'Bobbie's children never listen to a word she says. Even worse, her mother has a new boyfriend: the notorious child expert Dr Know, who dishes out hard-line advice to the nation. Could parenting classes control her kids - and save her marriage? Andy's wife is due to run a Perfect Parents course at the local school. But when she scarpers, he's left to look after their two teenage
daughters - and face his own childhood demons. Vanessa has found love, second-time round. But one night, six-year-old Sunshine is deposited on her doorstep with a message from Vanessa's estranged daughter, 'Please look after her'. This time she's determined to get it right. Can Bobbie, Andy and Vanessa really learn the secret of raising a happy family?'
If anyone’s in need of some parenting advice its mum-of-two-little-horrors Bobbie – with a husband who’s always working, Bobbie struggles to control her children, and could really do with a hand! When parenting classes start up at her children’s school, Bobbie decides to join one for parents with young children, trying not to be too put off by the fact that the class for parents of teenagers is due to be run by Bobbie’s perfect sister-in-law, Pamela, whose teenage daughters never seem to put a foot wrong.
Joining Bobbie in the class is Vanessa, who finds her granddaughter, Sunshine, left with her one night. As her daughter seems in no hurry to return to her little girl, it looks like Vanessa had better get used to having a child around again.
Andy, husband to Pamela, doesn’t normally have much to do with bringing up his children, he’s usually working. But when Pamela disappears to her mother’s, Andy’s left to run her parenting class. The problem is that a few days in charge at home quickly teaches Andy that his daughters aren’t nearly as well behaved as he thought, and he’s in desperate need of some parenting
My favourite character in the novel was undoubtedly Andy – I loved how shocked he is when he discovers just what his daughters are really like! It was also brilliant when he’s told off by the cleaning lady when he takes over some of her jobs out of pure boredom at being stuck at home all the time.
I felt sorry for Bobbie, who really isn’t coping with her children, but I also found her very frustrating: she keeps getting herself into one mess after another, the woman’s a liability! I thought her relationship with Andy was very interesting, and extremely well written from both of their viewpoints.
The scenes set in the parenting classes themselves were very good – there was a wonderful mixture of problems that every parent can relate to combined with more serious issues, and some very funny anecdotes and parenting
Well, I’m not sure I’d give this book to anyone planning on having children soon: the kids in it are a bunch of rotters! What a horrid lot! No wonder their parents join the classes – it gives them a few hours away from their hideous offspring! However, this makes a fab read for those of us who are parents: it’s funny and poignant, with some nice little twists in the tale, and whilst reading it you can be pretty confident you can’t possibly be doing as
bad a job as some of this lot!
‘Sun, sea and secrets...A week on the sunny Greek island of Kethos is just what Alice Archer needs, even if she has to put up with her difficult sister. Stella's tantrums and diva-like demands are a fair price to pay for crystal-clear waters, blue skies and white clifftop villas. When Alice meets Milo, a handsome gardener at the Villa Argenti, for the first time she suddenly feels beautiful, alluring and
confident. But is it just holiday magic or will the irresistible pull between Alice and Milo survive against all odds? For fans of Katie Fforde and Alexandra Potter, this heartwarming, romantic novel is the perfect escapist read.’
When Alice Archer agrees to go on holiday with her hugely self-absorbed younger sister to the Greek island of Kethos, she has no idea how dramatically that week will change her life. Fed up with never getting any male attention, Alice makes a wish on a statue of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love,
whilst visiting a garden on the island. However, she soon discovers that there’s only one man she wants to attract: Greek gardener Milo. But is spending a few days together really enough to make Alice leave everything she knows to be with her holiday romance?
I liked Alice immediately, particularly because she was so kind to her father, and I loved how her character contrasted with that of her awful sister, Stella. Alice is determined to make the most of her holiday, and it was great to explore Kethos with her. She considers herself to be really boring and uninteresting, and I was so pleased when she met Milo, who immediately saw how special she was.
Connelly’s delightful writing style seemed the capture the essence of Kethos brilliantly; I could imagine the island perfectly. In fact, Alice’s time on Kethos was so exciting, different and bright, that it made the UK seem even more grey and miserable than usual!
Alice’s love interest Milo made a great hero – he was practically perfect! Handsome, kind, good with his hands… what more could Alice ask for? I imagine there’ll be quite a few readers with little crushes on Milo once they’ve finished this book!
Perhaps the magical element to the story was a little over the top, but it certainly made for some amusing situations, such as when even a pelican begins to feel amorous towards Alice! Generally I prefer my reads to have a touch more realism, but nonetheless I enjoyed Alice’s tale and found I was desperate for her to achieve the happy ending she so deserved, and for her sister to receive some sort of comeuppance for being such a pain! In fact the magic in the story gave the book an interesting twist, and certainly proved it’s true that you should be careful what you wish for!
Unashamedly sweet and romantic, ‘Wish You Were Here’ is the perfect read to get you ready for a Mediterranean holiday. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the Greek food and scenery, which were so lovely and evocative, they made me long for sun, sea and houmous!
''Don't wait for the storm to pass; learn to dance in the rain…' Laura has been married to the man of her dreams for seven months. But a week before the wedding, Matthew made a terrible mistake. Escaping the humiliation that is now her marriage, Laura is whisked off to Florida's Key West by her best friend Marty. A carefree holiday full of cocktails and fun, surrounded by gorgeous, tanned men, is exactly what the doctor ordered. Distraction comes in the form of sexy Cuban scuba diver Leo. Laura's instant attraction to him knocks her flying, and she falls hard. As the end of the holiday approaches, Laura doesn't want to go home. Is it time to face the music? Or is there more to Key West than a holiday romance?'
Laura’s only been married for seven months, but already her marriage is seriously on the rocks. She discovered that a week before their wedding, whilst on his stag do, her husband, Matthew, made a terrible mistake, one which will impact upon both of them for the rest of their lives.
Heartbroken, Laura flees to Florida’s Key West with her friends, but things get complicated when Laura falls for Leo, a Cuban who spends his summers at the Keys driving a boat for scuba diving. But Laura can’t hide forever, and knows at some point she’s going to have to return home and face Matthew and their problems.
Paige’s writing is extremely readable, and I find I very quickly become engrossed by her stories. I really like her use of more diverse settings, and reading about the Florida Keys was interesting as it’s not an area I knew much about. I bet she has a great time researching her books!
The beginning of this story was a little too much like an 18-30 holiday for my taste, but this soon changed once Leo came on the scene. Leo himself was a funny old character, he certainly redeems himself towards the end of the novel, but he’s a grumpy so-and-so most of the time! I also didn’t really like the fact that he had so little ambition and spent most of his time drinking in the garden, or sleeping. He was pretty sexy though, and he does the whole
dark and brooding thing very well!
I really felt for Laura and her predicament, particularly during the first half of the book, but I did feel that she could have been a bit firmer with Matthew at times! The scenes of her scuba-diving her very well written, and extremely evocative – they made me really want to have a go myself!
Oh, I do get excited when it’s that time of the year when Paige’s new novel is published! I really like the way Toon connects her novels. Not least because it gives me a chance to catch up with what’s going on with some of my favourite previous Toon characters as she hides little updates on them in each of her books! I was thrilled to discover Laura was Will Trust’s ex-fiance (Will Trust was a racing driver in Toon’s novel ‘Chasing Daisy’).
Fans of Toon’s writing will certainly not be disappointed with ‘The Longest Holiday’. A summer read with plenty of bite, Paige is a consistently very good writer. Her books never, ever disappoint and are great escapism for when you need an extra special treat!
'There are six months left of Emma Reiss's twenties...and she has some unfinished business. Emma and her friends are about to turn thirty, and for Emma it's a defining moment. Defined, that is, by her having achieved none of the things she'd imagined she would. Her career is all wrong, her love life is a desert and that penthouse apartment she pictured herself in simply never materialised. Moreover, she's never jumped out of a plane, hasn't met the man she's going to marry, has never slept under the stars, or snogged anyone famous - just some of the aspirations on a list she and her friends compiled fifteen years ago. As an endless round of birthday parties sees Emma hurtle towards her own thirtieth, she sets about addressing these issues. But, as she discovers with hilarious consequences, some of them are trickier to tick off than she'd thought…'
With only six months until her thirtieth birthday, Emma Reiss discovers a list she and her friends wrote when she was fifteen, a list consisting of all the things they want to achieve in the next few years. Emma is shocked to discover she hasn’t fulfilled any of them. Determined to make the most of her life, she sets herself the task of completing everything on the list before her birthday, but it’s definitely not an easy task.
In general, I liked Emma, and sympathised with her and her problems. However, I thought she was pretty mean to her ex-boyfriend, and that put me off her a little bit. I thought Emma’s job was interesting and different, and her colleague, Giles, was one of my favourite characters in the story. In fact, there were a number of very likeable secondary characters in the book; I would have loved for Emma’s dad and his on-line dating exploits to have featured more!
Jane Costello has a knack for creating some truly memorable comic scenes, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Emma’s visit to the STD clinic or her night spent camping! She also clearly has a real love for her hometown of Liverpool, where the story is set, and this really shines through in her writing.
I was definitely hooked by Emma’s tale, and I was particularly pleased with the novel’s ending – it was satisfying, but didn’t come too quickly, or out of nowhere. All loose ends were neatly tied up, and I felt everyone had the conclusion they
Jane Costello’s books are light, very entertaining reading, and I enjoy them immensely. ‘The Wish List’ is probably one of my favourite of Costello’s works – witty and sharp, this author really knows what she’s doing!
'Successful city accountant Stevie receives two surprises in one week: a proposal of marriage from her boyfriend Nick and a phone call begging her to return to the family farm in Devon to help out after her father has a stroke.
But what she thought would be a long weekend in the country turns into much longer as she struggles to bring order to her father's rundown farm. Finally, she decides to give up her job - and her fiance - and take on the farm permanently. She dreams of turning it into a tourist attraction, never realising it would be so difficult. But with the help of many of Talyton St George's local residents, and the locum vet Leo, she is starting to make progress. Until a life-changing complication throws all her plans into disarray, and destroys her growing romance with Leo...'
When accountant Stevie leaves her job, boyfriend and London flat in favour of taking over her family’s cattle farm after her father has a stroke, she causes more than a few eyebrows to be raised. But it’s not long before Stevie proves she’s more than capable of being a very fine lady farmer, despite what her father may think. With plenty of ideas up her sleeve as to how to turn the farm’s ailing fortunes round, Stevie’s determined to succeed, but can’t help
being a little distracted by locum vet Leo. However, when a little spanner gets
thrown in the works it looks like everything Stevie’s worked so hard for,
including her relationship with Leo, could be about to slide out of her grasp.
Stevie’s plight grabbed my interest immediately, and I liked how quickly she managed to slip back into country life. She’s very loyal, and once she sets her heart on something she always sees it through, which are qualities I admired in her. Just about the only thing I didn’t really like about Stevie was that she’s not very thoughtful when it comes to the feelings of her unwanted admirers, she could have been a little kinder to them! I felt particularly sorry for James, an old flame of Stevie’s, who does his best to win her over, but fails quite spectacularly: I hope he finds a nice partner in Woodman’s next instalment!
Woodman was a small animaI vet before she began writing, and I enjoy how she uses her veterinary knowledge in each of her books – I really found myself caring about Stevie’s cows and worried about them terribly when one of them was ill, even though the sickness would mean a visit from lovely Leo!
The setting of the farm, and of Talyton St George itself, was charming – I love all the old busy-bodies and grumpy farmers! Fifi, who runs the local garden centre and tearooms is a particular favourite of mine!
I must admit I was a little put off by this novel’s title, it was either far too cutesy or a verging towards Fifty Shades, I couldn’t decide which!
This latest instalment of Woodman’s series is probably my favourite so far: I loved reading about Stevie turning round the fortunes of her family’s farm, and I particularly liked how her relationship with her father developed throughout the story. As I’ve read a few of this series before I’m familiar with a lot of the recurring characters; it’s always nice to catch up with old friends from Talyton St George, and I rather enjoyed meeting Leo, who I certainly hope will remain in the village for the next novel!
'A novel about friendship, hope and the power of pasta from the bestselling author of Pear Shaped. According to a magazine, Susie is a 'Leftover' - a post Bridget-Jones 30 something who has neither her dream man, job, nor home. She doesn't even own six matching dinner plates. According to her friend Rebecca, Susie needs to get over her ex, Jake, start online dating - or at least stop being so rude to every guy who tries to chat her up. But Susie's got a plan. If she can just make it the 307 days till her promotion and bonus, she can finally quit and pursue her dream career in food, then surely everything else will fall into place. If only her love life wasn't so complicated...A sharp, witty and refreshing novel about love, friendship and enjoying what's left on the table.'
A ‘leftover’ is what thirty-something Susie is, according to the results of a magazine quiz anyway. As she’s still pining over her ex and stuck in a job she loathes, Susie suspects there may be something in the quiz’s verdict. But, in only 307 days Susie is due to be promoted, and then she plans to leave her job and start working with food, for once doing something she loves. Until then, she just has to grit her teeth and focus on all the lovely pasta she can cook in the evenings when work is over.
I loved Newman’s debut ‘Pear Shaped’, and was thrilled when this turned up on my doorstep for me to review.
Susie’s tale had me swiftly hooked - I was so frustrated by how badly she was treated at work, and really wanted her to bite the bullet and just leave! Having said that, Susie’s advertising job made for some very amusing
scenarios; the advertising ideas for Fat Birds pizzas were hilarious!
Susie has plenty of men in her life, and romance does play a part in this novel, but she’s not a Disney Princess, and Newman’s aim is clearly not for her heroine to ride off into the sunset with her Prince Charming. Susie needs to feel fulfilled with her life, and feel that she’s moving forward, and that certainly doesn’t just relate to whether or not she has a boyfriend.
I was a little disappointed that Susie’s work-mate Sam wasn’t built into more of a leading character as the book went on: he seemed interesting, and I was intrigued as to why he remains in a job so clearly beneath him. I kept thinking he was going to come more to the forefront of the story, but this never happened.
I’m a big fan of Newman’s writing and her latest novel exceeded my already high expectations: her first person narrative allows the reader to connect with her very appealing protagonist quickly, she writes humour very well, and her love of food shines through – I’ll definitely be trying the
recipes at the end of the novel!
4 and a half stars
'Demetrius makes his first mistake when he lets his best friend Halcyon marry Eleyna, the love of his life, without saying a word. On the day of the wedding, he walks away from the Elencheran town of Dove's Meadow and joins the army. He makes his second mistake when the pirate Black Iris tricks him into letting
dozens of men, women and children die in a fire. Demetrius is imprisoned in grief and disgrace. But he can atone. The Black Iris is dead. The Ivory Rose has risen to the top of the pirates and is leading brutal raids on the coast.
If Demetrius can capture and kill her, he'll win his pardon. And then Demetrius discovers the Ivory Rose is Eleyna. He must decide which will be his third mistake: losing his last chance at a pardon or destroying the one woman he's ever loved.'
The latest instalment of Brown’s ‘The Elencheran Chronicles’, ‘A World Apart’ follows the fortunes of Demetrius, a soldier brought up on a sheep farm in a place called Dove’s Meadow, by his father and grandfather. Growing up,
Demetrius’ best friends were Halcyon and Eleyna; they form a gang and do
everything together. However, the friends are torn apart when Demetrius and
Eleyna fall in love, but don’t admit their feelings, and Eleyna then marries
Halcyon. On the day of their wedding Demetrius leaves Dove’s Meadow and joins the Order, the military government that rules Elenchera.
Halycon and Eleyna end up as pirates, and are inadvertently responsible for destroying Demetrius career and getting him sentenced to the Pit, a disgusting hole for thieves. Demetrius sets out to seek his revenge on The Ivory Rose, the notorious leader of the pirates, but what will he do when he discovers that The Ivory Rose is none other than Eleyna?
I liked that the author allowed me to learn about Elenchera as the book progressed rather than just dumping a load of information on me at the
beginning of the story. This meant that I felt as if I was constantly exploring,
and discovering more about the land.
I was impressed by the quality of Brown’s writing, and Demetrius story was very appealing – the use of the pirates in the tale made it stand out and led to some great scenarios. Demetrius is firmly on the side of the Order, whilst the pirates want to free Elenchera from the Order’s very rigid rule. To be honest, both sides make such compelling arguments. I really wasn’t sure who
to root for at times.
The story has quite a build up before Demetrius is even born, which was a little surprising. I enjoyed this part of the book, but it perhaps wasn’t all absolutely necessary. In fact the book is so long that I did feel that there were parts that could have been cut out, and this tighter editing would maybe have made a smoother story.
Each of the novels in the Elencheran Chronicles is stand-alone and set in a different time-period, with its own, individual cast. This of
course means that the reader can begin reading the series in whatever order they
like, which appealed to me. Brown’s world was engaging and original, and I’d
certainly recommend his very entertaining series.
'From the bestselling author of THE RISE AND FALL OF A YUMMY MUMMY. 'The number you are calling is unavailable. Please try again later.' Gina has only been
married six months when her husband Rex goes on holiday to Spain and vanishes without a trace, tipping her dream new marriage into nightmare. As a frantic
search gets nowhere, Gina is adamant that he's alive and vows never to give up hope. Speculation is rife: he's drowned at sea, lost his memory...or just walked away. Troubling stories start to emerge about Rex's past that are hard to square with the man she married. How well does she really know her handsome, charismatic husband? They'd fallen in love so quickly, so passionately, that the past had seemed barely relevant to either of them. Now an explosive secret threatens to rewrite the story of their love affair. As the mystery of Rex's whereabouts deepens, Gina begins to wonder whether you only ever truly know the person you love once they've gone'.
Gina and Rex fell in love at first sight, married a matter of months, and appear to have a perfect marriage. Then Rex disappears without a trace whilst on holiday with some of his friends. Gina’s determined to uncover the truth, and sure that Rex is still alive somewhere, but it’s not long before she begins to discover rather a lot that she didn’t know about her husband, and none of it very nice.
Beginning the book with Rex and Gina’s rather romantic first meeting lets the reader experience straight away just how swept off her feet Gina was by her husband, and how suddenly and dramatically her life changed after meeting him.
Gina was a likeable character, and the way she deals with what she’s faced with was plausible. It was so sad to read how Gina grieves for Rex, whilst still desperately hoping that he’s alive, even when everybody has given up on him. However, the number of revelations that ended up emerging regarding Rex’s secret going-ons was a little over the top for me – yes, I expected him to have some skeletons in the closet, just not quite so many! I’m not sure he would
have been able to hide quite so much.
Williams’ secondary storyline involving a woman named Mandy was enjoyable, but took away from the focus of the tale and seemed a little tacked on. I guessed Mandy’s link to Rex early on, but liked how different Mandy was to Gina – she was nowhere near as strong as Gina in my opinion, and made a nice contrast.
What I really loved about this book was that I honestly had no idea what had happened to Rex, or whether or not he’d return; I felt that the plot could go so many ways and Williams really kept me guessing. However, when it came to it, I felt that the book’s ending was a little rushed, and it didn’t leave me as satisfied as I’d anticipated it would.
With ‘Husband, Missing’, Polly Williams has produced a gripping and original story, starring a heroine whom I genuinely wanted the best for, even if that wasn’t for her beloved husband to come walking back through their front door. Gina’s tale was very well told and delightfully unpredictable, although it did finish a bit too quickly for my liking.
One of Williams’ strongest books to date, and in my top reads so far this year.
'The minute I saw the letter, I knew it was hers. There was no mistaking it: the salutation, the tiny, precise handwriting, the date, the content itself, all confirmed its ancient status and authorship…
Samantha McDonough cannot believe her eyes - or her
luck. Tucked in an uncut page of a two-hundred-year old poetry book is a letter she believes was written by Jane Austen, mentioning with regret a manuscript that "went missing at Greenbriar in Devonshire." Could there really be an undiscovered Jane Austen novel waiting to be found? Could anyone resist the temptation to go looking for it?
Making her way to the beautiful, centuries-old Greenbriar estate, Samantha finds it no easy task to sell its owner, the handsome yet uncompromising Anthony Whitaker, on her wild idea of searching for a lost Austen work--until she mentions its possible million dollar value.
After discovering the unattributed manuscript, Samantha and Anthony are immediately absorbed in the story of Rebecca Stanhope, daughter of a small town rector, who is about to encounter some bittersweet truths about life and love. As they continue to read the newly discovered tale from the past, a new one unfolds in the present--a story that just might change
both of their lives forever.'
A novel within a novel, ‘The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen’ tells the fictional story of Samantha McDonough, an American librarian on holiday in England, who finds a letter seeming to be written by Jane Austen. This discovery is amazing in itself, but more is yet to come: in the letter Jane mentions a manuscript she wrote and lost whilst staying at a house called
Greenbriar. Travelling to Greenbriar, Samantha meets its owner, Anthony. Though a little crabby to begin with, Anthony’s soon caught up in Austen fever, and helps Samantha search for the document. What they discover is ‘The Stanhopes’, the tale of a young woman named Rebecca, who experiences somewhat of a pilgrimage in her search for love.
Syrie James does her best to get around the issue of her writing a novel supposedly penned by the mighty Ms Austen, by making it clear that what is found is a first draft. Clearly ‘The Stanhopes’ is much shorter than one of Austen’s completed works, and so contains much less detail, but I enjoyed the
tale and there are a couple of places where James emulates Austen’s humour
As is quite typical of me, I preferred Rebecca’s storyline to that of Samantha’s. Rebecca is strong and opinionated, and is determined to stand by her beloved father. Samantha had many of the same qualities, but perhaps in a woman from an earlier era they stand out more and seem more impressive?
The ending to Samantha and Anthony’s tale came a little quickly for me, and I wasn’t completely convinced by their attraction to one another, perhaps because their scenes were broken up a lot by long episodes of ‘The Stanhopes’. However, I liked Samantha, and definitely agreed with her about what should happen to the now found manuscript, despite also being able to understand Anthony’s point of view.
This interesting book, whilst perhaps not perfectly executed, certainly held my interest. I was most enamoured by Rebecca Stanhope’s tale, and found I was eager to return to that whenever the focus shifted to the modern day and what was going on with Samantha. Syrie James has produced a charming homage to Austen, and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for copies of her other books.
3 and a half stars
'Grace has been best friends with Ella and Flick forever. The late-night chats, shared heartaches and good times have created a bond that has stood the test of time. When Ella invites them to stay for a week in her cottage in South Wales, Grace jumps at the chance to see her old friends. She also hopes that the change of scenery will help her reconnect with her distant husband. Then Flick
arrives; loveable, bubbly, incorrigible Flick, accompanied by the handsome and charming Noah. This is going to be one week which will change all their lives forever...Join Grace, Ella and Flick for a week of love, laughter, tears and
friendship in A Cottage by the Sea'.
Grace is thrilled to be spending a week with her best friends, Flick and Ella, in Ella’s lovely, but very remote, Welsh cottage. The only problem is that Grace’s husband, Harry, hates anything to do with the country, especially when it interferes with him updating his Twitter account. With Grace and Harry’s marriage already decidedly rocky, and Harry’s drinking veering out of the control, Grace is determined to ignore her husband’s grumbling and make
this holiday a time for them to focus on their relationship. However, what she
doesn’t bank on is the appearance of Flick’s new beau, Noah. Fun, intelligent
and very handsome, Noah is everything Grace dreamt of in a husband, until that is she settled for Harry….
When I began this book I was a little worried that the story would be a little formulaic - three friends on holiday together dealing with crises in their lives seems to have been done a few times - however Carole managed to allay my fears straight away. I adored the story’s setting and was engrossed from page one and, although I guessed the big shocker of the tale WAY before poor old Grace did, I was hooked throughout.
Perhaps it was just because I was enjoying the book so much and didn’t want it to end, but I did feel that the end was a little rushed. My main problem was I found it a little peculiar that Grace was so forgiving straight away. I would have preferred for some time to have lapsed and the story then picked up for the final chapter with Grace really able to put the past behind her and move on.
I thought Grace made a great protagonist, and loved reading about the immediate attraction between her and Noah. The bond between the pair was
very believable, and they were put in some really interesting situations that
helped to move their relationship forward quickly, whilst keeping me very entertained.
For me the weakest character was definitely Flick – I just didn’t click with her. She was thoughtless, lazy and selfish; in fact she really didn’t seem to have any redeeming features. I couldn’t believe that lovely Grace and Ella were friends with her!
Once again the extremely talented Carole Matthews has produced an excellent read, just perfect to take away on holiday, or to curl up with for an
afternoon whilst the rain is tipping down. ‘A Cottage by the Sea’ was touching
and very romantic, with some charming little touches of humour. Matthews never disappoints!