Books

The Long Way Home – Fanny Blake

Isla discovers that when her mother dies all she has been left is a painting whilst her sisters and aunt inherit the estate. Isla always felt her relationship with her mother was strained but this seems to underline that thought. For Isla that is not enough, she wants to know more about her mother, May.

The only way it seems to do this, is to go back and visit her past friends and relatives and find out what she can about the women she called mother. When her relationship with her own daughter is somewhat strained, Isla is forced to take her troubled teenage granddaughter, Charlie on the trip as well. The journey is as much a turning point for Isla as it is for the relationship she has with her granddaughter and trying to understand life through these young eyes.

Interspersed in this story we are taken back to Paris, Mid 1950s where May has gone to work as an au pair and improve her French, so when she returns she can find a job as interpreter. We discover a woman very different to the mother portrayed by Isla. Soon we find out what perhaps happened to cause May’s behaviours as Isla got older.

A lovely dual timeline story which has at it’s heart family and the bonds that break and bring us together. We are not dealing with young flighty women but women of all generations, of all ages who all have their issues, their demons and their desire for the future. A strong female driven character story that whilst was perhaps somewhat predictable was enjoyable nonetheless.

This was my first Fanny Blake and I look forward to reading some others in the future.

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

The Long Way Home is out now

Books

The Perfect Guests – Emma Rous

I said last year when I read this author’s debut novel that she was one to watch out for and I think that is the case.

This book has a lightness to it but still is a rather intriguing mystery. What seems like two independent stories, simply featuring the same setting, clearly have to link, but how and who are all these characters?

Raven Hall – Past

Beth turns up at this big house, out the way in the Fens on the east of the country. Her aunt who really does not want the responsibility of an orphaned niece, has brought her here to live with Markus, Leonora and daughter Nina. Nina is of the same age as Beth, and it is hoped that the girls will form a companionship, as Nina is rarely let out of the house. There is something odd about this family set up, when Nina falls ill it is left to Beth to fill a purpose, but the question is why?

Raven Hall – Present Day

The big mysterious house is the perfect setting for a murder mystery weekend. Sadie an actress waiting for her big break gets the opportunity to take part in the test event to presumably publicise these weekends. Needing the money and the purpose she jumps at the chance, to play Miss Lamb. She turns up and thinks this going to be easy money. One of the clues to the game is quite near the truth and it looks like that perhaps this might not be a game after all.

How does it all come together? Who are all these people and how can a simple game reveal all the past as it all comes tumbling out as people go missing, start feeling ill and turning up unexpectedly.

A book with twists and turns, I thought I could see the path the author was intending us to go on, but on some occasions I was wrong. For thriller fans, they may want something a bit more darker and gruesome, but a lot was said about the setting and the characters without it being said at all. The art of suggestion enabled the red herrings and the twists and turns to work for me.

For the infamous ‘second novel’ this was very good and I stand by my original thoughts – this is an author to watch.

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

The Perfect Guests is out now.

Books

Loch Down Abbey – Beth Cowan-Erskine

This is the first novel from Beth Cowan-Erskine and was clearly born out of lockdown last year. What has resulted is a rather Wodehouse type novel of the cosy murder mystery vibe.

Scotland, the 1930s, Loch Down Abbey is suffering from a lack of servants as some mysterious illness sweeps through the country. There is a lack of certain items and many are having to adapt to a strange new time.

There are not enough toilet rolls, the Nanny has died and no one can control the children and their seems to be a problem with money.

Lord Inverkillen is found dead. It appears to be an accident to the lacklustre Inspector but to the force that is Mrs McBain, the housekeeper of the Abbey there is much more to it than meets the eye.

It has to be someone from the Abbey and because most of the servants have been struck down with this mysterious illness, it seems it therefore has to be one of the family.

But which one and what secrets are they all hiding?

The ‘upstairs’ characters were in abundance and I had to keep referring back to the character list at the beginning to work out who was who, who was married to whom and whose children were running wild across the house and the estate. After a while this became a little cumbersome, especially on a kindle and I don’t think I got to the end of the book really knowing everyone as I would have liked to have done.

That aside, there are twist and turns, red herrings and everything you would expect from a cosy mystery. The humour was subtle, the references to a pandemic quite obvious but the story would work quite happily without it. Clearly much inspiration is drawn on from Downton Abbey and with the author being American, I can see the fascination that our English or in this case Scottish history, big families and big houses can have. This may well have over influenced the whole of the book but for me, definitely the ending which I didn’t see coming and felt a little bit absurd.

A book for escapism and fun, nothing more taxing than that.

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

Loch Down Abbey is out now

Books

Yours Cheerfully – A.J.Pearce

Following on from the wonderful Dear Mrs Bird, we are back with Emmeline Lake as she tries to break into some more serious journalism from her role on the women’s magazine – Women’s Friend.

Taking a more front line role in responding to the letters to the readers and inspired by the Ministry of Information’s call to get more women to take on men’s work, Emmy finds herself drawn to the Munitions’ factories.

With her close friend and housemate, Bunty they both meet a young woman, balancing life as a war widow, two young children and doing her built not just for King and country but simply for her own families survival.

Emmy finds herself drawn into these factory workers lives and the fact that they are juggling so much, she sees what these women really have to face and suddenly finds herself fighting their corner.

Alongside Emmy’s crusade for these women, helped by her friend, she is thrilled to be seeing more of her beau Charles and when an opportunity for him to more than do his bit, it seems their romance is about to speed up down the aisle.

We are yet again drawn into Emmy’s world and life on the home front during the second world war, as romances blossom and beaus are mourned. As women survive however they can without sacrificing everything they believe in, Emmy has to decide what is most important and a critical point in her life.

Although this book is set very much in the past, it resonated with me and there was something of the present battles that women are still facing to this very day. A book full of strength of female bonds, friendship and a common goal that drives them all.

I hope we get to go back between the pages of Women’s Friend as there is much more that Emmy can report on.

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

Yours Cheerfully is out now.

Books

Sunrise by the Sea – Jenny Colgan

We all need some sunshine in our lives and that is so for the main character in this novel, Marisa Rosso. Suffering with the loss of her grandfather, grief has consumed her and she cannot understand why others are not feeling the same as much as they cannot understand why she has reacted as she has.

Marisa moves as far as way as possible to, Mount Polbearne a tidal island at the foot of Cornwall. She hopes to be able to continue working remotely and find some solace in this far away place.

What she doesn’t bank on is a giant Russian piano teacher next door, and a struggling bakery that could do with a slice of Marisa’s Italian heritage cooking to help it to survive. When disaster strikes in the village, Marisa is forced to confront many demons and uses this strength to help others in a time of need.

Of course not everything runs smoothly but the uplifting spirit found in Jenny Colgan’s books means that you keep reading to the end.

This is the fourth novel set in Mount Polbearne and I came to it, not having read any of the others (soon to be rectified) but it can easily be read as a standalone but I do want to know more about this little place and Polly as well as Neil the Puffin, who is adorable!

A perfect summery read filled with lovely moments of laughter, love and luscious amount of food.

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

Sunrise by the Sea is out now.

Books

A Secret Scottish Escape – Julie Shackman

Layla’s life is changed when her fiancé dies of a heart attack….in another woman’s arms.

She wants to up sticks and leave Loch Harris, the place she has made her home and away from her friends and her only family – her father.

But Layla’s circumstances means she is suddenly left an unexpected inheritance and she perhaps can see what Loch Harris needs is to reinvent itself and in turn that will reinvent her.

Some people have other idea though; a mother who puts the seed of doubt of Layla’s actual parentage and a mysterious singer only known as the Mask who has taken up residence locally.

The premise of this book was good and it started to deliver in the first half, but then it slipped into something much more contrived and I started to feel less and less empathy for the characters and their actions. It all seemed a bit too unbelievable and their actions were not something I have recognised before in similar types of novels.

If you wanted a diversionary type of read then this book would fit the bill, but I did not go away from it as uplifted as I thought I might have done. It really pains me to write about a book that didn’t just fit with me, I always feel I am being hard on the book when clearly many others will enjoy it and get much more from it. It shows you that all books and reading for that matter is subjective and that one size certainly does not fit all!

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

A Secret Scottish Escape is out now.

Books

The Island Home – Libby Page

Teenagers Ella and Molly have found each other through social media and have started a burgeoning friendship and why shouldn’t they – they are cousins.

They have never met.

Ella’s mother Lorna, left the island where Molly is at the age of eighteen and has never returned.

Molly’s father Jack is Lorna’s brother and has not seen his older sister since she left all those years ago.

Now Lorna is returning, back to the Island of Kip that she once called home and she is going back to her parent’s funeral. Two people she hasn’t spoken to or seen since she left.

So many questions need answering for Lorna and her brother Jack, and for us as readers. Ella and Molly’s friendship naturally goes from online to real life with ease and as Lorna watches she can see what Ella may have been missing all of her life. In fact maybe Lorna has been missing it to?

Told from the perspective of Lorna and Jack’s wife, Alice which I thought an interesting choice, as we only learn about him through the eyes of someone who has not known him all his life. We learn how Alice came to be on the island and the life she has created for herself and her small family. Whilst she may only have Jack and Molly, she has the whole island as a family too.

As the days unfold on Lorna’s visit, as we keep tenderly turning the pages there is a sense of something not quite right and it takes a long time for you to find out what the ‘not quite right’ was. Gently told and slowly unfolding is typical of Libby Page’s writing and is what draws me back to her stories. Sometimes you do not need the thrilling, racy page turning that you get in some books. Slow and paced can have just an affect and it did for me, as tears ran down my face between one interaction Lorna has with her old school teacher.

Of course the book is focussed very much on Lorna and her daughter’s story, but the island community feel is strong and we learn of people from Lorna’s past who have become close friends with Alice. It was if Lorna returned and saw the life she could have had, that Alice was having with all the people Lorna left behind.

A real thoughtful book which concentrates on the simplicity of family and friendship, with some difficult moments that leaving you thinking, even if it seems that all works out alright on the surface. I think for Lorna, Alice, Jack, the children and the island of Kip, you know that life will have some more tough moments to follow. Through the whole story, the author has made us aware of that, a skill which is not always used well with some authors. The story of these people will continue long after you have finished reading.

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

The Island Home is published 24 June

Books

Sunlight over Crystal Sands – Holly Martin

Holly Martin is taking us back to Jewel Island again and I think this might be my favourite story so far….

Lyra has dreamed of living on Jewel Island since she was small and visited it’s beaches. Years later she has her ideal job and is living in a gorgeous little cottage. Embracing the more carefree aspect of life that she rarely does, Lyra sets out to explore on her bicycle.

However a slight mishap has her landing at the feet of Nix, who gets rather more than he bargained for upon their first meeting. But there is something familiar between these two and the attraction becomes too much for them both…….

…after waking, Lyra discovers that Nix has disappeared and that perhaps the most special night of her life has just been all a con. She knows she should not have abandoned her heart to someone and vows to never make the mistake again with anyone, especially Nix.

It seems though that circumstances are going to bring them much closer together and that there may be more adventures ahead for Lyra and Nix.

As ever Holly Martin brings us a sparkling novel which is full of romance and adventure. Regular visitors to Jewel Island will be pleased to know that previous characters make an appearance and of course the hotel plays a part as it does with all the previous novels.

We are swept along with the possibility of the future for Lyra and when she learns more about herself you see her at a cross roads on this adventure map and you are just hoping that she takes the right path and finds what she has been pining after but not willing herself to give herself over to. Sometimes you don’t need a map to find the treasure when it has been with you all of your life.

If you need to escape then these novels are a must full of life, love and lust and just the tonic you need to bring some shiny sparkly loveliness into your life.

Thank you to the author who kindly provided me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I have received nothing in return and the only thing I give is the recommendation to read this book. 

Books

The River Between Us – Liz Fenwick

This is the latest from Liz Fenwick and is a must for fans of historical fiction, big houses and the complexity of family.

Theo recently divorced finds herself starting again in The Boatman’s Cottage which is on the river bank bordering both Devon and Cornwall. The cottage is run down and has many secrets to tell and whilst Theo wants to restore it to show of it’s best, the gardens hold just as much of an attraction as the cottage itself.

The cottage formerly part of an estate which is now an hotel, Theo finds herself welcomed by the locals and when she discovers a box of letters in the cottage, she finds herself drawn back to the past and with the help of these new friends, discovers the mysteries.

Lady Alice, is about to be presented at court, it is the Edwardian period, war is on the horizon and the obvious route for Alice is marriage. However she has much to say on the path her life is supposed to take, and does so at the most inopportune moment. Destined never to be married, she is shipped off to a house in Devon, right by the Tamar river. The river just does not divide two counties, it divides two worlds. Two worlds that destiny has decided will meet when class clearly says it cannot.

For those who adore dual timelines, this is the book for you and I enjoyed the contemporary side of the novel as much as the past. Themes are reflected through both time periods and it shows how there are still prejudices, that there are still class divides now as much as their was in the past. They might be hidden amongst other behaviours but they are there all the same.

But what makes this book stand out for some others? The evocative nature of the sweeping landscape, the flowers and trees that are both appreciated in the past and the present. How something so male dominated as fishing is shown to be achievable whatever your gender. I was swept away with this novel as if I was paddling in the waters of the Tamar and adoring the flowers that were bringing new life around me.

Full of emotion, full of life and full of everything you need to make a first class book – The River Between Us is one of the best books of the year I have read.

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

The River Between Us is out now.

Books

Saving the Day – Katie Fforde

I am a big fan of Katie Fforde novels and when the opportunity came to read this short novella I of course jumped at the chance.

Allie is bored with her job in a supermarket and the people she works with, she is bored with her boyfriend Ryan. Every day she walks past a place she wants to work – a little café. One day she gets the chance.

But she needs to learn about cooking and learn that there is more to life than Ryan.

Grabbing every opportunity, Allie can see a different world in front of her.

A lovely book to escape to and enjoy anther world and also show you that all opportunities are out there and perhaps you just need a push in the right direction.

Perhaps that push is reading and Saving the Day is one of the 2021 Quick Reads series to encourage those who perhaps don’t read normally or struggle the starting blocks to discovering more adventures in the pages of books. Once you discover Katie Fforde you can indulge in all of her previous works and they will bring you sheer joy – guaranteed.

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

Saving the Day is out now.

About Quick Reads – excerpts taken from the website. Please click here to learn more.

Quick Reads provide a route into reading that prioritises great story telling and adult-focused content while ensuring the books are written in an accessible and easy to read style.

.…1 in 6 adults in the UK struggle with reading and 1 in 3 adults do not regularly read for pleasure.

…In addition, studies have shown that those who do read for pleasure have higher levels of self-esteem and a greater ability to cope with difficult situations.

It has been a while since I have mentioned the Quick Reads programme on my blog – but feel free to click on the links below to some of the previous years

Quick Reads

Quick Reads 2015

Quick Reads 2016