‘After a bruising divorce, headstrong Juliet Miller invests in a flat and advertises for a flatmate, little believing that in her mid-thirties she'll find anyone suitable. But along comes self-employed copywriter Floz, raw from her own relationship split, and the two woman hit it off. When Juliet's twin brother Guy meets Floz, he is overcome with a massive crush. But being a shy, gentle giant, he communicates so clumsily with her as to give her the opposite impression. Guy's best friend Steve has always had a secret, unrequited crush on Juliet. After a night of too much wine, Steve and Juliet end up in bed, after moaning about the lack of sex in their lives. Convinced that Juliet doesn't feel the same way, Steve agrees to a 'just-sex' relationship, until they can both hook their dream partners. Just when Guy has finally plucked up the courage to tell Floz how he feels, he finds she has rekindled an old romance. Floz has never had much love in her life and is obviously thirsty for affection. She loves the whole Miller family, from Juliet and Guy's warm, loving parents, to their ancient one-eyed black cat. But can Guy turn Floz's affection for his family into something more - into love for him? Then Juliet makes a series of discoveries which will turn the lives of all four friends upside-down and turns that Autumn into a season where love can be harvested.’
Newly divorced Juliet Miller needs a flatmate to help her cover her mortgage payments and can’t believe her luck when Floz moves in and the two quickly become fast friends. Once Juliet’s twin brother Gus meets Floz he’s smitten, but finds he’s incapable of doing anything right when she’s around. Meanwhile Gus’ best mate Steve has been in love with Juliet for years but she can’t stand him, what can he do to make her see him differently?
Both Juliet and Floz made excellent heroines, Juliet’s fiery temperament made a brilliant pairing with Floz’ quieter, calmer personality. The extent of Floz’s tragic history came as a bit of a shock to me, and made me even more anxious for her to achieve her happy ending. More than anything I wanted her to open up to Gus so he could help her as he obviously wants to.
I wasn’t too sure about Floz’s internet relationship. It slowed the action down a little too much for me and seemed a bit improbable. However, it did illustrate the caring side of Floz’s character, and created a situation for her to be rescued by Gus.
Gus’ attempts to woo Floz were hilarious, especially when he began to get more and more desperate in his plans, which of course then go even more desperately wrong! I felt so sorry for him, but couldn’t stop giggling at the same time.
I always imagine Milly Johnson having a fantastic time writing her books, and she certainly makes the most of researching opportunities: having Steve and Gus involved in wrestling was innovative and an enjoyable addition to the plot. I suspect it was also an inspired way for Ms Johnson to get her paws on some hunky fellas all in the name of research me thinks!
Milly Johnson is creating a wonderful aura around her books. They are consistently very, very good and full of original, lovable characters and heart-warming moments. They’re pretty much guaranteed to brighten up even the dullest of days. ‘An Autumn Crush’ is certainly no exception and happily more than lived up to my expectations.
Johnson’s brilliantly written characters kept me well and truly the enticed. Her adeptness at delicately unfurling her protagonists’ feelings and past secrets means that ‘An Autumn Crush’ was incredibly tough to put down and proved an extremely satisfying read right up until the last line of the epilogue, which had me grinning manically for at least an hour after reading it. Great stuff.
4 and a half stars
‘In Vista Heights, the women of the neighborhood have started to look like their homes, varying shades of beige. Lost in this world of suburbia, Marissa Lyons learns her high school nemesis has bought the house right across the street from her. Afraid that her arch enemy, Beatrice Munson, will arrive with Marissa’s high school crush as her husband and cause Marissa to relive the insecurity of high school in her forties she decides to face the music and heads to Beatrice’s house with warm cupcakes. But what Marissa finds is something she never expected. How will Marissa and the rest of the women of San Martino deal with someone like Beatrice Munson, whose defining moment in her life was to get a boob job or go on a trip to Egypt.
This story is about friendship, love, learning to look at things differently, and great parties.
Step into the world of VistaHeights where you might recognize the women, or you might be one of them.’
The arrival of the eponymous Miss Munson into the rather staid suburban neighbourhood of Vista Heights is narrated by Marissa, a divorced mother of two. Marissa remembers Beatrice from their schooldays together when Beatrice dated Marissa’s high school crush, Jeffery.
Deciding to put old jealousies behind her, Marissa makes some cupcakes and knocks on Beatrice’s door, never imagining how that one action would change the course of her life completely. Before long, Beatrice’s dazzling personality is bringing all sorts of changes, but one thing’s for sure; the lives of Beatrice’s new friends will never be beige again!
Marissa made a lovely narrator, she had enough going on in her own life to make her an interesting character, but she was also a very good vehicle to observe Beatrice and the difference she makes to Vista Heights.
I loved how, at first appearances, all the suburban women seemed rather similar, and it’s Beatrice’s influence and encouragement which really bring out all their individual characters. The ladies become extremely entertaining and inspiring in the changes they make to their homes and work.
Colour played a huge part in this book; it was symbolic of freedom and excitement and seemed to encapsulate Beatrice and her world perfectly. Before Beatrice arrived on the scene, Marissa and her friends’ lives lacked colour: their entire existences as well as their houses and clothes were beige. Beatrice literally and metaphorically brought much-needed colour into their lives. She was an inspiring character and seemed to see the good in practically everyone and everything.
Bathey obviously really loves material and clothes: her descriptions of some of the outfits in the book were very well done and were a brilliant avenue for the author to get across more about the characters to her readers.
The one little disappointment I felt with this work was that I felt it needed slightly better editing. I found a number of errors dotted throughout it and words being repeated several times in very close proximity. However, this didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of this lovely story.
I was very impressed by ‘Beatrice Munson’. The novel was inspiring and thought provoking. It managed to reduce me to both laughter and tears and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this original and heart-warming tale.
“Vicar's daughter Izzy feels hugely guilty that she's having a very good war. Having learned to fly in a travelling circus before the war, she's now joined the Air Transport Auxiliary as one of their few female pilots and is having the time of her life. The only cloud on the horizon is having to lie to her father about her exact role in the ATA. Her father is against the whole notion of women flying – he certainly wouldn't approve of her becoming a 'spitfire girl'.
Izzy also feels distinctly out of place among the more upper class ladies of the ATA. She would love to be as worldly as her flighty housemate, Julia, or as sophisticated as society wife Clare. But when Izzy finds herself falling for the charms of a dashing American doctor it is to Julia and Clare that she turns for help...”
For Izzy, World War II means that she gets to live out her dream of flying – she joins the Air Transport Auxiliary as one of the female pilots used during the war. She adores the adventure and freedom of her job, the only downside being that she has to lie to her parents about what she does – the strict Scottish vicar and his wife would never approve of her chosen career. And when Izzy falls in love with an American doctor she soon has another secret to keep under wraps.
Many miles away from Izzy is her best friend Elspeth. Elspeth signed up to be a Lumberjill because she liked the uniform and has regretted the decision since her first day on the job. She’s fed up of being cold, sore and living off carrot sandwiches and longs to swap places with Izzy, who has the luxuries like hot baths, a warm home and proper food. She needs to find a way out and it looks like a handsome Newfie could be the answer.
My Grandmother served in the WAF during the Second World War (although she kept her feet firmly on the ground!) so the book’s subject matter is something that’s always interested me. I was vaguely aware that there had been female pilots at the time, but had never considered just how much danger their jobs entailed and how a lot of people must have reacted to them: two aspects of the novel which I found absolutely fascinating.
I was first introduced to Isla Dewar many years ago by my mum who lent me the wonderful ‘Keeping Up With Magda’. I hadn’t read anything by the author for a long time now and was really pleased when this came through my letter box. ‘Izzy’s War’ was written in a very different style to ‘Keeping Up With Magda’, but was, for me, an even more pleasing book. It captured the era beautifully and, though I’m not an expert in the Second World War, she definitely had the ‘feel’ spot on.
The experiences of both the heroines kept me gripped. Even when they made silly decisions or reacted badly to something, I was always on their side and could understand why they had got themselves into the situation. I thought Izzy’s guilt at enjoying what she was doing whilst the world seemed to be being ripped apart was particularly well-written.
Izzy’s fellow pilots provided a wonderfully vibrant and eclectic supporting cast. They were a fantastic mix of women who had been thrown together under very peculiar circumstances purely because they could all fly planes.
I loved the theme running throughout the book of how the country being at war changed individuals. It was accepted, to a certain extent, that social mores were relaxed during the War; people did things that they’d never have dreamed of before, and not knowing what the future holds makes people behave much less conservatively, seeing each other in a whole different light.
Isla Dewar appears to be a natural when it comes to writing historical fiction. Izzy and Elspeth have very different experiences during the war, but both ‘did their bit’and helped me to appreciate just what so many women did during the war years to support their men and country. Dewar’s characterisation was very good, she really seemed to let her characters speak for themselves and lead the way in how they dealt with the peculiar circumstances in which they found themselves. I’m thoroughly looking forward to the author’s next work, ‘A Winter Bride’, which is out later this month.
‘Lucky Santangelo is back with a vengeance - in a novel full of power, passion, revenge, and the raging family dynamics of the Santangelo clan - and, as always, Lucky comes out on top! In Goddess of Vengeance Lucky Santangelo rules with her high profile casino and hotel complex - The Keys in Vegas. Lennie, her ex-movie star husband is still writing and directing successful independent movies, while Max, her wild and gorgeous teenage daughter is about to celebrate her 18th birthday, and her son, Bobby, owns a string of hot clubs. Lucky has everything. Family. Love. Life. And everything is exactly what billionaire businessman Armand Jordan is determined to take from her one way or the other.’
Jackie Collin’s ‘Goddess of Vengence’ follows the next chapter in Lucky Santangelo’s tangled, privileged and very exciting life. In this instalment, Lucky has to fight Armand Jordan, the evil billionaire determined to buy Lucky's casino and resort The Keys in Las Vegas. Tough and unscrupulous, he employs any means necessary to achieve his desires.
Collins is one of the world’s best-selling authors, her books having sold more than 400 million copies in over 40 countries, and yet, I’ll admit, that before this novel, I was a Jackie Collins virgin - although with the amount of sex and drugs contained in ‘Goddess of Vengence’ I think it’s fair to say she wasn’t really gentle with me!
Lucky Santangelo first appears in Collins’ 1981 novel ‘Chances’ and is probably her most successful heroine to date. I was gripped by Lucky’s adventures from the very beginning of the book, despite the fact that I hadn’t read any of the previous stories about the extended Santangelo family. The writing is entertaining and the style very easy to read; it’s simple to see how so many readers get hooked on her novels.
As ‘Goddess of Vengence’ contains an abundance of characters, all with very complex pasts, it was a little exhausting remembering all the details after a while, but I thought Collins did a good job of getting a new reader up to speed with their backgrounds. It can easily be read as a stand-alone novel, although I would have liked to have read the previous books first.
The story takes place over only a few days which certainly kept the action going at a good pace throughout. I was a little disappointed by the ending, which lacked the ‘big bang’ that I was expecting. I anticipated more in the way of plot twists from this book, but it all seemed fairly straightforward, even the ‘Who’s the Daddy’? mystery wasn’t hard to crack.
Lucky was a fantastic character, and I would have liked the book to have centred more around her than on her daughter’s exploits. The story was more about Lucky’s daughter Max and her tangled love life and exploits than anyone else. I really enjoyed the parts concerning Bobby, Lucky’s son, although Armand Jordan was definitely my favourite character – he was just such a fantastic bad guy! I could hardly wait to see what he would come up with next.
There was something about this book that made it extremely easy to disappear into; it was pure, wonderful escapism! It’s clear to see why Jackie Collins has such a loyal following; I suspect her novels could become very addictive. I thought Lucky was brilliant, such a strong, confident woman, and although her life is a little unrealistic for most of us, I enjoyed my brief foray into her world.
3 and a half stars
'From the poverty of post-war England and Ireland to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood's golden age, a beautiful, sweeping family drama that illustrates that the bonds between a mother and daughter can never be broken. An unwanted child: San Francisco, 1958. On a dark December night, a baby girl is left at the Sisters of Charity Orphanage on Telegraph Hill. A mysterious suicide: One year later, movie star Frances Fitzgerald takes her own life. Her husband, wealthy businessman Maximilian Stanhope, is rumoured to know more about her death than he's letting on, but nothing is ever proved. A terrible secret: What is the connection between these two events? That's what Frances's daughter, Cara, wants to find out. Abandoned by her mother when she is just seven years old, her childhood is filled with hardship and loss. As a young woman she finds professional success as a journalist, but on a personal level, she still struggles to trust those around her. Soon Cara becomes convinced that uncovering the secret behind her mother's death is the only way to lay her demons to rest, but learning the truth may end up tearing her apart.'
When seventeen-year-old Irish farmgirl Franny finds herself pregnant, she flees to London to start a new life with her baby. After years of struggling in the East End, Franny is offered her dream opportunity – she’s being flown to Los Angeles to become a real Hollywood movie star. Not able to take her daughter Cara, with her, Franny leaves the girl with relatives and promises to come back for her soon.
However, just a few years after taking LA by storm, Franny suddenly and mysteriously commits suicide. Her new husband, businessman Maximilian Stanhope, is suspected of somehow being involved, but nothing is ever proven.
Years later, having survived an awful childhood, Cara becomes a journalist determined to find out the truth behind her mother’s death.
Spanning twenty-six years, ‘Fallen Ages’ takes the reader from the deep Irish countryside, to the post-war East End of London and onto Hollywood during its golden age. I found the book absolutely fascinating from its cultural history perspective, and I imagine that Tara Hyland had a wonderful time researching for this novel.
Hyland’s newest offering was certainly much grittier than her last work, ‘Daughters of Fortune’ which followed the adventures of a very prosperous and successful family. Cara really had to fight just to make it through some of the toughest times in her childhood, particularly during her time at an orphanage where she is horribly victimised. Her character was so awe-inspiring that I couldn’t help but root for her. She was kind and loving, although guarded, even after all that she’d been through, which I found very touching.
Hyland can certainly spin a good yarn; my poor, long-suffering husband was completely ignored whilst I happily ploughed my way through this book in a single sitting. Although I didn’t approve of Franny’s actions, I adored reading about her life as a Hollywood starlet, and this was definitely my favourite part of the novel. Hyland’s writing really helped to bring this past era back to life for me.
The ending of the saga was a complete and very satisfying surprise. Whilst describing Cara’s investigations, Hyland managed to keep the suspense high and had me gripped. I thought the various settings the author utilises were original and engrossing; the Hollywood scenes in particular added a touch of magic to the book for me. The two female protagonists were brilliantly written and their lives were often thrilling, sometime tragic, and consistently very entertaining and made fantastic reading.
‘It's not you, it's me
That's the cowardly text message that Katie receives from Jack, her actor boyfriend of three years, when he dumps her. And things go from bad to worse when photos of Jack canoodling with a famous size-zero actress are splashed across every gossip magazine and tabloid soon after. Just how much humiliation can a girl take?
With the paparazzi camped out on her doorstep, Katie decides to preserve what's left of her dignity. So she agrees to become her PR colleagues' next project. They will make her over (hair, teeth, clothes, Botox, boobs - the works) and turn her into an instant celebrity in order to win back her ex and show the world that an ordinary girl can rival a beautiful bimbo.
But will a new life in the limelight be everything Katie dreamt of? Can she make it in the cut-throat world of the beautiful, rich and famous? Is Jack worth all the hassle or is there someone else out there who might love Katie just the way she is?’
When Katie is dumped via text message by Jack, her boyfriend of three years, she doesn’t think things can get much worse. Until that is she discovers that Jack has been having an affair with a very famous and very beautiful actress. Luckily for Katie, her PR colleagues have a plan – they’ll give her the make-over to end all make-overs. With any luck by the time they’re finished Katie won’t recognise herself and Jack will be begging her for forgiveness. But the question is, just how much is Katie willing to change?
Katie’s story was a great idea, and was really fun and entertaining. Most women who’ve been unceremoniously dumped would love the concept of having the opportunity to reinvent themselves and make the man who had the audacity to spurn them very, very sorry indeed. But of course Katie’s transformation doesn’t go without a hitch, which is what really makes the story.
Sadly, I did feel that the storyline was a little padded in places, and whilst the concept of the novel was undoubtedly a good one, for me, Katie’s transformation didn’t quite go far enough and seemed perhaps incomplete.
The book packed an impressive array of minor characters, really adding spice to the ‘celebrity’ scenes in particular, and though it did take a little while to get them all straight in my head, it was worth the effort: I loved sharing Katie’s journey as she gradually uncovered their true personalities - there were some brilliant surprises along the way.
Katie was an endearing protagonist, a little naïve, but essentially a good person. I did wish that she’d stick up for herself a bit more, she allows herself to be pushed around far too easily. I liked her relationship with her family; Katie’s mother was very amusing and creatively written. However, for someone who’s supposed to be heart-broken, Katie certainly bounces back fast. It’s only a couple of days after she’s been dumped and she’s already eyeing up her driver Bailey.
Bailey himself was a bit of a puzzle to me. He sort of hung around looking confused and unsure of himself, and I couldn’t tell what he was thinking or feeling. This meant that I didn’t quite know enough about him to judge if he was worthy of Katie’s affections, and there were elements of his storyline that seemed to appear a little out of nowhere, detracting from his budding relationship with Katie.
Daley has a fresh, unpretentious writing style that I enjoyed, and although there were aspects of this novel that weren’t quite right for me I enjoyed following Katie’s adventures. Daley’s lovely debut kept me engrossed and entertained, and I look forward to seeing what she produces next.
3 and a half stars