Books

Celebrations at the Chateau – Jo Thomas

Three sisters arrive in France, to look at a Chateau they have just inherited from their grandfather. Not once during his life has he mentioned this asset and they only learn of it upon his death.

Expecting to just look and then put the place up for sale, the three sisters discover there is a few added complications to what should be a simple act of selling the property and dividing the money three ways. Of the three sisters, Fliss is the one who was closest to her grandfather and the one whose life will not be disrupted if she stays in France.

Unable to sell immediately and with a large bill looming, Fliss decides that she could perhaps spruce up some of the more habitable rooms and make it a B & B. It is going to take a lot of hard work and opposition from some of the locals, including her immediate neighbour who also happens to be the local mayor.

There is something special about the place that makes Fliss see what a life she has been living and when her nephew is sent to stay with her to escape some troubles at school, she has some added help to make her dreams come true. Perhaps staying and discovering just what it was that her grandfther was up to all those years ago that he bought a Chatuea might be the answer to her and her sisters problems.

As Christmas and the New Year looms, it seems that perhaps the future will look a lot better for them all but there is still some hurdles to overcome.

As I am fast learning reading new and old Jo Thomas books, whilst the settings are as important as the characters there is also the mention of a foodstuff. This time it was apples, cider, crepes and wonderful local customs of apple harvesting and gathering the community together. That coupled with renovating the chateau and a big dollop of romance with a moody Frenchman you have the perfect book to escape into.

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

Celebrations at the Chateau is out now and was Jo Thomas’ 2021 Festive release.

Books

The Christmas Tree Cottage – Holly Martin

When Evergreen Winter rides into the Wishing Wood Resort to fulfil her temporary role as Mrs Christmas, it seems that all the Christmas lights have aligned and she has come home. Even her name conjures up a magical woman who has secrets hidden under her magnificent cloak. And a cloak she does wear, and she has secretes which see her live her life peripatetically in an old fashioned caravan and a lovely Clydesdale horse called Thunder.

However, Evergreen was expecting to play Mrs Christmas next to someone who would not need much work to be Father Christmas. But it seems that being paired with the gorgeous Heath Brookfield, one third of the brothers who own Wishing Wood is going to prove more than a challenge.

Playing this fictional couple to the delight of the children, even Heath’s own wonderful daughter starts to cause some sparks between the couple. And it seems that perhaps the lines are going to blur this Christmas.

Will it mean that Heath finally finds the one woman he has been looking for all his life?

Will it mean Evergreen finally stops running away from her past and confronts it?

Will the perfect Christmas exist providing both Heath and Evergreen open their hearts to trust and rely on someone else to help them find their true happiness.

This is a wonderful conclusion to this series of books. The strong male characters have been in the forefront of all the stories which has been a change, rather than them being much in the background. The wonderful innocence of the children that are in Wishing Wood, whether that be Heath’s daughter, niece, a new nephew or even a visiting families they bring the whole magic of Christmas to life.

Whatever the magic ingredient that Holly Martin has, she manages to combine it all to make a great festive read and a great read for anyone wanting to get stuck into a series of books full of warmth and love.

Thank you to the author for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

The Christmas Tree Cottage is out now.

Books

Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North – Rachel Joyce

It has been ten years since we first met Harold, Queenie and Maureen. Eight years since we heard from Queenie and now it is Maureen Fry’s turn to enter our conscious, to enter our live as we follow another journey. Without a doubt this novella, is a wonderful ending to the story and you need to have read the previous two to make any sense of it or to understand its quiet impact.

Maureen, learns that in Queenie’s garden a statue has been erected. To commemorate her son- David. The kindly Kate that Harold met on his journey has kept in contact and imparts this news. It disturbs Maureen that someone has done this of her son. Her son. This upsets Maureen, since Harold’s return and Queenie’s death life has restored its balance now it is askew again and Maureen needs aswers.

She embarks on this journey via car, early one morning. A much more planned journey that Harold’s but not without its troubles. Maureen gets lost, she needs to seek help something she is not used to doing, she needs to ask strangers for assistance.

Her anger she has held for a number of years whilst propels her forward to her destination, it upsets people along the way and ultimately it is that which softens Maureen. She now has perhaps the ability to answer unasked questions about her grief, about her son and about her relationship with Harold.

So much emotion is packed into this short book. I still didn’t warm to Maureen, but that doesn’t matter, because I learnt a lot about her along the way and perhaps if I did not warm to her, I certainly understood her a lot more. As uplifting as it is heart-breaking, it packs a punch that you remember both previous books doing. A delightful way to bring Harold, Maureen and Queenie’s stories to an end.

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

Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North is out now.

Books

Murder on Board – Helena Dixon

It is with trepidation that I read book ten in this series, because I know at some point it has to come to an end and actually for Kitty in this book it could come sooner than we think.

Planning for her wedding underway, Kitty thinks she has found her new manager, Mr Lutterworth for the Dolphin Hotel, as she knows once she is married things will be different and her grandmother is also wanting to step back. He certainly has a baptism of fire, as a body turns up on the paddle steamer that was used to host a dinner party before the main event being held in the hotel.

The body is someone Kitty’s fiancé has been watching for his government contacts.

The party is the daughter of the Chief Constable.

The suspects can only be those that were on the boat, so Inspector Greville, has to investigate his boss and associates.

Then a diamond necklace goes missing for a short space of time.

It is going to be a tough case to tackle for the Inspector so he relies on Kitty and Matt to help. Of course that is going to put one of them in danger and the new manager finds himself searching the local area for his new boss pretty quickly. What sort of place has he come to work at ?

The sort of place, where all walks of life come to stay and pass through and with the wonderful kindness of Alice, Kitty’s Maid. Her Sister Dolly who helps in the office, the Night Porter and of course Bernice the skittish dog it makes for an interesting start for Mr Lutterworth. But if you have been with the series from the beginning then it is just par for the course for these two delightful characters.

This series goes from strength to strength, the introduction of characters along the way, means it can move off in different directions but without losing sight of the main focus – murder mystery. Cosy crime seems a misnomer, they are simply cracking good stories that serve to escape from the realities of life with for me a great big dollop of history thrown in for good measure.

I look forward to as many more as the author wishes to write.

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

Murder on Board is out now.

Books

The Lighthouse Bookshop – Sharon Gosling

On the Scottish coast, in a village pretty much remote stands a lighthouse, in that lighthouse is a bookshop. The only bookshop for miles around. Owned by Cullen MacDonald and where Rachel found solace some years ago.

Tragedy is around the corner when Cullen suddenly dies and with no other living relatives who will inherit the bookshop and can they find someone other than local business woman Dora McCreedy. In the meantime, suddenly bereft and with the possiblity of having to move again Rachel continues to try and keep the place alive. But Cullen leaves a mystery to be solved and all of a sudden this place that Rachel has called home for five years has somes ecerets to tell. Can they find the true reason for the place before it is left to someone who doesn’t see the buildings beauity and the place it has in the community.

For not just being a bookshop, this place seems to gather locals to it’s hearth, to talk, to find books and even to play chess. It helped Rachel can it perhaps help someone else. Gilly is a teenager sleeping rough, Edie is an artist with a secret and an ongoing feud with Ezra her next door neighbour and then Toby, who has come to stay in the village to write his memoirs. His days of journalism are perhaps over, or are they? Does this mish mash of people, all brought together and the building they find themselves hold a story that needs telling.

Yet again, Sharon Gosling has created a book with a wealth of characters, ages and voices. She has set it in the wild landscapes of Scotland. It is a book with mystery, romance, new beginnings, history, second, even third chances and always with that sense of community woven throughout. Written so wonderfully that I did not want to put it down, nor did I want it to end. One of my new favourite authors.

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

The Lighthouse Bookshop is out now.

Books

The Christmas Holiday – Phillipa Ashley

Krystle, dreamed of a proper Christmas, with log fires, hot chocolate, real trees, beautiful decorations and the love of family and friends. Reality was far from all of this but slowly she built Christmas into her life.

Something was still missing and when the opportunity to rent a beautiful house in the Lake district for a festive getaway with all the elements of her dream it will be the perfect Christmas present. However things don’t go to plan.

A broken down car, flooded river, a moody rescuer, damaged clothes, precious decorations and hearts. It looks like this Christmas is going to be the same as any other.

That moody rescuer is Max, escaping from something that has haunted him for years. Living a hermit life in this Lake District village and certainly not embracing the possibility of what Christmas could bring. Krystle thinks she may be able to change that, because she is known as Mrs Christmas after all. However Krystle gets embroiled in village life and it seems that it will be difficult to tear herself away from this holiday respite when the time comes. But then if she has something to keep her there, it will mean her dreams have come true.

This is another classic Phillipa Ashley novel and is full of warmth, humour and bundles of spirit to get the most Grinch like person in the festive mood. If you cannot getaway for Christmas, then let this book take you instead.

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

The Christmas Holiday is out now.

Books

The Elopement – Tracy Rees

I was thrilled to read and review the latest historical fiction from Tracy Rees who is one of of the authors I really must read as I know I am going to get such a wonderful story. The Elopement did not disappoint.

It is the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the nation is all of a flutter as are the residents of the Blythe Household. However amongst all this preparation a secret is trying to be kept. Rowena Blythe, beautiful, spoilt and full of her own self importance with no thought of anyone else is about to do something that will see her shunned from her own society.

Pansy is a servant in the Blythe Household and is treated with disdain by the likes of Rowena and her sister in law, Verity. Pansy knows she wants to do something more with her life, but the opportunities are not always there. That is until her own mother challenges her to do something to make her happy.

Olive Westallen who is known to readers if they have read The Rose Garden, is something of an enigma. She is part of the society that Rowena frequents but she has forged her own path without obeying convention. Unmarried, with two adopted young children, working for the greater good for those who are less unfortunate than her. Olive for me is a woman before her time, a woman that has characteristics that resonate now in the 21st Century as it does for the character at the cusp of the 20th.

As these three woman, cross paths at different points throughout the story, each telling their own version of what they see. the story moves forward and shows the lives that could be led, shows the lives that are led and the ones that almost snubbed out because of their position in society.

This book is a wealth of social history, not just the jubilee celebrations reminiscent of what we have seen this year and in years previous. But also the workers that toil in the hat factories in appalling working conditions in contrast to one woman Miss Orme, working in law, “devilling” the only way she could without being qualified – because what was against her was the fact she was a woman.

The Elopement and The Rose Garden are books which are rich in strong (and weak) female characters who reflect how much has changed for the better to enable readers like me to forge my own path in life. However it is worth noting, that whilst time has moved on, there are still some battles still to be won or won again. So much resonated with me in this book and I simply want to know more about where these characters are going to go and what they are about to discover about the world that they have ultimately been sheltered from by the fact that they are women.

Perfect historical fiction for any women, or anyone who wants to champion forging your own path in life and whilst fulfilling your own happiness, helping others along the way. Thank you Tracy Rees you are doing that for me with these novels. Long may they continue.

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

The Elopement is out tomorrow.

You can read about The Rose Garden the first novel to feature Olive Westallen here.

Books

The Bletchley Girls – Anna Stuart

Three unlikely women meet at train station, Stefania, Ailsa and Fran. They only currently have one thing in common, they have signed the Official Secrets Act and they are heading for the same place Bletchley Park.

They don’t know what their work will entail.

Stefania spent her formative years in Rome, she witnessed Mussolini at embassy parties and lost her heart to an Italian man, Matteo. Her skill in languages is going to be useful at Bletchley.

Ailsa, comes from a small Scottish Island, where she was destined to stay forever. But her skills with a radio and tuning into a variety of frequencies is going to be useful at Bletchley.

Fran, from a family of medicine has taken a completely different route much to the annoyance of parents. Her love of words and the logistics of referencing is going to be useful at Bletchley.

The three of them together, forge a friendship, there differing backgrounds and skills allow them to have an impact on the work at the Park. The war allows them to travel, to see something of the war from a different perspective. For all that time, they continue to correspond with each other. But are they about to put all they hold dear into jeopardy?

This novel had me hooked, pretty much from the beginning. The role of Bletchley Park has fascinated me always, the secrets it held for so long and the role that both men and women played is described in this book in so much detail. It was a book where I did not know how it was going play out, I couldn’t see the obvious route to the plot and it held me from beginning to end.

Historical fiction at it’s best when you learn so much about the past from an author that has thoroughly researched and used real stories to bring a narrative to life.

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

The Bletchley Girls is out now.

Books

The Christmas Castle in Scotland – Julie Caplin

I am going to start this review, by quoting myself “If you want romance, food and travel then any of this series of books will tick all those boxes. I can’t wait to go travelling again.” And so I have travelled not very far this time, to Scotland. Ironically a place I have never been. One day that will be rectified, but in the meantime.

I go vicariously to a Castle and get to spend Christmas there. Izzy has inherited a castle from her Uncle and has ideas of transforming it into a place for people to come for the best boutique bed and breakfast experience with some glorious food thrown in for good measure. In the run up to Christmas it seems to be a lot to take on.

Especially when you get there and find that Xanthe has already rented a room out to Ross, a moody history professor moonlighting as a thriller writer. As well as start to decorate the rooms in her own eccentric bohemian style. Oh and booked the castle out for Christmas to bring in some much needed funds. There is not much Izzy can do and smile sweetly at Xanthe, as she is her mother after all.

As time marches on and a storm whips up some problems for the castle roof. Izzy collects some waifs and strays camping in the forest who prove valuable in the odd jobs they can do whilst being provided with bed and board. As Christmas gets nearer, Izzy keeps cooking to make sure everyone is fed. As the castle seems to be collecting more people, when Ross parents turn up, Izzy’s friends all before the paying guests arrive. But then it snows…….

Will all their hard work pay off? Will the guests arrive? Will their be enough food if they are snowed in? Will it be a Christmas for them all to remember?

This book is full of laugh out loud moments and delicious sounding food to make your mouth water. A few dollops of romance makes it a warm and cosy read and perfect for Christmas escapism.


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

The Christmas Castle in Scotland is out now.

Books

October Roundup

With only two months of the year left, I am just about on target for reading 100 books and I think it could possibly go to the wire this year. Let us no dwell on that and plough through the October books read.

Of course the Christmas books do tend to dominate in October and there is always a risk I could be all Christmas read out by the time the festive period is really upon us so I have tried to mix it up with other books as well.

I have spent Christmas in October in many places. Completing her trilogy set in Wishing Wood was Holly Martin – The Christmas Tree Cottage, where back in the tree houses we finally get to make sure that Heath the only brother not with someone, settles down and what better way with someone called Evergreen Winter. Holly Martin does manage to conjure up such wonderful settings and characters.

If treehouses are not your thing then maybe Chateaus’ are. Jo Thomas – Celebrations at the Chateau is in fact last years Christmas read and I tripped across to France and wrapped my taste buds round some delicious Apple treats. The bonus of a Christmas wedding and a restart for everyone was the perfect story to lose myself in.

You can travel with your home as well and whilst this one is full of cocktails in Caroline Roberts – Mistletoe and Mulled Wine at the Christmas Campervan, it was lovely to go back and visit places from previous Roberts’ novels and see it all pull together. Plenty of snow and snuggly moments.

If you are a fan of reading then a bookshop has to be your ultimate place to be surely. Continuing her Cornish series Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop took me to a place I have visited in a previous novel and one where the new bookshop is open and a whirlwind new employee is trying to make her mark.

I don’t remember there being that many books featuring Christmas in my past reading years. Perhaps I did not pay any attention, or perhaps there was not that interest. They are the perfect escape to perhaps find that perfect Christmas that we all sort of want, but don’t want the hassle or stress. But what if Christmas was your job. In Phillipa Ashley – The Christmas Holiday, Christmas is a time of rest for the main character, where you have done all your work whilst everyone else enjoys the fruits of your labours.

Again all the books for this month have been on my kindle and via netgalley. I did pick up one book which had been on my 20 Books of Summer challenge, but abandoned it. It was just not working for me or holding my attention which meant it sat by my bed simply gathering dust. I must read more actual books in November.

As for the rest of the kindle books this month, I start with Anna Stuart – The Bletchley Girls a new author to me. This was a wonderful book, set in the fascinating place of Bletchley Park and had me hooked and is one of the best historical fiction books I have read this year.

Another author who seems to excel at historical fiction is Tracy Rees – The Elopement. It was an absolute joy to go back to characters introduced in The Rose Garden and to be immersed in those in high society and those on the outskirts. Tracy Rees has done it again.

Sticking in the historical period with the latest Miss Underhay novel in Helena Dixon – Murder on Board. Cosy mystery, not so much blood and guts than red herrings and nosy maids. I am delighted to hear that these books are to continue for a while longer.

One of the first proper Blog events I took part in was the promotion of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, now ten years ago. So I was delighted to be able to access the novella that completed this journey with Rachel Joyce – Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North. We hear Maureen’s voice, go with her on a journey so very different to Harold and Queenie’s but beautiful just the same.

On with November and some reading actual books of my actual shelves!

How was your October? Any Christmas novels I should know about?