Christmas Under A Starlit Sky by Holly Martin (Book 2 of the ‘A Town Called Christmas’ Series)

christmasunderastarlitsky

What they say: Step inside a beautiful winter wonderland where love, laughter and cosy nights by the fire will make this Christmas one to remember.

Neve Whitaker loves managing the Stardust Lake hotel. She gets to work alongside her wonderful family and she’s spending Christmas on the most enchanting, snow-covered island in Scotland. So why is her heart so heavy this festive season?

It might have something to do with the gorgeous actor Oakley Rey, the man she finished with before he left for California and the man she loves more than anything. With Oakley’s career in Hollywood soaring, Neve is convinced she’d only hold him back. She had to end it with him – at least that’s what she keeps telling herself.

But now she has a secret she’s struggling to keep, and when Oakley arrives on Juniper Island determined to win her back, Neve is thrown off balance. Will Neve’s fear of having her heart broken again push Oakley away for good, or is it time for her to take a leap of faith?

Get swept away by this deliciously sweet and heartwarming tale, and spend an unforgettable Christmas on Juniper Island.

 

The review: I had heard so much about the first book of this series, Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky, that when I saw this on Netgalley I was absolutely thrilled. I had read ‘Tied Up with Love‘ (by Holly Martin writing as Amelia Thorne) before I started blogging, and knew Ms. Martin’s romance and comedy to be exemplary, and her pacing excellent and again they didn’t disappoint.

There were four main characters in this book- and we meet them at the Stardust Lake Hotel where Neve is manager and Adam is on contract. I say four main characters but actually, there were a lot of minor characters here too, and I think that reading the first in this series would have been better to start with. Neve and Oakley have history and are trying to figure out whether they are willing to make it work (he is a famous actor whose life is in America, she is on Juniper Island in Scotland). It says in the blurb that Neve has a secret to keep and yes, it is a big one, with many missed chances for the revelation coming and going. This will annoy quite a few people, as there were roadblocks a plenty, and yes, some of them I predicted, in a ‘if such and such happened now it would be crazy,’ and then it would happen and yet, this book still hit the mark for me. I’m afraid the only issue I had was that I found some of the story to be a little confusing, in particular I didn’t have a feel for who the characters were in terms of their age and appearance and had to skip back in places to figure out what was going on, this could have been an editing issue or it could have just been me, I’m not sure to be honest.

There was another ‘will they, won’t they’ which was filled with lovely moments that were really sweet and had me nodding along. As I said above, Ms.Martin’s romance is perfection as was the chemistry in the book and the (cough) sex. What with that and the constant drama that had me read this in two evenings, it was a book I thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks to Netgalley for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Beyond The Lens (Lucy Mitchell book 1) by Hannah Ellis

beyond

Please note the cover image leads to a Universal Amazon link for the book

What they say:

Who says the camera never lies?

When twenty-six-year-old Lucy Mitchell loses her job, she
momentarily loses her mind too and agrees to take part in
a reality TV show. Before she knows it she’s jetting off to a
piece of paradise on a beautiful Spanish island.
Much to her surprise, Lucy makes new friends and has
the time of her life, even indulging in a behind-the-scenes
romance with a hunky cameraman.
Convinced the production will never make it to the screen,
Lucy is on cloud nine, but she soon finds that things are not always as they seem

 

The Review: You’ll remember I reviewed Friends Like These by Hannah Ellis (read review here  ) and My Kind Of Perfect (review here and extract here) and was thrilled with how warm and relatable her characters were, and how easy it was to fall into the story lines and accompany said characters on their journeys. This book, I’m happy to say, also ticked the box in this regard, plus so many more.

We meet Lucy Mitchell, shocked by the fact that she’s just lost her job, and in the mood to rebel just a little:

‘I’d never stolen anything before in my life. I couldn’t even bring myself to take a mint from the bowl beside the till at the hairdresser, so I was quite proud of the stapler in my handbag. At first, I’d considered returning it. I’d actually retraced my steps, sure I couldn’t live with the knowledge that I was basically a common thief.’

And that’s Lucy. Someone who has the hint of a rebel inside her that has tried to conform as much as possible. I warmed to Lucy straight away, as I did with most of the characters and smiled very early on in the book as Lucy realised that she was going to take her Mum’s, who’s motto surely is ‘seize the day,’ advice and do just that. I accompanied Lucy on holidays, again, as with Ms. Ellis’ other books, walking alongside her, grinning as events unfolded, and wondering where this journey would take her personally. I enjoyed the pacing, which ambled along in a book full of warm, light hearted banter, with friendships and romances blooming all around. There was everyday, easygoing action, as the contestants completed trials to get prizes, with comedy interspersed.

I must admit I then wondered what we were catching a glimpse of when hints of mystery were flashed at us. I knew that there was something coming, and was not prepared for the twist that arose. When I saw ‘part 2’ and things began to speed up, I was beyond surprised. The twist was great, and I began to question everyone ‘we’ had met, including Adam, which came as a surprise to me. This gave me my only issue, because although I had enjoyed the first part and was taken along with it, when the pacing picked up in part 2, I did wish that part 1 had been that bit more snappy and part 2 had been prolonged, just a little.

The characters were great, ones I look forward to meeting again, the romance was every gorgeous shade of perfect, and the comedy, warmth and mystery definitely satisfied.

Rating: 4/5

About the author

Hannahellis

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Twitter @BooksEllis

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Author page on Amazon

The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington

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Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say:

Every family has a story…

But for the Guinness family a happy ending looks out of reach. Olly and Mae’s marriage is crumbling, their teenage daughter Evie is on a mission to self-destruct and their beloved Pops is dying of cancer. Their once strong family unit is slowly falling apart.

But Pops has one final gift to offer his beloved family – a ray of hope to cling to. As his life’s journey draws to a close, he sends his family on an adventure across Europe in a camper van, guided by his letters, his wisdom and his love.

Because Pops knows that all his family need is time to be together, to find their love for each other and to find their way back home…

The Review: I have to start by reminding you of ‘Every time a bell rings’ which I reviewed last year (see review here) and re-iterating what a powerhouse author Carmel Harrington is. I’m lucky enough to know Carmel, through the Imagine, Write, Inspire writing group I belong to, and she is seriously one of the most vibrant, helpful, amazing people I’ve ever met. There’s a reason I’m telling you this, and that is that this book very much matches her personality. It is a book full of warmth, family and hope, a book that is full of messages and ideals, all nicely bundled together with fantastic imagery and great characters. I really enjoyed this book. I read it over three nights, and each day thought about it and looked forward to sitting down with it. As you can see from the blurb it involves a family that is falling apart heading off on a camper van journey. The journey itself is long, and puts us in different locations with so much description, that I found myself actually thinking of the day when I might bring my children on a similar one, to experience the culture and history and beauty that was ever present here. There were so many moments of faraway enchanting symbolism that were excellant.

There were arguments and tension that are all too real in family life, and a number of chords were struck. That being said I suppose I found at times it was a little too innocent especially in terms of the children, and they seemed old beyond their years at times but I don’t have girls so I just may not know what I’m talking about here!

I have to say that over that last year my taste in books has changed a lot, which I suppose it should. I used to struggle with books such as this, that were very homely, and Irish, with warm, wholesome romance but now I must say this is very much up my street. A special mention to Pops, I worried about him through out the book and was afraid to reach the end (not a spoiler!) Very much recommended and actually one I’ll be shouting about in the shorter evenings, where books such as this serve as a treat to be consumed in front of a fire, or at least in a warm room with the rain beating down outside. I loved this book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: I don’t know if I’ve told you previously about how I live for The Irish Book Awards? It pretty much dictates my reading in the Winter months, and I’ve found some of my favourite authors that way. Well now Ms. Harrington is nominated for this award. If you have read this book and want to vote for her look in the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year award here, or even if you just want to have a gander at the range of books and throw in a few votes for those you have read and enjoyed over the year from Irish authors then see fiction awards here . See non fiction here .

Enjoy voting (closes midnight 11th November 2016)!

Extract-Better In The Morning by Fern Ronay

Following my review of Better In The Morning yesterday (see review here), I’m thrilled to give you an extract of the book. Thanks again to the author for the book in return for an honest review and of course for the extract! Remember it’s only $0.99 at the moment!

betterinthemorning

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Length: 293 pages

Note: The cover image leads to an universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Veronica Buccino has a plan: marry John DelMonico and quit her soul-sucking job as a lawyer. And when he tells her he has big news, she’s certain he’ll pop the question. But instead of proposing, John informs her that he’s moving to London.

Heartbroken, Veronica feels lost. Salvatore and Antoinette, her dead grandparents, begin to visit her dreams in an attempt to steer her in the right direction. At their suggestion, Veronica takes a news reporting class, which leads to a challenging freelance assignment covering a conspiracy trial. She also begins dating an unlikely suitor: creative Syd Blackman.

Just when her love life and career are looking up, Veronica is tossed back to square one by an event that makes her question all her new choices.

The Extract:

“‘Overnight parking. Ten dollars an hour.’ That’ll cost ya a pretty penny,” Grandpa Sal said.

“‘Intermix. Sale.’ Look at that. They’re havin’ a big sale,” Grandma Ant pointed out.

I sat between my grandparents in the back of a cab. It was impossible to go two blocks without one of them reading a sign aloud.

“‘P.J. Clarkes.’ I knew a P.J. years ago. Peter Joseph. The Scarpettas. Nice family. Owned a butcher shop.”

I was squished, my knees high up as my feet rested on the hump in the middle.

“‘Haru.’ That’s that sushi stuff you like, right, Veronica?” My grandmother patted my leg. “She enjoys her sushi, our Veronica. Gah bless her.”

I studied the back of her head as she looked out the window. Her tight, white curls were sprayed in place.

“Why don’t you try sushi, Antoinette?” my grandfather teased.

“Why don’t you try it, Salvatore? Big shot. I’d like to see ya try that raw fish.”

My grandfather laughed without making a noise, his chubby hands on his big belly as he cracked himself up. “With a little gravy, a little mozzarella, I might like it.”

I smiled at the pronunciation. “Mootzadel,” I whispered to myself. My non-Italian friends always laughed at how I said it.

“I’ll believe that when I see it.” My grandmother leaned past me to look over at my grandfather.

“‘High-End Home Furnishings.’” My grandfather pointed. “That’s where they try to sell ya a ten-dollar vase for a hundred dollars. They call it high end.”

I laughed. I had bought a hundred-dollar vase there when I moved to the city.

“They got some beautiful stuff,” Grandma Ant countered.

The cab stopped at a red light, and I sat up to stretch my back. My grandmother took that opportunity to push my long, brown hair to the side and rub my back. The woman can’t keep her hands off me.

We were on our way to get cupcakes. I reminded myself that, technically, I was sleeping. And technically, I wouldn’t really eat a cupcake. And technically, my grandparents were dead.

But it all felt real—the cupcake, the cab, my grandparents—and technically, that was all that mattered.

I looked up as the light turned green. On our next visit, we’ll be discussing the big news.

“Right here,” I told the taxi driver as we pulled in front of The Cupcake Shop on West Seventy-Second Street. We hopped out without paying the cabbie. That was how it worked there—the waiters and waitresses and taxi drivers on the other side never expected to get paid. Grandpa Sal would say that was why they called it Heaven.

As my grandmother and I surveyed the selection in the glass case, my grandfather tapped my shoulder. “They don’t sell cannoli here? What kinda bakery is this?”

“Oh, um…” I looked up at the blackboard menu above the counter. “Nope. Sorry, Gramp. They have really good cupcakes though.”

“Cupcakes? Who wants a cupcake?”

“Don’t listen to him, Veronica,” my grandmother said. “He’s a pain in the coolie. What are you getting? I’m gonna have the red velvet. My friend Ruth was here with her grandson last week and said the red velvet is out of this world.”

“I’ll have the red velvet too,” I said.

My grandmother ordered, and as we left with our cupcakes, she stopped at the condiment bar to grab a handful of sugar packets. Before I could say “Gram, seriously?” she shrugged. “What? For my coffee later on.”

At restaurants, she used to take the leftover bread from the basket, wrap it in a napkin, and stuff it in her pocketbook. It mortified my mother and me, but she would say something about living through the Great Depression and ‘going without’ and ‘It’s a sin to let it go to waste.’

In front of the bakery, the three of us squeezed on a bench that I couldn’t recall ever having seen there before. My grandfather bit into a cannoli that came from I don’t know where. Another reason they call it Heaven.

The weather was perfect—a clear, crisp day, cool in the shade, warm in the sun.

I hope the weather is just like this tomorrow night.

“It’ll be like this tomorrow night,” Grandma Ant said. She was concentrating as she slowly pulled off the wrapper of her cupcake.

“I’m excited, but I don’t want to say too much,” I said. “I’m always afraid of jinxing things.”

I thought I heard Grandpa Sal make a noise. A “Ha” or a “Huh.” I turned to him as he furiously wiped cannoli powder off his sweater.

“Did you say something?”
“Me? No.” He wiped faster.
I peeled the wrapper off my cupcake and took a big bite. I closed

my eyes, enjoying the sun on my face as I worked my mouth around the perfect combination of cream cheese frosting and moist red cake.

“Look out!” my grandfather shouted.

I bolted up, eyes wide open. “What the fu—” I caught myself. “What?” I swiveled my head up and down the street and turned to look behind me toward the bakery, but I saw nothing amiss.

“That biker almost slammed into that car over there.” My grandfather motioned to the street with a jut of his chin.

“Or ya could say the car almost slammed into that bike rider,” my grandmother said.

“What? Stuff like that doesn’t happen here.” I looked around, still trying to find the biker and car in question.

“Nah, but ya know”—my grandfather held the cannoli wrapper in a tight ball in his fist—“close calls are always good reminders.”

“Gotta brace yourself,” Grandma Ant whispered. “For what?” I asked.

“Ya know—this, that, the other thing. Life, Veronica. Life.” Finished with her cupcake, she ran her pinky along each side of her mouth, making sure her orangey-red lipstick was still intact.

I looked back toward the street. Couples were holding hands as they walked. Young mothers pushed strollers.

“I don’t want to hear that,” I said. “Don’t I brace myself enough? Aren’t I nervous enough? Can’t I enjoy this?” I let out a satisfying exhale. “Can’t I enjoy this cupcake?” I sat back and took another bite. I chewed slowly when I felt my grandmother reach over and start smoothing my hair. I tried not to flinch or swat, but I did a sort of ducking motion instead. “Can you—can you—just please, Gram. Can I savor this in peace? Please.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah, sweetheart, of course. You enjoy.”

“You wanna have your cupcake and eat it too?” Grandpa Sal laughed. Grandma Ant laughed too.

I stifled an eye roll. “Yes.”
“Good luck, my little brasciole,” Grandpa said.
They know something. I can feel it, and I know I should ask them directly.

But I didn’t ask. Instead, I did the only thing I knew how to do up to that point: I ignored that uncomfortable feeling and focused on my cupcake. Cream cheese frosting is Heaven.

 About the author:

fernronay

Nobody says it better than the author herself! Read about Fern Ronay on her website here

On Goodreads

On Facebook

On Twitter

Instagram

On Snapchat @FernRonay

Better In The Morning by Fern Ronay

betterinthemorningAmazon

Barnes and Noble

Length: 293 pages

Note: The cover image leads to an universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Veronica Buccino has a plan: marry John DelMonico and quit her soul-sucking job as a lawyer. And when he tells her he has big news, she’s certain he’ll pop the question. But instead of proposing, John informs her that he’s moving to London.

Heartbroken, Veronica feels lost. Salvatore and Antoinette, her dead grandparents, begin to visit her dreams in an attempt to steer her in the right direction. At their suggestion, Veronica takes a news reporting class, which leads to a challenging freelance assignment covering a conspiracy trial. She also begins dating an unlikely suitor: creative Syd Blackman.

Just when her love life and career are looking up, Veronica is tossed back to square one by an event that makes her question all her new choices.

The Review: We meet Veronica with her grandparents Salvatore and Antoinette, having a run of the mill conversation that set the tone nicely. All are Italian, and I loved the tone, nuances and warmth of it all. The grandparents, as you most probably read in the blurb, are deceased, but Veronica can see, feel and speak to them as if they are alive. I have to admit, I’m not usually one for the supernatural, but Ms. Ronay did this beyond perfectly. I loved her grandparents, who gave us many sayings, words of wisdom and life lessons, throughout the book actually, with peeks into the past and the future. They also gave us sparks of comedy that hit the mark and made me smile regularly.

The story is of Veronica, who is waiting for her big break-from her career. She hates being a lawyer, and can’t take much more of her colleagues, Beverly and Kate, who seem to glean every ounce of happiness they can from Veronica, by throwing extra work and late nights at her constantly. Although they weren’t the nicest of people, they threw up one of my problems with this book-the fact that I found Veronica to be horrendously lazy! If she hadn’t spent so much time on the internet, looking up human interest stories, she wouldn’t have had to stay so late in the first place (I know, I’m harsh, but she was very lazy!) I couldn’t warm to her, there were a number of times I felt she overreacted, and I got a bit too much of the ‘I usually take too much rubbish from people’ vibe from her. I’m afraid at times this soured the story for me, just a little.  Aside from her, all of the characters did their jobs well, I enjoyed Jada, obviously loved the grandparents, and her parents, and Syd … oh how I loved Syd from the second he appeared! I looked forward to reading and read very quickly, there were many moments I truly enjoyed, and I always looked forward to picking it up. A nice light read that will be enjoyed by many, and only $0.99 at the moment! Tomorrow I’ll bring you an excerpt from the book. Thanks to the author for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

About the author:

fernronay

Nobody says it better than the author herself! Read about Fern Ronay on her website here

On Goodreads

On Facebook

On Twitter

Instagram

On Snapchat @FernRonay

 

 

A Village Romance (Book 2 in the Little Perran Romance series) by Lynda Renham writing as Amy Perfect

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Note: As always the cover image leads you to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say:

As a heatwave rolls into Little Perran, so does love. Billy Baxter, the has-been rock star, and Rafe Wylde, the hunky farm worker arrive, both destined to cause havoc as they touch the lives of the villagers. Milly finds a new job and things start to look up for her, but she is unaware that a ghost from her past is looking for her. 

Funny, Compassionate and Sizzling Sexy, A Village Romance is a page-turning summer read. A Village Romance is the second book in The Little Perran Romance series by Lynda Renham writing as Amy Perfect. 

The Review: There was a time when I ignored book series, dismissing them straight away as reads I wouldn’t have the time to follow through on, but this year things have changed and I’ve found myself embracing and really enjoying them.

And there was a lot to enjoy about A Village Romance, the second book in the Little Perran Romance series by Lynda Renham writing as Amy Perfect. The start of the book, with two characters I really liked, Billy Baxter,the aging rock star who doesn’t realise his star has faded somewhat. Billy is about as inappropriate as you can get (in a light way, the book doesn’t go over the top with him) and I was happy out. The other was an author, Ash, or if we’re to be correct about it, Ashley Wilmot-Fox, a prestigious young author who’s suffering emotionally as well as physically after an accident. I loved Ash, and felt very much for him and the situation he was in.

Now in the book there were  more characters, Millie, who I loved, so simple and down to earth, and then others who I didn’t warm to so much, in fact I’d go as far as to say that the town had its fair share of people who were, well, to put it in the words of one of the characters “People get too worked up about things in this village.” And that said it all. I felt that a lot of the little mix ups that inevitably happen along the way in a book to create some comedy  were over reacted to and in terms of a book, that means either the events weren’t big enough to warrant a reaction, or the people were over the top. This was unfortunate as it was a very enjoyable, quick read, with so many other pluses to it, namely the three characters I mentioned and the lovely homely descriptions of beautiful scenic settings. In my limited experience (as I’ve said I only started reading series this year), this is my first that wasn’t chick lit and so maybe I couldn’t put it together and warm to it as much as usual, this had a touch of comedy in it but was more windswept romance of the ‘swoon’ type, which will appeal to those of you who like those take her in your arms type book, with some hot scenes thrown in, though more takes place towards the end of the book than at the start which is more concerned with showing us village life in Little Perran. Personally I would read this as part of the series as opposed to a standalone, the first being ‘A Christmas Romance,’ as I think it would serve to let you get to know the characters better.

The book ended on an excellent cliff hanger, and I look forward to the next installment, A Summer Romance, out the 1st July. Thanks to the author for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Check out my previous interview with Lynda Renham and some reviews, including ‘Rory’s Proposal‘ a romantic comedy I really warmed to, and  Perfect Weddings which I also enjoyed!

The Author Online:

thumbnail_pKTCLgh8_400x400LyndaRenham

Facebook

Twitter @lyndarenham

Website

A Summer of Secrets by Alice Ross

summerofsecrets

 

What they say:

A perfect, feel-good summer read about love, life and family.

One long hot summer. Secrets never stay buried for long…

Portia is determined to restore Buttersley Manor, her family’s crumbling ancestral home, to its former glory. Yet she has a feeling that there are a few forgotten skeletons in the dust-covered cupboards.

Jenny has put her life on hold for far too long. It’s time to finally start living and to dig up those hopes and dreams she’s kept hidden all these years – but is she brave enough?

Rich is happily married with a beautiful wife and lovely daughter. In fact, his world is perfect until a very unexpected consequence of his past walks through the door…

Joe would like nothing more than to travel back in time to when he and Gina were happy. But is it too late to rescue what they once had?

One thing’s for sure, nothing’s ever quite what it seems when it comes to life in the country!

Perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley, Cathy Bramley and Claire Sandy.

The review: I remember a time where I read a handful of books a year, mostly because I was busy studying and when I had free time I didn’t want to acknowledge the written word existed, let alone spend time ingesting it. Back then when I read chick lit, it was mostly as this one was, multiple stories co-exist and there’s a point of crossover where you go ‘oh’ and everything comes together. This was well done but due to my confusion over characters I’m afraid it didn’t give quite the impact I remember getting before.Sorry, I’ll go back to the start.

And at the start I’m afraid I was a little confused, which was a pity as I loved both the narrative and the warm, rich tone that I love to find in books with a cover such as this. Given that this is part two of a series, I would say that I felt like I was jumping into the middle of a book and so would recommend this as being read in order. We met Portia Pinkington Smythe facing some bad news from a solicitor. There was something about it all that felt like I’d missed something along the way. Next we met Rich Stephens being propositioned by a customer. The change over of characters within one chapter was a little disorientating, I think I’ve gotten used to there being changeovers where there is a relationship between the characters or the story-lines, but here there was a disconnect. We also met Jenny, whose story I warmed to greatly and conversely, Joe, a character I couldn’t warm to and I’d say, quite meanly actually, but it has to be said, that if the book hadn’t contained Joe I’d have enjoyed it a lot more.

Joe was a window cleaner working his way around every woman in the locality, and the book gave in to some very cliche stereotypes of bored housewives, with some of it quite tacky as they went looking to have some fun. The women, and Joe himself got on my nerves, I’m afraid, and by the time we were shown what an amazingly great guy he was in the eyes of the rest of the community he was lost to me, aided by the fact that he was seen as the local hero who could do no wrong (we were constantly reminded of this).

There were aspects of this book I loved, the warmth of it, the descriptions and the actual writing. Buttersley was lovely and some of the characters really made it come alive for me.

To be honest, Alice Ross is amazing at homely descriptions and if I knew there wasn’t a Desperate Housewives/ Hollywood Wives aspect in her other books, or indeed any canoodling(just as it doesn’t fit properly), I’d definitely read her work again. Also to me this book is probably the type of book better read in paperback for the flicking backward and forth aspect due to the huge amount of characters but then everyone’s different so maybe not. A very tough one to rate, I’d love to give it more as even when I read over my notes I realised how much I enjoyed it but then there  was a little too much that niggled at me too. Thanks to Netgalley for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Rest of My Life by Sheryl Browne

 

therestof

Amazon US

Amazon UK

What they say: You can’t run away from commitment forever …
Adam Hamilton-Shaw has more reason than most to avoid commitment. Living on a houseboat in the Severn Valley, his dream is to sail into the sunset – preferably with a woman waiting in every port. But lately, his life looks more like a road to destruction than an idyllic boat ride…
Would-be screenplay writer Sienna Meadows realises that everything about Adam spells trouble – but she can’t ignore the feeling that there is more to him than just his bad reputation. Nor can she ignore the intense physical attraction that exists between them.
And it just so happens that Adam sees Sienna as the kind of woman he could commit to. But can he change his damaging behaviour – or is the road to destruction a one-way street?

The Review: First off apologies for being MIA for so long. This is the point where most bloggers will tell you they’ve written a book in the time they were absent, or they were researching, or editing. Alas I cannot use any of these as explanations. In truth, everything kind of got to me and I started to feel a bit weighed down with everything I had planned to do. Something akin to this happens every so often, I do the whole ‘am I a writer or a blogger?’ thing, and I started to think I was neither as I sometimes feel so bogged down with everything and feel like everyone has found the magic way to balance stuff or just knows how to do it better. I know this is silly, as an avid blogger reader I continuously read blog posts of reading slumps, or hitting the wall in terms of writing, or feeling stressed, or down, and I know everyone’s trying to find their way through but in truth it was more likely lack of sleep, lack of planning and forgetting why I started all of this in the first place. Thankfully, I’m nearly sure I’m back to where I was before and just in time too! I have so many books to share with you before I fully commit to chick lit for May, the month of chick lit, so here we go!

The marketing for The Rest of My Life is a force to be reckoned with, because I have been looking at the cover of this book non stop for some time through tweets, Facebook posts and blog posts. What was unusual for me was that I knew it was steamy and yet I was still fully gung ho about reading it (I am a known prude that generally avoids sex in books and most definitely tries not to blog about it!).

Now I want you to bear with me and think of all the films out there that people say that you need to take with a pinch of salt, or tell you to leave your thoughts at the door and if you do then you’ll be where I am with this one. Adam and Sienna are both living on houseboats in the Severn Valley. Sienna, a screenwriter who’s been told to write steamier love scenes, is struggling, and daydreams about her neighbour (Adam), who seems to be living out the sort of fantasies she needs to inject into her work with the assistance of all the local women who seem to only one thing on their minds.

As you can see from the description this book is the story of how road blocks are put up for the pair as they struggle to see if there was any chance for them as a couple while carrying out a little experiment.

From the get-go I was pulled along, I couldn’t stop reading, I particularly loved that she was a writer and we got to experience avid descriptions. As a result of this the words flew by in an extremely enjoyable ride (excuse the pun please-ahem). Their first meeting was done brilliantly, with an incident involving a dog that made me smile. The chemistry was amazing, their sexual encounters mesmerizing and the banter brilliant. My problem, ie the part that I had to try to switch off from, was all the other characters and their attitudes. They seemed to have nothing else to do except throw in their two cents on the possibility of the two becoming a couple. The prevailing attitude was: Adam equals bad man, Sienna equals young innocent who cannot make decisions for herself. This went along with the general consensus that women had no minds of their own and any wrongdoing was the fault of the men and I will admit that by the end I was fairly infuriated with both and the men and women. These were hammered home in clashes with other characters that were a little too over the top for me.

All of this was a pity as it would have been a five out of five for me had the attitudes of the men and women not been so backward. There were so many pluses to this book, and I smiled at some very nicely done comic moments but I think it’s very much more for people who are into their pure romance and like a little comedy thrown in as opposed to those who like romantic comedies. And yet, this book will fit some people perfectly and be their five star gem (so many bloggers out there have deemed this book a forceto be reckoned with). Thanks so much to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating 3.5/5

 

Author Interview: Jan Birley: The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett


 

thelostandfoundlife

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So a big hello to Jan Birley, author of the brilliant ‘The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett,’ (see here for review). First off, can you tell me a little bit about it in your own words?

Rosy’s story could have been told in many ways. The tale of a woman finding herself in a troubled world, she neither asked for or deserved, and how she fights her way back to a new life, can come in countless different shapes and sizes. Rather like women. Rosy is strong and feisty and has no idea of what she is capable of until challenged. That doesn’t mean she always gets it right, far from it. She is weak when it comes to dealing with one of her sons and overcompensates, but she feels guilty – quite unjustifiably – for her boy being so unhappy. She loves him and excuses him when she shouldn’t. I’ve certainly been there! Inheriting the alpacas is certainly one of her challenges but they are dear creatures with heavenly faces and I think she finds them an emollient. I like Rosy, I like the fact she isn’t afraid to speak her mind and sometimes doesn’t behave in the way she should. Like me – like us all I suspect. Her story is largely based in the pretend village of Kirmington Abbas in Dorset and although my books will be very different, they will all have a thread of the village running through them, however small. One day, I shall write a book about the village and all the main protagonists will re-appear. Then we can find out how Rosy really got on!

Sitting down to write this, did you have the whole story planned out or did your characters take the reins and surprise you? And added to this, did you know at the start which characters you warmed to and which you didn’t?

I always have my story planned out at the outset. I spend considerable time trying to think through the plot. I try hard not to have the main character do something that is annoying. Making mistakes is fine but I know when I read a book, and halfway through, the main character decides she won’t tell the father she is pregnant or something, when it is obvious she must, puts me off reading the rest. However, this perfectly planned plot then goes pear shaped when I start to write. As you say – the characters take the reins and canter off into the distance with me ineffectually and feebly trying to pull back. To start off with I liked all of the characters, except for one obviously dodgy one (no spoilers) but as the book developed I became increasingly irritated by one of the men who wanted to figure more in Rosy’s life. Luckily, she thought so too.

Was the move based on personal experience and what did you think of Rosy’s sons, Archie and James’ reactions to the move??

The move was based on personal experience, yes. We moved from London to Dorset three years ago; although my circumstances didn’t involve alpacas or errant husbands! James was always going to find the move hard and the one person he could lash out at was his mother – which he certainly did. Archie behaved how Rosy knew he would, mature beyond his years, he was a rock although Rosy knew only too well she shouldn’t be thinking of a young teenage boy as such.

In general, the premise of the book, and how Rosy picked herself up, was brilliant! Can I ask how you had the idea for Rosy’s way of obtaining an income and did it take a lot of research?

I’m never too sure where the idea of alpacas came from – but I’m happy it did from somewhere! I spent time on an alpaca farm not too far from London learning about them and their ways. If I could, I would love to have a couple of these lovely creatures of my own but our garden in Dorset is too small and although it would be perfectly possible at our home in Italy, we are not there for long enough for it to be feasible. As far as Rosy coming up with the idea of making money I know that many make alpaca socks, scarves and hats but I wanted something different and when I found out that material could be made from alpaca wool, it seemed the answer to her problems.

I love that it came from personal experience, actually, I was really hoping you’d say that it was and I hope someday I’ll get to see one, they sound like beautiful animals in looks and personality. Now finally, did you know the ending of the story to start with or did it surprise you? The ending didn’t surprise me but the strength of Rosy’s feelings did. I think they even surprised her. Up to this point she hadn’t been entirely honest with herself and the final events made her wake up and confront her emotions.

Thanks so much for being here with me today, Jan, and again, loved the book, congratulations:) And thanks again to Aimee from Hello Chick Lit for introducing me to Rosy and Jan!

Thank you for the interview and your help. I am so happy you enjoyed reading about Rosy.

About the author

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The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett by

thelostandfoundlife

Amazon UK

Amazon US

What They Say: Rosy loved her London life – her job in a designer shop, her gorgeous West London family house and of course her gorgeous family (although young sons are enough to test anyone at times). All that disappears when, one unremarkable morning, after one unremarkable school run, her husband collapses on a crowded tube carriage and dies.
As she struggles her way through the grief, she discovers her husband’s secret life: secrets accounts, secret deals that their solicitor knew nothing of, secret debts and what looks like a secret “very close friend” at least.
Totally unprepared and suddenly in debt, Rosy is forced to leave London to start a new life with her incredibly reluctant boys in the countryside. Can angsty urban teenagers cope with farm life, let alone enjoy it? More to the point, can their mother? It’s certainly not going to be easy but when you are at rock bottom the only way is up.

The Review: I had seen this book around a lot and loved the premise of it.  I’m always a sucker for books where everything’s turned on its head and the characters have to start afresh. This book was everything I thought it would be and then some. I began it by warming to her husband, of course forgetting the blurb straight away, and then getting a shock when he collapsed. It hit me in the stomach and I kept thinking two things: first: ‘Tell him that you love him,’ and secondly, how

“Simon gestured apologetically to their disappearing backs, having missed their last waves”

as my eyes flew on trying to take it all in while trying to hold back the ‘what would I do?’ thoughts. Because believe me, a lot of them come with this book. Ms. Birley has the gift of taking you along on the story with her, while showing you that the main character, Rosy, like you or I, never expected the rug to be pulled out from under her feet. It was something that would happen to somebody else, and I really empathised with her. I frowned in agreement as she pondered the financial intricacies that come with the loss of one of the principal bread earner and wondered how her part-time job would pay the bills.

The next part, the changing of their location from city to countryside, was done brilliantly. I loved the descriptions and the detail and was hooked, always good when you’ve such a drastic change in location, as sometimes your mind favours one over the other. Even as the shocks (and there are some biggies) came, Rosy continued to put a brave face on and I loved her strength, her decisions, her reasoning. Actually I just loved her and all the other characters that performed their duties perfectly, in particular, I wanted to hug her older son James and best friend Emma and felt for her younger son Archie while wanting to throttle him! My opinions of people (including her husband) went up and down in parallel with Rosy’s, which I appreciated. I also welcomed the introduction of the vet, Henry Carpenter, and a special mention has to go to the introduction of Theo Williams (you’ll get to know him when you read;)) Ups, downs, surprises (some a tiny bit out there, but acceptable in such a great book), romance, comedy and a genius story-line on the way that Rosy decides to keep the house afloat – this was a book I devoured, smiling with satisfaction afterwards. Highly recommended for all chick lit fans. Thanks to the author and Hello Chick Lit for the book in return for an honest review. Oh and stay tuned for an author interview with Ms. Birley on Thursday:)

Rating: 4.5/5

The Author

janbirley

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