Guest post by Laura Bambrey – author of The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness

I’m thrilled to share a guest post by Laura Bambrey on my book review blog today. Yesterday Simon and Schuster UK published Laura’s debut novel in ebook.

Today I’m pleased to welcome Laura to speak more about the main theme of her debut novel.

Hi Karen!

Thank you so much for having me on your wonderful blog and helping me to celebrate the publication of The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness

I wanted to talk a little bit about why I chose loneliness as the main theme of my debut. In reality it was Tori, my main character, who decided on it. She’s been pottering around in my head a lot longer than her story has. I’ve tried to get to know her several times, placing her in different situations and scenarios, with no luck. But then, at the beginning of 2019 when I finally committed to finding out her story, I realised where I’d been going wrong. I’d been busy trying to figure her out in relation to other people- but – other than three online-only friends – she had no one else in her life. And there it was – I had my theme.

I had to research loneliness and how it can affect you in order to understand Tori and tell her story. The first thing I did was to look back at my own experiences. I come from a loving family, I’m blessed with a wonderful partner and have lots of people – online and in real life – that I can turn to. But there have been those moments where I’ve felt truly lonely. Even saying that now, I can feel the shudder- the desire to delete that sentence. There is still so much stigma attached to admitting that you are, or have been, lonely.

– Sitting up at 2am, watching over my mum while nursing her during her last weeks. 

– A lunchtime walk at work while everyone else ate together. 

– Having a question and realising that the one person in my life who could answer it was gone. 

Of course, the entirety of this story was written before the pandemic burst into our lives. Sadly, loneliness has become even more prevalent – something we’ve all faced to some extent over the past four months. And still, it’s not talked about enough. I mean, did you know that there are 4 types of loneliness? Social, Emotional, Situational and Chronic. There’s so much to learn – so much we should be talking about!

It’s my hope that The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness will not only be an enjoyable, light look at some darker and more difficult issues like loneliness, loss, anxiety and phobias, but that it might also provide a bit of a conversation starter about them too.

Before I sign off I’d like to give a shout out for their wonderful online resources. If you find yourself struggling or want to learn more, they’re a great place to start.

Thank you Laura for sharing this with us. I enjoyed reading your book and shared my review last month on this blog at

To purchase a copy of Laura’s book, visit:



Synopsis of the book:

The perfect feel-good read from an exciting new voice in women’s fiction, for fans of Heidi Swain, Cathy Bramley and Jenny Colgan.

Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.

When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).

From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t.  Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken . . .

Welcome to The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness! Where you can learn to move mountains by picking up the smallest of stones…

For more information about Laura Bambrey:

Laura Bambrey was born in Dorset but raised in Wales. She’s worked as a trapeze choreographer, sculpture conservator and stilt walker, amongst others, and spent most of her time collecting stories from the people she met along the way. 

She has spent many years as a book blogger and reviewer of women’s fiction and now lives in Devon with her very own romantic hero and a ridiculously fluffy rabbit named Mop. The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is her début novel.

You can follow her on 





Here and Now by Santa Montefiore

I’m pleased to share my review for the latest book by Santa Montefiore on my book blog today. Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own and and not influenced by the gift.


Marigold has spent her life taking care of those around her, juggling family life with the running of the local shop, and being an all-round leader in her quiet yet welcoming community. When she finds herself forgetting things, everyone quickly puts it down to her age. But something about Marigold isn’t quite right, and it’s becoming harder for people to ignore.

As Marigold’s condition worsens, for the first time in their lives her family must find ways to care for the woman who has always cared for them. Desperate to show their support, the local community come together to celebrate Marigold, and to show her that losing your memories doesn’t matter, when there are people who will remember them for you . . .

Evocative, emotional and full of life, Here and Now is the most moving book you’ll read this year – from Sunday Times bestselling author Santa Montefiore.

My thoughts:

Occasionally I become so involved in an emotional story that I find myself crying. The last book to do that was The Sight of You by Holly Miller (reviewed at ) until I read the last few pages of Here and Now and found myself properly crying – this was not just moist eyes, but proper tears. So my first suggestion is when you buy the book (because you should), is to stock up on tissues too.

This is the first book I’ve read by Santa Montefiore and before you ask, I’m not sure why either. I requested the review copy via NetGalley back in March as the UK headed into lockdown and Simon and Schuster kindly approved it.

Marigold is a wonderful character, much loved by her family and neighbours and community. The way the story is written to show how her little episodes of forgetfulness become more serious is a heartbreaking tale uplifted by how her family and friends help her to stay happy. Marigold has been looking after her mum, her husband and daughters for many years, now they need to work together to help her.

The book is beautifully written, full of wonderful characters, some happy and some grumpy (Nan), humour (moles, christmas puddings etc), love (pink roses) and romance. At the time of reading this in July 2020, many of us are currently anxious about the global pandemic, a virus we cannot see whilst we also have an unseen condition which steals the memory of people that we currently cannot protect ourselves from. However, as the title suggests, we need to live in the here and now, to enjoy the small things – the birds singing, the food we eat, time with family and friends.

Thank you to Santa Montefiore for this wonderful story, I look forward to reading more of your books in the future.

Santa Montefiore (taken 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 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 Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

Today I’m absolutely thrilled to share my review for this stunning debut novel on my book blog today. Thank you to Jess Barratt at Scribner, a Simon and Schuster UK imprint, for this gorgeous proof copy – my thoughts about the book are all my own and not influenced by the gift. I will be treating myself to a hardback copy of the book, which will now include a sticker to confirm that this has been picked as a Radio 2 Book Club book.


July, 1962
Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?
The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother, the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.
If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off then maybe she can move on with her own life and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.  
Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese.  

My thoughts:

As a Yorkshire lass, who was born in Sheffield, grew up in Rotherham, and attended University in Huddersfield and Leeds, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to read this book early – described as the ‘best thing to come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese’. So did it live up to the claim?

The book starts with an introduction to Evie, who has just finished her last ‘O’ level exam (GCSE equivalent to those of you younger than 40) and is driving her dad’s MG. By page 5, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as Evie saw old Mr Hughes – this has to be the most unusual start to a book I’ve ever read – please don’t eat or drink whilst reading the first chapter.

I’m not going to give a round up of what happens in the story – I am going to tell you is why you should buy it. I loved the way the characters developed, how Evie deals with the prospect of having Christine as a step mum and helps her neighbours reconnect. This is a book that also made me realise how much life has changed for the young people of today in terms of career opportunities and life choices.

This year has been a challenging year for many of us with the anxiety of a global pandemic, and this book was a chance to escape and to laugh out loud. My mum would have been slightly older than Evie and I’m much younger than Evie, but lots of the Yorkshire phrases and characters seemed so familiar from my own experiences and stories from my mum. I read the Adrian Mole books back in the day (and watched the TV series) and this is so much funnier.

In addition to the humour, the attention to detail was superb – the descriptions of rooms, clothes, music and food etc. My favourite chapters included a visit to the Royal Beverly hotel (chapter 5), the village fete (chapter 12), a trip to Leeds with Caroline (chapter 14) and starting work at the hairdressers (chapter 16), all building up nicely to the finale.

This is a stunning debut novel and I’m pleased to hear that another novel is underway. After reading the novel, I’ve enjoyed discovering the Betty’s website and the music of Adam Faith (he was an actor in my day). I’m happy to confirm that this book is better than Wensleydale cheese (and I do love a good piece of Wensleydale with cranberries). My recommendation is to order the book and some Fat Rascals from Betty’s, find a comfortable chair, turn off your phone and enjoy revisiting the summer of 1962 with Evie. This is currently my favourite book of 2020.

Matson Taylor:

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire (the flat part not the Brontë part). He comes from farming stock and spent an idyllic childhood surrounded by horses, cows, bicycles, and cheap ice-cream. His father, a York City and Halifax Town footballer, has never forgiven him for getting on the school rugby team but not getting anywhere near the school football team.

Matson now lives in London, where he is a design historian and academic writing tutor at the V&A, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. Previously, he talked his way into various jobs at universities and museums around the world; he has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers. He gets back to Yorkshire as much as possible, mainly to see family and friends but also to get a reasonably-priced haircut.

He has always loved telling stories and, after writing academically about beaded flapper dresses and World War 2 glow-in-the-dark fascinators, he decided to enrol on the Faber Academy ‘Writing A Novel’ course. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is his first novel. 

Matson has also put a playlist together for the book – to be found at

The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness by Laura Bambrey

I’m thrilled to share my review for the debut novel by Laura Bambrey on my book review blog today. Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for granting my wish on NetGalley to read and review – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.


Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.
When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).
From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t.  Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken . . .

My thoughts:

2020 will be remembered for many different reasons, primarily the global pandemic. One small positive of this, is that I have been able to read and review more books this year, and I now have another lovely debut novel to shout about to fellow booklovers – I really enjoyed reading The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness.

In March 2020 most countries across the world had to lockdown, to keep their populations safe from an invisible killer. Thankfully many of us have access to modern technology and can stay in touch with family and friends via messages or video chats. However, millions of people across the world will be in Tori’s situation – lots of virtual friends but no close real friends. In my grandparent’s generation, people tended to not move far from their families when they left home and had their own families. However, this has now changed, especially as more of us travelled for university courses or fell in love with another county or country when on holiday.

I moved to Wiltshire from Yorkshire just over 25 years ago, and although I’ve made some good friends, I do find myself feeling lonely at times without my family living nearby. Loneliness is a big issue in our world and Laura’s book shows how easy it is to end up in this situation, especially now more people are working from home every day.

I loved the way the characters developed in this story, my favourite characters were actually secondary characters – Doreen and Rowan, who both help Tori in so many ways. There is also a dog called Dennis in this story and all the best stories include a dog (with a handsome owner). The story looks at how Tori found herself feeling so isolated and lonely and why she found it hard to trust other people. It also looks at the dangers of social media – how we need to be careful when chatting to strangers. However, it is a voyage of self discovery for Tori during her stay at The Farm, and without any spoilers, this is an uplifting read, not a tale of doom and gloom.

Thank you Laura Bambrey for such a thought provoking and touching story. I look forward to seeing this ebook flying high in the digital book charts after publication at the end of July 2020.

Laura Bambrey:

Laura Bambrey was born in Dorset but raised in Wales. She’s worked as a trapeze choreographer, sculpture conservator and stilt walker, amongst others, and spent most of her time collecting stories from the people she met along the way. 

She has spent many years as a book blogger and reviewer of women’s fiction and now lives in Devon with her very own romantic hero and a ridiculously fluffy rabbit named Mop. The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is her début novel.

You can connect with Laura on twitter @laurabambrey, on Instagram @laura_bambrey_books, on Facebook @laurabambreybooks, and via her author blog

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

I’m thrilled to share my review for the latest book by Louise Candlish on my blog today.


On the morning of Monday 23rd December, Jamie Buckby takes the commuter riverboat from his home in St Mary’s, southeast London, to work in Central London, noting that his good friend and neighbour Kit Roper has not turned up for the 7.30am service they usually catch together.
At the London Eye, where he disembarks for his job in a café behind the South Bank Centre, Jamie is met by the police. Kit has been reported missing by his wife.
As Jamie is taken in for questioning, he discovers someone saw him arguing with Kit on the boat home late on Friday night. The other passenger believes Jamie committed murder.
But what really happened? 

My thoughts:

This book was one of my May Spring Bank Holiday reads in our sunny back garden during Lockdown – thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for a stunning proof copy (my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the receipt of the free proof copy).

This is the first Louise Candlish novel I have read. I must admit that I have a copy of Our House sat in a large pile of books waiting to be read, after seeing many favourable reviews (it has now been moved up the pile).

The story kept me enthralled throughout – where is Kit? Who wanted him out of the way and why? Who is the other passenger? The suspense built nicely, the flaws in the main characters start to be divulged and there are lots of flaws and suspects. I enjoyed the location of the book too – a virtual visit to London during Lockdown.

As I would hate to give away any spoilers, I’m going to stop here and say that this is my favourite thriller of 2020 and a 5 star read. Full of suspense and twists, jealousy and lies. I have seen a lot of praise for this book in the media and I expect it will be topping the book charts, once published later this month

Louise Candlish

Hello! I’m the author of thirteen novels, including OUR HOUSE, a #1 bestseller in paperback, ebook and audio and winner of the British Book Awards 2019 Book of the Year – Crime & Thriller. My newest release is THOSE PEOPLE, which is in the same thriller or ‘suburban noir’ genre and reached #2 on the Sunday Times bestseller lists.

Before writing fiction, I studied English at University College London and worked as an illustrated book editor and advertising copywriter. 

Though my stories are about people facing dark – often dangerous – dilemmas, I try to get through the day without too much drama of my own. I live in a South London neighbourhood not unlike the one in my novels with my husband, daughter, cat and new puppy. Follow me on Twitter at @louise_candlish or find out more at or I’d love to hear what you think of my books.

View all my reviews

My One True North by Milly Johnson

I’m pleased to finally be able to share my review for the fabulous new book by Milly Johnson on my book review blog today. I say finally because I had dropped subtle hints that I would like a copy of this for Mothers Day. Sadly my hints were too subtle (or perhaps the start of lockdown meant the family couldn’t get a copy…), but thankfully I had a copy given to me for my birthday in June instead.

As an additional birthday treat (their words), the husband and the teenage son went on a 24 hour fishing expedition a couple of days later (5 miles from home), so I could curl up with My One True North, our rescue dog Jake and my teenage daughter.


Laurie and Pete should never have met. But life has a different idea.

Six months ago, on the same night, Laurie and Pete both lost their partners. Overwhelmed by their grief, they join the same counselling group…and change their lives forever.

From their profound sadness, Pete and Laurie begin to find happiness and healing. Except, the more they get to know one another, the more Laurie begins to spot the strange parallels in their stories. Then Pete discovers a truth that changes everything—one which threatens to reverse everything they’ve worked towards.

But, as surely as a compass points north, some people cannot be kept apart.

My thoughts:

I’m pleased to say that the extra wait to read the latest book by Milly was worth it. I had tears in my eyes at times and laughed out loud too – especially when reading the Daily Trumpet misprints. If you haven’t read a Milly Johnson book before (how? why?), then you won’t have seen the bloopers that they have made in many of Milly’s previous books.

In My One True North, Laurie is the solicitor visiting the offices of the Daily Trumpet on a weekly basis. She is also heart broken after the death of her boyfriend in a tragic multi car accident. She meets Pete, a firefighter, who lost his wife in the same accident, an accident he attended as part of his job.

As the story unfolds, we find out more about the relationships Pete and Laurie had with their partners. We also return to the The Teashop, from The TeaShop on the Corner, a Milly Johnson book I read and enjoyed back in 2016. It was lovely to catch up with some of the characters again, but if you haven’t read it, it won’t spoil this story. This book looks at new and old friendships and family relationships.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I won’t divulge any more of the story. I love the way Milly brings her characters to life so that we care about them and feel their emotions. As a Yorkshire born lass myself, I love visiting Yorkshire in Milly’s books, especially when I can’t travel there at the moment due to the global pandemic.

I loved this book, even if it did make sad in places. As some of the other reviews have said, Milly’s book should be available on the NHS to give joy to people.

I have a lovely hardback copy but the paperback version is being released in July.

Milly Johnson

Milly Johnson was born, raised and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. She is the author of 17 published novels, 4 short story ebooks, a book of poetry and a Quick Reads Novella (‘The Little Dreams of Lara Cliffe’) and was an erstwhile leading copywriter for the greetings card industry. She is also a poem and joke-writer, a newspaper columnist and a seasoned after dinner speaker.

She won the RoNA for Best Romantic Comedy Novel of 2014 and 2016, the Yorkshire Society award for Arts and Culture 2015 and the Romantic Novelist Association Outstanding Achievement award in 2020. See her popular acceptance speech here.

She writes about love, life, friendships and the importance of community spirit. Her books champion women, their strength and resilience and celebrate her beloved Yorkshire.

Her latest book – My One True North tackles the subject of moving on after grief with a light and joyous touch. The Daily Trumpet makes a large appearance and previous novels ‘The Teashop on the Corner’ and ‘Here Come the Girls’ are referenced.

Milly’s website is She is on Twitter as @millyjohnson, Instagram as @themillyjohnson and has a Facebook page @MillyJohnsonAuthor. She also has a monthly newsletter with exclusive, news, offers and competitions.

View all my reviews

A Map of the Damage Sophia Tobin

I’m thrilled to share my review for one of my favourite time slip historical fiction books. Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for a stunning paperback copy – my thoughts are my own and are not influenced by the gift. A Map of the Damage was published in paperback in April 2020.


London, 1941. Livy makes her way through Blitz-torn London to the Mirrormakers’ Club, the only place that makes her feels safe, where she finds herself drawn into the mystery of a missing diamond, and torn between two men with competing claims on her.
London, 1841Charlotte is helped from the scene of an accident by a man who shows her a building he is working on, and whose kindness unlocks a hope she has long kept buried. But that man is not her husband.
Two women, a century apart, united by one place: the Mirrormakers’ Club. A building which holds echoes of past loves and hates, and hides the darkest of secrets in its foundations.

My thoughts:

This is the first book written by Sophia Tobin that I have read. I loved studying history in school and enjoy reading historical fiction. I believe that Sophia Tobin has captured the feel of the Blitz in this book – how lives were changed in a split second during the bombings and how people fought to save historical buildings, often putting their own lives at risk to do so. Livy has lost her memory after a near death experience and finds herself helping at the Mirrormakers’ Club where she once worked.

A century earlier, Charlotte, in Victorian England, is helped at the scene of an accident by the architect of the Mirrormakers’ Club. This chance encounter leads to a set of events which will change the course of history for both Charlotte and Livy.

This book had me hooked very quickly, I genuinely didn’t want to put it down. So many mysteries to be uncovered, so many secrets had been kept and there is one building full of clues to both stories. I loved the storytelling and historical details – this is so beautifully written that it was easy to feel that you were actually on the roof of the Club in the middle of an air raid or being waited on in the salon de printemps at Redlands.

If you enjoy historical fiction /romantic fiction/ mysteries, then please read a copy of A Map of the Damage. If you have read other books by Sophia Tobin, I would love to hear your thoughts – I’ve added them to my wish list.

Sophia Tobin:

Sophia Tobin was raised in Kent. She has studied History and History of Art, and worked for a Bond Street antique dealer for six years, specialising in silver and jewellery. She currently works in a library and archive. Inspired by her research into a real eighteenth-century silversmith, Tobin began to write The Silversmith’s Wife, which was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize.  It was published by Simon & Schuster in 2014. Her second novel, The Widow’s Confession, was published in 2015, and her third, The Vanishing, in 2017. 

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Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan

I’m pleased to share my review for the new book by Sarah Vaughan – thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for a digital review copy via NetGalley. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the free digital proof copy.


A new thought-provoking novel exploring the complexity of motherhood and all that connects and disconnects us.

You think you know her…but look a little closer.

She is a stay-at-home mother-of-three with boundless reserves of patience, energy, and love. After being friends for a decade, this is how Liz sees Jess. 

Then one moment changes everything. 

Dark thoughts and carefully guarded secrets surface—and Liz is left questioning everything she thought she knew about her friend, and about herself. The truth can’t come soon enough.

My thoughts:

This is a very emotional book, beautifully written and all too believable. It is almost 18 years since I attended the antenatal classes for our first child and this book made me think carefully about the other parents-to-be we met.

The story is set ten years later when Jess takes baby Betsey to hospital because she seems unwell but in fact has a fractured skull. Her friend Liz, from the antenatal class, is a doctor at the hospital and has to involve the police and social services.

As the story evolves, we have flashbacks to how the antenatal group bonded over sleepless nights and mum’s nights out. Alongside the mystery of Betsey’s injury, Liz is dealing with her mother, who we discover has had a difficult relationship with her children.

This is a fast paced story, I didn’t want to put it down. As a mum of two, this reminded me how different life is when you become a mother, especially if you aren’t sleeping properly, have a poorly child and feel isolated from the world. We are very good at bottling up our feelings or hiding how we feel. I remember crying over a neighbour in my early days as a mum, she made my a cup of tea, sat me down and did my ironing. Sometimes we can help a mum by listening and/or doing something practical to help, sometimes professional help is needed. In my opinion, Sarah Vaughan has captured this perfectly in the story.

This is the first book I’ve read by Sarah Vaughan and I look forward to catching up on her previous books.

Sarah Vaughan:

Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to be a journalist. After training with the Press Association, she worked for The Guardian for 11 years as a news reporter, health correspondent and political correspondent before leaving to freelance and write fiction.

Her 3rd novel, Anatomy of a Scandal, was an instant international bestseller, a Sunday Times top five bestseller, a kindle number 1 bestseller, a Richard & Judy pick, and was longlisted for the Theakson’s Old Peculier Crime Novel and shortlisted for awards in France, Sweden and the UK. It has been translated into 22 languages and is being adapted for TV.

Her 4th novel, Little Disasters, will be published in France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, the UK on April 2 and the US on August 18. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and two young children. 

For more information about how Sarah writes, what inspires her writing, what books she enjoys reading – check out the Twitter Q&A session from Wednesday 5th June using #AtHomeWithBATC

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The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris


Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about …

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is the story of a woman who has her heart broken, but then puts it back together again in the most uplifting and exquisite way.

My thoughts:

I’ve had this book on my shelves since Christmas and finally got round to reading it after enjoying Anstey’s latest book, Where We Belong.

Initially I found myself not sympathetic with Grace, with her situation with David. However the more we find out about what happened during her time at the music college, the more I understood why she had continued to remain with him.

Loved the characters of Nadia and Maurice – how they helped Grace to help herself overcome some major obstacles and move forward with her life.

Grace is a flawed character, unable to play music in public after her life was turned upside down by one day at music college at the age of 19. I know some reviewers had no sympathy for Grace, but if you read the book to the end, then you discover the full story about what happened on that day at college.

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Book Review of Where We Belong by Anstey Harris

One summer.
One house.
One family learning to love again.

Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer. Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard’s family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.

But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.
Can she really walk away, once she knows the truth?

My thoughts:
Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for a digital advanced review copy via NetGalley – my views are totally my own.

This is the first novel I have read by Anstey Harris (I do have a copy of The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton on my bedside cabinet waiting to be read). I have seen great reviews for both, so was thrilled to be given the chance to read and review this.

The book is very different to anything I’ve read before. The story looks at loss, grieving, secrets, a teenager growing up, dealing with prejudice, and a museum full of treasures from the past.

The storytelling is wonderful, full of little details and flawed (but mostly) loveable characters. At this current time with the world hit by a global pandemic, it is a story to escape into and to feel uplifted by the community spirit.

A five star read for me – looking forward to getting a proper copy in a bookshop after lockdown.

The author, Anstey Harris:

Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury.

Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby. In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). Her short stories tend not to end quite so well…

Things that interest Anstey include her children and granddaughter, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965), stepfamilies, dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.

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