When Paris Slept by Ruth Druart

I’m happy to be sharing my non-spoiler thoughts about this fabulous historical fiction book as part of the book tour organised by Anne of Random Things Tours. Thank you to Anne and Headline Review for a proof copy to read and review.

Synopsis:

Santa Cruz 1953. Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door.

Paris 1944. A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope.

On a darkened platform two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined.

Beginning on an ordinary day and ending on an extraordinary one, WHILE PARIS SLEPT is an unforgettable read.

My thoughts:

Regular readers of my blog will know that I regularly enjoy reading books set around World War 2, having studied this era at school. I have discovered some fascinating historical fiction books during our repeated lockdowns and this one is definitely added to my five star list. So what makes this book special?

In addition to the gorgeous cover design, this book is an emotional read and left me thinking about it long after I had finished reading. We start in the USA in 1953 where Jean-Luc and Charlotte are living the American dream with their son, Sam. We then head back in time to find out how Jean-Luc and Charlotte met in Paris in 1944, and what happened next.

The story looks at how the ordinary French people dealt with being under German rule, afraid to say anything out loud for fear of reprisals but with hopes that the resistance and the Allies would soon rescue them from the Nazi occupation. We also spend time with Jewish families who have lost their jobs, homes and are facing losing their lives.

In 1953, everything changes again for Jean-Luc, Charlotte and Sam, as the events of 1944 catch up with them. I have to admit that I didn’t see this part of the story coming when I first started the book. This part of the book was emotional in a different way, and as a mother I was torn about how I felt. I did enjoy reading about Paris, the different customs and food, reminding me about my first visit to France.

This is beautifully written, full of emotion and heartbreak, but also hope for the future. The final chapters found me holding my breath, eager to know what would happen next. Apologies for the vagueness of this review, but I don’t want to spoil the story for any prospective readers. I didn’t sleep whilst reading While Paris Slept, this was a book I read in a day, curled up on a sofa with our dogs (there are some benefits to lockdown). I’m happy to recommend this book as a must read in 2021.

Author Bio:

Ruth Druart grew up on the Isle of Wight, moving away at the age of eighteen to study psychology at Leicester University. She has lived in Paris since 1993, where she has followed a career in teaching. She has recently taken a sabbatical, so that she can follow her dream of writing full-time.

A Family Reunion by Patricia Scanlan

Thank you to Anne of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour. Thank you to Books and the City and Simon and Schuster UK for a copy of the book to read and review. I first heard about this book during the 2021 showcase and knew I needed to read it. The book was originally published as The Liberation of Brigid Dunne.

Synopsis:

One explosive family reunion. A lifetime of secrets revealed.

When four feisty women from the same family, get together at a family reunion, anything can happen…

Marie-Claire, betrayed by her partner Marc plans her revenge to teach him a lesson he will never forget. She travels from Toronto, home to Ireland, to the house of the Four Winds, for her great aunt Reverend Mother Brigid’s eightieth birthday celebrations. It will be a long-awaited reunion for three generations of family, bringing together her mother, Keelin and grandmother, Imelda – who have never quite got along. And then all hell breaks loose.

Bitter, jealous Imelda makes a shocking revelation that forces them all to confront their pasts, admit mistakes, and face the truths that have shaped their lives. With four fierce, opinionated women in one family, will they ever be able to forgive the past and share a future?

And what of Marc?
It’s never too late to make amends…or is it?

Spanning generations and covering seismic shifts in the lives of women, A Family Reunion is a compelling, thought-provoking, important and highly emotional novel from a trailblazing author in women’s fiction.

My thoughts:

On a wet and windy February day, it was lovely to receive a copy of this beautiful book with a pretty cover. This is my first read of a Patricia Scanlan novel, and I’m not sure why I haven’t read any before.

The book looks at the lives of the women in one family in Ireland over the past seventy years, looking at how the Catholic Church provided sanctuary for one and ostracised another. The book deals with miscarriage, suicide, forced adoptions and family arguments, so isn’t a ‘light’ read but it was a compelling read.

Marie-Claire flees Canada with a broken heart to spend time with her family in Ireland, not expecting to find herself in the middle of a family party where her grandmother decides to spill lots of family secrets after bottling them up for many years. The family then have to deal with the change in family dynamics and the uncovering of more secrets.

I enjoyed this book, swept up in the story, which moves backwards and forward in time for the three generations. As an English woman I hadn’t appreciated how much freedom we had in terms of contraception in contrast to our Irish neighbours. The book looks at the issues of the homes for unmarried mothers, fighting for the right to use contraception and for the abortion laws to be changed, the major changes to the lives of Irish women.

Happy to recommend this book to fans of family drama and historical fiction. I enjoyed curling up with this 500+ page book over a weekend, ignoring the housework and making the most of the enforced staying in to stay safe during lockdown. If we were able to travel on holiday later this year, this would be one of my recommendations for sun lounger reading.

Author Bio:

Patricia Scanlan lives in Dublin. Her books, all number one bestsellers, have sold worldwide and been translated into many languages.

The Winter’s Fail by Sara Madderson

Thank you to Sara Madderson for a copy of her latest book, A Winter’s Fail, to read and review for the blog tour organised by Anne of Random Things Tours. I read and reviewed Parents and Teachers by Sara Madderon in 2020 (see my review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/11/04/parents-and-teachers-by-sara-madderson/). Parents and Teachers is available on the Kindle at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08JH741XP/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_A0ZZ7R77FT6NCBMCF8S9

Synopsis:

It’s all a huge mess.

Emmy is back from years of aid work in India when she gets knocked up by her boss. She fleas to her sister Rosa in Surrey and there she meets Jack, who offers her a dream job and a taste of happiness. But there’s one major problem: how to tell him she’s pregnant?

Rosa is a mega-influencer obsessed by portraying the perfect image to millions of followers. For her, perception is reality. So when someone close to her sabotages the brand she’s worked so hard to build, can she find anything in her real life worth fighting for?

Stacey has walked away from the perfect guy after four kids and fourteen years of marriage. She’s intent on making up for lost time in the dating world, before some bad news shocks her into reassessing what she wants from life. Is it possible she’s got it all upside-down?

The Winter’s Fail is the story of three women navigating love, friendship and careers with all the highs and headaches they bring. Enjoy being reunited with some of your favourite characters from Sara’s previous books too: Evelyn, Angus, Astrid and others!

My thoughts:

I enjoyed returning to the Esher area. to meet the glamorous people who appear to live very different lives to the majority of us, full of designer clothes, expensive school fees and staff.

Emmy seemed the most normal, having spent the past few years working for charities in India. However, she appears to have made some bad decisions about men and finds herself pregnant by a married man who is facing sexual harassment claims (and featured in Parents and Teachers).

Emmy’s sister Rosa is a Instagram influencer who seems to be spend too much time on her phone and doesn’t realise how upset her eldest daughter is about being excluded. I enjoyed the Tallulah and Rosa story, which also shows the dangers of social media.

Stacey is the confident mother of four who has walked away from an idyllic marriage because it didn’t satisfy her. She enjoys her newly single life with a number of young men in the story (and yes, I did blush a few times reading this book).

The book covers some serious issues, including charity, honesty and ethics, but also includes romance, friendship and plenty of sex. If you enjoyed Parents and Teachers, then you will meet some of the parents again in this book. Thanks Sara for a fun escape from lockdown.

Author Bio (from Amazon):

I like to change things up! I spent my 20s as a banker and my 30s bringing up small children and running my own fashion brand (Madderson London).
Now, aged 42, I find myself writing, and I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. 

I’ve always loved writing. My daughter Tilly has an old notebook of mine filled with half-finished stories and accompanying drawings. I’ve read for as long as I can remember, guzzling up books so quickly that my mum always protested that I couldn’t be reading them properly. You can see my original, dog-eared version of A Little Princess in my photo. Its protagonist, Sara Crewe, is one of my all-time favourite heroines (alongside Anne Shirley, naturally).

I published my first book, Metamorphosis, in February 2020, right before lockdown happened. It’s a non-fiction book about escaping from our cocoons and living as a butterfly. As lockdown progressed, I found escapism in devouring lots of delicious chick-lit (for want of a better title) and I realised I had a few novels in me too. The results are Food for Thought and Parents and Teachers, and I have loved every single minute of writing them. I’d like to thank my puppy, Charlie, for waking me at dawn every morning–it turns out that when you’re a parent in lockdown, those early mornings represent precious creative time. 

I’ve published my books independently, and I love the freedom it provides. The world of independent publishing is fascinating and so empowering–I’m delighted to share more of my experiences of self-publishing if you’re interested.

The Other Daughter by Caroline Bishop

Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour for this fascinating debut novel. Thank you to Harriett Collins at Simon and Schuster for the beautiful proof copy with yellow edges to read to prepare for the tour.

Synopsis:

When it finally arrived I was shocked to see it; to read the words Mum wrote about these women fighting for rights I know I take for granted. Mum was here. And while she was, something happened that changed the entire course of my life. Perhaps, if I can summon the courage, the next eight weeks will help me finally figure out what that was . . .’

When Jessica, a young British woman, discovers a shocking secret about her birth she travels to Switzerland in search of answers. She knows her mother spent time in the country writing an article on the Swiss women’s rights movement, but what she doesn’t know is what happened to her while she was there. Can Jess summon the courage to face the truth about her family, or will her search only hurt herself and those around her even more?

A breathtaking, richly historical commercial women’s fiction debut, set against a stunning Swiss backdrop in the 1970s women’s rights movement. The Other Daughter follows one woman in her search for the truth about her birth, and another desperately trying to succeed in a man’s world.

My thoughts:

This was a fascinating book to read and an impressive debut novel. In the background, we have the story about how Switzerland was starting to change, to allow more rights to women, many years after the changes in the UK. Jess is on a voyage of discovery, to find out more about what happened when her mother, a journalist, was covering the story at Swiss women’s rights and gave birth to her in Switzerland.

Jess is also coming to terms with a huge number of changes in her personal life, and is spending the summer teaching English to the children of a successful Swiss couple, which will hopefully help her process the changes – or will it make things worse?

The story covers history, the changes in women’s rights, dealing with the loss of loved ones and the loss of future hopes and dreams. I enjoyed curling up with this book and watching the story unfold, as we moved backwards and forwards in time. The writing brought the characters and the beautiful scenery of Switzerland to life as Jess tried to work out the events that happened when she was born. This is a non spoiler review so I’m having to be very careful not to give any clues to the various mysteries involved in this story.

I found this well written book to be thought provoking about how women’s rights have changed, and also how “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side”. How often are people jealous about other peoples lives without realising that they may not be as happy or fulfilled as you might imagine? Happy to recommend this book – I’ve added a 5 star review to online bookstores and communities. I look forward to reading more from Caroline Bishop in the future.

Author Bio:

Caroline Bishop began her journalism career at a small arts magazine in London, after a brief spell in educational publishing. She soon moved to work for a leading London theatre website, for which she reviewed shows and interviewed major acting and directing stars. Caroline turned freelance in 2012 and a year later moved to Switzerland, where her writing veered towards travel and she has contributed to publications including the Guardian,IndependentDaily Telegraph and BBC Travel, writing mainly about Switzerland, and co- wrote the 2019 edition of the DK Eyewitness Guide to Switzerland. For two years Caroline was editor of TheLocal.ch, an English-language Swiss news site, and it was during this time that she became fascinated with aspects of Swiss history and culture, particularly the evolution of women’s rights.

Women’s Rights in Switzerland

1971 Switzerland finally granted women the right to vote at national level

1981 Gender equality and equal pay for equal work were written into the Swiss constitution

1985 Women were granted equal rights within marriage. Until then men had legal authority over their wives and could prevent them from working and even opening a bank account

1990 After being forced by the federal Supreme Court, the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden became the last canton in Switzerland to grant women the right to vote at cantonal level

2002 Abortion was legalised
2005 Statutory paid maternity leave was introduced, having been rejected in four previous referendums

2018 The Swiss federal parliament passed a salary equality law, but only within companies with over 100 employees

When Harry met Minnie by Martha Teichner

Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the opportunity to read and review this thought provoking book, about the true events of what happened when Harry met Minnie and Martha. Thank you to Octopus Books for the review copy.

Synopsis:

There are true fairy tales. Stories that exist because impossible-to-explain coincidences change everything. Except in real life, not all of them have conventional, happily-ever-after endings. When Harry Met Minnie is that kind of fairy tale, with the vibrant, romantic New York City backdrop of its namesake, the movie When Harry Met Sally, and the bittersweet wisdom of Tuesdays with Morrie.

There’s a special camaraderie among early-morning dog walkers. In this special space and time, a chance encounter with an old acquaintance changed Martha Teichner’s world.As fate would have it, her friend knew someone who was dying of cancer, from exposure to toxins after 9/11, and desperate to find a home for her dog, Harry. He was a Bull Terrier, the same breed as Martha’s dear Minnie. Martha agrees to meet Harry andhis owner Carol. What begins as a transaction involving a dog becomes a deep and meaningful friendship between two women with complicated lives and a love of Bull Terriers in common. Through the heartbreak and grief of Carol’s illness, the bond that develops changed Martha’s life, Carol’s life, Minnie’s life, Harry’s life. As it changed Carol’s death as well.

Loneliness as a topic is becoming more and more prominent – especially in these uncertain times. This book explores what can happen when we take the time to talk to those around us. This is a memoir of love and loss, of being in the right place at the right time, and of the mysterious ways a beloved pet can bring people together.

“I decided to write this book, because I didn’t want to stop living the story of what happened when Harry met Minnie. I didn’t want to forget any of it, even the sad parts. This story of unexpected friendship, of love, was a wonderful gift, and in the end, it made me and Minnie happy.”

– Martha Teichner, CBS Sunday Morning News correspondent and multi-award-winner.

My thoughts:

I must admit that the picture of the book ‘sold’ this book to me. As a dog adopter myself, I was keen to find out who Harry and Minnie were. As ‘a Brit’, I had never heard of Martha Teichner, but after reading this, I feel as if I would love to meet her, to hear more of her stories about her work and her love of dogs.

But back to the book. Martha is introduced to Carol and her bull terrier, Harry by a mutual friend, Stephen who knows that Carol is looking for someone to care for Harry due to her terminal cancer diagnosis. The first meetings between Harry and Minnie, Carol and Martha made me chuckle in places as everyone wondered whether the two dogs would be happy to spend time together. This time also enabled Carol and Martha to build a friendship, to share stories about their careers and their love for their dogs.

The book is also heartbreaking, as Carol becomes more poorly and her friends try to make her last days as comfortable as possible. However, the uplifting part of the story is how the friends became a ‘family’, looking out for each other and helping when times are tough. Happy to recommend as a book about the power of friendship and kindness, for humans and dogs alike.

Author Bio:

Martha Teichner has been a correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning” since December 1993. Since joining CBS News in 1977, Teichner has earned multiple national awards for her original reporting, including 11 Emmy Awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and five James Beard Foundation Awards.

Martha has reported on some of the largest national and international stories of this era, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the run-up to the war in Iraq, the death of Princess Diana and the life and death of Nelson Mandela. She’s interviewed world leaders and other newsmakers, including then-first lady Hillary Clinton.

Now based in New York, Teichner spent more than a dozen years as a foreign correspondent covering major international news. Teichner was twice assigned to the CBS News London bureau (1980-1984, 1989-1994), covering the Northern Ireland hunger strikes, the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, and was one of only a handful of female war correspondents.

Teichner covered the Lebanon War, the 1st Intifada in 1988 in Israel and the West Bank, embedded with the US First Armored Division in the Persian Gulf War, covered the conflicts associated with the collapse of Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia) and spent three years in South Africa during the last years of apartheid. She reported on
the fall of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe and the Romanian revolution. Teichner also spent several weeks in the Bolivian jungle covering undercover operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

For any enquiries, please contact karen.baker@octopusbooks.co.uk or victoria.scales@octopusbooks.co.uk

A Beautiful Spy by Rachel Hore

Thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour today. Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the stunning proof copy to read. Last year I read and enjoyed the Love Child by Rachel Hore (my review can be found at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/05/13/the-love-child-by-rachel-hore-bookreview/)

Synopsis:

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Last Letter Home, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick, comes a thrilling novel about a woman with an extraordinary life, based on a true story.

Minnie Gray is an ordinary young woman. She is also a spy for the British government.

It all began in the summer of 1928… Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all. She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference.

Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy. Under strict instructions not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist movement.

She soon gains the trust of important leaders. But as she grows more and more entangled in the workings of the movement, her job becomes increasingly dangerous. Leading a double life is starting to take its toll on her relationships and, feeling more isolated than ever, she starts to wonder how this is all going to end. The Russians are notorious for ruthlessly disposing of people given the slightest suspicion. What if they find out? Full of suspense, courage and love, A Beautiful Spy is a stunningly written story about resisting the norm and following your dreams, even if they come with sacrifices.

My thoughts:

Minnie Gray is going to be one of my favourite book characters. In 1928, she knows her own mind and it doesn’t involve settling down just because everyone expects it. Minnie is looking to make a difference to the world, and through a chance encounter, she finds herself in a very different world.

When we think of a spy, of course, we tend to think of James Bond. We never see him wrestling with trying to keep the very different elements of his life apart or find out how emotionally draining it is to keep so many secrets, or to miss out on having proper friendships with work colleagues and neighbours.

I enjoyed the way this story was written, so that we could understand the emotions Minnie felt during the various stages of her journey from living in Edgbaston, travelling to India and appearing in court. She had to deal with a large number of changes and secrets with very little help. I also loved the ending of the book, which reminded me how spirited Minnie is. A fascinating book that I will be awarding 5 star reviews to.

Author Bio:

Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she taught publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a full-time writer. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. Her last novel, The Love Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller.

http://www.rachelhore.com │Twitter: @RachelHore │Instagram: @Rachel.Hore

Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

Thanks to Jess Barrett at Simon and Schuster for a proof copy and thank you to Anne of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This book was published in the UK on 4th February 2021.

Synopsis:

They say those we love never truly leave us, and I’ve found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you’d expect.

I’ve been visiting my mother who died when I was eight. And I’m talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here.

Right now, you probably think I’m going mad. Let me explain…

Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother?

For fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife comes an original and
heartwarming story about bittersweet memories, how the past shapes
the future, and a love so strong it makes you do things that are slightly bonkers.

My thoughts

I’m pleased to say that this is another stunning debut novel that I’m reviewing on my book blog today. I first heard about Space Hopper last year, and the title both intrigued and delighted me as a child of the 1970’s.

Having read the opening chapters, I decided to pick a time to finish the book without interruption (not easy in lockdown part 3 in a house with two teenagers, one husband and two dogs. However the rugby six nations came to my rescue and I was able to curl up and engross myself in the story.

I’m on the last day of the blog tour, and hopefully you may have read some of the reviews by my fellow book bloggers and bookstagrammers (see above poster for more information), but I still don’t want to leave any spoilers. However as the synopsis gives some clues, what would you do if you suddenly found yourself back in time and could meet a missing loved one? Especially when you’ve lost most of your clothes during the journey? And would you keep going back and risk getting stuck there, leaving your own children without a mother?

I loved this original story, both as an avid reader and also a closet Sci-fi fan (I love watching Doctor Who). The idea of travelling back in time has interested people for hundreds of years and I enjoyed the way the idea was used here. I also loved the fact that one of Helen’s main characters is blind, just as my cousin was.

A delightful debut novel, featuring the bond between mothers and daughters. I look forward to reading more by Helen Fisher in the future.

Author Bio

Helen Fisher spent her early life in America, but grew up mainly in Suffolk where she now lives with her two children. She studied Psychology at Westminster University and Ergonomics at UCL and worked as a senior evaluator in research at RNIB. Space Hopper is her first novel.

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my thoughts about this stunning book. Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite to the blog tour for The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell and to Raven Books/ Bloomsbury Books for a gorgeous proof copy to read and review.

Synopsis:

As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another… Why is the killer seemingly targeting her business?

Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them.

But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…

Today is the last day of the blog tour but please check out the reviews from my fellow bloggers listed below too.

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Laura Purcell despite having two of her books sat waiting on my Kindle. I had seen glowing reviews on social media about this book and was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review for the blog tour.

The book takes us back to Bath in Victorian times, but not to the genteel Bath we see in period dramas, but to the dark and creepy streets, where money is tight and people disappear in the night.

This is a no spoiler review, so I need to be very careful about what I write so that I don’t spoil this well plotted story. Agnes has been left unmarried and fatherless, so earns money to look after her family by cutting out silhouettes of paying customers. As the story progresses we meet her doctor and start to receive snippets of information about an accident, an illness she nearly died from, a lost fiancé, a dead sister. The people Agnes prepare silhouettes for start to die, leading to Agnes meeting young Pearl, who may be able to communicate with the dead.

This is a very clever story, with small hints/fake news being shared in each chapter, so that this poor reader had a number of suspects in the frame for the murders. However, I was totally wrong and didn’t guess the ending. I loved the way the story evolved, getting darker and more twisted. This was my favourite book of January 2021 and I’m sure will be in my top 20 books of 2021. I’m off to read more books by Laura Purcell – with a bright light on.

Author Bio:

Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Her first novel for Raven Books, The Silent Companions, was a Radio 2 and Zoe Ball ITV Book Club pick and was the winner of the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award, while her subsequent books – The Corset and Bone China – established Laura as the queen of the sophisticated, and spooky, page-turner.

laurapurcell.com |@spookypurcell

Laura Purcell is available for features, interviews and events. For more information please contact Emilie Chambeyron on emilie.chambeyron@bloomsbury.com

Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton

I’m pleased to be joining the Random Things Tours blog tour for this wonderful debut novel by Emily Houghton. Thank you to Anne Cater for the invitation to join the tour and a proof copy of the book. The book was published in ebook format this week and will be available in hardback next week in the UK.

Synopsis:

CAN YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE YOU’VENEVER SEEN?

Alice and Alfie are strangers. But they sleep next to each other every night.

Alfie Mack has been in hospital for months recovering from an accident. A new face on the ward is about as exciting as life gets for him right now, so when someone moves into the bed next to him he’s eager to make friends. But it quickly becomes clear that seeing his neighbour’s face won’t happen any time soon.

Alice Gunnersley has been badly burned and can’t even look at herself yet, let alone allow anyone else to see her. Keeping the curtain around her bed firmly closed, it doesn’t stop Alfie trying to get to know her. And gradually, as he slowly brings Alice out of her shell, might there even be potential for more?

My thoughts:

I loved the look and sound of this story, with a colourful cover and an intriguing synopsis. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review this debut novel before publication. But would it deliver the escapism I was craving at the start of lockdown 3? Well I’m pleased to say it certainly did.

The style of the book reminded me of The Flatshare, where the story is told by both main characters in alternate chapters. In this story, we have Alfie, a sociable PE teacher recovering from a life changing car accident, who has been keeping the other patients on the rehabilitation ward entertained. Alongside Alfie, hidden away behind curtains is workaholic Alice, who was badly burnt in a work place accident.

Alfie may be recovering from his physical injuries but he is struggling to deal with the emotions of losing friends in the accident and the reaction of loved ones to his injuries. Alice is refusing to look at herself and to allow others to see her. Both have experienced a traumatic event and need support, can they help each other more than the professional staff at the hospital?

I loved this book, quickly I was so involved in the lives of Alfie and Alfie I didn’t want to put the book down and ended up staying up much later than normal to carry on reading. Alfie and Alice became real as they teased each other and gave each other the opportunity to talk about their past and their worries. Life had been difficult for both of them since their accidents and both continued to have ‘bad’ days, made worse when they fell out on a number of occasions.

I liked the fact that this story didn’t wave a magic wand and suddenly make everything perfect. Alfie and Alice had to face up to their ‘new’ lives and to make major decisions, including whether they would stay in contact. As this is a no spoiler review, I will encourage you to read this emotional book to find out what happens to Alfie and Alice.

Thank you to Emily Houghton for a brilliant book to escape into, I look forward to reading more of your books in the future.

Author Bio:

Emily Houghton is an ex digital specialist and full-time creative writer.
She originally comes from Essex but now lives in London. Emily is a trained yoga and spin teacher, completely obsessed with dogs and has dreamt of being an author ever since she could hold a pen.

Emily is available for written features about her experiences and learnings on topics including; dating and the vulnerability of meeting people, self-love, body confidence, processing pain and the physical emotional body connection.

For more information please contact Hayley Barnes, Senior Press Officer, Transworld Publishers: HBarnes@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk | 020 8231 6730

Coming Home To Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn

Today I’m thrilled to be joining the blog tour for this gorgeous book set in the Orkney Islands. Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the opportunity and to Books and The City/Simon and Schuster for a copy of the book to read and review. My thoughts about the book are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

On paper, Merina Wilde has it all: a successful career writing the kind of romantic novels that make even the hardest hearts swoon, a perfect carousel of book launches and parties to keep her social life buzzing, and a childhood sweetheart who thinks she’s a goddess. But Merry has a secret: the magic has stopped flowing from her fingers. Try as she might, she can’t summon up the sparkle that makes her stories shine. And as her deadline whooshes by, her personal life falls apart too. Alex tells her he wants something other than the future she’d always imagined for them and Merry finds herself single for the first time since – well, ever.

Desperate to get her life back on track, Merry leaves London and escapes to the windswept Orkney Islands, locking herself away in a secluded clifftop cottage to try to heal her heart and rediscover her passion for writing. But can the beauty of the islands and the kindness of strangers help Merry to fool herself into believing in love again, if only long enough to finish her book? Or is it time for her to give up the career she’s always adored and find something new to set her soul alight?

The brand new series from Holly Hepburn, first published as four ebook parts: BROKEN HEARTS AT BRIGHTWATER BAY, SEA BREEZES AT BRIGHTWATER BAY, DANGEROUS TIDES AT BRIGHTWATER BAY and SUNSET OVER BRIGHTWATER BAY

My thoughts:

When my copy of the book arrived through my letterbox just before Christmas, the gorgeous cover design made me smile and I must admit to adding the book to my home office desk to brighten it up.

This is a fabulous uplifting book about authors, books, a library, avid book readers, author events, books and romance. Merry has been treated badly by Alex, and has escaped to Orkney to find inspiration for her writing. With a kind library manager, Niall, a friendly ‘Viking’, Magnus, and a persistent neighbour, Sheila encouraging her to rediscover herself and to enjoy her visit to Orkney, Merry begins to make changes to her life.

I loved discovering the history of the islands as Merry visited places and I found myself googling pictures of the island. Merry’s six months in Orkney flew by as the pages of the book turned and I found it difficult to put this book down.

Great characters (including Gordon the goat), a fabulous story, two attentive and attractive men, and a book about an author make for a uplifting romantic read. I have already been recommending this book via social media and I now need to read some of Holly’s earlier books – still not sure why I haven’t done so before! It was great to start 2021 discovering a new author to me.

Author Bio:

Holly Hepburn is the much-loved author of commercial women’s fiction. She lives near London with her grey tabby cat, Portia. They both have an unhealthy obsession with Marmite. Follow Holly on Twitter @HollyH_Author.

~*~Praise for Holly Hepburn~*~
‘A fresh new voice, brings wit and warmth to this charming tale of two sisters’ Rowan Coleman

‘Warm, witty and laced with intriguing secrets! I want to pull up a bar stool, order a large G&T and soak up all the gossip at the Star and Sixpence!’ Cathy Bramley

‘The Star and Sixpence sparkles with fun, romance, mystery, and a hunky blacksmith. It’s a real delight’ Julie Cohen

‘Like the dream pub landlady who always knows exactly what you want, Holly Hepburn has created the most delightful welcome to what promises to be a brilliant series, in the first Star and Sixpence. The sisters are warm and intriguing, the neighbours are (mostly!) friendly and the gossip is utterly addictive. I was very sad when it was time for last orders, and am already looking forward to the next round. Especially if a certain blacksmith happens to be at the bar…’ Kate Harrison

‘Warm, witty and utterly charming, Snowdrops at the Star and Sixpence is the perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter’s day. It left me with the most wonderful happy glow’ Cally Taylor

‘A super sparkling star of a story and I can’t wait for part two’ Alexandra Brown