Return to the Little French Guesthouse – Helen Pollard

When you go away and find a lovely place to stay, all you want to do is go back there and experience it all again.That can be the same with reading books I am sure and is certainly the case when you can actually return to a story.

This is the follow-up to The Little French Guesthouse which I read earlier this year. Without wishing to give away any of the first book, Emmy did not have a very good start when she first arrived at this little guesthouse. It was never meant to be a life changing holiday but it was in more ways than one and not just for her but also for the owner,  Rupert. I do think you need to read that one before you pick up this one, although there is enough contained in this novel to get an understanding of how the characters get to where they are in this second book.

Emmy is back at the guesthouse and it is about to host the biggest ever amount of visitors than before, However the booking and a number of the details seem to somehow been lost and it falls to Emmy and Rupert to try and fill in as much of the blanks without appearing unprofessional. It is going to be a difficult task because the guest Mrs Thomson and her extended family are rather demanding in their requirements.

The little guesthouse is about to get a whole lot bigger!

Emmy is settling into the French way of life, and whilst she is working hard she is still able to take time off and explore the area, something which the author does very well. Like the first book I felt I was there, I was driving around, experiencing all these wonderful places with the sun on my back and glass of wine in my hand.

However the idyll that seems to have been created is about to be shattered when a face from the past turns up and it seems Emmy is once again going to face a life changing moment. Will she still be able to rely on the support that Rupert has given her? And what will happen to the blossoming relationship with the dishy accountant Alain.

Will Emmy and Rupert be able to carry on together without Mrs Thomson and her family know there is anything going wrong?

As in the first book, Helen Pollard’s skill at creating a story is that it draws you in. I cared and disliked in equal measure the main characters to the point where I became frustrated in thinking what their actions might end up being.The rich description of the countryside, just adds more substance to the book. You really do feel you are there.

Follow up books can sometimes fall a bit flat, this one certainly didn’t and I devoured it very quickly. I hope there will be more because I am sure that guesthouse has a lot to offer in the autumn and the winter as well!

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Return to The Little French Guesthouse is out now.

My review of the first book can be found here

Monsoon Summer – Julia Gregson

Kit had been nursing during the Second World War and had moved into midwifery, she was only a couple of deliveries from gaining her certificate, until tragedy strikes. Exhausted from the war and running away from finishing something so important to her, she along with her rather eccentric mother, Glory escape to Wickham Farm.

Here she becomes involved in the setting up of a charity to send midwives to India. The timing could not be more fractious, with India newly independent and going through momentous changes. They no longer trust the British, who some see as causing more problems than solving them and they certainly do not want to be told what to do when it comes to something as intimate as childbirth.

To help the cause is an Indian doctor, Anto who has been England for a number of years, training to be a doctor. When he arrives at Wickham Farm, Kit and Anto begin an affair, that moves very swiftly into marriage.

Kit’s mother is horrified, despite being half Indian herself, she has always tried to distance herself from that past. Anto’s parents are equally appalled as he plans to bring his new English wife back with him.

What is more appalling to them all, is that Kit wants to help at the midwifery charity home in India, she wants to be able to help. However she becomes involved very deeply in the politics of the position of women in the Indian society, the traditional ways that are held in esteem regarding childbirth and the role of midwives therein.

Kit’s simplicity at what she thought would be easy being with the man you love despite the change in location and in culture leads her down some dangerous paths and puts many people at risk.

The strength of the storyline by Julia Gregson is brought to the forefront by the location and setting she always seems to choose for her books. IN start contrast we have the desolate Wickham Farm, the leaking roof, the snow, the cold, the lack of facilities. To the heat of India, the rains, the smells and the vibrant colours which seem to simply jump off the page when you read this story.

I loved this book, the storyline kept me gripped and I had no idea the path that it, let alone Kit was going to take. Added to this what I learnt about midwifery away from a clean, sanitised English hospital setting was eye-opening to say the least and a little bit frightening too. The politics within the book is not stuffy or overbearing it all adds  to the plot and the depth of the story.

A well written story of a period of history which was not that long ago but still resonates very much with the world today.

I have loved all of Julia Gregson’s books and this is no exception.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book.

Monsoon Summer is out now.

The Farm at the Edge of the World – Sarah Vaughan

I rather foolishly thought when I picked up this book that I was going to get a book which fitted into the women’s fiction category that sort comes under the terrible sub genre of chick-lit one of those books which you can read and then pass on, it was an enjoyment reading it but that is about it, it does not necessarily stay with you much after that.

What I got was a story with much more depth and in one of my favourite plot devices, dual narrative.

Evacuees Will and Alice are placed at Skylark farm in Cornwall, as far from London as they can get. To them it is on the edge of the world out in front of them the vast expanse of the Atlantic. Behind them, freedom they never knew existed.

They fit into family life on the farm with parents Evelyn and Joe and their daughter Maggie.

As war rages away far from Cornwall, it seems that nothing is going to touch this beautiful idyll. One summer though, everything changes and the consequences of actions are still felt some seventy years later.

Lucy’s life it seems is falling apart. An error she makes at work, leads to her taking a leave of absence at the same time as she discovers her husband has been cheating on her. Lucy returns home to Skylark Farm. Her life in London a far cry from the sanctuary of home and the farm she left some years before.

She returns to a farm that is struggling and starts to learn about the past as she discovers herself amongst the cows grazing in the field and the waves as the crash against the shore.

Of course these two narratives are intrinsically linked and as the past is brought up and resettled, it helps the future and those that will continue to farm at Skylark.

This is a strong story and it does not shy away from the harsher aspects of life and farming, nothing remotely romantic about seeing you future go up in flames, whether it is with the discovery of foot and mouth or catching your husband having an affair.

There was something quite poetic in the way the author has described the Cornwall of the Nineteen forties and that of the present day, whilst the surroundings may have altered very little, the way life moves on has changed. Despite the tinges of sadness in both the narrative there is something hopeful about the story and the fact that everything is cyclical and it can all be reborn, even if it does take a number of years to achieve.

I highly recommend this book, it will affect you in many different ways, if nothing else it will take you to Cornwall and you can experience the magic of the place almost as if you were there.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Farm at the Edge of the World is out now.

Operation Goodwood – Sara Sherdian

I am back with Mirabelle Bevan and her rather feisty but lovable side kick – Vesta Churchill, now Vesta Lewis. All seems to be going well in the Debt recovery agency that they run.

Mirabelle seems to be finally moving on from the war. However, she is soon plunged into another mystery when she is rescued from a fire in the flats where she lives in Brighton seafront only for her neighbour to perish.

She did not realise that Dougie Beaumont, racing driver,  she saw racing at Goodwood whilst out with Superintendent Alan McGregor is the man who lived in the flat above her, the man who died.

With probably survivor’s guilt which would have affected many during and after the war, Mirabelle wants to know more about Dougie Beaumont.

However this well-known and well-loved racing driver, seems to have some secrets and ones that his family may not want to be told. Mirabelle’s investigations take her to Goodwood and the thrill of the racing scene but there seems to be an undercurrent to this glamorous lifestyle that she cannot quite work out.

Hampered by Superintendent McGregor’s insistence that she does not get too involved, she enlists Vesta to make enquiries and they both find themselves in London, looking into the murkier parts of the press industry and relying on some faces from Mirabelle’s past to provide them with information.

The thought about a book having something to do with car racing, may seem to put you off, but actually whilst it is crucial to the story there is much more to it than that as there is in all of the Mirabelle Bevan books. Steeped in great social history, not rose-tinted nostalgia, Sara Sheridan is certainly not afraid to tackle some of the more unsavoury parts of life in the nineteen fifties, which nowadays we would not give a second thought about. That is what makes this book and the four previous ones work so well.

A novel that goes along at the pace of watching a car around a track, and will keep you hooked right until the chequered flag is waved and the results are in and of course it was obviously the right conclusion. I never see them coming, and they have the true denouement of a Christie novel without a moustached Belgian or knitting spinster in sight!

If you like murder mystery, if you like the golden age of crime stories, then you will like Mirabelle Bevan without a doubt.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

Operation Goodwood is out now. 

I read book four, British Bulldog in this series of what is to be eleven books, earlier this year. But as I am not reviewing every book I read and also conscious of reviewing book after book that come from a ‘set’ or ‘series’ I chose not to review that one. I reviewed thanks to the generosity of being given the opportunity to read it. 

I look forward to book six and the fact that Mirabelle Bevan has been opted for television – what better slot than the Sunday evening one! I cannot wait but of course will have to. 

 

July Roundup

So there we have it July. Gone in the blink of an eye. Well it seems to have done for me and I am most surprised that I have read so much in it too!

First of all as I look at what I have read, most has come from netgalley and mostly on my kindle and nothing from the books sitting forlornly on the shelves at home. In fact I actually went out and bought Daphne du Maurier – My Cousin Rachel to read, as my mum’s copy was so fragile I was scared of turning the pages. I really enjoyed this book and have yet shockingly not written about it on this blog. Time has been at a premium and perhaps I am still digesting the wonderful writing, the characters and the strange Rachel within the pages of the book.

Another purchased book to read was Roald Dahl – The BFG my copy I must have had as a child is long gone and I desperately wanted to read the book, before I go and see the film. What a wonder and a joy Roald Dahl is and I can understand why I loved reading so much as a child when it was stories like this to entice me. Looking back and reading it as an adult there were some rather choice phrases which as a child perhaps do not matter much, but as an adult resonate far more:

‘I is not understanding human beans at all,’ the BFG said. ‘You is a human bean and you is saying it is grizzling and horrigust for giants to be eating human beans….

‘But human beans is squishing each other all the time, the BFG said. ‘They is shootling guns and going up in aerioplanes to drop their bombs on each other’s heads every week. Human beans is always killing other human beans.’

He was right. Of course he was right and Sophie knew it. She was beginning to wonder whether humans were actually any better than giants.

I think Dahl had the world worked out a long time ago!

Going back to what you know and love is always a great way to choose books which is why I took a trip to Botswana and visited the wonder that is Mma Precious Ramotswe in Alexander McCall Smith – The Double Comfort Safari Club. It has been a while but always do enjoy these lovely sojourns which are simple tales of morality and almost verging on fables.

I also travelled to India with Julia Gregson – Monsoon Summer. The sounds, the sights, the heat, the smells flew of the page as the story captured into it. What better and probably cheaper way to experience these places than reading about them.

I have also been all over the country as well, down the road from me to Brighton and Goodwood with Sara Sheridan – Operation Goodwood. I cannot wait for more from Mirabelle and her sidekick Vesta.

I have been up to Scotland with Rachel Lucas – Wildflower Bay for the final part of the story. If you know me, I am not a great fan of novels which are split into novellas but as this was only three and I had 1 and 2 available pretty much straight away and did not have long to wait until 3, I took the plunge. I do hope Rachel Lucas returns to this Scottish island.

I did stop for a while in Glasgow with Margaret Thomson Davies – The Goodmans of Glassford Street, but I was not there long. The book was not doing anything for me. It was perhaps not a strong enough start and whilst I gave it a fair go, I decided that no it wasn’t goign to work for me. It did not seem to fit correctly in the right era, the planning and plotting were rather weak. It would have been a stronger book if the author had been a bit clearer. Since reading reviews about the book, it appears this author has written far better work.

Right to the other end of the land with Sarah Vaughan – The Farm on the Edge of the World, a lovely dual narrative story set in Cornwall. A book that surprised me.

No trip would be complete without a trip to the beach at least and I was taken to the fictional seaside resort of Sandybridge with Ali McNamara – Letters from Lighthouse Cottage. 

Of course if it is raining a trip to a bookshop is a good idea, especially Ellen Berry – The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane one dedicated to cookbooks and if it just happens to be in God’s own country then who am I to complain.

A real whistle-stop tour of the UK, probably not in a very sensible order now I look back!

Oddly enough I am in Geneva, Norway and London whilst I reading the second book of the wonderful Lucinda Riley series about The Seven Sisters. That is where I am leaving July and entering August and I hope there will even more reading.

Where has your July taken you?

Six in Six – 2016 Roundup

First of all a very big THANK YOU to everyone who joined in, to all the new blog followers, watchers and readers it has been great to discover your little piece of the internet.

We have lots of lovely new categories for next year and I hope that we have also discovered lots of new blogs as well. Here is a list of everyone that joined in this year. If I have missed you off or you know someone who took part but failed to link back to me, then let me know and I can add.

Happy reading and discovering folks!

Cleopatra Loves Books 

Hopewell’s Public Library of Life

BooksPlease

The Bookworm Chronicles

Beyond Eden Rock

A Darn Good Read

She Reads Novels

ExUrbanis

Summer at Skylark Farm – Heidi Swain

Amber has her dream job, in London, she works hard, is on call it seems all the time and is in demand. However, she does not have that ever talked about work/life balance. She has not had a holiday for more than 3 years and positively cringes if anyone messes up her near perfect kitchen, by actually cooking in it.

When her boyfriend, Jake decides he is going to go back to help his Auntie Annie at her farm so that it can still remain in the family, Amber has to decide if she can possibly cope without him in her life, let alone whether she can cope living so far away from the city and all its delights. When a job opportunity raises it head, Amber has a difficult decision to make, but her boss gives her six months to think about it, which means she gets six months to see whether farm life is for her…..but she doesn’t tell Jake any of this.

Amber embraces farm and country life fairly quickly, even if it is very much removed the country lifestyle magazines she has been used to reading. She gets on Annie and suddenly finds herself welcomed into this thriving community.

However, it was never going to be an easy transition, from incidents with kettles, emergency midwifery, the threat of cancelling the village fair, a wedding and even attempting to bake a cake in a kitchen far removed from the sterile environment in London that she was used to. Amber seems to take all of these challenges level headedly and uses the skills from her city job with as much aplomb in the country.

The one challenge she did not expect though is Jake’s ex girlfriend. Returned from wherever she went and suddenly wanting to be everyone’s friend in the village. It seems that Amber cannot manage this situation without her emotions getting in the way. The six months are nearly up and perhaps it is time to tell the truth before someone else beats Amber to it?

A really lovely read that had me in the mind of authors such as Trisha Ashley, Carole Matthews. A book with a sense of community, the coming together of everyone to fight a particular cause and the threat of the equilibrium being disturbed by a returning figure. A delightful summer read and one that makes you want to secretly don your own flower wellies and get stuck right in.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Summer at Skylark Farm is out now.