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.

Flappy Entertains by Santa Montefiore

Thank you to Rhiannon at Books and the City and Simon and Schuster UK for the opportunity to read and review this humorous book in advance of publication. I discovered Santa Montefiore’s books last year during lockdown one, when I read Here and Now (see my review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/07/15/here-and-now-by-santa-montefiore/).

Synopsis:

From the beloved bestselling author Santa Montefiore comes a new novel filled with humour and heart about being in control – and losing it. For fans of The Temptation of Gracie, Flappy now takes centre stage, more charismatic and competitive than ever.

‘Fresh, fun and fabulous! Flappy certainly kept me entertained!’ Heidi Swain, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Winter Garden  

Underneath her graceful exterior lies a passion nobody knew about, least of all Flappy herself… 

Flappy Scott-Booth is the self-appointed queen bee of Badley Compton, a picturesque Devon village. While her husband Kenneth spends his days on the golf course, she is busy overseeing her beautiful house and gardens, and organising unforgettable events, surrounded by friends who hang on to her every word.

Her life is a reflection of herself – impossibly perfect.

Until the day that Hedda Harvey-Smith and her husband Charles move into the village. Into an even grander home than hers. Taking the front seat on the social scene, quite literally.

That simply will not do.

Flappy is determined to show Hedda how things are done here in Badley Compton. But then she looks into Charles’s beautiful green eyes. And suddenly, her focus is elsewhere. She is only human, after all…

Flappy Entertains is published by Simon and Schuster on 4th March 2021, and available to buy through Bookshop.org HERE

My thoughts:

When I read Here and Now last year, I needed tissues to wipe my eyes after an emotional read. I also needed them for Flappy Entertains but from tears of joy – this was a much needed fun read during a cold, dark lockdown winter.

I haven’t read The Temptation of Gracie yet, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this book. Flappy starts the book as a woman very much in control of everything, her life timetabled and polished. We quickly discover she has little secrets (such as her real taste in newspapers, music and books) but when her new neighbour Charles arrives, suddenly she has a large secret to keep.

I loved how Flappy changed as she suddenly discovered her fun side, all the time insisting that her evening meditation sessions were behind her sudden glow and change in routines. But what would happen if Hedda or Kenneth found out? Would she have to give up her marriage and beautiful house? This is a no spoiler review, so I recommend reading a copy (available to buy through Bookshop.org HERE) whilst sipping a cocktail/mocktail and enjoy your virtual visit to Badley Compton in Devon.

Author Bio (from Amazon):

Hi, I’m Santa Montefiore and I’ve been writing a novel a year for nineteen years now, which is quite astonishing as I didn’t really think beyond the first book, which took me five years to write. I didn’t think I had another in me, but here I am, celebrating my eighteenth and polishing my nineteenth for publication next year! Most of my novels are set partly in England and partly in a beautiful location, like Argentina, Italy or France. I write primarily for myself so I figure, as I’m going to be living in my imagination for the best part of six months, I might as well choose somewhere lovely. I adore nature, so I tend to plant my characters in rural settlings – by the sea or in the countryside – and most of them are stand alone, except Last Voyage of the Valentina and The Italian Matchmaker, and my recent trilogy, The Deverill Chronicles, which is set in Ireland from 1910 to the sixties.

I love writing. I’ve always enjoyed stories, both reading them and writing them. I can’t imagine life without them. Not only are they entertaining, but they teach us so much about life – and enable us to live vicariously through characters who experience more drama than we do! I’m emotional. I love to be moved. There’s nothing better than sinking into a novel and empathising with the characters as they journey through the novel, experiencing both ups and downs…I love to laugh and cry and I want the book to stay with me after I’ve turned the last page. I don’t need a happy ending, but I need a satisfactory one. I hope I deliver satisfactory endings in my own novels.

I also write children’s books with my husband, Simon Sebag-Montefiore. The series is The Royal Rabbits of London, about a secret society of MI5 style rabbits who live beneath Buckingham Palace and protect the Royal Family from evil. Our son came up with the idea when he was six years old and it’s now being made into a movie by 20th Century Fox, which is beyond exciting. To see our characters in animation will be magical. I live in London but rent a cottage in Hampshire, which is where I bolt to when I can no longer take the pace of the city and need to spend time in nature to find peace. We have two children, our daughter Lily and our son Sasha. We also have a Labrador called Simba who is definitely the most spoiled member of the family. My husband Simon is a historian, novelist and broadcaster. We manage to live and work in the same house without killing each other. My favourite place to write is at the kitchen table because it’s near the kettle and the fridge. If I start a packet of biscuits I can’t stop so I try not to start… but marmite toast is another matter, and a very serious one; nothing can separate me from that.


Visit me at http://www.santamontefiore.co.uk and sign up for my newsletter which I try to write every month, but sometimes struggle, so please forgive me if I miss one or two!

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

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 World at my Feet by Catherine Isaac

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my thoughts about the latest book by Catherine Isaac (aka Jane Costello). Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK / Books and the City for the digital proof via NetGalley. Last year I enjoyed reading her previous novels, You, Me, Everything and Messy Wonderful Us (see my reviews at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/05/27/you-me-everything-by-catherine-isaac/ and https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/03/29/bookreview-messy-wonderful-us-by-catherine-isaac/) so I was thrilled to be given an early opportunity to read a digital proof last month. The book will be published in March 2021.

Synopsis:

The dazzling new novel from Richard & Judy book club author Catherine Isaac, The World at my Feet is a story about the transforming power of love, as one woman journeys to uncover the past and reshape her future.

The secrets that bind us can also tear us apart…

1990. Harriet is a journalist. Her job takes her to dangerous places, where she asks questions and tries to make a difference. But when she is sent to Romania, to the state orphanages the world is only just learning about, she is forced to rethink her most important rule. 

2018. Ellie is a gardener. Her garden is her sanctuary, her pride and joy. But, though she spends long days outdoors, she hasn’t set foot beyond her gate for far too long. Now someone enters her life who could finally be the reason she needs to overcome her fears.

From post-revolution Romania to the idyllic English countryside, The World at My Feet is the story of two women, two worlds, and a journey of self-discovery that spans a lifetime.

My thoughts:

When I started University in 1989, the world was changing quickly. The Berlin Wall fell and many of the former Communist countries finally allowed Western journalists to visit. I remember seeing the stories about the Romanian orphanages and feeling profoundly sad that children were abandoned in this way. So I was intrigued to see how this story would unfold.

I am a fan of Catherine’s writing and I’m pleased to see that the lockdown/ global pandemic hasn’t changed her storytelling style. I quickly became invested in the stories of Harriet and Ellie, two women who had their lives changed after a chance encounter in Romania.

I enjoyed both threads of the story, the trips back in time with Harriet and the more recent time with Ellie. Ellie has become trapped in her home/garden by agrophobia, but has stayed in touch with the outside world by becoming a gardening Instagrammer, passing on hints and tips, and sharing her passion for gardening. She knows she needs to get out, to live her life more fully but needs help to conquer her fears.

I quickly became hooked by the story, desperate to see if Ellie could make some changes and how the story about Harriet would link to Ellie’s. The well written characters came to life and on a cold January day, it was lovely to imagine being in Ellie’s beautiful garden.

I’m trying hard to not give away any spoilers, so I’m sorry if this sounds rather vague but I don’t want to spoil the storytelling. My advice is to order a copy and enjoyed watching the story unfold. Thank you Catherine Isaac for another lovely book.

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

No Place Like Home by Heidi Swain

Thanks to Books and The City/Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read and read a digital proof copy of the new Heidi Swain book after hearing about this at the Showcase 2021 event. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This book is due to be published in the UK on April 29th 2021.

Synopsis:

Fliss Brown has grown up living with her mother on the Rossi family’s Italian fruit farm. But when her mother dies, Fliss finds out she has a family of her own, and heads back to England with Nonna Rossi’s recipe for cherry and almond tart and a piece of advice: connect with your family before it is too late…

Fliss discovers that her estranged grandfather owns a fruit farm himself, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, and she arrives to find a farm that has fallen into disrepair. Using her knowledge gleaned from working on the Rossi farm and her desire to find out more about her past, Fliss rolls her sleeves up and gets stuck in. But what will she discover, and can she resurrect the farm’s glory days and find a taste of home…? 

My thoughts:

As regular readers of my book review blog will be aware, I discovered Heidi’s books in 2020 and have been busy playing catch up on the Nightingale Square and Wynbridge books. A Taste of Home is part of the Wynbridge series and it was lovely to meet some of the characters from the previous books again. However, the main characters are all new to this story, so it is possible to read this without having read the earlier books.

After a sad start to the book, for the funeral of the mother of Fliss, we travel to Wynbridge to meet the grandfather she didn’t know existed. The story follows Fliss as she adjusts to life in the UK and wonders if she can help her grandfather save the family farm with help from her new friends and neighbours.

I’m pleased to say that Heidi’s story is as usual, full of great characters, delicious food and new friendships. A lovely uplifting book, which made me crave cake and fruit. This was a fabulous story to escape into on a cold winter evening. Thank you Heidi for another wonderful Wynbridge visit.

Author Bio:

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she finally plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes contemporary fiction and enjoys the company of a whole host of feisty female characters. 

Heidi can be found at the keyboard at all hours of the day and night and quite often scribbling longhand in her car during her lunch break. She lives in stunning south Norfolk with her wonderful son and daughter

The House Beneath the Cliffs by Sharon Gosling

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my thoughts about this debut adult fiction novel by Sharon Gosling. Thanks to Sara-Jade at Books and The City for this gorgeous proof copy, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. The book is due to be published by Simon and Schuster in the UK on 29th April 2021.

Synopsis:

A remote yet beautiful village. A tiny kitchen lunch club. The perfect place to start again.

Anna moves to Crovie, a tiny fishing village on the Moray Firth, for a fresh start. But when she arrives, she realises her new home is really no more than a shed, and the village itself sits beneath a cliff right on the edge of the sea, in constant danger of storms and landslides. Has she made a terrible mistake?

Yet as she begins to learn about the Scottish coast and its people, something she thought she’d lost reawakens in her. She rediscovers her love of cooking, and turns her kitchen into a pop-up lunch club. But not all the locals are delighted about her arrival, and some are keen to see her plans fail.

Will Anna really be able to put down roots in this remote and wild village? Or will her fragile new beginning start to crumble with the cliffs . . . ?

Beautiful, moving and utterly absorbing, The House Beneath the Cliffs is a novel of friendship and food, storms and secrets, and the beauty of second chances 

My thoughts:

Anna has finally left behind the dreadful Geoff, and has bought herself a ‘house’ in the village of Crovie, to escape from her previous life, where her dreams and ambitions were ignored by the person who should have helped her the most.

This book was a much needed escape from the start of 2021, as we were back in Lockdown again in the UK. Sharon brought the village of Crovie, on the coast of Scotland to life, the smells and sound of the sea and the taste of the food. This is not a book to reading whilst dieting, because the food that Anna prepares for her new friends and customers sounded delicious.

The story follows Anna in her first few months in Crovie, making good friends (so many great characters in this book) and the occasional enemy (Douglas McKean), as she decides what to do next with her life. Through a number of adventures/opportunities, Anna quickly becomes part of the local area, boosting tourist numbers and helping when the summer storm threatens to destroy everything. But will she stay or will she go?

This is a lovely book to read, a timely reminder of why friendship and community are important, especially in times of trouble or illness. Also it is a reminder that it is never too late to change a job or area if it means we can find (or reignite) a passion for something we enjoy. My favourite character was Young Robbie, who was determined to protect the local dolphin pod from danger. I look forward to reading more by Sharon in the future.

Author Bio:

Sharon Gosling began her career in entertainment journalism, writing for magazines in the science fiction and fantasy genre, before moving on to write tie-in books for TV shows such as Stargate and the ‘re-imagined’ Battlestar Galactica. She has also written, produced and directed audio dramas based in the same genre. 

She lives in London with her husband and a cantankerous cat, surrounded by books and daleks.

The minute I saw you by Paige Toon

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on ‘the minute I saw you‘ by Paige Toon. A huge thank you to Sara-Jade of Books and The City for this gorgeous book which popped through my letterbox just before Christmas 2020.

Synopsis:

When Hannah meets Sonny, she’s irresistibly drawn to him: he’s sexy and confident, but only in town on holiday. That’s fine with Hannah – she doesn’t do long-term relationships. And luckily for her, neither does Sonny. But before they can even so much as kiss, Sonny receives some shocking news and commits to making serious life changes – ones that can’t and won’t include romance.

With even a short fling now off the cards, Hannah and Sonny settle for being friends. But as summer hots up and their chemistry shows no signs of cooling, they start to question their reasons for shutting each other out.

Are they both too broken to find love? And if they tear down the walls between them, will they still like what’s on the other side?

My thoughts:

My initial thoughts are why has it taken me so long to read one of Paige’s books. I have five sat on my Kindle at the moment. I bought them during lockdown part 1 to read on holiday later in the year. The holiday didn’t happen and so they are still waiting to be read.

I picked this book up over the Christmas holidays when our local area was plunged into Tier 4 as rates of Covid had doubled in just a week, and my anxiety levels had also risen. Now was not the time to be reading something depressing.

I partly chose this book from the to-be-read shelves because it is set in Cambridge, where I should be this month with a group of students and work colleagues. It is a beautiful part of the world and I hope to head back there again one day soon.

The story revolves around Hannah and Sonny, who are both fighting demons from their past, which have made them act differently and could stop them finding the happiness they both deserve. The story flows well, as slowly we find out more about what has happened in the past and how they can help each other with friendship to move forward.

There are so many fabulous characters in this book, including Archie and Matilda, plus the four legged best friend Bertie, who spent more time visiting pubs and people than any of us did in 2020. This book tackles both fun and serious issues but in a sensitive and skilful way, so that the reader is left feeling uplifted by the experience.

Happy to recommend this fabulous book for anyone wanting an emotional read (the gorgeous dragonflies from the cover feature in the story too). I’m looking forward to reading more from Paige in the future too.

Author Bio (from Amazon):

Paige Toon was born in 1975 and grew up between England, Australia and America, following her racing driver father around the globe. A philosophy graduate, she worked at teen, film and women’s magazines, before ending up at Heat magazine as Reviews Editor. Paige is married, has two children and lives in Cambridge.

Visit Paige’s website at paigetoon.com to sign up to her free book club, ‘The Hidden Paige’, and say hi to her on Twitter @PaigeToonAuthor and Facebook.com/PaigeToonAuthor

There are more reviews this month on my book blog for other Books and the City Books, including these: