Autumn Dreams at Mermaid Point – Sarah Bennett

What a treat – I am truly honoured to have been given the opportunity to review the next book in the Mermaid’s Point book, by Sarah Bennett. Not only do I get to read what will be a fantastic book, but I get the chance to catch up with some old literary friends – which is what many of Sarah Bennet’s amazing characters have become to me. I love Sarah Bennett’s fun, intelligent writing and I can only hope that she has many more characters and plot lines in the offing.

Nerissa is a wonderfully kind character, still haunted by the tragic death of her fiancee 20 years ago, but I can’t help thinking that she needs to move on. I can’t believe that her fiancee would want her to be mourning him like she does, over 20 years later. I hated the way that Gareth’s Mother Margot treated Nerissa and I am sure that Gareth would have wanted the two women to support each other. It seems that Nerissa has tried to be supportive, but as for Margot – I can only assume that being consumed by grief, makes her behave the way she does towards Nerissa. I found this very sad, as they were both clearly grief-stricken, and should have been providing support to each other. I did however want to give Margot the benefit of the doubt, due to the grief.

Laurie is joy personified and if I was feeling sad, and I was in Mermaid’s Point, I think her cafe would be the first place I would go for a bit of solace in the form of a chat, a coffee and a piece of cake. I found myself captivated by Nerissa as a character and desperate for her to be happy. I must stress that this doesn’t necessarily point towards finding new love. Happiness for Nerissa is more about coming to terms with the past and learning to love herself. I strongly feel that she can’t move on and find new love until she has come to terms with the past and has learned to love herself again. I just felt glad that she had strong family support behind her, whatever she did. You can never have too much family love and support in my opinion.

An indication of the sort of kind, selfless person Nerissa is, is the way that she provides support to Jake’s Mum Linda. What a wonderful person, to set aside her own issues, to try and help another, whom she sees as less fortunate than herself. All this, whilst having worries about her own future – namely her job and her accommodation (which came with the job).

Tom seems to be struggling with his own grief, as well as trying to care for his two teenage children. He is a totally likeable character, even he does seem out if his depth at times. Oh how I wanted Tom and Nerissa to get together – they seemed made for each other, although I must admit, Nerissa came across as being younger in this book, than she did in the last. I also found myself drawn to how well Tom’s children seemed to get on with her. It felt as though they had a female role missing in their lives – that Nerissa fitted into perfectly.

I enjoyed the organic growth of the relationship between Tom and Nerissa. indeed, who would have imagined that the undoing of a wetsuit could make two people so hot under the collar! I so wanted the pair to get it together, but didn’t want a tragedy to make them closer.

If you were left in any doubt, I can confirm that I loved this book; Sarah Bennett did not let me down, with just the right mix of love, romance and family. A veritable feel-good book of the highest echelons that just made me feel happy. My only issue was that it was over too soon; I wanted to stay in Mermaid’s Point forever! I can only hope that there is another visit in the pipeline? Might I suggest a Christmas story about Alex and Ivy?

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Annie’s Autumn Escape – Debbie Viggiano

As it pours with rain outside, it feels like the most appropriate season to be reading and reviewing this new book from Debbie Viggiano.

This sounded like a feel-good story, but i realised upon reading the first page that this wasn’t actually the case. I think the first sniff of a break up is inordinately worse when one party, as in this case, has absolutely no idea that there is any kind of problem with the relationship. I really do feel the utmost empathy for anyone who is on the receiving end of this kind of out of the blue announcement and I felt that the author dealt with the situation with empathy. She was similarly sympathetic with the subject of dementia, dealing with it with just the right mix of humour and empathy. I know that dementia is not a laughing matter, but sometimes I think you have to laugh at laugh at life – otherwise you’d cry. Indeed I loved the comment from Annie’s Mother at Annie’s 60th birthday soiree, ’I’m not sixty years old myself, so you can’t possibly be that ancient’!

I had the utmost respect for Annie, in that she decided to deal with her grief by going on holiday with her friends. Indeed, camaraderie was a strong theme throughout this book, from Annie’s friends gathering around her and being so thoughtful, to Cathy, the pub landlady, sticking up for her in the most unexpected fashion.

I liked that this story was post covid and that it gave me the opportunity to holiday in the sun vicariously through Annie. I enjoyed the fact that she was able to enjoy the sun with her friends, regardless of what anyone else thought. I personally hate the way that family members sometimes behave as though you are answerable to them regarding your personal life and I thought that the author captured this irritating trait perfectly!

There ere more serious sides to this book – a prime example being the relationship between Annie and her parents. I thought the author wrote and Annie’s Mother’s dementia with an appropriate mixture of humour and empathy and I felt that anyone going through a similar situation would feel a certain level of appreciation from the situation.

Throughout this book, I thoroughly enjoyed the humour and I was completely blown away by the organic nature of ‘Gerard’ and Annie’s relationship. As for Annie, I was entirely enchanted by her personality and joi de vivre and ended up wishing her her best life, whatever that might turn out to be.

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A Little Piece of Paradise – TA Williams

TA Williams is one of my favourite authors, so it is with great anticipation that I sit down to read this new tome. I have decided that it is almost a disadvantage, being a favourite author of mine; I can be pretty unforgiving and want each book to be as good as the last, if not better – and then I start wonder how these authors can keep the standard up. With TA Williams I have no such fears, as he continues to surpass himself with each new book. His writing is truly amazing.

Sophie and Chris are clearly animal lovers (I am judging this by their behaviour around the beautiful black Labrador, Jeeves), and that automatically endeared them to me, being an animal lover myself. The only think I was actually surprised at, was that Chris and Sophie were not a couple. I thought from the very first page, that they seemed to behave like a well established couple. Jeeves particularly tickled me with his ’I’m starving’ face – written for sure by someone who has at some point been blessed to be the custodian of a labrador!

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to inherit a fabulous Italian castle from a Machiavellian Uncle, even if it did mean having to live under the same roof as your estranged Sister for three months. We didn’t know anything about why the Sister, Rachel had left in the first place, but I surmised that she did care about her Family deep down, in that she had let them know, however briefly, that she was safe.

Animals have an uncanny knack of being able to bring people together and very early on in this story, I find myself seriously invested in the characters and wanting Jeeves to bring them together into a genuinely happy, cohesive family.

I love a bit of mystery in the books I read and in this story I found myself intrigued as to why Sophie and her Sister Rachel had fallen out, before we had even met Rachel. Was it over a Man, money or a combination of the two? Needless to say, I could be completely wrong and the tiff could be over something else entirely. Regardless of the cause, it must have been a fairly serious argument, for the two women to have fallen out to quite the extent they had and I found this unsettling.

It is a testament to TA Williams that the writing in this book is such that it all seemed so real and I found myself so invested in what happened at such an early stage. For example, I found myself genuinely caring about each individual’s eventual outcome. I wanted the two sisters to be best friends, I wanted them to find real love and I oh so wanted them to inherit their Uncle’s estate.

You can tell that TA Williams is an animal lover, who has owned dogs, by the way that he writes about them. I was particularly touched by the excerpt where Jeeves comforts Sophie when she is upset about her uncle. This section was written in such a beautiful, sensitive way, it really touched me and having experienced this kind of affection from animals myself, I was overwhelmed by how realistic this prose was. A mutual love for their Uncle left me with the hope that this mutual affection might lead to the two women getting closer and realising their late Uncle’s wishes.

The descriptive language in this book left me in awe, at a fellow human being able to produce such a cornucopia of strings of words together, such that I felt myself transported to rural Italy, with its unique, luscious blend of sights, sounds and smells. At times I could close my eyes and I almost found myself transported to the location in the book. Oh to own a TARDIS!w

This book provided a first class lesson in humility; an example of how things that are said or events can appear one way to one person, yet have a different meaning to another. A lesson in forgiveness. One could just hope that Sophie would go at least some way towards understanding previous actions of Rachel, even if she found them hard to forgive.

This was an outstanding book on many fronts.

  • The author’s ability to produce another great book in a long list; how does one manage to produce so many great books that whilst similar in style, all tell a unique story.
  • Unique yet believable characters, showing that its never to late to make amends.
  • The overarching sense of true love.
  • An overwhelming sense of family.

I feel a need to discuss the ’elephant in the room’; a work of modern romantic fiction written by a man? While it’s not that common, we would do well to recall Sophie’s words ‘Men can and do write romance’. There is no doubt in my mind that this is resoundingly true and that TA Williams is amongst the best authors of any sex when studying contemporary romantic fiction. His work is outstanding and this book is in my opinion, a shining star in a sky of romantic fiction. This book is not to be missed, and its only fault is that it was over too soon. I’m sure that there is another book’s worth of story to be told, featuring these characters.

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