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The Captain and the Prime Minister Catherine Curzon , Eleanor Harkstead

The Captain and the Prime Minister. Catherine Curzon , Eleanor Harkstead 

The Captain and the Prime Minister (Captivating Captains) by [Curzon, Catherine, Harkstead, Eleanor]

Genre: Romance, LGBTQIA

I really enjoyed this. I’m not convinced by insta-love stories but in this one, although when they do take that step and go from 0-60, they have known each other a long time, and Tom has been part of the family for years so it wasn’t an issue.
I loved them both, Tom, strong ex soldier, but a softie with the twins, and Alex who’s been through so much while in the public eye, misses his late wife still, but discovers his feelings for Tom are more than just friendly. That part was handled so well, it wasn’t a “turning a straight guy” story, but one where Love was the focus, not the gender of either of them. I always think in those Straight guys stories, that there must have been some leanings, you can’t “turn” a straight guy any more than you can turn a gay person straight.
Publicity – it doesn’t get much more public than being PM, with the press focusing on every move. I’ve written before how I hate the way the media just love to dig out anything they can make sound salacious – the TV interview was so very well done. I could see those questions being asked by someone very like the presenter portrayed in the book. Its all “in the public interest” excuses when in fact unless the PM was heavily against gay rights it wasn’t anyone’s business.
Given how many folk are LBGTQIA its a wonder there aren’t more in the Gov, maybe, as in football and some other celebrity occupations, they just hide what they are. Justin Fashanu, the first openly gay UK footballer, had a really tough time, being adopted, and black also. Brave kid, sadly died too young, but it amazes me that out of over 800 premier league footballers currently not one is openly gay. I suspect the media furore people in the public eye face when they come out is what prevents them. That’s pretty damning in 2020 that some still feel they have to hide who they are 😦 It made the press scenes, the way events and texts were twisted, in this book feel very real, though sadly I think in real life the endings would have gone down differently.

I understood how Alex’ in laws felt, understandable, and was so glad that worked out. I loved the way the twins were told, and that’s how it should be, no big deal, just everyday life. Kids are accepting, its adults who have issues.
Alex and Tom both had some tough decisions to take, a big risk for them both if they got it wrong.
Its a lovely story, touches on reality, but with a happy ending, which I need, not the sadly unhappy one I think reality would bring 😦 we have a long way to go, but at least are going in the right direction.

Stars: Five, a lovely read, one I wish real life was more like.

Arc via Authors

Marry Him, Marina Ford

Marry Him, Marina Ford

Marry Him by [Ford, Marina]

Genre: Romance, Humour
I’ve had a slew of books recently that were perhaps bad choices on my part and I really hate writing low star reviews. I always try to point out though that although I didn’t gel with the story others will, that reading is very subjective. This book illustrates that perfectly. Already I can see a few two star reviews, even a couple of ones and yet I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

It made me snigger with the scatty humour, and for anyone ( a few reviews mention it) who thinks life isn’t like that – it is. I don’t have Joe’s exuberance but do have his problems with everything going t$ts up, with my careful plans descending into chaos, although mostly I just go with the flow and don’t make strict plans. Everything goes wrong when I do so why bother? The nurses were sniggering when I broke my hip falling out of my wheelchair, moving the electric fence for my horses, then recently my scooter suddenly ran out of charge just before home and a big slope. I had to accept a push from a poor man who was using a stick to walk…then there’s the time I super-glued my hand to the kitchen worktop. I was putting it away safely so the grand-kids didn’t get it.
Frank is so like my late husband, that full on persona, always talking to strangers like long lost friends, always full of weird and wonderful ideas.
I enjoyed the very different personalities of Harry and Joe, again my late husband and I were very different, and yet it worked, we were together over 40 years, so there’s no reason why Harry and Joe couldn’t make it work too.

I wasn’t so keen on the timing, the way it was five years past, six months past and then present, it worked to tell the story but I found it frustrating jumping back and forth. That’s a small crit though and as I’m not a writer maybe that’s the only way the story would work?
I did like the different people, the prejudice, the way Joe was casually called “ the Gay “ from folk who’d be astonished at the suggestion that wasn’t really polite. Casual sexism, prejudice, bigotry like this is insidious, people only see the open hatred as being prejudiced whereas actually its far more and something people face daily but shouldn’t have to. Being a wheelchair user I get that kind of thing when folk talk to whoever is pushing the chair, offer them the change even though I’ve paid, ruffle my hair like I’m a pet. One day….

The story itself has some great dram that unfolds to a real climax at the end. I couldn’t believe it would really unravel, and yet the clues Marina set up for it all going wrong were incredibly real and believable.
Looking on goodreads Marina is a new to me author, I’ll certainly look out for her books in future.

Stars: five, a cracking read that had me sniggering at several points at poor Joe, and empathising with him having done the same kind of thing.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

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.

Arc via authors

Swimming in the Dark, Tomasz Jedrowski

Swimming in the Dark, Tomasz Jedrowski

Genre: Literary Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

I was kind of expecting romance from some of the early reviews and comments, although of course its not classed as romance under the genre headings.
Its not though, there is romance in it but its not a romance per se. Its written as a sort of autobiography style, and I guess for me a clue that it perhaps wouldn’t be the style of writing I enjoy is the Literary Fiction tag. Sometimes I find I enjoy this type of story telling, more often it seems to be more erudite, as if its aiming at style rather than substance and for me its more the story that’s important, not so much the way its told.

This is beautifully written, almost poetic at times and I felt the sheer drudgery of life in Poland in the 80s, the daily grind to just survive that was the lot of most of the population. I can remember well the timing of Solidarność and Lech Wałęsa. I was in my early twenties, had a ringside seat so to speak, seeing nightly on the news here in the UK the progression of the movement.
Its not until reading this novel though that I understand just how tough life was for folk there. How difficult daily life was, the struggle to get enough to eat, to get medicines, to survive, and how oppressing it could all be.
I guess that’s really what the issue is for me in enjoying the story, I read to be entertained and educated but I also feel there’s enough drear in daily life, and I want a HEA, or at least the possibility from my reading. Here though I got a heart breaking story of two lads in love, but its a romance that had no way of ending well without taking a huge risk. I was almost in tears at the end for poor Ludwik, even for Janusz, as they really were living in a time and place where what they shared had little chance of lasting. Such a waste of love and life, and yet still in the world this type of issue is far too widespread.

Stars: Three, its a beautifully written tale, but the content was just too depressing for me to actually enjoy the story. It remineded me a bit of the short story version of brokeback mountain.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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