Books

The Glorious Guinness Girls – Emily Hourican

As the title suggests, this book is about the Glorious Guinness Girls and whilst this is a fictional story featuring real life people, it is very much a story which shows you the life that the privileged were leading both in Ireland and England in the nineteen twenties and thirties.

Fliss is the narrator of this story, a fictional character used as a vehicle to tell the story of Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh Guinness, the three daughters of Ernest Guinness of the famous brewing family. Fliss is sent to live with the three sisters in Ireland in the early nineteen twenties. Whilst she is educated along with the girls, she is stuck in this void of being not quite one of the family and not quite a servant. It takes a long time for Fliss to find her right purpose in life because for all it seems she will be indebted to this family forever.

Cosseted away from real life in Ireland during the civil unrest of the twenties it seems faintly ridiculous that three women simply cared about parties, practical jokes and frocks when all around them life was changing. They are briefly touched by this when Fliss brother, Hughie comes to visit and brings with him talk of a new life. It is only Fliss that can see the change, the three sisters are kept in their precious bubble.

As the family decamp to London, society again is very much at the forefront of this story. Think darling debutantes, balls, high jinxes and excesses of champagne, laughter and life this is the society that Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh are immersed in and with Fliss very much on the side-lines we see a very different perspective.

Whilst for me Maureen was the more dominant of sisters of the story, her actions towards others were not pleasant and with the additional thread of the story shows Fliss returning to the house in Ireland to make sure a secret is kept – a secret that involves Maureen. 

This is a book which only touches on the surface of the history of the Guinness girls, I implore you to do more of your own reading about them, I certainly did after I had finished. If you want to look at the book as a piece of historical fiction about the life of those “Bright Young Things” and a small part of Irish history then this book will fascinate you. 

 

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

The Glorious Guinness Girls is out now.  

Books

A Taste of Home – Heidi Swain

Heidi Swain takes me and you back to Wynbridge where we have been many times before. You might be in the lucky position to have never visited before and therefore I envy the joy you will have getting to know Skylark Farm, Cherry Tree Café or experience the off Christmas or two there! I urge you to catch up if you have never done before.

It is summer and the smell of the strawberries tastes sweet on the air and Fliss Brown having discovered she has a family in Wynbridge makes the journey from an Italian Fruit Farm where she has spent most of her life.

She discovers a grandfather who is not well, a farm starting to become run down, and desire to put down roots somewhere that means something. With the knowledge of what she has learnt whilst in Italy she soon settles into life in Wynbridge and starts to make friends and gets a feel of how this community works.

As some ideas bubble for Fliss to be able to bring the fruit farm back to making a profit, the most obvious one is not going to be without its setbacks as it seems some people are not destined to be Fliss’s friend after all.

A lovely warm novel that takes you through the delights of a summer in the strawberry fields and with the possibility that romance is found where you may perhaps least expect it and that even when you harvest it is still possible to put roots down.

This novel works well as a standalone and if you have prior knowledge to the books previous then of course you will find some familiar faces and places. This is the beauty of Heidi’s novels they are full of such community that it you are taken away and try to find where your place would be in it.

A book full of sunshine and therefore prescribed for everyone.

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

A Taste of Home is published on 29th April.

Books

The Girl From the Island – Lorna Cook

Lucy was desperate to escape Guernsey as soon as she could, she felt trapped, that life wasn’t going anywhere and she would be better off living her life anywhere but there.

But when an aged relative, Dido dies she is called back to the island of her youth, and to Dido’s home as plans are made to put it up for sale. As she starts to put the house in order she discovers, some old papers and photographs. One of these is of someone called Persey, who was she and why do the sisters know nothing about her. Now with Dido dead, it seems there is no one to ask and Lucy decides to piece all the pieces together herself. It is a story that will be heart breaking and heart warming and perhaps makes Lucy look at life in a very different way.

The dual narrative of this book takes us back on occasions to the 1930s, still on Guernsey and then to the 1940s during the occupation by the Germans. Here two sisters have spent their childhood days of the 1930s playing around the island with no care in the world with the housekeeper’s son, Jack and the German boy Stefan who visits relatives during the summer months.

When their mother dies the same day as the occupation life changes forever for these two sisters and it seems as if those carefree days are now going to cause them pain and anguish.

This is a fascinating book which gives a real insight into life under German occupation on the island and shows the conflicts and battles that the islanders had to face as well as the occupying German forces as well. The book certainly pushed your expectations to make you think of both sides during the war and for that I commend it.

The stories interweave distinctly backwards and forwards and with an added piece of romance just made the story more intriguing as it added another element to the puzzle that Lucy was trying to solve about the house and its occupants.

This latest from Lorna Cook, like her previous novels takes an element of history that is perhaps overlooked or not given as much page space and weaves the fact with the fiction to create a story to draw you in and care. Care about the characters, the places, the storyline and the conclusion so it becomes a joyous occasion to have read the book. This is very much the case with The Girl From the Island.

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

The Girl From the Island is out now.

Books

Summer Kisses at Mermaids Point – Sarah Bennett

When you want some warmth to your soul and heart then I would always  recommend picking up a Sarah Bennett novel. And in her latest you are whisked away to Mermaid’s Point where you can get some warmth to your skin as well!

Laurie Morgan runs a small café, next door to a gift shop that her parents run, her brother Nick can be found on the tour boats in this delightful costal village and her aunt can also be found popping into help in the café. A real family feel to this book and I am sure in subsequent books we will get to know more about them all.

Suddenly Mermaids Point is the focus of a lot of media attention, when it seems that a video of a mermaid goes viral on the internet, and there is suddenly a lot of interest in this mythical creature. Of course when the village has a mermaid in its name it seems that perhaps those folk tales of the past might be true?

Jake Smith moves to the village, temporarily on the pretence of writing a book, but really to discover more about this mermaid sighting. After some rather hard hitting journalism, his editor thinks this could be a way of stepping back for a  bit. to get close to the truth, he needs to not be a tourist but more of a local and he finds himself drawn to Laurie, like a mermaid calling out a seductive call to lure sailors.

However as Jake gets close to the truth about the mermaid sightings and then even even closer to Laurie it seems that he is going to have to make some decisions about which truths are going to be the ones he reveals.

A wonderful escapist novel, which sweeps you away to the seaside, that takes you for a paddle in the waters, to the mouth watering cakes of Laurie’s café as the well as the warmth of the community environment and the strength of family. This book has so many layers of warmth that you will never feel cold reading it!

Fabulous read.

 

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

Summer Kisses at Mermaid Point is published today! 

Books

The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse – Katie Ginger

Amelia has not been back home for over ten years and has established her life in Paris. But when she discovers that she has inherited Meadow Farmhouse from her Great Aunt Vera, she just needs to pop back, sort it out and make sure it is sold. Meadow Farmhouse was not really her home was it?

However, Amelia was not prepared for the emotions that would hit her when she returned to the village of Meadowbank and her past.

The farmhouse is a dilapidated state and it seems that Vera had let it go and having had little contact with her since her departure and not healing the refits that might have developed, Amelia starts to think that maybe restoring the farmhouse will help her heal.

Is Amelia really healing from the restoration of the farmhouse.

She still has to confront her old love, Adam who is still very much part of the village.

She still has to deal with the death of her parents, that led her to living with Vera and being an irritation and an inconvenience.

It seems though Vera had a few secrets of her own, that Amelia knew nothing about. And when she discovers an old wedding dress and a locket with a picture of a man she does not recognise. It seems that there is a mystery to solve and perhaps this might lead her to solve all the mysterious questions that have come to mind since she has been home.

The main one – is Meadow Farmhouse really home?

This is a wonderful book which is full of questions about where home really is and who are friends really are? Sometimes we need to step away from something and get a new perspective and I think Amelia does this in this book, thanks to the other wonderful characters that she comes across, both young and old. So much is learnt from what is not said, that there must be more tales to tell from Meadowbank.

For fans of village tales and renovating houses and hearts in equal measure.

 

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

The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse is out now. 

 

 

Books

Ice Creams at Emerald Cove – Holly Martin

This is our third visit to Jewel Island and this time we are spending some time fulfilling all of our ice cream dreams in Cones at the Cove. This is the concept of Skye one of the three sisters we were introduced to back in book one. She has a creative talent for ice cream flavours and toppings and loves to share it with everyone she loves.

The trouble is her love is complicated. Jesse, the man she loves and was briefly married to lives in Canada and has a daughter from a previous marriage. Their friendship comes with benefits whenever they meet up but can Skye give her heart to someone when they cannot fully commit to her?

What is holding them both back?

Skye throws herself into reinvigorating a former Pudding Parade and it is an easy solution to invite Jesse over to help with baking of the famous rhubarb pie which is paraded through the island. The recipe calls for a secret ingredient and amongst all the heartache and souls searching Skye finds herself drawn to the last time that the parade took place and the recipe book of the former owner of Cones at the Cove.

It seems there is a mystery to be solved and that somehow it also involves a regular hotel guest, Sylvia who features in previous stories. Will all of those loose ends and links come to the perfect solution for the pudding parade, Cones at the Cove and Skye?

This is another sizzling tale from Holly Martin, one that will melt you heart as well as your ice cream when you get to those hot moments between some of the main characters. The descriptive language to bring this Cornish cove to life is wonderful and you are transported to blue skies, diamond clear waters and sparkling characters.

The perfect recipe to escape every day life without all the calories. If you want a book (or series of books) to transport you away then look not further than Holly Martin’s dazzling tales of the residents of Jewel Island.

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. 

Ice Creams at Emerald Cove is out now. 

Books

The Summer Island Festival – Rachel Burton

Willow walked away from the island where she grew up and spent her formative years, she felt it was holding her back and with so much disruption in he life it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

Now twelve years later Willow is back….because she walked away from her wedding before she had even got down the aisle.

Back at the same time is Luc, who when he left the island twelve years ago has since found fame on an American talent show and is now playing to packed out audiences. But he is back for the festival – not the big famous one – but the one ran my Willow’s mum, Cathy.

As Willow and Luc’s paths cross again after all this time, the past is raked up and gone over and that might not necessarily be a good thing. When a discovery leads to more questions that answers it seems the people who might have them is Willow and Luc’s parents.

As the book takes us back through the decades to a time before Willow and Luc, before the festival, we see how Cathy found herself in the music scene and how her actions changed the course of her life and so it seems those that followed.

Alternating between the present and the past, not just the past of Willow and Luc but also Cathy and her peers we get a book which is just not about escaping. We get a book about secrets and trust and how sometimes it is all best left in the past. But when the past is poked like a sleeping dragon, the fire it then breathes sometimes becomes the only thing to make us stand up to our present and work out what the future really holds for us.

This book is a great way to take a break, to experience the music and the festival vibe without leaving the house or even getting muddy wellies! Its use of multiple narratives to weave a story works so well and it felt like I was listening to an album where each song tells a story but it is all somehow linked together.

A strong piece of women’s fiction and well worth a read.

 

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

The Summer Island Festival is out now.  

 

Books

February Roundup

12 months ago we were just starting to worry about this ‘thing’ out there in the world but now we are 12 months on and who knew! The constant has been reading over that time and it has continued in February with a real eclectic mix of books to lose myself in. I hope you have had the same feeling.

I must be one of the only people left on the plant who has yet to watch Bridgerton – I wanted to read the book first: Julia Quinn – Bridgerton: The Duke and I and what a delightful fluffy, fizzy escapist read it was with in my opinion little reference to the regency setting it is based in. No matter. I am now primed ready to watch and then I know I can pick up the second book when I just simply want to escape and not worry much about the writing, the plot and the glaringly modern references in an historical romance book.

Sticking with the historical theme, led me to Nancy Revell – The Shipyard Girls on the Home Front, the next in the series and it is so wonderful to be able to just walk through the front doors of these girls houses and join in with everything happening to them. Even if some of it isn’t that nice and there is a war going on, but it is now 1944 and the ending seems in sight.

I went even further back with Helen Fripp – The Champagne Widow which is definitely going to be one of those books that will be mentioned a lot. I knew nothing of the champagne houses in France other than their names and that I am not particularly fond of the drink. But this was a magical book, which taught me so much about such a fabulous women in the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. A debut novel which fizzed with promise and delivered.

I always want to learn something when I am reading books that are based in a particular period of history or are based on real people and events and whilst the event that this book is based on was real, the setting and the time period have been changed. Emma Stonex – The Lamplighters take us to a lighthouse on the edge of Cornwall, to a mystery that will keep you awake at night and wonder during the day – where did they go and what really happened? This book is getting lots of press at the moment and is certainly one I would recommend if you want to be enthralled by a mystery.

Whilst holidays might seem a long time ago and there is some doubt as to the reality of getting one in in 2021 it is always great to escape abroad without the long haul flight. Of course with Robert Thorogood – Murder in the Caribbean you don’t really want a murder when on holiday but at least you can escape to the blue skies and warm waters of the fictional St Marie. Just solve the murder quickly so you can enjoy the rest of your break.

If you want to stay a bit nearer to home then of course Rachel Burton – The Summer Island Festival is the place to go. Relive your past music tastes and enjoy the Isle of Wight when it isn’t hosting the thousands for the main event held there. A smaller event is a bit more familiar of is it becoming too familiar and is it all going to fall apart.

Running away can be the only way to solve things sometimes and in Jane Lovering – Home on Folly Farm it was the perfect answer for Dora that is until her sister arrives bringing the past with her. Peace is shattered and so it seems is the future. This author was new to me and this was an enjoyable departure from real life with some great characters that get under your skin immediately! I will look out for more.

So that was February, some new, some old and some sheer joy. I hope March keeps the momentum up.

 

Books

The Lamplighters – Emma Stonex

A mystery we will never know the answer to.

Three lighthouse keepers vanish from their lighthouse in Cornwall.

…the door is locked from the inside…..

…the table is set for dinner….for two…..

…the clocks have stopped at the same time…

…the log books says there was a dreadful storm…the weather has been clear and calm all week…

It is 1972 some twenty plus years before automation in lighthouses. The story of the missing men captured the news. It changed the lives of a number of people as well as the nearest village to the lighthouse. But only those three men know the story, Arthur; Principal Keeper, Bill; Assistant Keeper and Vince; Supernumerary Keeper. Each with their own story, their own experience of lighthouse work, solitude and the life they live away from the one thing that keeps drawing them back – the lighthouse.

1992, three women who should have remained close are very much estranged. Helen, Jenny and Michelle.  When a novelist decides to step away from his normal oeuvre and write about the mystery then the women are forced to confront some home truths and secrets that should have been said twenty years previous.

Is the truth the real story here? Or is there another one.

This books is very much in the vain on a locked room mystery that many readers can relate to. What makes this book stand out from the rest of them is the use of a real life mystery (1900 Flannan Isles, Outer Hebrides). The location and time has been moved, but the premise is the same. What happened and can you create a novel based on not knowing the answer?

Yes you can and you can build so much suspense into it, through the slow turn of events which mirror the slow way of life on the lighthouse. The isolation not just on the lighthouse but ashore as well. The isolation of the those left behind, the women holding everything together at home.

Told from everyone’s point of view, across both timelines gave you such a view of everything and everyone that you can see all the evidence to make your own conclusion. I loved the way each chapter was set differently, the way we read the women’s dialogue to the author as a stream of consciousness without the interruption of the possible questions. To what felt like encroaching on the lighthouse keepers that seemed to be talking to themselves when working as we learnt their stories.

Well constructed and atmospheric that the power of the sea, the weather almost overtakes the power of the storytelling.

Will keep you reading long past lights out.

 

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

The Lamplighters is published on 4th March.  

Books

A Wedding in the Country – Katie Fforde

I am a fan of Katie’s books and have read a number of them and whilst some naysayers might say that you always get the same story (I disagree) you do have a certainty with them. This book too me out of that certainty and rather than being set in the present day I was whisked back to 1963. I wasn’t sure it would work – but it did, in abundance!

Lizzie has arrived in London to complete a course at a cookery school, not for a career in a kitchen, but for a career as a wife. There is not just cooking, by flower arranging, sewing skills and general skills on how to look after your husband to make sure he has the best in life.

Lizzie has arrived in London in the Swinging Sixties which comes as rather a shock to her and her parents as it seems that this influence on this naïve middle class girl is going to change her life forever.

When Lizzie teams up with Alexandra and Meg who live in a run down house in Belgravia with David, who has a rather avuncular role in their lives, she starts to see that life could be a lot better if she does not go along with her mother’s plans.

Enter Hugo, titled, a career in the law and rather handsome, he would be the ideal man to bring home for mother to approve of. Just one problem, Hugo also has his life planned out for him by his father.

Will Lizzie and Hugo follow their hearts, or will they conform?

I was transported back to the London of the Sixties, but what I was also transported back to were the emotions and roles of women then. As a woman in her mid forties, this makes for uncomfortable reading, to think that my life would have been mapped out as such – marriage, cooking good dinners, flower arranging and dressmaking. Thank goodness for women like Lizzie who stepped out of this role and made it possible for me to not follow that path – though there is nothing wrong with my cooking but my dressmaking could probably do with some work!

That said it was a great world that Katie Fforde has created and I wanted to sit at the kitchen table in Belgravia as much as I wanted to escape to the little cottage in the country or be waited on at the big house! This was all part of the warmth of the story as much as the characters exploits.

An excellent book and should be read by all young girls, in fact read by all women because in such a short time the world has changed beyond the one portrayed in this novel. A great look at the past as much as it is a reflection of women’s roles in the world.

 

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

A Wedding in the Country is published on 18 February 2021.