The Charity of Strangers – Alison Burke

A touching, poignant, yet heartbreaking novel, tackling difficult topics. A compassionate story about true friendship and about the depth of a mother’s love; a reminder that not everyone returns to a nice warm home at night.

An extraordinary page turner that will capture you in its wake, from the first page to the very last.

How can anyone, as a parent, possibly treat a child the way Zaffron has been treated, forcing her to take the blame for a terrible incident and leaving her as a young child, torn between telling the truth and protecting her Mother?

How can a Mother deal with her child having been taken away from her soon after birth, while she is sleeping off a ‘mickey’?

How can an adult cope with learning how he was taken away from his Mother, as a newborn baby?

I did make the mistake of starting to read this book at bedtime, and became so engrossed in the intertwining strands of the story, that before I knew it, I had been up all night reading. Whilst I don’t recommend staying up all night reading, I do heartily recommend this book.

Zaffron is a broke anorexic living in an awful squat. Her failed attempt at stealing a coat from a charity shop, results in her volunteering to work in said shop for a couple of days per week. It’s here that she meets Blaire, a lovely gay man of indeterminate age. The two become friends.

Blaire and Zaffron end up living together with some others in Zaffron’s squat,, in what Blaire likes to refer to as a ‘housing cooperative’ – basically living together in the squat, but laying the utility bills, in an attempt to prove their residency. All ‘rent’ received is ploughed back into the house in some way, very it gsintebance it just The pair talk about Zaffron’s past, but it is clear that she is still harbouring some dark secrets. Martin, a soldier/shop customer leaves his number for her, but is Zaffron mentally up to a romantic relationship?

Zaffron is buoyed up by the thought of her application for the Deputy Manager position at the charity shop. Could this be her chance to come off benefits, or will someone else apply and scupper her chances?

Meanwhile, Ida who also works in the charity shop has a heart attack, leading to her Sister, Beverley, revealing the tragedy that Ida subjected her to at the age of 19! Another life changing tragedy for all involved, with Blaire being more involved than we initially realise.

Please read this highly recommended book for yourself, to find out the ending!

Summer in Andalucia – Lucy Coleman

Summer in Andalucía
Purchase Link:

A beautiful, eloquent book that made me feel that I was there, in Andalucia, basking in the weather and scenery and eating the wonderful food. I was entirely captivated and found myself consumed by the story, falling in love with Andalucia and Rick, just as much as Lainey did. The monastery is described in the book as ‘totally captivating’ and the descriptive language was such, that if I closed my eyes, I really could find myself immersed in the magical sounding monastery and its surroundings. If you love food and medieval history, you will love this book. Actually, regardless of your interest in food or history, if you are like me, you will love this book, with its unique story and characterisations.

Lainey works as a journalist for ‘Upscale Dining’, a foodie magazine. A chance meeting with chef of the moment Rick, leads to him offering Lainey an exciting opportunity – to be part of a new TV cooking competition, shot in Andalucia, Spain. The filming is all going to take place in a old monastery and the production crew and contestants will all be staying there during filming too. It feels as though there is some kind of romantic chemistry sparking between Lainey and Rick, but is this futile on Lainey’s part, since Rick and his business partner Cathy are in a relationship. Rumour has it that they are engaged, but to Lainey, to say that the relationship seems tumultuous, is an understatement, testimony to this being the social media activity that one of Lainey’s colleague’s is sending, at Lainey’s request; mostly depicting Cathy’s bad behaviour.

As filming progresses, the relationship between the starcrossed pair becomes increasingly close as they explore the local area, indulging in their shared loves of food and history.

Lainey returns to the office post filming to yet more turmoil. Can she hold herself together or will she be left with neither a job nor any romance? I am not going to spoil the ending for you – make sure you buy the book to find out whether or not Rick and Lainey have a future together!

Half the World Away – Rebecca Banks

An enchanting romantic novel that instantly reels you in, and leaves you wanting more. The kind of story that dreams are made of. Please read for yourself and you will not be disappointed.

To the casual observer, Abbie is managing her work life and the fallout from her divorce just fine. However an incident at work, where she is threatened, and the news that her ex, who coerced her into aborting their baby, is expecting a baby with his new partner, combine to make her want to make a fresh start.

Abbie moves to Salt Lake City to start a job as a publicist with an up and coming football (soccer) team. Kittie, the CEO’s PA becomes an instant friend, helping Abbie to settle into her new city. She does however warn Abby against getting involved with Kyle, the team scout. Abbie quickly integrates herself into her new surroundings and is complemented on the amazing job she is doing for the team. She also gets involved in the local music scene, setting up a successful blog reviewing local bands. There is an instant spark between her and Kyle and this develops as the book unfolds; he proves himself to be the ultimate romantic!

Kittie learns of the romance between Abbie and Kyle, and is not impressed – and then a couple of major mishaps happen at the football club – on the surface Abbie seems culpable for both. In addition there is a misunderstanding regarding accommodation and Abbie finds herself having to search for a new place to live at the last minute.

What is Kittie up to? On the surface she seems so helpful, but what feelings is she harbouring for Kyle? Can Abbie be cleared of any wrong doing? Will she last in the USA? All questions that you will find answers for by reading the bookl

Moonlight Over Muddleford Cove – Kim Nash

Moonlight Over Muddleford Cove: An absolutely unputdownable feel good romantic comedy by [Kim Nash]

A beautiful, heartwarming tale of love and romance, with echos of what could have been, intertwined with hope for the future. An unmissable book that will fill your heart with joy.

As far as weeks go, this had been a bad one for Nell, losing both her fiancé and her job within a matter hours. Then she gets a mysterious call from a solicitor in Dorset and finds herself the only beneficiary of her late Aunt’s will. A house, a beach hut and a fancy car later, she finds herself staying at her new house in Muddleford Cove.

Nell is delighted that her old friend /sweetheart, Jack is still living next door. However any sniff of romance with him seems to be completely thwarted by his relationship with Natalia – or is it? She certainly seems think that there is a lot more to their relationship, than Jack does. Natalia does however waste no time in warning Nell to stay away from Jack, treating him like a prized possession .

Callum, the ex fiancé turns up wanting to start up where they left off! The nerve!

You will have to read for yourself to find out:

  • Is Natalia and Jack’s ‘relationship’ a two way thing, or a figment of Natalia’s overactive imagination?
  • Will there be any romance between Jack and Nell!
  • Will Nell stay in Muddleford?
  • Will Nell get back with Callum?

What I do know is that you WILL enjoy this book.

Corfu Capers – Joy Skye

A beautiful romantic story, which brings the island of Corfu, with its food, people and culture, to life. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Kate has organised a holiday in Corfu for a group of family and friends, with the crescendo being her Son asking his Girlfriend Linda to marry him. Kate has organised the whole holiday and the engagement and the party are all feeling organised to within an inch of their lives. Linda is finding this constant organising building a wedge between herself and her Boyfriend (Kate’s Son, Scott). Charlotte, Linda’s best friend is desperate to worm her way into Scott’s friend Marc’s affections, but to no avail. She can’t work out why.

Several of the party are harbouring secrets; will they all come to the fore? You will have to read for yourself to find out.

Nothing Man – RJ Gould

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An hilarious book with humour abound and threads of middle aged romance running through it. A book that I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to all, especially as it offers a different view to the usual romantic novel and that difference is utterly refreshing throughout. Romance is most definitely not restricted to beautiful young ‘twenty-somethings’!

Neville has lost both his wife (divorce) and his job (redundancy) in fairly quick succession. Some might call that careless. He has become, quite frankly ‘a bit of an old fart’ and has rapidly aged beyond his actual years. He meets Laura when they are involved in a car accident in a supermarket car park and she seems takes him under her wing, almost as a project. She persuades him to book a holiday to Switzerland (it rains all week) and she takes him out to buy clothes for his holiday (varying degrees of success)! She opens his mind to a realm of new possibilities. She also introduces him to her Mother, Caroline. Neville likes Caroline and could see himself in a relationship with her. Things progress nicely on that front, although Caroline seems to be holding back to a certain extent, for example not wanting to spend the night in the same bed as Neville. Could it be that she is embarrassed by him?

As Neville is reinvented, the relationship develops between Him and Caroline – please read for yourself about the fun they have. But will their romantic rapport be ruined by past demons or the threat of ill health? One does hope not!

The Ticklemore Tattler – Liz Davies

A beautiful yet poignant tale about love and romance that is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat, wanting more; a reminder to ourselves that we shouldn’t always assume the worst of people, when we only know half a story. What better way to while away lockdown days! Make sure you add this to your ‘Must Read’ list.

Juliette is a former London journalist; she gave up her high flying career 17 years ago to come and live near her Mum and to run the local newspaper, the Ticklemore Tattler, alongside bringing up her Baby Daughter. Unfortunately the Son of the owner takes over the business and announces his intention to close the newspaper, due to it not being a money making enterprise.

Juliette brings her former colleague, Oliver into her confidence, to see if he can think of any way to improve the newspaper’s profit margin. She decides she is going to try and buy the newspaper, but is struggling to get the owner to agree a reasonable price. To both their surprise there is immediate sexual chemistry between Oliver and Juliette and they cautiously embark on a new relationship.

There is a potential problem with Oliver, due to the fact that he is currently writing the biography of Otis Coles. Otis believes he is about to become Britain’s next Prime Minister, whilst Oliver suspects that he is the Father of Juliette’s Daughter, Brooke. This would of course be a huge story for Oliver, but he is anxious not to hurt Juliette.

When Juliette discovers whom Oliver is writing about, could this mean the end of their new relationship, when she worries that Oliver is only seeing her to find out more about Otis? You will have to read for yourself to find out!

High Heels in the Highlands – Liz Hurley

A glorious romantic romp spanning London and the Scottish Highlands, not to be missed.

Clem goes up to the Scottish Highlands to take stock of the Castle her family have inherited. It is clearly rundown, but before long Clem falls in love with the place and tries to come up with a plan to make enough money to restore the place and keep it running; she has a skeleton staff of ten to pay, after all and she can’t let them down. The romantic interest comes in the form of Rory, a gorgeous local farmer, but is he still interested in his ex Janet? Clem also gradually forms a glowing relationship with Otto, the self appointed housekeeper of the castle.

Fast forward to a London Fashion Week show at the V & A museum and a potential art fraud scandal, which Otto May or may not be able to rectify. Can Clem and Rory get together, can Otto save a scandal and can Clem come up with a plan to save the castle? You will have to read for yourself to find out!

The First Man

A thought provoking story about what was in this case perceived as illicit love. Bigotry and prejudice abound in this tale, which makes for an at times difficult, uncomfortable read, but perhaps one that we should all read, if we are to understand the underlying issues involved and be aware of the kind of prejudices that sadly all too often exist in real life.

Shane Johnston of the Johnston whiskey distillery family has a problem; it doesn’t help living in a village with a population of 192 people. EVERYONE knows EVERYTHING about EVERYONE!

Shane is in a horrible mood after being stood up by a blind date the night before. He is actually secretly in love with Andy who owns the pub, but he promised Him years ago, that they would never be anything more. One evening though, whilst in the pub, Alex notices that there is some kind of spark between Andy and Shane. In fact it turns out that almost all of Shane’s family have guessed about his sexuality, but choose to ignore it. It takes a near tragedy for everything to come out into the open. Once things are in the open, will people be accepting of the relationship, or will Shane’s family and friends still be living in the Middle Ages?

Please read this book, if only it might temper your attitude,Mir faced with the same kind of issue in your life.

Chasing the Sun – Judy Leigh

A wonderful, thought provoking novel that brings something different to the literary world. Not all contemporary fiction has to be about ‘beautiful young things’; older, more lived in characters can equally be brought to life, especially by Judy Leigh, who has a talent for telling tales with a more irreverent outlook on life, using such pre-loved personalities. The world is surely a better place, for having her edifying creations in it. If you want to read beyond the normal stereotypical characters, please don’t hesitate to buy this book, which you are sure to enjoy, as the characters develop and are brought to life.

Molly has just attained membership of the Septuagenarian club and is embracing her new decade with open arms. After all, she feels the same now as she did at 30 or 40. It feels as though she has earned the right to behave badly, should she so choose.. Molly is enjoying her Birthday, sat in the garden with a cup of tea, comparing her looks to the garden – a little unkempt and would benefit from some tlc. She cannot help feeling sad about her partner Rich, who died in his sleep 15 years ago.

Molly’s Sister, Nell suddenly moves in with her, after being dumped by her Husband Phil. Phil has replaced her with a pregnant woman 30 years his junior. Molly is desperate that Nell doesn’t find out that Phil’s new partner is expecting, as Nell herself was never able to have children and had suffered 5 miscarriages.

Molly and Nell are agreed on one thing – they both need something new in their lives. Before you know it, Molly has booked them both a holiday – 3 x months in a ‘luxurious’ apartment in Spain. I love Molly’s enthusiasm for life – like a baby encountering something new with unbounded excitement. Molly’s zest for life overlooks the fact that their ‘luxury’ accommodation is actually rather shabby. Indeed their luxury sun terrace, with accompanying hot tub is the biggest let down, when it turns out to be shared by a number of apartments. For me, the laugh out loud moment was when they not only find a stranger in ‘their’ hot tub, but when they send him packing, it turns out that it is very much de rigueur to be starkers in the said hot tub – or was he wearing a peach coloured thong?

Another laugh out loud moment is delivered when Nell has stayed in with a headache and Molly’s impetuous side is brought to the fore, when she decides to go skinny dipping at night. Unfortunately it is a lot darker by the tune she has finished swimming, and she is unable to find her clothes! Rather than panicking, Molly rather be ones the Queen of ‘making do’!

Ulla and Bernt are their Swedish neighbours who quickly become friends, especially as the four of them seem to be the only four in the block who use the sun terrace.

Ronnie Barnes is another new friend for Molly. He is struggling to get takers for his sea cruises, so Molly takes it upon herself to get him more customers, by writhing around in a too tight children’s cod costume! Another laugh out loud moment. Molly’s marketing ploy works though and leads to Ronnie asking her out for a date. This leads to the inevitable ‘what to wear’ dilemma. On a more serious note, Molly realises in a moment of poignancy that this is her first date since her partner passed away. The date passes pleasantly enough, but it seems pretty clear to Molly that this relationship will never be anything more than friendship. Indeed Molly cannot help but compare Ronnie with her late partner. In short, she realises that she isn’t yet ready for dating.

After a fabulous evening with Ronnie and Molly, it starts to look as though Nell might have taken quite a fancy to Ronnie, a relationship which Molly is only too happy to endorse. The questions are whether Spain and/or Ronnie have any kind of future prospects with Nell? If Nell and Ronnie become an item, how will this affect the rest of Molly’s trip away from home? You may be surprised at what Molly does and where she goes next, but you will have to read the novel for yourself to find out how things pan out for our superlative leading lady.