31 May 2015

Blog Tour: Book Review: The Island Escape by Kerry Fisher

"It’s time to get back to where it all began…

Octavia Sheldon thought she’d have a different life. One where she travelled the world with an exotic husband and free-spirited children in tow. But things didn’t turn out quite like that.

Married to safe, reliable Jonathan, her life now consists of packed lunches, school runs and more loads of dirty washing than she ever thought possible. She’s not unhappy. It’s just that she can barely recognise herself any longer.

So as Octavia watches her best friend’s marriage break up, it starts her thinking. What if life could be different? What if she could escape and get back to the person she used to be? Escape back to the island where she spent her summers? And what if the man she used to love was there waiting for her…?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Island Escape as a paperback or an eBook now.

I was pleased to be invited on the blog tour of Kerry Fisher's new novel The Island Escape. I received a lovely picnic this week from the publishers to celebrate the book being published, and a copy of the book. I couldn't wait to start the book, it had a gorgeously summery cover and sounded exactly my sort of read. I hadn't read anything by Kerry before so was excited to discover a new author and give it a chance. I'm pleased that I did because I thoroughly enjoyed the story and characters - this is a great summer read.

Octavia is surprised at how her life has ended up. From the rebellious punk-haired teenager at school, she's settled down as a nursery  teacher with 3 children and is happily married to her husband Jonathan. But when things start to fall apart and she feels more and more unhappy, her thoughts return to her past on the island of Corsica and her relationship with her ex Xavi. As well as juggling her own unhappiness, she's looking after her best friend Roberta, whose marriage to Scott is at an end too. Roberta seems unable to function without her abusive husband and Octavia is determined to make her friend see sense...

First of all, I was a bit surprised that it took until pretty much the last quarter of the book for the book to travel to the island referenced in the title. I was expecting the story to be set on an island, but then again I suppose it was an escape for it to happen how it did. I was a little bit disappointed by this however, which is what stopped the book from being a 5* read for me. I did love the parts set in both Sardinia and Corsica. I've never been to either but Fisher describes both beautifully, you can understand why Octavia was drawn there again and loved it so much. Corsica especially sounded wonderful, and it was a nice escape to read about somewhere warm and sunny!

The characters in this book were very believable, but I struggled to understand their actions throughout the book. Roberta finally does leave her husband after one particular incident, but I couldn't fathom why she put up with what she did for so long. She seemed quite weak as a woman, very reliant on others to prop herself up and I did struggle to warm to her throughout the book. I felt she did redeem herself towards the end of the book but by then I was already struggling to feel anything for her because of her actions previously. Octavia on the other hand, I did warm to. She worked full time at her nursery, ran a household and looked after a pretty hopeless husband, if truth be told. I could see why she felt undervalued, and why her thoughts kept straying to her past love, even if it wasn't really the right thing for her to do.

The book is several tales of complicated love, and what happens when that love falls apart. Both women are different in terms of lifestyle, relationships and outlook on life, but their friendship was what helps them through their tough times. I was really absorbed by this read, wanting to carry on late into the night to finish it, which I did! Both Octavia and Roberta are great characters to read about, and you end up wondering what drives them to accept what they do, and act as they do. I really enjoyed Fisher's writing, the story was thoroughly enjoyable and I am looking forward to reading more from Kerry Fisher - this is a great summer read, and definitely recommended!

29 May 2015

Book Review: Coming Up Roses by Rachael Lucas

"Would-be gardener Daisy can’t believe her luck when her parents announce they’re off on a midlife crisis gap year, leaving her in charge of their gorgeous garden. After a turbulent few months, a spot of quiet in the countryside is just what she needs.

A shoulder to cry on wouldn't go amiss either - so when Daisy comes across Elaine and Jo, she breathes a sigh of relief. But her new friends are dealing with dramas of their own…

As Daisy wrestles the garden into something resembling order, her feelings for handsome Irishman George begin to take root. Daisy’s heart’s desire − her parent’s garden − is under threat, and Daisy's forced to confront nosey neighbours and fight greedy developers. Village life is turning out to be far from peaceful."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Coming Up Roses as a paperback or an eBook now.

I haven't read a book by Rachael Lucas yet, although I'm not really sure why to be honest. When I was sent a review copy of her latest book Coming Up Roses, my attention was caught by the really beautiful summery cover, and I liked the sound of the story as well. I'm actually someone who really doesn't like gardening or flowers at all, but trust me when I say that this doesn't matter when you're reading it, because Rachael makes it all sound really interesting and the story around the main character was just brilliant. I loved it, so please enjoy my review.

Daisy is just getting over a nasty break-up so flees to her parents beautiful country home in order to sort everything out and have a bit of time out from everything. They're on holiday, but are employing her to sort out their wild garden, knowing that she's got a talent for anything horticultural. Daisy is determined to keep herself to herself while she's there, but is soon drawn into village life, meeting new friends and joining in all manner of events before she realises what's happening. Daisy's quiet village getaway is turning out to be anything but that...

What I really loved about this book is that whilst it is primarily about Daisy and her getting over her troubles, each of the more minor characters are each super important to the story too and I liked them just as much as I liked Daisy. Firstly, she had a very sweet friendship with pensioner Thomas, who also happens to be a gardener. I loved the banter between the pair, the respect Daisy has for Thomas and I just really enjoyed reading their scenes together, talking about gardening and protecting their village against incomers. 

Then there's her new friendship with local women Jo and Elaine. Elaine lives in a posh house a short walk away from Daisy's parents, but all is not as idyllic as it may seem from the outside. However, Elaine is keen to not lose face in front of her new friends, but Daisy is determined that she coax her new friend out of her shell and help her out. The same goes for single mum Jo, also hiding a bit of a secret of her own. I loved how the women didn't judge each other despite their very differing circumstances, and it seemed really genuine. I thoroughly enjoyed reading their scenes and they were a nice addition to main storyline as well. There were of course a couple of male interests for Daisy, called George and Ned, but this was really a minor plot compared to other things going on in the book.

As I said, I don't especially like gardening - I get palpitations when I think about getting the mower out and all manner of creepy-crawlies in the garden haha - but this book made me vividly picture Daisy's beautiful garden in bloom, full of colourful flowers and plants, being coaxed back to life by Daisy's skilled hands. I also loved the descriptions of the village - it sounded so picturesque you can see why the villagers were so keen to protect it! Lucas' writing was brilliant - she really drew me into the story and kept the pace up so I was never bored and or wanting to put it down. This was a really brilliant read, a fresh look at village life and gardening, and is perfect to read whilst sitting in your own garden in the sunshine (or just pretending that it's lovely on days like today!). Definitely recommended.

28 May 2015

Blog Tour: We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman

Today I am really thrilled to be part of Rowan Coleman's blog tour for her brand new book We Are All Made of Stars. For my stop on her blog tour, I am hosting a beautiful hand written letter than Rowan has written to her mother, make sure you read it because it really is very moving and a touching read. You can click on it to view the letter large enough to read.

You can also win a copy of the book at the bottom of the post, so make sure you enter that too! It ends on 5th June at midnight, so good luck! One entry per person please.

Thanks so much to Rowan, and Amelia at Ebury for inviting me to be part of the blog tour!

I mourn the passing of the hand written letter. There is something about a letter that is special, indelible. A letter can be tied in ribbon, or folded away into a wallet, between the pages of a book, in a way that a text or tweet never can. The paper, the envelope, the handwriting all means something unique. It puts a person, and their thoughts into one moment in time, and it keeps them there. It captures thoughts, and emotions in the same way that a photograph captures an expression. And that’s why I started to write letters again, and why letters became a very important part of my latest novel, ‘We Are All Made of Stars.’"


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26 May 2015

Summer Reads 2015!

Here are a few of the amazing books being released this summer that I am really looking forward to reading! These may be books that have been released already and that I think will be perfect for your holiday this summer, or they might be books that I am so looking forward to being released in the coming months! Let me know in the comments which summer reads you are looking forward to! Click on the covers to be taken to the books page on Amazon to buy it!

"Hopeless romantic Milly Rose has had her fair share of heartbreak. Obsessed with all things Disney, she refuses to give up on finding her Prince Charming – he’s out there somewhere, isn’t he? 

When Milly is given a job to investigate the origins of a historical building in the village of Clover's Rest, she’s not sure what to expect. What she discovers takes her breath away - a beautiful real life Cinderella castle, complete with turrets, a magnificent drawbridge AND a very handsome owner…Cameron Heartstone. 

As Milly and Cameron begin to unearth the secrets of Clover Castle, they can’t ignore the intense chemistry building between them. But they’ve both been hurt badly before. Can they take a big leap of faith and find their own happily-ever-after? "

"Sarah is doing just fine. Sure she's been single for the last five years, and has to spend an uncomfortable amount of time around her ex-boyfriend, his perfect new girlfriend and all their mutual friends. And yes, her job as a PA to one of the most disgusting men in London is mind-numbingly tedious and her career is a constant disappointment to her mother. But it's really okay. She's happy (ish).

But it's not surprising that when Sarah starts dreaming about a handsome stranger, she begins to look forward to falling asleep every night. Reality isn't nearly as exciting. That is until her dream-stranger makes an unexpected real-life appearance, leaving Sarah questioning everything she thought she wanted.

Because no one ever really finds the person of their dreams... do they?"

"For Faith the one summer she can’t forget is when she fell in love as a teenager – only for her sister, Casey, to steal her man. Now, at the request of her beloved ninety-year-old Grandmother, Faith has agreed to a family holiday – at their childhood beach house, where it all began. 

Faith hasn’t seen her sister in years but is finally ready to forgive and forget, enjoy the sunshine and relive happy memories. What she’s not ready for is meeting Jake Buchanan – the owner of the beach house – or the long-forgotten feelings he ignites in her. 

Can Faith overcome the hurt of the past, rekindle the close bond she had with Casey and make this summer THE ONE to remember? "

"Tindledale is in a tizzy . . .

The Village Show competition is coming around again and after last year’s spectacular failure, the villagers are determined to win. Meg, teacher at the local school, is keen to help and to impose some much-needed order.

After a terse encounter with a newcomer to the village, Meg discovers that it is celebrity chef and culinary bad boy, Dan Wright. Meg thinks he is arrogant and rude but rumour has it that Dan is opening a new restaurant in the village which could really put Tindledale on the map.

As things come together, villagers old and new all start to come out of the woodwork, including new arrival Jessie, who seems to have it all. But first impressions can be deceptive and Meg discovers that when it comes to Tindledale – and Dan – nothing is ever quite as it seems . . ."

"Anna and her husband Matteo are ready to embark a delicious Italian adventure. After a year and a half running their ice cream shop on Brighton beach and raising their baby Isabella, Matteo is starting to miss Italy. A shared passion for ices means it's easy to settle on a new business idea - they'll open a shop in the town's cobbled square, a short walk from the sparkling blue sea. For a while, life is sweet; but then Matteo's overbearing family get involved …

Anna's younger sister Imogen feels like things are finally coming together - she's living with boyfriend Finn in a beach house in Brighton, and her photography is taking off. Then her career stalls, and the lure of Capri - and a man from her past - prove difficult to resist. 

Join Anna and Imogen and share a summer on the Amalfi Coast that you'll never forget."

"Her whole life, Puffin Islander Brittany Forrest has dreamed of adventure. And at the age of eighteen, she thought she’d found it in bad boy Zachary Flynn. But after just ten tempestuous, smouldering days, their whirlwind marriage went up in smoke, and Brittany resolved to put him out of her mind forever.

Zach knows he let Brittany down, but being back on Puffin Island and seeing Brittany again stirs up long-buried emotions. This daredevil pilot has never felt worthy of her, yet he can’t stay away—even when he knows the chemistry between them will only complicate his life.

As long, hot summer days on the beach dissolve into sultry, starry nights, Brittany and Zach find that the sparks between them are more powerful than ever. Could it be that the second time around, their dreams of a happy-ever-after will finally come true?"

"A seaside holiday at Shell Cottage in Devon has always been the perfect escape for the Tarrant family. Beach fun, barbecues and warm summer evenings with a cocktail or two - who could ask for more?

But this year, everything has changed. Following her husband's recent death, Olivia is struggling to pick up the pieces. Then she makes a shocking discovery that turns her world upside down.

As a busy mum and GP, Freya's used to having her hands full, but a bad day at work has put her career in jeopardy and now she's really feeling the pressure.

Harriet's looking forward to a break with her lovely husband Robert and teenage daughter Molly. But unknown to Harriet, Robert is hiding a secret - and so, for that matter, is Molly . . ."

"Her marriage is all washed up. It's time for a clean start… 

Connie Diamond has always been her husband Jimmy's 'best girl' - or so she thought. But then she discovers that he's been playing away for the past twenty-four years, and that the chocolates she believed he bought her as a sign of his love were just a cover-up, and she is determined to get revenge.

Along with Della Frostick, Jimmy's right-hand woman at his cleaning firm, Diamond Shine, Connie decides to destroy Jimmy's life from the inside. Together they will set up a rival business called Lady Muck, and along with the cleaning ladies who meet at the Sunflower Café, they'll make him wish he had never so much as looked at another woman. 

Then Connie meets the charming Brandon Locke, a master chocolatier, whose kind chocolate-brown eyes start to melt her soul. Can the ladies of the Sunflower Café help Connie scrub away the hurt? And can Brandon cure her affliction and make her smile again…?"

"Topaz Rossi and Rowena Krebs are live and kicking. In more ways than one.

Music wonder Rowena Krebs is so huge she's now in the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. Right at the top of Musica Records. Her old rival, now best friend, Topaz Rossi is a magazine guru in New York, heading up American Magazines. Bright and energetic as the city itself.

But things are changing: Rowena senses a shift both in business and on the home front. And Topaz can't work out why the circulation figures are dropping. Something's up. Paradise is a place that can bring trouble..."

"Home is where the heart is…

Jessica McAdams has never belonged anywhere; never truly felt at home. Of course, what did she expect from parents who never made her feel welcome in her own house? Leaving her life in London to return home to the charming country village of Bluebell Hill is harder than she thought. Especially as she never considered she’d be returning under such heart wrenching circumstances…

Clearing out the stunning and imposing Bluebell House after her parents’ death is difficult for Jessica—they never had the best relationship and now it’s too late. Yet spending time in the house that was never a home, having afternoon tea with dear old friend Esme—and sharing hot, sizzling kisses with delectable gardener Rueben!—opens Jessica’s eyes to the potential of Bluebell House… Could this big old, beautiful manor really be her forever home? Is Bluebell Hill where her heart is, has always been?

Jessica soon dares to dream of her very own home with delicious Rueben by her side. But when a deep, dark secret of Bluebell House is unearthed, Jessica’s world is turned upside down…"

"Would-be gardener Daisy can't believe her luck when her parents announce they're off on a midlife-crisis gap year, leaving her in charge of their gorgeous garden. After a turbulent few months, a spell of quiet in the countryside is just what she needs.

A shoulder to cry on wouldn't go amiss either - so when Daisy comes across Elaine and Jo, she breathes a sigh of relief. But her new friends are dealing with dramas of their own . . .

As Daisy wrestles the garden into something resembling order, her feelings for handsome Irishman George, begin to take root. But Daisy's heart's desire - her parent's garden - is under threat, and she is forced to confront nosey neighbours and fight greedy developers. Village life is turning out to be far from peaceful."

"First class is about to get dangerous . . . Pure Air's new LuxeLiner is flying from London to LA - its inaugural journey - with a first-class cabin packed with A List celebrities. As the feuding crew compete to impress their famous passengers, the handsome pilot tries to win the attention of a pretty young stewardess.

But one VIP singer is battling something seriously sinister: watching her every step is a very determined stalker, someone who will go to any lengths to get the star to satisfy their desires. At thirty thousand feet there is nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide . . ."

"Capable, confident and career-driven, Ellen had her dream job and a marriage proposal from boyfriend Ross. Life was good, her future set. Until it wasn’t and everything fell apart… 

Whisked off to the beautiful island of Corfu to plan her sister Lacey’s big, fat, Greek wedding, Ellen is hoping some time out will help clear her head and heal her heart. But letting go of her past is not going to be easy. 

With Lacey in full on Bridezilla mode, Ellen is soon distracted from her own problems. And when the all-inclusive treats on offer at hotel Blue Vue include one gorgeous, brooding Adonis – Yan – Ellen finds him difficult to resist. 

But Ellen isn’t looking for love or lust, or anything involving too much ouzo…or is she? "

"Four girls. One year. Five fabulous destinations.

Poppy is bound for Paris, the City of Love. Could this be her chance to end her epic dry spell?

Lily is en route to her cousin's wedding in LA, where she's willing to break a few rules to land her dream role.

Maggie can't wait for her romantic ski holiday in Meribel - until it goes seriously off-piste.

Rachel packs for a glamorous Roman holiday, but a blast from the past is about to sabotage la dolce vita.

The girls get together and fly to Manhattan. But someone's been hiding a big secret in the Big Apple..."

"Everyone loves a bridesmaid - except Maddie, who’s perpetually asked to be one.

Everyone loves a wedding - except Maddie’s best friend, who’s getting divorced.

And everyone loves the way Maddie’s so happy behind the scenes - except Maddie herself.

One best friend is in wedding countdown while the other heads for marriage meltdown. And as Maddie juggles her best chance at promotion in years with bridezilla texts and late-night counselling sessions, she starts to wonder – is it time to stop being the bridesmaid?"

"Blinding sunshine… A bend in the road… What became of the little girl with the sun in her eyes?

Amber was three when a car crash stole her mother's life. She doesn't remember the accident, but a stranger at the scene has been unable to forget. Now, almost thirty years later, she's trying to track Amber down.

Amber, meanwhile, is married to Ned and living on the other side of the world in London. When her father has a stroke, she flies straight home to Australia to be with him. Away from her husband, Amber finds comfort in her oldest friends, but her feelings for Ethan, the gorgeous, green-eyed man she once fell for, have never been platonic. "

"Dark secrets, a devastating mystery and the games people play: the gripping new novel from the bestselling author of The House We Grew Up In and The Third Wife.

You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.

You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly.

You think your children are safe.

But are they really?

Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?"

"Could you spend two weeks at sea with your family?

Thanks to an unexpected windfall, the Bensons are treating themselves to a luxury cruise. With stop-offs in Barcelona, Rome and Marseilles, plus constant entertainment onboard, it's a dream come true . . . Or is it? Last time Chelsea Benson went on holiday with this lot she nearly went crazy.

Her mum and sister are convinced Chelsea's boyfriend Adam will propose on the ship. Chelsea's sure he won't, but she can't help feeling butterflies as they set sail. Is Adam going to pop the question, or will the only thing to pop be Chelsea's ego?

Onboard dramas, family upheavals, memories and sunshine . . . Fall in love with the Benson family, and treat yourself to a five-star family cruise, all without leaving your sofa."

"Alice and Ben. A couple like any other. Bound together by love, work, children, familiarity, a shared sense of purpose.

Arguing about the usual things too - in-laws, whose career is more important, which of them is a soft touch with the children, who hates change and who craves it.

But when Ben takes a step into the unknown, and brings devastation on the family, it forces them to look at everything in a whole new way. Because, as far as they know, this is the end of the line for their family.

So what will happen if they get a second chance? Can they - should they - go back to the way they were?"

"Do not miss me, because I will always be with you…I am the air, the moon, the stars. For we are all made of stars, my beloved... Wherever you look, I will be there.

Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to a soldier who has returned from Afghanistan injured in body and mind, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the secrets he brought home from the war.

During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones - some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain – and promises to post these messages after their deaths.

Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…"

"Annie has a secret. But if she's not going to tell, we won't either. It's a heart-breaking secret she wishes she didn't have - yet Annie isn't broken, not quite yet. Especially now there's someone out there who seems determined to fix her.

Kate has run away. But she's not going to tell us why - that would defeat the point of running, wouldn't it? It's proving difficult to reinvent herself, however, with one person always on her mind.

Scratch beneath the surface and nobody is really who they seem. Even Annie and Kate, two old friends, aren't entirely sure who they are any more. Perhaps you can work it out, before their pasts catch up with them for good . ."

25 May 2015

Book Review: The Doris Day Vintage Film Club by Fiona Harper

"The perfect pair for ‘pillow talk’?

Claire Bixby grew up watching Doris Day films at her grandmother’s house and yearned to live in a world like the one on the screen – sunny, colourful and where happy endings were guaranteed. But recently Claire’s opportunities for a little ‘pillow talk’ have been thin on the ground.

Until she meets new client Nic who comes into her travel agency looking to book the perfect get away. Too bad it’s for two!

But as Nic and Claire get closer, the sparks start to fly, and Claire’s questioning everything Doris taught her about romance.

Can true love ever really be just like it is in the movies?

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Doris Day Vintage Film Club as a paperback or an eBook now.

I was very pleased to receive an early review copy of Fiona Harper's brand new summer read The Doris Day Vintage Film Club, complete with it's kitsch cover a few months ago. I will be honest and say I know nothing about Doris Day or her films, so hoped this wouldn't hold me back in my enjoyment of the book in any way. Of course it didn't, and I have to say the book is so much more than a story about a film club - in fact that's actually quite a minor part of the book overall, and I very much enjoyed the story as a whole. Here's why I think you should read it.

Claire Bixby loves Doris Day films thanks to growing up and watching them with her late grandmother, and as such runs a film club dedicated to Doris' films at her local pub. The group of friends meet regularly to watch the films, giving each of them hopes and dreams in their own ways. But Claire's a bit fed up of being alone. So when she meets mysterious stranger Nic, she decides to take a chance on him and open up her heart and herself to him. But Nic is holding something back from Claire, something that would ruin their newfound friendship if she found out the truth. But what is it he's hiding?

As I said, although the book is named after the club that Claire runs at the local pub dedicated to Doris Day films, that isn't the be all and end all of this book. I really enjoyed the story between Claire and Nic, the way their friendship develops and how Nic deals with his deception as well. It's a very intriguing book, and I didn't want to stop reading it once I had started. I really liked the main character of Claire - she was very likeable and I was hoping she would find some happiness in her life, she did seem so against letting a man back into her life and finding her own happy-ever-after.

You could see why she falls for Nic, and he is a great male lead for the book. He's got a good job travelling making documentary programmes, seems to be a nice person and seemingly falls hard and fast for Claire. However, there's something quite important she doesn't know about him, and I was sat just waiting for it all to go wrong when she finds out - I didn't want that to happen however, I wanted her to be happy with him and it all be fine! I really liked the email communication between the pair, it was a fun addition to the book and was a good way of building up the banter between the pair without forcing them together too much.

Doris Day films are of course mentioned in the books when they are shown at the film club, but having not seen any of them, they didn't mean that much to me. I'm sure those who love Doris and her films will appreciate the references in the books, but for me they were just a device to show how Claire got her views on romance and why she wanted to be wooed properly, much like Doris seemed to be in her films. There was a sweet side plot involving a  new member of the club being transformed for a special night out after watching Doris' films, and I thought this was a sweet side plot and I really enjoyed reading about it. 

This was a very enjoyable read from start to finish, and I found it very easy to read. Fiona Harper's writing is very enjoyable, allowing you to get absorbed into the stories of both Claire and Nic, and you're left hopeful of a happy ending, even if it doesn't seem that can possibly be the case at many points throughout the story! Everything was easy to imagine, from Claire and her travel agency, to her film club and her new found relationship with Nic too. A great book to curl up with, or to stick in your holiday suitcase for this summer's holiday! A really good read, definitely recommended.

23 May 2015

Book Review: The Cake Shop in the Garden by Carole Matthews

"Fay Merryweather runs her cake shop from her beautiful garden. She whips up airy sponges and scrumptious scones, while her customers enjoy the lovely blossoms and gorgeous blooms. Looking after the cake shop, the garden and her cantankerous mother means Fay is always busy but she accepts her responsibilities because if she doesn't do all this, who will? Then Danny Wilde walks into her life and makes Fay question every decision she's ever made. 

When a sudden tragedy strikes, Fay's entire world is thrown off balance even further and she doesn't know which way to turn. Can Fay find the strength to make a life-changing decision - even if it means giving up the thing she loves the most? Life, love and family are about to collide in The Cake Shop in the Garden."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Cake Shop in the Garden as a paperback or an eBook now.

I love that every 6 months or so I get to enjoy a brand new book from Carole Matthews. I love her Christmas stories, but I also especially look forward to her fabulous summer stories too. Her latest book, The Cake Shop in the Garden, sounded exactly like my cup of tea, especially with the ringing endorsement from Mary Berry in the middle of the front cover (complete with delicious looking cakes as well!). Of course, Carole hasn't disappointed with this read, and it's certainly one of my summer must-reads!

Fay loves running her cake shop café from the garden of her home along the Grand Union Canal, and it's pretty much all that keeps her going. She is all but held to ransom at the house by her bedridden (by choice) elderly mother, and is financially stuck as she's constantly bankrolling her younger sister who lives in America, quite unhappily it seems. So when a new canal boat complete with handsome owner comes down the canal one day, Fay decides to take a chance on him, and hires him to work alongside her and her Latvian friend and employee Lija. and the pair strike up an easy friendship. As Fay plots along in her day to day life, she tries to push aside the new feelings she has for Danny Wilde, but is temptation going to prove too much for this baker?

I have to say I loved this book from the start, and was immediately taken by Fay and the situation she had found herself in. Nonetheless, she had made the best of a pretty dire situation - she's running a quite successful business, is in a long-term relationship (although it doesn't quite set her on fire, she'd be the first to admit), and she loves living in her beautiful home. You do feel though that she is a bit downtrodden in life, having to care for her ungrateful and quite frankly rude mother, and putting up with her selfish and annoying younger sister Edie. These characters only stand to make Fay seem all the more angelic in the storyline, putting up with her awful family simply because they are her family, and you can't help but love her more for it.

I felt Fay came alive in the book when the character of Danny Wilde made an appearance. He was a bit of young blood for Fay, who's a bit old before her time, and I was willing to let herself give Danny a chance. He sounded perfect; handsome, young, knows a thing or two about narrow boats (Fay's passion in life) and most of all, just a genuinely nice person. As the book went on and the pair had more and more scenes together, I really was so hopeful of a happy ending but this certainly wasn't on the cards as the happy-ever-after ending I usually am guaranteed when I read chick lit books! I wanted her to explore more of her life with Danny, not watch it from her cake shop in the garden because of her mother, and this was what kept me reading - this hope for Fay.

Matthews' writing is, as always, brilliant and draws you straight into the middle of the book so you feel like you're sitting there in the cake shop in the garden, alongside dear old Stan, one of Fay's frequent and sweetest customers, enjoying Lija's amazing cakes and watching the world go by on the canal. All of the cakes in the book sounded amazing and mouth-watering, and you could see why people would want to keep visiting the cake shop! I kept telling myself to only read one more chapter, that it was time for bed but I simply couldn't bring myself to put this book down - I just had to find out if Fay and Danny would get their happy-ever-after and if Fay would ever be able to bring herself to escape from the confines of her life. I loved everything from the setting, to the characters and the story as a whole. This book was brilliant and I can't recommend it enough - the perfect summer read!

22 May 2015

Blog Tour: The Two of Us by Andy Jones

Today I am excited to be part of the blog tour for Andy Jones' new book The Two of Us. I really enjoyed the story, and you can read my review of the book here. I really enjoyed reading a book in this genre written by a man, and decided to ask Andy about just that - being a man in a female-dominated world!

You can buy The Two of Us as a paperback or an eBook now.

"What is it like to write as a man in the female dominated world of ‘chicklit’?

Hello Chloe, thank for inviting to your very lovely corner of the web. Isn’t it nice here.

So, you want to know what it’s like ‘writing as a man in the female-dominated world of chicklit?’ do you?

Well before we get to the writing part, I can tell you that the being-published part has been an absolute blast. I have been introduced and welcomed into a whole new world (I’ve got that song in my head now), I’ve made some new friends, and the reaction to my book (from men as well as women, I’ll have you know) has been very kind.

As for the ‘writing as a man’ part – well, the way you’ve phrased your question is interesting. The Two of Us is written entirely from the point-of-view of the male lead, William Fisher, and it feels like every other review comments on how refreshing this perspective is. As if I invented the male point-of-view. But the simple truth is, it’s more natural for me to write from this vantage, just as female authors in the genre tend to write from the female standpoint. It’s what we know, after all. I understand men. Well not entirely, I mean I don’t understand myself half the time, but I have a much better handle on the male mind than the female. Mrs Jones will verify this for you.

But I think there’s another reason readers have latched on to this aspect of the book. One that’s not so obvious. The book is not just written from the male point of view, it’s written in the first person present tense. Fisher is an ‘I’, and his actions and experiences are immediate:

I am not going to start apologizing, justifying, or groveling for one thing when I might be in the doghouse for another. That tactic is more likely to make things worse than better.

“I’m sorry about Dad’s,” my mouth says. “I was a bit of a berk.”

Ivy crinkles her brow. “Were you?”



“We . . . we need to talk,” she says, and inside my chest someone snips the strings that keep my heart suspended behind my ribs. Cut loose, the organ drops and rolls into a place just behind my belly button, where it lies heavy like a stone.

“Yeah,” I say. “I know.”

So maybe that’s why the point of view has had such resonance with readers. Because the narrative mode – the tense, person and point-of-view – all put you right inside the bewildered bloke’s bonce.

In some ways, I feel a little guilty; like a magician revealing the secrets behind a classic trick.

Come closer:

(… the rabbit was in the hat all along …)

(… men are insecure, too …)

But, like Penn & Teller revealing that the deck is marked, I’m not really telling you anything you didn’t already suspect. But I think it’s nice to hear it from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

Other than that, it’s been great meeting the (predominantly female) readers of romantic fiction, and sitting on panels alongside writers like Milly Johnson, Jane Costello, Iona Grey and Heidi Swain. They’re funny, kind, charming, glamorous and they smell nice. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a world like that?"

Thanks so much, Andy!

16 May 2015

Book Review: The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson

"Annie has a secret. But if she's not going to tell, we won't either. It's a heart-breaking secret she wishes she didn't have - yet Annie isn't broken, not quite yet. Especially now there's someone out there who seems determined to fix her.

Kate has run away. But she's not going to tell us why - that would defeat the point of running, wouldn't it? It's proving difficult to reinvent herself, however, with one person always on her mind.

Scratch beneath the surface and nobody is really who they seem. Even Annie and Kate, two old friends, aren't entirely sure who they are any more. Perhaps you can work it out, before their pasts catch up with them for good . . .

A gripping and unpredictable story of two young women running from their pasts. We defy you to guess the twist . . . "

Rating: 5/5

You can buy The Day We Disappeared as a paperback or an eBook now!

This was one book of 2015 that had been so hyped, I absolutely could not wait to read it. Some of the least gushy bloggers I know were completely gushing about it, telling me I had to read it as soon as possible, and that I definitely wouldn't be disappointed. This made me nervous because I just hoped it would live up to the high expectations that I now had for it, and that it would as good as it sounded. Luckily for me, Lucy Robinson doesn't disappoint, and yes - this book was brilliant. However, I'm going to be quite vague in my review simply because I don't want to give anything at all about the story away - the beauty of this book is in its story and its twist.

The book begins with character Kate who is starting a new job at an equestrian yard, working for Mark, the man who owns the yard and the horses. She hasn't got a clue what she is doing, but with a little help, she soon begins to love her work. Annie, our other main character, has just got a new job working as a therapist at newfound friend Stephen's successful. She thinks she has fallen on her feet and everything seems almost too good to be true. But when things get tough for both women, they don't know how to cope and seem to want to run away and escape their troubles. But what are the secrets that they are hiding behind their smiles?

To be honest, that's all I can say about the story because I really don't want to spoil it for anyone who is potentially going to read this book. It switches frequently between the story of Kate and that of Annie, so at no point are you ever in a lull - there's always something happening to keep your attention hooked! I honestly hadn't guessed the twist which is a big bonus - usually, I spot them quite quickly and it does spoil a novel slightly when that happens so for me not to guess this one was exciting! I was completely absorbed by their stories, the new friendships they made (especially Kate's with Mark, he was so lovely!) and how things started to unravel for each of them.

Lucy Robinson's writing is brilliant as usual, totally taking you into the equestrian world of Kate, and into Annie and her work with Stephen too. I have no interest in horses whatsoever, so much so that I worried when I read the first chapter and saw it was set at a horses yard, but fear not - that wasn't a problem and I even found it interesting as I read about it - that's how good Robinson is! Each of the characters were brilliant written, the settings bring everything to life on the page, and I just did  not want to put it down. It hurtles quickly towards a storming, exciting ending and I simply loved it - I was shocked, upset, emotional and in awe all at the same time. Definitely my read of the year so far, I cannot recommend it highly enough!

9 May 2015

eBook Review: It Started at Sunset Cottage by Bella Osborne

"Kate Marshall is slowly getting her life back on track after losing her fiancé. As an author she has been able to hide herself away from the world and its expectations – but now one of her books has been optioned for a film and Hollywood suddenly comes knocking on her door!

When Kate is given the opportunity to stay at a beautiful country retreat and concentrate on the screenplay, it’s an offer she can’t refuse. Encouraged by her best friend, sharp-tongued single mum Sarah, Kate sees it’s finally time to stop letting life pass her by.

Looking for confidence and inspiration in the idyllic Cotswolds countryside, the last thing Kate expects is for Timothy Calder, A-list actor and leading man in the movie adaptation of her book, to turn up on her doorstep, hoping to lie low after his latest tabloid scandal! But after a rocky start, with Tim narrowly avoiding death by watering can, they find they have a few things in common: a liking for Lady Grey tea, walnut whips and bad ‘knock knock’ jokes. Actually, the bad jokes are just Tim.

As an unlikely friendship begins to blossom, and with circumstances repeatedly throwing them together, is Sunset Cottage where both Kate and Tim’s lives will really start?"

Rating: 3/5

You can buy It Started at Sunset Cottage as a paperback or an eBook.

Another book I was drawn to reading by the cover was the debut novel from author Bella Osborne with Harper Impulse, It Started at Sunset Cottage. The cover looked really quaint and sweet, exactly like the sort of cosy story I enjoy reading after a hard day at work. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy from Netgalley and eagerly got stuck in, excited for the story. However, it wasn't quite what I imagined, and the story had so many twists and turns I wasn't sure exactly what the main plot of the story was!

Author Kate Marshall has struck it lucky with her novel and is excitedly turning it into a screenplay for a Hollywood film. To do this, she goes to a wonderful little cottage in the heart of the Cotswolds to work on it with a screenwriter, but doesn't bank on the arrival of the star of the film, Timothy Calder. The two get on like a house on fire, and Kate looks forward to working with him on the set of the film. As well as juggling her professional life, she's also looking out for her best friend Sarah who is having a bit of a hard time with her ex, the father of her young daughter, and is in a spot of bother. Will Kate be able to juggle everything, and make a success of her new film, and is there love lurking around the corner for the reluctant widow?

Although the book is billed as being about Sunset cottage, and consequently about Kate and her screenwriting for the new film, but to me it didn't feel like the main plot of the story. To me, this was the story with Sarah and her daughter, who is having trouble with her ex husband Shaun. A lot of parents will be able to relate to Sarah's story of reluctantly having to let her daughter spend time with her awful ex, but things about to take a more sinister turn. This part of the book had me hooked, I thoroughly enjoyed the development of this story even if it was a bit stilted in parts. This definitely deserved to be the main focus, and I far more enjoyed reading Sarah's tale than I did Kate's.

I don't know what it was about Kate but I think I just found her a bit too bland and rather forgettable unfortunately. She has sadly lost her fiancé and is still struggling to get over his death, so is rather throwing herself into work as a distraction. However, I felt this story took a backseat to the other action going on in the book, perhaps because it was a rather slow-burner, and nothing happened for quite a while, it all plodded on a bit too slowly for me. It was nice to read about a book being turned into a screenplay and a film, surely a dream for any author, but it just didn't completely pique my interest which was a shame. I couldn't warm too much to the actor, Timothy Calder, either - he just didn't seem my cup of tea.

Overall, this was a well written book but I couldn't help but wonder if the author was struggling to decide which exactly was her main plot - Sarah's or Kate's story. It certainly wasn't the read I was expecting from the quaint cover, and I don't feel the title is entirely relevant either, but those are just my opinions. I did enjoy the development of Sarah's story - it had me wondering what on earth had happened, just how bad a man Shaun was and how far Sarah would go to be rid of him from their lives - and she certainly has the mother-in-law from hell as well! I did enjoy the story, but found myself losing interest a little bit as Kate's story carried on, this just didn't draw me in as I had hoped. Even so, I will looking out for more from this author, hoping her next is more along the lines of Sarah's story!

8 May 2015

Blog Tour Author Interview: Lindsey Kelk

Today, I am delighted to welcome the wonderful Lindsey Kelk to my blog for my stop on the blog tour for her brand new book Always the Bridesmaid! I absolutely cannot wait to read this book - I've never read anything by Lindsey that has disappointed me yet, and I know this one won't! Lindsey was kind enough to answer some of my questions, so enjoy and let me know what you think of the new book in the comments!

You can buy Always the Bridesmaid as a paperback or an eBook now!

1. Tell me all about your new book Always the Bridesmaid!
Despite the title, Always the Bridesmaid isn’t entirely a story about being a bridesmaid, it’s more a play on the phrase, about allowing yourself to be pushed into a bridesmaid position in your life. Maddie is so used to coming second – with her friends, her family, her career – that she doesn’t even realise there’s another way. This is the story of how that changes for her. I think that’s something everyone can identify with.

It feels so strange to say this now because ATB was such a difficult book to write due to what was happening in my life – I was planning a move across the country and then quite unexpectedly lost my mum, so things were a bit out of control for a moment. I really used my writing as a place to lose myself and find a happier place in the world. I’m really proud of it.

2. At the moment it's a stand-alone book, do you plan on bringing the characters back again for a new series?
I’m terrible at leaving people alone so who knows? I feel as though there are a lot more stories to tell, whether it’s more from Maddie or one of her friends. Or maybe they’ll pop up in one of my other series, I really don’t know!

3. You've written a few series now as well as the odd stand alone novel - which do you prefer writing? It must be nice to get fresh characters in your head every now and then and try something different?
I love both for different reasons. When I start something new, it’s refreshing and exciting to meet and develop new characters are storylines but then going back to Angela or Tess is like putting on a comfy pair of shoes – they almost write themselves now which is weird. With new characters, you’re building a whole world, developing a dozen new voices whereas with Angela and Tess and Jenny and Amy, I know what their houses look like, I know where they live, where they go, what they would say or do in any given situation. And I love checking in with them, it’s like they’re real.

4. How is life treating you? Enjoying living on the west coast of the USA?! New York, LA.. It all sounds so glamorous!
Ha! It does sound glamorous. In reality, my life is pretty much the same as anyone else’s – I get up, go to work, drive to the supermarket, do the washing, make tea and watch too much telly. The only difference is I’m the luckiest girl in the world because when I go to work, I get to write books and when I look out the window, the sun is always shining! Seriously though, I’ve been so busy since I moved, all my friends keep joking that I’ve actually got paler. No California tan for me. I try to get out and travel around as often I’m constantly on crazy deadlines. I’m very thankful that the beach is only forty minutes away…

5. Have you ever had the pleasure of being a bridesmaid?! If so, how was it?! 
I have! Once when I was little and I have many pictures to prove that I loved it so much, I refused to take the dress off for weeks, and twice as an adult. I actually had a great time, I was just so happy for my friends and they were model brides. No Bridezilla moments to report!

6. I have to ask - will we be seeing any more of Angela and co anytime soon?! I miss them all!
Of course you do! Angela will be back one day, I can’t say when or where but she’ll definitely be around sometime soonish. I miss them too!  

7. You are embarking on a book tour at the moment - do you enjoy meeting your readers? 
I do! Being entirely honest, while I love it, touring is very hard. I suffer from anxiety and every event is a bit like throwing yourself a surprise birthday party. You never know who’s going to come, how they’re going to be, what they’re going to say. I know it sounds stupid but I’m always worried I’ll be a massive disappointment and say the wrong thing but people have been invariably amazing. I’m sure I’ll take it in my stride one day but it’s still weird right now.

8. Finally - what's up next for you?! 
No rest for the wicked. Tess is coming back at Christmas in Girl’s Best Friend (actually, she’s back on Bonfire night!) so I’m working on that right now and then it’s straight onto next summer’s story. I’m also hoping to spend a bit more time traveling around the west coast and visiting some friends. The last twelve months have been crazy and some R&R would be very, very nice.

3 May 2015

eBook Review: Wellies and Westies (Primrose Terrace #1) by Cressida McLaughlin

"Catherine ‘Cat’ Palmer realises, too late, that bringing an adorable puppy into work at the local nursery was a bad idea, especially after the ensuing chaos gets her the sack.

Determined to turn a negative into a positive, Cat decides this is the perfect opportunity to get her dog-walking business off the ground with the help of her flatmates, Polly and Joe. After all, Primrose Terrace where she lives, is full of home-alone hounds…

Wellies and Westies is the first part of a serialized novel told in four parts – all set in Primrose Terrace."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Wellies and Westies as an eBook now!

I was recently sent a new novella, the first in a series, to review by publishers Harper Collins, and I knew the author name was familiar to me but I couldn't quite place it! Cressida McLaughlin is actually a reviewer for another review website, Novelicious, so I was excited to read her debut novel and see what the story was going to be like. I have to mention the really cute cover too, I love how eBook covers are becoming more and more important, and they actually reflect the books now, this one is certainly one of my favourites this year!

Cat Palmer loves dogs, and is sure she is going to make a success of her new dog walking business after unsurprisingly losing her job at the local nursery when she takes a puppy to work with her. The kids loved it but her boss didn't. Instead, Cat rallies around the residents of Primrose Terrace and the local town and finds lots of new clients for her to go walking, in rain or shine. Cat takes to her job rather quickly, and makes a few new friends along the way too...

This novella was the perfect length for me, with a print length of 98 pages, meaning there was enough time for the story and characters to develop, but left enough to keep us hanging and excited for the other installments! I really liked the main character of this book, Cat, although I was a bit frustrated about how naive she was about taking an animal to work with her! How she ever thought it was going to work was beyond me, but certainly made for some amusing reading! I liked how determined she was to make her new business work, working hard to get new clients. The dogs were so well described too, they each seemed to have their own characters (as well as quirky names!), and were a fun addition to the story - Disco was definitely my favourite!

The other residents of Primrose Terrace were well written too, including Cat's flatmates Polly and Joe, and their new mysterious neighbour Mark, another dog owner. I hope we will get to find lots more about the other residents of the terrace as the stories progress, and we see how Cat's business is going too! The novella was very easy to read, lots of characters to enjoy and I enjoyed the progression of the story, and I really enjoyed the community aspect of the story too, everyone's lives being intertwined, especially with Cat holding it all together, along with holding the dog leads! The second novella in the series, Sunshine and Spaniels is coming mid-June, and I'll certainly be reading that - this was a strong debut and I thoroughly enjoyed the read.