The Colour Of Summer – Victoria Connelly

To say that I was excited to read the final chapter in Victoria Connelly’s ’The House in the Clouds’ trilogy, was a veritable understatement; to say that I was ’chomping at the bit’ would not be an exaggeration! What a treat to be given the opportunity to be one of the first people to read about what happens to ’Abward’ and the House in the Clouds.

I love the way that Abi is so happy living in The House in the Clouds’, proclaiming to be enchanted by it every day! what a wonderful way to live your life, especially when those closest to her, seem so attuned to her feelings. I confess however that I would personally be happier knowing that ’Abward ’ had become an actual thing, as well as knowing that things were better for Ellen, Abi’s Sister. It’s hard to quantify what her actual problem was, but it seemed to be eating away at her. As for ‘Abward’ – I just felt like banging their heads together, until they’re able to see what is blatantly obvious to all that know them!

I fear for Edward, in that he is do kind and non confrontational – perhaps liable to be taken advantaged of. This behaviour is illustrated by his reluctance to talk to Samantha about her excessive loud partying habits. I did however have high hopes for the ’Abwood’ relationship, and felt my heart flutter at every nuance of romance between the pair.

We discovered a little of what had driven Abi to Winfield House, in some frank, beautiful, yet shocking writing – all the more shocking, in that these kinds of situations take place every day. We were still left in the dark at first as to why Abi’s sister, is so very prickly. it would be good to see her lose some of those spikes in this book. The mystery surrounding Ellens sadness/crossness starts to intensify, but she is so difficult to talk to. If something did happen to one of the Sisters, Abi really does deserve to know about it, even it does ultimately simply lead to a better understanding for Ellen. It felt to me as though the differences between Abi and Ellen and their memories of the past, with their Mother, was somewhat reflected in Edward and his Brother’s recollection of the past, with their Father.

I loved the feeling (aura?🤓) that exuded from Harry and Aura’s relationship, but couldn’t help but imagine his life would be different (for the better), with Aura at his side. How wonderful the he genuinely feels that he has found sheer joy in his life. I felt so overcome with sadness however, at Aura’ s Mother’s reaction to their engagement and I just wanted to reach out and hug Aura.

Abwood had so much in common, perhaps without realising it – it felt as though a hopeless parent and a hopeless sibling was just the start of any connection. Edward’s Brother Oscar seemed particularly selfish. What I didn’t understand was Edward’s need tie about his Father’s death – unless he had just told Abi he was dead, as he didn’t want the pair to meet?

The more that we hear about Abi and Ellen’s Mother’s past, the more I fear for Ellen, especially her mental health. It started to feel like a self perpetuating loop, whereby Ellen was going to have mental health issues, regardless of where she was or who she was with. These kinds of episodes wsasa2#@must be terrifying for all involved. It did feel as though, having suffered together with their Mother, the Sisters needed to seek answers together.

Harry and Aura together, are a bright light in a book that has some dark moments. it’s as though they are the glue holding the book together.

together, these eclectic characters create a real, vivid story, that one struggles to put down.

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Who Do You Think You Are Maggie Pink – Janet Hoggarth

I was uncertain at first as to whether or not I was going to like this book from a new (to me) author. However, the further I went into the first chapter, the more I was hooked in a maelstrom of sentiment, such was the power and emotion of the writing. Reader, you could not fail to be moved, and a few tears are inevitable. I ended up loving the book, and I hope that you will too.

Whilst I would question whether or not Maggie ever felt as though she entirely belonged in her adopted family, I immediately empathised with her and found her to be a strong, believable character. I can see that if someone is adopted, they might eventually want to find their ’birth’ Mother so was not surprised when Maggie embarked on such a journey herself. It seemed totally in keeping with Maggie’s character, that she only commenced her search once her adopted Mother had died.

What I was surprised at, was the mine of raw emotion that seemed to be uncovered, and I feared for Maggie. Would finding her birth mother be the panacea to all that was wrong in her life, or would it only dredge up more grief and turmoil for our kind heroine?

You will of course have to read the book for yourself, to find out, enjoying Maggie’s adventures along the way.

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A Wedding in Tuscany – Sandy Barker

Having read one of Sandy Barkers books before, I was very excited to given the opportunity to read this new book, ’A Wedding in Tuscany’. Although it is actually one of a series of books, I found it read perfectly as a standalone book.

I really liked the way this book was written, with individual chapters dedicated to either of the Sisters, Cat and Sarah.

Cat is the most wonderful, uplifting character; the more you read about her, the more you want to read about her. She is a veritable rose amongst the gritty, thorny reality of contemporary fiction characters. I simply couldn’t get enough of her, and having read the first few chapters of the book, it really mattered to me, whether or not she got the romantic wedding of her dreams or not. I really do not know how Sandy Barker gets the inspiration for her wonderful, inspiring characters! I love the dynamics within families, particularly those involving the women in the families, and I was tickled by the ‘And this is her special day, so let’s just start deciding things then move onto the next’ comment made by Cat’s Mum to Cat’s Sister, Sarah, when they were discussing the organisation of Cat’s upcoming nuptials, and what Cat might want for her special day! Sarah too was a wonderful character and an an amazing Sister to Cat. An example was when she offered to swap venues – to let Cat have her mystery 40th birthday venue for the wedding, whilst Sarah would have ’Creepy Towers’ for her Birthday party. Cat refused this kind offer of course, and I was relieved for Josh, when he had spent so much time arranging Sarah’s Birthday party. Cat’s betrothed, Jean-Luc sounded simply delightful in both senses of the word; indeed I’m sure my insides turned slightly more towards mush, every time the utterance ’Cherie’ came out of his mouth, intended for Cat.

I love Italy, and the thought of a wedding in Tuscany sounded particularly endearing; the food, the scenery and some fabulous characters – what’s not to love! I couldn’t agree more with Cat’s suggestion of taking the time to soak everything in; indeed this is one of my favourite ways to make the most of a new place – letting the sights, sounds and smells just seep in. Wonderful. I particularly relished the selfless generosity of the author, in allowing us readers these moments.

Something that had me puzzled, was Cat’s reluctance to not only live in Paris, but to even broach the subject. There must surely be something more than Cat’s rocky relationship with her In-Laws, to which this reticence to even talk about the future must be attributed? Regardless, it warranted fairly urgent discussion, preferably before the wedding! Sarah also had me puzzled, with her reticence to have a joint wedding/40th birthday celebration. It seemed that at times she was overcompensating with wedding preparations, in order to avoid her looming 40th celebration. Both Sisters seemed to be in major avoidance mode, with little evidence as to why. However, once it had been ascertained that Cat really had lost her wedding dress, it transpired that the over – exuberant wedding preparation might actually be justified!

I loved the idea of the ’bad-ass’ gal that was Adventure Chick, nut I think its one of those concepts that you will need to read about for yourself, in order to fully grasp its gist!

I really did feel for Cat, when it came to choosing a room wIthin their chosen wedding venue for the actual ceremony; the author had done a fantastic job of making both options sound equally awful – swathed in darkness, cobwebs and various deceased creature memorabilia! Sandy Barker’s gift for descriptive language came to the fore, in the way that she made the dreadfulness of the situation seem so equally real, yet pressing. Cat would have been forgiven, had she gone into full Bridezilla mode at this point, having already discovered that her wedding dress was missing, but she remained relatively calm at this point. Humour was kept alive throughout the book though, an example being the flippant suggestion of an Indiana Jones themed wedding! I must also confess to having had a terrible ‘snaughing’ moment over the revelation of Roberto the masseur! Conversely, I confess to shedding a tear at Cat’s vulnerabilty

Snaugh /snaːf/

snaugh noun – when something is so hysterically funny that your sides hurt as you laugh energetically, whilst simultaneously snorting unattractively (often involving copious amounts of snot), captive to laughter. A solitary moment – nobody else tends to have the slightest clue what is quite so uproariously hilarious, which makes the whole situation even funnier!

I felt terribly sad that Cecile and Cat didn’t get on; again it is a genuine testament of the author’s fabulous writing, that I find I care so much. we didn’t initially have too much information about the relationship, other than an inkling that Cecile had previously been a bit of a bitch towards Cat, and that she liked Jean-Luc’s ex. I must confess though, to liking a bit of drama and I was starting to have doubts over whether or not the wedding would actually happen or not, when you looked at the Cecile situation and combined it with the fact that Cat and Jean-Luc still hadn’t spoken about where they were going to live, post wedding – and we are not talking about something simple as which apartment to live in – but about which country to set down roots.

So many questions. Will the pre-weds find a venue and a dress?

What is Sarah’s problem with her 40th Birthday? I am not going to spoil things for you – you will have to read the book to find out.

Daisy’s French Farmhouse – Lorraine Wilson

I felt enthusiastic at the idea of trying a book by an author new to me, and I was not disappointed.

I immediately discovered that this book was one of a series, so I made good use of the helpful ’who’s who’ at the start of the book. I also liked the ’food for thought’ literary quote at the start of each chapter.

I instantly warmed to our heroine, the eclectic, maybe slightly whacky, Daisy, with her vivaciousness and joie de vivre. Whilst I felt sad at Daisy’s reason for wanting to go to France, it really tickled me, that her Gran was currently residing in an Ashram! Then, as if I needed convincing that Daisy came from a somewhat unconventional family, it transpires that Daisy has a history of having seeming random physic abilities.

Daisy most definitely has a gift and the mature way in which she deals with it is most laudable; indeed it adds to the realism of the storyline.

Daisy’s new neighbour, Anton seems swathed in mystery – or is it sadness at the death of his Wife? Is it possible that Daisy’s presence could go some way towards restoring his mojo? The downside to this idea is that by the very nature of their relationship, Daisy is more likely to spend time with Anton’s dogs, than she is with the man himself. The dynamic between Daisy and Anton is interesting, enriched by a combination of Daisy’s special powers and Anton’s professional knowledge. At times I wondered whether Anton had a similar gift to Daisy’s, but was reluctant to admit it. The sexual chemistry between Anton and Daisy is rampant, but Anton initially seemed far from moving on from his relationship with his late Wife.

The way Daisy interacts with the dogs in the book is adorable; it’s almost as though she speaks Dog and she seems ultra aware of their individual physical and mental needs.

As a whole, this book is very aware of the strong relationships between dogs and their humans, and depicts these relationships beautifully. For me, it struck just the right balance between romance, humour and intrigue, with a generous helping of history and stunningly beautiful buildings and countryside thrown in for good measure!

Questions did pop into my head as I read though:

  • Will Daisy and Anton become more than friends? (Can Anton move on from his Wife?, or would there always be three ’people’ in any potential relationship between our two heroes)?
  • Can Daisy really make a new life for herself in France?

There was however one thing of which I was certain – I found myself drawn towards reading the other books in the French Escape series.

To find out the answers to these questions and more, you will need to read the book for yourself.

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A Little Hotel in Cornwall – Books 1-8 – Laura Briggs

I loved these books from start to finish; from the richness and depth of the characters, to hotel life and the descriptions of the Cornish countryside. At times, if I closed my eyes, I felt as though I was there as I immersed myself in Cornish life. Most of all, I loved Maisie as a character. Her impetuousness was infectious and I enjoyed how she stumbled from one drama to another, ever forgetting her ultimate goal of having her book published.

I don’t want to ruin the stories for you; you will have to read on for yourself, to see if our infectious heroine achieves her life goals – but I defy you not to thoroughly enjoy Maisie’s journey, from ’falling’ into a chambermaid job, to falling in love. Highly recommended.

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The Wednesday Morning Wild Swim – Jules Wake

What does an Ethel look like? No point in asking Ettie, as she most definitely didn’t look like one, despite her Mother’s best efforts!

I loved the main characters from the start of the book – Dominic and Gracie were about to start bringing things together for their hotel, with Ettie’s help. It seemed as though each of the three eclectic characters was hiding something though:

  • Dominic – the truth behind his divorce and the accident where he broke his leg. Why is he so dead set against anyone wild swimming in his lake!
  • Gracie – seems very lonely; what does she really want from the hotel project?
  • Ettie – encouraging locals to swim in the lake when Dominic is not around, and swimming herself, despite knowing that Dominic will not be happy about it. Why did she HAVE to drop out of school?

As Dominic and Ettie’s ’friendship’ thrives, are they getting serious about each other, despite Ettie being the first to protest that this is in no way the case? What will happen when Dominic finds out that Ettie has been going behind his back, by arranging regular swimming sessions for the group of swimmers that have unwittingly become her friends?.

Meanwhile the hotel is working its magic on the swimming group, with the members ’growing’ organically, as work on the hotel progressed and as potential new activities were discovered for future guests. I loved the loyalty and cohesiveness of the swimming group, and how they rapidly became that way, particularly with regard to amputee Josh. Such was the dynamic between this diverse group of people, that I found myself wanting to dive on into the pages of the book (were that even remotely possible), in order to join this wonderful group of people, every one of whom proved that its never too late to change yourself, your life and your own ’part’ and journey within that story.

This story certainly did make one look at oneself with a healthy critique, and give life to the idea of change for the positive. We could all no doubt benefit from some kind of combination of a Dominic, a Gracie, an Ettie and a Grandad in our life. What a wonderful book that consumed me from start to finish – and no sooner had I finished, then I felt compelled to start again, just in case I had missed something. In fact I was so gripped by this book that I felt myself wanting to jump into my nearest lake for a dip – just momentarily mind, until I remembered that I hate swimming and I especially loath cold water!

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It Started With a Kiss – Lisa Hobman

I love Lisa Hobman’s books and have no reason to think that this one will be any different, so I am looking forward to reading this book with great anticipation.

I warmed to Fin immediately, but felt sad for him – the way his parents had taken charge of his life. it just goes to show that having money spent on you doesn’t guarantee happiness. I further felt for Finn when his Father press-ganged him into setting a wedding date with his fiancee, whilst lying in his hospital bed after a mild heart attack.

I admired Star from when I first ’met’ her. I liked the way that she followed her heart and did what she wanted to do. She was lucky that her family stood by her, whatever she decided; the exact opposite to the way that Finn’s family behaved. I really did find it impossible to bear – the fact that when Fin was jilted at the altar, all his family could do was blame him! Conversely, surely a sign of what a good person he was, Finn was more than ready to forgive Elise, his intended and indeed to give his blessing to her new relationship. My only thought outstanding was to why Elise had let the wedding plans get so far!

My main thoughts when Star and Fin meet up again after the nom wedding, are of relief. There had clearly been chemistry between them, when Fin used to buy coffee from her every morning before work. Now the pair gave met up again, there is hope for a friendship at the very least, but hopefully for more than that.

Fate did seem to an extent to be playing a hand in any hope of a relationship between Star and Fin, and not in a good way, so I found myself so hoping that the tides of fate would turn in a more positive direction for them both.

I was thrilled when the two heroes of the book seemed to get it together and I loved how their relationship developed – how it kind of blossomed and matured, like a fine wine. I enjoyed how Star loved anything Scottish and I could but concur with her on liking the Scots accent; I found myself continuously imagining a Scot talking about ’The dog’s danglies’, once I had seen it in print once!

It seemed ironic – not only were Star and Fin complete opposites, but there parents were complete opposites too. Star’s liberal, loving parents could not be further from Fin’s selfish, egotistical parents. I would almost go as far (in my non professional opinion!) of accusing Fin’s Father of being mentally ill! Imagine – causing a ruckus at Fin’s new office, when his own Father had in actual fact sacked him from the family law firm!

Alec was the most amazing, protective friend of Star; I liked the way that Star’s happiness and wellbeing was at the forefront of his thoughts. We all deserve an Alec in our lives.

This book had me gripped from start to finish; I really loved it, although I was sad in parts.

Please use the link below to read this forbyourself.

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What Next? – Shari Lowe

I am so looking forward to reviewing this book, but my main reasons are two-fold:
  • I love Shari Lowe’s books and in particular I loved the prequels to thisq book.
  • i enjoy books about strong women and this book is full of them, with arguably the strongest character participating from beyond the grave.

Having started the book, I am happy that it feels that the characters are as tenacious as ever – as if they have never been away. However, in the interest of those who haven’t read any of the previous books in this series, I am starting anew. The start of the book is in fact pretty startling, with Carly depicted locked up in a Los Angeles jail. It’s bad enough being locked up at all, but the thought of being in a foreign jail (albeit in a fully 3rd party one) is pretty terrifying. The big question on my lips is whether or not Carly’s ‘new’ (can an 18- month Husband possibly be considered new in LA?) Husband Sam will stand by her not?

Carly had recently left her 2 teenage Sons in London with their Father for a year and one of the items on their emergency list was ‘what to do if one of them got arrested! What to do if Carly got arrested came nowhere on the tongue in cheek list!

I loved the concept of this book – a group of 4 old friends, completing a bucket list of items in honour of a late friend. Having read the previous books in the series further concreted the idea if a really strong friendship in my mind, able to overcome anything, even being arrested!

I enjoyed the book from start to finish, my only regret being that I didn’t take the time to reread the previous books in the series first.

  • Will the women complete their bucket list of tasks?
  • Will they get out of jail without charge?
  • Will their friendship withstand everything they go through to complete that bucket list.

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The Spa Break – Caroline James.

A spiritual book about friendship and self-discovery; about fun and laughter and using life experience to your advantage; about learning to grow old, graciously. A book about putting the most important person in your life (you) first and learning when to let go. A book about learning and loving. A book about love both lost and found, a book both of regret and delighting in that same life; about using life lessons learned to your advantage. This is lastly a book about knowing all the facts and making your own decision, as well as being open to and indeed able to change.

I must confess to loving to loving a cheeky little spa break, and I constantly have my nose in a book, so what better way to spend the day, than reading Caroline James’ latest novel, ’The Spa Break’. I love the idea of me having some relaxing time to myself, whilst reading about a strong group of women getting together for some well deserved downtime. Indeed upon first ’meeting’ the heroines of this novel, I couldn’t help but think what an ageless, eclectic group they seemed – pretty much guaranteed to bring fun to the table, and I loved the portmanteau to which we were introduced in chapter one – ‘Sparadise’.

It felt like a real treat to ’meet’ this group of unusual Women. What made this an unusual group – an exceptional group even, is the fact that each member was equally formidable in their own way. The dynamic of the group was outstanding.

The impromptu manner in the way which the group had fun, for example spontaneous stripping off and swimming whilst stopped for coffee, just added to the entertainment for us, the reader. The big question is though, whether or not the friends can let go of the outside world for just a few days, in order to encompass the magic that ’Sparadise’ has to offer. More importantly, can the group overcome the torments of the past, to create something better for themselves, each and every one of them.

I very quickly warmed to every one of the group of friends, but I don’t know how easy it would be for them to let go of the past, in order to embrace the future. One thing for certain was that I did feel so for Bridgette, with her bell tent – so far removed from what she had been imagining for herself. I for one, cannot imagine the pain and embarrassment at being too short to get up onto a really high bed! The spa however seemed able to anticipate everything though, with Bridgette finding a small ladder left to help her get into bed. Most of all though, I was mortified for Bridgette at the reaction of the jogging group, when they saw her after the incident with the field and the cowpat. Their reaction was unsolicited and downright rude. So what, if the mess hadn’t been from cows! Who cares! It really wasn’t their place to sumise. I felt like rubbing their perfect, snotty little noses into a cowpat! As for the spa – what on earth was wrong with them, pitching a load of upmarket glamping tents in a field full of cow pats?

This book was cleverly written and included moments (other than cowpat-gate) that were kind of funny, yet twinged with an underlying sadness, a kind of multi layering of emotions, an example being when Emily’s crotch repair didn’t hold, during her first yoga session. The moment started off as funny, and morphed into sadness, due to the fact that Emily was embarrassed by bullies essentially; what had been an initially funny moment ultimately plunged into the realms of awful, when one discovers how frugally Emily has lived her life after her Husband left her for another woman, never helping out with the children – explaining why she had ’made do’ with the crotch repair in the first place! Her Sons sound awful, relying on her for everything and I could see why she might need time away from them. I will however confess to a bit of a tea spurting out moment however, when the corporate team stating rapidly abandoned their boss at the spa, after they thought he had been shot in a terrorist incident, after an unfortunate episode with the cork from an illicit bottle of champagne!

Lars – what can I say about Lars, apart from the fact that I think we would all benefit from a massage by Lars!

Serena could not ask for better support than she got in Stevie and Robin. If you could somehow combine the role of wing men and Fairy God Father, then that would personify them – or would it? They do have a truly kind of ethereal quality to them – and come to think of it, do they they get any mentions from anyone else, other than as ’the guys who stole Bridgette’d suite.

I began to wonder whether the spa really did have some kind of magical power with the way that it made the friends look at themselves and their relationships. There must surely be something special about a place that makes you realise you have problems, when you didn’t realise you had any, and then empowers you to do something about it. I loved the symbolism and empowerment in this book, for example when Bridgette discards her swimsuit to go skinny dipping with Norman – surely a bit of a two fingered salute to her Husband and his demands that she should ‘return home immediately’! I loved the way that the characters in this book were still able to play the trump card of surprise – demonstrated most ably by Hugo, Bridgette’s Husband.

The Friends all seem to be having an absolute ball, in the grips of the spa, but can the alchemy last forever? The tenacious four seem to have gone from strength to strength, in the bosom of the spa, but will its hold have to decrease eventually?

I struggle to get the balance between telling you enough about this ’must read’ book, for you to want to read it for yourself, and giving too much away…… I hope that I have whetted your appetite enough, to make this wonderful read YOUR latest ’must read’.

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The Island in Bramble Bay – Victoria Walker

Maggie and Charlie – both have chosen to work or live on a deserted island off the coast of Dorset, but is either there for the right reason? Maggie must certainly feel strongly that her reasons are valid, in that she is the one choosing to live on the island. A stone’s distance from the mainland – but we are not specifying the size of the stone. Just being separated by that body of water – it could be 10 metres or 10,000 metres; you are still cut off.

My first impressions of Maggie are that she has given a lot of thought to this career move, and she is fully prepared to give it her all. As to why she has chosen this bold move on a personal level, we are initially none the wiser, but she does evoke pain – I feel she has been hurt on a personal level.

Charlie seems a little gruff and guarded at first. He clearly loves the island and he may have been hurt from more than one angle – from a romantic perspective and by something someone has done either to or from the island.

Both Maggie and Charlie are introduced to us, the readers, in a somewhat broken form. I just hope that somehow being on the island together will instigate some kind of healing, although I should imagine that the first step towards healing, is actually recognising that there is an issue. I’m not convinced, during these first chapters, that our intrepid heroes have actually made that distinction yet.

As for the island, I must confess that it reminded me to an extent, of Brownsea Island in Poole harbour, where I spent many days on Brownie outings in my youth. Reading this book evoked many happy memories of those days, together with the not so happy memories of being bitten (it felt like to within an inch of my life, to ten year old me) by insects, leaving the most impressive (in terms of size, redness and itchiness) souvenirs.

The island does sound remote, but it also feels as though it has something special to offer to those who grow to love it. Can Maggie and Charlie find the panacea to their distinct personal issues, in this wonderful place?

I have tried not to give too much away, but regardless of what may or may not happen (or have happened in the past) to Charlie and Maggie, you cannot fail to be blown away by the descriptions of this beautiful Brownsea-esque island (akin to Brownsea, it even has its own population of red squirrels!) Just take 5 minutes out of your day, close your eyes and take yourself off to the island, breathing in the sounds and smells. You will invariably feel better for it. We all deserve this kind of place and Victoria Walker’s intelligent, fun loving writing has gifted us Bramble Bay.

Please use the link below the buy this blockbuster book for yourself, and to have the opportunity find out more about the magical Bramble Bay.

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