Books

Poppy’s Recipe for Life – Heidi Swain

I am a huge fan of Heidi Swain’s books and so I was thrilled to be back in Nightingale Square to catch up with all the goings on and see what is happening. The last time I was there, the community garden that had been created by the residents was just in its infancy.

Now the garden and the residents are thriving….as are two incomers.

Poppy has always wanted to live in the square and when she gets the chance, she jumps at it as she will be much nearer the garden and that means she can access to all the freshly grown ingredients to make her pickles and jams and even elderflower cordial.

This peaceful existence though is about to be shattered when she discovers her little brother has been left ‘home alone’ while her mother swans off to Spain. Reluctantly she takes Ryan in and all his sixteen year old hormones and issues. It is not going to be easy to get Ryan to embrace his temporary home and being part of a community. Poppy is nothing if not ready for a challenge even if it isn;t on of her choosing.

The other challenge she faces is her grumpy neighbour Jacob. Recently moved to the area, Jacob is very reluctant to be apart of anything whether it be neighbours, the community and certainly not the garden. He does not seem to trust anyone and won’t anyone get close to him to find out why.

That is until he starts to prove a great help with Poppy’s brother Ryan and it seems perhaps Jacob is just dealing with his past in his own way, just as Ryan is.

When events in the garden leave the whole of Nightingale Square questioning each other as to who they can trust and especially outsiders.

Trust is a major theme in this book and it shows the different ways in which mistrust and trust can manifest itselves, between siblings, between friends and also between neighbours. But what Heidi Swain does do is give you an abundance of love and faith in this and all of her novels no matter which one you pick up.

Something about Heidi’s novels makes me want to move straight in and become involved and if I could meet my own Mr Grumpy and drink elderflower cordial then I think life would be complete. In fact life is complete with any of Heidi Swain’s novels and this latest one is no exception.

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

Poppy’s Recipe for Life is published on 30 May 2019

Books

Blog Tour – Death and the Harlot – Extract

The year is 1759 and London is shrouded in a cloak of fear. With the constables at the mercy of highwaymen, it’s a perilous time to work the already dangerous streets of Soho. Lizzie Hardwicke makes her living as a prostitute, somewhat protected from the fray as one of Mrs Farley’s girls. But then one of her wealthy customers is found brutally murdered… and Lizzie was the last person to see him alive.

Constable William Davenport has no hard evidence against Lizzie but his presence and questions make life increasingly difficult. Desperate to be rid of him and prove her innocence Lizzie turns amateur detective, determined to find the true killer, whatever the cost.

Yet as the body count rises Lizzie realises that, just like her, everyone has a secret they will do almost anything to keep buried…

 

…..Fingers of sunlight poked their way through the shutters of my room. I lay in bed, listening. The house was very still, which meant the girls were probably still asleep. Ma and the servants would be long gone, buying more food for the party. I strained to make out the different noises from outside. An oyster girl was on her way home, crying out to anyone who would listen that she had but a few left. I imagined the girl weaving her way, basket balanced on her head, shawl knotted around her shoulders to keep out the chill. It was the end of March, and the sun, although bright, would surely be weak. A church bell, somewhere, began to ring and then others took the hint and joined in. Noon.

I didn’t fancy oysters, but bread and cheese would be welcome, or a pie. My stomach growled. The kitchen would be forbidden to anyone except those prepared to chop and cook, so there was nothing to be done except wander out to find something from the streets. It was probably wiser to leave for an hour or two, anyway. Very soon a predictable chaos would strike the house and suck me into a whirl of people wielding hair curlers, powder and gowns with all the energy of a wild storm. I wanted to avoid that for as long as possible.

There was a pitcher outside my door. The water had probably been hot a couple of hours ago, but now was decidedly cool. I washed my face, used my pot and dressed. Ma would have been horrified at how little attention I paid to my toilette, but hunger was tugging me outside. There was no need to make myself too attractive: I was searching for pies, not business.

***

Stepping out of the house and down the stairs onto Berwick Street I could hear a crowd in the distance, off to the left, towards Oxford Street. My favourite pie seller is usually in Thrift Street or Greek Street around midday, but, sufficiently intrigued, I turned and walked in the opposite direction to see what was going on. Oxford Street was filled with scores of people, many of them women. They were waiting for something, or someone, chattering with excitement, laughing and squealing. While they waited for whatever it was, local traders obligingly sold them food. Costermongers, oyster girls, pasty sellers, all moved in and out of the throng with baskets and carts full of tasty treats.

‘What’s happening?’ I asked the thin-faced man who put down his pasty cart for a moment. ‘A pie, please. Beef if you have it, mutton if not.’ I reached for my purse.

‘One beef pie left, sweetheart, just for you. Here you go!’

‘Why the crowd?’ I asked again before he moved off.

‘They’re bringing John Swann to Newgate today,’ he said, nodding towards the west. ‘It’s why all the ladies are here. Didn’t you know?’

I knew well enough who John Swann was. It had been difficult to hold an intimate or intelligent conversation in the taverns for the past week without my ears being assaulted by the latest ballads offered in his honour, or loud announcements of his capture. Highwaymen are no longer quite the scourge for travellers they once were, but the fascination for them has not dimmed. They attract a ridiculous amount of attention; much of it female. I’ve never seen the attraction myself but, apparently, they are extremely dashing, and usually handsome. John Swann was especially so, at least according to the musicians.

‘Ah. Of course. I’d forgotten it was today. You must be doing brisk business.’

He was. I was talking to the back of his coat as he trundled off to find love-sick women in need of warm pies.

You can suffocate in crowds like this. Elbows rammed into my ribs and boots trod over my skirts, making it difficult to move, let alone breathe. Every so often a voice cried out ‘’Ere he is!’ and the masses cheered and swelled forwards like a wave to catch a glimpse, only to ebb back with a sigh when they realised it was not him at all.

A few feet along the street there was a gap between the buildings. It was a place of assignation after dark, and normally to be avoided by the more decent working ladies, but there was a chance it would be empty. I pushed hard against the tide, head down and pie in hand, until finally I popped up like a cork. I was right: there was no one there. No wonder; it stank of the grime and waste of the previous occupants. There was a discarded box further into the cleft. It would be useful to stand on to see the procession. I held my breath and pulled in my skirts, still clutching the pie, and inched towards it. With my toe, I flipped it over. A rat bowled thorough my feet towards the crowd, twitched its tail and scurried off. The box was strong enough to hold my weight and, several inches taller, I leaned my back against the alley wall, watching the crowd, and eating the pie. It was no longer warm, and it had never been beef, but it wasn’t bad, and it was good enough for breakfast. Where had these people come from? From across London and beyond, by the look of it. All bewitched by the myth of John Swann the highwayman.

The talk of the taverns was that he had been working the roads north of London with a small band of men, attacking carriages and robbing houses – taking money from terrified property-owners at pistol point. His weakness, of course, had been women, whom he had loved a little too widely. One disgruntled doxy, no doubt unhappy at sharing him, had decided to reveal his whereabouts to the law men. The means of his capture – naked, save for a bed sheet and his hat – had only added to his charm and notoriety.

There was a shout from somewhere west and then the noise began to build, steadily this time, a low hum becoming a full-throated cheer. Faces suddenly appeared in the windows of the houses opposite. Those who dwelt in this part of town knew the right moment to gaze upon criminals who journeyed up the road to face their trial or back down it to their doom. No disappointment this time: here came John Swann. Indeed, he was handsome; dark curls hanging about his shoulders, waving his hat to the people, behaving more like their newly-crowned monarch than a violent thief. No wonder the ladies had swooned. The constables in the cart remained seated, allowing him this moment in the sun, confident that he would be riding back down the road towards Tyburn before the summer.

The masses pushed forward, clamouring for his attention, his benediction. The cart struggled to move down the street, so the constables stood up and shooed away the people as if they were excitable dogs.

Behind the onlookers, one young girl threaded swiftly in and out of the crowd. She navigated her way easily in her rags, where I had been encumbered by my full skirts.  I watched her, fascinated. She was tiny; limp-haired and thin from lack of food. As men and women swayed and stood on their toes to see the criminal, she moved with them, deftly sneaking her hands into bags and pockets. They were oblivious of her; their attention was fixed on their charismatic king riding off to court. The scrawny girl could not see, as I could from my vantage point, that the cart had nearly passed. In a moment, the company would disperse, and she would be caught loosening the strings of someone’s purse.

We all play with fire in this city, but, on an impulse, I decided that this little one would not be burned today. I sprang from the crack in the wall and grabbed her wrist just as she was about to make another dive. Her head jolted up, eyes wide with panic.

‘I wasn’t doing nothin’, miss, really.’

We needed to get away as quickly as possible. I held her wrist tighter and pulled her behind me.

‘Don’t struggle,’ I turned and hissed in her face as she began to whine. ‘And don’t cry at me. I’ve probably just saved your life, stupid child. Come on.’

We marched firmly along until the crowd were far behind us. Some were only now beginning to feel for their purses and realising that, even as they cheered the great thief, a lesser one had relieved them of their goods.

I kept hold of her wrist but slowed the walk.

‘How much have you lifted today?’

‘I’m not a thief, miss. Honest.’

‘Of course not. You accidentally fall into people’s pockets.’ I glared at her. ‘That’s what you’d tell the magistrate, obviously.’

Large globes of tears began to drop from her eyes. She would get no sympathy from me until I had heard the truth – although I could probably guess it.

‘I mean, I’m not normally a thief. I don’t take from people’s pockets. It’s just that …’

She sniffed back some of the snot that was now running along with the tears and wiped a grubby sleeve across her face.

‘Well?’

‘I’ve not had much luck with the gentlemen recently. I haven’t eaten for days.’

One of us – except without the decent clothes, the good food and the bed. If she didn’t have the pox she was certainly riddled with lice. I could see them in the lank strands of brown hair. She stank of stale drink. No wonder she wasn’t making any money.

‘Where have you been working?’

‘I was on the Strand for a while, but some new girls moved in and took my regulars, so I moved out west. Covent Garden was too busy.’

You can hardly move for the whores around there, it’s true.

‘I just got hungry. And I saw the crowd and they were all watching the cart and I just, well I just had a go at it.’

‘You’ve lifted purses before, though, surely? If a gentleman has had too much ale?’

She looked at her feet and then peeped up at me from under her lashes. The street girls all do it. Gives the rest of us a bad name.

I frowned, and then tucked her arm firmly under mine, releasing my hold on her wrist.

‘I’ll take you to a decent tavern and fill you up with food. Then you can use your stolen money for some new clothes and a pretty ribbon. Perhaps you’ll have more luck with a better gown … and a wash. What’s your name?’

‘Sallie, miss.’

‘How do you do, Sallie.’ I turned, made a deep curtsey and winked at her. ‘Delighted to make your acquaintance. I’m Lizzie Hardwicke, of Mrs Farley’s establishment on Berwick Street.’

She tugged her arm from mine and looked me up and down, recognising me for what I was.

‘Miss Lizzie Hardwicke, I am forever in your debt.’

‘You are. You’d better learn to keep your hands out of other people’s pockets, or you’ll be following John Swann to Tyburn.’

Her face darkened with fear again.

‘Cheer up, Sallie, there are taverns and bawdy houses opening further west every day. There’s more than enough work to go around.’ All the smart bawds, like Mrs Farley, were moving out of Covent Garden.

She had fallen too far for me to find her a respectable trade – any more than I could find one for myself – but I could help her out as best I could. There, but for the grace of God, walked I, after all.

We turned off Wardour Street into Compton Street, stepped around the young lad grinding knives in his usual spot, and into the White Horse tavern, where there was always a warm welcome for Ma’s girls – even in the early afternoon. Anne Bardwell, mistress of the tavern, was standing, hands on wide hips, watching over her domain with flinty eyes. Harry Bardwell, round-faced and equally portly, but jollier than his wife, was carrying a tray of beer to a group of customers. He saw us and hurried to set down the tray before bustling over to greet us.

‘Lizzie! My favourite lady in the whole of London!’

Every woman was his favourite, especially if she was sitting in his tavern and attracting men through the doors. But he was decent and fair, and had not once, in the time I had known him, tried to shove his hand up my skirts. He wouldn’t dare with a wife like his. I laughed back at him.

‘Mr Harry Bardwell, allow me to present to you my newest friend, Miss Sallie … Sallie, do you have a name?’

‘If I do, then I’ve forgotten it. I’m always just Sallie.’

He lifted her hand to his lips as if it belonged to the queen herself. As he did, I saw him take in her sparrow-thin arms and hollow cheeks.

‘Well then, Just Sallie, as a friend of Miss Hardwicke you are most welcome here. I assume you would like a bite to eat?’

Sallie barely had time to nod before Harry swept her away to a corner table.

‘I found her picking pockets in Oxford Street.’ I stood next to Anne as we watched her husband bring out two pies and a jug.

‘You’re soft-hearted,’ Anne folded her arms. The look on her face suggested that she had smelled something bad. ‘Whoring is one thing; thieving is quite another.’

You can’t argue with logic like Anne’s.

‘Thieves never stop, once they’ve got a taste for it,’ she said, not to be interrupted. ‘Take that John Swann, for instance. He started out as a diver, but he got too big for his boots, didn’t he? Wanted more money, more jewels, and soon enough he was robbing the coaches.’

Anne was not charmed by looks and reputation.

‘The only thing she’s got a taste for is food,’ I nodded over to Sallie, who was wolfing down the first pie. ‘She was picking pockets because her usual trade had dried up.’ I sighed. ‘She wasn’t much good at it, as far as I could see. If she’d done any more she would have been caught. I’ve told her that there’s more work around here every day.’

She didn’t look impressed.

‘I don’t want a thief in here. It’s enough that Swann’s men are roaming around, grabbing what they can.’

‘Really? John Swann’s men are here?’ I scanned the room, wondering who they were. Most were regulars. A couple of respectable types were having a quiet drink and there was a young woman I didn’t know cuddled up to an old gentleman in the far corner.

‘Not in here.’ She looked at me as though I were an idiot. ‘Out on the streets. House-breaking. Everyone knows he has associates. It’s only a matter of time before they kill again.’

His associates were cut-throats and hard-faced whores, most of whom operated in the dark, not in broad daylight. If they had, indeed, been drawn to Soho, they wouldn’t be wandering at this hour.

‘I don’t think Sallie is one of his associates, Anne.’

‘I’m just saying,’ she hissed. ‘We can’t afford a bad reputation. This is a smart part of town. People won’t come if it’s full of criminals – like Covent Garden.’

I thought it best to indulge her.

‘Don’t fret Anne,’ I put a hand on her meaty shoulder. ‘Even when it’s full of Ma’s girls, even when we’re dancing on the tables with barely a stitch on, even when everybody here is screaming drunk, this is still a respectable house.’

She looked at me sharply. ‘It’ll be quiet tonight, then. Aren’t you all supposed to be polishing yourselves up for a party?’

God’s teeth! I’d forgotten about it. Ma would be furious if I didn’t get home soon.

‘Thank you for reminding me,’ I said, rolling my eyes and pulling some coins from my pocket.

I went and sat next to Sallie, who was now finishing off the beer. She gave a large belch, giggled, and wiped the heel of her hand across her mouth. I laid the coins on the table by her pot.

‘This should cover whatever you eat and drink here, Sallie. You’ll do as I suggested, though? Put what you’ve taken to good use and have a bath?’

She looked at the coins and then up at me. Her face, I saw, was covered with a film of dust. She had been out on the streets for a long time.

‘I had a sister like you – always telling what to do and how to do it.’ She slid the coins off the table and into her lap. ‘Not as pretty as you, though. Nor as fancy.’

I had brothers once.

‘You can earn well if you look as fancy as I do.’ I shrugged, pointing to the purses on the seat next to her. ‘You can buy some clothes, or you can blow the money on gin and die in the gutter. It’s your choice, sister.’

There was nothing more I could do for her. She was on her own.

Mr Bardwell landed another pot of beer in front of Sallie.

‘How was your young man last night, then?’ He nudged my shoulder and laughed.

‘Old and incapable,’ I said, getting to my feet, rolling my eyes, but laughing with him. ‘I think I nearly killed him.’

‘Better luck at the party tonight, then.’ He chortled in his amiable way as he carried his tray to another table.

‘No luck for me,’ I called after him. ‘He’s coming back for more. The least I can do is finish him off and put him out of his misery.’ I was still laughing as I fell out of the door; one of very few occasions when I had left that tavern both sober and alone.

I am really pleased to bring you this extract from the book – my review was published a few days ago so I hope that this extract and my review will pique your interest enough to find out about Lizzie. 

 

Georgina Clarke has a degree in theology and a PhD in history but has only recently started to combine her love of the past with a desire to write stories. Her Lizzie Hardwicke series is set in the mid-eighteenth century, an underrated and often neglected period, but one that is rich in possibility for a crime novelist.

She enjoys running along the banks of the River Severn and is sometimes to be found competing in half marathons. In quieter moments, she also enjoys dressmaking.

She lives in Worcester with her husband and son, and two extremely lively kittens.

If you are interested in the book then check out the links below

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Books

Death and the Harlot – Georgina Clarke

Lizzie Hardwicke is a woman who didn’t need to follow the path she finds herself on.

Actions from the past mean she is estranged from her father and this has led her to the streets of Soho. It is 1759, it is not safe for anyone really to walking the streets of London, let alone work on or near them. Crime is rife, highwaymen are gathering reputation and force and the police are but a mere dream for the future.

Lizzie though seems to find herself in the fortunate position of becoming one of Mrs ‘Ma’ Farley’s girls. Living and working in what some might see as a respectable milliners but others know as a house where gentlemen can find entertainment and solace with certain types of women.

Lizzie is one such woman. She is luckier than most. That is until her last client ends up dead.

And Lizzie it appears was the last person to see him alive so she must be the murderer.

Enter William Davenport working for the magistrate and he thinks the same, but there is something about Lizzie Hardwicke which sets her above the rest of the potential suspects – the lack of evidence being the main factor.

Lizzie works out the only way to clear her name and save her from the noose is to do some investigating herself. Plunged further into the world of crime, blackmail, fraud and more murder Lizzie finds herself in some very dark places.

With plenty of twists and inevitable red herrings which make up a good crime novel this is an intriguing and interesting read. I had no inclination of the culprit and when it came it was much as a surprise to me as it was to Lizzie.

Interesting relationships are formed between the characters and we get to see perhaps a small glimpse of what life was like for prostitutes in the 18th century both those who could afford that little bit of extra protection and those that couldn’t. Add to that the gentlemen who visited them and the magistrates and runners who tried to keep the peace and you have an interesting way of weaving stories, characters and history together.

To engage a more modern audience the book is very much written on the language of now and the authors note at the end explains the reasons behind this but there is enough archaic language in there to get a sense of the time and place.

I felt I was transported back in time to a good old-fashioned murder mystery with all the historical elements to keep me reading and there is definitely an interesting relationship developing between Lizzie and William which I hope we get to see more of in the future.

For fans of murder mysteries or historical fiction or a combination of the both – this debut novel has to be just the beginning for this author.

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

Death and the Harlot will be published on 13th May. 

 

Books · Jottings

April Roundup

April is always a holiday time for me and this year I got a bonus few extra days, which were needed after a particular horrific two weeks preceding my leave. I was at the point when I was not even reading I was so stressed, but luckily I had only a little reading slump and with a rest, I soon found enjoyment again in picking up a book.

Caroline Roberts – Rachel’s Pudding Pantry is a first in a new series of books from this author. I have never read any of her work before but I shall go back and do so. This was a joyous and uplifting book I could not help but be caught right up in the story and the characters.

Another author I know I can rely on is Heidi Swain and her new novel, published at the end of May Poppy’s Recipe for Life takes us back to Nightingale Square and the community garden I would so love to be a part of. I am still one book short of having read all of Heidi’s current oeuvre.

Another author whose books I champion on this blog is Lucinda Riley and as I have received books from her publishers I don’t jump to read them immediately because I know I am going to be so engrossed and what to savour the time. This was no different with The Angel Tree which had been sat on my shelf for a while. Of the joy of holding a book, I so miss it when I am reading on my kindle. This is reissue of a previous novel (I had not read) and was a great book to get lost in, which I did.

I had a real sort out of books and tidied my shelves and having made one concerted effort to read an actual book I decided to attack some more so picked up Gervase Phinn – The School at the Top of the Dale. You cannot go wrong with some gentle Yorkshire humour, Yorkshire weather and the joys of children. This is the first in a new series, I hope there is more.

Less gentle fiction was with Anna Hope – Expectation her latest novel and such a difference to her previous two novel. Wake her debut novel stays with me to this day. This very modern book made me stop and think and wonder about what we all expect from life. Can we always deal with what it throws us?

Bella Osborne – A Walk in Wildflower Park her latest 4 part novella published as whole was again something I was not expecting. It was a story that could have gone many ways and it did but certainly not what I was expecting and was a real move away from perhaps the more gentle women’s fiction that I had come to expect from this author.

Making a dent in the number of books on my actual shelves made we also go through what I have languishing on my kindle. Which is why I decided to start Erica James – The Dandelion Years, an author I have not encountered before and I really don’t know why. This was a lovely story which took me back to Bletchley Park during the Second World War and to a house full of sadness and joy in the present day and the story of books, diaries and lost loves. I will be seeking out some other Erica James if they are all as good as this one.

Sticking with the past is how I ended up with Hazel Gaynor – The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter which told me a fictionalised story of Grace Darling but also a lot more besides. A poignant novel where the actions of one can have reactions for so many more that they live with for a very long time.

Still in Victorian times is how I ended up with Vivian Conroy – Death Comes to Dartmoor a cosy murder mystery novel, the second in the series. Not having read the first one I felt a bit out of touch with the characters but there was something about the book which just didn’t enamour me but I don’t know what it was and I did finish it – I think to see if I could work out who the culprit was more than an interest in anything else.

I am certainly going to start reading more of what I have on my shelf as I have made a real dent in my netgalley list. I have rejected a couple of books this month as well, one because it was not capturing me and then another because it was too upsetting. It was well written and the subject matter was clearly well researched but for me I found it such hard work as it felt I was almost within the pages experiencing it for myself I knew I didn’t have the emotional energy to get to the end of the book. A strange feeling.

As time goes on, I am trying to be more honest about giving up on books which are just not working for me.

So on with May……

Books

A Perfect Cornish Summer – Phillipa Ashley

 

Any novel that is based in Cornwall is always going to be a good one and when you combine it with good storytelling such as the work of Phillipa Ashley then you are in for a wonderful read.

A Perfect Cornish Summer, fits this description. What started as a small idea ten years previously has grown into something more – the annual food festival in Porthmellow.  Sam the festival organiser had the original idea ten years ago and it was only meant to be a small event but it has grown and grown and it looks like this years is going to be bigger than ever.

When the famous headline chef for the festival has to withdraw due to some misappropriation of money  – it looks like the tenth festival will not be as stand out as Sam had first wanted. That is until Chloe an incomer to Porthmellow wanting to get more involved in the local community manages to gain TV Chef Gabe Maithas to attend.

What Chloe doesn’t realise that Gabe is well-known in Porthmellow

He left a long time ago and many people remember what he did before he went.

Sam certainly remembers as it had an impact on her and her family at the time and still now.

Will Gabe’s presence stir up old memories or will he be able to get people on side again?

Chloe, might have caused an upset, but she has made her mark on a few people in the village and her past is about to arrive and bring a whole load of baggage with it. Troy into his eighties, still helping the harbour master and his wife Evie provide some sage advice to everyone as well as humour in the book. Outspoken Bryony and her dog seem to pop up at the most interesting moments. Drew spends his time on the sea, but his quiet persona doesn’t detract from the turmoil he is going through. Zennor, Sam’s younger but probably wiser sister has some romantic interests if only they were reciprocated.

As for Sam, how can she possibly have enough time for anything when she is organising a food festival.

There is a lot going on in this novel and it takes you a few chapters to get straight who everyone is and how they all relate.  I find this with any start of a series of novels, the groundwork has to be done to keep us reading the book but also to then go and pick up subsequent novels featuring characters we have grown to love and probably dislike in equal measure.

Besides being full of characters and storylines it is also full of the descriptions of wonderful food including the mouth-watering sounding pies which Sam creates in between festival business. Of course there is the setting of Cornwall, always guaranteed to bring you brilliant weather and high winds to threaten marquees and people in equal measure.

An enjoyable read which has everything you want from women’s fiction – to take you away on holiday, for romance, for laughs and for some wonderful food.

Phillipa Ashley has done it again and she is fast becoming an author you can rely on for great reads.

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

A Perfect Cornish Summer is published on 25th April. 

 

Books

Rachel’s Pudding Pantry – Caroline Roberts

Three generations of women are living at Primrose Farm, they have lost their husband, father, grandfather and whilst still reeling from the event they are struggling to hold on to everything that is dear to them. Including the farm.

Rachel has taken on the mantle of farmer and not afraid to get her hands dirty or spend sleepless nights with lambing ewes, nothing is a bother even looking after her own small child, Maisie.

Jill, Rachel’s mum is famed for her baking and her pudding, although Rachel is just as good. as she emerges from a stage of grief, Jill takes to making puddings for more than just her family.

A small idea is transformed in a bigger one and when Jill and Rachel take on something on a larger scale it has to work to keep the farm going.

With any of these gentle tales, nothing quite goes to plan and that is what makes it such a lovely story to read, you are drawn right into the story, into the farm, the kitchen and the smells of the baking as you care immediately about all the characters and what happens to them.

Add in a big dollop of romance and all the fresh air of the countryside positively goes to your head. Tom the neighbouring farmer, attractive and still single, who is willing to help with whatever countryside or pudding emergency might be required. Can romance blossom over sticky toffee pudding and sheep? Or will exes, children and misunderstandings get in the way?

I found this book such a joyous and uplifting read and showed you that you can diversify when you need to and keep those around you as close as you can – they will love you the most. A great read and if you like your stories, full of cake and countryside then this is a must. Think Countryfile and Mary Berry mixed together!

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

Rachel’s Pudding Pantry is published on the 18th April. 

 

Books

Spring Skies over Bluebell Castle – Sarah Bennett

Spring Skies over Bluebell Castle

She wasn’t looking for love…

When Lucie Kennington flees the bright lights of London for the quiet Derbyshire countryside, she’s shocked to discover that the heir to the Bluebell Castle estate is far from the wizened employer she expected.

In fact, Arthur Ludworth might just be the most handsome man Lucie’s ever laid eyes on – and a terrible distraction! So when she stumbles across a legendary painting feared lost for centuries, she can’t believe her luck – perhaps this is the hidden treasure to save Arthur and his family from ruin?

But it’s only a matter of time before Lucie’s past catches up with her and by then it’s too late, she’s falling for him…

Perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley, Rachael Lucas and Hilary Boyd.

MY REVIEW

Lucie is on the run. On the run from something she did not actually do, but in the world of antiques, auction houses and reputation she needs to disappear for a while. Holed up in a castle seems a good as place as any.

But there is work to be done at this castle – answering the job advertisement for a curator to record all the artefacts held within Bluebell Castle. Lucie has visions of Arthur Ludworth the current Baronet as some old relic who is going to be as difficult as he is helpful.

What Lucie does not realise is she is about to walk into something out of an Arthurian Legend.

Arthur Ludworth, eldest of triplets by minutes is left the legacy of Bluebell Castle and all the bad investments and therefore debts that his father left behind. He knows that he needs to capture the idea of perhaps opening up his home to cash in on the Castle’s history as well as its artefacts, but there is also talk of a missing painting which might explain the obsession that all Ludworths have had with Arthur, Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table.

Lucie finds herself enthralled by the story of the legend, the artefacts in the castle, the diaries and Arthur Ludworth certainly not an old relic but one who is distractingly handsome.

Will the missing painting remain a legend?

Will Lucie’s past catch up with her?

Will Bluebell Castle survive the debts, the intrigued and the new love burgeoning within its walls?

Not up for me to tell you – go and read this wonderful new novel in the first of a new series from Sarah Bennett.

It has everything that I could possibly want from a really good story; romance, mystery, history, a castle and even a Butler! If all or any of these things, fascinate you then read the book, it will bring joy to you in abundance.

It is like the Antiques Roadshow meets Downton Abbey and I am totally in love with it! Sarah Bennett has done it again and I think this is going to be her best series to date.

 

Thank you to the author, netgalley and Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to read this book and be part of the Blog Tour. 

Great news to – we are going to return to Bluebell Castle later in the year!

In the meantime you can buy Spring Skies Over Bluebell Castle on

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

Apple

Kobo

Who is Sarah Bennett?

Sarah Bennett has been reading for as long as she can remember. Raised in a family of bookworms, her love affair with books of all genres has culminated in the ultimate Happy Ever After – getting to write her own stories to share with others.

Born and raised in a military family, she is happily married to her own Officer (who is sometimes even A Gentleman). Home is wherever he lays his hat, and life has taught them both that the best family is the one you create from friends as well as relatives.

When not reading or writing, Sarah is a devotee of afternoon naps and sailing the high seas, but only on vessels large enough to accommodate a casino and a choice of restaurants.

Sarah is the author of the Butterfly Cove, Lavender Bay and the forthcoming Bluebell Castle trilogies, published by HQ Digital UK.

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