Toni’s Blind Date – Rosie Dean

What a great concept, from an author whose work I have enjoyed before; will this pair of TV blind dates
succeed in love, when neither has done so before?

I genuinely felt for Toni – the speed with which Spencer dumped her, after she miscarried their unplanned pregnancy. In this kind of situation, it is very east for everyone on the outside to consider that she was better off without him, if that was how he was going to behave, but that didn’t make the situation any easier for Tony, and she had my sympathy. I did feel that the author dealt with the situation with the appropriate pragmatism and empathy.

I also felt for Will – getting dumped and then losing his contract, just when he had got his living arrangements on track again.

The pair of them seemed like decent human beings and did not deserve the unfortunate circumstances in which they found themselves, through no fault of their own. I loved the way t hst Will noticed tiny little things about Toni – a sign that he is pretty smitten!

A series of unfortunate events, lead to Will and Toni going off on a date abroad, skiing together; just how they got into this situation certainly showcased the humour that pervaded the book! Indeed, I found myself laughing out loud – the irony – when Will was on the phone to Toni’s Dad, mid date, pretending to her that he was talking to his own Father!

  • Would Will feel that he had been misled by Toni when he finds our who she is?
  • Ditto for Toni, when she discovers that Will was he Dad’s ’plan’? (At least they are both hiding something).
  • Would the pair actually get on – might things even progress between them?
  • Might Rick claim Will’s ideas as his own?
  • Will the skiing trip be a success?
  • What will Toni make of Will’s business arrangements?
  • Can Toni’s parents truly be friends again?

The story delves deep into Toni’s various relationships; one can but hope that the delving isn’t too deep – and subsequently painful, for Toni and her family – they seem such nice, genuine people. Some home truths about the past most certainly come to the fore with a bit of a jolt!

This was a delightfully entertaining book, with old fashioned undertones, especially pertaining to Will’s outlook on romance. His disregard for the usual innuendo-laden mode d’emploi of the average episode of the dating show, was refreshing, and highlighted what a decent guy he was. The pair seem to agree that a dating show would not normally be their ’thing’ but they are united in trying to make the best if the bizarre circumstance they find themselves in, having to go away together, whilst being filmed for a TV show. The whole situation was rather reminiscent of TV’ blind date at its cheesiest. Whilst the erstwhile singletons were away on their date, watching their relationship develop was akin to watching a beautiful plant come into bloom in slow motion – but like a flower, will this fledgling relationship quickly fade and die, once it has reached its full potential, or will it continue to flourish like a beautiful evergreen specimen?

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Winging It – Emma Murray

What a treat – the next instalment in the lives of Saoirse and David and their outlook on love, friendship and parenting. The thing is, will they find their tribe in New York – and will that tribe be different to the suburban London tribe they are used to? Regardless, I’m sure there will be many laughs along the way!

I loved the way that Saoirse’s Mother could read her like a book – it made me feel right at home! I was also overcome with a massive wave of empathy, at the thought of staying in a New York apartment with one bedroom and no washing machine, for a year, especially with a young child! I must admit, when things weren’t really going to plan in New York (understatement of the year), to a little moistness around the eyes, when Saoirse’s best friends turn up on her new doorstep!

I adored the essence of friendship running throughout this book; the way that you can be happy around your closest friends, neither saying nor doing anything – just soaking up each other’s auras – the mere togetherness. Those are the best types of friends and Saoirse is blessed in that respect.

My curiosity was aroused by the Westmont beach house – who owned it and why were they watching the family? What did the owner have to do with Bonnie? Regardless, it sounded idyllic and a far better environment in which to be living with a young family. Indeed most of the people seemed so much friendlier, for starters. Once we were introduced to Beth, the landlady, I was interested to know why she was so distant. But, however distant, I would rather have 100 Beths than 1 Brigitte, another school Mum, who seemed frankly, awful. I was also intrigued by the identity of the person leaving negative reviews about Saoirse’s book – just who would do such a thing?

This book was full of funny moments, but I had a real laugh out loud moment, at the idea of life doing a full 360 degree turn, when school playground life across the Pacific starts to mirror that which Saoirse thought she had left behind in London. One thought though – will we be treated to a further installment

Can Saoirse find happiness in New York and will the mysteries be resolved? You will have to read this great book for yourself to find out.

Starry Skies in Ferry Lane Market – Nicola May

What a treat – another visit to the Ferry Lane Market and an opportunity to dip into the lives of Kara and Star, 2 much loved characters from the last book, once again. I was also thrilled to see Kara and Billy still getting on so famously.

Once again I loved the descriptive language in this book, and at times, when I closed my eyes, I could have been in Cornwall. I adored the way that the Ferry Lane characters lived and worked together as such a cohesive community, and felt as though I wanted to live there myself. There was something about the characters – they just felt so very real.

Despite having her Daughter at a very young age, Star has done so well for herself, but I agreed that it was time she had some fun and did something for herself, but I can see why she worries, as her Daughter is the age Star was when she had her!

Star’s card reading had predicted 2 men in her life. Frank’s nephew Conor, who is staying for a while could be the first – but is he a ’goodun’ or not? If he’s anything like his Uncle Frank, he will be alright! Star still seems to be pining after Jack, with whom she had a previous dalliance though – he could well be the second chap, but he is in New York.

I felt for Star, because her Mother was so useless – positively hard work. Despite this, Star was a great Mother herself and I admired her immensely. Star just didn’t deserve all that she had on her plate.

Daz had my utmost sympathy for the way that he was so worried about breaking his news; I was just sad that the twins Dad took it so badly. I hoped he would come around.

When things are starting to look settled, of course a ‘cat has to upset the pigeons’ – when the market gets a surprise visit and Star gets some surprise news.

This is a beautiful story, about love, family, community and above all friendship. There are however so many questions:

  • Is Star over Jack?
  • Is there a future for Conor and Star?
  • Who is Star’s father?
  • What is Star keeping a secret?
  • What is Star’s dilemma?
  • What is the connection between Kara and Star?

Of course you will have to read this great book for yourself, to find out what happens, but I will let on that we can look forward to another future instalment about the lives of the Ferry Lane Market folk.

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Sisters Behaving Badly – Maddie Please

I do love Maddie Please books and I simply cannot think of a better way to spend a dank Sunday afternoon, than catching up on what is certain to be a gem of a book. I just love the acceptance that not every literary heroine has to be a gorgeous young ‘twirties’ (20’s/30’s) woman.The only thing I struggle with, is the idea of two Sisters having fallen out so badly over a carvery lunch, only because I am so blessed with my Sister! I am not naive enough to know that we are lucky with our relationship though – although is it luck, or that we are prepared to put in the work? I was also shocked that the Sisters hadn’t lived together for 40 years! That is a lifetime!

Regardless, at the start of the book it looked as though some kind of reparation was going to be made (or at least attempted), which I was pleased about. It is so true that blood is thicker than water, so I held out great hopes for Jenny and Kitty reconciling.

This a wonderful book; once I had started it, I knew that I wasn’t going to be happy until I had finished it. It is a book about family and the ties between Sisters that despite being frayed for a while, can always be healed, if all parties are prepared to put in the effort.

This book has its humorous moments, with the Sisters still thinking about wanting to make the other laugh, despite not having spoken for some time. This gave me hope for the revival of their relationship. Other humorous moments included Kitty falling into a disused swimming pool of sludge and then going for the nonchalant look in front of dishy Leo, the builder! As for tbe debacle with the donkey and Dom the pool man – you will need to read it yourself to believe it!

The book was crammed full of intelligent, clever writing; for example, the description of the packed lunch that Paul had made for Jenny for the ferry crossing ’a dull affair of colourless things and cardboard bread’. Interesting and whether intentional or not, oddly reflective of Kitty’s opinion of Paul.

I loved the descriptions in the book – of France, the French house, the food and of the scenery. The author shrewdly brought it all to life with her characterisations and narrative and I never tired of the sights and sounds the two Sisters experienced. Paul sounded increasingly hideous and domineering, every time he was mentioned, for example when Jenny explained that she rarely cooks after Paul saw her licking a spoon once while cooking! Wow, what’s not to loath!? When the Sisters were eating pastries in Quimper, I wanted one, they sounded so delectable. Bertrand and Hector – what a pair! I found their characterisation amusing and at times I would read a passage and forget which character was the man and which the donkey!

I liked the way that the author was not afraid to broach tricky subjects – like at what age a woman should give up trying to find a partner. Personally I think I would rather have the life of single but thrice married Kitty, rather then be married to controlling Paul! The subject of domestic abuse comes up – the realisation that what Paul subjects Jenny to, is actually domestic abuse and it is dealt with empathetically.

It felt to me that finishing the renovation of their inheritance together, would bring the two Sisters closer, although it struck me as so sad, that Jenny was so used to her Husband telling her what should be done, that she seemed to have lost all ability to choose or make decisions. One could but hope that the two Sisters would grow to love the house and each other’s company so much, that they would opt to stay. Indeed could the discovery of one of their late Aunt’s paintings for sale in a gallery, lead to them having the cash for Jenny to live without Paul?

I loved this start from start to finish; it was like a breath of fresh air. A joyous romp, it was funny, sad and entertaining all in just the right amounts and it made me feel so happy, reading it.

There were lots of questions that needed answering in this story.

  • Why did the Sisters fall out?
  • Why does Kitty dislike Jenny’s Husband Paul, or is it just that he’s always been a bit of a miserable git?
  • Why is Jenny so constantly haunted by Paul’s requirements and ’what Paul would think’?
  • Why is Ace’s relationship with Paul so bad?
  • Can the Sisters repair their relationship?
  • Is there a future for Kitty and Leo?

In order to find out the answers to these questions and more, you will need to read this compelling book for yourself. To purchase, please use this link:

The Kitchen – Laura Carter

I must admit to having the utmost admiration for anyone working in a kitchen with split shifts for starters, together with unexpected menus changes, varying tempers and unbearable heat. I have never worked in a kitchen myself, so I don’t know how true the depictions we see on TV actually are, but a I know for sure that I would not react well to being constantly berated and shouted at! This is no doubt why I had immediate empathy for the characters in the book. I was also attracted to it, because I seem to spend a lot of time in the kitchen – at my choice! Finally, I loved the idea of the author taking inspiration from people around her, whilst they are totally oblivious to her intentions!

I felt sad for Maggie – that she was benefitting from the untimely demise of her boss and friend. She was bound to be hurting, not helped by the attitude of Emily, her late boss’s Daughter, or the arrival at her first service in temporary charge, of her nemesis, Ethan James, who seemed to be universally renowned as a bit of a dick basically! One definitely got the impression of vulture surveying their prey. A circling group of vultures is called a kettle, which seemed somewhat appropriate for a kitchen, although not half as appropriate as the name for a group of vultures feeding on the ground – a wake of vultures. Need I say more!

Nayomi was a great character and I truly respected the way that she had Maggie’s back from the very beginning, no doubt at least partly due to the way that Maggie was immediately kind and empathetic towards her at interview, unlike her boss Alexander, who had been seriously dismissive. I was humbled by the joy that Nayomi and her family got from the leftovers that she brought home form the restaurant, that would otherwise have been thrown away and I enjoyed the descriptions of the food and its unique smells; it made my mouth water! All the staff at the restaurant seemed pretty special people, but Charles the Sommelier stood out with his grandfatherly attitude.

I did question Emily’s professionalism with her damning review of Maggie’s work; it seemed distinctly personal.

There is intrigue in this book – apparent from the very beginning, Why did Emily fall out with her Father? It seems that Maggie and Emily have irreparably fallen out at some point too – were the incidents connected? Why does Emily stay with Oliver, when all they do is argue? Can Maggie work under Ethan? Can Emily and Maggie ever be reconciled? Can Maggie and Nayomi work together to prove Emily wrong? Will Emily’s lies come to the fore? Will the good guys triumph over the ill thought out wrongs of one person?

You will have to read this charming, poignant novel for yourself, to find out the answers.

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Twinkle Twinkle Little Bar – Isabella May

Please tell me that I am not the only mug to have googled whether or not the Cornish town of Pasty really exists or not! I must confess to being genuinely disappointed – I really wanted there to be a Pasty village!

River and Alice are living in Cornwall – in the town of Pasty, to be precise, where River is running a wine bar, but he seems to be a little ’over’ his love of Cornwall. I found this in itself rather shocking, as I didn’t not know how that could possible be! To add to River’s misery, his bar is haemorrhaging money, and he can’t bring himself to tell his partner how unhappy he is – she is of course blissfully happy in Cornwall – or so River thinks. If only the pair of them could communicate! I wanted to bang their heads together, despite having warmed to both characters!

River is just so kind – an example being the way that he could have taken his original bar back from his friends, but refuses to do so, despite the fact that his current business is not exactly flourishing. I also have the utmost admiration for how he wants to run his business – hellbent on sourcing the best quality ingredients, rather than going for the cheapest. I enjoyed how ginger seemed to be a very subtle but recurring comfort throughout River’s life and I recognised a real sense of pride in what he does and what he serves up to people, coupled with an admirable sense of community. Alice seemed an equally kind soul and they seemed a perfect match for each other in my opinion.

I loved the descriptive language in this book – the sense of the tastes and smells were sublime. In fact I may have let forth an involuntary drool at the description of River’s decadent hot chocolate drink, complete with Grand Marnier and blood orange zest! I could almost taste it; indeed I wanted to taste it! I did think that River could do worse than capture his hot chocolate ideas and morph them into a business of some kind; either a hot chocolate cafe/bar or selling hot chocolate balls – something of that ilk. After all, he clearly has a talent for capturing and encompassing flavours.

I adored the sense of family in this book; the way that Alice, despite not having the best relationship with her own family, had been wholeheartedly welcomed and integrated into River’s own close knit clan. I found myself enchanted by the way that they all treated Alice as one of their own.

I had a huge amount of unbridled respect for Zara – for the dogged way that she was trying to make for her own future, as opposed to falling into line with her siblings and surviving on trust fund money. Wow, what an amazing outlook she had.

I was completely taken with the idea of using River’s inherited camper van as the basis for a business, hopefully enabling him to share his mixology experience together with his undisputed gift for flavour and taste, in both senses of the word! I found his ideas enchanting and was captivated by his skills and newfound joi de vivre.

The writing in this book was gentle and intelligent and I found myself genuinely caring about what happened to the characters within it. I desperately wanted River and Alice to make twin successes of their relationship and their new business
venture. Almost as badly, I wanted the sparks of romance to fly between Zara and Bruno, River and Alice’s heavenly, self confessed ’ready to date’ baker friend. Oh my goodness, I found myself mesmerised by Bruno’s catalogue of goodies and it may just have invoked yet more dribble!

Despite my initial disappointment at the non existence of the Cornish village of Pasty, I thoroughly enjoyed this read, which I found to be a thought provoking, entertaining read. It exuded ‘Hygge’ and was perfect to get stuck into in the run up to the Festive season. I found myself desperately wanting to make hot chocolate, with steaming hot milk, the darkest chocolate, a swirl of whipped cream (‘proper’ cream, not the squirty kind), a sprinkling of dark chocolate shavings, a couple of mini marshmallows and all importantly, a freshly grated dusting of nutmeg. I recently discovered that my Sister uses ground ginger and has never seen, let alone used a whole nutmeg! So reader, in celebration of the tastes and flavours permeating throughout this book, promise me one thing; if you use the powdered versions of these spices just try letting the whole versions into your life, and when you do, take in a great big lungful of the scent and let it impregnate your mind and drift through your house like a cloud of bliss.

I do like a bit of a delve into the unknown and this book did not fail to deliver.

Will River and Alice make a success of their new business?

Will they settle back in Glastonbury or would they want to continue living in a nomadic style?

Will Zara and Bruno become an item, despite the MOST unpromising start?

To get these answers and more, you will of course need to read this enchanting book for yourself. So, start the milk heating, get your chocolaty drink of choice on the go and settle down for a sensational seasonal read.


The Story of our Secrets – Shari Lowe

This book is a poignant look at how we can be haunted by our past. Colm has died and too many ends have been left unfinished. His friends and family are in turmoil. what is not in doubt is that he was much loved. I found this hard it read in that I found it so sad, but you could not fail to be moved by the intelligent, empathetic writing. If only there was some way that Colm could communicate with his circle of family and friends from beyond the grave…….

You really would have to be a block of concrete not to be moved by this book – but make sure you have your tissues at the ready.

Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop – Rebecca Raisin

People can invariably be arses and Simon undoubtedly fell into this category, whilst Flora unquestionably slotted into the ’better off without him’ league.

Flora is an alliterative breath of fresh festive air; her heart is made of egg nog and she is full of the joys of the festive season. She may be a bit of a Christmasphile (I think I may have made that word up) but really – what’s not to love. She is just kindness personified. Flora’s friend Livvie urges her to be the heroine in her own Hallmark Christmas movie – this seems just the perfect advice for someone who is so crazy about Christmas. Flora’s bubbly, cookie personality is so endearing, verging on contagious. I started to feel myself being drawn into festive activities and I began to wish that I had started reading this book a bit closer to the main festivities, such were the seedlings of festivity that were starting to grow in my belly. Still, there are worse things to have on your mind in October, so I just allowed myself to be drawn into the book. The intelligent writing was such that you get overwhelmed with this compelling need to join in with anything Christmassy, without noticing. By the time you realise, it is a bit of a fair accompli!

One point to note; Flora’s collection of Christmas paraphernalia must have been an awful lot more special than mine, if its sale were to finance buying a camper van! I can’t see my collection of 25 year old angels made in nursery school funding anything! Regardless I found myself fully immersed in Flora’s project. I warmed to her character so unconditionally, to the extent that she felt real to me and I found myself genuinely worrying about her; I became fully invested in wanting her to succeed, and if she found someone worthy of her love in the meantime – all the better.

Courage is the quality that Flora has in buckets and I admired her for that fortitude; the process of selling those belongings that meant most to her, in order to finance a new life was mind blowing and amplified my desire for her not only to succeed with her business, but to find that someone special in her life.

I was intrigued by the thought of a hotel in a grounded Boeing 747 and found myself googling it. just imagine my delight upon finding that this hotel really does exist! A stop off to be added to my bucket list for sure!

Connor was gorgeous character and I found myself liking him immediately, despite his grumpy exterior.

I held out great hopes for Flora on a couple of fronts. I wanted van life to be good for her and for her fledgling business to do well. I just adored the idea of a Christmas market in Lapland and I hoped fervently that such a thing exists. (Mental note to self to surf for pictures, if the market exists; it’s at times like these that one rues the lack of pictures in contemporary novels). Equally, I would not be disappointed were something to happen between Flora and Connor; I felt that they could both do with a bit of good fortune on the romantic front – even just a bit of a festive fling would give them both a break! Their mutual prickliness makes love seem unlikely, but then who ever thought that 2 stickle bricks would nestle together quite so perfectly!? (Please be sympathetic to the age defining comments!) Historically, grumpy men tend to be open to discarding their outer cantankerous layers, giving their surly characters a chance to shine, channelling their exterior gruff Mr Darcy into a far more palatable personality. Indeed Connor showed the beginnings of a sense of humour, with his market ’rule book’.

I do enjoy a bit of mystery and intrigue and there are a whole host of unanswered questions. Will Flora make a success of her shop? Will her relationship with Connor thaw? where does Flora’s future lie and with whom?

In order to find out the answers to these questions and more, you will need to read this thoroughly engaging book for yourself; I cannot imagine that it would fill anyone with anything but joy.

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Under the Mistletoe – Sue Moorcroft

It is a dilemma; by choosing to read books by authors whose work I love, am I setting myself up for a fail? With an author such a s Sue Moorcroft, this is a ‘no-brainer’ as her books never fail to bring me pleasure, and I’m sure that someone more celebrated than me must have said that ’life is too short for reading books that you don’t love’, at some point. With this in mind, I am settling down for a great read! When an author writes a series of books, I have oft wondered how on earth they remember who everyone is, how they are related and what they do, so I was fascinated to read in the acknowledgements for the book, that Sue Moorcroft’s Brother maintains a Middledip Bible, to keep track of all the characters in the village!

Laurel is a thoroughly decent sort – illustrated by the fact that she persuades her niece not to spread pictures of Mac on social media, despite that fact that Laurel and Mac have history from their previous years. We don’t initially know what Mac and his friends did, but we do know that Laurel has neither forgotten nor forgiven. I suspected that Mac was remembering what happened and was feeling guilty. I also thought there might be some unfinished romantic business between Laurel and Grady. I can live in hope, anyway!

Rea’s agoraphobia is portrayed in a way that is both eloquent and empathetic. Her situation would most certainly be seen sympathetically by those similarly afflicted, as would Laurel’s role in trying to help.

I found myself completely gripped by this story and I could not put it down. I was able to relate to the characters and I felt the utmost empathy for Laurel and her past. I was totally gripped by the will they/won’t they aspect of Laurel and Grady’s relationship. Read this book today to get into the festive spirit, or why not buy a copy for someone special.

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