Vicki’s Work of Heart – Rosie Dean

This book certainly started with a bang – or at least with a sound jilting at the altar. Still, if you are going to be jilted, Vicki dealt with it in the best possible way, although I really did feel for her, especially when she spoke about the dreams and plans she had had with her fiancé.

I loved the vivid descriptions of living in France, when Vicki takes a year out there and I immediately fell in love with the gorgeous vet, Christophe. He seemed more attractive due to the air of mystery surrounding ding his personal life. Who wouldn’t like spending a year with him, even if you did have to cook for him!

The way Christopher’s family chateau and his horses were portrayed was wonderful and I just found myself wanting to be there, with him! His family, although a touch eclectic also came across as pretty amazing people, both kind and generous. Colette, Christopher’s Mother, was simply divine. Just the right mix of charming and slightly batty!

Daniel was an intriguing character, but I was pretty unsure what to make of him – whether he had Vicki’s best interests at heart, or whether he had some kind of ulterior motive? I do like the hints of mystery though, and this beguiling character certainly added to that.

I found myself warming so much to most of the characters in this book, to the extent that I desperately wanted Vicki and Christophe to get together and for her to become part of his enchanting family.

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Finding Jo

I found myself asking very early on into this book about the meaning of the title. Are we talking about Jo’s family finding her, or Jo finding herself, or some kind of combination of the two?

I was instantly struck by the humour in the book, when Jo tries to get a taxi to the Connaught Hotel, a self professed Bournemouth sounding place (I’m from there and there is a Connaught Hotel), only for the reader to discover that Jo is actually in Delhi! I thought it was inspired, the way the book gradually gave out snippets about Jo’s life, leading up to why she was in India, almost like leading a trail of clues for the reader.

Jo ends up at a retreat near the Himalayas and makes a great group of friends. I loved the vivid descriptions of India and of the train journeys and at times I could close my eyes and almost imagine myself there. In stark contrast to the amazing location, are the excerpts about Jo’s former relationship with the possessive Rob; the author has created a seemingly unpleasant chap in Rob and it’s a real reminder that people like that do exist and women like Jo end up living with people in oppressive, calculating relationships like theirslike that all the time; a sobering thought. I found the comment about how Jo let him come home with her last Christmas, simply because he was such a nasty drunk, and it was easier to submit and let him come, a very telling moment. I felt that the author achieved just the right balance between light and dark moments, whilst talking about what is a very serious, hard hitting and relevant topic and she is to be commended for that.

Rasi, one of the mentors at the retreat, comes across as an amazingly empathetic character and I can see how Jo might be able to pour her heart out to him; it made me feel as though I wanted, maybe even needed my own Rasi in my life! I adored the moment where Jo opens up to him and asks him to teach her to live; a truly liberating moment. Another beautifully poignant moment occurs when Jo is talking to her new friend David and comments that people have been listening to her – somewhat a novelty, as she feels that no one listens to her at home. David is a wonderful, complex character who initially comes across as a bit of a Jack-the-lad; the joker of the pack, but he has a hidden former darker side, fuelled by money, drugs and alcohol. I think his character was sensitively portrayed and I loved the moment where he asks Jo not to tell their friend Gemma about a moment that he confessed to wanting a drink, because she was such a good person. It really showed his sensitive side! Throughout the book David is portrayed as actually being rather vulnerable on more than one occasion and it’s quite refreshing to move away from stereotypes.

I must make a special mention of the descriptions of all the fantastic Indian food in this book; it all seemed so real that I could almost taste it and could quite happily breakfast vicariously through Jo on all the wonderful sounding fresh fruit and yoghurt. It’s not often that a book makes me hungry!

Beth, Jo’s Sister isn’t portrayed as a particularly pleasant character. She seems pretty selfish and self centred, but really takes the bucket when she goes to Rob’s flat and seduces him! Not the behaviour one would expect of a loving sibling, but in the context of this story, a really refreshing break from the norm. It really felt as though Beth had got her just deserts though, when Rob calls out Jo’s name, when mid-passion. A literary masterstroke!

Michael is an odd character and his relationship with Jo has been difficult historically. When he turns up at the retreat, he seems as miserable as ever, but he gradually started to endear himself to me; he is a complex character and the way develops is both clever and gratifyIng. I really felt for him, and felt that there was hope for his character as he ‘came out of himself’ organically, the longer he stayed at the retreat. The way he was portrayed, I ended up feeling compassion for him, and the more pleasant he became, the more personal gratification for me! I felt great respect and empathy for the way that he was described as loving and missing his children. I thought that Michael was a stereotypical man, in the sense that he didn’t feel comfortable talking about his feelings and the way that this aspect of his character thawed seemed to me to be written very cleverly.

Jo’s family, as a group, come across as pretty dysfunctional. I felt that ultimately Jo rediscovered her relationship with her Mother, which left me with a lovely feel-good feeling and this feeling seemed to be reciprocated; I felt like a proud Mother, as Maggie confessed to being inspired by Jo.

The relationship between Jo and Rasi has a semblance of great intensity, such is the way it is written. It is easy to see how Jo could come to think that there might be more to the relationship than there is. It was great for Rasi to have such a virtuous moral compass and I appreciated the author’s decision to take this route, rather than the sometimes obvious sexual path.

The joy that I felt when Tim turned up was a testament to how much the author made me care about Jo. I just got a sense that the new Jo was about to become complete and I found myself wishing her so much from the relationship – almost as though she were a personal friend of mine, such have my feelings for some of these characters manifested themselves. I became so engrossed that I almost forgot these characters aren’t real!

One thing I do know for certain is that I found the Jo that she had grown into at the end of the book, after she had ‘found herself’ a more endearing and likeable character than the Jo at the beginning of the book. Oh and a final note, a sequel, to find out more about Jo would not go amiss.

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Escape to Honeysuckle Hall – Rebecca Raisin

Orly works in the drama and scandal fuelled world of celebrity, so it seemed almost appropriate in this fun filled book, that she should be dumped for a celebrity – although Orly does have plenty of one thing that others tend to lack, especially in this celebrity enhanced world – she has compassion, a prime example being her worrying about how John anyone’s’ ex wife will feel about his huge OTT proposal, so soon after their divorce. I found it comforting that this character still had such compassion, having worked in the industry that is celebrity, for so many years. I found it ominous that a female client had chosen Orly’s life partner Harry for her music launch because he is ‘well connected in the music industry’ and I found myself warming to Orly very quickly in this story, hoping that alarm bells in my head about Harry were completely unfounded!

The PR disaster at the start of the book, is by its very nature a disaster – but it is portrayed perfectly from all directions and the fall out / cover up activity is exactly the kind of reaction I could imagine, should this kind of event happen in real life!

I must mention the ‘word’ ‘Ooomphfzwark’, when Orly gets hugged by her friend Bai, when she goes to meet another friend, Maya at Bali’s restaurant – onomatopoeia at its very best! I loved the portrayal of Maya too – such a contrast to the stereotypical surgeon – yet an utter delight to be with. The quote ‘I don’t know many surgeons who’d scoot off and make a patient a pot of tea’ just about characterises what makes Maya different to the average surgeon. It did strike me that the two best friends could barely have more different lives, despite both requiring elements of the cutthroat.

I felt that Orly’s partner did her a favour, when he cheated on her; it gave her the push to try something new and I loved the idea that she had for running retreats for stressed business people like herself. A series of serendipitous events, resulted in Orly being the proud new owner of Honeysuckle Hall, which ‘only needed a lick of paint’. I found myself greatly looking forward to Honeysuckle Hall’s offerings for the stressed individuals of Kent.

I found it hard to decide whether Esterlita, Orly’s new neighbour, was a hoot, or was terrifying! Initially I thought the way she was portrayed was positively terrifying – suddenly appearing in your new home, but once one became accustomed to her, I felt that she was more on the ‘a little whacky’ scale, than terrifying – an easy conclusion for me to come to, when she’s not residing in MY kitchen! Esterlita made a telling comment, ‘You can stay home and have the babies!’ – I wonder if this is where Orly’s life is destined to go, in this book, despite there being no current live interest on the scene!

The storyline is full of mystery – enough to captivate me throughout. Esterlita is a big mystery, with her cryptic past, although one thing seems clear – her love for her late Husband, Edward. Another cause of intrigue is the inexplicable notes that Orly keeps finding. They aren’t particularly welcome. Would someone rather Orly wasn’t there? I liked that way that the mystery letters kind of tied in with Orly’s passion for all things philatelic. The biggest mystery of all though, seems to be why no one else has ever seemed to show any interest in buying Honeysuckle Hall.

Take a leap of faith and pick this book up for yourself – I defy you not not to enjoy it.

Being Netta Wilde – Hazel Warde

Netta puts up with a lot in my opinion, and I felt that she was totally taken advantage of by her ex Husband and grown up children – especially her children, expecting her to pay for everything, yet not wanting to spend time in her company. Netta comes across as a totally likeable character – it’s just the rest of her family that are the problem, especially her ex, Colin, who rings her up to complain about the fact that she’s been made redundant – seemingly more worried about his handouts, than Netta’s welfare!

Netta seems to have changed a lot since her carefree university days, which are described vividly, where all she was interested in was having fun. It felt as though Colin had gradually eroded her confidence over the years, and poisoned the children against her.

Being made redundant and getting involved with volunteering at the food bank were Netta’s epiphany. I loved the way this new Netta was portrayed – it was as though she had been reborn. The reader could see how Colin and her children were taking advantage of Netta and it was unpleasant to read, but oh such wonderful moments as the author described Netta’s realisation that she was being taken advantage of. A wonderful example of Netta’s new assertiveness came when she refused to pay £2000 for a school trip for her Daughter. Colin was completely vile over this incident and of course it rubbed off on their Daughter Liza. I was so thrilled for Netta that she held firm on her position over the money. Colin’s portrayal was of a money grabbing man, beyond vile. I was so shocked when it was revealed that he had actually been selling his paintings quite successfully for years, whilst pleading poverty and claiming excessive maintenance from Netta. Netta really was put into a terrible situation – guilt tripped into paying excessive maintenance for the whole family, whilst in reality even paying for Colin’s girlfriend.

I loved the way that Netta and the food bank kind of grew on each other, the more Netta realised what a worthwhile cause it was and opted for selling her flat and buying a cheaper house, so that she could carry on her charity work for longer. The other pleasing thing about Netta and the food bank was the friendships and relationships that she forged there. Her friends started to become more of a family to her than her actual family, and once she had moved house, a gratifying relationship started to develop between Netta and Frank next door.

I felt that Netta had forgotten how to be herself and to care for herself over the years, with the neglect of her family. Being made redundant and finding new friends, helped Netta to be herself once more. She gave up trying too hard with her children and just let them see her and the things she did, for what they were. It was as though when she started to just get on with her own life, her children started to change. It was a wonderfully emotional time in the book when Netta’s children started to see their Father for the snake that he was, and came to realise what a wonderful person their Mother was. It was as though Netta had been trying too hard to get her children to like her previously, yet as soon as she stopped trying, and they could see how happy Netta was with her new friends, the children came around.

Netta and all her food bank friends were such a remarkable, likeable bunch of characters and I wanted nothing but good things for them. I found Netta’s new relationships and life so incredibly gratifying and I mourned the fact that she had suffered such an unhappy life for so many years, mainly due to the actions of her vile Husband and the ignorance of her children. I was gratified when Netta’s children ‘saw the light’ and saw Colin for the man he really was and were drawn back to their Mother.

In all, a thoroughly enjoyable book that I did not want to end. I felt there were lessons to be learned in the book around being charitable and unselfish and I was thrilled that the main characters seemed to take these lessons on board. To read this great book for yourself, just use this link:

The Last Days of Us – Caroline Finnerty

What a beautifully written, empathetic story – difficult to read at times, making you aware that this story is a reality for some families. The characters were all beautifully portrayed, but it really was a heartbreaking read. I can only hope that the book raises awareness of the devastation that a diagnosis of DIPG delivers, and that this can lead to greater research.

The family in the book were all a delight and I really felt for them every time they had bad news. A story that makes you think about your family and your priorities in life.

The Love Island Book Shop – Kate Frost

The chance to run a bookshop in the Maldives for nine months – I mean, what’s not to love about that idea? Freya has been unlucky in love in the UK, but who knows what opportunities might come her way, in the Maldives?

I loved the descriptions of Freya’s life in the UK and the comparison to her life in the Maldives – at times, I felt that if I closed my eyes, I could almost be there, with the waves lapping at my toes. I immediately warmed to Freya and only wanted the very best to her. I was surprised, after the initial descriptions of Zander, but I really warmed to him, despite Freya’s initial misgivings; he comes across as a wonderful character, miles away from his former boy band persona. I liked Aaron at first, but went off him when it appeared he had a secret 2 year old son, whom he declared he wasn’t sure he was the Father of. How conceited – I immediately smelled a rat.

Maryam comes across as the most sublime, motherly character, who would use her maternal aptitude on anyone. Who wouldn’t love to be looked after by her!

Some of the key things I got from this book:
– a sense of the most idyllic island retreat
– a wonderful sense of community and family from most of the resort
– the vibes of the most special book shop, with so much thought gone into it
– a real sense of kindred spirits in both the blood and non blood sense
– romance – at just the right pace

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which provided just the right amount of escapism and romance in these difficult times. I completely warmed to most of the characters and only wanted the very very best for them. I read the book non-stop and was very sad to finish it. This unhappiness would surely be mitigated by the sniff of a sequel – I would love to see how the relationships in the book progress and feel that another tome would be a rip-roaring success.

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A Second-Hand Husband – Claire Calman

Within 16 lines of starting this book, it had me laughing out loud, at the thought of Nat, in the bath, talking to her new Husband Carl. Nat is trying her best to sound sexy, but her Husband asks if she’s unwell, since she sounds sick! I certainly might feel sick, if I were to find out that my new Husband had bought a house for us at auction, very close to his ex Wife, without consulting me. I would not be happy. Laughter at this early stage certainly augers well, and if the rest of the book continues in this comedic vein………..what’s not to love?

The storyline of this book took an ‘thoriffic’’ (a mutant form of terrible & horrific) turn, when It is revealed during a telephone conversation with Celeste, Nat’s older Sister) that the house is rather close to Carl’s ex wife! I think there was a double reveal, as the author also divulged her utterly wicked sense of humour to the reader at this point! I did love the cutting remark that the author gifted to Celeste ‘I wouldn’t trust a man to choose a glass of wine for me, let alone a house’. Needless to say, Nat is clearly not of the same opinion! I loved Nat’s dialogue and the more I read, the more I warmed to her as a character. I felt nothing but empathy for Nat and found myself rooting for her from afar and genuinely caring whether or not Carl manages to screw her life up!

Nat’s reaction when she realises how close the ‘new’ house is, to Carl’s ex-wife, is predictable, but it is described in such a way that you can’t help but empathise with Nat, and in my mind I was already casting Carl’s ex as the baddy in the situation, even though I have no evidence of her having anything to do with the situation. I feel that the author captured the perfect reaction for Nat, and to not have Nat reacting badly, would surely seem most unrealistic, given the situation. We are only human, after all.

The characterisation off Carl is superb, but I’m not sure that I would trust him, were he in my life. He seemed to me to be one of those people that kind of project their issues onto other people, and someone who has a psychological hold over loved ones.Why would I buy a house with no roof and not mention it?’ An example is where he is shouting about where the roof of the house has gone and says to Nat ‘Why would I buy a house with no roof and not mention it?’ – when as a reader I get sneaky , wily undertones from Him – and I feel pretty certain that he has done exactly that, and bought and tried to move his Wife into a house with no roof. I felt the most dislike for Carl though, when he ‘encourages’ Nat to put on lipstick, before they going into his ex’s house. I mean really – is he living in the 1950’s. I thought the thread was really well written though – because some men really do behave like that! Unfortunately for Nat, Carl seems hellbent on some kind of game of one-upmanship with his ex and her Husband, Dominic, although it increasingly seems that Carl is the only one playing the game! However, I must assure that you, that despite not particularly liking Carl that much, this in no way detracts from the talent of the author, and the way she portrays him and his actions, through a whole spectrum of personality traits, from sad, to funny, to loving, with several more in between. A character doesn’t have to be likeable, in order to testament to an author’s talent; indeed the author’s portrayal of Carl is bordering on genius.

Carl’s ex, Antonia almost comes across as pleasant,if a little high maintenance, although personally I would find her habit of referring to Carl as ‘Our Husband’, in front of Nat, more than a tad irritating. The writing is clever I think, in that it makes a character that I feel I should dislike, pretty likeable, despite her many afflictions!

The part of the storyline where Nat feels as though she’s not good enough for Carl is positively heartbreaking. The section is so well written and realistic, that I could feel real tears forming. I felt completely divided – torn between overflowing with empathy for Nat and anger and frustration towards Antonia and Carl, and taking a moment to admire the strong, yet poignant prose. I wasn’t convinced that Antonia was an unpleasant person, buy more careless/thoughtless, with a hint of selfishness. Surely can’t possibly thinking of the connotations of constant try reffering to someone as their Husband’s no. 2💩 and I cannot help but wonder if Carl really does think that Nat is ‘second fiddle’ to Antonia, or whether he is ‘just’ a selfish, thoughtless, egotistical narcissist!

I love the way that Nat clearly adores her family, and I empathise with her hugely over the relationship with her Father, which is difficult. The relationship with Carl is sad at times, in that he is hardly ever at home, but I think that the author captures how Nat feels about this in a sympathetic, yet realistic manner. It’s a shame that Nat has so many ‘difficult’ relationships, ranging from that with Antonia, through to the issues with Carl, and then to the awful way that Saskia, Carl’s Daughter behaves towards her. I felt that the way the relationship with Saskia was described completely empathetically. It almost feels as though Nat is the only adult who genuinely has time for Saskia, and tries to understand her – for example, Nat realising that Saskia is not a confident swimmer – yes sadly Saskia is rude and tries to push her away at every opportunity. Despite these scenes making for uncomfortable reading, they were again a huge testament to the author’s writing skill. Not every situation is sparkles and unicorns, and the author clearly recognises this and writes about difficult situations and difficult people, with great skill and empathy. Indeed one starts to wonder whether or not Nat actually needs Carl in her life so much – such is her ability to get on so well without him. I love the way this is written – proof of the fact that a woman does not need a man, in order to live their life to its best.

In all, this was an über read that I simply did not want to put down.

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The House in the Clouds – Victoria Connelly

As I started to read this book, just the name, ‘Edward Townsend’ had a certain ethereal feel to it, so in fitting for the tale I anticipated coming. WinfieldHall, AKA ‘The House in the Clouds’ sounded equally idyllic. The descriptions of the house were wonderful and the atmosphere that built up in my mind, as Edward and Abi counter bid on Winfield Hall was strangely compelling. I almost felt myself wanting to bid on the property at auction myself!

I loved the way that the author contrives a  meeting between Edward and Abi and their initial contact is such that immediate sparks of sexual chemistry make the atmosphere quite electric. I found myself drawn to finding out whether or not the couple could have any potential for a future together. I was also intrigued by the mystery that started to build up regarding Edward and his family/love life. An additional puzzle is to why Edward sometimes needs a walking stick, when he comes across as a young man. He is suffering badly with pain, but why? Has he been ill, or had an accident?

I think the blooming relationship between Abi and Edward is verbalised really well and I enjoyed their banter, for example when they are talking about the demise of thistles in the garden.

I adored the portrayal of Abi; I loved her flamboyance and her joix de vivre, and how she grasped any situation and the chance to be creative, with both hands. She very much reminded me of how an artist friend of mine is, with her children and so I found the character impressively realistic.

I loved Abi’s Nieces, Bethanne and Rosie and I thought that the author had captured the essence of the inquisitiveness of a young child, perfectly. I could almost hear the children in my head, asking questions. I never cease to wonder at that inquisitive, questioning nature of small children and I felt certain that the author must personally have/have had similar young children in her life, for her to have captured their personalities and other qualities, quite so perfectly on paper.

Nobody likes to see vulnerability in another person. The utter vulnerability of Abi shone through in some really powerful writing, when Rosie asks Abi if she wants to have children. Whilst this clearly hits a nerve with Abi, I was astonished at the author’s ability to lay bare so much emotion, in so few words. In my opinion, there is no doubt as to Victoria Connolly’s gift as a writer.

This book was like the perfect dish of lasagne, full of the most delicious layers of unctuous deliciousness. Just when you think you have eaten the last layer, you come across a new layer of complexity – in the same way that the author introduces us sensitively to the fact that Edward is not the only character with hidden ‘issues’. As a reader I must confess that despite being blindsided by this revelation, I was simultaneously delighted at being ‘fed’ a new, unexpected plot twist.

I was both sad that Edward lied to Abi, yet so very curious as to what is so awful that he doesn’t speak to his family. I found myself oozing with anticipation, to find out the truth about the matter, and wondering whether or not his Brother would turn up at the House In The Clouds. Indeed, at times I had to gently remind myself that none of this saga were real, owing to the fact that I was finding myself so involved in Abi and Edward’s lives!

I found Abi’s Sister Ellen to be awful, with her demanding, egotistical attitude. It’s terrible to think that people do exist that are like her, doing things like forcing their children on relatives and making demanding phone calls. All very entertaining for the reader, whilst hoping to never actually be in close proximity to anyone so obnoxious! Goodness knows how Abi came from the same family – I think Abi got all the ‘normal’ genes, whilst Ellen the objectionable ones! I struggled to see how her Husband coped with Ellen – the way he was described made him come across as a wholesome likeable chap – worth of a spot in anyone’s life, and the perfect character for this book and his family. To be honest, Ellen initially comes across as a bit of a nightmare, but I guess that adds spice to the whole story.

I adored the description of Danté and was feeling as though I could fall for him him too; he just felt so fresh and real; as if he was standing next to me. Indeed, as the author suggested the name ‘Dante’ has echos of some kind of great expectation – or perhaps it is portent of some kind of massive let down?

Wild water swimming was one of Edward’s favourite pastimes and I loved the way his swim with Abi was described; It felt as though the scene was basking in the reflected glory of himself, to the extent that I momentarily felt like jumping into some fresh cold water myself. Note to self – ignore the reflected glory!

I started to feel as though Edward and Abi had more in common than both they and I thought, with their torrid family pasts. I felt that full credit should go to the author, when talking about their pasts, as it seemed so real and current, however unpleasant the thoughts it might provoke. I thought that Abi’s fledgling relationship with Ronnie was adorable – like the most idyllic granddaughter/grandfather relationship; almost a celebration of all those beautiful relationships with grandparents, past and present. This was all in sharp contrast to the memories shared with the reader about Abi and Ellen’s Auntie Claire, who brought the two girls up. The descriptions of the two women’s relationship with her were brief, but narrated so well – to the point that Abi’s relationship with Auntie Claire felt as vivid to me as my own relationships. I had to keep telling myself that it ‘was only a story’ such was the testament to the author’s writing! I just couldn’t help but think of the people in life for whom these kinds of toxic relationships are a reality. Indeed toxic relationships expose another way in which Abi’s and Edward’s lives mirror each other.

Edward and Abi seemed to be getting on so well by the end of the book – I just can’t wait until the next instalment gets published.

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Waiting to Begin – Amanda Prowse

I have been anticipating being able to read this book, ever since I knew that I had been honoured to be able to review it for you. You could say that I have been ‘waiting to begin’ it. Such is my admiration for Amanda Prowse and her writing, that I have goosebumps all down my arms, in anticipation of starting what I know will be another fantastic first class read.

The prologue provides an ingenious step back in time and tells us about Bessie’s train journey in 1984. The language in this prologue is thick and heavy, cleverly mirroring the atmosphere in the train carriage. If I close my eyes I am instantly transported to that train carriage and I can see Philip’s adam’s apple rising.

The author does a wonderful job of portraying what it was like to be 16 years old, in 1984, with all those pending thoughts of imminent adulthood about to become a reality. The descriptions of the interior of a 1980’s house also rang very true. I think this will finally force me come to the terms with the fact that the 1980’s really were quite a long time ago, as opposed to feeling like yesterday, and things genuinely were tangibly different then! Further to my 1980’s reality check, I also liked the way the reader was able to compare being 16, to the art of being a teenager nowadays, when children seem to grow up so much more slowly. I don’t think many of today’s 16 year old alumni would either think about leaving home, or consider themselves an adult.

This book is poignant, yet funny at times, especially, in my opinion for the 80s teenager. One of the funniest moments for me was when Bessie’s dear Dad threw a glass of orange squash over her head in order to extinguish her hair fire. ‘Only in the 80s’.

It’s safe to say that I loved this book – I loved so much about it: the reason why Bess likes yellow roses, the love that Mario has for Bess, Philip’s loyalty, Bess’s relationship with her parents and her relationship with her children, the way the characters developed, the way Bess gave her relationship with Dan a second chance. MI loved the way the story switched seamlessly between the 1989s and the present day…..and more – so much more, but you will have to read the book for yourself to see what you love about it. Let Ananda Prowse into your life as one of your favourite authors too.

It’s safe to say that while I was reading this book, it felt like the only thing that mattered and whilst I wanted to know what happened in the end, I was also sad to have finished it.

In summary, I absolutely loved this superlative book and it further cemented my reasons for loving what this author produces. She somehow writes an amazing, interesting novel, every time, only for it to be surpassed by the next book.

Just use this link to buy a copy of this fabulous book for yourself:

A Summer of Second Chances

The delightful, well written story of Ava, a young woman trying to keep her Mother’s beloved animal charity shop running, in sometimes less than optimum situations. Ava’s problems though, are the readers gain, in a touching book, full of fun, laughs and surprises, as well as tinges of sadness. As a reader I warmed to the author’s portrayal of Ava, to the extent that I felt fully invested in her outcome; I found myself really caring about how her story might end. This was the first book by Carol Thomas that I have read, but judging by how much I enjoyed the book, I can assure you that it will not be the last of her books that I choose to enjoy.

I adored the way Myrtle was described as being such a comfort to Ava. I thought that the author had captured that way that pets instinctively know when their human companions are upset or in pain and instinctive,y comfort them, perfectly; this part of the book will surely resonate with any animal lover or animal companion.

I thought that the scene where Ava realises that she wasn’t ever second best, to her Mother’s rescue animals, was very emotional and I felt myself welling up. The author described Ava’s realisation beautifully and with empathy and as a reader I couldn’t help but get caught up in a Ava’s emotions. I also considered the meeting up of Ava and Henry, when they hadn’t seen each other for years, to be almost sparking, such was the obvious emotional chemistry between them.

Owing to the illness of his Father, the estate owner who owns much of the local property, the future of Ava’s shop ends up being in the hands of her former love, Henry, who suddenly turns up out of the blue. The reader is left guessing as to whether or not he has some kind of ulterior motive, with his actions. I loved that Ava still had faith in the Henry she knew of old and was convinced that Henry wouldn’t do anything to deliberately hurt the villagers. Henry might have had initial thoughts about the village that wouldn’t have been welcomed by Ava and three villagers, but on reflection, Henry was determined not to let Ava down again (he let her down when they were caught together by his mother years ago, only for Henry to be shipped off to boarding school). He felt he had let Ava down by not keeping in contact with her. Henry is truly torn between doing something to improve the dire financial situation of the estate, and causing harm and distress to his estate’s tenants by putting their rents up, when they are mostly only just making ends meet. This dilemma is relayed articulately abc with passion. Personally I think that this only increases Henry’s likeability factor.

Henry had an aristocratic upbringing, growing up in a stately home, and I felt that the author had captured stereotypical aristocratic behaviour, when Henry ‘found the dog’s enthusiasm about his return more honest than that of his mother’. Being a Mother myself, I felt rather bereft at this comment; despite my sadness however, I thought that the sentiment was portrayed perfectly.

I enjoyed the author’s portrayal of Henry; he seemed like a really nice chap, the kind of person you might choose as a friend; I found myself desperate for Henry to finish the story as a good person, rather than as the kind of scoundrel that was hinted at from time to time! I find that my enjoyment of a book depends to a large extent on how I feel about the characters. In my opinion, there is a real skill in writing, in making your characters likeable and believable, to the extent that the reader really cares about their outcomes and wants to read the book right to the end. Carol Thomas really achieved that kind of empathy in this book.

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