms with her illness far too well really, and her 'bucket list' of things to do before she couldn't didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary - I like to think I'd pick something a bit off the wall just because I had to do it! Also, I saw Sophie's marriage problems coming a mile off, you could see where it was going to end up, and I was a little disappointed that I was right, even though it all concluded as I hoped it would.
The best part of the book was the friendship between the two women. They are truly close, very reliant on each other, no matter how far away they are, and it was just heart-warming to read. In fact, I really didn't like how unreasonable Sophie's husband was in the book about their friendship, especially when Isla's secret is revealed - it seemed a little odd to me. But I did love the women's closeness, we all need a friendship like these women shared. Despite a few niggles, this was an enjoyable book that goes along at a good pace, and kept me reading until the end. As mentioned, it isn't Greene's best book, but I will definitely be looking out for her next book!
22 January 2017
A working holiday to the Swiss Alps with her younger sister Jody might not be the Christmas Jen had it mind, but it offers her the chance to recharge her batteries and recover from heartbreak.
When Jen meets handsome ski instructor Jon Zutter her hopes for a happy-ever-after seem within her grasp again. Jon is kind and gorgeous and as they bond over Sachetorte at the picturesque Cake Café, Jen thinks he might just be her perfect man. But a relationship with him comes with a catch – and there are some things even cake can’t fix.
As the snow falls and Christmas approaches, could this be the place that restores Jen Barker’s faith in love?"
I was really excited when I found out Sue Watson would be bringing out another new festive book in time for Christmas with publishers Bookouture. I loved the cover straight away and was really looking forward to reading the book. As usual, the book has all of Sue's heart, warmth and festive spirit and was a fun read. I love knowing that when I pick up one of Sue's books I'm going to get a great read, and she certainly didn't let me down with this book!
Jen finds herself suddenly single in the run up to Christmas and decides it is time to do something about it. When her younger sister Jody offers her the chance to go to Switzerland with her for a working holiday, Jen decides to take the opportunity with both hands and heads off with her sister and her friends, all much younger than she is. While there, she loves her job at the local café, and bumps into skiing instructor Jon, who has a few secrets of his own hidden away. Will Jen be able to allow herself to fall in love, or will Jon's secrets stop things before they have even begun?
I haven't ever read any books set in Switzerland, but I am so pleased that this one was! After reading it, I googled the skiing resorts dotted around and they look so amazing, especially at Christmas! I could definitely understand why Jen thought it would be a good idea to go out there and live for a while, it sounds cold but looks utterly stunning! Make sure you google it yourself! Watson's descriptions of the resorts, chalets, café's, everything are beautiful and bring the whole thing to life in your mind. I could imagine it so clearly, it was so enjoyable.
Jen herself is an intriguing character. In her 40's and single again, she is sure she has missed the boat on lots of things, but most of all becoming a mother. I enjoyed reading about the close relationship she shared with her sister Jody, which wasn't borne out of the best thing. Jen's father left her mother and started a new family, resulting in the birth of Jody, and while the initial years between the pair weren't good, as adults they've come to accept each other and realise it was neither girl's fault that Jen's parents relationship failed. It's very typical of lots of relationships and I applaud Watson for tackling an issue like this in this story.
Many women reading this will be able to sympathise with Jen and her situation, sure that she has left it too late to settle down and start a family. I felt sorry for her at first, but as she began to enjoy her time in Switzerland and make new friends, especially ski instructor Jon, I was hopeful that she would find her own alternative happy ending. There were quite a few twists and turns along the way, especially as Jon's secrets came to light, but I did feel sorry for him too. However, I did like how the pair dealt with it in adult ways, especially Jen, and the last third of the book was good to read about, albeit awkward in parts!
This was a very enjoyable read from Sue Watson again, full of festive cheer, hope, love and was a lot of fun to read. The setting was fabulous, definitely my favourite part about the whole book, and has certainly made me want to visit Switzerland at Christmastime, even if, like Jen, I haven't got a clue how to ski and I'm not sure if I really want to! I hope there will be more from Sue coming in the near future, I love her stories and they always leave me with a smile on my face. But probably my most favourite thing about them is that they feel real - like they could happen to any normal person, that they could happen to you - that we all might have a happy ending out there somewhere.
21 January 2017
Ruby has finished with university and is heading home for the holidays to save up for her trip around the world in January. Against her father’s wishes, she takes on a stall at the local market, and sets about making it the best Christmas market stall ever. There’ll be bunting and mistletoe and maybe even a bit of mulled wine.
But with a new retail park just opened on their doorstep, the market is under threat. So together with all the other stallholders, Ruby devises a plan to make sure that Wynbridge is the first port of call for everyone’s Christmas shopping needs.
The only thing standing in her way is Ruby’s ex, Steve. It’s pretty hard to concentrate on saving the world when he works on the stall opposite, especially when she realises that her feelings for him are still there…"
Another book I really enjoyed reading this Christmas was Heidi Swain's latest book, with one of the longest book titles I've seen in a while, Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market. The book sees the return of some characters from Heidi's previous books, both of which I have read, 'The Cherry Tree Café' and 'Summer at Skylark Farm'. However, you don't need to have read these books to enjoy this one, and I certainly do recommend you do read this if you get the chance!
Ruby has finished her course at University, and is heading back home to Wynbridge, and her parents home. She's determined to save some money so she can go and travel the world in the New Year, and so takes a job working at the local market in the run-up to Christmas, even though her father really doesn't want her to. She thinks the job will be quite easy, so when it turns out she has to help save the market from certain closure, Ruby finds herself working harder than she ever dreamt of. Put that together with running into a blast from her past, Ruby's Christmas is certainly going to be one to remember...
What I really loved about this book was how the town pulls together in a time of need, to pool their ideas, to turn up to the events created to help save their community, and the fact that everyone works together, from the young children through to the town's OAPs. It was really heart-warming and I really enjoyed reading it from beginning to end.The market in Wynbridge sounded charming, especially with all the special things put on by the market stall holders, and it sounds exactly the sort of place I would love to go and do my Christmas shopping, especially from Ruby's stall!
Throughout the book, there was a bit of a mystery involving Ruby's father. I really had no idea what was going on up until the big reveal near the end of the book, and I loved that Swain was able to keep me guessing up until the end, and that I hadn't guessed it! It did leave me with a big smile on my face, but I wish it could have resolved sooner and helped Ruby with her relationship with her father after many years away from home! However, you get the impression the family are very close, and I liked that very much.
Swain's writing throughout was great to read. The pace of the book is slow but steady, and there's always something going on to make you want to keep reading. Ruby's newfound friendship with her ex boyfriend and fellow marketstall holder was definitely interesting reading, and I couldn't fathom until the end if the pair would ever put their stubbornness aside and admit their true feelings! I also loved how the characters from Swain's other books popped up too, Lizzie and Jemma from the café, and Amber from Skylark Farm. It really makes the world she writes of feel real as you're reading, and was a really enjoyable story from start to finish. Ruby was a brilliant character - full of life, determination, and hope, something we should all have inside us! A wonderful read and highly recommended!
16 January 2017
Rome is the city of love and seduction, right? Not if you find yourself staying in a beautiful apartment with your childhood-friend-turned-arch-enemy, Will Ryan…no matter how hot he is!
Romance is the last thing on Lisa’s mind. She’s got more important things to focus on, like hunting down her estranged father. Except when her search falls at the first hurdle, Will doesn’t just help her get back on track, he also shares the romantic sights – and exquisite tastes – of the Eternal City, and Lisa starts to wonder if it’s not just Rome seducing her.
Only, as Lisa and Will dig into the past, neither of them is prepared for the long-buried secrets they reveal. Secrets that will turn both their world’s upside down …"
I was thrilled to be asked to kick off Jules Wake's blog tour for her brand new book From Rome With Love. I've read most of Jules' books before and loved them, so was excited to get stuck into reading this one. I love the cover, it looks summery and certainly entices you into wanting to read it. When I began reading, I realised several of these characters have popped up before in Jules' other books, and it was lovely to catch up with Siena, Laurie, Cam and co again!
This time, however, we follow the story of Lisa, who is determined to go to Rome to locate her father to return a family heirloom after the death of her mother. However, all Lisa knows about him is that he didn't bother asking her to live with him once her mother died, and all she has is an old photo with an address that is decades old. Instead, she hops on a plane with her Italian friend Giovanni, and another local Will, who owns the pub and is opening his own restaurant. The pair have a bit of a past so Lisa isn't thrilled he's hijacked her holiday. But will she be able to find her father in Rome, and can Lisa and Will admit there's more than a little attraction between them?
I really enjoyed this story from the beginning. I liked Lisa straight away. She's grown up with grandmother who isn't the easiest woman to get along with, and I certainly felt Lisa's frustration and love towards her grandmother through the entire book - despite the many arguments the pair had you could really feel the love that they had for each other. Lisa's relationship with Will however was a bit more complicated but I really enjoyed that story unfolding and seeing the friendship between them blossom while they were in Rome together.
Jules Wake has clearly done her research when it comes to Rome because she describes is so beautifully throughout the book. I haven't been lucky enough to visit Rome myself but I loved reading about it, from the famous tourist hotspots such as the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum and the Trevi fountain, to the small Italian cafe's that Lisa and Will frequent, and the other places they travel to research Italian food and drink for Will's restaurant. I found Wake's descriptions to be really vivid, and I loved seeing these things through Lisa's eyes because she was so excited about everything to do with Rome, her enthusiasm was catching!
As well as the holiday to Rome, there was the more serious storyline of Lisa trying to track down her father. There were a few twists and turns along the way, it couldn't all be plain sailing for Lisa of course, and there was a bit of a shocking conclusion to that too which had me really surprised! It set up Lisa's return to the UK and the return of a few characters too which was nice to see. Overall, this was a really enjoyable read from Jules Wake, and there's not a lot I can fault about this book at all! I loved the characters, the setting, there was some humour and a storyline that kept you wanting to read on until the last page! Highly recommended!