Primrose Park – Christie Barlow

It is always great when you get an author who love reading and the y create a place and a set of characters you can return to time and time again. And so that is the case with Primrose Park for our sixth visit to the wonderful village of Heartcross and the surrounding area.

Vet, Molly has one main focus in her life, her career, she has worked hard to get where she has considering her past and she is always looking to develop her skills when it comes to animals. When the chance to learn more about dog behaviour she finds herself at a conference in a hotel.

What she doesn’t expect is to run head long into a handsome man called Cam and be holding his boxers within minutes of meeting him. The attraction is clear and sparks are almost flying off the page. Abandoning dog behaviour for one night is not all that bad – is it? But the next morning Cam is gone.

For the next few months Molly is distracted by the man that made her heart stop and she knows there must be more to find out, but then how does she find him when she knows nothing but his name and occupation. So life continues, but Molly is in for one or two surprises in the coming months.

Playing on her goodwill, Molly finds herself stuck with Darling the dog, after Birdie says her mother Dixie can no longer cope with her. So she has enough to keep her busy until she meets that man again in Primrose Park…..

All of a sudden Molly is in turmoil again and she turns to her friends and familiar faces to readers if you have read all the previous novels, (This works as a standalone) help her come to terms with Cam returning. Does Molly have time to become involved with this man, especially as he seems to have some connection to the village, to Birdie, Dixie and even Darling the dog.

Christie Barlow has done it again with a book full of warmth and community and adds in for good measure some tough drama as well. It is certainly not all light and fluffy. I loved Molly she simply jumped off the page and her relationship with her female friends was genuine and strong and nothing in the book felt forced. The tough subjects were shocking but it is always good to be reminded that not everyone in the world is nice but you don’t have to worry when the community of Heartcross pull together then make sure everyone benefits from all of the good that they can do.

One of the best of the series so far and I am delighted that there are at least a couple more to come, I love going back and visiting my friends. If you are looking for a series to get lost in, I highly recommend this one.

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

Primrose Park is out now.


The Village Green Bookshop – Rachael Lucas

Hannah is fed up with being a wife and a mother, what is she doing with her life other than those two things?

When a chance to take over from her cousin in the village shop a little Cotswold Village she jumps at the opportunity to take control and do something to help her son, Ben who has fallen in with the wrong sort and perhaps restart her marriage with her husband.

Trouble is her husband seems reluctant but when her son recognises one of the residents as ex footballer Jake Lovatt, also a newcomer and that he is also coaching the local side, he can’t see that much wrong with this village where nothing goes on. Her husband will follow them both later.

But of course with any village story, there is lots going on. Resident stalwart Helen, self appointed head of everything to do with the village welcomes Hannah and likes the idea of expanding the shop to include a bookshop for all of the residents. Nicola is desperate for a baby and becomes friends with Hannah, as she encourages her to help with the new bookshop to take her mind off things.

Hannah and Jake are the main protagonists in this story and it is clear to see that there is a spark between them, but Hannah is married and Jake appears to have been seen with a mystery woman in his new home. Of course nothing is as it seems to both of these people and when events take a turn they find themselves thrown together and look to each other for support.

This is a story of starting again and realising that perhaps you never have really stated living because you made one choice and accepted it. This book deals with some tough subjects, the coercive controlling relationship, troublesome teenagers, dealing with being famous and marriage problems. Of course there is a happy ever after, but that is what you wanted in this delightful book set in such a picturesque place and where I want to browse the shelves of the Village Green Bookshop at my leisure.

If you are a fan of Rachael Lucas, you will recognise the setting and some of the characters as they feature in a previous novel, The Telephone Box Library but this book can be read quite easily as a standalone. My one hope is that I get to go back to this village again as I am sure it has more stories to tell.

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

The Village Green Bookshop is published on the 27 May.


The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club – Faith Hogan

Taken to the West Coast of Ireland in this novel has allowed me to swept away with the story and also out to sea, with the ladies of the midnight swimming club. By the end of the novel I hope more would have embraced the notion of walking into the Irish Sea and allowing the water, the waves and the peace to envelope them and heal them.

For the three main characters in this book, it is what brings them together at very different points in their life.

Elizabeth, recently widowed from the local GP, she finds that whilst she was keeping one of the secrets of her husband for her entire married life, he had a few more and this has resulted in her looking at her future from a penniless point of view.

Jo has been enjoying her dips in the sea for a long time and has encouraged her long standing friend Elizabeth to try it. Elizabeth is rightly distracted and Jo thinks she might have the answer to some of her problems; her own daughter Lucy.

Lucy burnt out as a A & E doctor in Dublin, working nights because it fits in, now her husband has left her and moved to the other side of the world. With a teenage son permanently attached to his computer gaming ,she thinks a change of scene will do them both some good, so she answers her mother’s request.

As Lucy arrives back to the village and things move forward for both Elizabeth and Lucy, it seems that it is now Jo’s turn to need their help. As the news affects them all, a strength of character drives them to bring all the women from the village and beyond to raise money for the local hospice together for a dip in the sea.

I enjoyed this tale of women’s strength and support played out in many different ways, whether it was the simple action of letting someone find their path in life or holding their hand as they embraced another life. A great tale of women’s friendship that warmed the heart and reminded me why friendships like that are so needed. As someone who embraces the outside swimming, I could relate to the peace it can give as it somehow grounds you and washes away that moment of stress.

If you want a book full of friendship and faith then this is the book which will warm your heart, even in the coldest water!

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

The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club is out now.


The Wife Who Got A Life – Tracy Bloom

Cathy is a mum, a wife, a daughter and a sister but she doesn’t seem to be Cathy anymore. So she decides she needs to change her life and change it now.

When her husband makes the decision that he wants to change his career from management consultant to teacher thinking he has something to share with them all, Cathy is horrified.

So if she wants to change herself she needs to make sure everyone around her changes as well – not only is Cathy going to get a life so is her whole family. With some rather hilarious motivation goals for achievement, we go through as Cathy finds herself a cook. She isn’t much of a cook and for everyone to survive she needs someone else to do the cooking.

Cathy finds herself with a few new book-keeping clients and with her mum approach to some of these new start ups, she gets the acknowledgment she has perhaps been missing all of her life.

Showing her daughter, Kirsty what first love was all about and her son Freddie, what would happen if he didn’t do well were other achievements she could tick off her list. If someone could have told her you don’t need to have periods anymore years earlier then I think she might have achieved more. Her relationships with her sisters, mainly conducted over various named WhatsApp groups made me chuckle as they decide between them who should be buying the toilet roll for their parents!

I found this book very humorous but it did come across simply as someone who changed their life and in some cases some of those around them as well. It did not have a beginning, middle or end which linked. It was like a snapshot out of a year of Cathy’s life, what any diary would be I suppose. Perhaps because I am neither, wife, mother or sister I could not relate to it as much as some readers? However it was a great diversion from some of the bleakness of late and if you want a funny read then it will tick that off the list for you!

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

The Wife Who Got a Life is out now.


On Hampstead Heath – Marika Cobbold

Remember the days when you trusted the things you read in the newspaper. Reliable sources of information from reliable journalists. It seems that the truth has got lost in some other version of it and as the way we get our news has changed into the twenty first century we have to now stop and think about what we are being told.

Marika Cobbold takes this concept and weaves a novel for the here and now and even probably a bit of future forecasting as well. Thorn Marsh is a journalist and she has fought hard for her role, the arbiter of the truth at the cost of everything else in her life including her marriage.

But when a new proprietor of her newspaper doesn’t want old fashioned journalism any more she is side-lined to the more good side of news with a large helping of the best wallpaper; places to eat; what to buy your mother in law for Christmas type of journalism.

When faced with potentially losing your job or diluting her own principles an integrity, Thorn seeks solace with alcohol and her ex husband Nick. He unwittingly shares a photo he took of someone jumping off a bridge on Hampstead Heath, the photo makes it look like an angel. When Thorn wakes the next day, it seems that the photo is news everywhere and the story of the Angel on Hampstead Heath saving someone’s life is big news.

Big news written by Thorn, but not true.

Thorn is suddenly drawn into maintaining a lie and telling the truth and when she goes in search of who this man is, she suddenly finds herself finding out about him and in turn herself. Of course bubbling away always is the truth and the real truth might need to be hidden to protect everyone – and Thorn struggles with that concept.

This was an interesting premise for a book and was woven with other threads of stories within the book, which Cobbold does so effectively, they might have seemed irrelevant but when you close the final page you can see that they have all been thought out and put together with care.

I like being challenged and especially reflecting on how the media has changed over time and what we can expect from what is almost being thrust at us on an hourly basis – is it true? Where is the truth? I do know that this is a true book to showing you that all is not what it seems, whether it be photos in papers or your own next door neighbour. There is always a story but it is finding the true one which proves to be the most difficult in life.

On Hampstead Heath is out now

Thank you to the publisher and Georgina Moore at MidasPR for the opportunity to read this book.


Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church – Tracy Rees

This is Tracy Rees first foray into writing more contemporary fiction, and of course when an author deviates from what they are known for it is always a sense of trepidation that you approach their new work.

For me, Tracy Rees need not worry. This was a book which was simply magical and marvellous and let me escape as I devoured it in one day.

Gwen and Jarvis both in the twenties are lost. Gwen an aspiring writer is lost after losing her parents, she is still grieving and she has taken shelter and sanctuary with her Aunt Mary in the village of Hopley. But this sanctuary is more like a prison and Gwen feels trapped in the life that she has created for herself.

Her only escape is church.

Jarvis an aspiring artist. His first exposure to the art world has left him broken and with self doubt and he spends his days sleeping off the night before and his nights blotting out his days. The village of Hopley is not really the place for him, but what other choice does he have if he wants to stay at his parents.

His only escape the dream of finding the woman from three years previous at the church.

When the local vicar, pleads to his dwindling congregation for help to save the church roof, he hits upon the idea of appealing to all those who have visited the church and maybe left a message in their visitors book. He looks for volunteers.

Gwen and Jarvis step forward; Gwen has been fascinated by the visitors book and the back stories to all those people who wrote something. Jarvis is simply looking for that woman.

This very unlikely couple form a friendship and when they start to reveal the secrets of those visitors to the church they see perhaps that the little village of Hopley might have a new church roof after all. But it is not just a church roof that needs building both Gwen and Jarvis become cheer leaders for each others talents and the future for both of them looks a lot better.

A warm and heartfelt book where I wasn’t sure if I could warm to the two main protagonists who I found tiresome, sullen and quite prickly at the beginning. They both needed a good shake, but how wonderful to see such a small task be able to change Gwen and Jarvis and also my perception about them as I learnt more.

Thank you Tracy Rees this book was a pure tonic of a read and if you want to write more like this I for one will certainly be reading them. A little book of pure joy.

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

The Little Book of Secrets is out now.


The Glorious Guinness Girls – Emily Hourican

As the title suggests, this book is about the Glorious Guinness Girls and whilst this is a fictional story featuring real life people, it is very much a story which shows you the life that the privileged were leading both in Ireland and England in the nineteen twenties and thirties.

Fliss is the narrator of this story, a fictional character used as a vehicle to tell the story of Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh Guinness, the three daughters of Ernest Guinness of the famous brewing family. Fliss is sent to live with the three sisters in Ireland in the early nineteen twenties. Whilst she is educated along with the girls, she is stuck in this void of being not quite one of the family and not quite a servant. It takes a long time for Fliss to find her right purpose in life because for all it seems she will be indebted to this family forever.

Cosseted away from real life in Ireland during the civil unrest of the twenties it seems faintly ridiculous that three women simply cared about parties, practical jokes and frocks when all around them life was changing. They are briefly touched by this when Fliss brother, Hughie comes to visit and brings with him talk of a new life. It is only Fliss that can see the change, the three sisters are kept in their precious bubble.

As the family decamp to London, society again is very much at the forefront of this story. Think darling debutantes, balls, high jinxes and excesses of champagne, laughter and life this is the society that Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh are immersed in and with Fliss very much on the side-lines we see a very different perspective.

Whilst for me Maureen was the more dominant of sisters of the story, her actions towards others were not pleasant and with the additional thread of the story shows Fliss returning to the house in Ireland to make sure a secret is kept – a secret that involves Maureen. 

This is a book which only touches on the surface of the history of the Guinness girls, I implore you to do more of your own reading about them, I certainly did after I had finished. If you want to look at the book as a piece of historical fiction about the life of those “Bright Young Things” and a small part of Irish history then this book will fascinate you. 


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

The Glorious Guinness Girls is out now.  


Making It – Jay Blades

I think it is always a privilege when “someone off the telly” decides to share their story with the viewers, it gives you a better insight and understadning of what makes that person tick.

And in the case of Jay Blades, probably best known for The Repair Shop we are treated to what life was like growing up with an absent father, racism, police brutality, dyslexia, making it and then losing it all and hitting rock bottom.

In a very honest account, written with the help of a writer, Jay takes us from his very beginnings on a council estate in Hackney through to The Repair Shop. The honesty of the injustices that Jay has witnessed and also been personally involved in made for some uncomfortable reading. My heart really went out to all those who suffered racism and yet whilst it could have taken Jay on one path (and perhaps it nearly did), it took him on another more compassionate path.

That path though was littered with obstacles and we see how his strength of character, his immense depth of love repairs not just those around him and of course the furniture we now know him for. He repairs himself through the kindness of strangers and those that would give him a chance and I felt once I had finished this book that you realise how far Jay has come but on that journey he has become the genuine chap that radiates from our television screens.

This is a book which could be used as an example of social history of growing up in the seventies and eighties in Britain, it is not a book that will tell you the secrets of The Repair Shop because there are some things which need to remain an institution. And I can think of no better foreman for it than Jay Blades.

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

Making It is published on 13 May


Coming Soon – Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church

This may just have saved my life…’ The hurried scribble in the dusty church visitors’ book catches Gwen’s eye. Just like that, she is drawn into a mystery at the heart of the pretty village of Hopley, but nothing is what is seems…

When tragedy strikes, twenty-six-year-old Gwen Stanley finds herself suddenly jobless and heartbroken. With nowhere to turn, she retreats to Hopley, a crumbling little village deep in the heart of the English countryside. Wandering the winding lanes and daydreaming about what could have been, Gwen feels lost for the first time in her life.

Until one day she pushes through the creaking doors of a tiny stone church at the edge of the village, empty and forgotten by nearly everyone. There she stumbles on a book full of local secrets and is instantly drawn into the mystery of who could have left them there, and why.

When she’s unexpectedly joined by handsome local artist Jarvis, Gwen is caught off-guard. He seems just as fascinated by what’s in the book as she is… but why? Can she trust Jarvis’s motives really are what he says they are? And are the butterfly flutters she feels whenever they’re together because she’s one step closer to learning the book’s secrets… or might the little village church actually hold the key to healing Gwen’s poor, trampled heart?

An utterly unputdownable story – pure joy from the first page to the last. Perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Lucy Diamond and Heidi Swain, and anybody longing for the ultimate feel-good escapist read!

Author Bio:
Tracy Rees was the winner of the Richard and Judy ‘Search for a Bestseller’ Competition and her books are paperback, ebook and audio bestsellers. A Cambridge graduate, she had a successful eight-year career in nonfiction publishing and a second career practising and teaching humanistic counselling before becoming a writer. She lives in Wales.

Find Tracy on Twitter

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A Postcard from Paris – Alex Brown

Annie is rather dissatisfied with her life, her children have flown the nest and are treating her as some elderly woman who is about to croak her last. In fact Annie is in the prime of her life and she is worried she is letting it pass her by,

When her definitely elderly neighbour Joanie, inherits and apartment in Paris, Annie offers to go across and investigate this legacy and try to piece together how a lady with no relatives has been left an apartment in Paris above what looks to be an old fashioned shop.

Annie discovers the story of Beatrice ‘Trixie’ Crawford who left to be a nurse in First World War, through the Roaring Twenties and into the depths of occupied Paris in the Second World War. Told through letters or diary entries throughout the present day story we piece together who Trixie was and why it comes that Joanie is her sole benefactor.

As Annie discovers Trixie she discovers herself as well. Making friends with a loud brash American, Kirsten and widow Maggie who runs the place where Annie is staying they all discover that love can come in many forms. Of course being in the most romantic city in the world there has to be a touch of romance, and that was provided in bucket loads by the gorgeous Etienne.

This is a great introduction to historical fiction if it isn’t your normal choice of book. For me I would have liked more in the past and perhaps less of the present day story which was not really relevant to the story. That said, it was there to give an understanding to the character of Annie but could easily have been removed for more pages dedicated to Trixie and her story, which fascinated me more. This book holds your attention as you discover how everyone is related and get swept into the beauty of Paris, from the hidden streets and banks to the wonder of the Eiffel Tower all lit up.

A book which will take you away not just to the past but also to Paris without you even leaving your home. Perfect holiday reading at any time of the year.

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

A Postcard from Paris is out now.