Archive | February 2020

The Mystery of Love, Andrew Meehan

The Mystery of Love, Andrew Meehan

The Mystery of Love by [Meehan, Andrew]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Historical Fiction

Well, I’ve always been interested in Oscar Wilde, flamboyant, scandalous character that flouted Victorian conventions, and sadly paid for it. His legacy of words lives on, but the man himself, what was he really like?What about his home, his family?

I was interested to see his story from another perspective, but Constance seems as confused and lost-in-the-world as Oscar. She seems to live in her on head most of the time. Loyal to Oscar outwardly, and yet happy enough to live away from him. I got the impression here that she was more interested in her ideals and thoughts of Oscar than she was in the man himself. He can’t have been an easy man to live with though.
I did feel sorry for the kids, their two boys, who surely paid the greatest price. No stable family home life for them.
I wasn’t really a fan of the way the story was delivered, from Constance’s point of view, and her inner musings. I did like the Oscar footnotes though, they brought much needed levity to the story. Written in his typical understated dry wit they were the best part for me.

Stars: Two and a half, I didn’t like the main story, but Oscar’s footnotes made me smile.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Talisman, The Talisman Series Book One, Tam DeRudder Jackson

Talisman, The Talisman Series Book One, Tam DeRudder Jackson

Talisman by [Jackson, Tam DeRudder]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy, Romance.

I liked the sound of this, I love fantasy married with romance, and the description sounded interesting. Supernaturals living within our current world? Yes please 😉

Alyssa has been quite sheltered, brought up by her grand after the death of her parents she’s all about the studying, especially after being let down badly by her last boyfriend. Then on a rare night out she meets Rowan. I know he’s a warrior, but at times even I found him overbearing and arrogant, so I can see how Alyssa felt. He just steamrollers his way into her life. I know she’s in danger, but its to his advantage that he protects her and at times I felt he was a bit too thick on the “do it my way”, and thin on actual explanations. I did understand hew was working under time constraints but he always found time to whisk her into bed, and thought that was fun, enjoyable – OK, earth shattering, I felt Alyssa would have appreciated a bit more detail about what was happening.
There’s a lot of characters here that come into play, human, warriors and families, Talismen and of course the Dark Side. The rogue warriors and their leaders. I enjoyed the read but wasn’t bowled over by it. That could be because its first in series. These novels have a hard ask, to deliver a new world setting, charters, supernatural types and of course a story we readers will enjoy. This didn’t quite do that for me but is a good start to a new series.

Stars: Three, a good start to a new series, but I wasn’t quite pulled in by the characters.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

The Man Behind the Tudors, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Kirsten Claiden-Yardley

The Man Behind the Tudors, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Kirsten Claiden-Yardley

Genre: History, Non-fiction (adult)

I’ve read many books set in the Tudor period, set from the perspective of the Kings or Queens of the time. I’ve always wondered what drives the men ( and women) behind the scenes, the ones who have real power but need to keep on the right side of the Royals. Its a dangerous place to be.
Thomas Howard is one such man, well known in the context of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard but not really for himself. This book takes us from his childhood to his death in his eighties.
In an age where kings changed, loyalties changed, even religion changed that’s an incredible thing for a senior courtier to successfully wade through for so long. Many innocent people lost their lives on little more than the king’s whim, paranoia, gossips and hearsay. That Thomas managed to not only survive that but thrive in it, settling his family down, expanding his personal and family wealth and position is amazing to me. He was clearly a very clever man, but one able to walk that thin line between respect and honesty to his king, and telling him what he needed to know, doing what needed to be done for king and country.
I liked that the author explained where he’d sourced material, where it made it clear what was fact, backed up by primary evidence and what was speculation.

I found it an interesting read but….very much like a text book to read. Very date, people and places heavy, where I prefer a little more of the personal side, to really feel as if I know the main character.
Its just a different style of reading to that which I normally choose, and there is so much going on, so many people, so many changes, alliances, marriages and deaths, and remarriages, that I found it difficult to keep up. That’s all a personal issue though, nothing to do with the book. It never pretends to be anything other than an account of Thomas Howard’s life, but more an issue of my expectation.

Stars: Three, an excellent account of Thomas Howard’s life, very detailed but just a little too heavy for me personally to enjoy more.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Where We Belong, Shann McPherson

Where We Belong, Shann McPherson

Where We Belong: An unputdownable contemporary romance novel for 2020 by [McPherson, Shann]

Genre: Romance, General Fiction (adult)

Well, I love these small town America stories. I’ve no idea – being British – whether there really are towns like this, but I love the idea of everyone having friends, being there for each other. Of course its Always Sunshine and Warmth – and here in UK that’s often in short supply, so that’s a huge bonus. BBQ in the rain, summer dress for night out ruined by downpour, hair carefully coiffed and makeup done, then wrap up in warm hat that ruins the effect – that’s UK summers. I love the fake GF/BF trope too.

Poor Murph, all set for a proposal from long time boyfriend, on and off romance, and then…he hands her an invite to his wedding. Oh I could feel her heart breaking. When we learned more about their past my heart was sad for her over again, and I wondered why she saw Nash as her HEA, when to me he was selfish and unreliable.
Still, here he is with his new love, and she wants to put a brave face on and in the momentary instinct claims Harley is hers. Poor Harley – give the guy credit, he goes along with it, but as we learn he’s been picking her up for years, What’s one more time.
And it could have been a fun read for me if Murph hadn’t been so unpleasant to Anna. Its not her fault Nash loves her, and I really didn’t like Murph’s actions. Acting on the spur of the moment is one thing, but deliberate actions? Nope. Not in my playbook.
It may not bother you and you may laugh at parts, I did have a silent snigger at one even as I was annoyed at it….hey- I’m human, it set a funny visual. And I want to know why Harley writes his name on his clothes?

Overall it ends well, I’m not entirely sure I was convinced by it, but its a fun, easy read.

Stars: Three, I enjoyed parts, but a) didn’t understand why Murph was so set on Nash and b) didn’t like some of her actions.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Lie, Hilary Boyd

The Lie, Hilary Boyd

The Lie by [Boyd, Hilary]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Gah, I hate Women’s Fiction as a genre heading, so outdated. Men and women can read the same books….its 2019, not 1919.
anyway, that moan over, on to the book. Fabulous read, I loved it. I read Hillary’s Thurdays ion the Park years ago, and more recently The anniversary and loved both of those, and this sounded intriguing. It was, I was wondering all the way, should Romy just believe in Micheal? After all they’ve been married a long time, they would have had the boys when this event happened, and he’s never given any indication that he could have done something so awful, so horrific. I think most folk would be like Romy, feel their husband ( or wife) is telling the truth when they say they’ve no idea, that it never happened. Yet somehow Romy still has the tiniest, tiniest sliver of doubt. That little niggle keeps working at her, making her relive over and over Michael’s reactions when she told him about the letter. He’s clever, quick thinking, he has to be to do so well at his job, and something just didn’t feel quite right about his answers. Still, with no idea who wrote the letter how can she look further?
That little niggle though gradually affects their marriage, shows up just how things have been slowly changing between them, other tiny things come out and small, almost incidental lies emerge. Things build up until she decides she needs to step away, and goes to stay at their country cottage. She’s just picking up her life when – bam – she’s pulled back into her old life, where the past starts becoming the present.
I was a little eye rolling at the way the characters were interwoven until I got to that part of the story, when it was explained and I could see that actually, its pretty reasonable for events to unfold given the connections between people.
There are lots of surprises to come out, lots of events for Romy to deal with, and all the characters end up being hurt by past actions. Not just Romy, but her sons, her fledgling romance and of course the girl involved and her family.
Its one of those books where slowly what seem like unconnected events and people slowly gel, when the circles of distance start to close in and we can see how one out of character event ripples and widens, catching so many folk in the wake. I loved the book, and the way events were unfolded carefully, giving us just enough to satisfy at that time, but leaving the reader wondering what else happened, did it happen like that really? What would they do? I so felt for all involved who were hurt by the actions and was so angry at those who worked to hide things or just smooth them over. Its a story that really show how nothing happens in isolation, how one event can end up hurting so many people.

Stars: Five. Lots of surprises, heartbreak, angst, and shows how well one persons actions affect others.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Raven’s Glen by Nancy E. Polin

Raven’s Glen by Nancy E. Polin

Raven's Glen by [Polin, Nancy E.]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Romance

I almost didn’t read this, Nancy mentioned it had elements of horror, and its a family joke that I am a real wimp about that. I have such a vivid imagination that my dreams tend to be complex, and sometimes scary, so anything horror tips the balance…but it wasn’t that sort of horror, more the unpleasantness that comes with certain elements of the supernatural. It was a bit spooky, but not scary.

I loved Skylar and her brother, he’s so protective and has been looking out for her since they escaped a horrific home situation to live with their grandmother, their beloved MawMaw. Now she’s died, they both miss her badly but are still very close. Skylar has accepted a job that happens to be in the town they escaped from. Her brother is Not Happy, to say the least, but Skylar seems to be drawn there with a slightly unnerving, unexplained pull.
She’s settling in well, enjoys her job, when she meets Jack at her workplace. She’s already bumped into him at her interview, then again around the town. He’s gorgeous but not on the lookout for a new relationship. He’s drawn to Skylar though, they seem to keep coming across one another and he finally asks her out.

Stephen has never talked about the horrors of the night they left, never told Skylar what happened, and she seems to have blanked it from her mind. Now she’s back though it seems the past isn’t quite finished with her.

Its a gradual build up, first the attraction between Jack and Skylar, then slowly she gets integrated into his family. Skylar is in for a shock though when she goes to his home.
The tension ratchets up gradually, building on little things, more references to the past, more secrets being revealed, and the dangers slowly come to light. The more Skylar learns the closer the past becomes, and its a question of should she outrun it and leave the job she enjoys, the man and his daughter that she loves, or should she just face up to the past and try to beat it?
I really enjoyed this, just enough spookiness to keep me reading, not so much that it gives me nightmares. I live alone, I hate nightmares, when everything seems more believable that in the light if day. The Native Indian setting works really well, they are very in tune with nature and the supernatural, and really helped the story to feel genuine.

Stars: five, a fantastic read, not too scary, and very engaging, making me wonder just what was coming next.

Arc via author

Undone, Kelly Rimmer

Undone, Kelly Rimmer

Undone (Start Up in the City) by [Rimmer, Kelly]

Genre: Romance

I’ve enjoyed a few of Kelly’s stories, but hadn’t read the first two in this series, I didn’t realise there were earlier books. The story is stand alone, though if you’ve read the other two I’m sure you’ll enjoy catching up with the characters here.

Jess, I didn’t dislike her, but just didn’t understand her and found her actions confusing. When part of her background came out I felt for her, I had the exact same thing happen at the same tender age, and I understood how you never get past that, it colours your whole life. For her though the tragedy went further and that impacted upon her relationship with Jake. TBH I couldn’t really understand why she took the position she did, what she came to realise by the end was blindingly obvious from the start, and I hated how her actions hurt both of them so badly, and yet she continued even knowing how she would hurt Jake again.
Jake – well, he was just wonderful, so clearly in love still with Jess, and so confused about her reactions. I felt the poor guy was treading on eggshells, bending over backwards, and still getting blamed for things he couldn’t possibly understand. I was happy when finally Jess took a look at herself, at Jake, and saw what everyone else did, but so frustrated it took so long. But then we wouldn’t have a story if she saw it straight away….
I just feel that for me her actions didn’t quite fit how I could see she felt, that she was forcing herself, and that brought the story down a bit for me. I hovered between empathising with her, wanting to hug her at certain points, and – more often – wanting to shout at her to stop thinking only of herself. There’s two in a relationship, I just felt rather than being equal as she wanted, she was putting Jake way way behind her needs.

Stars: Three, parts I loved, parts I was really sad, but too often I just wanted to shout at Jess, tell her to think of Jake as a person not a stereotype.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

A Southern Girl Re-Belles, Sharon Brown Keith

A Southern Girl Re-Belles, Sharon Brown Keith

Genre: Romance, General Fiction ( adult)

I was intrigued by this one but it was a fail for me.
I didn’t like Abby right from the start when she gets her very pregnant friend to say she was driving as Abby had been drinking. I hate stuff like that, and it put me off her. I could understand why her best friends husband doesn’t like her. As the story continued, more came out about Abby and she felt to me like one of those folk who blame everything on to others, and never look at themselves.
I was looking forward to seeing Bo too, but I’ve read to 25% and he still hasn’t appeared ( I checked, its at 38% he first comes in). I just don’t like Abby enough to continue with the story, I can’t bring myself to wait to see what happens to her. What I know of her grandmother didn’t endear her to me either, I found her antics annoying rather than humorous. Maybe I’ll pick this up another time and try again, maybe I’m just not in the right mood but for now this is a DNF.

Stars: Two, just not one for me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Serendipity Game, A Romantic Comedy, Teagan Kearney

The Serendipity Game, A Romantic Comedy, Teagan Kearney

The Serendipity Game: A Romantic Comedy by [Kearney, Teagan]

Genre: Romantic comedy

Well, I love a “good” B itch in a book, and had hopes Elena would prove to be one so was keen to read this. It was a fun, easy read, but very slow to start.

Apart from a quick incident in the first few pages, we don’t actually meet Jake until a third of the way through the book. Not at all, and for me that let the story down.
I expected there to be some kind of interaction between him and Casey before then. Once the do get together it was a fun read, quite light, not a deep dark, intense read, but a very surface based, light one. Sometimes that’s what you need though, a book you can read between other things, one you can put down and when you pick it up again you don’t have to restart to remember where you were.

I liked Casey and her friends, but at times she did over labour the differences between her and Jake. I loved Jake, such a romantic man, but also very thorough in ensuring everything involving Casey is taken care of, not leaving things to chance. I want a Jake of my own.
I’m OK with insta lust, and could feel that between them, but for me I like the love to have a bit more time to develop. In this book all the action takes place in a little over a week, apart from the very end of course. I found it hard to believe Jake especially would plunge straight in after being burned in marriage first time round.
The paparazzi parts were excellent, they really do dive in after pics regardless of how they can ruin lives, its all a game and money to them. I really felt for Casey when she got caught in that situation, and was so glad she had her friends to help.

The humour is quite subtle, very low key but I’d rather that than the forced in-your-face comedy so many books contain. I did snort very unbecomingly at the Casey/Elena and the vomit scene…perfect.
I did expect a bit more from Elena, she’s part of an overall plot but I was hoping for a bit more interaction between her and Casey, some nicely chosen verbal barbs, some manipulation of events. She’s really – well – nuts is the only way to put it. Bats-hit crazy. That shows when the final plot comes to a head, but I think she could have had a bigger part in the story, rather than a behind the scenes mostly appearance.
I’m not sure I’d class it as a Cinders retelling, but it is an easy, fun read.

Stars: Three and a half. I’ve dropped a half for that very slow start where we don’t meet a main character til almost a third into the book. For me I need to have them engaged in the story earlier, preferably with the other MC, but a behind the scenes peek would have helped.

ARC supplied by author

The Disheveled Duke, (A Little Bit Cupid Collection), Catherine Curzon,   Eleanor Harkstead 

The Disheveled Duke, (A Little Bit Cupid Collection), Catherine Curzon,  
Eleanor Harkstead 

The Dishevelled Duke: A Little Bit Cupid by [Curzon, Catherine, Harkstead, Eleanor]

Genre: M/M Romance, Short story

Confession time: I don’t read short stories usually but when I was offered this for review I had in my head the next book in the Captivating Captains series. My bad. I should read emails properly.

Still, it was a fun read, I adored Charlie and the dogs, Delia and Nigel – named for the chefs I assume? Wonder what the pups will be named…I love that Charlie is so laid back, especially when we find out more about him. He had a wonderful way of putting his background into perspective.
Billy’s lovely too, like so many he’s taken a chance on London, which has spat him back out. As an artist I know so many talented painters, photographers, textile artists etc and they produce incredible work, but getting it seen in galleries and thus sold is hard. Its catch 22, galleries need the commission so don’t often take a chance on new artists, and without that exposure artists don’t succeed often.
The internet has leveled that to a degree, but its still very difficult, and I felt for Billy. He’s clearly an amazing talent, but facing the harsh reality of trying to make things work, get a career. Most of us are artists, and like Billy actually marketing, getting work seen isn’t one of our talents.
How they finally get together is a wonderfully romantic and sweet story. Even if I didn’t realise it was a short!

Stars: five, a fun read, sweet and cute story, lovely characters, and of course, dogs. I always wanted an Irish wolfhound. Anyone who loves dogs can’t be bad 😉 and Charlie and Billy adore them.

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