28 February 2017

Book Review: One Christmas in Paris by Mandy Baggot

"Ava and her best friend Debs arrive in Paris just as the snow starts to fall. The Eiffel Tower glitters gold and the scent of spiced wine is all around, but all Ava can think about is Leo, her no-good, cheating ex. 

Debs is on a mission to make Ava smile again, and as they tour the Christmas markets, watch lamplight glittering on the river Seine, and eat their body weight in pain-au-chocolat, Ava remembers there’s more to life than men ... Until they cross paths with handsome, mysterious photographer Julien with his French accent and hazelnut eyes that seem to see right inside her. 

Ava can’t ignore the intense chemistry between them, but her fingers have been burned before and she can’t forget it, especially when her ex, Leo, starts texting again. Can Ava really trust Julien – and what exactly is his secret? 

Will Ava go home with a broken heart, or will she find true love amongst the cobbled streets of Paris?"

Rating: 4/5

This isn't my first of Mandy Baggot's books, and I have to say I love her festive novels. I loved the cover for this one straight away, it really caught my eye and I liked the sound of the story as well. I enjoy Mandy's books, and this was no exception. I love Paris as a city, but I don't think I have ever read a Christmas book set there before, so this was a first! It's the story of best friends Ava and Debs, who travel to Paris for Debs' job, and Ava trying to get over her cheating ex-boyfriend Leo. The two start to enjoy the sights and tastes of Paris at Christmas, and when they bump into French photographer Julien, they strike a friendship and the foursome (together with Julien's best friend) meet up for meals, with Ava and Julien quickly hitting it off.

I liked all of the characters in this book from the beginning. Ava and Debs were great best friends, with Ava being the quieter of the two, trying get over a broken heart. Debs was quite loud, brash and just trying to get her friend to move on from someone she doesn't think deserves to have tears shed over him! The pair get up to some fun, travelling around to see the sights of Paris, not expecting to meet some handsome French men while they are there!

Julien is hiding a bit of secret himself. I don't want to spoil it by telling you has happened to him, but it was quite a sobering part of the book, and I felt Mandy Baggot did well in tackling an issue like this. She goes into Julien's grief well, putting across his despair without becoming bogged down in it. His passion is photography, something he is talented at, but since his personal tragedy he hasn't taken any pictures. When he meets Ava, he suddenly wants to photograph her, reigniting a flame in him that has been dead for a while. This was touching as it opens something up in the pair of them, and allows the story to progress perfectly.

As I mentioned, I loved the setting of Paris. It worked perfectly for the book, and complemented the story, rather than it being entirely focused on its setting. The main sights are of course mentioned, and it was fun seeing them through Ava's eyes. I enjoyed the progression of the friendship of Ava and Julien as well, and how they seemed to bring out the best in each other. Their friends, too, were encouraging and I felt the chemistry between them all was perfectly written, I cared about them, and wanted good things to happen for them. There were a few touching scenes between Julien, his father and step-mother too that I must mention, I thought these were well written and really added to the story.

This was a charming festive read from Mandy Baggot and I'll definitely be looking to read more from her. It had a nice festive vibe, good characters who had their own stories, and came together to create a new one, and the pace, although not hugely fast and frantic, plodded along nicely, allowing things to develop fully. I wouldn't necessarily say it falls into the romcom category as the laughs weren't there, but it is emotional, full of thought and I enjoyed reading the whole story. Recommended.

26 February 2017

Book Review: Rome is Where the Heart is by Tilly Tennant

"Can a holiday romance ever have a happy ending? Escape with Kate to the sun-drenched city of Rome where a love affair is just about to begin …

When Kate’s husband Matt dumps her on Friday 13th she decides enough is enough – it’s time for her to have some fun and so she hops on a plane to Rome. A week of grappa and gelato in pavement cafes under azure blue skies will be just what the doctor ordered.

What she doesn’t count on is meeting and falling for sexy policeman Alessandro. But the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly – Alessandro has five meddling sisters, a fearsome mama and a beautiful ex Orazia. They’re all certain that Kate is not the girl for him.

Can Kate and Alessandro’s love last the distance? Or will she return home with the one souvenir she doesn’t want – a broken heart …"

Rating: 4/5

I haven't read anything by author Tilly Tennant before, but when I saw this book on Netgalley, I knew I wouldn't be able to resist reading this one, thanks to its gorgeous bright colourful cover, and a fantastic sounding blurb. Lots of books I have read before have looked at holiday romances, but this one goes that step further into territory I haven't encountered yet! I also recently found out there is going to be a sequel to this book, called A Wedding in Italy, due out a month after this one, in April.

Kate is running away from the failure of her marriage when she books a last-minute holiday to Rome on her own. Her sister's think she is crazy, going away on her own, but Kate is determined to prove to everyone, not least herself, that she can do this. She goes exploring the city, meeting a new American friend along the way, and the pair decide to spend more time together while they are in Rome. Then she meets Roman policeman Alessandro, who she immediately falls for. He is handsome, and determined to apparently sweep Kate off of her feet. But his large Italian family is sure that the English woman can't be the one for him, but maybe the pair have different ideas....

I liked Kate from the beginning. She has had her heartbroken by her husband, been left in a rubbish situation, and is determined not to wallow too much. I admire her for wanting to go on holiday by herself, I think I would quite enjoy it in a few years time, but it's quite a daunting prospect. However, she gets her things together, and heads off to Rome, somewhere she has always wanted to go. Of course things don't go completely smoothly, but I think Kate handled herself really well, even if she was open to meeting new people far too easily in my opinion, these men she befriends could have been anyone!

Alessandro is a lovely male character in the book, you can see why she falls for him so easily, especially when he tries to woo her by showing her around the sites of Rome. I haven't been lucky enough to visit Rome myself, but everyone knows the famous landmarks that Kate visits with her new friends. Tilly Tennant writes them beautifully, bringing them to life on the page, and I loved sitting in my chilly bedroom reading about a sunny, warm Rome, with the characters enjoying ice cold drinks and gelato! It was perfect escapist reading.

The book does take more of a serious tone towards the end of the book when Kate inevitably has to return home, in a more serious storyline involving one of her sisters. I though Tennant handled the really emotive storyline really well, and did well at showing Kate's emotions being torn between wanting to be there for her family, and missing her new love back in Italy. This was a really enjoyable read from beginning to end. I did feel perhaps Kate fell for Alessandro too hard, too fast and it seemed a tad unrealistic at times, since she seemed okay at diving in very quickly with him, but I suppose we could all do with taking a chance at love sometimes. I'm excited to read the sequel to find out what is in store for Kate and Alessandro next! An enjoyable read.

25 February 2017

Book Review: The Dress by Jane L. Rosen

"Legend has it that every season there is one dress. The dress that can make your career, ignite a spark with that special someone, or utterly transform your life. For Felicia, who has been in love with her boss for 20 years; for Natalie who has sworn off men since her ex dumped her – for them and for others, life is about to change.

And all because of their brush with the dress of the season, the perfect little black number that everyone wants to get their hands on…"

Rating: 4/5

I have to confess I didn't know much about this book or author before I began to read it, although I was completely taken by the cover, it's just gorgeous! The Dress in question is a black Max Hammer dress - nothing hugely fancy or special, but seems to have some sort of powers over the women who wear it, by whatever method they get hold of it. There are 9 different women whose lives are affected by them wearing the dress, in lots of different ways.

The idea of a magical dress isn't normally something I would find in the sort of books I read, but I decided to give it a try, and I am so pleased that I did. It wasn't that it was a fairytale dress or had super magic or anything, it just influences the women who wear it to make good decisions, and therefore have good things happen to them. This was a lovely part of the story, and it made me smile each time you could see the dress working its magic on the wearer. Lots of things happen to this dress, from its humble beginnings as a pattern, to the dress that catches the eye of the world - I don't want to spoil the story by telling you anymore as finding out what happens to the dress is part of the magic of reading the book.

There is a lot of different characters in this book - men, women, in relationships or not, from all walks of life and all in very different jobs. It wasn't hard to keep track with who was who though, Rosen's writing allows you to follow the book with ease, and I had no confusion with them at all. Again, I don't want to sit here and run through all of the characters - there's just too many of them, but I enjoyed their stories unravelling as the book goes on. Needless to say, they were all wonderful stories, and I enjoyed reading them all, and the way Rosen changes the narrative constantly keeps it interesting and fresh. There are characters to love, characters to hate, ones to empathise with... there's probably someone in there we could all relate to at one time or another!

This was a wonderfully written story by Jane L Rosen, and was full of hope, love and joy. I adored how the dress simply changed so many people's lives, and the way it comes in and out of their lives in different ways was fun, I was always guessing how it would find a way to get to its new owner! It's unlike anything I have read before, and was fun to read from start to finish. A couple of the stories stood out to me more than others, but they were all enjoyable to read. It's a very uplifting book and left me with a big smile on my face, and shows us that dreams can come true if we try hard enough. Recommended.

Book Review: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan

"Meet Molly

New York’s most famous agony aunt, she considers herself an expert at relationships…as long as they’re other people’s. The only love of her life is her Dalmatian, Valentine.

Meet Daniel

A cynical divorce lawyer, he’s hardwired to think relationships are a bad idea. If you don’t get involved, no-one can get hurt. But then he finds himself borrowing a dog to meet the gorgeous woman he sees running in Central Park every morning…

Molly and Daniel think they know everything there is to know about relationships…until they meet each other that is…"

Rating: 5/5

Sarah Morgan is probably my favourite author at the moment. I adore her writing, her stories and everything about them. This book, which is the fourth in her 'From Manhattan With Love' series, came out earlier this month, and I could not wait to start reading it, and find out more about the story! It doesn't focus on the same characters as the earlier books, but references them, and one does pop up, but it is pretty much a stand-alone book, so it can be enjoyed on its own without having read any of the others.

Molly is a famous agony aunt, although she hides behind her pseudonym after a horrible experience back home in the UK that she has run away from . She's now happily living in New York with her dog Valentine, and the pair are happy with just the two of them. But when she meets Daniel in Central Park while walking their dogs, the pair strike up a new friendship. Molly is reluctant to let anyone in her life, but Daniel is determined to break down her barriers, and allow him to be a part of her life. But nothing in New York is ever plain-sailing...

The characters in this book were great, and simply perfect. I loved Molly from the beginning. She was obviously a damaged person, struggling with a past problem that she isn't willing to divulge to anybody except a couple of really close friends. So when she feels herself start to let some barriers down in front of her new friend Daniel, she gets worried and starts trying to rebuild them, without much success it has to be said! I wanted her to finally trust someone worth trying, and I felt that hopefully Daniel would be that person for her.

Daniel was a fantastic male character, and perfect in pretty much every way, as they always are in Sarah's books! He is a very successful divorce lawyer, owns a gorgeous apartment, and is a good brother to his twin sisters. However, he too had a troubled childhood, and those demons keep coming back to haunt him, hence his success in his career - he wants to save anyone from the hurt he and his family went through. I liked how he almost wanted to rescue Molly from herself, to make her open up, and the way he dealt with her was lovely, he was just such a nice person!

The setting of New York is always going to be a winner for me. I have wonderful memories of this city after 2 amazing holidays there myself, and reading books set there always brings it flooding back to me! You can tell Morgan knows the city inside out as she writes, as you can imagine it vividly in your mind, from the tall skyscrapers, to the view from Daniel's apartment and then to Central Park itself, that haven in the middle of a bustling city. Morgan's descriptions showcase her love for the city, and is the perfect setting for this love story.

Thank goodness there is another book coming later this year in the series, Meet Me in the Hamptons, and I for one can't wait. Sarah Morgan's books are always the highlight of my reading calendar, and she has never disappointed me so far! I found myself racing through the pages of this book from the minute I picked it up, because I just loved it so much, and wanted to find out what was going to happen with Daniel and Molly, and whether or not he would manage to uncover her secret identity! A perfect book, you definitely cannot go wrong if you pick this up!

24 February 2017

Book Review: Christmas Under a Starlit Sky by Holly Martin

"Neve Whitaker loves managing the Stardust Lake hotel. She gets to work alongside her wonderful family and she’s spending Christmas on the most enchanting, snow-covered island in Scotland. So why is her heart so heavy this festive season? 

It might have something to do with the gorgeous actor Oakley Rey, the man she finished with before he left for California and the man she loves more than anything. With Oakley’s career in Hollywood soaring, Neve is convinced she’d only hold him back. She had to end it with him – at least that’s what she keeps telling herself. 

But now she has a secret she’s struggling to keep, and when Oakley arrives on Juniper Island determined to win her back, Neve is thrown off balance. Will Neve’s fear of having her heart broken again push Oakley away for good, or is it time for her to take a leap of faith?"

Rating: 5/5

This book is the second in Holly Martin's 'A Town Called Christmas' series, and follows on from the first book Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky. I adored that book, and was so excited to read the second one, and find out more about these characters, and what secrets were going to be divulged here! In this book, we focus on two characters called Neve and Oakley. Neve is the sister of the main character from the first book, Gabe, so it was fun to see those familiar characters back again, and also find out much more about Neve and Oakley's own love story.

I loved Neve from the beginning of the book, and found her to be so likeable, and I wanted everything to work out for her so badly! Yes, I felt she made some bad decisions regarding her and Oakley's relationship, but I think her heart was in the right place regarding the decisions she did make. She couldn't seem to believe that a big Hollywood star like Oakley would want to settle down with her on a small remote island where she works in her brother's hotel, and I think we could all understand that that seems too good to be true! But Neve was such a lovely person, and I wished she had a little bit more faith in love, and the fact that Oakley clearly adored her.

I really do love a great romance, and Holly Martin certainly delivers on this count within this book. Oakley is everything Neve could dream of in a man, and was certainly great to read about, he seemed pretty much perfect! A successful actor, handsome, kind, generous... there was barely anything bad about this man at all. For all the mistakes he does make, he does so because he's been lead to believe other things, and I felt sorry for him in that regard, he didn't have an easy time of it from Neve! But their love story is just wonderful, and made me feel so warm and happy inside, I loved everything about it.

As well as the fairytale romance between Neve and Oakley, there's another little side story involving a couple of the minor characters, Ivy and Adam. This was completely charming, and had me sucked in too, it seems like Juniper Island is the place to go if you want to find love! As in the first book, the setting is utterly perfect. I love Martin's descriptions of the whole island, from the animals, to the cabins and the snow - it all sounds utterly idyllic and you can see why everyone who ends up on the island wants to stay, it sounds like paradise, especially at Christmas time!

For me, this was one of my favourite reads of the festive season, and I really cannot wait for Holly Martin's next books. I hope this isn't the last we see in the Town Called Christmas series, because I would love catch up with Gabe, Piper, Neve, Oakley and more again at some future date, even if it isn't necessarily at Christmas. The writing in this is so warm, it draws you in and makes you want to keep reading to find out how this wonderful love story is going to end. Needless to say I was left with a huge smile on my face, and I had loved every page. A wonderful book, I can't recommend it enough!

Book Review: Killer Diamonds by Rebecca Chance

"After decades in the spotlight as an Oscar-winning film star and famous beauty, Vivienne Winter is one of the most recognizable women on the planet. When she decides to auction her multi-million dollar jewellery collection for charity, there is no shortage of people eager to buy a piece of her incredible history.

Young, ambitious Christine Smith is a jewellery expert working for a centuries old auction house, but in a world of aristocratic snobs, her working-class origins are holding her back. She's desperate to secure the sale of Vivienne Winter's gem collection: it's bound to be the biggest auction since Elizabeth Taylor's. However, meeting the Hollywood star is just the first hurdle Christine has to jump . . .

Vivienne's handsome, spoilt, sexy playboy grandson Angel is the heir to her fortune. The anger and resentment he feels towards his grandmother for selling what he counted on as his inheritance sets in motion a series of events with deadly consequences. Angel is totally unscrupulous, and no-one will come out unscathed. Family secrets cut sharper than diamonds ."

Rating: 3.5/5

I've come to know Rebecca Chance's novels as quite rude, but glamorous, over-the-top stories about people often living in a life of luxury and excess, and I love them! They're always outrageous, and that was most certainly the case with her latest book Killer Diamonds. The story sounded intriguing from the beginning - a world famous film star auctioning off her vast jewellery collection, and a grandson desperate to stop the sale to exact revenge so he can inherit his grandmother's millions. But with a jewellery expert on the case, and keen to make her mark in the auctioning world, Angel knows he's up against it if he is to get his grandmother Vivienne's jewels... what lengths will he go to to stop the sale?

First thing I have to note about this book is the fact that I really didn't like any of the characters at all. Not one of them. Angel was by far the worst character I think I have ever read in any book (which is saying something!), Vivienne was so self-centred, egocentric and awful, and Christine was just a wet fish, and needed to grow a bit of a backbone! There was only one character I remotely liked and he just wasn't in the book enough to redeem the character side for me! However, there was something fun about having characters I loved to hate - I really didn't care for what was going to happen to them, and I wished some bad things on some of them, I must be honest.

The progression of the story was very good, and as always Rebecca Chance writes incredibly well, writing this detailed world for her characters to live in, and you do become immersed in it to an extent. The world of Angel and Vivienne was very opulent, they had anything their hearts desired, and it certainly didn't make them nice people because of it. Angel in particular was a hideous human being, someone I wouldn't ever want to know myself, he was just vile and had no redeeming features at all. Some of the scenes about him were quite depraved, and I found them uncomfortable at times, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

The jewellery described in the book sounds absolutely beautiful, and I bet Chance had fun researching lots of glamorous pieces to base Vivienne's collection on, I could see why the jewellery expert Christine was so taken with them. Her job sounded really interesting, imagine being able to handle jewellery of that value, but I just couldn't warm to her as a person either, she was too weak to be surrounded by the people she was, she seemed a normal person caught in a toxic web, but I just couldn't feel much for her unfortunately. One other thing described really well in the book was the setting. Some of it takes part in London, other parts in Switzerland, and it was beautifully written, Switzerland sounds idyllic, and I can see why Vivienne was so taken with it.

Overall, this book was a fun read, but there were a few bits I just didn't enjoy, which isn't usually the case with Rebecca's books for me. I found some of the sex scenes were just too much for me, and Angel in particular is quite depraved in this sense, and these scenes just weren't for me at all. There is also some very very strong language within the book which I usually don't see in the books I read. Other than that, the story was interesting, and I was curious to see how it would all end for these people, in particular Angel and Vivienne. Full of money, excess, debauchery and more, this is certainly an eye-opener, and although for me it wasn't Rebecca's best book, it was still a good read.

23 February 2017

Blog Tour: Extract of 'If Ever I Fall' by S. D. Robertson

To celebrate the publication of SD Robertson's emotional new book If Ever I Fall, his publishers have organised a blog tour, and I have been lucky enough to host an extract of the book. I'm reading it at the moment, slightly puzzled by the story, but so eager to keep reading and find out what is going on! Enjoy the extract, and let me know if you read the book!

Thanks to SD Robertson and his publishers for asking me to host on the blog tour!

"Dan’s alarm sounded. He thumped it off and stared, blurry-eyed, at the red LED lines telling him it was 8 a.m.

It took him a moment to remember where he was. Not the spare room. No, the master bedroom in his fantastic new apartment. Otherwise known as the room he slept in at his crappy new flat in the suburbs. Him and his two ‘flatmates’: damp and depressing.

What on earth had he been thinking when he agreed to rent this place? That it was cheap and in a location that suited him. Not much else. If he’d been able to jump forward in time to this awful moment – waking up here, alone on Christmas morning – would he have still signed the rental agreement? 

Probably, if he was honest. That was actually one of the things that had appealed most about the flat: the fact it only tied him in for three months. He still hoped he wouldn’t need any longer than that.

Also, it wasn’t like he could afford much else while he was still paying the bills at his real house, where Ruby had probably already opened her stocking by now with Maria.

How was this fair: him going out to work five days a week, supporting the family, but having to live here? It wasn’t. He stared up at the ceiling, at the unsightly cracks meandering across the white paint. If he wanted a chance of getting back with Maria, what choice did he have?

She’d pushed him further and further away since Sam’s death and this was where he’d ended up. He feared she blamed him for what had happened to Sam. He blamed himself, so why not? That would at least explain why she’d grown so cold towards him. It was more than that, though. More even than the horrific, never-ending grief he’d felt since that horrendous day.

It was like something had broken within his wife’s mind. As if she could no longer function properly. She did her best to hide it, but he’d seen the way she would repeat things over and over again when she thought no-one was watching, as though it was some kind of weird ritual. On the few occasions when he’d interrupted her or tried to help in some way, her response had been one of ferocious denial, pushing him yet further away.

The first time he’d tried to talk to her about it, he’d ended up banished to the spare room, never to return. They’d explained this to Ruby by saying that his snoring had been keeping Maria awake, but Dan suspected that Ruby knew it was more significant than that.

He hadn’t dared say anything more for a long time afterwards, hoping it was part of his wife’s grieving process and that she would gradually improve. But of course she didn’t. Eventually, after skirting around the issue for far too long, he’d tried again to broach the matter. He’d suggested, as tactfully as he could, that she might want to seek help. He’d even been on the Internet and found her the name of a local counsellor.

Bad move. That had led to an even worse row than the last and, a couple of days later, to Maria’s suggestion of the trial separation.

Now here he was: hungover and alone in this godforsaken place.

The alarm sounded again – good old snooze function – snapping Dan out of his half-doze and alerting him to the fact it was now 8.10 a.m. He turned it off, properly this time, and levered himself upright.

‘Merry Christmas,’ he said to his reflection in the mirrored doors of the cheap wardrobe.

He walked through to the lounge and spent a few minutes tidying up his mess from the night before: bottles of beer, a shot glass. He didn’t know why he was bothering. It wasn’t like he was expecting guests any time soon. Force of habit, he supposed, still not used to being a bachelor. He didn’t want to get used to it. 

Hopefully it would be short-lived: a brief chapter in his life that one day he’d look back on and smile about.

In the kitchen, his gaze fell on the vodka bottle he’d been drinking from the night before. For a moment he thought about picking it up and having another go, but he stopped himself. His boozing had accelerated enough since moving in here. At least it was still mostly contained to acceptable hours. Necking vodka at this time of the day would be crossing a line. Next thing he’d have a bottle in the inside pocket of his jacket, swigging from it at the wheel of his car. No, he didn’t want to go down that route. Plus, the police were always on the lookout for drink-drivers over the festive period. No point in risking his licence.

Instead he found his pack of cigarettes, opened the window and, enjoying the feel of the cold winter air on his skin, lit one up."

Book Review: The Good Girlfriend's Guide to Getting Even by Anna Bell

"When Lexi's sport-mad boyfriend Will skips her friend's wedding to watch football - after pretending to have food poisoning - it might just be the final whistle for their relationship.

But fed up of just getting mad, Lexi decides to even the score. And, when a couple of lost tickets and an 'accidentally' broken television lead to them spending extra time together, she's delighted to realise that revenge might be the best thing that's happened to their relationship.

And if her clever acts of sabotage prove to be a popular subject for her blog, what harm can that do? It's not as if he'll ever find out . . ."

Rating: 4/5

I am a big fan of author Anna Bell, and again was thrilled to be asked to review her brand new book The Good Girlfriend's Guide to Getting Even. I was even more excited to see that Anna had mentioned me in the acknowledgements at the end - it's always lovely to see an author appreciate what us bloggers do! So, I got stuck into this, expecting as usual another brilliantly funny read! The blurb sounded really funny, like the sort of escapist read I could do with, and it didn't let me down!

Lexi was a really funny character, and made me laugh from the very beginning. I know some of the things she did were perhaps a little childish, and yes, she should have confronted her boyfriend Will but that wouldn't have made for a very good or funny book would it?! The fact Lexi did things I would never have even dreamt of meant it made me laugh, and I was sure at every turn she was going to get found out, and make things even worse for herself! I understood she was cross that her boyfriend seemingly lied to her about being poorly to miss a wedding for a football match, and the way she found herself in this revenge spiral was quite amusing, even though her friends weren't exactly supportive of her actions!

Will seemed to be the character that we, as readers, were meant to hate. He was completely sports mad, to the detriment of their relationships at times, and I did feel sorry for Lexi in this regard. He couldn't seem to see that his obsession was upsetting her either, so I think the pair would have benefitted from actually being honest with each other once in a while! However, I did feel sorry for him a little bit when Lexi started to exact her revenge, because he genuinely seemed clueless about how all these unfortunate things kept happening to him, and never seemed to suspect Lexi at all!

Anna Bell's writing in this book is really on point, and she keeps the pace up all the way through the story, allowing the characters to develop well, and Lexi's plan to go as she hopes, while all the time you are aware that at some point she's going to find out, and the longer it goes on, you know the eventual reveal is going to be even worse for her! As the book hurtles towards the end, I almost didn't want to read it because I just knew it was going to get pretty awful before it could attempt to get better! There are some scenes set in Barbados, and Anna writes these wonderfully, it was great to picture the country, the beaches, and the luxury hotel Will and Lexi find themselves in.

While I think some people might find this book a bit silly, and get annoyed with Lexi's revenge plot, I actually found the whole thing really enjoyable, and definitely laughed out loud quite a lot as I was reading! I stayed up late a few nights reading this, because I didn't want to put it down - I was desperate to find out what Lexi was going to come up with next, and if and when poor Will would find out what she had been up to! A laugh-out-loud, funny, escapist read that will surely leave you with a smile on your face... and perhaps a bit of a warning to sports mad men - don't ignore your girlfriend for your sports, and if you do so, it's at your own peril! A great read!

18 February 2017

Book Review: The Plumberry School of Comfort Food by Cathy Bramley

"Verity Bloom hasn't been interested in cooking anything more complicated than the perfect fish finger sandwich, ever since she lost her best friend and baking companion two years ago.

But an opportunity to help a friend lands her right back in the heart of the kitchen. The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is due to open in a few weeks' time and needs the kind of great ideas that only Verity could cook up. And with new friendships bubbling and a sprinkling of romance in the mix, Verity finally begins to feel like she's home.

But when tragedy strikes at the very heart of the cookery school, can Verity find the magic ingredient for Plumberry while still writing her own recipe for happiness?"

Rating: 5/5

 Cathy Bramley is one of my favourite authors, and I always look forward to her bringing out a new book! Somehow, this one slipped out of my line of sight for a while when picking a new book, and when I realised again a few weeks ago I hadn't read it, I eagerly scooped it off the shelf and dove in, ready for another wonderfully heart-warming read! I always love Cathy's characters, her settings and her writing, so I always know I'm in for a good read when I pick up one of her books!

I have to say I was completely absorbed by this novel from the very beginning. Verity is a wonderful leading lady for the book, and somehow you can easily like. She's a girl after my own, loving a good fish finger sandwich for tea! She is a pretty good cook but gave up after the sudden loss of her best friend a few years back. This isn't a huge plot point, but certainly defines a lot of things for most of the characters in the book, and while her best friend Mimi isn't actually ever in the book, she's very present, and I loved how the characters all keep her memory alive through their own actions. Verity's mum in particular was one I felt incredibly sorry for. No parent should have to bury their child, and she had to do this horrible reality. However, I admire how she got herself up and carried on with her life, I'm not sure I could be that brave.

Verity begins working for Gloria's new cookery school, aptly called The Plumberry School of Comfort Food. Yum. It sounds like such a good idea, and I was hoping the friends would be able to make a success of it, together with the professional chef Tom they hired to lead the classes. Everything about the school sounds charming, from the building and grounds, to the lovely people they have running it. It seemed like a recipe for success, and I was willing them to make it work! Tom was a great addition to the book, a chef who didn't really want to dumb down his cooking for the average cook, leading to some rather funny moments in a few classes! I also loved the 'will they, won't they' element of Verity and Tom's friendship too.

There was one mysterious storyline running throughout the book, and obviously I won't discuss it here because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but I was totally surprised by the twist in this particular tale. I hadn't expected it at all, and thought it was a brave issue to tackle in this story, suddenly giving the book an emotionally charged edge. I admire Cathy Bramley for including a topic like this, and thought it was very well done, and fitted in perfectly for these characters and their story.

Overall, this was a wonderful read and I was really disappointed when it came to an end! I'd really gotten to know and love the characters, and enjoyed their whole journey throughout the book. I also loved all of the characters, they really all did add something to this story, and therefore it was a joy to read. Cathy Bramley's writing is wonderful, she really gets into the heart of her characters, explains their emotions well and sets the scene perfectly. Her settings are always spot on too, I love imagining the places where she sets her books! I now can't wait to read Cathy's next book, she remains one of my favourites!

15 February 2017

Book Review: A Fairy Tale for Christmas by Chrissie Manby

"What could be more magical at Christmas than a fairy tale come true?

It's the festive season and the members of the Newbay Theatre Society, more commonly known as the NEWTS, are preparing to put on a show. Being cast as Cinderella is the realization of a dream for newcomer Kirsty, not least because she hopes starring in a panto under the direction of her boyfriend Jon will bring them closer together.

But Kirsty soon learns that it's not all glitter and good cheer behind the scenes at the amateur theatre as bitter rivalries nurtured through decades, wardrobe mishaps and suspicious near-fatal accidents threaten to derail the production. And then there's Prince Charming himself. Will working together with Jon bring Kirsty her happy ever after... or reveal their love to be nothing but a 'showmance'?

With Christmas just around the corner, it's going to take more than a Fairy Godmother to get Kirsty and her cast-mates to the ball."

Rating: 5/5

The idea of this book really appealed to me, not least because it's a festive themed novel, and it's by one of my favourite authors Chrissie Manby! The cover, too, was perfect, something I would love to see on a Christmas card actually! This is a standalone novel, which is a breakaway from Chrissie's other 'Perfect family' series that she has published as of late, but it was nice to meet some other characters, and to dive into something completely different! The main character for this book is actually one who has popped up in a 'Proper Family' book, the one where the Bensons went on a cruise. Kirsty is the friend of someone else who went on that cruise, so while the Bensons weren't in this book, they were here in spirit!

I loved Kirsty right from the beginning. She's given up her dream job of being a cruise ship singer to move with her new boyfriend Jon to the village of Newbay, where he's got a job directing a local theatre group's pantomime of Cinderella. I did question at first how readily Kirsty gave up her job for a relatively new man in her life, but I guess we all make mistakes and dive into something without thinking every now and then! She reasoned it with herself by knowing she would get the lead in the play, but even so, I felt she was giving up a lot for someone I disliked immensely. Jon was a horrible character, always putting Kirsty down, whether it be on the sly or completely obviously, and I hate men like that.

On the other hand, the other main male character in the book is single dad Ben. His young daughter has won her own part in the panto, and of course Ben is dragged along for auditions. When disaster befalls the production, Ben winds up being thrust into the middle of the action despite not having trodden the boards for many years! This leads to much hilarity, but also some sweet scenes between Kirsty and Ben as they get to know each other, and she encourages him to want to perform once more. I did hope these two would end up together, especially because his daughter deserved someone like Kirsty in her life to act as a step mum!

Sometimes, when a book has a big cast it can be a problem to follow who's who, but this wasn't the case for this book at all. Each of the people in NEWTS were so unique, I had no problem with keeping track of them, and I think they all added something special to the story, and really rounded the whole thing off. Manby has a knack for writing her characters, and this novel was by no means an exception. The relationships between them all were realistic too, with jealousy, support, laughter, and much more going on, they were wonderfully written and rounded characters. The setting of Newbay was lovely too, and I can see why Kirsty was drawn to the charms of the village, it sounds wonderful.

This was a lovely festive novel, and was brimming with festive cheer throughout, as the panto season kicks off as Christmas fas approaches. You'll find yourself tearing through the pages of this book to get to the end and see who Cinderella herself ends up with, and if horrible Jon would finally get his comeuppance. This really was a joy to read right until the very last page, and I'll be sad if this is the last we see of Kirsty and co, because I really felt like I got to love them as I got so involved in their pantomime and story! I can't quite believe this is Chrissie Manby's 20th novel, and I'm eagerly hoping there will be something from her sooner than next Christmas!

14 February 2017

Popular Author Reviews

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Carole Matthews

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Debbie Johnson

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Holly Martin

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Lindsey Kelk

Lucy Diamond

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Veronica Henry

Blog Tour: Book Review: Before the Rains by Dinah Jeffries

"1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband's death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza's only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she's determined to make a name for herself.

But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince's handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families - and society - think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what's expected, or following their hearts. . ."

Rating: 4.5/5

I read my first book by Dinah Jefferies last year, The Tea Planter's Wife, and was completely blown away by that story. Therefore, when I was offered the chance to be part of the blog tour for Dinah's  new book Before the Rains, I was very eager to do so. This book is the story of Eliza, and an Indian Prince called Jay. Eliza is employed as a photographer, there to photograph the Royal family as they go about their daily lives, but finds her life in India to be a little lonely. She befriends the Prince, and finds out there is more to him that meets the eye. He is determined to do good in his country, and seems happy to go against his family to fulfill his wishes. However, not everyone is happy about the friendship between the pair, and soon they are forced to face some harsh truths... that sometimes, love cannot conquer all...

I've only started reading historical fiction over the past few years, and there is something magical about reading a book and escaping to a time gone by, knowing that much of what you are reading about has actually happened, that people have really through these circumstances. In this book, we are in India in the 1930's, something I didn't know a lot about prior to reading this book. However, Jefferies has done so much research for this book, it's easy to picture the country, the people, the setting so easily, it really comes to life on the page, and is just an explosion of colour and imagery from the first few pages.

I liked the character of Eliza. She isn't exactly new to India, since she spent much of her childhood there with her parents, but this visit is the first time she has been back to the country alone as an adult. Eliza is very sympathetic to the Indian people, especially the poorer people, and is keen to help in whatever way she can. She seems to think the Indian customs and traditions are quite outdated, barbaric and not something she feels she wants to adhere to, but of course, she must, despite the fact they aren't her beliefs or traditions. I liked that she was a strong-minded female, determined not to kowtow to more powerful men around her, and I think is what attracted Jay to her in the first place.

The love story between these two was beautifully written, and is a slow burner. We sense right from their first meeting that there is a spark between the two of them, but both know that being together seems an impossibility, especially due to the fact Jay is a Royal, and must marry an Indian woman if he is to provide legitimate heirs for his family. Jay was different to his family, keen to help the poorest in his region thanks to his irrigation project idea, and seems keen to protect Eliza from some of the most questionable people around her, particularly his brother's aide, Chatur. I was hopeful that the pair would get their happy ending, but it seemed to unlikely, and I did feel sorry for Jay as he did seem torn between customs and traditions, and his heart.

The writing in this book is so evocative, it is crammed full of the colours, smells, sights and everything else perfectly Indian. The clothing, the flowers, the poverty-stricken villages, the castle, are all beautifully written by Jefferies, and the insights into the Indian customs are eye-opening. One in particular was horrific, a Sati, which is a widow-burning, since outliving your husband is thought to be a truly bad thing. This was barbaric, and I simply couldn't reason with it, it is unbelievable human beings can be treated in such a way. Overall, however, it was a glorious setting for a wonderful book, and definitely opened my eyes. The cast of characters was perfect, and I really did love Eliza and Jay, both together and as individuals. Jefferies' writing is perfect here, the words flow and set the scene with it, and I was completely transported away. A breathtaking read.

13 February 2017

Book Review: All I Ever Wanted by Lucy Dillon

"Nancy is four, nearly five. She talks all the time: in the car, on the way to nursery, to her brother, to her collection of bears. And then one day everything changes. Nancy's mum and dad split up, her father moves across the country, and Nancy stops talking.

Eva is forty-four, nearly forty-five. She always knew marrying a much older man meant compromises, but she was sure it was worth it – until Mickey dies suddenly, leaving Eva with only his diaries and a voice in the back of her mind telling her that perhaps she's sacrificed more than she meant to.

While Nancy's parents negotiate their separation, the question of weekend contact is solved when her father volunteers his sister Eva's house. As spring turns to summer, a trust slowly begins to form between a little girl with a heartbreaking secret, and a woman who has realised too late that what she yearns for is the love of a child."

Rating: 4/5

I am a massive Lucy Dillon fan, and was thrilled when I got the opportunity to read her latest book All I Ever Wanted via Netgalley earlier this year. I love Lucy's emotional, heart-wrenching stories, and I had a feeling this one would be no different. This is the story of Caitlin, Patrick and their family, and how their actions affect everyone around them. Their marriage is in dire straits, and this has devastated their children, especially four year old Nancy, who stops talking after some traumatic events at home. The family try everything to persuade her to talk, but nothing is working. Patrick's sister Eva is getting over her own heartbreak, after suddenly losing her husband Mickey, and finding herself all alone, with only his pugs for company. Eva decides she needs to get know her brothers children better, and becomes part of Patrick's visitation agreement to see the kids, a time she surprises herself by enjoying. But Eva is very aware she's left it too late to have her own children, so she's determined to unlock whatever it is that has deeply upset her niece once and for all...

As you can see, this is certainly a very emotional book, and straight away you grow to love the two children at the centre of this book, particularly lovely Nancy. Her big brother Joel is a delight too, and I felt Dillon has hit the nail on the head with her depiction of young children, something I don't always feel is correctly portrayed in women's fiction. The relationship the pair have with their mother and father is close, but the pair are devastated by their parents separation. Of course, many families break-up, and this book strives to show a reality here, but I felt so sorry for the children here. Nancy is hiding a terrible secret, one which causes her to become a mute, and this was a devastating storyline. As things become unravelled near the end of the book, my heart broke a little bit as I read the reasons behind her choice to be a mute.

The main adult characters are all very interesting to read about. There's Caitlin, who has devoted herself to being a good mother, upset at the demise of her marriage, and unsure how to move forward without Patrick. He is portrayed as being a workaholic, someone who pays too much attention to his job and his phone, not to his family, but I somehow really wanted the pair of them to work it out and be a couple again. Caitlin was likeable, she was trying to the right thing by everyone, but feeling like she was failing on all accounts. I felt like we were meant to dislike Patrick, but I just couldn't - I personally felt he was caught between a rock and a hard place, and any working parent knows the guilt you feel constantly at trying to juggle all the balls and keep them all in the air.

Eva's story, however, was the most interesting. In her mid-forties, Eva thinks she has left it too late to have her own children, and the initial awkwardness between her and her niece and nephew was quite awful, she really didn't know how to be around them! As the book progressed and Eva finds out more about the past of her husband, the man she thought she knew inside out, she starts to doubt her own life and the choices she's made. She lives a comfortable life in a gorgeous home, with a couple of cute pugs to boot, but always feels there is something missing. I felt her story was a very realistic look at someone who has perhaps not realised what she truly wants until it is too late, and I very much enjoyed reading Eva's story.

This book has lots of different things going on within, from love and hope, to grief, closure and loss, it certainly isn't always an easy read. I found Nancy's story in particular hard to read, and as someone who works with young children, I know how tricky it can be to unravel these things, and I just wished I could reassure Caitlin and Patrick that Nancy would eventually be okay. Dillon has clearly done her research for the character of Nancy, and it was wonderful, and also heart-breaking to read. My emotions were all over the place - I felt sorry for Caitlin, then felt annoyed with her for being a bit flaky, and not taking responsibility for her actions; sympathy for Patrick, then annoyance at the way he had to take charge all the time. I loved that an author could evoke this many emotions in me for one book. This wasn't my favourite book from Lucy Dillon, but for me is still a must-read, and highly recommended. An emotional rollercoaster for sure.

12 February 2017

Book Review: Lizzie's Christmas Escape by Christie Barlow

"A gorgeous country house hotel, a liberal dusting of snow, a cosy weekend away…what more could Lizzie ask for at Christmas? 

Every Christmas Lizzie promises herself that things will change and she will leap into the new year a new woman. And yet here she is again, at the beginning of December and nothing is different. Her girls have grown up and left home, her husband Henry is slumped in front of the TV and she is alone in the kitchen, seeking refuge in the cooking sherry and talking to her Gary Barlow calendar. She’s also been very diverted by handsome new neighbour Marcus and she knows she shouldn’t be …

So when best friend Ann suggests a weekend away in the country, Lizzie jumps at the chance. Will this Christmas escape give Lizzie some much needed perspective and allow her to mend her marriage? Or will Marcus prove to be too much of a distraction?"

Rating: 4/5

I was browsing through my Kindle a few weeks ago, and stumbled across this festive read from Christie Barlow. Somehow, I haven't yet managed to read a book from this author, so was eager to find out what the book was going to be like, and if I had found another new author that I could love. Luckily, the book and author didn't let me down, it was a wonderful story and brilliantly written, making me very excited to read more from Christie Barlow, both her older books and upcoming release Evie's Year of Taking Chances, which is coming out next month.

Lizzie feels like she has to make a change in her life, but doesn't really know where to start. Her marriage has become a bit stale, husband Henry is more interested in watching the TV than he is romancing his wife, and her daughters have gone to university, leaving her all but alone in her home. So when she notices a new neighbour moving in next door, Lizzie introduces herself and strikes up a new friendship with Marcus. She knows she's playing with fire, and when best friend Ann suggests a girls weekend away, Lizzie realises it might be just the escape from her shocking reality that she needs...

I love a book that I can get into from the very first pages, and this was definitely the case for this book. Barlow throws us straight into Lizzie's life, showing us that she's very unhappy but doesn't quite know how to get herself out of the rut that she has found herself in at the moment. I liked Lizzie, and felt sorry for her because she really did seem so lonely. Her best friend Ann was wonderful, but she was lonely in her marriage, and wasn't utilising the skills she had herself, which was dressmaking. Lizzie was very likeable, even when she was making some very questionable decisions, and I really wasn't sure throughout the book how I wanted it all to end, because there were so many endings that could happen in my head!

I could see why Lizzie had her head turned by her lovely new neighbour, and how easily the pair struck up a friendship. I did have my suspicions about him, but thought that it was just me being a bit of a downer, Marcus did seem lovely, even if he was a bit inappropriate considering he knew that Lizzie was married! The story between these two runs throughout the whole book, and certainly left me wondering in parts when it would all fall apart, if at all! There's also another plot involving Ann and her husband, which was just as riveting, and again allows room for lots of scenes between the best friends.

One thing I do have to say is that the Christmas escape in the title of the book is actually a very small part of the story as a whole, in fact, it could have been a bit of a blink and you'll miss it storyline, it happened so quickly, and was over again just as quickly. I thought the book would be centred around this whole girly getaway, so I was a bit surprised when it didn't. It didn't stop me really enjoying the book of course, but I was just surprised that something so prominently in the title and blurb of the book was really a very small part of the book as a whole.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end, and felt I went on a real emotional journey with these characters, especially Lizzie who seemed quite lost really. She had lost her children (not really lost them, but in the sense they've moved away and are getting on with their lives), all but lost her marriage, and lost her own spark and sense of self-worth, and I enjoyed reading about her trying to reclaim some of these things as the book went on. Barlow's writing was really enjoyable, the pace was great, and there was always something going on to entertain the reader, and I liked the festive feeling woven throughout the book. I'll definitely be reading more from Christie Barlow, the sooner the better!

5 February 2017

Book Review: The Legacy of Lucy Harte by Emma Heatherington

"‘Sometimes time is all we have with the people we love the most. I ask you to slow down in life. To take your time, but don’t waste it….’

Maggie O'Hara knows better than most that life can change in a heartbeat. Eighteen years ago she was given the most precious gift- a second-hand heart, and a second chance at life.

Always thankful, Maggie has never forgotten Lucy Harte – the little girl that saved her life. But as Maggie's own life begins to fall apart, and her heart is broken in love, she loses sight of everything she has to live for…

Until an unexpected letter changes everything and brings Maggie back into the life of Lucy Harte – and a chance for Maggie to get her life back on track once more.

Lucy's final gift to Maggie is much more than the heart that beats inside her. It's a legacy that Maggie must learn to live by. A chance to make her heart skip a beat with every new discovery she makes; a promise to live, laugh, fall in love and heal her broken heart for good.

Because as the keeper of a borrowed heart, Maggie's time is more precious than most and she must make every cherished second count…"

Rating: 5/5

I was really excited when I managed to get a review copy of this book on my Kindle from Netgalley. I had heard so many good things about it, and wanted to find out for myself if it would be able to live up to the hype. I actually commend Emma Heatherington for choosing to write about such an emotive topic, one we don't see covered nearly enough in fiction of any kind - organ donation. I am on the Organ Donation Register myself, but too often you see in the news people dying because they couldn't get a much needed transplant. In my opinion, once I'm dead, I'm dead, and if my organs can help to make someone else's life better, then they are welcome to them. This book tackles the issue of how someone receiving a donated organ affects them, and it makes for wonderful reading.

When she was a teenager, Maggie received the gift of life from a young donor called Lucy Harte, who donated her own heart after her untimely death. Since then, Maggie has felt beholden to the young woman whose organ she received, thanking her every day for the gift that she has given. After a run of bad luck, and feeling like she won't ever feel happy again, Maggie decides to do the unthinkable, and find out more about the young woman who donated her heart to her. Maggie ends up finding out more than she ever believed, and decides its time to turn her life around, and help live out Lucy Harte's legacy. Maggie is very aware that her borrowed heart won't last forever, and is determined to make the most out of every minute.

As you can probably tell from the idea of the story, this is a very emotive book, and by the end, I was sobbing my heart out. It was so powerful in so many ways - sad, uplifting, inspiring - all of these emotions flooded through me as I read, and I honestly did not want to put it down because I was desperate to reach the end and find out what was going to happen. I loved the character of Maggie. Yes, she was flawed, she probably drank too much, didn't see the good things in life nearly as much as she could have, but once the story progresses and we find out more about her and her past, it becomes a bit clearer why she always looks on the bleaker side of life. Her relationship with her family is a bit strained, especially with her older brother, and it makes for a quite unhappy Maggie.

Not a huge amount of detail is gone into about why Maggie needed a heart transplant, but it wasn't actually needed. After all, this is about living life to the full, and what happens post-transplant, so the lack of detail wasn't a problem for me. Maggie finding out more about her donor was a wonderful story arc, although I can't imagine how I would have felt if I were in these characters's shoes. Emma Heatherington has clearly done her research here though, because she puts across the emotions of these characters so very well, you can really imagine how they are feeling, and the conflicting emotions that must be coursing through their veins.

The idea of Maggie fulfilling Lucy's legacy was wonderful, and I really enjoyed all the adventures that Maggie went on thanks to this pursuit. In fact, it opens Maggie's eyes to how wonderful the world, family and friendship can really be. I especially enjoyed the last third of the book set in France, it was lovely to read, and helped the book meander to its inevitable conclusion. Everything about this book was a joy - be prepared to read it with a box of tissues though, because you are going to need them! This is most certainly a thought-provoking read, especially if you aren't on the organ donation register. We would all take an organ if we needed one, but would we all donate one? It's definitely food for thought. A wonderful, heart-wrenching, uplifting story that you simply MUST read.

3 February 2017

Blog Tour: The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington

I am thrilled today to be a part of the blog tour for Carmel Harrington's latest book The Things I Should Have Told You, which is out now! The book sounds wonderful, and I cannot wait to get around to reading it very soon.

I am lucky enough to be hosting an extract for you all to read, so I hope you enjoy it and it entices you to wanting to read the book! Thank you to Carmel and her publishers for asking me to be on the blog tour, and make sure you check out the other stops!