The Forgotten Garden – Sharon Gosling

Since the death of her husband Luisa has simply existed. When an opportunity from the godfather of her husband comes Luísa’s way she finds that she may still have the strength in her to fulfil her and her late husbands dream. To transform pockets of land in deprived communities into gardens for everyone and for everyone in that community to be part of it.

Luisa finds herself in a run down seaside town in Cumbria, with some reluctance she can see what the void space could become. Meeting Cas a local teacher who in his spare time runs a boxing gym for children so they have somewhere to go, other than causing trouble she thinks maybe she can help out with the run down gym and support the rental costs if she uses it as her base. He thinks maybe his youngsters could also benefit from taking part in the community garden.

One of those youngsters is Harper, Cas has been her advocate despite the trouble she gets into. To pay off the debt she owes Cas, the deal is she has to work in the garden with Luisa. Harper is troubled, her home life is fractured, her future is looking bleak and perhaps growing something from scratch can cause new beginnings for herself.

As the main characters develop as the plot grows, we see how the prospect of the garden is the beginning, the middle and the end for them all, but it ‘s longevity is perhaps not in doubt. Even when it is threatened. The book makes your heart sing at the joy such a project can bring to an array of people, young and old. However it has its darker moments, that much can be told from the initial descriptions of the seaside town that Luísa finds herself in. Sadly a reflection of perhaps the times we live in and all readers could probably identify with elements local to them.

Along with the contrasting gloominess is the brought growth of a garden starting to flourish along with all the characters that Gosling has created.

Yet again, she has written a book which moves you, inspires and drives you on to keep reading to the end. Strong reads that have always stayed with me for a long time, and ones I recommend time and time again.

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

The Forgotten Garden is out now.

Books · Jottings

May Roundup

And all of a sudden spring and summer arrived into May. With almost gay abandonment, I shed all the extra layers keeping me warm, the heavy shoes and the winter blankets and found the shorts, the pasty legs and the thinner clothes.

The reading has just continued at a gentle pace. Only a little twitch now and again, that I am way behind if I want to hit 100 by the 31st December. All of the reads for this month are kindle and actual netgalley reads. The physical books I am reading is huge and fabulous, but I am savouring it almost too much, to speed through it.

I did speed through Christie Barlow – A Summer Surprise at the Little Blue Boathouse, the latest in her series, because I am always so delighted to be back with friends in a place I have grown to know over the previous books and want to visit. (Although I do realise it isn’t a real place) Trouble is when you zoom through the latest, you have so long to wait until the next.

The only other latest book in a series read in May was Merryn Allingham – Murder at Abbeymead Farm which is always a delightful piece of escapist writing and even more exciting I worked out whodunnit! As with any series, each book is individual but there is a plot thread running through it all and that is what makes me keep reading, as I want to know what happens there.

Sticking with murder I found myself with Deanna Raybourn – Killers of a Certain Age which was a modern murder mystery novel from this American author. The premise was interesting, but it did lack some aspects which I found rather disappointing from an author whose historical books I have enjoyed in the past.

I then went abroad and back in history with Rachel Rhys – Murder under the Tuscan Sun a book which built tension and had bucket loads of intrigue and was a joy to read. The delightful backdrop of Tuscany was fascinating and felt like I had been transported away for a holiday. And as for the murder – well was it?

Staying in the historical period led me Liz Fenwick – The Secret Shore where she took me through a fascinating journey of maps, missing mothers with the determined and forthright Merry. I was cheering her on from the outset as she navigated war and love. Yet again brilliant writing from this author.

I admit to not understanding why some authors write books under pseudonyms, no doubt it has to do with publisher’s, the type of books they read, etc but I was delighted to discover that Annabel French – Summer at the Chateau was by an author I had read previously and whilst this book was a change from what she has normally written it was not that much of a handbrake turn in writing. However it was a wonderful read which transported me away on another trip abroad and for that I was grateful. I look forward to doing so again.

And finally Sharon Gosling – The Forgotten Garden where we are not in Scotland, but the North coast of England, in a rather rundown town which has been forgotten. Can a garden grow the place and the characters? If this author has anything to do with it then yes! Sharon’s books are an absolute pleasure to read, so layered and well written. I recommend them.

I have signed up for 20 Books of Summer again this year, in a bid to get the TBR piles down! (Ha!) And for regular followers who are wondering, I am bringing back Six in Six for 2023. We are still a small select group but growing every year, so please join in and spread the word if you can. Details to follow in the coming days.


Murder Under the Tuscan Sun – Rachel Rhys

Tuscany, late Nineteen Twenties Mussolini’s power and dominance is on the rise. In this castle high above Tuscany, the people who love there are English.

William the ailing art dealer, nursing a broken heart.

Evelyn, William’s niece. Vacuous and false.

Roberto, Evelyn’s husband fascinated with Fascism.

Nora, neglected daughter of Evelyn and her first husband.

And Constance, widowed and grieving for a daughter also lost. The companion to William.

But all is not as it seems, there is something about this castle, deep in the Tuscan Hills.

There is something about the behaviour of Evelyn.

The behaviour of Roberto. Aligning himself to those who are to be noticed.

The treatment of Nora, which made me weep with frustration at such a barbaric act.

The noises that Constance can hear at night, during the day. Where are they coming from?

And the failing health of William, seemingly sometimes so fit and alert.

This book whilst filled with rich descriptions of the Tuscan landscape, is filled with twists and turns of the characters and plot. What is really going on in this novel? What is the aim of the author? A book which kept me turning the pages, because I was caught up with what was happening, that I had to find out. I had no clue as to what was happening, I was completely entranced but them all. I was wrong, as was Constance. What I learned was heart breaking, but the denouement was right and the outcome even more so. What a journey, what a book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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

Murder Under the Tuscan Sun is out now.


Killers of a Certain Age – Deanna Raybourn

Four women, Billie, Mary-Alice, Natalie and Helen all work for the Museum. To mark their retirement after forty years, they are all sent on an all expense paid holiday.

What could possibly be wrong with that – something, clearly as all four women become the target of an assassin. And they know it is from one of their own.

You need to know the Museum is a network of assassins which have been working for a number of years, formed during dying days of the Second World War.

If they have been targeted then that means it is from instruction from the Board at the Museum and thwarting the first assassin, they go on a mission, across America, across the world to discover who has ordered their destruction and most importantly why.

Using all the skills they have learnt over the last forty years or so and their ability to blend into the background as older overlooked women, it becomes a race against time.

Told entirely from Billie’s point of view, we do go back to previous kills that they women have been involved in as well as see a glimpse into their ‘normal’ lives as well. It all culminates in them arriving back to where it all began for them, but will they all make it out safely?

Whilst the premise of the book sounds quite grim, it has a light hearted touch and humour which seems in complete contrast and whilst it works across the majority of the book, there were times where it seemed rather callous and out of place. A bit bizarre if you will.

That said, this was an pleasant diversion of a book and whilst not up to previous novels I have read by this author it was a bit of escapist entertainment.

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

Killers of a Certain Age is out now.


Mrs Porter Calling – A.J.Pearce

Emmy Lake is not just popular with her friends and her new husband but also with the readers of Woman’s Friend magazine. Whilst her marriage is new and her husband is far away fighting the war, her love of the magazine is keeping Emmy and all her friends going.

But everything is about to change when Mrs Porter comes calling.

Mrs Porter is the new publisher, niece of the former one and is a well known socialite and purveyor of all things glamorous and shiny, the war it seems has not inconvenienced Mrs Porter in anyway at all.

Now with what she sees as a chance to do her bit, Mrs Porter decides to refresh Woman’s Friend magazine.

Gone are the tips on making meals, gardening, making do and mending and the advice column of Yours Cheerfully, which Emmy is now fully in charge. Now we have glamour and an abundance of it filling the pages. The magazine is no longer the friends it used to be but Emmy and her colleagues try their hardest to remind all their readers that they are thinking of them in such difficult times.

Whilst all of this is going on Emmy still continues her volunteer shifts at the Fire Service and finds that filling the house she shares with Bunty is going to be fuller when Thelma and her three children move in and they pool all their resources to create a home.

It might be 1943, but war is still very much in the minds of all the characters and the author weaves together the domestic home front, with the war far away from British shores and the impact it has in between to everyone, whether they be young or old. This book I think is the best in the series so far, and the first two were pretty awesome. I laughed with the antics of the children, the bull dozer approach that Mrs Porter had as well as cried at the tragedy of something unravelling and everything you knew and love suddenly changing.

I hope that I can pick up with Emmy again as I so dearly want to come back and see my friends.

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

Mrs Porter Calling is published on 25 May 2023


20 Books of Summer

I have decided to bite the bullet again and join in this challenge. I was fairly successful last year with 12 books, so I am aiming high this time again but if I can land at 15 I will be most pleased.

This challenge is hosted by Cathy at 746 Books here. The challenge runs from 1 June until the 1 September and it is moveable challenge from 10, 15 or 20 books. Need to change your list, then change your list. What could be a more flexible way of getting some of the books of the shelf.

So as to my initial 20. I have taken books that were on last years list (in blue) and I have still not read and moved them onto this one and then filled in the gaps! Now will the books in blue make it off the list?

  1. Lucinda Riley – The Missing Sister
  2. Angela Thirkell – High Rising
  3. Sara Sheridan – Celtic Cross
  4. Hazel Prior – Life and Otter Miracles
  5. Emylia Hall – The Shell House Detectives
  6. Daphne Du Maurier – Rebecca
  7. Juliet Greenwood – The Shakespeare Sisters
  8. M H Eccleston – Death on the Isle
  9. Alison Goodman – The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies
  10. Ruth Jones – Love Untold
  11. P.G.Wodehouse – Jeeves & Wooster unknown title yet!
  12. Agatha Christie – unknown title yet!
  13. Robert Galbraith – Ink Black Heart
  14. Alex Hay – The Housekeepers
  15. Trisha Ashley – The Wedding Dress Repair Shop
  16. Sue Teddern – Annie Stanley All At Sea
  17. Dawn French – Because of You
  18. Heidi Swain – The Book Lover’s Retreat
  19. Penny Parkes – Maybe Tomorrow
  20. James Henry – Morning Frost

With a mix of physical books and books from my netgalley list, some quite recent, others older and a reread chucked in, I am hoping there is enough there to keep my interest.

Do let me know if you decide to join in?


A Summer Surprise at the Little Blue Boathouse – Christie Barlow

Eleven books later and I am still revisiting Heartcross in the Love Heart Lane series as often as I can. I absolutely envy anyone first discovering book one and knowing that they have all the wonderful stories to catch up on.

Bea Fernsby has left behind everything, steady but boring job, family, fiancé and his wandering eyes and headed as far away as possible. She ends up in Heartcross and as it goes anyone that ends up there, never leaves.

Nolan Hemingway is determined to be leaving Heartcross on his adventure on his late grandfathers boat. It doesn’t matter who he meets, he no longer has the desire to settle.

Although it is meant to be a rest from everything that has gone on, Bea finds herself a little job in the Little Blue Boathouse and discovers she might have found the place to heal her heart. Becoming involved in the community, when a potential tragedy is averted, Bea finds herself determined to see safety to the river at the heart of this community. She then finds the pull of the community too much.

However Nolan is pulled by Bea’s enthusiasm and his humour and when she becomes involved in the real reason for Nolan’s landing in Heartcross, it seems that the community has a pull to Nolan that he never realised. Then of course there is Bea who has done something to Nolan, he never thought possible.

A book filled with mystery, warmth and laughter and plenty of old friends from Heartcross to become even more fond of if that is at all possible! What I love most is the fact that these books aren’t full of fluff, but tackle some real issues that many face and handles it with such skill, that you cannot but help cheer for more of the same!

As with all of the Love Heart Lane series, they can certainly be read as standalone novels but I implore you to just read them all. You will not regret it.

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

A Summer Surprise at the Little Blue Boathouse is out now.


Found in a Bookshop – Stephanie Butland

This is the first book that I have read which has featured the recent COVID pandemic in the forefront of the plot. It is also the second book which features the bookshop Lost for Words, which I had not read. However, there is enough references to understand the main characters in this novel and what had happened previously.

Loveday Carew, owner of the bookshop is joined by manager Kelly and then stroppy teenager later on in the novel, Maddison.

The bookshop is closed, the pandemic starting to bite businesses as well as people. One day the shop receives a letter from a retired headteacher – could they send her some wonderful books using the money enclosed to get them through the next few months. This lady Rosemary and her husband George are retired, reclusive now due to the circumstances of the world and reading to each other in their garden is a joy.

An idea forms – what if the ship could offer other people books to get them through this time.

A simple advertisement, starts a flurry of letters, emails and phone calls and this book provides a small insight into some of those requests. Differing scenes on how the pandemic and actual life is affecting a wide range of people. All looking for solace through a book. Ironically something I do every day and was doing by reading this one. Sometimes we see the person request the book again, we get to learn what happened in the next chapter, sometimes we don’t. However, the story thread of Rosemary and George as well as Loveday, Kelly and Maddison is weaved through the book as the main story arc.

The book touched my heart, but it was a difficult read as the pandemic and lockdowns seem so recent and perhaps it provoked some panicky memories of which I didn’t realise I had until I read this book. However, it was a joy to read and I love the idea of a book pharmacy and even reading this book will give you lots more to add your “to read lists”.

Perfect for fans of bookshops featured in books.

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

Found in a Bookshop is out now.


Code Name Elodie – Anna Stuart

I am back with the girls at Bletchley Park. It is now 1943 and war is progressing and plans are being made for an advance in 1944. But there is so much to do before then and all of the three women, Ailsa, Steffie and Fran have their part to play, at Bletchley but much further afield.

Fran is still coming to terms with her choice of love, Valerie Rousseau is French, passionate and desperate to help at home on the front line, not from behind some cryptic messages in an old country house in England. Through all her passions, Valerie leaves Fran with the unknown – what she is really doing in Occupied France.

Alisa, now married to Ned is separated from him. But when a chance to go and work where he is, in Ceylon she jumps at the chance. Trouble is she might have to keep her extra passanger quiet as she knows the rules even if she is one of the best when it comes to wireless sets and finding frueqwncuies. Some things the Ministry will not overlook. But that still does not stop strong wlled Alisa from taking part in as much of the last days of war as she can.

Steffie, is in a different place in her life to other women. Her skills at languages and the influence of her father leads her to become involved in operative planning to confuse the enemy. She suddenly realises that she has quite a lot to give. So does the American solider who has been detailed off to accompany her, but she seems to spend most of time laughing at his use of the English language and not picking up on what is really going on.

All of this weaved to together as we see the planning for D-Day, Operation Mincemeat and the end of the War. The research is so detailed and thorough, that Anna Stuart brings it to life from the page and just like her first, this was a book I could not put down. In fact I was bereft when it ended, but the three women needed to go on and live their lives knowing that they had played a vital part in history.

Thoroughly fascinating, engaging and a must for all fans of historical fiction.

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

Code Name Elodie is out now.


Murder at the Beauty Pageant – Helena Dixon

If like me you have been with Kitty since the beginning then it is a delight to see that she is embracing married life with Matt Bryant and getting more involved in the private investigations.

However that doesn’t stop her being involved with The Dolphin hotel now being run by a manager. To celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the King, it is up to the hotel to stage a Beauty Pageant, what could possibly go wrong?

Well poison pen letters, some strange looking characters and then a couple of dead bodies, it seems this is going to be a beauty pageant that Dartmouth will not forget for a while. But the new inspector, who Kitty and Matt have encountered from previous cases thinks there is nothing amiss and it is all straightforward and the culprit will be easy to catch. Especially if the amateurs do not assist.

But that is okay because Matt and Kitty have been hired to look into Victoria, stepdaughter of Sir Vivian, a well known Egyptologist. He thinks she has fallen in with a bad lot and there is mention of drugs which doesn’t seem to bode well for Victoria. Trouble is Victoria is down to be in the beauty pageant and it seems this private case and the one the police are working on are connected and they are going to have work together.

Although we are on book twelve of this series, as our main characters have now got married there is a shift in the tone of the book, as they enter the next part of their life. Plenty of familiar characters are still present and I hope we get to spend more time with the delightful Alice and members of her family whoa re we getting to know more about. Then of course there is Kitty’s grandmothers close friend; the formidable Mrs Craven who seems to remain Kitty’s thorn in her side and got her into this beauty pageant in the first place!

I look forward to seeing where Matt and Kitty end up next, and whether they can possibly solve a case without putting either of their lives at risk!

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

Murder at the Beauty Pageant is out now.