The Country Village Christmas Show by Cathy Lake

I’m pleased to be sharing my review for this feel good festive read on my book review blog today. Thank you to Zaffre Books for a digital review copy via NetGalley, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. The book is being published in the UK on 29th October 2020.

Synopsis:

Recently divorced, the family home sold and her son all grown-up, Clare is at a crossroads. She’s dedicated her whole adult life to her family, and now it’s time she did something for herself. 

In the lead up to Christmas, Clare decides that a bit of time in the countryside might be just what she needs, so she moves back to Little Bramble, the village she grew up in. But living with her mum for the first time in years – and not to mention Goliath the Great Dane – can be challenging. 

When Clare finds herself running the village Christmas show, it feels like she has purpose in her life again. Bringing together people from all sides of the community, and all walks of life, will Clare manage to pull off a festive feat like no other? And will she find the new start in life – and possibly love – that she’s been looking for?

The Country Village Christmas Show is the perfect romantic read to get cosy with this winter.

My thoughts:

This is the first book published by Cathy Lake (aka Rachel Griffiths). The blurb and the gorgeous cover drew my attention to this book, plus the feature on Readers First.

I felt sorry for the main character, Clare, at the start of the story – her happy life had vanished in a relatively short space of time as her marriage faltered, her job was made redundant and she ended up moving back in with her mum and a very large dog called Goliath.

However Clare soon starts to rekindle old friendships and make new acquaintances on her voyage of self discovery, although the path to romance is a tricky one to negotiate.

A great mixture of characters, a canine friend, Christmas preparations and three generations of a family working together provided a cosy autumnal read. I look forward to reading more by Cathy Lake.

Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior

Today I’m sharing my review for this lovely book again to celebrate the paperback publication yesterday AND the announcement that this has been chosen as one of the Richard and Judy book club books. Thank you to Random House (Penguin UK) for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own. This is also known as How the Penguins Saved Veronica in the United States.

Synopsis

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting 
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.

My thoughts:

This is one of my favourite books of the year. Veronica McCreedy is a wonderful older lady who makes major changes to her life after being hidden away from the world, mostly at home. I love the way the story develops and the reader is hooked.

Hazel Prior has created a wonderful cast of characters and interspersed the story with facts about penguins. The story looks at how life events have changed Veronica and how spending time with a small group of scientists and thousands of penguins can dramatically change your outlook.

I loved this book and will be buying copies for Christmas presents. In this current time of uncertainty and anxiety, this book is uplifting and I would love to see it turned into a TV drama. If you enjoyed Saving Missy by Beth Morrey, you may enjoy this too.

Hazel Prior

HAZEL PRIOR lives on Exmoor with her husband and a huge ginger cat. As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist. Ellie and the Harp-Maker was her first novel.

The Christmas Swap by Sandy Barker

Today I’m happy to be sharing my review for the latest book by Sandy Barker, The Christmas Swap. Thank you to One More Chapter for a digital proof copy and to Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join the blog tour.

Synopsis

Christmas is coming and best friends ChloeJules, and Lucy are needing change… so swapping homes for the holidays could be the perfect present for all of them!

Australian Chloe spends her Christmas in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England. She is totally star-struck when she discovers who lives across the road.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend her Christmas on a beach with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away is just what she needed.

The only thing better than one Christmas romance is three, and this wonderful festive novel is perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan, Holly Martin and Karen Swan.

Purchase Links 

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-christmas-swap

https://books.apple.com/gb/book/the-christmas-swap/id1522992097

https://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-christmas-swap,sandy-barker-9780008390044

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-christmas-swap/sandy-barker/9780008390044

My thoughts:

Having read many of Sandy’s previous books, I was pleased to be given a sneak preview of her new festive novel.

2020 has been the year when many of us haven’t travelled far, with holidays and family reunions curtailed by the global pandemic. So I was thrilled to be able to travel around the world with the May Ladies at Christmastime. I loved how everyone swapped to experience Christmas differently – to have snow guaranteed or to be able to visit a warm beach.

In each Christmas location, each of the May Ladies also met and fell in love with a gorgeous man, so this book is full of travel and romances. Personally I would have chosen the chance to travel to sunny Australia to meet Dexter the dog, but the rum hot chocolates after spending time in the snow was also very tempting.

This is a fabulous festive read, with fun stories from each of the three countries, all interwoven by the catch up video calls between Chloe, Lucy and Jules – thank goodness for video calling in 2020. I felt much more festive reading this in mid September and I’m happy to recommend it.

Author Bio:

Sandy Barker is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list. She loves exploring new places, outdoor adventures, and eating and drinking like a local when she travels, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, film buff, wine lover and coffee snob.

Social Media Links – 

https://www.facebook.com/sandybarkerauthor

https://www.instagram.com/sandybarkerauthor

https://sandybarker.com/

One Family Christmas by Bella Osborne

Thanks to Avon Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join the blog tour for One Family Christmas by Bella Osborne. Thank you to Avon Books for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

A big family. A whole lot of secrets. A Christmas to remember…

This year, Lottie is hosting one last big family Christmas at the home she grew up in – just like her Nana would have wanted.

But when her relatives descend on the old manor house, Lottie gets more than she bargained for. Every family has its secrets, but in this family, everybody has one!

So, between cooking a Christmas dinner, keeping tensions at bay and a stray dog out of mischief, she has plenty on her plate (and not just misshapen sausage rolls and a frozen turkey). And then her first love shows up – nine years after he walked out of her life.

Can Lottie make their last family Christmas one to remember… for the right reasons?

A festive treat to curl up with this Christmas, perfect for fans of Milly Johnson and Trisha Ashley.

My thoughts:

I only discovered Bella Osborne’s books this year, when I read Meet Me At Pebble Beach (which I heartily recommend). So I was pleased to be given an early opportunity to read and review her new festive novel, One Family Christmas.

The opening chapters are actually quite sad, as Lottie and her family say goodbye to Nana Rose. Lottie manages to persuade everyone to return to stay at the Manor House, for one last Christmas, before it is sold and the proceeds split between the family.

Lottie’s family are an eclectic mix, elderly Great Uncle Bernard and his carer, Lottie’s widowed brother, his young daughter Jessica and ‘new’ girlfriend Emily, her mum Angie and latest of many boyfriends, Scott, and her uncle Daniel and his family. As the ‘blurb’ states, everyone is nursing a secret, and these will be revealed over the Christmas period.

Lottie is trying to achieve a perfect family Christmas, which isn’t easy when her ex boyfriend, Joe and a stray dog arrive on Christmas Eve, she forgets to defrost the turkey and a surprise present goes missing from the tree.

I loved this book, so many laugh out loud moments, especially with little Jessica, Dave the dog and Duchess the cat. After a stressful day, this was just what I needed – a book to escape into, full of festive fun, a dysfunctional family, romance and disasters waiting to happen. Lottie is a wonderful main character with a heart of gold.

Another lovely book by Bella Osborne, and I’m already looking forward to 2021 for her next book.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B085XQXDB9/

Universal Amazon link – http://mybook.to/OneFamilyChristmas

KOBO – https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/one-family-christmas

Author Bio :

Bella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. Since then she’s written six best selling romantic comedies and she’s been shortlisted three times for the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year Award. 

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She lives in The Midlands, UK with her husband, daughter and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. When not writing Bella is usually eating custard creams and planning holidays.

For more about Bella, visit her website at http://www.bellaosborne.com or follow her on social media.

Social Media Links – 

Twitter – https://twitter.com/osborne_bella

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BellaOsborneAuthor/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/bellaosborneauthor/

A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley

Thank you to Avon Books for providing a digital review copy of this gorgeous book via NetGalley. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This is published in ebook format on 19th October and in paperback on 26th November 2020.

Synopsis:

It’s been a year since Lottie’s fiancé walked out, leaving her heartbroken. But things start to look up when she lands her dream job at a beautiful Lake District estate, with a handsome groundskeeper for a neighbour.
 
So when Lottie is asked to organise a last minute Christmas wedding at Firholme, she can’t wait to get started. Until she meets the couple, and discovers that Connor, the man who broke her heart, is the groom-to-be.
 
As snow falls on the hills, can Lottie put aside her past to organise the perfect winter wedding? And will there be any festive magic left to bring Lottie the perfect Christmas she deserves?
 

My thoughts:

This is a lovely festive read. Lottie has had a tough year, with a broken engagement and supporting her sister through her cancer treatment. Jay, her new neighbour and work colleague, is also nursing a broken heart.

The story features secrets, half truths, comedy moments, reindeers, Christmas trees, decorations and romance. Will getting to know Jay, and his gorgeous dog, Trevor help Lottie to cope with organising a wedding for her ex? This is a no spoiler review so you will need to read the book to find out.

A lovely story to provide an escape from the stress and anxiety of 2020. I only discovered Phillipa’s books this year (see my review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/05/29/bookreview-a-perfect-cornish-escape-by-phillipa-ashley/) but have been busy adding more of her books to my Kindle to curl up with over the winter. I recommend enjoying this one with a mug of hot chocolate whilst listening to some Christmas music.

The Little Christmas Shop on Nutcracker Lane by Jaimie Admans

Thank you to HQ Digital for a copy of this gorgeous book via NetGalley. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. I enjoyed reading Jaimie Adman’s previous book, The Little Bookshop of Love stories back in July (see my 5 star review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/07/11/the-little-bookshop-of-love-stories-by-jaimie-admans/). The ebook is published this week (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08GS33BGP/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_GZCHFbQ7JYKXD) and the paperback on 10th December 2020.

Synopsis:

Nia Maddison has always believed that wishes come true on Nutcracker Lane. So, when she gets the opportunity to run her own Christmas gift shop on the most magical street in town, it feels like her wishes have been finally granted.

But working late one night, Nia discovers yet another boyfriend has cheated on her. As she trudges home – alone, again – she passes the (supposedly) magical nutcracker and half-joking thinks a wish can’t hurt. Cracking a nut in its mouth, she wishes to find Prince Charming.

The next day Nia gets to work to find another decoration shop has opened directly across the lane from her own, and she can’t resist having a nose around.

Whilst there, she accidentally backs into a human-sized Nutcracker, knocking it over and breaking it. Mortified, she flees from the store but when she gathers her resolve to go back and apologise, she stumbles across the gorgeous shop owner James, who looks exactly like Prince Charming…

Could her Christmas wish from the night before really be coming true?

My thoughts:

I have to admit that after reading the first couple of chapters, that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy this book as much as the Little Bookshop of Love Stories. However, something magical happened and this quickly became my favourite Christmas book of 2020.

Nia and James are so different, one loves everything to do with Christmas, whilst the other loathes Christmas. However, after literally bumping into each other, they need to work together to bring back the magic of Christmas to Nutcracker Lane.

I loved how Jaimie has crammed so many Christmas traditions into one story – the food, the sweets, the decorations, the board games, the Christmas Carols and the mistletoe. In 2020, when many of us will have to forgo our normal traditions due to the social distancing rules, this book brought the magic of a non Covid Christmas to life.

If you would love to escape for a few hours, then grab a copy of this fabulous festive and romantic read, a big mug of hot chocolate, some peppermint creams and a festive blanket as soon as possible.

The Last Charm by Ella Allbright

I’m pleased to share my review for this beautiful book today on my book blog. Thank you to One More Chapter of Harper Collins for a digital proof copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. The ebook is published today in the UK and the paperback is due to be published in November 2020.

Synopsis:

A moving and heartwarming love story perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day in December…

Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope. This is the story of her … and the story of Jake.

When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.

So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Ella Allbright/Nikki Moore and it won’t be the last. The story telling was superb, I loved the way that Leila and Jake kept spending small periods of time together, whilst you wondered if this would be the time that they finally realised that they belonged together properly.

The story covers some tough topics including domestic violence and mental health issues, but there are also lots of funny moments too. As the book title suggests, there is a charm bracelet at the centre of the story and the end of the book had me in tears as Leila searched for the last charm. This was a beautiful and emotional read, and I’ve given it a 5 star rating.

Ella Allbright:

A self-confessed reading addict, Ella Allbright writes commercial women’s fiction set in her beautiful home county of Dorset. Her first novel in this genre – The Last Charm – will publish in August 2020 (ebook) and November 2020 (paperback) with One More Chapter, a division of HarperCollins. She’s currently hard at work on her next book, and is represented by agent Hattie Grünewald at The Blair Partnership.

Ella also writes as Nikki Moore, the author of the popular #LoveLondon romance series. A number of the novellas featured in the Top 100 short story charts on Kobo and the Top 20 in the Amazon UK bestsellers Holiday chart, and in 2018 the collection was released in Italy. Her first published work was the short story A Night to Remember in the best selling Mills & Boon / RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply. Her debut romance Crazy, Undercover, Love was shortlisted for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2015.

When not writing or reading, she can usually be found working in her HR day job, walking the family’s cute beagle puppy or watching a Netflix series!

She vlogs about how to get published as ‘Author By The Sea’ on her YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQNV3lWENgnIRG4NWejSjmQ

WE BEGIN AT THE END by Chris Whitaker

I’m thrilled to share my review for We Begin at the End again to share the new paperback cover. The paperback version is published today (although I did spot a copy in Waterstones last week).

Synopsis:

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

How far can we run from the past when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?

My thoughts:

Thank you to Zaffre Books for a preview copy – my thoughts are my own.

This is the first book I’ve read by Chris Whitaker, who as I read the book, I wrongly assumed was American.

The book starts over 30 years ago with the body of Sissy being found. We jump forward 30 years from the death of Sissy to find out what happened to her family and friends in Cape Haven after her death.

We are slowly fed pieces of information about Star, Duchess, Robin and Walk. We start to find out secrets, some held for decades. Some information misdirects the reader or perhaps we just jump to wrong conclusions.

I was concerned that with all the stress and anxiety about the global pandemic, that I would struggle to be able to concentrate on this book. However, I was so quickly drawn into the lives of Duchess and Robin, that I enjoyed escaping the real world.

This book is one of those that will stay with me for a long time – great story telling and so many flawed but likeable characters. I will be recommending this book to friends and family – everyone should read about Duchess.



View all my reviews

The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies

I’m pleased to share my review for The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies on my book blog today – the ebook is currently 99p on the Kindle. Thank you Penguin Books for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

In 1940s Tuscany, Contessa Sofia de’ Corsi’s peaceful home in a medieval villa among the olive groves has been upturned by the arrival of German soldiers. She is desperate to help her friends in the village fight back in any way she can, all while keeping her efforts secret from her husband Lorenzo, who fears for their safety.

When Maxine, a no-nonsense Italian-American, arrives in Tuscany to help the resistance, the two women forge an uneasy alliance. Before long they find themselves entangled in a dangerous game with the Nazis, each trying to save the ones they love…

My thoughts:

This is the first Dinah Jefferies novel I’ve read, although I do have a copy of one of her previous books on my Kindle ready to read. I enjoyed listening to Dinah talking to Catherine Isaac recently on a Facebook Live meet the author session about how she researched the story.

This book is so beautifully written that I could imagine myself in Italy watching the story unfold. Sofia, Maxine and the other women in the story are so strong and so determined to believe that the Allies will rescue them from the Germans. I’ve read many books about life in France during the Second World War but this is the first one set in Italy.

Dinah brought the area to life, with vivid descriptions of buildings, food and people. The end of the story, as all the smaller stories are woven together, is a very emotional read – I’m sure I was holding my breath in places and I also had damp eyes a few times during the book.

I’ve enjoyed reading a lot of historical fiction novels recently and this is now one of my favourites.

Dinah Jefferies (from Amazon):

Dinah was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine. In 1985, the sudden death of her fourteen year old son changed the course of her life, and deeply influenced her writing. Dinah drew on that experience, and on her own childhood spent in Malaya during the 1950s to write her debut novel, The Separation. 

Now living in Gloucestershire with her husband and their Norfolk terrier, she spends her days writing, with time off with her grandchildren.

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis


I’m thrilled to share my review for Dear Emma Blue today – thank you to Trapeze books / Orion Publishing for granting my wish on NetGalley for a digital advanced review copy – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached addressed, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.

Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off from her job. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?

Emmie Blue is about to learn everything she thinks she knows about life (and love) is just that: what she thinks she knows. Is there such thing as meant to be? Or is it true when they say that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans?

My thoughts:

This is one of my favourite books of 2020. Emmie is a character that I took to my heart – a mother who wasn’t interested, an absent father and a teacher who breached his duty of care. This book looks at relationships and friendships, how they change and evolve over time, and how sometimes people aren’t as honest as they should be.

The book begins as Emmie and Lucas are about to turn 30 – they met aged 16 after Lucas found a balloon in France with Emmie’s contact details (and details about what had happened to her at school), and became friends. The story follows on from the 30th birthday, but also takes the reader back in time to Emmie’s childhood, teenage years and the years of friendship with Lucas and his family.

Life has never been easy for Emmie and people have let her down throughout her life. However with support from sometimes the least likely people, this is Emmie’s opportunity to face her demons and move forward with her life.

Thank you Lia Louis for your sublime storytelling – this was a book I didn’t want to put down. I enjoyed travelling over to France with Emmie, as she spent the year after her 30th birthday making some major changes to her life and uncovering some secrets.

This is already available in ebook format in the USA and is due to be published in ebook and paperback in the UK in August 2020.




View all my reviews