Who put the spark in Frankenstein’s monster?

FrankensteinCan you believe that it was 200 years ago, in 1818, that Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus was published?

The author Mary Shelley was just 21 years old, and even more remarkable is how prescient her book is today.

If you haven’t read it, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Read the Guardian article – its very interesting.

 

10 Delicious March Releases

Wartime Brides and Wedding Cakes – Amy Miller

Paperback – 7th Mar 2018

MillerJanuary, 1941: As Charlie Barton tiptoes silently out of the house one cold winter morning to go off and fight for his country, his wife Audrey is left to run the family bakery on her own. Times are tougher than ever, but at the Barton Bakery in Bournemouth, Audrey is determined as always to serve the town with love, loaves and cakes, even as the town is reeling from the struggles of the Blitz. 

Audrey’s brother William has returned from battle with serious wounds. His fiancé Elsie is waiting for wedding bells, but William is a changed man, and will her hopes be in vain? Bakery helper Maggie has her heart set on dashing officer George. But will George still want to marry her when he discovers the truth about her family? And Lily, Audrey’s stepsister, is struggling to raise her illegitimate baby and facing judgement from many in the town. The man who broke her heart returns with an offer, and Lily faces a hard decision about where her future lies.

When disaster strikes the bakery, Audrey fears that everything she has worked for may be ruined. With her shop threatened and her family in turmoil, can she fight to save everything she holds dear? 


The House of Hopes and Dreams  – Trisha Ashley

Kindle Edition – 8th March 2018

AshleyWhen Carey Revell unexpectedly becomes the heir to Mossby, his family’s ancestral home, it’s rather a mixed blessing. The house is large but rundown and comes with a pair of resentful relatives who can’t be asked to leave. 
Still, newly dumped by his girlfriend and also from his job as a TV interior designer, Carey needs somewhere to lick his wounds. And Mossby would be perfect for a renovation show. He already knows someone who could restore the stained glass windows in the older part of the house…
Angel Arrowsmith has spent the last ten years happily working and living with her artist mentor and partner. But suddenly bereaved, she finds herself heartbroken, without a home or a livelihood. Life will never be the same again – until old friend Carey Revell comes to the rescue.
They move in to Mossby with high hopes. But the house has a secret at its heart: an old legend concerning one of the famous windows. Will all their dreams for happiness be shattered? Or can Carey and Angel find a way to make this house a home?


What Fresh Hell – Lucy Vine

Paperback – 8th March 2018

VineWhat do you get if you cross a dozen drunk hens with one shiny Butler in the Buff?

Meet Lilah Fox. She’s on the hen do from hell. Then she gets a message (44 of them, actually) from her best friend with big news: she’s getting married in six months. Oh, and Lilah’s her maid of honour.

Which means she just got signed up for:

  • A military schedule of wedding fairs and weekly planning meetings
  • Excel spreadsheets and endless hen emails
  • All the enforced, expensive fun you can imagine…

What fresh hell is this?


Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe – Debbie Johnson

Paperback – 8th March 2018

JohnsonMy name is Willow Longville. I live in a village called Budbury on the stunning Dorset coast with my mum Lynnie, who sometimes forgets who I am. I’m a waitress at the Comfort Food Café, which is really so much more than a café … it’s my home.

For Willow, the ramshackle café overlooking the beach, together with its warm-hearted community, offers friendship as a daily special and always has a hearty welcome on the menu. But when a handsome stranger blows in on a warm spring breeze, Willow soon realises that her quiet country life will be changed forever.


One Cornish Summer – Liz Fenwick

Paperback – 8th March 2018

FenwickAgainst the beauty of Cornwall, a story of two women struggling with their past: one cannot remember hers, the other cannot forget…

When Hebe receives a life-changing diagnosis at only 53, she struggles to make sense of what it will mean for her, her job and the man she loves. With memories slipping away by the day, she flees to the one place she has always felt safe and peaceful – Cornwall, and the house her family spent so many summers in.

Lucy is having her own crisis, and seizes the chance to follow her aunt to Cornwall. Curious about what has driven Hebe there after so many years, she also has to battle with the secret she has kept since her family’s last summer there more than ten years ago.

Both women will learn that memories live in our hearts and that sharing secrets can set you free… But can they find their way back to the things that are truly important to them?


The Summer of Secrets – Tilly Tennant

Kindle Edition – 14th March 2018

JamesCan new love grow when you dig up old secrets?
Harper Woods wakes up every morning on Silver Hill Farm feeling like the luckiest woman in the world. She’s engaged to the tall, dark dreamy Shay and just downstairs are the gorgeous tea rooms she’s always dreamed of owning. 
But Harper is about to discover something that will change her luck forever. For better or worse? She has no idea. Not until an expert can identify whether the stunning collection of jewellery she found hidden in the farm’s foundations is priceless, or more trouble than it’s worth… 
As news of the discovery spreads through the Silver Hill, it seems everyone has a secret history making them the rightful owner. In particular, Will Frampton, stubborn and irritatingly handsome Lord of Silver Hill House, the crumbling stately home the other side of the hill. Too busy trying to untangle the truth, Harper doesn’t notice Shay getting rather close to his ex from the village. 
Harper thought she had everything she ever wanted. If she solves the mystery of her sparkling prize, can she hold onto her dream, or will she lose it all, and be left broken-hearted?


The Cafe at Seashell Cove – Karen Clarke

Kindle Edition – 15th March 2018

ClarkeWelcome to the Café at Seashell Cove, where you’ll find irresistible home-baked cakes, smiling friendly faces – and maybe even a second chance at love…
When Cassie Maitland needs a holiday from her glamorous but stressful job in event management, she escapes home to gorgeous Seashell Cove, where her family’s cosy café sits perched on the cliffs above sparkling waves and golden sand.
But a lot has changed while Cassie’s been away: her parents have transformed their tired café into a welcoming haven, her friends Meg and Tilly have whole new lives, and old flame Danny’s twinkling eyes and winning smile make Cassie feel even more flustered than they used to.
Keen to throw herself back into local life, Cassie starts to run themed events – including a not entirely successful cat-café day, complete with dozens of felines. Luckily Danny is always around to lend a helping hand, and Cassie soon begins to wonder if her life in London was really all she made it out to be…
Could a new start in Seashell Cove be exactly what Cassie needs?


The Allotment Girls – Kate Thompson

Paperback – 22nd March 2018

ThompsonDuring the Second World War, life in the iconic Bryant & May match factory is grimy and tough. Annie, Rose, Pearl and Millie carry on making matches for the British Army, with bombs raining down around them.  Inspired by the Dig for Victory campaign, Annie persuades the owners to start Bryant & May allotment in the factory grounds. With plenty of sweat and toil, the girls eventually carve out a corner of the yard into a green plot full of life and colour.

In the darkest of times, the girls find their allotment a tranquil, happy escape. Using pierced dustbin lids to sieve through the shrapnel and debris, they bring about a powerful change, not just in the factory, but their own lives.  As the war rages on, the garden becomes a place of community, friendship – and deceit. As the garden thrives and grows, so do the girls’ secrets . . .


Hetty’s Farmhouse Bakery – Cathy Bramley

Paperback – 22nd  March 2018

BramleyThirty-two-year-old Hetty Greengrass is the star around which the rest of her family orbits. Marriage, motherhood and helping Dan run Sunnybank Farm have certainly kept her hands full for the last twelve years. When her daughter Poppy has to choose her inspiration for a school project and picks her aunt, not her mum, Hetty is left full of self-doubt. 
Hetty’s always been generous with her time and until now, her biggest talent – baking deliciously moreish short crust pastry pies – has been limited to charity work and the village fete. Taking part in a competition run by Cumbria’s Finest to find the very best produce from the region might be just the thing to make her daughter proud . . . and reclaim something for herself.
Except that life isn’t as simple as producing the perfect pie. Changing the status quo isn’t easy, and with cracks appearing in her marriage and shocking secrets coming to light, Hetty must decide where her priorities really lie . . .


Spring at the Café at the End of the Pier – Helen Rolfe

Kindle Edition – 22nd March 2018

RolfeA feel-good novella and the start of a brilliant new series…
Jo has settled into running her grandparents’ little café at the end of the pier in Salthaven. She’s given it a spring-clean and a spruce-up and she’s getting to know the locals and starting to enjoy life by the sea.

But when Harry, her ex-boyfriend, turns out to be her new accountant, feelings from the past start to flood back. He’s here to help sort out the café’s finances, which Jo’s grandparents left in a mess, but Harry seems to have a hidden agenda and Jo isn’t entirely sure spending time with him is a good idea.

Jo throws herself into her new plans for the café – turning it into a real café of love by arranging blind dates for some of the regulars. Her own love life might be non-existent, but it doesn’t mean she can’t bring a little bit of magic to the locals who have made her so welcome. This time she chooses single-dad Ben and doctor Jess. Will they find love at The Café at the End of the Pier? And will Jo manage to put aside her feelings for Harry in order to give the café the future she dreams of for it…?


 

 

Little Pink Taxi

Little Pink Taxi – Marie Laval

Take a ride with Love Taxis, the cab company with a Heart … 
Rosalie Heart is a well-known face in Irlwick – well, if you drive a bright pink taxi and your signature style is a pink anorak, you’re going to draw a bit of attention! But Rosalie’s company Love Taxis is more than just a gimmick – for many people in the remote Scottish village, it’s a lifeline. 
Which is something that Marc Petersen will never understand. Marc’s ruthless approach to business doesn’t extend to pink taxi companies running at a loss. When he arrives in Irlwick to see to a new acquisition – Raventhorn, a rundown castle – it’s apparent he poses a threat to Rosalie’s entire existence; not just her business, but her childhood home too. 
On the face of it Marc and Rosalie should loathe each other, but what they didn’t count on was somebody playing cupid …

Maybe its the historian in me, but Laval’s Little Pink Taxi turned out to be NOT what I was expecting! In fact, it was so much more, and the synopsis does not do it justice at all.

Starting with all the elements that make this book so good and kept me reading.

Firstly, genres. Little Pink Taxi is a crossover/genre mix in my opinion.  It is in essence one romance between 2 people, however it encompasses several other romances,  between people, with home, with landscape, and with heritage. It is a mystery, a thriller, a fantasy, and a historical romance novel. The menace of strange phone calls, a very unpleasant bully, and ‘road rage’ incidents add to the atmosphere and appeal. Who can be trusted? Who can’t? The characters have to deal with their pasts and the people in them; they have to learn and to accept that their perceptions may not be the full picture, that perhaps they’ve got it wrong. Not everything is black and white, and they must accept that they didn’t really know those people fully. The mythology that pervades this book, that surrounds and motivates the characters, is fascinating, and rooted in history. It informs the present, giving us historical characters and another love story. Of course, this historical aspect pulled me deeper into a story  that already had its hooks in me. Deep hooks.

Secondly, the growth and development of the characters. They suffer loss, betrayal, cruelty, and deception. They have to recognise elements within themselves that need to change, no matter how subtly, especially Marc, and to a lesser degree Rosalie. The staggering, stumbling  journey of their romance is excellently written. I found Marc a difficult character to like, so rude, distant, and unfeeling, however the author gradually peels away the layers and you find a man with feelings and issues that he represses.  He initially fights the change that he actually wants, eventually he becomes the man he hoped he would.

Rosalie appears to be very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get character; sweet, kind, loving, and caring. She still hurts over the loss of her mother. There are elements to her that are not so nice. She easily takes advantage of one relationship which is unkind of her. It’s easy to say she’s not aware she’s doing it, but I’m not convinced. This doesn’t make her a terrible person, it makes her real. She works hard to keep everything going for everyone’s sake, and I did wonder if and when she would finally face the facts about her business.

I can’t say more without revealing really interesting plots and sub-plots. The great mix of genres and various plot-lines suggest it is a mish-mash of a story, but Marie Laval handles it all with great aplomb, and I loved every page of it. I don’t often use the phrase ‘page-turner,’ but this book was for me. I loved the Danish/Viking connections. I wanted to know how and where everyone’s story would end. I had to know about the secrets and mysteries, the crimes and the threats. By the end I couldn’t read fast enough, to the last we are kept guessing even though we are sure this will be a happy ending.

Read this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s a scary, thrilling, romantic ride, and I loved it!

BIG THUMBS UP! 


Maybe Never

Maybe Never – Sadie Allen

Maybe NeverJudd Jackson had it all—star football player with a college scholarship, perfect family, tons of friends, and a beautiful girlfriend. He was the most popular guy in town … until a family secret burned it all to the ground. Now, he’s the object of scorn and ridicule, and the only thing he has left is his scholarship and counting down the days until he can leave town. 
One goal-oriented girl… 
Sunny Blackfox was alone in the world, but she had big plans and big dreams to keep her occupied. She didn’t have time for anyone in her life. That was, until she came to the rescue of the boy she always had a thing for. 
They have everything going against them, but maybe, if they are lucky, they will make it out-of-town after graduation together … or maybe never.

A great read, with great characters. Sadie Allen’s writing pulled me in with the drama at the start of the book, and kept me reading with great characters, both nice and nasty. I love how Sunny stood up for Judd, and it just goes on up from that point, experiencing everything from both Sunny and Judd’s points of view.

While I like both the main characters very much, I especially like Sunny. She’s strong, smart, and brave. Her life is tough and she wants to leave the heartache behind and make something of her life. Judd was a ‘golden boy’, and when that is taken away he is lost, insecure, and unable to deal with the injustice of it all. Sunny is his saviour; she brings out his true character.

 

Their romance is adorable, and it was a lovely and natural evolution from study partners, to allies, to friends, to a couple. Although these are teenagers with rampaging hormones, the sex is kept in the background, rather than explicitly on the page. It makes such a change, and made the story so much more realistic to be honest.

Allen sets a good pace as the pair battle neglect, bullying, violence, and brutality, while fighting to remain strong and true to themselves and each other. The author also gets the balance between dark and light, drama and peace nigh on perfect, and while there is tragedy at the heart of this tale, for some reason Hamlet’s words jumped into my mind:

to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them

I believe that is the essence of what Sunny and Judd do. Intense, dark, heartwarming and sweet, I highly recommend Maybe Never.

 

The Cosy Teashop in the Castle

The Cosy Teashop in the Castle – Caroline Roberts

Cosy Teashop CastleWhen Ellie Hall lands her dream job of running the little teashop in the beautiful but crumbling Claverham Castle, it’s the perfect escape from her humdrum job in the city. Life is definitely on the rise as Ellie replaces spreadsheets for scones, and continues her Nanna’s brilliant baking legacy. 

When Lord Henry, the stick-in-the-mud owner, threatens to burst her baking bubble with his old-fashioned ways, Ellie wonders if she might have bitten off more than she can chew. But cupcake by cupcake she wins the locals over, including teashop stalwart, Doris, and Ellie’s showstopping bakes look set to go down in castle history! 

Now all that’s missing in Ellie’s life is a slice of romance – can Joe, the brooding estate manager, be the one to put the cherry on the top of Ellie’s dream?

This is the first of two in what maybe a series called The Cosy Teashop, and I enjoyed it – sort of. Let me get my irritations out of the way first:

  • Ellie gets the job with a lie
  • She has no clue about running the business or managing staff
  • Joe flip-flopping over Ellie; She’s sexy; no I’m her boss;  I’m attracted to her;  I must keep my distance
  • Ellie’s paranoia over Joe the day after they have sex
  • Her massive self-doubt when she doesn’t see him for any length of time : he has a job for goodness sake!
  • The sex  *rolls eyes*
  • Her great ambition to run the cafe suddenly dwindles into the background and the romance is everything
  • The fire

Normally I would have closed the book and walked away, but something kept me reading. What on earth was it? I have no clue, so answers on a postcard please…..

This is all I can come up with for continuing to read. Ellie is quite sweet, if flawed, as is Joe. The other characters are interesting, and her family is lovely. It would have been nice to have had more of them and her best friend in the story.  I was engaged enough with the story to read to the end and irritations aside, quite enjoyed the story.

The author was recommended to me by a fellow romance addict, and this is the only one of her titles I have read. No disrespect to Caroline Roberts,  but I wonder if this was a book she had to get out quickly? So I shall read at least one of her other titles and hopefully be able to post a more glowing review.

So. When all is said ad done, I still finished the book and was happy to do so.

Ten Books about Cheating

Contemporary works about romantic infidelity – Jamie Quatro

Cheating love a man weeps his wife with her loverThe assumption that male writers can have sexually transgressive imaginations while female novelists should be more demure is passé. If we’re going to secure gender equality, we must be allowed the same imaginative expression, on the page, as our male counterparts.

Romance novels abound with infidelity of one kind or another. This is an interesting list, though I suspect that, like me,  everyone out there would suggest Jamie Quatro might have missed a couple.

Read the article here.

Please post your book choices, it’ll be interesting to see what others suggest.

 

Sam and Ilsa’s Last Hurrah

Sam and Ilsa’s Last Hurrah – Rachel Cohn; David Levithan

Sam and IlsaSam and Ilsa Kehlmann have spent most of their high school years throwing dinner parties, and now they’ve prepared their final blowout, just before graduation. The rules for the twins are simple: they each get to invite three guests, and the other twin doesn’t know who’s coming until the guests show up at the door. With Sam and Ilsa, the sibling revelry is always tempered with a large dose of sibling rivalry, and tonight is no exception.

One night. One apartment. Eight people. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, we all know the answer is plenty. But plenty also goes right – in rather surprising ways. 

I have loved Cohn and Levithan’s books, and fully expected to give this a whopping 5 star review. Disappointment – I can’t. That’s not to say it was bad,  but it was less than I expected. Twins Sam and Ilsa are about to leave school and move on with the next phase of their lives, college, but neither are keen to move away from the comfortable lives they know to something  unknown and risky.

With a cast of past, present, and hopefully future friends and loves, the night revolves around the twins and their guests, of which Caspian is the best, in my opinion. There are grudges, there are secrets, there is talking and screaming, and the guests have ideas and advice to offer the twins on how to move forward. And as the night flows then so too does the booze – lots and lots of it. The clever sarcasm, banter, and  quips, along with the worldly views from guests who have had much less sheltered lives than Sam and Ilsa, make this book worth reading. The high drama could be wearing were it not for the humour which at times borders on the farcicial.

Its well-paced, quirky, and entertaining. Not a favourite, but very definitely worth reading.

Lipstick and Lies

Lipstick and Lies – Debbie Viggiano

Viggiano LipstickI’m not going to put a plot synopsis in as I don’t like spoilers. Suffice to say that Lipstick and Lies is a sequel to Stockings and Cellulite, and it’s just as mad and hilarious as its predecessor. In fact, I downloaded this one immediately I had finished the first, I enjoyed it so much.

Cassandra’s  a good mum, though her cooking is not so good, she is permanently exhausted, and life is noisy, chaotic, and utterly recognisable. Cass is convinced an ex-girlfriend is out to split up Cass and her husband. He thinks she’s misreading the situation because she’s tired and has issues with the woman anyway. He’s stressed because it all connected to his job. In the middle of this, the ex-husband goes missing. We end up on a veritable high-speed, joyride trying to prove Cass is right. As always aided and abetted by her equally daft but adorable friends.

I love its portrayal of life with babies, the screaming, puking, pooing, and general inability to sleep when you need them to or stay awake when you don’t. There are no yummy mummies in this book; kidnapping and murder are the order of the day, with side dishes of hormonal kids, insane sex lives, ‘silver’ romance, and general mayhem.  If you liked the first, you’ll like this too.

Again, it would have been great to have had more of the relationship between Cass and her husband. I feel that I knew more about Morag and Matt than them.

As before, this is a light, hilarious book, and so much fun to read. I definitely recommend giving it a go. I like being made to laugh out loud, (it happens so rarely when I’m reading), so I’m also going to have a read of some of Debbie’s other books.

Stockings and Cellulite

Stockings and Cellulite – Debbie Viggiano

Viggiano StockingsCassandra Cherry’s life takes a turn for the worse when she catches husband Stevie in bed with a 45-year-old divorcee called Cynthia. Suddenly single, Cass throws herself into the business of getting over Stevie with gusto. Then, when Cass is least prepared, and much to Stevie’s chagrin, she falls in love with the last person she’d expect.

I was in two minds about this book, and read a sample. Then immediately to get the whole book. Debbie Viggiano had me laughing from the very start. When you consider the awful events that kickstart the book, this is surprising. What I love is the honesty. Women temporarily escaping the confines of domesticity, breaking loose, and getting absolutely paralytic. Insisting they are strong, independent women yet desperate for a man and marriage.

C’mon. Who hasn’t been there? Friends and I used to joke that it would be far less exhausting, and a damn sight cheaper, if we could just go to a jewellers buy the rings and get the man free.

There is a part of me that totally identifies with Cassandra. Many of the circumstances she finds herself in had me giggling and reminiscing, as they reflected so many daft and embarrassing situations I have found myself in.  (Leaving home without my purse and hubbie having to drive two hours up the motorway at 11 o’clock at night, as I was almost out of petrol  and sitting in a service area with no money). So, those who have said these situations are far-fetched are people who have never experienced them. Her scenes regarding finding dates and meeting them, had me in equal parts cringing and laughing.

As for her characters, spend any Saturday night watching a group of female friends out on the town, and you will find these women. Debbie may write them in a slight ‘caricature’ style, but I think that makes it all the better. They’re funny, bubbly, and outrageous, as well as vulnerable, desperate, and emotional.

I would have liked more of the accidental meetings between Cass and the hero of this tale, and a little less of the women. I don’t think that was given enough depth. I’m not sure about the title, and not finding the whole surname thing funny, BUT I do recommend this if you want something light,  enjoyable, and hilarious. I loved it enough to get the sequel, Lipstick and Lies.

 

 

 

Sex, Jealousy, and Gender

Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, 80 years on

Du MaurierThis is a very interesting article on Daphne du Maurier, a fascinating and controversial character, as well as a supremely gifted author. While she is a romantic novelist, her books don’t necessarily have happy endings, while some can be brooding, mysterious, with a touch of the supernatural.

She was accused of plagiarism twice. First by Brazilian author Carolina Nabuca who claimed that Rebecca was copied from her book A Successora , and later by Frank Baker who claimed that her short story The Birds (made into a film ny Hitchcock) was plagiarised from his novel also called The Birds.

Rumours regarding her sexuality raise their head periodically, but the biography by Margaret Forster alleged a cache of love letters between Daphne and Gertrude Lawrence (who had an affair with Daphne’s father), but according to her close friend, journalist Michael Thornton, the letters never existed.

As an historian, I’m interested in the fact that she was married to ‘Boy’ Browning, (Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Browning), as soldier who served in both the First and the Second World War. At the age of 18, he graduated from Sandhurst and went to the front with the Grenadier Guards in August 1915. He served with distinction throughout that war. During World War 2, he was part of both the North Africa and the Burma Campaigns, but most famously Operation Market Garden. Probably most familiar as the film A Bridge Too Far, (allegedly a phrase said by Browning); actor Dirk Bogarde reprised the role of Browning in the film.

 

Current Addictions 2

Chance Creek Cowboys – Cora Seton

The fictional town of Chance Creek, is a busy place with its local businesses and the people who run them, and the families from the ranches and farms coming into to town for supplies, and the local police and fire brigade overseeing and protecting them all. It is a real treasure trove of engaging  stories and great characters for Cora Seton to plunder, and plunder she does, with 26 books published plus one novella, across five series.

Chance Creek Cowboys Seton

Chance Creek Cowboys follows the romantic fortunes of a group of brothers and their friends and relatives, as they try to ride the path to love and happiness. Each book is a different character who had a dilemma or issue that needs to be resolved. Chance Creek is a lively community, and although each book can be read alone, the town and its people link each book and each series. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed all the books as a couple have fallen by the wayside, mainly because the plot didn’t grab my attention enough. The Cowgirl Ropes A Billionaire  is one of those; I hate those kind of reality TV programmes so I have no interest in reading a novel the includes one,  I’m sure however, it is a great book for those that don’t mind. I have however enjoyed the seven that I’ve read, some more than others, but there’s only a hair’s breadth between them. Whether you are a fan of cowboys or not, these romances will keep you glued to the page. Cora’s books are well-paced, peopled with believable characters, and engage the reader with fascinating plot lines, so much so you are eager for the hero to get his girl, the girl to get her man, and everyone to live happily ever after. When a new title comes out, I devour it in one go; these are romances that will make you leave the dust to gather while you busy yourself reading.

My favourite so far is The Cowboy’s E-Mail Order Bride, which pivots around the latest in a running series of practical joke,  between Ethan Cruz and Rob Matheson. Rob recorded Ethan’s rather drunk speech about wanting a wife and what his perfect wife would be like. He then uploads this one to the internet unbeknownst to Ethan, and when the responses start coming in the joke gets even better. His friends vet the applicants and chose one,  Autumn Leeds.  She has her own reasons for responding, she’s about to lose her job at CityPretty magazine, and this modern-day cowboy’s plea for a mail-order bride could be the saving of her career. Of course, the path to true love is littered with deep ruts, wide potholes, and a goodly number of twists and turns.

 

 

Unrequited Alice

Unrequited Alice – Sarah Louise Smith

Unrequited Alice“I stared at my suitcase, contemplating the following three facts:
1) After months of planning, it was finally time for Hannah’s hen weekend.
2) In just one more month, she’d be getting married to Ed.
3) I really had to fall out of love with Ed before the wedding.”
A bridesmaid really shouldn’t be in love with the groom…but Alice just can’t help herself. Ed is her perfect man, and she can’t get him out of her head. Until she meets Toby – who offers to help her move on. But what if he’s just setting her up for an even bigger fall?

Alice is Hannah’s oldest friend, but not now, we learn, her best friend. Hannah is about to get married to Ed, and Alice is her chief bridesmaid. Alice is in a state of anxiety because she is in love with the groom. She organises a trip to Niagra Falls for Hannah’s ‘hen-weekend’ and here Alice meets Toby. There’s a spark… and a double fly in the ointment. Like Alice, he’s suffering – Toby is in love with his brother’s bride-to-be. The two keep in touch despite Toby being in New York and Alice in England, and decide to support each other. Toby comes to England and is Alice’s ‘plus one’ for Hannah’s wedding, and that’s when the proverbial hits the fan. The whole situation becomes all kinds of screwed up. (To find out this tale’s twisted and well-turned ending, you’ll have to read the book. I don’t do spoilers.)

The unrequited love of both Alice and Toby was laboured and tortuous. There was little need for it to be regurgitated over and over again. To be honest, there were many pages that I skimmed and skipped because they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about each character’s angst over their dilemma, and they added nothing to the story or the characters. All it did was tell me yet again that Alice or Toby or both were in the depressing pit of unrequited love. If those pages had been cut, there could have had a bit more about Alice in New York, and how she moved forward with her life there, or more about her and Toby.

I liked Alice and Toby, even if I wanted to give them a good shake now and then, and I was engaged enough to keep turning the pages. Overall, they came across as real. They are flawed, they suffer, they behave like idiots, and they say things that they don’t intend to. I liked Alice’s moral integrity, and I enjoyed the burgeoning relationship between her and Toby, a relationship based not only on a strong mutual attraction, but also on friendship and a true understanding of the other others weaknesses.  They don’t use each other, either for sex or to make themselves feel better at the expense of the other. When Alice feels that perhaps things are heading this way, she calls a halt.  Although readers could argue that they ‘use’ each other as a foil for the unrequited-love-wedding-dilemmas, its acknowledged and agreed upon, and is more of a supportive role than anything else.

Definitely worth reading but be prepared to skip pages.

The Wedding That Changed Everything

The Wedding That Changed Everything – Jennifer Joyce

Wedding Changed EverythingLove happens when you least expect it…

Emily Atkinson stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago! She’s fed up of dating frogs in order to find her very own Prince Charming and is giving up on men entirely, but then she’s invited to the wedding of the year at the enchanting Durban Castle and realises that perhaps bumping into a real-life knight in shining armour isn’t quite as far away as she thought!

Will Emily survive the wedding and walk away an unscathed singleton – or finally find her own happily-ever-after?

I was so engaged by this lovely book that I read it in one sitting. The opening sentence had me hooked, and the author kept me hooked to the very last page.  The only tiny irritation is something that happens in a great many books, when a character needs to say something, fix something, or put someone straight, they either are incapable of speech, or the other person walks away and they don’t stop them, or something completely ignorable happens to prevent the explanation. Still, its only a small irritation, so lets move on.

My younger self (and friend) identify with Emily and Alice, and Francelia sounds just like another friend’s mother-in-law. Emily and Alice rely on and support each other in many ways, as real friends do, and Alice’s insistence on trying to find a boyfriend for Emily is in equal measure annoying and adorable, as are Emily’s reasons for dumping men before or after just three dates. Yet among all the fun, charm and romance, lie some serious issues and a dark secret.  Both girls’ families make a great case for the statement that ‘the best place for the family is framed on the shelf’.

One of the more interesting couples are the bride and groom, Carolyn and Piers, and thankfully the author does give us a reasonable view of that relationship, though it would have been nice to see a little bit more. I liked the dynamic of opposites attracting.  Jennifer Joyce certainly has fun with her people, and I loved the depiction of one passing character and his teeth. The banter between Tom and Emily is entertaining, as are the misconceptions between them.

This is such an enjoyable story, filled with instantly recognisable characters, hilarious situations, and a ‘villain’ or two just to keep the fairy tale theme going. And what’s a wedding without people getting drunk, a punch being thrown, secrets getting revealed, and a potential happy ending or two? Arm yourself with drinks and nibbles, snuggle into your favourite armchair, and treat yourself to a few hours of feel-good fun, laughter, and romance with The Wedding That Changed Everything.

His Last Letter

His Last Letter – (a short story) Davina Blake

Last LetterMarion has not enjoyed Christmas since she was a nurse in France in the First World War. Betty has a guilty secret; a letter she should have sent on to Marion, twenty-one years ago. Now they are in the throes of another war, what will happen when the two women meet? 

I have very mixed emotions regarding this story which are difficult to discuss without revealing plot details; something I hate. I will try my best.

The basis of the story is heartbreaking. Two woman who feel cheated for similar reasons, yet only one will face a very difficult life after WW1.  It is impossible not to feel sympathy for both women,  yet now they are in 1944, I find the slight vindictiveness of Betty unpleasant. If you are going to pass on one or two things, why sent the rest to the dump? (You’ll understand all this if you read the story.)  I understand the pain of having certain emotions resurrected after so long, but that scenario didn’t ring true for me.

Of the two women I liked Marion best. A time when society was more judgemental and more brutal concerning women and particular issues,  I feel she is the one who has suffered most, lost most, but ultimately risen above it. A nurse during the First War, organised, efficient, and sure of herself, she loses that self-assurance as the years pass. A bomb obliterates her street, and Marion slips back into being the one in charge and organising everything, with the help of the vicar with whom she has recently formed a friendship and a possible romantic attachment.
I am fascinated as an historian by the impact the past has one the present. No only in a ‘big picture’ way, but also and more particularly in the personal and more intimate ways, like family and relationships. We have the misery that war brings, as well as the hope and unity it brings too.

Again, this is one that people, who find little time to enjoy reading, can fit into their hectic schedules – a daily commute or lunch break. I highly recommend it.

Last Train Home

Last Train Home – a short story by Davina Blake

Last Train HomeSet in 1945 at the end of WW2, – level-crossing-keeper Maisie Harris can only look forward to a lonely Christmas, stuck in her signal box, as the trains take other people home to their families and friends. This Christmas however, she is in for a surprise.

This is a gentle, heartfelt gem of a story, about a young woman working in a lonely job whilst the men are away at war. She has little chance to find love and seems to believe she won’t, after all, the men returning from war are probably all spoken for, and she is shy.  When a small group of passengers get stranded after their train is stuck in a snow drift, there is no choice but to spend Christmas in Maisie’s cottage. Among this group are two young, single men, free and available; will Maisie find love?

Maisie is a lovely character, and I warmed to her straightaway. The author has conjured up the atmosphere of  the period very well, and painted an exquisite picture of Maisie’s home and the snow-bound winter landscape. Even though this is a short story, she has given the characters enough shade and light to make them real and familiar. Their individual behaviour and interactions with each other and with Maisie, are entertaining and revealing. This may be a short story, but it is packed with all that is needed to engage the reader and fulfill their appetite for a good story.

I highly recommend Last Train Home for everyone., but if you are busy and find it difficult to fit reading into your schedule, then its perfect. Read it on your daily commute, or during your lunch break – stress free reading.  Enjoy.

The Boy Most Likely To

The Boy Most Likely To – Huntley Fitzpatrick

Boy Most LikelyTim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To find the drinks cabinet blindfolded, need a liver transplant, and drive his car into a house. 

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To . . . well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard . .

I beg to differ – there was no hard crashing in this book.

This plot has several thin and unnecessary threads that were certainly not followed through in any meaningful way. They wasted space and diverted focus. The whole tangled web about Alice’s father, the accident, the medical bills, his business, Samantha’s mother – just a distraction that could have been handled more succinctly. Brad and the post breakup nonsense – why? Here was time and space that could have been put to better use. Why not build on the tension between Alice and Tim, as well as between Tim and Hester. (Talking of which, what’s with the girl and her grandfather’s unexplained weirdness?)

The difference between Alice’s and Samantha’s families seemed contrived. If they had been neighbours until very recently, and all the medical bills were being paid, how come the Garretts barely had food in the cupboard? I understand the drop in the family’s income, but the situation didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Equally, we have a single-parent-single-child family that is unhappy despite the wealth, and a family of numerous children with more on the way, lacking money but still essentially happy. Then Tim’s family with his strict, distant father, his head-in-the-sand mother, and his twin sister with her own problems.

Spot the tropes anyone?

I liked Tim. He may be or have been a total screwup; drinking, smoking, sleeping with anything in a skirt, but he had made the choice to turn his life around. When the surprise came along, I believed his positive attitude. His past behaviour may have been dreadful, outrageous even, but it didn’t mean he was a cold and callous brute. We discover he has always had a caring side, evidenced by the revelation regarding his sister’s schoolwork.

Alice is more problematic. There were times I liked her, and times I disliked her intensely. We can see how much she has burdened herself. She suffers from that teenage notion that they know it all, can do it all. What is she doing hiding the medical bill problem? Her mother may be pregnant, but really? You think she couldn’t cope?

What makes this book good for me is Tim. I would have liked less of the distracting unnecessary plot-lines, and more of him, his ‘battles’ to stay on the straight and narrow, and his dealings with the surprise.  In general terms, this is worth reading, I just feel that some of it could have been cut in order to make the main story about Tim, the surprise, and his growing relationship with Alice, better and stronger.

Current Addictions 1

The Ghosts of Culloden Moor is an 80 plus book series of paranormal romance. It is necessary to start with the first book, The Gathering in order to understand the premise of the series, but after that you can pretty much read them in any order. Readers can argue that each book is pretty much the same formulae, but that is the strength of the series too. Equally, there are titles that produce an unexpected story that doesn’t necessarily follow the formulae.

Ghosts of Culloden Muir

The notion is that there are 79 ghosts who haunt the battlefield, and the young, modern-day witch Soncerae wants to free them and save their souls. She gives each one of them two days to perform a heroic deed or act of bravery to win their heart’s desire; each Highlander believes his heart’s desire is some time alone with Bonny Prince Charlie to get their revenge for, as they see it, being betrayed .

LL Muir has come up with a clever idea, and just as cleverly some of the titles are written by other authors, so the writing doesn’t get stale. Having read about 38 in the series so far, I’m still enjoying them, and when a new title is published its like meeting an old friend with fresh news. Within the confines of the series’ construction, I have loved most  of the titles, liked others, and there were three that I lost interest in.  If you want HEA, men in kilts, and nice enjoyable romances, then I recommend these heartily.

Jay Crownover’s Marked Men

If your taste runs more to bad boy, New Adult contemporary romances, then the Marked Men series by  Jay Crownover  is for you. I came across Nash first, loved it so much I read my way through the whole series. These are gorgeous, tattooed men with strong personalities, problems, and not given to being calm; the women are equally strong, well written, individual characters. The first in the series is Rule.  He’s a rebellious hot-head, Shaw is a straight A student and they’ve known each other since they were in their early teens. Shaw was the girlfriend of Rule’s late twin brother. The way Jay writes the interaction between them is brilliant:

 

“You’re twenty-two, Rule. When are you going to stop acting like an indulgent teenager?” …

“You’re nineteen, Shaw…. My eighty-two-year-old grandma has more of a social calendar than you, and I think she’s less uptight.” …

“I like Ethel.” …

“Everybody like Ethel. She’s feisty and won’t take crap from anyone. You could learn a thing or two from her.”

“Oh, maybe I should just dye my hair pink, tattoo every visible surface of my body, shove a bunch of metal in my face, and sleep with everything that moves. Isn’t that your philosophy on how to live a rich and fulfilling life?”

Some of her writing had me crying with laughter. When it comes to overly protective boyfriends who wouldn’t want this line:

“Maybe next time you could just pee in a circle around me so that they know you’ve already been there.”

So I highly recommend this series, in fact so much so, I’m off to start reading it all over again. Then start her Saints of Denver series!