Buttercups in the Basement – Jane Harvey

I was thrilled to have been given the opportunity to review this novel, having very much enjoyed the first offering in the Hummingbird House series of books.

In the previous book in this series, Betty was most definitely the glue, holding the eclectic residents of Hummingbird House together, so I was very interested to learn a little more about her back story, as this book tells two strands of story in essence, in the way that it alternates between the 1960’s, when Betty first moved in to Hummingbird House with her Husband William, and the present day. The book in effect provides a dual social commentary, interlinking the 1960s and the present day.

In the current day, Betty is the self proclaimed Granny of Hummingbird House, fiercely protective of her ‘family’ of tenants. It amused me, the way that she personified The House, attributing feelings about the tenants to it and I loved the way that she knew The House inside out, to the extent of knowing exactly how many steps there were between floors.

Hummingbird House could do with a bit of a sprucing up, but it felt as though Betty was holding back somewhat, almost (putting on my amateur psychologist hat here) as though a clean up might somehow spontaneously destroy memories of the past. Going back to the 60s, it appeared that Betty had always had a special connection with Hummingbird House.

I was tickled by Betty’s 1960’s view of how dated Hummingbird House’s decor was, when in fact to me it just sounded very ‘60s! Regardless it seemed that the bringing of Hummingbird House to its former glory was going to be a real labour of love for Betty. Betty’s Mum made me laugh too, with her own unique take on shabby-snobbery. She did make me feel sad though too – I just wanted her to find something positive to say to Betty, who was clearly so excited at having purchased the house, and perhaps even more excited at the thoughts of what she could make of the house – it obviously had a lot of potential.

Present day Betty knows all about grief, sadly, but she puts her knowledge to such good use, the way she empathises with a Paul following the death of his mother. She doesn’t just empathise, but tries to put her experience to a positive use, encouraging Paul out of his sadness, a tiny step at a time. I most certainly read something into the fact that Betty never had any children of her own, with the way she behaves towards her tenants; almost infantilising them – but in a good way. You can’t get much more caring than Betty. Towards the end of the book I felt sad that nobody seemed to give a Betty the love and care that she so readily gave to others. I just wanted to envelop her in a loving hug. For once however, Dorothy did come into her own and gave Betty the love and understanding that she so desperately needed; she just wanted and needed to be around loving women – women who loved her unconditionally.

Betty’s Mum is quite frankly, a ‘dreadful old trout’ – very much ‘of her time’. She is bitter and twisted, opinionated, homophobic, bigoted, unkind, ‘always right’ and just downright unpleasant! I did take time to try and list her redeeming features – everyone has some, right? Well, maybe everyone apart from Dorothy! Was anyone ‘a friend of Dorothy’s’? Not this one, I fear! Goodness knows what Linda Stroodle-Doodle-bump would make of living with her! Just how long might she last!?

Betty is a reminder of how things were in the 1960’s; a pristine, living museum artefact. A unique ‘one-off’ bordering on irreparably unpleasant! Betty is spinning on the axle of a constantly moving carousel, constantly seeking her Mother’s approval. What did certainly surprise me, was what was considered normal fare in the 1960’s and I was quite taken with Betty’s reaction to the idea of being served spaghetti for dinner, having never tried it before!!! I guess what I find hard to get my head around is the fact that I was born in the late 60’s, yet I cannot remember any great revelation at trying spaghetti for the first time! Betty is certainly naive yet enchanting in equal measures, and appears eager to try anything new, if not excited by it. But what is going on with her relationship with her Husband William? There undoubtedly seems to be a lack of physicality in their relationship, however devoted he seems to Betty. I did wonder about his sexuality – something which could well have been a taboo at the time, and something one might want to ‘hide’ behind a normal seeming relationship. One thing that I was left in no doubt about however, was William’s devotion to Betty – illustrated by the moment when he asks for a knife to help with eating his spaghetti, in order to save the struggling Betty from any embarrassment. Another thing from the 60s that I simply cannot imagine in current times, is the concept of a woman giving up her job and stopping working outside the house, simply because she has got married! Had I been in any doubt as to the era of Betty’s ‘Then’ story, it surely would have been validated by the concept of the men in the party going outside to smoke pot after a meal; a ‘modern’ update on the idea of the men of the house retiring to the dining room for a cigar

Dai is still crippled with grief after the passing of his dear Mother, and however hard Betty tries, she can’t seem to get him out of his funereal fugue.

Needless to say, I loved the surprise about Jonny at the end of the book!

Purchase link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Buttercups-Basement-Book-Hummingbird-House-ebook/dp/B09SF7VVG2sz


Coming Home to Puddleduck Farm – Della Galton

What an opportunity! I love Della Galton’s books, and I am finding it hard to articulate just how thrilled I am; how privileged to have been given the opportunity to read Della Galton’s latest novel. An added bonus is that the book is set in my local area, the beautiful New Forest. Oh double, triple happy days! Although a relatively new publisher, Boldwood Books does seem to have a most superb array of authors under its wing, that never fail to please.

I immediately empathised with Phoebe, not just because she seemed to love my beloved New Forest, but because she seemed to be fleeing a relationship. I really did feel for her, compounded by the fact that she seemed to have left in haste and hadn’t thought about what things she may or may not need. ‘Woefully under-packed’ would be almost an understatement, and meant that she would need to go back to her city apartment at some point.

Phoebe wondered to herself whether or not she had made too impulsive a decision to just get up and leave, having found her Husband Hugh in a clinch with another woman – myself, I lauded Phoebe’s courageous decision to just leave, rather than give Hugh a chance to try and worm his way out of his bad behaviour.

Phoebe’s immediate family were wonderful – close warm and loving. I would even go as far as to say that her parents were perfect. As for her grandparents and Puddleduck Farm – I have but one word – ‘idyllic’.

Growing up in such a wonderful household, it must make it extra hard when Hugh, Phoebe’s Partner turns out to be an emotionally constipated guttersnipe, of the lowest order. Indeed, he caused the unfortunate triumvirate of Phoebe losing her home, her job and her Partner in one fail swoop!

Sam acts as a welcome addition to proceedings, and if nothing else, might add a touch of colour to Phoebe’s Christmas break – or was it really a break, now that she was officially homeless and jobless! Sam is a sensitive soul but I did wonder if he had been hurt via social media media, as he was vehemently anti.

Alexa, Phoebe’s Sister-in-Law adds some comedy to the proceedings, by virtue of her name, and I must confess that were she my relative, her name would get me chortling every time! At this difficult time for Phoebe, her wonderful family are just what she needs.

Maggie, Phoebe’s Grandmother is a real character and a force to be reckoned with. She is described in the book – as having an abundance of compassion, mixed in with a great sense of humour. It was mentioned what a priceless gift that was. It is perhaps a reflection of the author, Della Galton – she writes with compassion, interspersed with pockets of humour, and has the priceless gift of being able to entertain her readers, through her writing; just saying………

I immediately warmed to Phoebe’s long-time friend Tori; the wonderful kind of friend that knows you down to the core. The unconditional kind of friend of whom you need to ask no questions and who knows best when (or if), to any of you.. The kind of friend that you may not have seen for a while, but that you know you pick up exactly where you left off, be it 5 years ago or just 5 minutes. A true, loyal Friend.

Rufus Holt, Maggie’s aristocratic neighbour, initially seemed, quite frankly, an utter arse, with no redeeming features whatsoever – but is there more to him than meets the eye? You couldn’t deny that he seemed to care for his Son. Hidden depths? Could there be romance in the air for Phoebe with Sam, or even Rufus?

As you may be able to tell, I loved this book from start to finish, and I sincerely hope that this is not the end of Phoebe’s story – but just a mere introduction.

To buy this book for yourself: https://amzn.to/3QrYXaq

To buy for yourself: https://amzn.to/3QrYXaqt

Summer Showers at Elder Fell Farm – Liz Taylorson

This was the first book that I had read by Liz Taylorson, so whilst not knowing what to expect, I was instantly drawn to the book’s front cover, which I found most appealing. I was also amused by the titles of some of the chapters, such as ‘Don’t Get Covered in Sheep Poo’ and ‘Exploring Foreign Lands and All That Bollicks’. It sounded to me as though these chapters were going to be a case of ‘what you see is what you get’.

I immediately warned to Amy and the way that she dealt with the playground Mafia, but her ex Husband James really was a ‘piece of work’ – examples being sounding ridiculous amounts of money on the wrong size new trainers for Harry, and arranging to take Harry to Florida, when Amy herself has always yearned to take him, whilst criticising Amy when the only holiday she can afford is primitive camping in a field the Lake District. I must admit to wanting to hug Amy when she deliberately drove her car over James’ well manicured verge! I did rather feel for Amy; it somehow felt as though the entire world was conspiring against her – School, playground Mafia, tent, the weather, sheep poo, James and Laurie, Darcie-Mae et al. I did like the humour in the book, for example the reading of Swallows and Amazons and (this sound bad) when Harry falls over in the dark, and the not-so-private escapades of the people in the huge motorhome!

James and Laurie together – well, I have no words for what they did, apart from to say that, as a Harry might say, their behaviour towards Amy and Matt was bollicks!

Harry is Amy’s world and she is so utterly selfless. It would have been Amy that would have gone without dinner at the pub, if Matt hadn’t offered to pay, and it was Amy who ended up sleeping on the broken air mattress, after Harry and Oliver had jumped on it one too many times. Harry was quite a complex character, although I’m sure some of that complexity was ,earned from his Father. I did however love Harry’s pragmatic view of the world and events in his life; he did make me chuckle!

I felt quite humbled by the way that Amy had budgeted for her holiday – wondering if she could afford a couple of baked potatoes in the pub. It also made me feel bitter towards James, who seemed full of the fact that he was providing maintenance payments, yet he was holidaying in Florida, whilst Amy was living on the breadline. I accept of course that Amy could work, but such work can be hard to come when you haven’t worked for years, and one needs to earn enough to cover any childcare.

Matt seemed very easy company – a dream come true! He completely won me over whe realised that Amy was broke and quickly worked out a way to buy her and Harry dinner, without embarrassing her. He was just so different from James, it was unbelievable. What a thoroughly decent, nice chap. He does however have a more complicated side to him, not ameliorated by Oliver. Oliver is again complicated, and a little too used to being able to manipulate people to get what he wants. His tears dry up just a little too quickly, once he gets his own way. Harry, whilst getting things wrong at times, is at least blindingly honest; Oliver not so much so.

What is a Peter hiding about the past, that presumably involves Amy’s late Mother?

In all I found this to be a wonderful, uplifting story about family, love and friendship, and about finding out your facts and taking a deep breath, before you react. I really did think that I had the end sussed out, and that perhaps Amy and Matt might take over the old cottage and run the caravan park; it would make for a rather marvellous sequel!

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Summer-Showers-Elder-Fell-Farm-ebook/dp/B0B57F8V4V

Elodie’s Library of Second Chances Rebecca Raisin

At the risk of being a little fangirlesqe, I must confess to very much enjoying Rebecca Raisin’s works, so I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review this latest book.

I immediately empathised with Elodie – what a nightmare, being styled at the behest of your Mother, for an event you don’t really want to attend! Thank heavens for the joy of having a good book on hand, in order to alleviate some of the pain, and I can certainly appreciate Elodie’s love of
Books, and I was overwhelmed at her bravery, in going against her Mother’s wishes to work in their ailing local library. Elodie’s Mother certainly seems to be hard work, at the best of times!

Elodie certainly shows her humanitarian side, with her treatment of both Harry and Alfie – what a sterling example to us all. I did feel that it was sad however, that Elodie deemed it necessary to completely change her appearance for her new role, although I did understand why she did it.

As I read on, I found myself asking lots of questions:

– How can Elodie find over 500 new members for the library over the next three months, so that she can apply for essential funding to save the library? If anyone could do it, it would in my opinion be Elodie.

– Why does Finn have what seems to be a constant flow of female admirers?

– How will Finn react when he discovers the truth about Elodie?

– Can Elodie’s People Library contribute towards saving the library?

– Am I right to slightly alarmed about Elodie’s growing relationship with Finn – I suspect that he wouldn’t be happy if he found out Elodie’s real identity. She needs to come clean with him, and soon.

– Can Elodie overcome Finn’s betrayal?

– How is Sofia a Woman of such tremendous means?

– Why is Willow Grove so fond of insulting, alliterative nicknames for so many residents?

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Elodies-Library-Second-Chances-heart-warming-ebook/dp/B09YH6YXR9

Confetti at the Hummingbird Hotel – Daisy James

My egg chair

Flower: Honeysuckle

To say that I am a little excited to be reading and reviewing Daisy James’ latest Hummingbird Hotel offering, is an understatement of the most massive variety. I simply cannot wait to read about Abbie’s latest escapade, all the while loving how each chapter has a subtle nod to Abbie’s green fingers, being dedicated to a flower. I am sat in my egg chair writing this review, thinking of the gorgeous, fragrant honeysuckle growing outside, for inspiration.

Abbie Coleman and a Dance & Desserts Retreat, combined with her upcoming nuptials; what could possibly go wrong! (Anything and everything, judging by past retreats!) I did however love everything about Abbie – her passion and zest for live. What really made me chuckle out loud, was her slightly alliterative love/hate relationship with and personalisation of, the sleek, silver, shiny colossus that was the coffee machine. She loved the coffee it produced, and would invariably jump at the chance to drink a beverage made by someone else; anybody else; yet she seemed unable to work the thing herself – almost as though the elusive machine just knew when Abbie was touching its controls and played awkward, just for the craic!

We join Abbie as she is consider selling her beloved hotel! Surely not!

I didn’t warm to Simon the dentist, who came to view the hotel, with a view to buying it! He was fairly odious, completely clinical and not at all suited to the hotel, with surely his ’death knell’ in terms of buying the hotel, being when he immediately turned his nose up at any hummingbird decor (lovingly collected by Abbie’s late Aunt), preferring a minimal approach. From what I remember of Abbie, I can ultimately only see her selling the hotel to someone that she likes, who can love it and nurture it like she does. Whilst Simon and his family would undoubtedly run the hotel with efficiency, they would never be able to run it with anything approaching the love and passion of Abbie and her friends and family. Oh dear, Daisy James writes in such a realistic way that I find myself genuinely caring about what happens to the hotel, almost to the point of wanting to campaign against Abbie selling up! I do so enjoy a book that instills this kind of passion in me.

I was slightly alarmed that the impending grape harvest was so close to the wedding, but could only hope that all would go well, although what use is a great harvest, if they don’t have the customers for the wine?

I also had a sense an impending disaster of the most hilarious proportions, at the idea of Cheapskate Simon popping into the Dance and Desserts Retreat! By the way, I have labelled Simon a cheapskate owing to the fact that he is driving around in the smallest, cheapest car around, despite clearly being far too tall to fit into it with anything approaching a vestige of comfort!

The retreat seems to be going exceedingly well, but:

  • Who is playing tricks on Curtis
  • When will Abbie summon up the courage to tell Felix about the impending sale of the hotel?
  • Will Abbie actually be able to let go of her beloved hotel, even if Simon comes up with a credible offer?
  • Will the vineyard be able to make ends meet?
  • Will Curtis’ kind deeds come to light?
  • Why can’t Abbie keep the hotel and have Nikos base his new restaurant there instead of at the vineyard?

You will of course need to read this great book for yourself, to find out.

I loved this book from the first page, right down to the very last word. Hallelujah for the ebook, so that nobody could tear out the last chapter of my read, as happened in the book. I felt as though I was holidaying vicariously through Daisy James’ writing – at times I felt as though I was there in Corfu with this fabulous, eclectic group of characters. Closing my eyes really enabled me to feel as though I was there, soaking up the special, heady mix of sights, sounds and smells. I didn’t want the book or the retreat to end and I most definitely didn’t want Abbie to sell the hotel. Of course part of me not wanting Abbie to sell the hotel, was my yearning to read another book (or seven) in this fabulous series. Alas this is the last of the Hummingbird Hotel series, but that will give Daisy James more time to enthral us with her imminent Tuscan teashop series.

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0B1VJT8L1