Books

Mistletoe and Mulled Wine at the Christmas Campervan – Caroline Roberts

Lucy is back in her horsebox Pizza Van, cooking those delicious sounding pizzas and she is invariably near or alongside, Jack with his red Cocktail Campervan, shaking up his latest concoction to delight the customers. They are still in the early days of their relationship.

But it is not without it’s troubles. Lucy has fallen out with her best friend Becky, who knows Jack’s reputation of old. Becky just doesn’t want Lucy to get hurt. When Jack stats behaving strangely, Lucy begins to worry and worry even more when her ex-fiancé turns up wanting to get back together.

In the run to Christmas, where the events that Lucy and Jack are attending are of the festive variety, this really takes you away to all those wonderful magical moments. I can smell the mulled wine, I can taste the festive pizzas, I can feel the cold as I wend my way amongst all the twinkling lights and cheery carols.

Amongst all this festive cheer though, Jack and Lucy are perhaps not being honest with each other, when events mean they are forced to confront their doubts and declare their feelings, something else momentous happens which could ruin it forever.

This is the perfect escape into Christmas and I loved the fact that the author has pulled the main characters from her other wonderful novels and given them a guest appearance which adds to the community feel of the book. I felt festive, full of delicious food and drink and wanted to embrace every Christmas Market I possibly could find! The book is magical and I hope we get to go back for a cocktail or two with Jack and Lucy at some point again.

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

Mistletoe and Mulled Wine at the Christmas Campervan is out now.

Books

A Christmas Celebration – Heidi Swain

For this Christmas, I am back at Wynthorpe Hall. Famed for it’s Winter Wonderland and all things Christmas, I am invited back into the Hall by Catherine and Angus.

Noted for all the waifs and strays they pick up along the way, this book is no exception. This time it is Paige, Catherine and Angus’ goddaughter who seeks solace for a few weeks, after returning from humanitarian work abroad. She remembers the place from her childhood and it seems like the perfect place to stay to recover and heal from what she has seen. Paige needs to find a new work passion but needs time to regroup first.

However Paige finds herself drawn into the comings and goings of the hall as well as the village. Helping people is what Paige is good at. Getting lost one night and needing directions back to the hall, she stumbles across what looks like a derelict cottage. but it is occupied.

Albert is the elderly resident and he is less than welcoming to Paige when they first meet. However, Paige is not to be put off by someone so curmudgeonly and clearly in need of some magic in his life.

The trouble is Paige also keeps coming across another curmudgeonly character, Brodie. Their paths keep crossing and when Brodie appears to be assisting her godfather in something secret, Paige is keen to find out the truth to make sure nothing is going to ruin this Christmas.

If Paige can help all these people she keeps coming across, will it eventually heal her from the wounds that she has brought back with her? Is a full on Christmas the best way to go about it? As the family start to drift back to Wynthorpe Hall and the Winter Wonderland kicks in for the locals, has Paige found her new role a lot closer home than she thought?

As always, fans of Heidi Swain like myself will be thrilled to return to a place you are familiar with. Plenty of characters from previous novels make cameo appearances rightly and give you a hint of their stories if you have never read them. If you have it is great to see everyone living their lives long after you have read those books. That is what keeps me coming back to this author time and time again.

If you want a full on Christmas without all the stress and hassle then reading a Heidi Swain Christmas novel is the best way to go about it. Pure festive fun.

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

A Christmas Celebration is out now.

Books

A Wrens’ Wartime Christmas – Vicki Beeby

I wanted to find another saga or series to follow and this one currently fits the bill. Back with book two and the WREN signallers, Mary, Sally and Iris who feature in the first book are back in Orkney. They are joined by more trained Wren’s and so they have a bit more time to be able to relax and enjoy Christmas this year after the eventful one of the previous year.

This time Mary is taking centre stage, very much still grieving for Owen the boyfriend she lost when the Royal Oak was lost of Scapa Flow, not far from where she is now based. She is strong willed and almost unapproachable with a tough exterior but it seems that Joe is starting to chip away at this and something begins to develop,.

However there is still some unfinished business on the island and a name from the past still seems to be hanging around. Why are they not doing their bit for the war effort? Or are they doing it for the wrong side? When German vessels seem to breaking through the defences, suspicions tarts to fall in some unlikely places. It seems that these wrens have some work to do before they can relax into Christmas.

It was lovely to be back in Orkney and be part of their Christmas. As the three most unlikely women form this friendship it is great to see how all their characters develop. It is is also refreshing to move a World War Two saga away from being London centric and to see that many other places in the UK had their own battle during this difficult time. This series has the potential for a few more books I am sure and I definitely want to be there for everyone of them.

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

A Wren’s Wartime Christmas is out now.

Books

Marple: Twelve New Stories – Various Authors.

How do you review short stories without giving the plot away?

How do you review short stories that are in tribute to the greatest crime writer of our timer?

I am not sure to the answer to either of these questions, so please excuse what could be called a pitiful review.

The aim of this collection of 12 short stories is to introduce a whole new generation to the wonderful little old lady, Miss Marple. If you have never heard of her, quite frankly where have you been! The original creation by Agatha Christie featured in a limited amount of novels and short stories unlike her other protagonist Hercule Poirot.

The other aim is, for those that do know Miss Marple, we have just got another glorious 12 stories to indulge our passion for all this St Mary Mead, village gossip, tweed skirts and afternoon tea with a good dollop of murder in.

I devoured each story and think actually that I will devour them again. Some were better than others, some you could tell were not the original author and without a doubt some you couldn’t tell. Of the authors of each, 12 women, I only recognised a few and read even less of those. All to be rectified having now read this collection.

The perfect collection of stories and has made me want to devour even more of the wily old spinster lady, knitting and observing every aspect of human nature in such a glorious way.

Many thanks to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Marple: Twelve New Stories is out now.

Books

The Key to the Last House Before the Sea – Liz Eeles

Back in Heaven’s Cove for the final time and whilst Heaven Cove is the thread that runs through all of these books, they can all be read as standalone novels and the final one is no exception.

Single mum, Nessa and the gorgeous daughter of hers Lily need to find a new place to call home. Her grandmother leaves her a legacy, a key tot eh cottage where she grew up. The cottage now partially derelict in an abandoned village near Heaven’s Cove could be the answer to Nessa’s dreams. Trouble is apparently the land has been bought and the whole place is due for demolition for a more modern project.

Nessa comes face to face with the project manager, a rather uptight Gabriel. Clearly his father’s puppet and perpetually trying to please him rather than do what he wants to do the most – paint. Pushed by his father he is determined to make sure Nessa fails in her quest.

Gabriel has an unlikely ally in Nessa’s ex mother-in-law, Valerie. Determined to have some purpose in life and not admit that her son is unreliable as a son and even more so as a father, she wants to make sure her granddaughter Lily has a better life than Nessa could ever give her.

With everything against her Nessa is going to have to dig deep and find the strength to save herself, her daughter and the family home.

Reflecting on family dynamics, this book puts that into focus and shows that perhaps someone people are misunderstood with their determination to do the right thing by their offspring. Sometimes you have to let them fly to have them come back. What better place to do this than in Heaven’s Cove. A book not just focussing on Nessa and Lily but also what Gabriel and Valerie’s are going through to.

A book where it shows that outsiders and new beginnings need to sometimes be fought for and to have that strength to fight for what they believe in and most importantly what will make them happy. A happy diversion of a book.

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

The Key to the Last House Before the Sea is out now.

Books

Happy Endings at Mermaids Point – Sarah Bennett

Right back at the beginning of this series, we were introduced to Aurora Storm, the impact she had on Mermaid’s Point has almost rumbled on through all the subsequent books, she was the enigma that caused one of the Point’s residents, Nick to give his heart away and he has never been right since. As he has witnessed his sister Laurie find what she has always been looking for (Summer Kisses at Mermaid Point), his aunt Nerissa who never thought she would recover from her lost love (Autumn Dreams at Mermaids Point) and even Ivy the girl everyone thought he would end up with (Love Blooms at Mermaids Point), he is convinved he will find love one day.

That is until a storm blows back into Mermaids Point. That storm is Aurora, after being caught up sadly by a media storm, caused by the manipulation of many in America, Aurora needs a reason to distract everyone and probably herself from what has happened – enter Nick.

Nick has to play the dutiful boyfriend and has to convince the outside world that there relationship is true. All the while convincing himself and his family that he is okay and that he will recover from having his heart broken. He is strong enough to cope.

But is Aurora, strong enough to suddenly be thrust into Mermaids Point, into the family life of The Morgan’s and the full-on run up to Christmas. Perhaps being a popstar is not what she really wants?

As always, Sarah Bennett has a canny way of introducing current issues to her novels without them sounding contrived, this was important in the way that Social Media used and spat out Aurora as it does seem to with many well known and less well known people. To see the rawness of how this affected the character, made me really think about how we treat people who expose themselves in this way. Of course Aurora had the support and love of the wonderful community of Mermaids Point to help her heal and they do it so effectively and cleverly you cannot see it happening.

With a great big dollop of Christmas and Festive cheer, the perfect ending to this series of books and the happy ending we all wanted. It felt right to leave the characters to their lives, something which doesn’t always happen at the end of series of books, you always feel there is something else to be told.

Another classic from Sarah Bennett and I look forward to where she is going to take me next.

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

I am taking part in the Blog Tour for Happing Endings at Mermaids Point

Books

The Fair Botanists – Sara Sheridan

Edinburgh, 1822. There may be a visit from the Monarch, George IV and excitement is building, but there is something much more interesting occurring in the city.

The new Botanic Garden, is completing it’s final move of plants and trees and the procession of these trees is causing quite a stir. As is the fact the Agave Americana plant looks set to bloom, something that happens rarely.

Many people are interested in all of this movement to the new Botanic Gardens and the blossoming of the rare plant. Two of those are women. Elizabeth Rocheid, widowed is staying with her late husbands aunt. The house borders onto the new botanic gardens and in a chance to start again from the life she left behind in London she becomes fascinated with the gardens. She offers her services to paint, draw and recorded the movement of the trees as well as the Agave Americana.

Belle Brodie is a different sort of woman altogether. Younger, vibrant and full of a life so removed from Elizabeth’s. There is much to Belle and her fascination with what then was a dark art – the creation of perfume. Surely the newest bloom on the rarest plant will be worth something?

An unlikely friendship begins between these two women, whilst secrets are also keeping them apart just as much as they are keeping them together. Something threatens their whole friendship as well as the interests of the garden, the impending visit by the Monarch and the innocent caught up in intrigue and mystery.

This book reminds me of my love for historical fiction, of strong female characters and those that got overlooked throughout history. Storytelling at its best and with so many layers this is one book which has piqued my interest away from the normal historical fiction I might have once gone for.

I originally received a copy from the publisher via netgalley but the formatting was not conducive to me reading so I purchased a paperback copy and now can have it forever on my shelf.

The Fair Botanists is available now.

Books

A Home at Cornflower Cottage – Tilly Tennant

Cornflower Cottage is the only home that Amelie knows and since the death of both her parents it is the shield to which she protects herself from everyone. Trouble is the cottage itself needs protecting.

With a cottage quite large for one person and needed repairs on temperamental boilers and missing roof tiles, Amelie is not quite sure if she has the wherewithal to cope with such upheaval.

Meeting Xander at the local hotel where she cleans, who is looking for some more long term accommodation she offers to rent out her spare room, in the hope that the extra cash will be just what is needed. However, Amelie didn’t also bank on a high maintenance girlfriend as well.

As this interesting set up starts to establish, Amelie is also having to deal with her current boyfriend who seems to have a few issues of his own. If there was a character to dislike from the beginning this was him, he just made poor Amelie even more downtrodden than she perhaps really was. Quite what will happen between them all could be anyone’s guess but it was rather obviously inevitable.

I found the book rather pedestrian, and the spark between the main characters wasn’t there for me, the only saving grace to the book was the descriptions of the woodland and riverbank where the cottage was set.

A book that passed the time, but didn’t hit the spot.

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

A Home at Cornflower Cottage is out now.

Books

September Roundup

I think September 2022 is a month not many of us will forget, it is almost like decades happened in those two weeks following the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II.

I have had the honour of watching the practice of the RN Gun Carriage Procession for many years due to my work. It was somewhat sobering to know that I was now watching the actual rehearsal. The noise of the boots walking in step and Beethoven’s Funeral March No 1 almost haunted me every day as they practiced, practiced and then some more. Pretty much for around 12 hours a day.

I made the decision to go to the lying in state. Words cannot do it justice, the emotion was overwhelming. I can say it was one of the best lived experiences of my life.

At roughly 0400 – it took another 3 and 1/2 hours to reach Westminster Hall from this point

As someone who has a passion for history, I felt I have lived through a lot of it in September.

And in a seamless segue that takes me to the first completed book of September, Sara Sheridan – The Fair Botanists. Back to Scotland, back to 1822 and the potential visit of King George IV but the wonderful female characters that dominated the book and the plot as we learn about botanicas, art and of course love.

Fast forward some hundred years or so and I find myself in the Roaring Twenties in Kate Atkinson – Shrines of Gaiety. The latest from this author and one I would heartily recommend, it probably deserves a second reading as it was so rich in character and plot I am sure I missed much.

Then only a few years further on to Vicki Beeby – A Wren’s Wartime Christmas where I caught up with this saga and with a Christmas theme as well, which pretty much set the tone for the rest of the month.

Sarah Bennett – Happy Endings at Mermaids Point concludes this delightful series from the author. Taken full circle we are joined by the mermaid that caused all the bother in the first place but brought us all to such a wonderful place. To be there at Christmas, with big family dinners, lost dogs, weddings and romance is the best when it comes to loosing yourself in a book.

Losing yourself is the only way when you read Heidi Swain – A Christmas Celebration. Back for the Winter Wonderland at Wynthorpe Hall where it seems everyone comes to be healed and brought back to life. The wonderful backdrop enables you to dream about those perfect Christmases which we all perhaps hanker after. When actually the perfect Christmas is with those you love around you. This books has that in spades!

Escaping for Christmas is perhaps everyone else’s idea of fun, which is why in Julie Caplin – The Christmas Castle in Scotland we are there to see Izzy now the owner of a castle preparing Christmas for some people who have paid handsomely for it. Despite other waifs and strays turning up along the way to add to the hard work but also the fun.

Sticking in Scotland and moving from a castle to another iconic building in Sharon Gosling – The Lighthouse Bookshop. This building has a secret and when the owner dies it seems that the secret could be lost forever. A cast of wonderful characters and setting that was as strong as her first novel. An author to watch out for.

Right to the other end of the country with another final book in a series with Liz Eeles – The Key to the Last House Before the Sea. An abandoned village, a part derelict cottage and a challenge to leave a legacy for everyone.

All but one of these books was read on my kindle and it reminds me of the convenience of kindle and my ever burgeoning netgalley list but I do miss holding that book in my hands. More of that in October, I hope!