Friday, 31 March 2017

When We Danced at end of the Pier by Sandy Taylor

When We Danced at the End of the Pier (Brighton Girls Trilogy #3)

When we Danced at the end of the Pier by Sandy Taylor
Published: 31st March 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Pages: 352
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Jack and Nelson have always been dear friends to Maureen. Despite their different backgrounds, they’ve seen each other through thick and thin.

As Maureen blossoms from a little girl into a young woman, the candle she’s always held for Jack burns bright. But just as she’s found love, war wrenches them apart. The man she cherishes with all her heart is leaving.

When the bombs start to fall, Maureen and her family find themselves living in the most dangerous of times. With Jack no longer by her side and Nelson at war, Maureen has never felt more alone. Can she look to a brighter future? And will she find the true happiness she’s dreamt of?

If you’ve been following my blog for a while it will be no surprise to you that I loved When we Danced at the end of Pier just as much as I did Sandy Taylor’s previous two novels in the Brighton Girls trilogy. I just adore Sandy’s writing as it’s so emotional and realistic, I felt like living Maureen’s life alongside her and what an emotional rollercoaster of a life she had.
In When we Danced at the end of the Pier we go back to the beginning of the story with Maureen O’Connell as the main character. If you read the previous two novels by Sandy Taylor you will know that Maureen is the mother of Dotty. To begin with I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this book as much as the previous two as I had an idea of how the story was going to end. But oh the journey to get there was so worth it, Maureen’s life is told in great detail and shows various emotional upheavals young Maureen goes through to become the strong and caring woman she is in the other two novels.
The story starts back when Maureen is eight years old and first moves onto See-Saw lane, which is where she first lays eyes on Jack, who she instantly declares to Sister Brenda is the man she is going to marry. As they grow older Maureen and Jack along with his best friend Nelson become inseparable so when war finally breaks out Maureen is left on her own as the two men in her life go off to fight she has to be strong and wait and hope they both return safely.
This is a book which is full of the highs and lows of growing up and at times is heart-breaking for poor Maureen. It’s written so well that as a reader I felt each and every emotion that Maureen felt, Sandy Taylor really does have a gift at knowing how to pull the heart strings as there are parts of this book that had me in tears. It’s not all sad though, overall I found it a very uplifting novel and with the introduction of little Gertie sometimes even funny.
I urge anyone who hasn’t read the Brighton Girls trilogy to pick them up, they are all wonderful and I hope not the last books we see from Sandy Taylor.
Thank you to Bookouture and Netgalley for this copy which I reviewed voluntarily.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Rome is Where the Heart is by Tilly Tennant

Rome Is Where The Heart Is

Rome is Where the Heart is by Tilly Tennant
Published: 9th March 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Pages: 336
Available in paperback and on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

When Kate’s husband Matt dumps her on Friday 13th she decides enough is enough – it’s time for her to have some fun and so she hops on a plane to Rome. A week of grappa and gelato in pavement cafes under azure blue skies will be just what the doctor ordered.

What she doesn’t count on is meeting and falling for sexy policeman Alessandro. But the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly – Alessandro has five meddling sisters, a fearsome mama and a beautiful ex Orazia. They’re all certain that Kate is not the girl for him.

Can Kate and Alessandro’s love last the distance? Or will she return home with the one souvenir she doesn’t want – a broken heart …

Rome Is Where the Heart Is by Tilly Tennant is my first read from this author but it definitely won’t be my last. Her writing style flows well and I was addicted to Kate and her story very quickly.
Kate’s fifteen year marriage to Matt is over and she’s decided to wallowing in what might have been and start living her life they she wants to. First on the list a trip to Rome, a place Kate has longed to visit but has never gone as Matt didn’t want to. On her own Kate fully embraces the city of Rome including some of its gorgeous men in the form of Alessandro.  When it’s time for Kate to leave she realises its more than sexy Alessandro who has captured her heart, Rome has too.
Rome has always been somewhere I have longed to go so when I saw this book was set there I just had to read it. The essence of Rome has been captured beautifully, I really felt like I was experiencing some of the more famous sights such the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Trevi fountain alongside Kate as well as the food, music and transportation which really brought the city to life. It has made me long to visit there myself even more.
I really liked Kate as a character, she’s had her heart broken and her world shattered but she picks herself back up and decides to fully live her life. I admire her totally for getting on a plane and jetting off to another country on her own, I’m sure I wouldn’t have the courage to do the same thing. She throws herself into Italian life almost straight away, perhaps a little too quickly. Getting into a taxi with a complete stranger is risky business and not something I recommend anyone does, even if it was with cheeky American Jamie.
Kate’s slightly clumsy side made for some very comical moments when she gets herself in various scrapes, including getting drunk the Spanish steps where hunky Alessandro comes to her rescue her so guess it’s worth it.
I loved the family dynamics which Tilly Tennant has created with both families featured in this book. With Kate’s sisters we see how loving and supportive they can be for each other when one of them is hurting. Alessandro’s family are very similar in their support of each other too, there is just a lot more food involved like any big Italian family.
Rome is Where the Heart is, is a book which would make the perfect holiday read. It’s mostly light-hearted and fun, with just a couple of more serious storylines running through it. It’s a book about new adventures, families and embracing life and taking a chance. It was a book that has brought some sunshine into my life and made me long to visit Rome. I’m really excited to know that book two in the series is out very soon as I’m eager to catch up with Kate and find out if she made the right decision.
Thank you so much to Bookouture and Netgalley for this review copy which I volunteered to read.

Monday, 27 March 2017

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found by Trisha Ashley

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found by Trisha Ashley
Published: 9th March 2017
Publisher: Bantam Press
Pages: 432
Available in Hardcover and on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Alice Rose is a foundling, discovered on the Yorkshire moors above Haworth as a baby. Adopted but then later rejected again by a horrid step-mother, Alice struggles to find a place where she belongs. Only baking – the scent of cinnamon and citrus and the feel of butter and flour between her fingers – brings a comforting sense of home.

So it seems natural that when she finally decides to return to Haworth, Alice turns to baking again, taking over a run-down little teashop and working to set up an afternoon tea emporium.

Luckily she soon makes friends, including a Grecian god-like neighbour, who help her both set up home and try to solve the mystery of who she is. There are one or two last twists in the dark fairytale of Alice’s life to come . . . but can she find her happily ever after?

I’ve been a huge Trisha Ashley fan for many years and have read most of her previous books with my favourites being her Christmas novels which just fill me with festive joy. The Little Teashop of Lost and Found is her newest release and is probably my favourite of her non-Christmas releases.
Alice Ross was a foundling discovered on the harsh Yorkshire Moors only hours old. After being adopted by her loving father and his wife Alice finds a happy home while she grows up. Sadly when she is still a teenager her father dies and her adopted mother rejects her so Alice is left alone in the world. Moving from place to place Alice tries to find somewhere to call home and someone to give her heart to. After suffering many setbacks and heartbreaks Alice finally decides to head back to Yorkshire and try and find her birth mother. Alice buys a teashop unseen on the internet and heads to the town of Haworth to set up her new business and hopefully her forever home.
Alice was one of those characters who I instantly loved, she so optimistic about life and always tries to see the best in people despite suffering so many setbacks and so much heartbreak. I really admired her courage to pick herself up and start again and I was longing for her to find somewhere to really call home.
I also really enjoyed the fact that as a second job Alice is a writer of grown up fairy tales with a twist of horror in them and throughout the book we get little snippets of what she was writing. These sounded really good and I’d love for Trisha Ashley to publish the full story.
I loved reading how the Teashop was brought back to life by Alice and her new found friend Niall and his lovely caring family the Giddings’. All the scrummy delights mentioned in the book make me long to visit this delightful little teashop.  The chemistry between Alice and Niall was wonderful to read about, they teased and bickered with each other but it was obvious these two really liked each other.
As with all Trisha Ashley novels this books full of warm-hearted characters, beautifully settings, delicious cakes and that special touch of magic which makes it stand out as a Trisha Ashley novel. What made this one extra special for me was the touch of mystery surrounding Alice’s birth mother and also the twist at the end which was much unexpected and totally threw me.
Thank you Trisha Ashley for another wonderful novel, eagerly awaiting the next one now. Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Blog Tour: Where Dragonflies Hover, Excerpt, Guest Post & Review

Where Dragonflies Hover by AnneMarie Brear
Published: 8th April 2016
Publisher: Choc Lit UK
Pages: 189 pages:
Available on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Sometimes a glimpse into the past can help make sense of the future …
Everyone thinks Lexi is crazy when she falls in love with Hollingsworth House – a crumbling old Georgian mansion in Yorkshire – and nobody more so than her husband, Dylan. But there’s something very special about the place, and Lexi can sense it.

Whilst exploring the grounds she stumbles across an old diary and, within its pages, she meets Allie – an Australian nurse working in France during the First World War.

Lexi finally realises her dream of buying Hollingsworth but her obsession with the house leaves her marriage in tatters. In the lonely nights that follow, Allie’s diary becomes Lexi’s companion, comforting her in moments of darkness and pain. And as Lexi reads, the nurse’s scandalous connection to the house is revealed …


The late sunshine enveloped the house in a golden glow. Again, it seemed to call to her, begging for attention. A path on the left of the drive looked inviting as it meandered through a small strand of poplars. Lexi grabbed her keys, locked the car and took off to explore again. She had nothing to rush home to now, and if she got caught for trespassing, then so be it.
The overgrown pathway brought her out on the far side of the grounds near the end of a small lake. She gazed over the water towards the back of the house and noticed a paved terrace area. From there the lawn then sloped down to the water. She’d not been around the back before and fell even more in love with the property. She could imagine the serenity of sipping a cool drink on a hot summer’s day and looking out over the lake.
Lexi stepped out along the bank. A lone duck swam by, its movement serene on the glassy, dark surface. This side of the lake was in shadow from large pine trees, and she stumbled on fallen pinecones hidden in the long grass. On the opposite side of the water were some small buildings, a garage, fruit trees in early blossom, and an overgrown vegetable patch, complete with a broken, rejected-looking scarecrow.
She wandered over to a narrow shed on her left and peered through its sole, dirty window. Unable to make out much in the dimness, she walked around to the front and was surprised when she was able to pull the bolt back on the door. Why didn’t people lock things? A covered rowboat took up most of the space inside. She smiled, seeing herself rowing it on the lake. Growing more excited, Lexi edged around it to peer at the workbenches and the odd assortment of tools and useless things one found in abandoned sheds. It was like treasure hunting in an antique shop. She used to love doing that with her grandfather.
She glanced about and spied a dusty painting leaning against the wall. The scene was of a child and a brown dog. Behind the canvas were more paintings, some framed, some not. Lexi flicked through them. The ones that caught her attention she took out and set aside.
She looked for somewhere to sit and study the paintings. A small tin trunk wedged under a workbench seemed the only offering. Thinking it empty, she went to tug it out, but it remained fast.
Using both hands, she heaved it out and was showered in a puff of dust. Squatting down, she inspected the latch that was held tight with a small lock. ‘Why are you locked?’ she murmured. The shed was open to anyone passing by, yet this ugly little chest had a lock on it. The trunk was nothing special, plain and in parts rusted. No ornament or writing hinted at its use.
Intrigued, she grabbed a hammer from the workbench, but then hesitated. She had no right to open someone else’s property. Lexi closed her eyes momentarily. What was she thinking of breaking into the trunk? What am I doing? Never had she broken the law and here she was guilty of trespassing and breaking and entering! She looked around the rowboat as though expecting someone to jump out and arrest her.
Something inside urged her on. She knew she couldn’t stop now. Sucking in a deep breath, she bent and hit the lock hard. The ringing sound was loud in the quiet serenity of the garden. The metal dented and with another few solid whacks the lock gave.
Shivers of excitement tingled along her skin. Gently, she eased up the lid.

Guest Post by AnneMarie Brear

For some years I have had a fascination of what is known as the First World War, or the Great War. (World War I 1914 – 1918)

This was a time of enormous change in the world. For the first time countries banded together to fight a common enemy. I’ll not go into the politics of the time or the reasons why the war happened, that is for professional historians to determine, but the effects of the war were far reaching, particularly in Europe.

In Great Britain the changes impacted on all walks of life, from the wealthy to the poor. Women were asked to step into the space left behind by the men who went to war. Not only did they have to work the men’s jobs, but they also had to keep the home running as well. Not an easy task to a female population who was expected to simply marry and have children and keep a nice house. Women of that time were sheltered from the world, innocent. All that was soon to change.

In my book, Where Dragonflies Hover, modern woman, Lexi, finds a diary written by an Australian nurse, Allie.

Allie wrote about her time as a nurse in Great War, and of falling in love with Danny, an English officer. She wrote of her struggles to help injured and dying men who came to her straight from the battlefield, covered in mud and blood.

To write Allie’s story I had to do a lot of research about World War I. I enjoy researching, and because the Edwardian Era is one of my favourite eras, it was no hardship to spend hours reading sources from that time.
I really wanted to make Allie’s story as real as it could be. One of my research sources was reading, 
The Other Anzacs by Peter Rees. A truly extraordinary book detailing the true stories of Australian nurses in WWI. A lot of my inspiration came from that book. What those nurses went through was simply remarkable.

Another book I read was The Roses of No Man’s Landby Lyn MacDonald. Another interesting account of what the allied nurses and VADs from other countries went through. These women went from the comfort and security of their homes to the heart of battle zones.  They had to learn new skills swiftly, for even dedicated career nurses had never experienced before the types injuries and wounds they encountered only miles from the front line. Those women had to sustain difficulties they never thought of, for example at times they were food shortages, hygiene hardships, danger from bombings, homesickness and many more problems. Yet, these women, some just young girls, dutifully headed into an alien world without the promise of survival.

It is, of course, impossible for me, or anyone, to know exactly how these women felt during this challenging time, we can only read about their experiences. However, simply reading about them is enough for me to give them my heartfelt gratitude and admiration for what they endured.

I hope I did justice to their stories, to what they gave up and for the sacrifices they made to help us win the war.


Where Dragonflies Hover by AnneMarie Brear is a beautifully written novel capturing the essence of what it is to really love someone. It’s 2010 and Lexi a thirty something solicitor is feeling restless in her marriage to Dylan a Doctor at the local hospital. She becomes increasing drawn to Hollingsworth House, a Georgian manor house for sale on the edge of Leeds.  One day Lexi visits the house and finds an old diary hidden away in the old boat house, as Lexi begins to read she becomes consumed by Allie and her story of her forbidden love for Captain Danny Hollingsworth. As Lexi continues to read the diary she learns some valuable lessons about her own life and marriage.

This is a dual time frame novel which is one of my favourite types of novel to read and this one seamlessly changes between the lives of Lexi and Allie we learn of the struggles both women face in their lives. Lexi with a longing for a baby and a happier marriage while Allie struggles with her love for Danny during World War One, wondering if this is the time she will ever see him as they spend precious hours together.

Allie’s story really captured my heart as we learn of the horrors of war and just how much pressure the doctors and nurses were under to save many thousands of injured soldiers. AnneMarie Brear’s research has been done very well as these scenes were so realistic with many details bringing the story to life. I found Lexi a little bit spoilt, she wants to buy Hollingsworth House and does so even when husband Dylan has refused to entertain the idea. I’m glad that as she reads Allie’s diary she learns that compromise is a big part of loving someone.

This was a novel which had me intrigued right from the start and was one I found very hard to put down.  I would have perhaps liked the book to be a little longer with more of Allie’s story after the war ended as I was so absorbed in her life story. I’m very pleased to find AnneMarie Brear has written other books as this is an author I’m desperate to read more books from. Thank you to LLR promotions and the publishers for the review copy which I volunteered to read.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Island of Secrets by Patricia Wilson

Island of Secrets by Patricia Wilson
Published: 9th March 2017 (ebook)
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Pages: 400
Available on Kindle
Rating: 4/5

Can you escape your past in paradise?

'The story started at dawn on the fourteenth of September, 1943 . . .'

All her life, London-born Angelika has been intrigued by her mother's secret past. Now planning her wedding, she feels she must visit the remote Crete village her mother grew up in.

Angie's estranged elderly grandmother, Maria, is dying. She welcomes Angie with open arms - it's time to unburden herself, and tell the story she'll otherwise take to her grave.

It's the story of the Nazi occupation of Crete during the Second World War, of horror, of courage and of the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her children. And it's the story of bitter secrets that broke a family apart, and of three enchanting women who come together to heal wounds that have damaged two generations.

Island of Secrets is the debut novel by Patricia Wilson which is set mostly in the Crete village of Amiras, where Patricia once lived. The novel is based on real stories from real women who lived through the unease of the Nazi occupation of the island in1943.

The story tells the history of three generations of women from one family. Angelika is planning her wedding and longs for her mother Poppy to be reunited with her Creteian relatives whom she fled from many years ago. With Poppy unwilling to reveal the secrets of her past to her daughter, Angelika sets out on a pilgrimage to Crete to meet her relatives and to try and heals the wounds in the family. When Angie meets her maternal grandmother Maria she begins to find out the family history as Maria begins to divulge the secrets she would have otherwise taken to the grave.

I found this an incredibly moving story to read, in parts I was in tears as Maria retold her story, the horror and fear which she felt was portrayed in such detail, I was hooked. Patricia Wilson has done a brilliant job in creating vivid and sometimes horrific scenes which have truly brought this story to life for me and are sure to pull at your heart strings as they did mine.

Books with a duel narrative are a particular favourite of mine when the past mixes with the present and Island of Secrets has done this wonderfully. The narrative takes two forms as Maria tells her story of the past and Angelika makes her own discoveries in the present, both strands intertwine perfectly to create a cohesive and compelling story. I loved how the towards the end there were many surprising twists, the last third of the book I couldn’t put down as I was desperate to work out all the mysteries which had come to light.

The three main characters in this book are Angelika, Poppy and Maria, all are strong resourceful women. Poppy and Maria have had had periods of great difficulty in their lives but have not given up because of the amount of love they have for their children. Angelika first appears to be a little bit more selfish as she determined to have her Greek relatives at her wedding despite her mother begging her to leave the past alone and she also seems very quick to judge the actions of fiancĂ© Nick in a negative light a little too often. As she hears Maria’s story she begins to realise her faults and begins to be a more thoughtful and empathetic individual. When this change occurs it’s easy to see she has the same love and resourcefulness as Maria and Poppy.

As with most stories featuring Greek families there are many more family members and these all add to the depth of the story. My two favourites were the bubbly and slightly aloof Voula and her grumpy husband Matthia, dialogue between these two often made me smile and brought some lighter moments to this book.

Island of Secrets is a book full of raw emotions, family vendettas, hidden secrets and three very strong women. It’s a book I enjoyed very much and one which fans of Victoria Hislop and Debbie Rix are sure to enjoy.

I’d like to thank the publishers Bonnier Zaffre for recommending this book to me and sending me a copy to review. I look forward to read Patricia Wilson’s next novel sometime in the future.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Summary Justice by John Fairfax

Summary Justice (Benson and De Vere)

Summary Justice (Benson & de Vere #1) by John Fairfax
published: 2nd March 2017
Publishers: Little Brown
Pages: 294
Available on Kindle and in Hardback
Rating: 5/5

The last time Tess de Vere saw William Benson she was a law student on work experience. He was a twenty-one year old, led from the dock of the Old Bailey to begin a life sentence for murder. He'd said he was innocent. She'd believed him.
Sixteen years later Tess overhears a couple of hacks mocking a newcomer to the London Bar, a no-hoper with a murder conviction, running his own show from an old fishmonger's in Spitalfields. That night she walks back into Benson's life. The price of his rehabilitation - and access to the Bar - is an admission of guilt to the killing of Paul Harbeton, whose family have vowed revenge. He's an outcast. The government wants to shut him down and no solicitor will instruct him. But he's subsidised by a mystery benefactor and a desperate woman has turned to him for help: Sarah Collingstone, mother of a child with special needs, accused of slaying her wealthy lover. It's a hopeless case and the murder trial, Benson's first, starts in four days. The evidence is overwhelming but like Benson long ago, she swears she's innocent. Tess joins the defence team, determined to help Benson survive. But as Benson follows the twists and turns in the courtroom, Tess embarks upon a secret investigation of her own, determined to uncover the truth behind the death of Paul Harbeton on a lonely night in Soho.

Summery Justice is the first in a new legal series by John Fairfax which features the team of William Benson and Tess de Vere as the crime fighting duo. Although I have a couple of John Grisham courtroom dramas on my  reading pile I am yet to pick them up, I think the size of them is slightly intimidating. Summery Justice is a fairly short book at just 294 pages, so is the ideal book to break into this genre. Initially I did find the amount of legal jargon used at the beginning a little overwhelming, but stick with it because after three chapters I was completely hooked on the book.
William Benson is a barrister with a difference, sixteen years ago he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Through his trial William a philosophy student found his true calling to practise the law and despite being locked up for eleven years he worked tirelessly to gain his law degree and admittance into a law chamber so he can work as a barrister. This ambition was fuelled by a conversation  he had with Tess de Vere a young law student moments before he was given the guilty verdict, fast forward sixteen years and their paths are about to cross again.
Sarah Collingstone has been accused of murdering her wealthy lover and the evidence against her is crushing but Sarah swears she is innocent and after sacking her latest barrister she needs a miracle. Tess hearing the woman’s plight instructs Benson to represent Sarah in court and together with Benson’s clerk Archie they set about providing a case for the defence.
As the trial begins there are numerous twists and turns as the evidence is examined I found this book truly fascinating, just when you think you’ve got it all figured out bam another twist is added. Some of the story was a little far-fetched and perhaps not completely believable but I enjoyed it anyway.
Summary Justice was one of those books I really didn’t want to end as it was very gripping and I’ve loved getting to know Benson and de Vere as characters. If there was a second book in the series published I would already be reading it as I’m so excited for where this duo go next, luckily there is one on the way so hopefully the wait won’t be too long.
I’d like to thank the publishers Little Brown for sending me this to review and also to John Fairfax, thank you for introducing me to a genre I could very easily become hooked on.