Monday, 13 November 2017

The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake


The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake
Published: 21st September 2017
Publisher: Little Brown
Pages: 336
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Blurb
It's autumn in Yulethorpe and everyone is gloomy. It's cold, drizzly and the skies are permagrey. The last shop on the high street - an adorable little toy shop - has just shut its doors. Everything is going wrong for Yulethorpe this autumn. Until Clara Kristensen arrives.
Clara is on holiday but she can see the potential in the pretty town, so she rolls up her sleeves and sets to work. Things are looking up until Joe comes to Yulethorpe to find out exactly what is going on with his mother's shop. Joe is Very Busy and Important in the City and very sure that Clara is up to no good. Surely no one would work this hard just for the fun of it?
Can a man who answers emails at 3 a. m. learn to appreciate the slower, happier, hygge things in life - naps, candles, good friends and maybe even falling in love?

Review
Rosie Blake and Christmas has been a winning combination for me in the past so I was really looking forward to reading this, especially as Hygge is something I’ve being wanting to know more about. With The Hygge Holiday Rosie Blake has created the perfect cosy romantic novel and one which I adored from start to finish.
Clara has arrived in Yulethorpe on holiday and immediately sees a chance to help out toyshop owner Louise. As Louise packs her bags and heads to Spain Clara agrees to look after the rundown toyshop and Louise’s pet’s comical parrot Lady CaCa and sleepy cat Roddy.
Implementing her love of the Danish way of life Clara transforms Louise’s chaotic flat making it more Hygge and somewhere I would definitely want to be on a cold winters evening. She then moves onto the toyshop and the descriptions of how Clara transformed the toyshop can only be described as magical and something I would love to have experienced, they must have brought so much joy to the residents of Yulethorpe.
Everything’s going well for Clara and she’s beginning to feel settled and at home in Yulethorpe something she hasn’t felt for so long, until Louise’s uptight workaholic son Joe arrives. Having experienced the hectic city life herself Clara decides to make it her mission to Hygge Joe and bring him a calmer way of life. But Joe has other ideas about what Clara should be doing which aren’t quite as friendly.
Despite Joe’s reluctance to embrace Clara’s ethos he wasn’t all bad as the children had him crafting along with them by the end of the story. Then there is a certain bath scene which had me in absolute stitches, after that you couldn’t really take him too seriously!
There are many wonderful characters in this novel but the one that gave me the most laughs was actually Lady CaCa, Louise’s pet parrot who repeats movie quotes at the most awkward moments which end up being hilarious as they seem to coincide perfectly with events which are happening between Joe and Clara.
The Hygge Holiday is the cosiest most uplifting novel I’ve read in a long time and one which I utterly adored. It’s the perfect read for cosy nights in and a book I think everyone should read.
Thank you so much to the publishers and Netgalley for sending me a copy to review.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Blog Tour Review: Wilde in Love by Eloisa James


Wilde in Love by Eloisa James
Published: 31st October 2017
Publisher: Piatkus
Pages: 416
Available in Paperback and Kindle
Rating: 4/5

Blurb
Lord Alaric Wilde, son of the Duke of Lindow, is the most celebrated man in England, revered for his dangerous adventures and rakish good looks.
Arriving home from years abroad, he has no idea of his own celebrity until his boat is met by mobs of screaming ladies. Alaric escapes to his father's castle, but just as he grasps that he's not only famous but notorious, he encounters the very private, very witty, Miss Willa Ffynche.
Willa presents the façade of a serene young lady to the world. Her love of books and bawdy jokes is purely for the delight of her intimate friends. She wants nothing to do with a man whose private life is splashed over every newspaper.
Alaric has never met a woman he wanted for his own . . . until he meets Willa. He's never lost a battle.
But a spirited woman like Willa isn't going to make it easy . . .


Review

Wilde in Love in the first book in Eloisa James’ new series surrounding the Wilde family.  This is the first book by Ms. James that I have read so wasn’t really sure what to expect, what I found was a beautiful enchanting romance between two very headstrong characters.

Lord Alaric Wilde has spent the last few years traveling the world and engaging in daring and dangerous adventures, he has now returned home a celebrity after writing about his adventures in a couple of books. At home he finds himself surrounded by adoring women declaring their undying love for him and falling at his feet. That is all except the beautiful Miss Willa Ffynche, who can scarcely bring herself to even smile at Alaric. Never been one to resist a challenge, Alaric is determined that Willa shall be his, however he underestimates her and soon falls madly in love with her.

Willa Ffynche is a beautiful young orphan with her own fortune, she has been living with her ward Mrs Gray and her best friend Lavinia for the past few years. Willa and Lavinia are not your typical society girls and have brains and beauty, a combination many men have found off-putting as they want a docile wife. Both girls seem to resist the charms of handsome Alaric when they first meet but even Willa struggles to control her feelings around this man, something that has never happened to her before. Despite rebuking him at every opportunity Alaric doesn’t give up on his quest for Willa and eventually she begins to feel that this handsome adventurer might just be the man for after all.

At first I struggled to get into this book, I can’t put my finger on quite why, perhaps the number of characters being introduced or the notion of people wearing wigs, this is still something that I can’t seem to get my head round, which is probably a sign I need to read more of this genre. However after a couple of chapters I was totally drawn into the budding romance of Willa and Alaric. What starts out as two characters who seem to repel each other soon turns into a passionate romance and the journey getting there was full of witty conversations and minor incidents which all add to the magic of this romance.

This was a great read with everything you want in a romance novel and I’m really looking forward to the next book in the Wilde series.

Thank you to Piatkus for sending me a copy to review and inviting me on this blog tour.




Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Blog Tour Review: The Forgotten Children by Anita Davison


The Forgotten Children by Anita Davison
Published: 1st November 2017
Publisher: Aria
Pages: 544
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Blurb

The forgotten children of London are going missing, apparently being sold by their own families. Can she save them before it's too late...

Flora Maguire’s life is perfect – a beautiful home in Belgravia teeming with servants, a loving husband, and new baby Arthur to enjoy.  But when she is invited to tour St Philomena’s Children’s Hospital in deprived Southwark, she gets a harsh insight into the darker side of Edwardian London.

Shocked by the conditions people are living in, she soon uncovers a scandal with a dark heart – children are going missing from the hospital, apparently sold by their own families, and their fate is too awful to imagine. With the police seemingly unable or unwilling to investigate, Flora teams up with the matron of the hospital, Alice Finch, to try to get to the bottom of it.

Soon Flora is immersed in the seedy, dangerous underbelly of criminal London, and time is running out to save the children. Will they get to them in time, or was their fate decided the day they were born poor…

Review

The Forgotten Children is the forth novel by Anita Davison in the Flora Maguire series, something I wish I’d known before I started reading this book as I would have loved to have read this series from the start as I enjoyed The Forgotten Children immensely.

Flora and her husband Bunny are invited to visit the St. Philomena’s Children’s hospital in a less desirable part of London. While on their visit one of the young student nurses Lizzie Prentice is found dead in the hospital courtyard, many are quick to assume she slipped and hit her head but Flora’s investigative nature feels there’s something not right about the young woman’s death. Later Flora meets with hospital Matron Alice Finch who confides in Flora that some recent patients from the hospital have not returned for check-ups and she fears they have gone missing.  Loving a mystery Flora vows to help Alice find out what happened to these missing children and if there is any connection to the young nurse.

I loved Flora as a main character, she tries to appear as a woman of the world with all her investigation skills but her she still showed some naivety, especially when visiting the homes of the poor children who have gone missing. This made her more real for me as showed she has some things to learn and isn’t perfect like many society ladies are portrayed to be.

There is also a real mix of other characters from both ends of society and it was surprising just how many of them had their own secrets to hide. This added more enjoyment to the already twisty mystery which Anita Davison has written.  She has also managed to bring all aspects of the story to a suitable conclusion, which is good but I hope that this is not the end of Flora as I would love to go on another investigation with her.

For me this was a fantastic read and one I can’t fault, it had great characters a good sense of place and a believable plotline that flowed well and was resolved completely. It would be a great read for fans of Frances Brody or Lindsey Hutchinson.

Thank you so much to Aria for sending me a copy to review and inviting me on the blog tour. I look forward to reading more from Anita Davison very soon.



Sunday, 5 November 2017

Blog Tour Review: The Murderess by Jennifer Wells


The Murderess by Jennifer Wells
Published: 1st November 2017
Publisher: Aria
Pages:  432
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 5/5


Blurb
The Murderess is a heart-stopping story of family, love, passion and betrayal set against the backdrop of war-ravaged Britain. Perfect for fans of Lesley Pearce and Dilly Court.

1931: Fifteen year old Kate witnesses her mother Millicent push a stranger from a station platform into the path of an oncoming train. There was no warning, seemingly no reason, and absolutely no remorse.

1940: Exactly nine years later, Kate returns to the station and notices a tramp laying flowers on the exact spot that the murder was committed; the identity of the victim, still remains unknown.

With a country torn apart by war and her family estate and name in tatters, Kate has nothing to lose as she attempts to uncover family secrets that date back to the Great War and solve a mystery that blights her family name.

Review
The Murderess is a story which starts in a gruesome way, its 1931 and fifteen year old Kate is waiting to board the train when she her mother push an innocent woman into an oncoming train. Nine years later and her mother may be granted parole, still unsure how she feels about exactly what happened that day Kate sets out to find out exactly what happened that day at the station.
This novel is written with a duel narrative spanning over twenty-five years, we hear from Kate in the present day 1940 trying to solve the mysterious events of that fateful day and also from Millicent, Kate’s mother in 1916 when she longing is to provide her husband with an heir. I loved how this worked as it gave an insight into both main female characters.
As the story unfolds so many betrayals are uncovered that it’s hard to know which character to sympathize with Millicent, Kate or even poor servant Rosalie as all experience betrayal from the person they love the most. I think its Kate who deserves the most empathy though as she has to live with the consequences of all the other characters and the one who has to deal with all the gossip as people learn she’s the murderess’ daughter.
I really enjoyed reading this book, I did work out what the mystery was before it was all revealed to Kate but I still wasn’t prepared for that ending. I found this a well written book which kept my interest until the end and look forward to reading more from Ms. Wells in the future.
Thank you to Netgalley and Aria for sending me a copy to review and inviting me to be part of this blog tour.




Saturday, 4 November 2017

Blog Tour Review: Stuck with You by Anna Premoli


Stuck with You by Anna Premoli
Published: 1st November 2017
Publisher: Aria 
Pages: 460
Available in paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 4/5

Blurb
Lavinia Ferrari is in her fifth year at Bocconi University where she studies Economics when she is introduced to a new project that will guarantee her extra credits. She's intrigued... but it means the class must team up with students from the Computer Engineering course. Lavinia has absolutely no interest in the project, and to top things off, she's paired with Seb Marconi who is less than enthusiastic.

When the work begins, her friends seem to be making great progress with their partners, but Lavinia isn't having the same luck... Seb is making it quite clear that he's not interested in the project, or Lavinia, fuelling her frustration.

She has no choice – they're stuck in this, and besides, she won't receive her extra credits unless they work together. Lavinia must come up with a way to convince the guy who drives her crazy to put the work in... but how?

Review
Stuck with You is the latest novel by Anna Premoli and features the story of Lavinia and Sebastiano. Lavinia is in her final year of studying a master’s degree in economics, as part her final year credits she has to take part in an inter-university start-up project meaning she will be paired to work with someone in the computer sciences department at another university across town. Lavinia is paired with Sebastiano and it’s safe to say they have a very frosty start. Reclusive genius Sebastiano is reluctant to take part in the project and gives Lavinia a terrible time racing round Milan trying to convince him to work with her. Eventually she manages thaw Sebastiano out enough to complete the project. Then it gets complicated as both Lavinia and Sebastiano realise they might have more than a business relationship developing.
It took me awhile to get my head round the idea that this book is set in Italy, to me it had a very American vibe to it the way the characters acted and the way the university was described. There is nothing really mentioned in the book to tie it to Milan except maybe the use of motorbikes but even then it could be set anywhere.
I also felt that both Lavinia and Sebastiano acted much younger than they are supposed to be. The whole attitudes of both characters and their behaviours seemed like they were teenagers experiencing their first crush then students in their twenties. They bickered with each other all the time, followed each other round, stalking theirs social media accounts it all seemed a bit childish considering these two are supposed to be studying for masters degrees.
Lavinia and Sebastiano couldn’t be two more different people.  Lavinia is an easy going conscious student who is constantly smiling and aims to make everyone like her. Sebastiano is a computer genius whose already been hounded by programmers in the Silicon Valley, he keeps himself to himself and has a critical attitudes to everything. Lavinia is a social media addict posting selfies daily whereas Sebastiano loathes social media and its invasion of privacy.
However one thing is certain these two have bucket loads of chemistry between them and reading this develop into something more was a joy to read. I loved all the arguments they had over seemingly everything, the way the held each other’s hands slightly more than necessary and I was longing for them to admit their feelings for each other.
This is lovely light-hearted romance with some quirky characters and funny moments. It was a joy to read even though it’s perhaps more suitable to a younger reader than myself.
Thank you to Aria for sending me a copy to review and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.



Monday, 30 October 2017

Blog Tour Review: The Note by Zoe Folbigg


The Note by Zoe Folbigg
Published: 2nd November 2017 (Paperback)
Publisher: Aria Fiction
Pages: 304
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 3/5

Blurb
One very ordinary day, Maya Flowers sees a new commuter board her train to London,
and suddenly the day isn’t ordinary at all. Maya knows immediately and irrevocably,
that he is The One.
But the beautiful man on the train always has his head in a book and never seems to
notice Maya sitting just down the carriage from him every day. Eventually, though,
inspired by a very wise friend, Maya plucks up the courage to give the stranger a note
asking him out for a drink. Afterall, what’s the worst that can happen?
And so begins a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness
where you least expect it.

Review
The Note is the debut semi-autobiographical novel from magazine journalist Zoé Folbigg and tells the tale of Maya Flowers and what happens when she meets “The One”. Being a hopeless romantic myself the premise of this book is one which intrigued me greatly, but sadly left me a little disappointed.
Maya a daily commuter to London one day sees a new face on her train and is instantly drawn to him and convinces herself that he’s the one, he however seems to have no idea of Maya’s existence, instead spending his commute with his head buried into a book or the Metro paper. After months of agonising over what to do about her huge crush Maya is inspired by friends Nena and Velma to take a chance and see what happens, so she writes a brief note, just three sentences long and hands it to the handsome stranger one day.
The majority of the first half of this book is taken up by the will they / won’t they storyline as Maya struggles with her feelings and tries to invent ways to accidently put herself in the path of “Train Man.” I did struggle with this part of the book as it felt a long time before anything really happened and we had far too much back story of Maya and her fashion advertising job.  I also felt confused at the very beginning of the book as were introduced briefly to some characters which weren’t really necessary to the story. There are also a number of flashbacks to previous events in Maya’s life but again they didn’t seem to add anything to the story.
I didn’t feel a connection to main character Maya or even “Train Man” I think this is due to the lack of emotions portrayed in the book. It has a third person narrative so felt like reading a report of events with plenty of description but no real feelings described. We know exactly what Maya did and where she did it but we never really find out what she felt about everything that happens.
My favourite character in the book was the old lady at Maya’s Spanish class Velma. I loved her vibrant character, her love of life and her devotion to her boys and late husband. I wish she’d featured a bit more in the book as I found her storyline a lot more interesting than what was happening at Maya’s workplace.
I wanted to really love this book as the basic plotline is one which I was excited about, sadly I don’t think this is the most successful novel as I did struggle with the first half of the book. I do however think this would make a brilliant screenplay as it would be a very watchable movie, far better than Sliding Doors which it is similar to in concept.
I’d like to thank the publishers Aria for sending me a copy to review and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Blog Tour Review: The Country Set by Fiona Walker


The Country Set by Fiona Walker
Published: 5th October 2017
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 869
Available in Hardback and on Kindle
Rating: 3/5

Blurb
Compton Magna sits high in the picturesque hills where the golden Cotswolds meet half-timbered Shakespeare country. At its heart is the stud farm owned by Captain Jocelyn Percy, as fierce as he is unforgiving. Twenty-five years ago, his only child, ravishing Ronnie Ledwell, abandoned husband and children for her lover. She's about to return, and sparks are set to fly.
Amateur sleuth and baker Pip is determined to keep her position as the stud's house-keeper, even if it means stirring things up with her wooden spoon. Glamorous theatre director Kit Donne can't forgive Ronnie for letting down his late wife, less still for reminding him of her. Taciturn stallion man Lester still guards the secret he and Ronnie have shared for three decades. Young horse-loving Carly Turner juggles jobs and her lawless in-laws, unaware that the stud's future might rest in her hands. Sexy Bay Austen usually gets what he wants and now he's after pretty, married Petra Gunn and the Captain's land. Will Ronnie's return thwart his plans?
In a village where passionate love affairs, bitter rivalries and dark secrets delight gossipy horse riders, only one woman has the full set, and she's taking the reins...


Review
The Country Set is the latest novel by Fiona Walker and it sees the return to her infamous setting of Compton Magna. The Compton Magna Stud Farm is the main setting for this story and serves as the base for which much of the plot evolves.

The stud farm’s owner Captain Percy has been found dead stuck on the stairs in his cellar. As his relatives and friends gather for his passing and subsequent funeral the future of the stud farm comes under fire. The Captain has left his beloved but failing stud farm in trust to his grandchildren Alice, Tim and Pax, to be overseen until her death by disappearing daughter Ronnie.

Ronnie’s return to the village after twenty-five years leaves the village gossipers tails wagging and her children reluctant to forgive. But with bizarre allies in nosey parker housekeeper Pip and bored housewife and romance writer Petra can Ronnie save her family and the stud farm.

At 869 pages this is a huge book and one which initially I found  hard to get in to as there are so many characters and sub-plots that I was left  confused as to how everything would pull together. After the first 100 or so pages the story began to gel together and form a cohesive story centred around four of the villagers women, including the returning Ronnie Ledwell.

Ronnie is portrayed by her remaining family members and older villagers as the villain of the story but I found her to be one of the nicer and more agreeable characters in the book. She may have left her family to escape with her lover but it’s obvious from she’s felt trapped in her marriage to stud farm hero Johnny and has felt regret at leaving her children ever since.

Petra is a newer member of the village having only moved to Compton Magna seven years early. She’s balancing bringing up three children almost alone with her writing career, while nurturing her safely married crush on local farmer Bay Austen. With Charlie her husband spending more and more time away from the family home it’s becoming harder for Petra to resists the advances of gorgeous hunky Bay.

Married with three young children ex-army wife Carly is finding life with the Turner family in Compton Bagot hard and longs for the friendship and security of army life. Her only relief from the headstrong Turner’s is her love of animals particularly rescue dog Pricey and stud farm super foal Spirit.

Pip Edwards the Captain’s house-keeper comes across as sweet and slightly aloof but there is more to Pip than she first lets on. She is on a sneaky mission to ensure her position at the stud farm and goes about plotting to ensure Ronnie stays in the village. She’s the village busy-body who spends her time gathering information from the internet and using it to her best advantage.

Apart from Ronnie, Petra and Carly I found this book lacking in likable characters, they all seemed sneaky, overbearing or just down right awful. Even the three main women were not characters I adored, which left me a little disappointed as I loved Tash and Hugo and the gang from Fiona’s previous books French Relations, Well Groomed and Kiss and Tell.

The Country Set is a book which despite Fiona Walker’s humorous writing and satirical one-liners I found to be quite a sad read as death, grieving and long standing vendetta’s feature strongly throughout the book. It’s a book full of family feuding, deep hidden secrets and or course horses. With many plotlines being woven together with the numerous characters it has made a good start to a new series based in Compton Magna. I hope it’s the start of a series anyway as the ending was left very open with not everything being tied up complexly. As a standalone book I found it a struggle in places and feel it could perhaps been a lot shorter, however I did enjoy it and will definitely be picking up Fiona’s next book.
Thank to Head of Zeus for sending me a copy to review and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for The Country Set.