Books

Christmas at Hope Cottage – Lily Graham

Things could be going better for Emma Holloway, she is dumped by her boyfriend and then gets knocked over by a parcel delivery van. To add insult to injury, the delivery van was actually delivering a parcel for her.

Contained within the parcel was ‘The Book’ sent to Emma to help her make some decisions. The only decision now is getting well again and it is going to a long process as Emma finds herself back at Hope Cottage with her eccentric grandmother and two equally as eccentric aunts nearby.

Now ‘The Book’ is back at Hope Cottage we start to see the magic that it may have and that perhaps the way to health, happiness and the future is to bake it. Trouble is magic can be seen as witchcraft and it seems these women are known locally and feuds and disputes go back years, hundreds of years.

So it will not help Emma, when her first love arrives back on the scene and happens to be from a family who hold onto family folklore and certainly don’t believe in magic.

But perhaps when faith is tested, people will look to any means to aid them. Can hope be restored from the pages of the book, the walls of the cottage and Emma and her grandmother?

This is a wonderful tale of love and hope, of believing in something you perhaps cannot explain but know is right. Emma’s story starts quite abruptly and her injuries from the accident that find her back at Hope Cottage were frightening and life altering, but it made her think a lot more about her life up until that point. The author uses this in the form of flashbacks so we can see how Emma found herself to be away from her family home, how her mother made the same decisions that she had and how the presence of something unexplainable can actually cause deep resentment in a community.

The book has everything you want from a Christmas novel and more, strong female characters recognising the fact that it is okay to be different, a sprinkling of snow and romance and delicious baking to wake up the tastebuds.

Perfect reading in the run up to Christmas and you cannot go wrong with Lily Graham’s novels as I have read and enjoyed everyone. A wonderful storyteller.

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

Christmas at Hope Cottage is out today!

 

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Books

The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane – Ellen Berry

I am back visiting Rosemary Lane and it has been just over a year since I have been here. I was there when Della set up her bookshop specialising in one type of books – cookery ones. I wanted to go back and see how she was getting on and so I do with this new novel from Ellen Berry.

Back on Rosemary Lane, we do see something of Della, her bookshop is expanding, her happiness clearly there for everyone to see but she still worries about her sister, Roxanne.

Roxanne becomes the main protagonist for this story as she escaped Rosemary Lane as soon as she could for the bright lights of London. From nothing she has worked her way into the fashion industry and is a Fashion Editor on a glossy magazine, the sort you flick through in a waiting room but would not necessarily buy!

She has everything she wanted but it seems that something is perhaps missing – when fate means her job is suddenly changed to something else and her rather reluctant boyfriend refuses to commit to anything.  Roxanne leaves London and returns to her sister in Rosemary Lane. But what is she going to do?

Roxanne discovers that there is very little to do. Della does not really need her help in the shop and it seems the only thing left her to do is to walk the dog. Trouble is her fashion knowledge and walking a dog on a wet Yorkshire dale are at odds with each other.

Whilst Roxanne learns that comfortable practical clothes are the way forward, no one is judging her and they take her at face value with no ulterior motive. Here she meets Michael who is just starting to find his feet in the new bakery on Rosemary Lane and when his daughter becomes friendly with Roxanne it seems that perhaps the bright lights of London have finally dulled. Of course it will not be that easy.

I enjoyed the interesting world of fashion and fashion photography. I certainly don’t want to be part of that world and the author I would guess has had some experience within it, to get it across the way she did. The bakery is perhaps not a strong feature in the book and others have commented on this, but this was a very character driven novel but it has its place in setting the scene of the village and the lane of shops.

The story of Rosemary Lane has not finished, there has got to me much more to come?  I am sure the pub that is featured in this book has a tale to tell and of course the bakery surely needs to expand? I can but dream and that is the sort of book this is. A lovely read.

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

The Bakery on Rosemary Lane is out now

The first book in the series was reviewed by me here

Books

Where the Wild Cherries Grow – Laura Madeleine

England 1919

The Great War has not even been over for a year. The ripples from the war, the loss is still being felt. For Emeline Vane she only has two things to cling on to, her younger brother Tim and their home in Norfolk.

Events overtake her emotionally and physically and the rash decision of running and stowing away on a train take her to the South of France, almost like the end of the world.

She is taken in like a wounded bird, to a cafe in Cerbere there she mends, grows and develops. She is taught to cook, to use the food as medicine, as reward, as celebration, as love. Everything grows around her in Cerbere and she no longer feels like she is running away……until…….

England 1969

Bill Perch does nothing but type things in triplicate in the solicitor’s office in London where he works. When a client arrives Bill becomes involved in his first proper case that takes him away from the typewriter. Can he proved that his clients aunt is dead and therefore her father, Tim is the sole owner of his childhood home and it can now be sold.

Bill escapes the claustrophobic atmosphere of solicitor office, pub, fish and chip shop and home, his cyclical life and finds something about this aunt which means she might not be dead. Bill’s escape leads to him running away on a journey of discovery just as the person he is seeking did some fifty years earlier.

This dual narrative novel is wonderful. It alternated between chapters, and was enough in each to keep you wanting to read more,wanting to discover the truth about everything that had happened.

I was transported away to France, to the border with Spain, hence the thought of it almost being the end of the world. I went through the seasons and tasted the fruit of the land, the fish from the sea as it seems that Emeline was brought to life by her senses, taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing.

The contrast to Bill’s journey is so different, whilst there had to be similar paths crossed and taken to even to begin to understand Emeline’s story for Bill it was more about breaking boundaries, to not conform and to follow through on your beliefs.

This is a wonderful story to become absorbed in and takes you on a such a journey that I felt like I had been on holiday and had even tasted the food that was described in such vivid detail.

Was the ending the right one? Yes it was for me. The book has stayed with me, it had lots of questions still to be asked if not answered and I felt that the characters were let go to live their lives. Would I want to go back and see how there were? Of course I would, who doesn’t want to keep a story going. But actually I think it is best that they are left to be.

One of my favourite reads for 2017.

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

Where the Wild Cherries Grow is out now.

 

Books

The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts – Jennifer Joyce

Maddie Lamington is running a teashop having poured all her energy and money into setting it up, to take the focus of some life changing events that has happened to her. She enjoys the early starts and no doubt with a name like Lamington she is going to be good at baking!

Along with help Mags and budding pop star Victoria they are just about keeping their heads above the water. The teashop may well be in a little parade of shops but it is off the main high street and event heir neighbours are walking to the big branded coffee shops to get their daily fix.

Maddie needs to do something and fast. When she sees her lonely dad still pining after her mum, since their divorce suddenly get chatting to regular customer, Birdie over apple crumble. Maddie has an idea.

Speed dating but with cake.

Along with help from Mags, the regular customers that Maddie has managed to attract to the teashop as well as Birdie’s good-looking grandson, Caleb, her man obsessed friend Nicky and her Dad she tries out her theory. It works.

That is when the hard work starts, she needs to now make these regular feature and fast. Everyone pulls together and whilst they are working on introducing people to the possibility of romance, it seems that some is already starting and it doesn’t need any help from some cake either.

With all good romances there is always plenty of misunderstandings and some of the made me laugh out loud, especially when Maddie gets her words all the wrong way round and she is certainly not going to live that down. All of the characters have a story to tell and it forms part of the bigger story and they are all dealt with in equal measure and the book ends with for me all the ends nicely tied up and finished.

I read quite a few books so far this year which have had teashops as part of their storyline and this is one of the better ones. A great read for an afternoon with a large mug of tea and of course a large piece of cake!

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

The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts is out now.

Books

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found – Trisha Ashley

Alice always knew that her parents were not her real parents, her step father said she was discovered in Haworth outside the Bronte Parsonage. The story of her discovering was added to over the years until one day her stepfather dies.

It is only then that Alice discovers that her stepmother has always loathed her and never even wanted her. Suddenly adrift and alone again Alice tries to find a place to settle and maker her home and find some identity within her self.

In Cornwall she finds friendship with Edie who takes her under a wing and provides perhaps the motherly figure she has always been missing in her life. When Edie moves to Scotland, it isn’t long before Alice thinks that she will follow, her life in Cornwall not turning out to be very much.

In Scotland she starts to settle, meets Dan and helps in a local cafe where she can perfect her baking. But then tragedy strikes and Alice is adrift yet again. Now is the time to find out where she really belongs and so she heads to Haworth.

Making an impetuous purchase on an unseen cafe in Haworth Alice takes the bit between her teeth and decides to open a teashop with the rudest waitresses in Yorkshire. She does of course have many hurdles to overcome and has many doubters along the way but Alice’s determination to do something and make a mark is strong.

Hoping that she may well also discover the truth about her birth, as well as pursue a part-time career in writing fairy stories with a twist, Alice discovers that not all fairy tales are straightforward and they don not all have a happy ending.

As with any Trisha Ashley novel, this is well written, the characters fully formed and developed and there is always more than one plot line weaving its way through the book. In fact with this book you could almost say you were getting three stories for the price of one! I loved so much about this book because I cared so much for the main protagonists, I want to eat in the teashop and stay at the lovely Bed and Breakfast where Alice is made to feel at home. The short vignettes of one of the stories are no more than a paragraph and in that short space of time, I took a complete dislike to a character – that is the charm of Trisha Ashley’s novels and especially this one. There is so much packed into the pages.

One of my favourite reads of 2017 and of Trisha Ashley novels. Go buy and read it, you will not be disappointed and like me you will not want it to end.

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found is put now in hardback.

Thank you to the publisher for the opportunity to read this book and of course to the wonderful Trisha Ashley for writing it. 

Books

The Plumberry School of Comfort Food – Cathy Bramley

This book was originally published as four short novellas, but I chose to wait to devour the book in one go, because I knew I would get frustrated in reading up to a certain point and not being able to carry on.

That is one of the reasons I am wary of this current way of marketing and selling books. I am so glad I waited in this case, especially as I know what I was going to get from the author which was a cracking good read.

Apart from cooking the best fish finger sandwich there is, Verity is no longer interested in cooking anything anymore since the loss of her best friend, Mimi. Verity is still in touch with Mimi’s husband, Gabe, and godson Noah. As well as Mimi’s mother, Gloria who helped the young girls in their cooking all those years ago when they pretended to be tv chefs on-screen.

When Verity loses her job and her man in quick succession,the two things intrinsically linked she seeks comfort. That comfort comes in the form of Gloria who using her knowledge of cooking and her past experience along with the bubbly and blunt Liverpudlian friend Mags is creating a cookery school in Plumberry.

She needs some help running it and Verity has nothing to do……..

Verity has to face her fear of having lived on ‘ping’ meals for the last few years and embrace the importance of cooking and how much of a comfort it can be. However the new Michelin star chef, Tom has other ideas about food and what the school should provide and it is very far from comforting. Before the doors have even opened it looks like there is going to be conflict.

Verity is a long way from home and from her friends as well as Gabe and Noah but she starts to fit in at Plumberry and make new friends. Even Tom has relented in some ways to the ideas that Verity has to make this a cookery school to stand out from others.

Tragedy strikes right in the middle of the first weeks after the grand opening. It seems that the only person who can keep everything going is Verity, but can she possibly continue when she has all these conflicting feelings and secrets which it turns out are perhaps not as secret as she first thought.

This was a story with many depths and layers and kept me entranced as I really was with these characters and I so wanted to take part in a course at the school or at least work there as Verity liked organising and I could so relate to that! I had my suspicions about what kept all so close and my heart really broke in two when you could see the results of decisions made in the past.

But for Verity it is the decisions in the present that she has to face if she is going to make her own comfort in Plumberry.

Drawn straight into the plot, the scenery and the characters readers are taken on a rollercoaster through the 400 plus pages of story. Fantastic escapism and a strong book which stands out from the crowd.

My test on how good these books are – do I want there to be a sequel, do I want to go back and find out more? The answer is definitely yes!

 

 

Books

Under Italian Skies – Nicky Pellegrino

Stella thought her life was sorted. She enjoyed her work, her busy life and was content. Everything was going well, until her work stopped, she was no longer busy and it seems not content.

Having worked for the last 25 years for a fashion designer, who dies suddenly, Stella is left to pack up and close the place where she has worked. For this fashion designer will no longer continue now she has passed.

Stella is left all alone and feels rather lost. Everything she knew and was certain about has gone. What can she do now and is she at an age where she could start again?

Trawling the internet, she comes across a house swap website, the Italian villa that is pictured, is a world away from what Stella is used to, but she can suddenly see herself there. But would the owner of the villa want to swap for a flat in London, with only a view if you really seek to find it from her small balcony?

It seems that Stella is about to find out and finds herself in the Villa Rosa whilst it’s owner, Leo finds himself in London. A friendship via email develops between them as they both see their homes and the cities and villages through someone else’s eyes and it opens them to how much world there is out there and that actually a lot of it can be found on your very doorstep.

As Stella settles into life in Triento, she meets some other women who are at different stages in their lives but all at some sort of cross roads. Francesca, is determined to escape the watchful critical eye of her mother in law. Tosca is hiding from a life that she once had that was not all it was made out to be and cannot see success in the future. Raffaella needs some colour in her life and that colour cannot just come from the food she cooks.

Stella finds herself totally immersed in Triento and adores the Villa Rosa, her emails back to Leo in her flat in London make her realise that perhaps her life can now be very different.

As always with a Nicky Pellegrino book you are transported away to a part of Italy, that seems to be undiscovered and whilst you can feel the warmth of the sun on your back as you are taken on a journey. You can also seemingly taste the food which is prepared and most of all importantly shared with everyone to enjoy.

An ideal holiday read without having to leave the comfort of your home, your imagination on the other hand will need a passport and some sunscreen!

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

Under Italian Skies is out on 7th April 2016