Christmas for Beginners – Carole Matthews

We first met Molly in Happiness for Beginners and her wonderful eclectic mix of animals and children on Hope Farm.

The farm having had to be moved has reinvented itself with more vim and vigour than before and with a new more spacious caravan with indoor facilities, Molly is starting to feel more at home here than ever before. Even Shelby Dacre, well known actor’s son Lucas seems to be thriving in such a place. It is a shame that the relationship between Shelby and Molly is not thriving.

Knowing that Molly is somewhat reliant on the funds provided by her boyfriend, she does not want to become beholden to Shelby and wants to look at a way of raising funds, to keep the farm the special place it has become for all waifs and strays be it animal or human.

An Open Day in the run up to Christmas with a full nativity seems to be the way to go, along with stalls, Christmas delights and of course a rather camp sequinned Santa. Molly cannot think of anything worse than having to interact with all of these other people, she is most happy interacting with the animals or challenged children. But she knows that she needs to face some of her own challenges if she is going to make a success of the day, the farm and hopefully her relationship with Shelby.

However, Shelby is facing his own challenges and it sees his career take a different path and if Molly wants to continue with her relationship some changes will need to be made. And what of Lucas in all of this, surely his feelings need to be considered?

As Christmas approaches and the thought of a lovely family time seems to be disappearing across the horizon, Molly has enough to deal with, teenage angst, domestic abuse, sickness, some misbehaved alpacas, an anti social sheep and a couple of turkeys. It seems that perhaps the hope at the farm and for Molly is no longer there.

Only some Christmas magic is going to help.

This is a wonderful follow up to Happiness for Beginners and I felt I was transported back to the farm and simply picked up where I left of as if I was part of the family. This is the beauty of Carole Matthew’s books, I was swept away with some real difficult issues but with an abundance of love and interesting characters I was going to have a magnificent second visit. Carole please can I come and visit Molly and Hope Farm again?

Perfect for anyone who wants a real lift in this difficult times and if you can pick up Happiness for Beginners first you are going to have the best time at Hope Farm and I am jealous that you get to discover it all for the first time.


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

Christmas for Beginners is out now. 






Murder on the Dancefloor – Helena Dixon

It seems that even if Kitty Underhay tries to live a normal life, murder seems to follow her around. In this her fourth outing, murder is found at the dinner table at the Imperial Hotel. Kitty and her close friend Captain Matt Bryant are also at the table.

The victim it seems has ingested potassium cyanide and is a pompous unpopular local councillor Harold Everton.

He previously has spoked to Matt and asked him if he could help with something in his capacity as a private investigator.

Also at the table is the councillor’s downtrodden wife, his equally downtrodden daughter, a nephew who seems to have money, a married solicitor who was always advising Everton as well as a brother and sister hotel owners who seem to want answers from Everton as to why planning applications were not being approved.

It is a lot for the police to check through and Kitty and Matt soon find themselves embroiled in the affair and when an accident turns out to be murder it seems that perhaps those who know too much might be the next victim.

Are Kitty or Matt in danger?

This is an equally interesting read to the previous books in the series. It can be read as a standalone and is a good introduction to the series, you meet all the main characters. Kitty’s grandmother, Mrs Treadwell, her bumptious and annoying friend Mrs Craven who makes me smile every time she appears on a page. Then there is Alice, an employee of the hotel but also when needs must she comes to Miss Kitty’s aid as a confidante, friend and ladies maid when the role suits.

What perhaps you don’t get a sense of is the back story which runs through this story and we start to get some answers about Matt’s past and his experiences of war. Plus the disappearance of Kitty’s mother is also investigated more and it seems more questions are raised than answers given. It is therefore reassuring to know that there will be more Miss Underhay.

Great for fans of historical mysteries, with plenty of diversions and twist with a bit of threat involved, these really are gentle reads but show the spark that Kitty has and how perceptions are changing about women in more dominant roles. I can’t wait to see what happens next.


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

Murder on the Dancefloor is published on 28 October. 




Winter Wishes At Swallowtail Bay – Katie Ginger

In conclusion to this trilogy we are approaching the most wonderful time of the year and what better way to spend it than at a wedding!

Nell runs Holly Lodge a small boutique hotel in Swallowtail Bay, but business is not great and when an incident at a competitor’s hotel starts to cause trouble for Nell, it seems she is going to have to try some different events to get business moving again.

One thing she has decided on is that hosting her friend Cat and fiancée Kieran’s wedding at the hotel is going to be the best event ever. Nell is a romantic and lives in her imagination with the help of all those wonderful romcom movies out there to pass the time. She wants to give Cat the best wedding that she can, the wedding that she wants but it seems that Cat’s mother wants to give Cat the wedding that she should have. Will Nell be able to steer the wedding to a happy ever after.

As well as dealing with difficulty mothers and fraught brides, Nell decides to host a wedding fair, a wreath making event for the local elderly residents and also holds the school’s carol concert. She relies on the help of her old university friend, Tom. There friendship is strong and tight, but it seems that Tom is hiding some life changing secrets of his own and cannot begin to share them with the one person he truly loves.

Whilst this might appear a light fluffy read full of weddings and Christmas cheer it brings a real sense of friendship, community and sticking with the ones you love.  Overcoming obstacles, is the key theme throughout the book and there are many to overcome, tyrannical mothers, loss of control, stray cats, disability, trolling on the internet, there is a lot that touches not just Nell but all the main characters in the book.

But for Nell will she every have that happy ever after she wants when she realises life is not a film?

A great read full of fun and frivolity and plenty of humour and heart warming moments. And let’s be honest – you can’t beat a winter wedding!

Bring your tinsel and tissues to this book and sit back and enjoy.


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

Winter Wishes at Swallowtail Bay is out now. 

All of the Swallowtail books can be read independently of each other, there are familiar characters but they only play background roles until it is time for them to shine in their own stories. 


A Surprise Christmas Wedding – Phillipa Ashley

Lottie thought all her dreams had come true, when on a beach in Cornwall her boyfriend Connor, gets down on one knee and proposes it seems the happy ending she has always wanted. And that is only the start of the book…..

Suddenly miles away in the Lake District, Lottie is on her own and having started a new job at Firholme,  a beautiful estate in the Lake District and in the run up to Christmas she thinks she has finally found somewhere to settle.

With it’s own cottage and hunky but slightly grumpy, Jay her new neighbour and new colleague as at the estate, this Christmas might be slightly better than the last.

When the chance to organise a wedding before Christmas to put Firholme on the map seems too good an opportunity to miss, it is all hands the estate to provide the happy couple the wedding of their dreams,

That is until Lottie finds out that one half of the happy couple is in fact Connor, the man that twelve months previous had proposed to her.

Can she remain professional and organise the wedding or will she always be distracted by what might have been?

It is not just Lottie who needs to move on, Jay also needs to come to terms with the past and stop hiding amongst the Christmas trees on the estate with his dog Trevor.

Will these two lost souls find solace in each other’s company or are their pasts destined to always influence the future.

In a move from her normal setting Phillipa Ashley has taken us to the Lake District (more please say I) and added into the mix, a big dollop of snow, nativities, excited children, plenty of sweets and some moments just to keep us all grounded and remind us of what other’s might be suffering despite what we think of as our own plight.

If you want a well rounded Christmas story with characters to love and hate and laugh and cry with then this book is for.

Feel good festive and a good example of Phillipa’s work.


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

A Surprise Christmas Wedding is out now. 


A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls – Nancy Revell

I cannot believe we have reached book nine and it is coming up to 1943 for the Shipyard Girls that I have grown to love over the previous books. History tells us that the Second World War is taking a new path and I know as I read there is some momentous changes abound. It worries me that we could be near the end of this wonderful series.

But as ever I am taken into the lives of Rosie, head welder of her close knit team of women whose wish is to know that her husband Peter is alive and well. She also wishes Charlotte her younger sister would develop some interest in someone other than Lily.

Gloria and her young daughter Hope, wishes that her she could be reunited with the man she loves and that her daughter will actually see her father.

Dorothy and Angie, best friends in and out of work, wish that falling in love would be easy and that there should be no barrier to it.

Polly wishes for the safe arrival of her baby and that her husband, that she hasn’t seen since last Christmas gets to meet the most important person in their lives besides each other.

Bel wishes for what others have, Gloria and Polly especially, but something is preventing it all happening and it seems that she needs to close many door from her past before she can perhaps move forward with being a mother.

Helen, wishes that her mother and grandfather’s influence has not got so deep seated within her and that she would never be good enough for Dr Parker, their friendship it seems is all that there will be.

Pearl has no wish to relive the past but stumbling across it, she realises that she might be able to make her daughter Bel’s wish come true – to close the door on the past.

Along with other regular faces, this is a book packed with raw emotion. I was so incensed by the behaviour of Miriam, Helen’s mother that I had to put the book down. That said when the dénouement to a plot line that has been in development for many books comes to a head, I was almost out of my chair cheering on the main characters. The rollercoaster of emotions that Nancy Revell portrays in this book means it should come with a health warning.

At the heart and the core of all of the books, is the strength that these women have in taking on work, specifically and historically been the preserve of men, dealing with birth, death and everything in between. Love, laughter, tears and friendship everything you could want from this book and even your own life!

This series of books has not lost momentum and I am thrilled that they simply seem to get better and better. Perfect example of a well written historical saga for everyone to enjoy.


Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read these books. 

A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls is out now.  

If you wish to read them all 

  1. The Shipyard Girls
  2. Shipyard Girls at War
  3. Secrets of the Shipyard Girls
  4. Shipyard Girls in Love
  5. Victory for the Shipyard Girls 
  6. Courage of the Shipyard Girls 
  7. Christmas with the Shipyard Girls
  8. Triumph of the Shipyard Girls 
  9. A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls



One Family Christmas – Bella Osborne

Everyone’s idea of Christmas is different; some like the hustle and bustle, others like the peace and quiet. But for Lottie all she wants is to have that one last family Christmas that her Nana held every year since she can remember. Then everyone can move on with their lives and the only home that Lottie knows can be sold.

What can possibly go wrong?

Lottie’s cooking is not known to be great and the manor house is perhaps feeling unloved and needs some attention but the family descend and endeavour to honour Nana Rose memory.

Lottie’s widowed brother Zak arrives with his young daughter, Jessie and his new girlfriend, Emily. Their mother, Angie arrives with her latest young squeeze who looks oddly familiar to some.

Then there is Uncle Daniel and Auntie Nicola, tense and completely unaware of their teenage son Ryan’s new plans for his life.

Great Uncle Bernard resident already in the house with his carer Dayea has surprises of his own to share on the big day.

Add to this the return of Lottie’s old flame, Joe and it seems this Christmas is going to go off with the bang and that won’t be the crackers round the table.

With affairs, a frozen turkey, pregnancy, secret children, proposals, births, porn stars, scary dolls, snow and a dog called Dave this is one Christmas none of the characters are going to forget in a hurry.

This book has much love in it, but there is a great amount of humour as you see how all the characters interact when they are thrown together at such a stressful time and it was a book I could picture being brought to life on the big screen, it has so much visual potential. It works well as a book because it let’s your imagination run wild and it suddenly reminds you of all those ‘strange’ family traditions that we all have at Christmas.

As someone who comes from a very small family and has not experienced a Christmas such as Lottie’s (and I don’t want to) this was a fascinating humours insight which is worth reading to perhaps remind you that perhaps not all families are than unique! Especially at Christmas.


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

One Family Christmas is published on 15 October. 


Cathy’s Christmas Kitchen – Tilly Tennant

Cathy was able to bake before she could do much else. Always at her mother’s side she seems to have picked up all the recipes her mother made through osmosis and takes great joy in being able to share them with everyone she loves.

But now her mother is gone and Cathy faces Christmas alone for the first time, in bid to combat the loneliness, Cathy finds herself at a church coffee morning taking baked goods with her.

It is through her baking that Cathy starts to make new friends and they encourage her to use her skills that she has picked up from her mother for a better good.

That is how Cathy’s starts the cookery classes.

Through this she meets teenage Tansy, angry and full of attitude, she despairs as it seems the cookery classes are going to be over before they have even started thanks to Tansy.

Add into the mix, bickering church ladies trying to outdo each other, an ex who turns up with his new wife back in the village he did not like, and the man with the gorgeous hazel eyes and friendly dog, Cathy is all of a tizzy and is not sure which way her life is going to go.

Perfect Christmas reading with the right amount of romance and interest to keep you turning the pages, it really does warm you heart and I enjoyed it immensely. I was transported to the cottage of Cathy’s and wanted to live there myself and bake to my heart’s content and feel part of a community.

This is a real joy of a book to read – it would be even better if you read it whilst consuming the vast quantities of cakes that are mentioned, but then you might never get up off the sofa!


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

Cathy’s Christmas Kitchen is out now. 


The Winter Garden – Heidi Swain

There is something reassuring about Heidi Swain’s novels. They take you to places that you just don’t want to visit, but also live and the beauty is you get to go back again and again.

This her latest novel is no exception and I am back in Nightingale Square which you can read more about in Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square and Poppy’s Recipe for Life.

Freya does not have a good relationship with her parents, they cannot understand her desire to be a hands on gardener rather than one that can plan and plot but let someone else get their hand’s dirty. Freya realises the connection that a hands on approach gives her to nature and the world around her.

When that world suddenly changes and her job that she has embraced for the last few years looks like it is going to change beyond her control and she seeks an opportunity elsewhere.

Which is how Freya find’s herself in Nightingale Square, to help the Winter Garden project that Luke the well known resident and owner of Prosperous Place. With accommodation to go with the job and also she can bring rescue dog Nell, Freya thinks she may have found a more settled place.

That is until she meets Finn. Feisty and fiery there first meeting is not perhaps what you would expect and they start their friendship on rather a wrong footing. As misunderstandings and events seem to be against Finn and Freya can they ever be anything other than tolerating work colleagues.

As the garden progresses, Freya becomes involved with lots of community events and she starts to see the benefit that the garden will give and it’s creation is giving to lots of people. Heidi Swain somehow has taken me out into the garden as I read this book. I could get my hands dirty and see something grow, the research into what would work in such a garden is clear even if gardening is not your thing.

For all those who have no or little access to outdoor spaces, this book will resonate with you so strongly, it gives you that peace, that tranquillity, that connection with nature that may have been missing from during the strange times we currently live in.

One of my most favourite books of the year and is an example of escapism reading at it’s best as are all of this author’s novels. Be transported to the wonderful people of Nightingale Square and all that it offers and if you spot a place for sale- let me know, I have my bags packed and I am moving in.

Thank you Heidi Swain – you bring such joy to your readers with all of your books.

Everyone needs to read a Heidi Swain book – they are like a mysterious remedy that works as a balm to the soul.


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

The Winter Garden is out now. 

Books · Witterings

September Roundup

And out blows September. Here in the UK, the weather has definitely taken an autumnal turn and cardigans, socks and warm blankets are a must as we move into October. Though I think the reading has taken a seasonal leap and I am into Christmas already. The world has been so upside down in 2020 that I don’t think it matters at all.

It started for me this year with Rachel Burton – The Tea Room on the Bay which whilst being set in Winter and at Christmas had a real sunny feel about it and was wonderfully cheering when perhaps what was goign on with me wasn’t – the perfect antidote.

Emma Davies – A Year at Appleyard Farm, originally four separate novellas covering a whole year does of course mention Christmas, so perhaps should be the first book considered for Christmas reading but the book felt much more than that and was almost the perfect book for the changing of seasons. No matter what is going on the seasons are continuing to change.

Seasons are of course important if you are a gardener and very important to Heidi Swain – The Winter Garden. Back to Nightingale Square and it’s residents and the gorgeous garden being created to aspire and bring joy in the dark winter months. For someone who has not ready access to a garden this was an absolute joy to read.

Now of course I do have access to a kitchen and on many occasion it does take on the smell of baking but no where near the amount in Tilly Tennant – Cathy’s Christmas Kitchen. There is something comforting about baking and reading and this books combines both with a joyous outcome.

Of course Christmas is a lot of the time about family and never more so than the latest novel Bella Osborne – One Family Christmas, this could be your ultimate nightmare, all family stuck together at Christmas or it could be the best thing ever. Whatever your choice, the book is bound to make you smile.

Even though it has no Christmas theme, Ann Cleeves – The Darkest Evening did have a lot of snow in it. This is the latest Vera novel and I really must get round to reading more of them as they are great detective stories and you can see Brenda Blethyn jump of the page as you read them. I will be interested to see if they make this particular story into a TV adaptation.

Agatha Christie – The Seven Dials Mystery perhaps not the most well known of Christie’s novels and was certainly interesting and it mentions characters met in previous novels which made for a different sort of novel. Trouble is you can get used to Marple and Poirot and when it changes it can be a bit of a shock! At least it is another one off my list.

Salvador Dali was out to shock and whilst I knew the name and very little about his work, I learnt a lot more when I picked up Jeremy Vine – The Diver and the Lover. Sadly the plot which weaved the fiction into the truth was not that great and it did disappoint me. I wanted to like it more but I couldn’t. I do enjoy historical fiction but this did rather leave me wanting.

So that was September and the reading continues apace which in a world full of uncertainty, I can at least escape into a book or two!

I wonder where October will take me?