O Night Divine: A Holiday Collection of Spirited Christmas Tales Publication date: December 17th 2020 Genres: Adult, Historical Romance, Romance
A MASTERPIECE OF HOLIDAY STORYTELLING…
Enjoy this stunning holiday collection from some of your favorite Dragonblade Publishing authors in this collection of never-before published seasonal tales!
Imagine, if you will, that it is Christmas Eve.
The candles are guttered, one by one, and a hush falls over the parlor. The children have gone to bed, and a tall, gloriously decorated Christmas tree looms in the shadows of the hearth’s dying embers. A tattered copy of Charles Dickens’ masterwork, “A Christmas Carol” sits, cold and lonely, upon a table nearby.
A small gust of wind, hurling from the seam of an ill-fitting window, blows the cover open. The first chapter appears… “Marley’s Ghost”…
The clock on the wall chimes midnight.
Now, the magic happens.
From the gaily bedecked halls of Regency England to the cold and crisp air of the Scottish Highlands, and everything in between, enjoy the magic of a holiday collection that has drawn inspiration from Charles Dickens’ most beloved literary works. Where the ghosts of Christmas, the incandescent spirit of a tiny disabled boy, and the joy that is the very heart of the Christmas season come alive.
USA Today and Internationally bestselling authors bring you their version of a Dickens’-inspired holiday in O NIGHT DIVINE.
This collection includes: Kathryn Le Veque Caroline Lee Chasity Bowlin Collette Cameron Hildie McQueen Maggi Andersen Mary Lancaster Meara Platt Violetta Rand Alexa Aston Anna Markland Anna St. Claire Aubrey Wynne Charlotte Wren Elizabeth Ellen Carter Elizabeth Johns Elizabeth Keysian Emily E K Murdoch Emily Royal Gabrielle Carr Lynne Connolly Maeve Greyson Whitney Blake
From Dragonblade to you, we wish you a very happy holiday season!
GIVEAWAY Blitz-wide giveaway (INT)
a $100 Amazon card and hard copy of Charles Dickens Christmas stories
Thank you to Giselle from Xpresso Book Tours for my spot on the blog tour for this Christmas romance!
Christmas Mistake by Josephine Templeton Publication date: December 1st 2020 Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Synopsis: Dressed in nothing but Christmas lingerie, Carina has a bellhop deliver her in a gift box to her fiance’s hotel room, but the last thing she expects when she is unwrapped is to see a sexy stranger in holiday boxers who looks like he just stepped off a magazine cover – definitely NOT her fiancé! How in the silver bells was she delivered to the wrong room?
As the owner of a small flower shop, Carina’s surrounded by romance on a daily basis. Her workaholic fiancé has been distant for the past several months, so she decides to drive from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to surprise him on Christmas Eve. However, that distance between them has brought loneliness, and the mere thought of the sexy stranger plucks at her mistletoe. When she discovers the reason for her fiance’s lack of attention, will she put him on Santa’s naughty list and take the stranger for a sleigh ride?
Well, well, well…somebody’s been very nice this year to get such a naughty present. Seriously, The Christmas Mistake is a very sweet romance set in Lousiana (so yes, there are all the elements we expect from this location). If you let your imagination run wild after having read the blurb, be warned: Santa Is coming to the town and only you know which list you are going to end up on.
Carina has been working hard in her florist shop. She’s also been helping out her aunt Rosalie after her house got damaged in the flood, so you know that family is really important for her. She is still grieving the loss of her mother. Unfortunately, Carina’s fiance Bart hasn’t been very supportive or, come to think of it, very present recently. He seems to go on an awful lot of business trips. Perhaps, Carina can spice it up for him by showing u in his hotel in New Orleans, all wrapped up nicely as an oversized Christmas present. Only it gets delivered to a wrong room occupied by a sexy stranger Rad. Well, he isn’t really a stranger, something Carina doesn’t realize straightaway preoccupied as she is with finding where her fiance is and other shocking discoveries of this fateful Christmas Eve.
This book has two of my favourite tropes: second chance love and friends-to-lovers. I’m not a big fan of insta-love. Insta-attraction is perfectly fine, just be responsible and remember there are consequences. I really don’t want to give the plot away, just want to say that real feelings do take time to develop and if you genuinely care for the person, you will wait for the whole life of Christmases with them. Carina needs time to work out what she wants and why she keeps going for Mr Wrongs in her life. Rad is always there for her and I can only applaud his determination not to become the Rebound Guy. I really enjoyed getting the double perspective on the events which also helped me to understand what happened between Carina and Rad in the past.
Another thing I really liked about this book was the setting: Louisiana with its wonderful traditions and its solidarity with the people who lost so much in the tragic events of Katrina and its aftermath.
This was a quick and entertaining read. The book is short enough to be called a novella and sweet enough to put you in a lovely festive mood. Recommended for all romantics who believe in waiting patiently for good things and that unforgettable moment when your true love really ‘sees’ you for the first time.
Thank you to Giselle from Xpresso Book Tours and the author Josephine Templeton for the review copy. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
Josephine Templeton has six published novels that range from historical romance to urban fantasy. She has been to numerous conferences, including Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans, as well as a former member of Romance Writers of America.
Happy Publication day to Just for Christmas by Emily Harvale! Join me and Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources in wishing the book lots of success and numerous readers.
Just for Christmas
Could this be true love? Or is it just for Christmas?
Finding an abandoned dog beside the road isn’t the Christmas surprise interior designer, Molly Ford is hoping for. But when the local vet can’t find a space for the bedraggled dog, Molly makes a rash decision.
The problem is, she’s spending Christmas with her brother, Terence, and his girlfriend is allergic to dogs, so the bundle of wet fur, which Molly has named Miracle, might not be the only one needing a home this Christmas. And Miracle causes chaos wherever he puts his paws. He pees on the Christmas tree, shreds the Christmas presents and eats the honeyed ham. That’s just the first night.
When Terence’s best friend, Chance offers Molly and Miracle a place to stay for Christmas, Molly is ecstatic. She doesn’t mind at all when he informs her there are strings attached. She’d rather like a festive fling with gorgeous Chance.
Now Molly’s in for another surprise. Chance is about to pop the question. Except it’s not to Molly. In fact, he needs her help to get the dilapidated cottage he’s bought, all clean and sparkly in time for his girlfriend’s impending arrival on New Year’s Eve.
But as Molly and Chance grow closer, spending time together beneath the stars in a winter wonderland and enjoying the Christmas festivities, they realise they have feelings for each other.
Could this be true love? Or is it just for Christmas?
Emily writes novels, novellas and short stories about friendship, family and falling in love. She loves a happy ending but knows that life doesn’t always go to plan. Her stories are sure to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.
Emily loves to connect with her readers and has a readers’ group in which many have become good friends. To catch up with Emily, find out about the group, or connect with her on social media, go to her website at www.emilyharvale.com.
Having lived and worked in London for several years, Emily returned to her home town of Hastings where she now writes full-time. She’s a member of the SoA, an Amazon bestseller and a Kindle All Star. When not writing, she can be found enjoying the stunning East Sussex coast and countryside, or in a wine bar with friends, discussing life, love and the latest TV shows. Chocolate cake is often eaten. She dislikes housework almost as much as she dislikes anchovies – and will do anything to avoid both. Emily has two mischievous rescue cats that like to sprawl across her keyboard, regardless of whether Emily is typing on it, or not.
Today we have the release day blitz of Cassie Cross’s The Lucky Ones! Check out this gorgeous new romance and be sure to get your copy today!
Title: The Lucky Ones Author: Cassie Cross Genre: Contemporary Romance
About The Lucky Ones:
Kendall Moore’s professional life has never been better. She’s an in-demand video editor who’s just started her own business, and that business is booming. She rarely has a moment to relax and has completely thrown herself into her work, which is just the way that she likes it. There’s just one tiny issue in her pursuit of professional and personal happiness: she’s getting burned out.
Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s hopelessly and secretly in love with her totally off-limits business partner, Jordan.
Jordan Murphy is an aspiring filmmaker with a past that he’s desperate to put behind him. When an opportunity arises to go to Vegas and film for a project he’s working on, he gets Kendall to agree to come along with him. After he makes a lucky bet that leads to a weekend full of fun, unexpected confessions, and a visit to a wedding chapel that neither one of them can remember, Kendall and Jordan head home wondering if what happened in Vegas should stay in Vegas…
Cassie Cross is a Maryland native and a romantic at heart, who lives outside of Baltimore with her two dogs and a closet full of shoes. Cassie’s fondness for swoon-worthy men and strong women are the inspiration for most of her stories, and when she’s not busy writing a book, you’ll probably find her eating takeout and indulging in her love of 80’s sitcoms.
Happy Publication Day to Sophie Ranald’s Thank you, Next!
We all need an uplifting romantic comedy from time to time and when it comes from Sophie Ranald, you know it is going to be entertaining. But what is it all about?
Seriously, why do guys on dating apps think I want a picture of what’s in their pants? I could open an art gallery with the collection I’ve got.
Zoe really doesn’t want to die alone and surrounded by cats. But it’s not looking good: she’s had sex precisely twice in the last year, and her feline friend isn’t the kind of male company she wants in bed…
Her top dating disasters include:
1) The guy who kissed her hand, took out a violin and serenaded her in public. 2) The guy who force-fed her oysters (she can confirm that they’re not an aphrodisiac). 3) The guy who was so hungover he turned up with his t-shirt on inside out, sweating sambuca. 4) The guy who brought his actual kid on a dinner date.
And don’t even get her started on the dick pics, or how on earth you’re supposed to know whether a total stranger is an axe murderer or not.
Zoe’s ready to give up on the search for love, until her friend has an idea. Robbie lives by his horoscope, and he’s sure she’s got this dating stuff all wrong. He dares her to work her way through the zodiac until she finds The One.
Usually Zoe would laugh at such a suggestion, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Could love be written in the stars? Or is she destined to end up alone, eating take-out in bed and watching endless re-runs of Friends?
This is my sixth book by Sophie Ranald, so you can call me a fan. There is something about her characters that makes me relate to their problems, love life disasters, and their choices.
Chances are that if you read Sophie’s previous book Just Saying, you hated Zoe. She was the infamous ex who appeared out of blue in Joe And Alice’s life and tried to win Joe back, while Alice was dealing with her unexpected unemployment. Zoe, beautiful, exotic, fun loving, sexy, always ready to listen (to Joe) and empathise, Zoe who couldn’t get over the fact that Joe did move on and was now building something new with Alice.
Well, now we get Zoe’s story. I don’t mean what happened while she was sharing Alice and Joe’s flat, but what happened afterwards. Because at some point you do have to let your old love and heartbreak go and start living… Robbie, Zoe’s friend and co-chef at the Ginger Cat Pub, has a crazy idea to jump start her dating life- Zoe should date men from all twelve Zodiac signs. The rationale behind it is that she needs to have clearer ideas of what she really wants or needs and you she won’t recognise her Mr Right without having first worked out why Mr Wrongs are wrong for her.
I would have never guessed that I was going to be on Zoe’s team. And yet… Zoe’s desire to find somebody to share her life, despite her epic dating disasters, her feeling slightly misplaced because she spent her early twenties travelling, while other people were building their support systems and friend networks, above all, Zoe’s courage to put herself out into the world and risk being ridiculed, misunderstood, or even taken advantage of- all of them made me root for her and sigh with satisfaction when she does meet her own Mr Right.
If you like getting the other people’s perspective, or enjoy reading about dating disasters, while secretly knowing that the happy-end is guaranteed, or are a fan of British romcoms and think that nobody does them better, this book is for you.
Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the review copy. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
Title: Imprisoned Heir (Atlantis Institute For Dangerous Criminals, #1) Author: River Starr Publication date: July 1st 2020 Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
We’re the most dangerous criminals…
They call me Nyx. Under the cover of night, I used to steal from the rich to give to the supernaturals at the bottom of the chain, and to earn enough money to find a cure for my sister’s death curse.
After an… accident we’ll call it, I ended up with a one-way ticket to the sea fae’s top prison: Atlantis. Not the lost city, but the inescapable penitentiary beneath the sea fae court. The Atlantis Institute For Dangerous Criminals is where the vilest supernatural prisoners are kept. Assassins. Murderers. Treasonists. And the three supernaturals sentenced with me are the most ruthless of the worst. Dax, the dark, enticing vampire whose gaze is too intimate for a total stranger; Titus, the fiery dragon shifter with an anger problem; and Frost, the winter fae with a chilly personality to match her ice-blue eyes.
But to escape and survive, we’ll have to work together despite our differences…
We may not get along, but we’re all we have to survive and escape Atlantis Prison. It won’t be easy. Someone thinks I’m a criminal—but I have no memory of committing the murder, and it wasn’t amnesia…
It was the other soul inside of me.
Imprisoned Heir is the first of a paranormal romance trilogy full danger, action, heart, and an enemies to lovers fated mate romance.
Imprisoned Heir is a fast-moving New Adult / Paranormal fantasy set in the world inhabited by various kinds of fae, vampires, shifters, and humans living in the kingdom of Cornwall!
The protagonist of the book, Nyx, is a sea-fae. Well. half-sea-fae, as her mother escaped the sea court and ended up living on land. Nyx doesn’t really have any magic. What she does have is loyalty to her younger sister who may soon die from a lethal curse unless Nyx finds a cure. Nyx earns her living by petty thievery, but almost everything she manages to get is spent on magic potions and counter spells to make sure Cyra lives to see another day. One of these attempts to free Cyra from her death curse goes horribly wrong and a long dead sea fae Eos gets access to her body. Their souls become entwined and now Nyx can’t liberate herself from her unwanted guest who possesses her body on a regular basis. the worst thing is that Nyx doesn’t remember anything that happens while her body is under Eos’s control. This is how she finds herself caught red-handed with two dead bodies of sea fae nobles. Nyx desperately pleads her innocence, but gets sent to the worst prison imaginable, the Atlantis Institute for Dangerous Criminals, which is buried deep in the ocean. Can she survive it and hope for a reduced sentence? Nyx knows every day she spends there is another day that brings Cyra closer to her death. She doesn’t know who she can turn to and she definitely has no idea why she is so attracted to the prison guard who caught and arrested her at the crime scene. It defies all her the logic. She knows all he can feel for her is hate and yet, whenever she feels his magic, all her being seems to respond in a way only a life mate would.
What I liked the most about this book is the magic sea fae world created by River Starr. The criminals Nyx is stuck with are all a feisty bunch of creatures and are all endowed with their own distinct personalities and, of course, magic powers. They also have their own agenda which you have to learn step by step as you ‘immerse’ yourself in this adventure. The enemies-to-lovers trope is one of my favourite ones. You know what is going to happen, and yet, it is the journey that counts.
I also liked the shared body/dual soul theme. once you start getting Eos’s chapters, you’re hooked on the story and can’t wait for her next re-appearance. Nyx and Eos’ personalities, life experiences and motivations couldn’t be more different, and this contrast makes the story even more gripping.
Add the setting of a supernatural prison, the excitement of of competitions /trials that decide the fate of the inmates, and the terrifying figure of the Deep One (even the cruel sea fae guards fear the Deep One)- all these elements make up a fast-moving and imaginative story. The dialogue is probably not the best feature of this book, but I was ready to overlook it in my eagerness to follow the story to the end.
Of course, this is Book 1, so there is a cliffhanger. Luckily, the second book is already out. Can’t wait to read it to find out what adventures River Starr has in store for Nyx and the other characters.
Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours, the author and the publisher for the free digital copy and this opportunity to review the book. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for this fabulous RRL-com (romantic/real-life). This a sequel to This Time Next Year, although both of these wonderfully entertaining books can be read as standalones.
This Year Maybe
Alison and David have been engaged for so long that even Alison’s mother has given up asking when, but it’s second time around for both of them and they’re not in any particular hurry. That said, Alison is beginning to wonder if living with her has put David off the idea of marriage so when he suggests they set a date she is delighted. But that date is six months’ away and a lot can happen in six months – especially if you’re Alison!
‘My son’s been arrested, Great-aunt Millie’s fallen in love, my best friend suspects her husband of having an affair, and I still need to lose weight. How on earth can I think about getting married?’
This was so much fun! I absolutely adored Alison, her family (both immediate and extended), and, of course, her besties Bev and Pippa. Thank you to Liz Hinds for giving me these wonderful laugh-out-loud moments.
Alison and David have been engaged for quite a long time. When they finally decide to tie the knot and Alison goes round telling people the great news, everybody is delighted for them and Alison can’t help herself but invite more and more guests to the wedding. It is supposed to take place in six months’ time, on Midsummer’s Day- that’s plenty of time, isn’t it? especially since Alison’s best friends super organised and ever so practical Pippa and unusually creative Bev help her out. Actually, everybody does and that includes Alison’s slightly overbearing mother, her vicar Pete, and even the woman her ex-husband left her for!
There’s never a dull moment with Alison, whether she is trying to buy a replacement for her kettle or book a wedding date for her ninety-year-old great aunt. Life throws her a few curveballs, which I don’t want to give away for fear of spoiling your enjoyment of the book, but her loyal and patient fiance David is always there by her side and, if this is not romantic, then I don’t know what is. Alison’s heart is in the right place and this is how she goes through life: thinking (and perhaps overthinking it) about doing the right thing, forgiving and overlooking other people’s faults (who doesn’t have them?), and being grateful for the good things she has in life. The book has a wonderful cast of characters, and all of them, are well-written and memorable.
If I could sum this book up in three adjectives they would be: hilarious, optimistic, and uplifting. This is one of those books that puts a smile on your face and we all need a bit of sunshine in these uncertain times.
Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources and the author for the free review copy. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
I’m a golden-retriever-loving granny, who enjoys walking by the sea or in the woods, who eats too much chocolate, and who gets over-excited when the Welsh team plays rugby. I have self-published two novels, This Time Last Year, and The Dog-walking Club, but I’m also an experienced freelance writer and author of several non-fiction books published by Hodder & Stoughton, Scripture Union and Kevin Mayhew.
Ever since her ex-boyfriend dumped her on Christmas Eve, the holiday season has been tough for Maya Badger—especially since Lost Harbor, Alaska, pulls out all the stops for the holidays. Sure, she could focus on her police work and her father’s recovery from heart surgery. But when her dad’s home healthcare nurse turns out to be her childhood buddy—all grown up and the stuff of her naughtiest fantasies—she may have a solution to her holiday blues. After all, Jay-Jay always was the perfect playmate!
Rune Larsen hasn’t been skinny little Jay-Jay in a long time…not since he and his teen sister were forced to change their names to avoid Cara’s stalker. Taking a job in tiny, remote Lost Harbor seems like the perfect way to stay one step ahead of danger. The fact that his childhood friend is the town police chief is a bonus. Not to mention the fact that Maya has grown into a beautiful bronze goddess. Hell, even her serious cop side is a turn-on…though he’s up for the challenge of bringing some fun back into her life.
In fact, if they can navigate a stalker, a runaway yak, eleventy-billion holiday parties and a criminal investigation into the dark side of Lost Souls Wilderness, Rune just may convince Maya to fall head over heels for the holidays…and beyond.
My thoughts: I am probably on my fortieth book in this year’s Christmas Readathon, but this book did stand out. First of all, the location is amazing. I fell in love with the little town of Lost Harbor, Alaska, the place where people put aside their differences and genuinely care for each other. This is Book 7 in the series, but if you are a newcomer, like me, you’re not going to feel lost or confused, you’ll just have a great time getting to know the town inhabitants who sure seem to like their holidays and their parties.
Rune Larsen has a good reason for changing his name and moving to Lost Harbor. He is trying to keep his younger sister Cara (Torrey) safe from a dangerous stalker. His childhood friend Maya Badger lives there and Rune never forgot their carefree time together in Hawaii. Only Maya is all grown up now and has turned into a gorgeous woman who does a very serious job of the youngest police chief in the history of her town . Her father, a retire coast guard, is recovering from a serious operation and is in need of medical assistance, so Maya is relieved when Rune, a trained travel health care worker, arrives at Lost harbor and helps her out. Five years ago, Maya’s boyfriend Jerome broke up with her during the Christmas Holidays, so ever since Maya has been very careful not to get attached to anyone. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also a party season in Lost Harbor and Maya is tired of attending all these social events alone. Her friends are all in relationships, and, while Maya is happy for them, she can’t help it, but feel a bit embarrassed by her own single status. A brilliant idea forms in her mind- Rune, her old childhood friend, who she always feels so safe around, can be her fake boyfriend, just for holidays. This isn’t exactly what Rune himslef would have liked- deep in his heart he knows he would do anything for Maya, so perhaps spending some time together and enjoying every minute of being together with this special woman can be his chance for happiness.
If you are a fan of the fake relationship trope or the friends-to-lovers one, you are going to enjoy this sweet, entertaining, and romantic story. Rune is just perfect and swoon-worthy. All he says and does is full of respect and admiration for Maya. I loved the way they took their time to build their relationship and how their feelings grew naturally. There are some hot and steamy scenes- Jennifer Bernard really knows how to write them! Maya is a hard-working and independent woman, a woman after my own heart. She doesn’t say much, but when she does, people listen to her. She knows that her feelings are changing, and she also recognises Rune’s worth (although her impromptu ‘superstar’ speech does create quite a stir in their little town). I hope I’m not going to spoil for anyone by saying that their feelings remain strong and honest, and all the drama comes from the police investigations, including the case of a runaway yak who is believed by his owner to be a reincarnation of her late husband.
Grab your copy, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy this sweet, romantic, steamy holiday read!
Thank you to the author and InkSlingerPr for the review copy. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
About Jennifer Bernard:
Jennifer Bernard is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. Her books have been called “an irresistible reading experience” full of “quick wit and sizzling love scenes.” A graduate of Harvard and former news promo producer, she left big city life for true love in Alaska, where she now lives with her husband and stepdaughters. She still hasn’t adjusted to the cold, so most often she can be found cuddling with her laptop and a cup of tea. Sign up for her newsletter for book news and fun exclusives.
Without thinking too hard about it, Maya rose to her feet and grabbed Rune by the collar of his jacket, pulling him close. “How about a fake kiss?” she asked quickly. “Just make it look good from a distance.”
He flashed her a pirate grin and cupped her face with his free hand. “My pleasure. I’m an excellent fake kisser.”
“Come on, hurry.”
He bent his head over hers, but he still didn’t go for the kiss. “You can’t hurry a fake kiss, or it will look fake. We’re flirting, we’re completely caught up in each other, we don’t even care that we’re drifting on the open ocean. Keep looking at me, just like that except without the ‘what the hell are you talking about’ expression.”
She smothered a laugh and relaxed her face into a dazzled smile. As if Rune was the most wonderful thing in the world, better than chocolate and bubble baths combined.
He blinked, as if she’d momentarily thrown him off his game with her smile. A personal triumph, she figured.
“That’s…good,” he said, a little more strained than before.
For a fake kiss, he sure was overthinking it. They needed to get this thing done.
She took command and wrapped her hand around the back of his neck. Tugging him down, she offered him her mouth. “Let’s do this,” she hissed. “Tick-tock.”
Honestly, why did she always have to be the one with any common sense? If those men onshore had binoculars, they were already watching. To throw them off, she only had a few moments. If the men thought they’d been busted, they might rework their entire comms system. The lead would be worthless. The source would be burned. The case back to square one.
And then all thoughts of logic flew from her mind as Rune claimed her lips with a kiss that sent shock waves through her system. Warmth…sizzle…sunshine…all of it swirled together in a rush of brilliant pleasure. His lips were firm and generous at the same time, as if they were inviting her into his world. A world where she would be queen and he would be whatever she needed.
A kind of exhilaration swept through her and she parted her lips for more. He gave it to her, sweeping his tongue inside the cave of her mouth, where every surface tingled and warmed at his touch.
Fake kiss, my ass.
This was the real thing and she couldn’t get enough of it. She drank him in as if she’d been starving for this, pining for it. Her mind—always working, always on guard—let go like an anchor releasing her to drift on the current. She lost herself in the flood of pure physical joy.
She staggered as the boat got slammed with a supersized wave. Rune held her tight so she didn’t lose her balance. “I need to steer this thing,” he murmured against her lips before turning back to the helm.
“Yes. Yeah. Of course.” She ran her tongue across her lips, tasting salt from the spray and sweet from Rune. She plopped down onto the bench as he wrestled with the wheel. Picking up her binoculars, she focused on the spot where the two men had been.
They were gone—or maybe her angle had changed and she couldn’t see them anymore.
She dropped her glasses and sighed. Hopefully she hadn’t messed anything up by making them suspicious. “Go ahead and pick up speed. Let’s keep going toward Mount Sage for a bit.”
Was his voice a little gruffer than usual? Was it the effect of the salt in the air?
He put the boat in gear and they cruised farther into the bay. She watched the little cove as it receded into the distance, swallowed up by the greater landscape of forests and rugged outcroppings.
What now? How to handle this? She and Rune had kissed, and there was no way she could forget about it the way she had when she was a kid.
Maybe never mention it again?
Or maybe do it again?
The tempting thought hovered out there like the promise of an ice cream sundae after a long week. Treat yo-self, she could imagine her cousin Reecie in Anchorage saying. Go for it, Kate would urge. I knew it, Jessica would say.
“Tell me when you’re ready to head back,” Rune said. “It’s your call.” His voice had returned to normal. She wondered what he was thinking about this situation. Then again, he didn’t overthink things like she did. He probably wasn’t worried about it at all. He probably kissed people all the time—all those non-girlfriend “girls” he’d talked about.
“I will,” she told him. “Give it a few more minutes.”
“The other thing is your call too,” Rune said softly, his attention still on the choppy water ahead.
“What are you talking about?”
“I know you’re trying to decide what to do about that kiss. I can see your wheels spinning from here.”
“I’m not—okay, I am. I didn’t intend for it to be like that.”
“It’s my fault.” His voice shifted to a jaunty cheerfulness. “My pride was hurt that you forgot the first kiss. I was aiming for ‘best kiss.’ One that you wouldn’t forget. That’s all.”
It wasn’t all. She could hear it in his voice. It was so much more complicated than that. Friendship, attraction, sizzle…all that, lined up against her better judgment. But even so, it touched her that he was trying to make the whole thing easier for her.
“Best kiss? Isn’t that a little arrogant?” She adopted a teasing tone to match his.
“Second best? Third? Just tell me it wasn’t the worst. Gotta start somewhere.”
“It wasn’t the worst.”
That was as far as she could go right now.
And maybe it was the best. Because right at this moment, she couldn’t think of any other specific kiss that might compete with it.
Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for this latest instalment in the Exham-on- Sea series of mysteries.
Murder at the Gorge
A joke? A prank? Or something more sinister?
When the Exham-on-Sea residents are targeted by anonymous emails containing apparently harmless nursery rhymes, no one knows whether to laugh or shudder until an unexplained death touches the town.
Libby Forest, baker, chocolatier and Exham’s very own resident private investigator, alongside her partner Max Ramshore, set out to solve the puzzle before more people die. But when Max’s ex-wife arrives on the scene, ahead of Max and Libby’s long-awaited nuptials, things go from bad to worse.
With the town and their relationship under threat, Max and Libby need the help of the Exham History Society if they’re going to find the nursery rhyme killer in time.
Murder at the Gorge is the seventh in a series of Exham-on-Sea Murder Mysteries set at the small English seaside town full of quirky characters, sea air, and gossip.
If you love Agatha Christie-style mysteries, cosy crime, clever dogs and cake, then you’ll love these intriguing whodunnits.
I’m really glad to have discovered this lovely series of mysteries. While it can certainly be read as a standalone ( I really admire the way Frances Evesham put all the background knowledge to make a newcomer feel completely at home in Exham-on-Sea), I am going to go back and read the first six books. Libby Forest and Max Ramshore are preparing for their wedding, while two seemingly unconnected things happen. Max’s ex-wife, a blast from the past, calls him and asks for his help. She has been getting strange e-mails. It appears somebody has been stalking her. On his way back home, Max also find a dead body of Carys Evans. it does seem that Exham-on-Sea has an unusually high murder rate, but who am I to complain, being a life-long reader of mysteries? In the meanwhile, Libby discovers that the village has been inundated with poison-pen e-mails. Since Carys was the first resident to have received one, the villagers feel threatened and ask Libby to investigate.
I loved both Libby and Max, and their mature relationship, based on mutual love and trust. Since this was the first time I’ve read a book from this series, i was also happy to meet other villagers and learn about their distinct personalities and life stories. While it was exciting to follow the investigations, for me, the most interesting aspect of this book was immersing myself in this fictional world. The pace was just right- it never dragged, but there was enough time for the development of the story.
Overall, it was a quick and enjoyable read with great protagonists. I also liked the way the old theme of poison pen letters was re-invented to fit our modern world. Some things (envy, greed, gossip, gullibility to name just a few) do not seem to have changed that much over the course of human history. On the plus side, other things, such as love, respect, friendship, desire to help the others, and, of course, human curiousity are also going strong. Hope Francis Evesham continues to add more stories to her lovely series.
Thank you to Rachel, NetGalley and Boldwood Books for the free review copy. all opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
Frances Evesham is the author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea Murder Mysteries set in her home county of Somerset. In her spare time, she collects poison recipes and other ways of dispatching her unfortunate victims. She likes to cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other, her head full of murder―fictional only.
Title: Betrayed (The Chronicles of Luxor Everstone, #2) Author: Jacklyn Daher Publication date: November 19th 2020 Genres: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
With the revelation Luxor Everstone is the daughter of the Prince of Darkness, an entirely new door fraught with danger is opened. As Cane is lying in wait, Luxor is forced to have constant protection, leaving her suffocated.
When new help arrives in the form of a witch, and a mysterious and dreamy boy who seems to soothe her more than anyone else can, she doesn’t hesitate to invite them into her life despite her growing affection for Hunter.
As fresh dangers loom on the horizon, she begins to unravel different details about her past, while greater powers are introduced, and the others continue to evolve. Conflicted between the pull toward her darkness and her desire to be good, Luxor juggles the priorities—and her opinionated guardians—while trying to find some semblance of balance.
When the darkness returns to claim her completely, can she trust herself to make the right choice?
I have a lot more social media since the last time here are all of them.
A mother of two boys, I’m a self confessed nerd who loves to write dark and twisted characters in modern settings. You could find feisty MC’s and bad boys with filthy mouths. Doesn’t mean I don’t love to read or write saucy romances too!
Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for this entertaining and thought-provoking book.
Painting Bananas is all about love, dreams and taking stock.
Two happy couples, one person from each on the verge of change. But as paths cross and plans unfold, will their spouses reveal their true colours?
Alison struggles with insomnia. She also hates her job and fantasizes about throttling her irritating oaf-of-a boss. Thankfully, her lifelong plan to return to university will soon be realized. After supporting her husband in his career for over twenty years, it’s now her turn. He’s rooting for her every step of the way. Or so she thinks.
Meanwhile, Christopher has a wake-up call with his health. Somehow, pre-diabetes has replaced his six-pack. He must take stock immediately. He realises that the perfect solution is right under his nose. He can’t wait to share his brilliant idea with his wife. The future looks good. But does she agree? Will the spouses show their support? Or will Alison and Christopher start to wonder whether they really know their other halves?
Painting Bananas was written and formatted with British grammar, punctuation and humour. It is the second novel in Amanda Paull’s Cherry Dene series but can be read as a standalone story.
A friend of mine can’t live without her daily fix of ‘Eastenders’. She says it always cheers her up, because she can see that other people’s lives are also full of problems, but they are dealing with them and so can she. It also makes her appreciate the good things she has in life: her family, her friends, the job she loves doing, and her books. I know she is going to love Painting Bananas, because this is what she is getting for Christmas!
The protagonists of this book, Alison and Christopher are in their forties, work full-time, and are happily (?) married- just not too each other! Alison is suffering from insomnia which is not helped by having to put up with her new boss Billy, who may or may not have lied about his qualifications and whose treatment of her is totally unfair. Alison is dreaming of going back to Uni and finally getting her physiotherapy degree. She had to put her career aspirations on the back burner when her twins were born and her husband needed his precious eight hours of sleep to be well-rested so that he could focus on doing well at his job. The money was always scarce, so Alison went back to work and now, although the twins have already left the nest, Alison still continues doing all the household chores at night, while being an exemplary employee during the daytime. At least, by now, they must have put aside enough money in their savings account to pay her university fees and let them live comfortably until she starts earning money again. If only she didn’t keep getting blocked from entering the online account- must be a technical glitch!
Christopher is a bank manager who has to travel all around the country, solving problems and sorting out inifficiencies. And he is really good at his job. The only downside is that he never gets to see his own family: his wife Sandy and his now grown-up daughter Emily. When a grumpy NHS nurse suggests he should make lifestyle changes if he wants to stave off diabetes and blood pressure problems, Christopher knows he needs to find a systematic solution. He likes the latest branch he was asked to re-organise and he would like to stop living out of his suitcase for a change. But then he starts noticing that perhaps Sandy isn’t as thrilled with this change as he thought she was going to be.
If you ever felt you’ve begun to outgrow chick-lit, but would like to read something similar, here is a perfect book for you. It was so entertaining, I really couldn’t put it down. Alison’s in-laws and their antics, Alison’s co-workers, friends or foes, Christopher’s brand-new trainers and his constant battle with his slightly expanding waistline, Sandy’s token cooking attempts- Amanda Paull knows how to build up drama and make you ‘see’ things before the protagonists become aware of them. There is also wonderful humour that makes this all too realistic story so much fun to read!
This is indeed a story about dreams and how they fit in real life, about love and how important it is to care for and support your loved ones, about family and how it can build you up or let you down- there is something for everyone. Hope you pick your copy and love it as much as I did.
Thank you to Rachel and the author for the free digital review copy. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
Amanda Paull is a writer of humorous romantic fiction. She lives in the North East of England with her husband and works in the public sector. The inspiration for her stories comes from real life, which she tries to show the funnier side of by embellishing to the hilt.
The Cry of the Lake Charlie Tyler Publication date: July 21st 2020 Genres: Adult, Psychological Thriller
Synopsis: A gruesome discovery unravels a dark trail of murder and madness.
A six-year-old girl sneaks out of bed to capture a mermaid but instead discovers a dead body. Terrified and unable to make sense of what she sees, she locks the vision deep inside her mind.
Ten years later, Lily is introduced to the charismatic Flo and they become best friends. But Lily is guilt-ridden – she is hiding a terrible secret which has the power to destroy both their lives.
When Flo’s father is accused of killing a schoolgirl, the horrors of Lily’s past come bubbling to the surface. Lily knows that, whatever the consequences, she has to make things right. She must go back to the events of her childhood and face what happened at the boat house all those years ago.
Can Lily and Flo discover what is hiding in the murky waters of the lake before the killer strikes again?
Charlie signed with Darkstroke Books in May 2020 and The Cry of the Lake is her debut novel. Charlie lives in the UK and is very much a morning person. In fact, she likes nothing more than committing a fictional murder before her first coffee of the day. She studied Theology at Worcester College, Oxford and now lives in a Leicestershire village with her husband, three teenagers, golden retriever and tortoise.
She is currently working on her next novel ‘The Curse of the Emerald Cross’. Two dead bodies are found down a priest hole within the grounds of Collyhurst Abbey; a sixth-form boarding school for girls run by nuns. One of the bodies belongs to a local drug dealer, the other is the charred remains of Mother Agnes who went missing ten years ago and is found with an emerald cross stuffed inside her jaw. But what are they doing there? DS Ruby Simmonds is sent in, undercover, to investigate. She must puzzle her way through well-dressed scarecrows, bonfires, emerald crosses and fallen oak trees before she breaks the wall of silence and discovers exactly why both the victims were killed and by whom.
The Damned Society: Smoke and Mirrors by L. J. Elliott Published by: Wallace Publishing Publication date: November 17th 2020 Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Lexia Luccen is a seventeen-year-old girl with a fiery power that is slowly destroying the last fragments of her sanity. Having lost her abusive father, Lexia is left scarred from the way he treated her and by the grief of his death. When she accidentally uses her ability to create a devastating explosion that takes many lives, she is moved from her life of solitude into the hectic youth facility that is Lucida.
Lucida is no ordinary youth facility. It is a secretly run technological agency for supernatural wayward youth, set up to teach them how to control their abilities after they have caused disturbances in society. These youths think that once they have been reformed, they will be freed. However, the truth is a very different story.
Lies, love, and more death await Lexia at Lucida, and she soon realizes that this facility is not quite what it seems. Now she knows she must make a choice: does she finally give up to the darkness that slowly consumes her—like her father did—or does she follow the firestorm that runs through her veins and for once in her life, battle for something?
Time is running out. Lexia needs to make her decision fast, before Lucida makes it for her.
Lotté Jean Elliott is an author from North-Eastern England. She began as an avid reader before she picked up a pen one day and started to use her imagination to create a new universe, just like her favourite fictional ones.
Through literature, she saw a whole new world open up, and she has not stopped diving into the deepest parts of her mind ever since.
When she isn’t writing novels, poetry, or screenplays with her sister Francesca, Lotté loves nothing more than to find inspiration for life through art films, music, exploring museums, and language learning. She loves to explore the deepest meaning behind things and gain new perspectives of the world in which we inhabit.
Office Grump by Nicole Snow Publication date: November 12th 2020 Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Wall Street Journal bestselling author Nicole Snow returns with a fierce and hilarious office romance where two sworn enemies make undeniable lovers.
My “interview” with bosshole supreme was anything but normal. He picked the worst day ever to chase me off my favorite park bench. I retaliated with a spray of cinnamon latte all over his Italian shoes.
Then—for some unholy reason—Magnus Heron offered me a job. Even his name sounds like a piece of work. Guess what? He is. But when you’re single, broke, and barely surviving in Chicago, you hop on the gift horse offering a six-figure salary and ride. I picked the stallion on a one-way trip to hell.
It’s not the impossibly long hours working under Grump-zilla. It’s not the fact that he’s snarly, demanding, horribly rich, and chiseled. It’s not even the pesky way he makes me blush every flipping time we’re together.
Mag is my boss. I’m his lowly assistant. Some rules are carved in stone.
That’s my mantra until we’re sharing a sunset too beautiful for life. Alone with wandering lips, whispered secrets, and disaster in the making. The plan was simple: punch the clock, get paid, and keep hating my boss. What’s the blueprint when the office grump brings me to my knees?
Full-length enemies-to-lovers romance with the banter, intrigue, and slow-burn love worthy of a Happily Ever After. The bossman from Hades meets the hellion he totally can’t stand—until he can’t live without her.
I have to say that this is my first book by Nicole Snow, so I had no expectations when I started reading, but, boy, was it entertaining! Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favourite tropes in romance- nothing beats a fiesty female lead, no, cross it, two fiesty protagonists, and good banter.
On paper, Brina Bristol can’t keep a job for the life of her. She has just lost the third one, due to restructuring and right-sizing (general cost-cutting) in her company. When a gorgeous and oh so arrogant businessman tries to order her to vacate her bench in a public park, she digs in her heels. Their not entirely amicable conversation ends in Sabrina throwing the remains of her cinnamon latte on his shoes and completely ruining them. You can imagine her surprise when the hunk’s HR manager seeks her out and offers her an interview for the position of his executive assistant. The pay is more than average, but nobody has lasted in this job for more than a couple weeks- Magnus Heron is notoriously difficult to work for. Brina, who is completely broke, decides to give it a try. Thousands of emails, 16 hour working days, weekend work trips- she tackles every task and it soon becomes clear she is the best EA Magnus ever had. She is also witty, creative, honest, and impossible not to like. Magnus has very strict non-dating rules in his company, and he is determined to keep his attraction under control. Brina will not allow anyone treat her without respect. She can and will walk away if necessary, but can he see her go? She is one of a kind, after all.
Brina was a fabulous character. Well, in real life nobody is going to give you the job after you use swearwords to describe the CEO’s work ethics, even though the HR manager may agree with you. But otherwise, the girl is practically a saint. Loved what she did for her parents (won’t give it away!) and she is really always there for Mag. Mag… is hot, although for the life of me I don’t know when a workaholic like him would hit the gym to get the washboard abs described so vividly in the book. He is caring and loyal, and he does put up a fight to get his girl. There are other characters who are also well-written and developed- Ruby, Jordan, Armstrong, Paige….
I often say I am not a big fan of insta-anything. Be careful what you wish for, because this is slow-slow-burn romance and is definitely on a long side. Having said that, the timeframe just felt realistic, and, once the protagonists do get to those hot and steamy scenes, they are indeed hot and steamy. One thing I didn’t feel was necessary was giving Mag his military background, but perhaps I just missed something.
Funny, entertaining, hot, with likeable characters, twists and turns, Office Grump may be my first book by Nicole Snow, but it won’t be the last. Recommended for anyone who enjoys contemporary romance.
Thank you to the publisher for the free digital review copy. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
Nicole Snow is a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author. She found her love of writing by hashing out love scenes on lunch breaks and plotting her great escape from boardrooms. Her work roared onto the indie romance scene in 2014 with her Grizzlies MC series.
Since then Snow aims for the very best in growly, heart-of-gold alpha heroes, unbelievable suspense, and swoon storms aplenty. With over a million books sold, she lives for the joy of making two people fight with every bit of their soul for a Happily Ever After.
Current fan favorites include her Enguard Protectors series, accidental love novels, plus long beloved MC romance thrillers like the Grizzlies and Deadly Pistols.
What happens when the right girl and the right guy meet at the wrong time? One thing that can be said about Quinn Pearson is that she has a knack for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Like, the worst time ever. Take her job for instance. One little slip of the tongue using the mother of all swear words while reporting the news, and suddenly she finds herself with over 18 million views on YouTube and her employment in jeopardy. If that wasn’t bad enough, when she meets the man of her dreams, she nearly chokes to death on a powdered sugar donut. Thankfully for Quinn, the dashing Brit, Henry, finds her near death experience quite charming. But just when Quinn thinks her luck is going to change, she finds out her timing is all wrong again. Henry is off limits. Or is he? Maybe it’s time for Quinn to quit settling for what life hands her. Perhaps it’s time for her to become more than just a girl.
If you are looking for a new chicklit /romcom or just a quick entertaining read, Just a Girl will definitely fit the bill. Even if you are not a big fan of workplace romances (yes, they do tend to backfire in real life) or shy and sexy Brits, there are other classic elements of well-written chick-lit- loyal besties, an evil workmate, an embarrassing mistake that in the spirit of times goes viral, an overbearing mother, a supportive father, and, best of all, a lovely, bubbly, relatable heroine.
Quinn has been working as a newsreader for a TV channel in Central Florida. She also happens to restore antique furniture in her free time (how cool is that?). When she meets lovely Henry, and goes on a date with him, she is a bit reluctant to talk about her real job and I do understand her reasons. She is afraid he’d google her and see the viral video of her biggest ever TV blooper. Henry isn’t exactly forthcoming about the work position he is interviewing for. One of the executive producers Quinn worked with leaves the channel and his replacement is…our dashing Brit. The situation is further complicated by Quinn’s nemesis Stacey and her intrigues.
Workplace romance is a great trope to read about, and here we get two examples- one with catastrophic consequences (a cautionary tale) and one that blooms into a lovely supportive realtionship. There is also the theme of settling or rather not settling, but working towards and reaching for what we all deserve- love and respect. It was impossible not to root for Quinn and Henry on their journey of working out how they want to live their life.
Thank you to Rachel and the author for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest review. All opinion were my own and were not influenced in any way.
Author Bio –
By day, Becky Monson is a mother to three young children, and a wife. By night, she escapes with reading books and writing. An award-winning author, Becky uses humor and true-life experiences to bring her characters to life. She loves all things chick-lit (movies, books, etc.), and wishes she had a British accent. She has recently given up Diet Coke for the fiftieth time and is hopeful this time will last… but it probably won’t.
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Thank you for reading the post!Have a great Sunday!
If you would like to know what other bloggers thought of Just a Girl, here is the full blog tour schedule:
Happy Publication Day to the new instalment in my favourite series of police procedurals: Deadly Cry by Angela Marsons.
Angela Marsons’ books are a real treat for all lovers of the genre, something to look forward and then savour. This one isn’t an exception. DI KIm Scott is somebody we got to know and admire, despite or maybe for her numerous quirks and more than occasional lack of patience. Kim’s team are all fully-fledged characters, each capable of holding their own. In Deadly Cry Stacey dips into the shuffle drawer of old crimes and manages to bring justice that has been denied for too long, while the rest of the team get busy solving an extremely puzzling case that requires an unusual approach.
You have to stop me from hurting anyone else. I don’t want to do these horrible things. Help me before I’m forced to do it again. And I will do it again because I have no choice. I’ve never had a choice.
In a busy shopping centre, a little girl clutches a teddy bear, clinging to it in the absence of her mother, Katrina. Hours later, Katrina’s body is discovered in an abandoned building. For Detective Kim Stone, it looks like a quick, functional murder. But Kim’s instincts tell her there’s more to this senseless murder than meets the eye. What was the motive for killing a young mother out shopping with her child?
Days later, a second victim is found in a local park, her neck broken just like Katrina’s and her six-year-old son missing.
But with her colleague, Detective Stacey Wood, working on another unsolved crime and a member of the team grieving the loss of a close relative, Kim is struggling to make inroads on what is fast becoming a complex case. And when a handwritten letter from the killer lands on Kim’s desk addressed to her, and pleading for help, she knows time is running out to bring the little boy home alive.
With the support of a handwriting analyst and profiler, Kim and the team begin to get inside the mind of the killer and make a shocking discovery.
Some of the victims have scratch marks on their wrists.
But these are no random scratches. The killer is using them to communicate with someone. The question is… with whom?
And if Kim doesn’t find them soon, another innocent soul will die.
The multi-million-copy bestselling Detective Kim Stone series is every bit as addictive, original and exciting as readers say and you’ll be hooked from the very first page. Nobody does it better than the Queen of Crime, Angela Marsons.
About Angela Marsons:
Angela is the author of the Kim Stone Crime series. She discovered a love of writing at Primary School when a short piece on the rocks and the sea gained her the only merit point she ever got. Angela wrote the stories that burned inside and then stored them safely in a desk drawer. After much urging from her partner she began to enter short story competitions in Writer’s News resulting in a win and three short listed entries. She used the Amazon KDP program to publish two of her earlier works before concentrating on her true passion – Crime. Angela is now signed to write a total of 16 Kim Stone books for http://bookouture.com and has secured a print deal with Bonnier Zaffre Publishing.
Worth the Wait by Charity West Publication date: November 10th 2020 Genres: Adult, Romance
Gemma Rhodeshas her entire life ahead of her. At eighteen, she should be at college, living life to the fullest. Except she doesn’t have her life even the slightest bit figured out. Instead, she’s taken the year off to learn who she is and what she wants – aside fromthe unattainable Jake Bennet. Her brother’s best friend,her knight in shining armor, and a man who thinks of her as a little sister. She knows she should move on, but how can she when no one could ever compare to Jake?
Jake Bennet might be half a world away in the middle of a war, but the Marine only has one thing on his mind – Gemma. The one woman he can never have. There were some rules a guy just didn’t break, and dating his best friend’s sister was one of them. Riley would break him if he caught Jake looking at Gemma like the lovesick fool he was. When he’s injured and sent home, he knows he should stay away, but sometimes temptation is just too much for a mere mortal to handle.
There’s only one thing Jake needs to know… Can Gemma love a broken Marine? Because she’s had his heart for years, and if he’s learned anything, it’s that some things are worth the wait.
Charity West is a young adult/new adult romance author who has always had her head in the clouds. She had her first crush when she was four, and it lasted for six years. Then she quickly fell head over heels for another boy, until she had to move away and leave him behind. Jumping from one boy to another, she finally found a keeper when she was twenty, and she’s been married to him ever since.
By the time Charity was twelve, she was sneaking her mother’s Harlequin romances and reading them in secret when she was supposed to be asleep. Teased throughout middle school and high school for the bodice ripper covers on the books she openly read in class, she knew that one day she wanted to write her own happily-ever-afters.
St. Petersburg, 1725. Peter the Great lies dying in his magnificent Winter Palace. The weakness and treachery of his only son has driven his father to an appalling act of cruelty and left the empire without an heir. Russia risks falling into chaos. Into the void steps the woman who has been by his side for decades: his second wife, Catherine Alexeyevna, as ambitious, ruthless and passionate as Peter himself.
Born into devastating poverty, Catherine used her extraordinary beauty and shrewd intelligence to ingratiate herself with Peter’s powerful generals, finally seducing the Tsar himself. But even amongst the splendor and opulence of her new life—the lavish feasts, glittering jewels, and candle-lit hours in Peter’s bedchamber—she knows the peril of her position. Peter’s attentions are fickle and his rages powerful; his first wife is condemned to a prison cell, her lover impaled alive in Red Square. And now Catherine faces the ultimate test: can she keep the Tsar’s death a secret as she plays a lethal game to destroy her enemies and take the Crown for herself?
From the sensuous pleasures of a decadent aristocracy, to the incense-filled rites of the Orthodox Church and the terror of Peter’s torture chambers, the intoxicating and dangerous world of Imperial Russia is brought to vivid life. Tsarina is the story of one remarkable woman whose bid for power would transform the Russian Empire.”
Growing up, I heard stories about Peter the Great, his epic efforts to reform Russia and turn it into the global player it became during and after his reign, his formidable spirit and thirst for knowledge, as well as his volatile character. However, few people know much about his wife Catherine who came from humble origins and made her way to the most elevated position of the Empress of Russia. Although she passed away just two years after her husband’s death, Catherine I was, without any doubt, a remarkable woman.
I often wondered what it was like to be a life companion of somebody like Henry VIII or Peter the Great. Historically, royal marriages seal geopolitical alliances. Rarely do they have anything to do with romantic feelings or personal happiness. So what kind of ambition or political intelligence does it take to play this game? or perhaps this story is an exception and it is possible to love and care for the real, necessarily flawed person behind the titles and almost limitless power? This is the question Ellen Alpsten sets out to answer in her historical novel Tsarina and I must say I was riveted by the book from the beginning to the end.
Tsarina begins with a bang. Peter the Great has just passed away and Tsarina Catherine knows she cannot permit herself a moment of weakness or grief: her survival depends on outsmarting other possible heirs and political forces. We do get a glimpse of how mixed her feelings are and then we go back to the beginning of her life (when she still went by name of Marta) to see what she has been through up until this moment. Extreme poverty, serfdom, rape (warning: graphic scenes), powerlessness, hard work, wars and men’s power games, pregnancies, child births and child loss, love, lust, scandals and intrigues- all until Catherine’s death in 1727. The narrative is extremely detailed and obviously very well-researched. You will live and breath history and find yourself immersed in this dangerous period of time. Chapter after chapter, I felt compelled to read on and discover more details of Catherine’s dramatic life. In her afterword, the author says that the historical period Tsarina is set in is well-documented (although little is known of Marta /Catherine’s life before she became Pastor Gluck’s housemaid, so here we definitely have some artistic licence). However, it does take a lot of skill to turn dry historical accounts into such a vivid story.
Recommended to all lovers of historical fiction who would like to learn more about life in Russia at the beginning of the 18th century.
Thank you to NetGalley and St.Martin’s Press for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
Thank to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for The Tokyo Bicycle Bakery, a clean and wholesome romance.
The Tokyo Bicycle Bakery
Fluttering cherry blossoms, gorgeous kimonos and sweet and sorrowful love.
For cake-loving college girl Hana, Japan was the romantic destination of her dreams. With boyfriend Jin she planned an exciting new life in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. But when she finally arrives after months of planning, Jin isn’t there.
Hana is left broken-hearted on a rainy Tokyo street. Jin left no note. One day he just walked out of classes and disappeared.
Hana begins her new life alone. Watching cherry blossoms fall into the Tokyo river. Working hard and delivering her lovely home-baked cakes by orange bicycle. Then she meets handsome young farmer Hikaru, and glimpses a new way forward – in an alien place where she doesn’t know a soul.
The Tokyo Bicycle Bakery is a sweet romance with a hint of magic realism. It’s a perfect book to carry with you and read on holiday or weekends.
The Tokyo Bicycle Bakery was such a delightful read, sweet, delicate, a perfect combination of a coming of age story and romance. Food descriptions are such an essential part of this book that any reader who loves carefully choosing and trying out new dessert recipes would feel in heaven.
Hana (I just love her name- ‘unique’ in Korean and ‘Flower’ in Japanese, both of which fit perfectly this very special girl) comes to Tokyo to visit her boyfriend Jin who went there to study Business Management. Jin hasn’t been in touch with her for two months and, understandably, Hana feels worried. Although she speaks only very basic Japanese and has little money in her savings account, Hana embarks on a journey that will change her life.
Once in Tokyo, she finds out Jin left Japan with no forward mail address or any kind of hint where he might be. Yet, our loyal Hana is determined to wait for him. Perhaps he is in a dire situation and will call her for help. Meanwhile, she finds a school to help her improve her Japanes language skills, a place to live and a part-time job. She also buys a cute orange bicycle with a little basket to put her shopping in.
Slowly, Hana begins to make friends and weave her magic of changing other people’s lives for better with her gift of listening, lending a helping hand at the moment of need, showing her gratitude and accepting the others as they are, and, of course, baking her delicious cakes. Hana carries her cakes in her bicycle basket with great attention, after all, they are all made with love and care for her new friends. All chapters have dessert names and you just have to read them to appreciate how much thought went into book. For me, this is a book that deals with growing into yourself, discovering what your dreams and inclinations are and following them. There is also so much focus on kindness, that might manifest itself in both giving and accepting help and making somebody feel loved and appreciated.
I would recommend this book first and foremost to anyone who loves food and learning about different cultures and also those who enjoy a sweet clean romance in a beautiful setting.
Thank you to Rachel and Su Young Lee for the review copy. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
Su Young Lee is a Korean romance author who lived in Tokyo, Japan for 10 years and now lives in London, England with her husband and two lovely cats.
Su works in academic publishing and loves baking, playing piano and working on her calligraphy.
Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for this exciting legal thriller-espionage story!
It’s never what it seems.
A murder of a high-profile law partner on a Manhattan street should have made the front page of the news. And yet it didn’t. Drew Bradley’s murder was treated as just another senseless crime and relegated to page four of the evening edition. But what if the press had been privy to the fact that the murder was actually an assassination?
As the partners at Lannister and Stewart scramble to fill the vacuum left by Drew Bradley’s sudden death, Asia Blythe, a rising star in the firm is offered his coveted position. But this golden opportunity that brings with it power, prestige, and unlimited financial rewards demands adherence to a code. A code of allegiance to the firm with no exceptions. Catapulted into the world of genetically modified designer babies and state-sponsored espionage, is Asia prepared to deal with the intrigues of a world that will threaten her life and shatter her illusions?
I’m always up for learning something new and this book proved to be an excellent choice for dipping my toes into the genre of legal thrillers and espinage stories. I was fascinated by the plot and the relentless pace, but, above all, by the way the main character’s mind work when she tried to piece together the missing pieces of the mystery she had to solve.
Asia Blythe is a senior attorney in a prestigious legal firm. She is a hard worker and has billed staggering amounts of client fees for her company. When one of the partners stabbed in the street right in front of the office, Asia gets an offer she has been waiting for such a long time-she is invited to apply for a partnership. The only problem is that she needs to get a loan to buy her part of the equity) and she also needs to take over a few cases the murdered partner dealt with. Within a week Asia finds herself plunged into a spider web of lies, deceit, multi billion secret deals, global espionage conspiracies, and at least 6 murders!
Lawyers do get a lot of bad rep, but Asia is such a wonderful character whose charm is bound to grow on you. She has a strong moral compass and isn’t afraid to walk away from her job if necessary. The cases she is juggling keep throwing curveballs at her and Asia has to learn a lot in a very short period of time and make up her opinion about lots of issues. Luckily, She is added by her faithful secretary Sylvia and her partner Sam who is a skillful investigator, and she does need all the help she can get.
The book was so fast-paced, I was glued to the pages, until suddenly the end was there. I really liked the way my attention never wandered off the book, although some of the issues were quite difficult to grasp (cryptocurrencies?!?).
This was my first book by the author, but now that I had a taste of her writing style, I would love to read more. If you are looking for a fast, entertaining read that will make you think through some thorny ethical issues, Spider Hunting is an excellent choice.
Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources and the author for the review copy provided with no expectation of a favourable review. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
K. J. McGillick was born in New York and once she started to walk she never stopped running. But that’s what New Yorker’s do. Right? A Registered Nurse, a lawyer now author.
As she evolved so did her career choices. After completing her graduate degree in nursing, she spent many years in the university setting sharing the dreams of the enthusiastic nursing students she taught. After twenty rewarding years in the medical field she attended law school and has spent the last twenty-four years as an attorney helping people navigate the turbulent waters of the legal system. Not an easy feat. And now? Now she is sharing the characters she loves with readers hoping they are intrigued by her twisting and turning plots and entertained by her writing
Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for invititng me to participate in the blog tour for this sweet collection.
And Then She Shines: A Collection of Novelettes
Five women, five different issues, five ‘feel-good’ reads.
And Then She Shines brings together brings together four previously published novelettes, along with Helen Libby’s new story, Cassie’s Choice.
Ruby’s Secret Can you keep a secret? All the clothes Ruby’s bought may have filled her wardrobe, but they haven’t helped her to feel fulfilled. She’s been holding back on her dream of travelling for years. And now Ruby’s in debt. A LOT of debt. She’s so ashamed. She doesn’t want anyone to know, not even her boyfriend, David. He’s so careful with money – he wouldn’t understand. Ruby’s trying to change. She wants financial stability AND a good relationship. Will she be able to resolve her debt before David discovers her secret?
Love, Anna Stay or go? Anna’s a romantic. She loves musical theatre, but her life is a far cry from her favourite shows. When her boyfriend Joe tells her he doesn’t love her anymore, she doesn’t know what to do. Anna just wants to be loved, but Joe suffers from depression, and they’ve both been unhappy for a long time. A last minute trip to Paris gives Anna some time to reflect, and shows her whether life can ever really be like a musical.
Laura’s Embrace “People who love me leave me.” Laura makes a New Year’s resolution – to find her birth mother. She needs answers. What she doesn’t need is a relationship, so when things start getting serious between her and Rob, she does her best to hold back. Only Rob won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and Laura is torn. Will Laura find her birth mother? And will love find a way?
Finding Ella He knows everything about her. The only thing she knows about him is that he’s her husband. Can she fall in love with him for a second time? Ella’s lost her memory – the last ten years of her life. Her friends and family want her to slot back into place, only it’s not that easy. Will Ella’s memory return? Does she need to remember her husband in order to love him again? Join Ella on her journey of self-discovery.
Cassie’s Choice “Something is missing from my life, and I can’t pinpoint what it is. Could it be a baby? Maybe.” What if you think you want a child, but your partner doesn’t? It’s time for Cassie to make her mind up. Does she want a baby, or not? If she does, is she willing to leave her beloved husband, Alex, in order to start again? Can you miss something you’ve never had? Does Cassie need a baby in order to feel fulfilled? So many questions, and she’s running out of time.
Today I am very excited to present a guest post from Helen Libby in which she is going to tell us more about what inspired her to write the book, the writing process and her plans for future:
The Novelette Project
I self-published for the first time in November 2015. It was a novelette called Out of My Debt. I followed it up with a further four novelettes between December 2015 and December 2016, and in April 2017 I put them all together in one collection (Snapshots). I added a fifth story called The ‘B’ Word, and that was that for a while as during the summer of 2017 I relocated from Buckinghamshire to Shropshire.
Once the dust had settled after the move, I concentrated on writing and self-publishing a non-fiction book about my dog. That book gave me a boost of confidence, which inspired to go back and take another look at my novelettes.
Why go back? Lack of sales, plus, if I’m being completely honest, I knew I could do better. When I first published the novelettes, I believed they were the best they could be. A few years on I could see how a few changes would greatly enhance the stories. I decided to change, at the very minimum, the titles and the covers, and to update the book blurbs. That’s one of the big plus points of being self-published, the fact you can make changes to your book listing whenever you want to.
I began with Out of My Debt, which became Ruby’s Secret. The original cover had a photograph of a loch, the same loch Ruby visits in the story. I thought (hoped) it would look more attractive with a woman in the scene. After a lot of searching I found a picture on Pixabay which I thought suited the story. I tweaked the book blurb and made a few small changes to the manuscript itself, though nothing major. The story remained essentially the same. It was re-published in the autumn of 2018.
The next novelette I self-published was a brand new one. I wrote Finding Ella between 2017 and 2018, ensuring the cover depicted the figure of a woman.
During 2019 I worked my way through the remaining novelettes. Paris Actually became Love, Anna. This one was re-worked. In the original story Anna leaves her partner behind because he’s not romantic enough. A beta reader suggested that this wasn’t a strong enough reason, so I decided to make Anna’s partner depressed. She didn’t leave him because of that though. She left because he told her he didn’t love her …
Love You and Leave You became Laura’s Embrace, whilst The ‘B’ Word became Cassie’s Choice. The ‘B’ Word had only ever been published as part of a collection, so I did the same thing with the updated version. Cassie’s Choice is the only novelette not available as a standalone title.
In the autumn of 2019, I was ready to replace the old collection Snapshots with a revamped collection – And Then She Shines. I made it available in both e-book and paperback format, and although this wasn’t my first paperback, it was the one I was most proud of, partly because of all the time I’d spent updating it, and partly because it was thick enough to have the book title and my name on the spine. Yay!
To put this into context my first paperback was the non-fiction book about my dog. It’s a short book, so it’s very thin and therefore has no title or author name on the spine.
Whilst publishing And Then She Shines was a milestone, it didn’t mark the end of the project to revamp my old novelettes. There are still two left to work on, which I decided to combine. I’ve been working on this project for the best part of a year. I had hoped to self-publish it this year but setting up my new business has taken precedence. Because the manuscript is a lot longer than the novelettes, currently 40,000 words, I plan to submit it to some traditional publishers, to see what they think. If I can’t find a home for it, I will definitely self-publish it in 2021.
About Helen Libby
Originally from North Wales, Helen currently lives in Shropshire with her husband and their dog. Helen worked for many years in the public sector and has an administrative background. She writes both fiction and non-fiction. As well as being an indie author, Helen is a self-publishing consultant, offering editorial, self-publishing, and writing services. To find out more, please go to: http://www.helen-edwards.co.uk
Title: Ocean Heart (The Soul Heart Series, #1) Author: Ally Aldridge Publication date: December 1st 2020 Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Being a mermaid brings a new depth to ‘it’s complicated.’
High school teen Mariah’s life is anything but simple. Between a crush on her best friend and a rivalry brewing with the swim team star, her powers awaken early.
When Mariah’s guardian meddles in her life with magic, she causes more harm than good. The soul reapers are coming and there’s a werewolf hungry for merblood. All secrets wash ashore sooner or later, and Mariah’s about to discover hers.
Mixing a messy love life with deadly powers will whip up a storm of trouble. Can Mariah contain it or will she be swept up in its wake?
A gripping story about a mermaid, self acceptance, and romance that literally sparks.
It’s Monday! What are you Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn from Book Date, a place to share and discuss what we’ve read in the past week and what we’re in the middle of or are planning to read this week.
What I read last week
I started last week by listening to two audiobooks from Spectrum Audio Books:
I am still very new to the world of audiobooks (thank you, Jonetta and Carla!), trying to work out what is available and where, but I am definitely enjoying it and would like to continue listening to as many as possible.
I also participated in several book tours and book blitzes:
Thank you very much to Rachel from Rachel’s Random resources for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Lady in Red, an exciting middle grade mystery.
Lady in Red Pursuing the truth can be a dangerous game… School’s out for the summer, and Eye Spy Investigations have a new case – looking for Lady in Red, a lost masterpiece by Victorian painter, Gabriel Pascoe. The clock is ticking for Alex and Donna, because the artist’s house, Acacia Villa, where their friend Jake lives, is due to be demolished, and vital clues may be destroyed. And Alex has an additional problem: he is terrified of snakes, and Jake has a pet snake called Queenie… As the twins pursue their enquiries, they come up against the man who wants to demolish Acacia Villa. But Mr Mortimer is the godfather of their baby half-sister, Sophie, and criticising him could open up family rifts, which have only just healed. Then Queenie goes missing, setting in motion a disastrous train of events that will turn the search for Lady in Red into the twins’ most dangerous case yet.
Today we have a Q and A session with Tessa Buckley, the author of the Eye Spy Series!
How long have you been writing?
I started writing my own stories almost as soon as I could read, but as I got older, life got in the way, and by the time I was working in my first job, the writing tailed off. It was really only when my children were in full time schooling that I decided to start again. It’s definitely easier to write books when you are older and have more life experience to draw on..
Do you write non-fiction as well as novels?
Soon after my first child was born, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. At the time, there were no treatments for the disease, but after I discovered the research that had been done on diet and MS, I changed my diet and improved my health dramatically. I then wrote a book about the benefits of nutritional therapy (The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book) and was lucky enough to find a publisher quite quickly. I now write a regular blog about food and MS, https://msandfood.org.as well as regular articles on the subject.
What gave you the idea for the Eye Spy series?
One day the voice of Alex, my teen detective, just popped into my head, and I heard him describe his life with his Nan, a school dinner lady, and his eccentric inventor father. It was only later that I realised that he and his twin sister, Donna, were inspired by memories of a brother and sister I knew when I was a child. It wasn’t difficult to choose a setting for the series either – a small seaside town – as I live in a seaside town myself, so it was familiar territory to me.
What are your favourite hobbies?
I do a lot of cooking, devising recipes for my blog, but I am also passionate about family history. I am hoping to write a book about my mother’s ancestors, a lot of whom ran successful coaching inns. I’m also researching my husband’s family, who have a very different background in mining, socialism, and trade union activism.
What is it about writing that has given you the most enjoyment?
When I am writing, I can escape into an imaginary world, just as I did as a child when I read Enid Blyton, or the Narnia stories. Today’s children are under a lot more pressure than my generation were, trying to navigate their way through a much more complex and uncertain world, and if my books can provide them with some enjoyable escapism in difficult times, then I will have achieved my goal.
Tessa Buckley was an inveterate scribbler as a child, and spent much of her time writing and illustrating stories. After studying Interior Design, she spent fifteen years working for architects and designers. She took up writing again after her young daughter complained that she couldn’t find enough adventure stories to read. This led, in 2016, to the publication of Eye Spy, the first in a series for 9-12 year olds about two teen detectives. There are now two more books in the series: Haunted, which was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2017,, and Lady in Red. She lives by the sea in Essex and recently completed an Open University arts degree.
Wyatt Galloway has a lot of things going for him in his life, but a woman is not one of them. He is focused on his career as a sheriff, setting his goals high for promotion. He has zero intention of falling in love with a woman; that is until he meets Breigh. Sweetness and beauty are not something he normally falls for, but she has him weak in the knees despite his resistance.
Having had her heart broken, Breigh‘s sworn off men and wants to concentrate on being happy. Career-driven and busy, she doesn’t bother with a social life and has given up finding the fairy tale that she’d hoped for. Until she is in the right place at the wrong time. Wyatt and Breigh: two people wanting love but insistent on not looking for it until they meet each other. Will either of them let it in? Is it worth fighting for when someone tries to take it away? Can a person you fall for truly be the reason or just a season?
I really enjoyed this clean and wholesome romance. The protagonists repeated numerous times that everything happens in your life for a reason and perhaps this audiobook was exactly what I needed in these curious and uncertain times.
Deputy Sheriff Wyat Galloway is the strong and protective type of man who likes to notice and take care of the small things. He is hard-working, honest and thoughtful. One drawback: he isn’t looking for a girlfriend as he is concentrating on his career and making his dream of becoming a ranger come true. Wyatt comes from a wealthy family from Houston, Texas, but he would have known little love and affection were it not for his aunt Rhonda. His mother Virginia isn’t a maternal type, and the less is said about his father and his brother Cash, the better. When Wyatt told his parents about his career aspirations, his father cut all his links with his son. Everything Wyatt owns in his life he has earned through his hard work.
Sweet Breigh Foster hasn’t had much luck with her family either. Her mother died giving birth to her and Breigh’s father used losing his wife as an excuse for drinking and neglecting his daughter. luckily, Breigh has a wonderful grandmother who has taken good care of her and taught her all the right things in life. One of them is that God has a plan for everyone and all the people who come in our life come for a reason. Sometimes it is just for a season, sometimes it is for life. Breigh’s previous romantic relationship didn’t work out, so she decided to focus on work instead.
Wyatt and Breigh have so much in common, and yet, they both need to learn to trust each other and their own feelings. I couldn’t help, but admire Breigh’s choice of career- I won’t give it away, but she found her own way of helping people at the moment when they need support and reassurance. She is also a great friend who always puts her friends needs first. She also had to make some hard choices in this book, which required a lot of emotional maturity. Breigh and Wyatt’s relationship develops slowly and steadily over the course of the book, although I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there is a fade-to-black scene where the characters take their relationship to the next level.
I thought the narrators did a great job- I never wanted to skip anything or listen at a faster rate. There is a lot of inherent repetition in the book content itself ( the characters value hard work, they respect and appreciate the role the elderly played in their life, they are looking for somebody special in their life, ‘the reason’), so even the easily distracted listener I tend to be could follow the narration easily. I absolutely adored Avery Reid in all the entirety of Breigh’s interactions with other characters in the book and I thought Matthew Maddux did a great job of bringing his strong and silent character of Wyatt to life.
Thank you to NetGalley and Spectrum Audiobooks for the DRC of this audiobook. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in this Publication day Push and Happy Book Birthday to The Cornish Key to Happiness ( A Little Hotel in Cornwall Book8)!
The Cornish Key to Happiness
Past secrets return to complicate Maisie’s future with the charming Sidney Daniels in the final installment of the Cornish romance series.
Picking up where book seven left off, Maisie’s plans to celebrate her book’s thrilling news remain on hold after Sidney has vanished from Port Hewer overnight, following a brush with his secret past. His departure leaves Maisie with a head full of questions and a heart torn in two, made even worse by the rumors flying about him through the town. Where and why has he gone? Will he ever come back again? And—foremost in Maisie’s mind—was the heartache from his younger days somehow to blame for his sudden and mysterious flight?
But when Dean convinces her that Sidney may be facing a choice that could ruin his life, Maisie must set out to find him, once again leaving behind the Cornish seaside haven of Port Hewer she’s come to think of as home, and leaving behind the answer to a secret she’s been longing to know since the beginning. Not knowing when or if she’ll return, she’s taking the biggest risk with her heart so far…and the truth she discovers waiting for her at the end of her journey will make her wonder if things can ever possibly be the same as they were before.
Questions are answered, secrets are spilled, and the biggest reveal of the series is finally unveiled as A LITTLE HOTEL IN CORNWALL reaches its exciting conclusion.
This is the eighth (final) instalment in Maisie Clark’s story- I can’t believe that finally we have to say goodbye to this lovely character, ‘aspiring novelist and unlikely heroine’. This time all the loose ends get tied in and all the mysteries Maisie has been trying hard to solve will be explained. Is this the end of a great romantic adventure or just the beginning of a new life for the characters we’ve been following and rooting for?
The book starts from the cliffhanger we were left on in Book7 where Sidney left following a mysterious woman connected to his past. It has of course become the talk of the village, but what hurts Maisie most of all is the uncertainty. Dean begs her to go after Sidney and try to save him from being roped into making choices that would ruin his life and Maisie doesn’t hesitate. She really can’t begin to imagine what she is going to find as Sidney’s past is nothing like what she expects.
The last book focused on fictional worlds and the process of writing, while this one deals more with the romantic side of the story. Do we ever really know the people we love? or do we just see one side of them, a role they choose to play? Is Maisie right in thinking that her knowledge of Sidney is deeper than anybody else’s because she is not blinded by his past.
The ending was truly satisfying and I am happy to report that we do find out who Alistaire Davies is and it is the person I suspected it was all way through! A great finish to a lovely series that kept us entertained for long time. To new series and new stories Laura Briggs has in store for us!
Thank you to Rachel, the author and the publisher for the gifted review copy. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
About Laura Briggs
Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.
It’s Monday! What are you Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn from Book Date, a place to share and discuss what we’ve read in the past week and what we’re in the middle of or are planning to read this week.
What I read last week
Last week I participated in two great Christmas-themed blog tours:
I also started reading Above All Else by Dana Alison Levy, recommended by a wonderful blogger I like books best . You can read her fabulous review of the book here.
From the book blurb:
Rose Keller and Tate Russo have been climbing for years, training in harsh weather and traveling all over the world. The goal that kept them going: summiting Mount Everest, the highest point on earth. Accompanied by Tate’s dad, the two will finally make the ultimate climb at the end of their senior year. But neither Rose nor Tate are fully in the game—not only is there a simmering romance between them, but Rose can’t get her mind off her mother’s illness, while Tate constantly fails to live up to his ambitious father’s standards.
Everyone on their expedition has something to prove, it seems. And not everyone is making the best decisions while short on oxygen and physically and mentally exhausted. The farther up the mountain they go, the more their climbing plans unravel and the more isolated each team member becomes. Rose and Tate will have to dig deep within themselves to determine what—or who—they value above all else.
What I am planning to read this week:
Last week I planned to read two thrillers, both parts of long-running series with strong female leads:
Hopefully, this week I will read at least one of them, as I know they are bound to be absolutely gripping. Alternatively, I have an audiobook which is supposed to be a sweet, clean and wholesome romantic story, Be My Reason by Brooklyn Taylor.
How did your last week go and what are you reading this week?
Happy Book Birthday to The Ticklemore Toy Shop by Liz Davis! I hope you’ll join me in this Publication day celebration of this wonderful story.
The Ticklemore Christmas Toy Shop
You’re never too old to fall in love…
There is a disturbance in the force and octogenarian Hattie Jenkins can feel it in her water. Still active and spritely, she guesses that the miserable-looking gentleman sitting morosely in the café where she works, might be the reason.
Widowed Alfred Miller has recently moved in with his daughter because she is worried that he’s becoming too frail and forgetful to look after himself. And he’s not in the least bit happy about it, especially since his home is soon be cleared and sold. But when he enlists Hattie’s help to save some of his precious belongings, he doesn’t realise that Hattie’s mission is to save more than a few sticks of furniture. She’s on a mission to save him, too.
Loved this touching, feel-good family story! It wasn’t what I had expected at all and all the better for it. Achingly realistic, moving, thought-provoking, it was also entertaining and optimistic.
Eighty year old Hattie Jenkins might be considered quite eccentric by the inhabitants of Ticklemore, a little viiilage with the butcher, baker, candlemaker, and three cafes to provide numerous tourists with their cakes and tea. Luckily for her, Hattie has a job- she is a waitress in Bookylicious, a bookshop/cafe, and this is where she meets Alfred (don’t call him Alfie, he does mind this childish equivalent of his name, although people have recently taken to calling him this, as if the elderly don’t have any right to their full names). Hattie knows in her heart there is something wrong about this old gentleman, some kind of loneliness or sadness emanating from him. He is a bit grumpy as well, or rather not used to people taking interest in him. Alfred lost his beloved wife Dorothy to cancer two years ago and now his well-intentioned, but slightly overbearing daughter Sara decided he should move in with her, and it isn’t working out very well for both of them. Alfred realises his behaviour and the way he talks to Sara resembles more a rebellious teenager than a loving parent, but he would like her to trust him a bit more, and, above all, he would like to feel useful. For years Alfred has been making wooden toys in his garden shed/secret workshop. Unimpressed Sara wants to get rid of all the old furniture, clothes and various objects Dorothy and Alfred had lovingly chosen and acquired over the course of their long and happy life together.
When Alfred asks Hattie to help him find a storage unit in a vain attempt to save something from his old life, Hattie is happy to oblige, and when she sees his wonderful collection of hand-made, carved of wood toys, she knows these toys can’t be just thrown away, they need to find a way to children’s homes and children’s hearts. Hattie might not be as young as she used to be, but when she sets her heart on doing something, she is absolutely unstoppable. Her friend Nell suggests that there might be enough toys in Alfred’s collection to open a toy shop, and once the idea is planted in Hettie’s mind…all she needs is a bit of support from her community.
This book took me on a rollercoaster of emotions- it was full of fun scenes (just wait till you read about Hattie’s fashion choices) and loving details that just broke my heart (Dorothy’s apron still hanging from the kitchen chair). Above all, it made me think about different life stages and how we all need to feel capable, independent, loved, and appreciated. We do need more diverse protagonists in our reads and this book does a great job of showing how whether you are young, middle-aged, or elderly, we all need each other and have a lot to learn from one another.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough- I hope you pick it, get yourself a cuppa (of whatever hot beverage tickles your fancy), get immersed in the lives of Hettie, Alfred and other inhabitants of Ticklemore and get another proof that life is wonderful at any age. Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in this publication day celebration and, of course, to Liz Davies for her fabulous book.
About the author
Liz Davies writes feel-good, light-hearted stories with a hefty dose of romance, a smattering of humour, and a great deal of love. She’s married to her best friend, has one grown-up daughter, and when she isn’t scribbling away in the notepad she carries with her everywhere (just in case inspiration strikes), you’ll find her searching for that perfect pair of shoes. She loves to cook but isn’t very good at it, and loves to eat – she’s much better at that! Liz also enjoys walking (preferably on the flat), cycling (also on the flat), and lots of sitting around in the garden on warm, sunny days. She currently lives with her family in Wales, but would ideally love to buy a camper can and travel the world in it.
First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?
Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
Finally… reveal the book!
I’m sure many people are going to recognise these first lines:
There is a pirate in the basement. (The pirate is a metaphor but also still a person.)
(The basement could rightly be considered a dungeon.)
The pirate was placed here for numerous acts of a piratey nature considered criminal enough for punishment by those non-pirates who decide such things.
Someone said throw away the key, but the key rests on a tarnished ring on a hook that hangs on the wall nearby. (Close enough to see from behind the bars. Freedom kept in sight but out of reach, left as a reminder to the prisoner. No one remembers that now on the key side of the bar. The careful psychological design forgotten, distilled into habit and convenience.)
Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.
A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools,casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.
Have you read The Starless Sea or is it on your tbr?
If yes, did you like it? What made you pick it? Do you read a lot of fantasy and magical realism books?
It’s Monday! What are you Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn from Book Date, a place to share and discuss what we’ve read in the past week and what we’re in the middle of or are planning to read this week.
What I read last week
I’ve been blessed with a relatively long train commute to work, which means lots of reading/listening time- hooray! Last week I participated in several blog tours:
The Winter We Met by Samantha Tonge
Villain (DC Bailey Morgan#2) by Caro Savage
What If? by Shari Low- a re-release of her first bok written twenty years ago
I also really enjoyed reading two middle-grade mysteries from a new detective series set in Victorian England and featuring twelve-year-old amateur sleuth Myrtle Hardcastle- Premeditated Myrtle and How to Get Away with Myrtle (the review is coming up later this week):
What I am planning to read this week:
After having read about ten Christmas books, I really feel like a change of genre:
This is Book 9 in Maeve Kerrigan series and I haven’t read the previous ones, but quite a few of my Goodreads friends recommended it saying that it can be read as a standalone.
And, of course, I couldn’t resist requesting Angela Marsons newest thriller Deadly Cry (DI Kim Stone#13). A huge thank you to Carla from Carla loves to read for letting me know that it was available for request on NetGalley.
How did your last week go and what are you reading this week?
Shari Low is one of my favourite authors and I know I can always count on her to make me smile however rainy the weather outside is. Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, celebrating twenty years of Shari’s writing career.
What If? The book that started it all! A classic retro romcom from #1 bestselling author Shari Low.1999.
Carly Cooper is 30, single, and after coming close to saying ‘I Do’ to six different men, she’s wondering if she accidentally said ‘goodbye’ to Mr Right.
But there is a problem.
Her ex-boyfriends are scattered all over the world and Carly lives in 1999; an era before Facebook, Google, smartphones, 4G and Broadband, when it was impossible to track people down with a few clicks of a mouse.
On a mission to discover if she walked away from her ‘happy ever after’, Carly quits her job, her flat, her whole life and sets off on a quest to track down all the men she has ever loved. Her Mr Right is out there, but can she find him?
And what if he’s moved on from the ex-girlfriend who said goodbye? A wonderful classic 20th-anniversary re-release.
In case you missed the big celebratory balloon with number 20 on the bright and cheerful cover of What If?, this is a re-release of Shari Low’s first book. And if it feels packed with popular culture references that firmly set it on the cusp of two millenums, it is because this is exactly when it was written. Reading it was like having a girls’ night out with your best friends and, honestly, there are few better ways of spending your time than having a laugh with people who have known you for ages and will stand by you no matter what.
Carly Cooper has a safe job (although selling toilet paper to corporate clients was definitely on her list of what she wanted to do when she grew up) and is quite happy with her life. Now that she is approaching thirty (what is it about the magic three-oh that makes us question our life decisions), she can’t help but wonder if should have already been married). Not that Carly is perpetually single, quite the opposite: she has been engaged four times and had two other serious relationships. So what is it that makes her run away and could she have already met her Mr Right and threw away her chance of eternal happiness?
I have to admire Carly’s confidence and courage in doing what she decides to do next. She hands in notice at work and leaves her flat, and embarks on a life-time journey to re-visit her old flames to see if she had been too hasty. Remember the time when it was still possible to keep your different lives separate and embarrasiing school photos with braces and funny hairdos hidden in your family albums? Carly’s journey is an Adventure with a capital A, and I couldn’t help but envy all the excitement of re-discovering what made her fall in love with her exes. Especially, since her exes happen to be quite scattered around the globe.
Shari Low has a wonderful sense of humour and her first book is no exception – it is full of hilarious laugh-out-loud comments and witty banter. It is also deeply, genuinely romantic. What I liked the most, however, is the celebration of friendship, the kind which comes from sharing giggles, hangovers (okay, this one isn’t strictly necessary) and unmitigated silliness, heartbreaks and big momentous news that turn your life upside down.
The ending was deeply satisfying (I am all for HEAs and HFNs), but the best thing came in the author’s note to the readers: there’s going to be a sequel from which we can find out what happened in Carly’s and her best mates’ lives afterwards. What Now? is scheduled to be released in January 2021 and I for one can’t wait to spend a bit more time with these fun characters created by Shari Low.
Thank you to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources, NetGalley and Boldwood Books for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
Shari Low is the #1 bestselling author of over 25 novels, including One Day In Summer and My One Month Marriage and a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. She lives near Glasgow.
The third book in the Highland, Georgia romantic comedy series from Laura Trentham, A Highlander is Coming to Town, full of love, laughs…and highlanders!
You better watch out. . .
Holt Pierson is dreading Christmas. His parents absconded to Florida for the season and left him to handle the family farm which will be his one day―whether he wants it or not. Driven by duty, Holt has always followed the path expected of him. But lately, he’s been questioning what he wants and where he belongs. Will assuming the responsibility of the Pierson farm make him happy or is there something―or someone―else out in the wider world calling to him?
To Claire Smythe, the Scottish lead singer of a touring band, Highland, Georgia, is the perfect place to hide . . .until a very handsome and deeply curious Holt begins to ask all the questions Claire doesn’t want to answer. As Holt draws Claire out from under and into the fabric of small-town life, can Claire put the past behind her and embrace the unexpected gifts of the season―including the new and lasting love?
This is such an entertaining series: lighthearted, sweet, and romantic in a fun way. Ever since I read the first book, I’ve been waiting for Holt Pierson’s story. It was clear that he is a great guy, but this doesn’t always guarantee being lucky in love. Well, things are going to change this Christmas, because there is a highlander in town and she might be just what Holt has been waiting for all his life.
We met Claire Smythe in Book 2. She was a lead singer of a band that performed during the Highland Games. Claire is running away from something or someone. When the town preacher introduces her to eighty year old, frail but feisty Mrs Meadows who needs a live-in caregiver after her unfortunate fall, Claire grabs the opportunity to weather the storm in her life, and perhaps reflect on what really matters to her.
Holt Pierson’s father has unsuccessfully tried to buy Mrs Meadows’ land, so there is no love lost between the two neighbours. Still, Holt has nothing to do with their dispute. All he knows is that he should have checked on his elderly neighbour to see if she needed his help. After all, Holt has been raised to be kind, responsible and considerate, something Claire can’t help but be attracted to.
What I love about this whole series is the town and it’s inhabitants. One of the bigger questions these books are grappling with is the sense of belonging. What makes a place home? Claire never felt this type of community spirit and willingness to go an extra mile to help somebody out, even if they are barely more than a total stranger. Claire grew up in the place where appearances were more important than genuine affections and everybody seemed to have an agenda. It isn’t easy ‘to forge your own path’ in this kind of environment, but Claire is determined to make her own choices.
My favourite scenes in the book are that of Claire and Holt’s first date and the scene where he is teaching her to milk cows. There is something sweet about this couple. Things might have been developing fast between them, but you do get a feeling that they are at the stage of their life where they have changed and are ready for something new and serious.
I hope the author continues with this series as every single book in it has been fun to read. Having said that, it is difficult to say whose story might be next (Claire’s cousin Lachlan’s?) and, of course, I’d love to know how the couples from the previous books are doing. I’ll be looking forward to Highland, Georgia #4.
Thank you to NetGalley and St.Martin’s for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
What it means to be human-and a mother-is put to the test in Carole Stivers’ debut novel set in a world that is more chilling and precarious than ever.
The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots–to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order–an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right–the Mother Code.
Kai is born in America’s desert southwest, his only companion his robot Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too–in ways that were never predicted. When government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai must make a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?
In a future that could be our own, The Mother Code explores what truly makes us human–and the tenuous nature of the boundaries between us and the machines we create.
My thoughts: Some people would say that the timing for The Mother Code is just uncanny. I can’t help but wonder if this is going to help the readers relate more to the events described by Carol Stivens.
The Mother Code has two timelines that slowly converge. One is following the development of a deadly pandemic that is bringing the civilisation as we know it to its end. The other starts with the birth of a human baby and the way his robot mother is taking care of his needs, including two of the most powerful ones: the need to learn and adapt to the environment in order to survive and the socialization need.
The pandemic described in The Mother Code starts with a biowarfare agent released by the US government with the noble aim of fighting terrorism. If inhaled within several hours after the targeted release, the weapon leads to a terminal lung desease that causes death in a matter of weeks. The weapon is designed to be of a self-containing, degrade-in-several-hours kind. It cannot be replicated by the cells of a contaminated human, so it isn’t supposed to be contageous. The residue denatures to the form which cannot enter human cells. Sounds like the scientists thought of everything that could go wrong.
Well, you guessed it, they didn’t. If you enjoy reading about biology, genetics and biochemistry, you are going to appreciate the author’s explanation of how this ill-advised bioexperiment causes a manmade disaster on the whole planet scale and leads to inexorable collapse of the human society. As scientists race towards finding a cure, they realise they are running of time and might have to fall on Plan B: genetically modified human embryos that would be carried to term and later looked after by special robots. The scientist who oversees the development of these marvellous machines and their programming makes sure every Mother is unique and carries a personality based on a real woman, the egg donor for that particular child.
Depending on your preferences you might find one of the two timelines more interesting. Perhaps, the pandemic line was more focused, more believable. Having said that, there were some aspects that reflect our geopolitics and tie it to our time. You know when you read The Ender’s Game and come across a passage on the Soviet Union and say to yourself: What?!Oh, right, it was written in the early eighties…
Good science-fiction needs to ask thought-provoking questions. The role of early socialization and mother/caretaker-child unique bond, machine learning, AI, the new and fresh look on the brave new world which is created by humans who are raised by machines…I think the book could have gone even deeper into exploring these fascinating issues.
There were quite a few characters – the scientists, the military personnel, the children. Perhaps, if there were fewer, I could have felt a stronger emotional connection to their stories. Or perhaps, it is the case of the concept development taking precedence over the characterisation. As it was, my favourite character was probably Rho-Z, because I really wanted to see how much of her was the original Mother Code and how much was being Kai’s Mother, the mother of a real boy who is discovering the world.
Overall, I enjoyed reading The Mother Code and would love to see a film adaptation for this book- there is so much potential to make the story spectacular. Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
Have you read The Mother Code or is it on your tbr?
Do you enjoy reading science-fiction and, in particular, dystopian, post-apocalyptic fiction?
Should science-fiction avoid using complex, technical terminology or is it a part and parcel of the genre?
As full of joy and beauty as it is of pain, and told with the luminous power that has made Ursula Hegi a beloved bestselling author for decades, The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls is a shattering portrait of marriage and motherhood, and of the ways in which women hold each other up in the face of heartbreak.
This is one of the most unusual books I have read this year. Set on one of the Frisian islands in 1878 against the backdrop of the severe beauty of the North Sea, this beautifully-written book is full of quirky characters and heartbreaking stories of love and loss.
On the day that the Ludwig Circus arrives on the island of Nordstrand all the village comes out to watch its splendid parade. There are Old Women, competing for the title of the oldest living one, there is Lotte and her four children, including baby Wilhelm, there are also pregnant girls from St.Margaret’s Home that takes care of them. All of them witness the horrifying power of the Nordsee as a huge wave, not seen in these places for a hundred years, rises from the depths of the Nordsee and wreaks havoc on their lives. Lotte Jansen loses three of her children and tries to offer the fourth one in exchange for the return of them. Blinded by her grief and despair, she tries to throw baby Wilhelm in the sea. Luckily, the baby is saved by his father Kalle Jansen at the very last moment. The villagers and the circus performers keep looking for the Jansen children for days, but their desperate search is in vain, Hannelore, Barbel and Martin perished in the sea. Eleven year old, heavily pregnant Tilly and Sabine, the circus seamstress and mother of Heike, a grown up woman with a child’s mind, are among those who search for Lotte’s children.
Three mothers: Lotte, Tilli, Sabine
Kalle is Lotte’s childhood sweetheart, her one and only love, devoted husband and soulmate, but even he cannot cope with her grief and severe depression. Kalle decides to leave with the Ludwig travelling circus and take care of sick animals. The Sisters from St.Margaret’s home take care of Lotte and baby Wilhelm who is on the brink on starvation as Lotte lost her milk. The Sisters ask Tilly, who has just given birth to a baby girl only to see her adopted and taken away, to breastfeed Wilhelm. Lotte’s return to life and her child is slow and the nuns are beginning to worry about Tilly’s getting too attached to Wilhelm. Tilly is still a child herself after all. Once her parents found out she got pregnant by her twin brother, they sent her away, having chosen the boy over the girl.
Sabine’s story is equally compelling. Her partner, a circus acrobat and free spirit, left her when she was still pregnant. The circus became her family and everybody pulled in helping Sabine raise Heike. Sabine knows she will always have to take care of her special girl, but what is going to happen to Heike after her death?
Secondary characters Apart from the central story which is Lotte’s struggle to come to terms with her grief and flashbacks that tell us more about Sabine’s life, we also get to know the Old Women with their gossipy conversations, full of humour and friendly compassion. We meet the nuns and learn how they decided to open the Home for pregnant girls and turn it into an art school of a sort. Many of the girls won’t be able to return to their families and will need to earn their living, so learning practical skills of running a household and looking after children may help them secure their employment. Some girls insist on keeping their babies and the nuns respect their choice. Sister Hildegunde and her surreal paintings provided a welcome comic relief that is necessary in a story like this. Considering that there are also stories of the circus members, we see that Ursula Hegi explores different kinds of families and family ties with great tenderness.
Writing The writing is poetic and dream-like. The descriptions of the severe beauty and power of the North Sea set the tone to the novel and bring to mind myths and legends of the Frisian Islands. Lotte’s mind struggling to cope with the reality of her loss finds solace in the legend of Rungholt, a sunk island which can be seen once a year. Ursula Hegi’s writing is full of quirky and memorable details. Kalle comes back to Lotte and brings her an old zebra to take care of during the winter months. Lotte becomes a midwife who never loses a mother or a baby as if her personal loss was a sacrifice she made to save future lives. Sabine’s circus caravan is full of bees that made the roof of the caravan their home. Sister Hildegunde’s paintings resemble Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of the Early delights…
Overall I found this beautiful, character-driven, complex book impossible to put down. The Patron Saint Of Pregnant Girls with it’s intertwining stories of grief and courage to face life, families and friendships, strength and weakness, daily life and circus, children and old people with their particular brand of wisdom is an unusual, but strangely compelling book. It might not be everybody’s kind of story, but if you like literary fiction with rich imagery that explores human relationships, pick it up. You might find it as fascinating as I did.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Flatiron Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
When Emma leaves the security of her Amish community for a job in North Carolina, she finds herself navigating choices, circumstances, and a relationship that she never could have imagined. Follow as she struggles to reconcile her faith and her complicated feelings in this romance by bestselling Amish writer Linda Byler.
(From the book blurb)
My thoughts: Love in Unlely Places is an unusual kind of an Amish book, a book that isn’t just entertaining, but also touches upon more difficult questions.
When we first meet our protagonist Emma Beiler, she is reflecting on the artistic talent of one of her pupils and whether it is worth developping it at all. At 26, Emma is already considered a leftover blessing or in other words an old maid. Is she too picky? She wants to have that special feeling she experienced once when she fell in love with a smart, open-minded man, who later chose a quiet, obedient girl, not as curious or opinionated as Emma. He chose to marry her younger sister. Emma was heartbroken and threw herself into work. Now, ten years later, she feels her life has become too repetitive and even her teaching is missing the joy and spark it once had. Should she try to date one of the available single men of her community? She could probably force herself to like somebody and become a loyal and supportive wife. Or is God’s plan for her is to stay single and devote herself to her family, her nephews and nieces? Emma’s character and her dilemma is relatable to anybody single who is feeling the pressure to settle down, whose relatives are taking every opportunity to ask her/him when she/he is going to get married and whose friends keep hinting that her/his standards might be too high.
Emma decides to change her life and starts by looking for a job outside her community. She gets an interview and is hired to be a nanny to two children aged two and six. As the family are going to have their summer holidays in their beach house in North Carolina, Emma’s world is about to get dramatically expanded. The descriptions of the oceanfront, the sights, the smells are amazing. For Linda Byler, nature is a manifestation of God’s love for humankind.
I really enjoyed reading about Emma’s interactions with the children in the Englisher household. She is kind, respectful and patient. She knows her job is to observe, not impose her own ideas, but it becomes apparent very soon that the children would benefit from stricter boundaries, clearer guidelines and perhaps more genuine attention on the part of their parents. To Emma’s great surprise, the family hired an Amish construction team to work on their house and this is how she meets charming, easy-going, well-spoken Ben, who wouldn’t mind getting to know Emma better. She might be reserved and afraid of getting her hear broken again, but gradually Emma opens up to the possibility of having finally met somebody unlike the other single men in her community, somebody who is more informed, more worldly, and openly attracted to her.
When Emma’s contract is terminated suddenly, she doesn’t get a chance to say good-bye or exchange contact information with Ben. Still, he knows enough about her to be able to find her address and write to her and this thought is something Emma is cherishing deep in her heart, as she is settling back into her farm life at home. As more and more days and weeks and months pass, Emma is facing now a different kind of dilemma: should she continue trusting that Ben is still in love with her and will turn up on her doorstep and whisk her away or should she listen to her family and friends who are much more cautious?
Emma’s friend Eva suggests a camping trip with her husband and their baby. They are also joined by Eva’s cousin Matt who, although adopted and raised by an Amish family, later chose to live as an Englisher. Emma and Matt discover that they have a lot in common, but being Amish, her faith and traditions are very important to Emma, so she cannot permit herself get attracted to Matt. There is still hope for Ben, after all. And he does write and invite her back to North Carolina. Can anybody’s love life get more complicated than that? Read the book and find out what future has in store for Emma.
Love in Unlikely Places is indeed an unusual kind of romance, with a heroine who is intelligent and well-informed in some ways, and desperately romantic and perhaps even naive in other ways. The book touches upon a variety of topics ranging from raising children, the use of technology, post-natal depression, adoption, politics, historical justice, and even global warming. There is romance, there are diffrent kinds of families, there are some wonderful friends who will tell you the truth and will stand by you, and there are fabulous descriptions of nature. Perhaps, the book is less light-hearted and straightforward than most books in this genre, but it has its core elements which for me are community, faith and trust in God’s will and kindness.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Good Books for this fascinating ARC. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
About the author:
Linda Byler grew up Amish and is an active member of the Amish church today. Growing up, Linda Byler loved to read and write. In fact, she still does. She is well known within the Amish community as a columnist for a weekly Amish newspaper. She writes all her novels by hand in notebooks. Linda and her husband, their children and grandchildren live in central Pennsylvania.
Join eleven best-selling and award-winning authors under the mistletoe as they share bite-sized holiday romances celebrating the joy and romcom sweetness of the Christmas season!
The Christmas Wedding Dateby Shirley Jump
When Holly McDaniels gets roped into attending her hometown Christmas ball, she convinces her handsome neighbor, workaholic Nick Corvino, to play the part of husband, giving the bah humbug bachelor a taste of Christmas magic that just might lead to a very real holiday happy-ever-after.
Gingerbread and Jingle Bellsby Caro Carson
A big-city businesswoman answers her grandma’s plea for holiday-rush help at the family bakery, only to find herself apologizing to the small town’s handsome veterinarian each time she thwarts her grandma’s matchmaking schemes—until she discovers the mastermind behind all the romantic plans wasn’t her grandma, after all.
A Merry Aussie Christmasby Stefanie London
Their relationship is so fake it comes with costumes… Will spending a whole month as Patterson’s Bluff’s official Mr. and Mrs. Claus give a golden girl and the town outcast a second chance at love?
Mission: Merry Christmasby Nancy Naigle
A physical therapist finds her client bah-humbugging the Christmas spirit out of everyone and decides to focus on getting him back on the nice list.
Christmas In Sweetland by Lacey Baker
A restless hometown girl strikes a deal with the uptight guy next door to win a neighborhood holiday decorating contest—but they’ll both need a little Christmas magic to survive missing cupcakes, broken twinkle lights and falling in love.
The Matchmaking Christmas Spiritby Lindsay Emory
An event planner and a handsome handyman keep getting thrown together by a matchmaking Christmas spirit who won’t stop meddling in matters of the heart.
Christmas Eve at the USOby Tif Marcelo
When former college sweethearts and Army soldiers reunite at the Dallas Airport USO during a Christmas Eve snowstorm, they try to ignore the love they lost—until the Christmas spirit decides to play Cupid, leaving them with no choice but to go after the love wished they still had.
A Midnight Clearby Victoria Schade A dog sitter booked to spend the Christmas holiday caring for a client’s new puppy is surprised to discover that an approaching snowstorm has trapped her with the handsome man of the house.
Love Letters for Christmasby Sasha Summers When a soldier decides it’s time to meet his long-time teacher pen pal, his visit to her classroom brings all sort of surprises—and might just give them their greatest Christmas gift ever: love.
A Snow Maiden for Christmasby Sariah Wilson Christina and Jack were high school sweethearts until he left her behind to follow his dreams. Now he’s back and their meddling mothers are determined to give Christina and Jack’s former romance a second chance by forcing them to play roles opposite one another in their local winter festival.
A Merry Royal Layoverby Teri Wilson When a veterinarian traveling to a remote European village to volunteer at an animal shelter during the Christmas holidays gets an unexpected first-class upgrade, she meets a charming stranger in the airport lounge who may or may not be the country’s crown prince.