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The Reunion, Sara Portman

The Reunion, Sara Portman

The Reunion (Brides of Beadwell) by [Portman, Sara]

Genre: Historical, Romance

I’ve read several contemporary and fantasy romances recently, so wanted something different to clear my mind. I’m not a huge historical reader but sometimes its nice to just dip back in time to a period with very different priorities not today’s ones.

This is Sara’s debut novel and its was a fun read. I look forward to the next one too, a snippet was at the end of this and its sounds another interesting read.

I like strong heroines, ones who have a mind of their own, and back then that wasn’t encouraged. Ladies were to sit prettily and be quiet, to take an interest in gentile pursuits like embroidery and afternoon teas…Emma isn’t like that and so far she’s avoided the need for a husband. She has a fiancee though, but after one disastrous meeting four years ago, following which he disappeared and was presumed dead, she’s content living with her aunt and uncle.
Then her fiancee turns up doing the rounds of the London Society circuit. Gossip has it he’s after a wife.
Emma is incensed, she doesn’t want to marry him anyway, doesn’t really want to marry anyone and after the scandal of him leaving their betrothal like that she’s been ignored by society anyway. Now after ruining her reputation he’s back, and ignoring the fact they are betrothed. Looks like he’s happy to heap more scandal n her head and she’s furious, she’s determined to meet him, give him a price of her mind and break the engagement.

John had reasons for leaving, is annoyed that he let his fury at his father blend over into rudeness to Emma, but remembers her as a mousy, quiet teen and assumes she’s married since he left. Now he wants someone with strength of character to marry, who can bring his sister into society and give her the kind of life she should have had if their father wasn’t such an a rse.
All he gets though are simpering, brainless misses, who want nothing more than to be his duchess and the prestige it will bring them. Then he meets someone who’s angry at him, answers him back, sparks off him and he’s intrigued. Even more so when he learns who she is. she’s perfect he thinks, but Emma has other ideas.

Its a fun read, typical Society gossip, where what you are seen to do is far more important than what you actually do. I loved Emma and John, although the man was blind with prejudice in his attempt to not be like his father…Gah, I wanted to smack him at times, shake him and say ” c’mon, what are you thinking Man!!”
I loved the other characters too, his friend Hugh, sharp wit on that man, and his sister Charlotte, who has such a massive transition in her life. She seems like an ungrateful, surly teen when we first meet her, but once we see things from her side – well, I had sympathy for her.
Then there’s Emma’s friend Lucy, vicars daughter who’d been Emma’s best friend since childhood. She’s the subject of the next book, and thats sounds another fun and spicy read. A great group, leading to a sweet fun romance with some surprising sensuality and erotic moments.
If you want a hot, sensual historical, with solid characters and a genuine period feeling you’ll enjoy this.

Stars: Five, its not a heart-stopping, pulse thumping romance, but a gentler period meander with some intensely sensual moments rarely found in the genre.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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The Royal Wedding, A Crown Jewels Romantic Comedy, Melanie Summers and MJ Summers

The Royal Wedding, A Crown Jewels Romantic Comedy, Melanie Summers and MJ Summers

The Royal Wedding: A Crown Jewels Romantic Comedy, Book 2 by [Summers, Melanie, Summers, MJ]

Genre: women’s fiction, Romance

Well, much to my surprise I loved book one. I thought I’d like it but that it would be chic-lit fluff, fine for when i want something easy between heavier reads.
It actually had far deeper content than I expected along with some cracking characters and great humour and that’s carried across really well into book two.

When I see the words irresistibly funny, laugh out loud, you will love this book, I’m wary, its so often a cover for a story that to me is brash and in-your-face comedy, and I just don’t like that. I feel its a bit of a step up telling me I will laugh, find the story funny etc.
I can say I did find both these novels really good with some well placed humour that was perfect within the story arc, that doesn’t mean everyone will laugh though….
On that subject, cheese Overload.
It was funny the first couple of times, began to grate (unintended that, honest!!) after the sixth or so, and by the end of book one I was gritting my teeth every time that came up – sadly book two had even more cheese humour, but for me it was something that let the story down, overdone, felt forced 😦

Luckily that’s a minor point, and the story moves on quickly from engagement to wedding plans.
Poor Tessa, a foot in two world, her freinds and family feel she’s changing, the Royals who don’t like her don’t feel she can ever change enough to fit in.
She wants to do her best for Arthur, to make him proud, and yet she’s been brought up to be independent.
Whatever she does is wrong for someone.
Throw in those who feel she’s gone over to the Dark Side, the anti-monarchy crowd, who tear at her for what they see as abandoning her stance, those who feel she’s a gold digger v those who feel by keeping her job she’s wasting her time and taxpayers money, as she needs a bodyguard there, and of course the Twitter Campaign, from the #Brookeisbest guys.
They are vicious, pull down what she does, whats she wears, what she says – all that get’s done by the media too, and the poor girl isn’t feeling great. She’s really under Trial by Media, with everyone feeling they know whats best, whats wrong, what she should be doing and are telling her loudly via the Press and the Internet.
Its a huge stress on a couple in love. wedding planning is stressful anyway but on the scale of a Royal wedding??

Her friends; I kind of understood how they felt and yet couldn’t really see what else she could do. Ditto her parents involvement in the wedding – love how Reuben whips out his cheque book whenever money comes up and Arthur tactfully persuades him they need to share the bills….
I know her mum has dreams of her only daughter’s wedding, but really its Tessa and Arthur’s wedding, and she’s a bit of a steam roller over what Tessa actually wants. ( I’d hate the bridal shower games she has planned too – I was cringing just reading them – do people really do that?)
That taking over, conflict of what bride and groom want v what parents want happens so many times, not just royal weddings but everyday ones, where the day gets high-jacked by proud parents. Sadly in Tessa’s case its not just family and freinds who’ll see when it goes wrong, but the whole world. No pressure then.

I love the cast, Tessa’s brothers and wives, and the kids, Arthur of course, his Gran, wonderful lady, I want to be her when I’m that age. Then there’s those who don’t like Tessa, the King, Arthur’s sister, and Brooke, who seems to be wishing Tessa and Arthur well, offering help sweetly, but we know she’s likely only paying lip service and wants Arthur herself. She’s been his friend for a long time, and he can’t believe she wants to be anything more – men are like that aren’t they? Tessa can see through her though, but there’s nothing she can do, just try to prove herself a fit bride, future Queen, and sadly her past means she’s starting from a long way back.
The wedding planner, Sebastian ( Baz, everything gets shortened or Acronymed (?) as he hasn’t time for full words….he was a real star, and I’m sure there are many like him in real life.

It made for a fun read once more, a book I really enjoyed that was light and easy to read but which brought in some serious issues.

Stars: five, a fun finish to the story that had me smiling at times, furious at others and so pleased at the way it finally worked out.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Betrayals, The Richard & Judy Book Club thriller 2017, Fiona Neill,

The Betrayals, The Richard & Judy Book Club thriller 2017, Fiona Neill,

The Betrayals: The Richard & Judy Book Club Pick 2017 by [Neill, Fiona]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, women’s fiction

I loved the idea of this book, and the writing style was perfect but….as I read it somehow it felt a bit flat. It seemed everyone was playing the blame game – except the two who I felt were actually at fault.
The way we saw events from each persons POV was fascinating, I’d be seeing it from one persons eyes and yet the same events from another person had a very different outlook.

I didn’t really like any of the characters. No-one is ever perfect of course but it was hard to find things in these guys to actually like, and without that my empathy is a bit missing.
There’s lots of to and fro where we see events played out as if now were in the past, and then see how they’ve affected people and how they act in the present. What happens to us does shape us, and its easy to link some of the traits of certain characters on what happened, but is it ever the sole cause? I don’t think so, but its human nature I guess for wanting to find a cause for every ailment, everything wrong in our lives.

There’s a bit where Nick says from his studies people change their memories of what happened unconsciously to reflect themsleves in the best light, and I can see that as true. Each time we were in one persons head I was trying to keep that in mind, but its hard not to get pulled in to what they beleive.

I was waiting for some grand climax, for a big reveal as all the way through I thought I kept getting hints of something huge to come out, a secret or something, and yet when I got to the end I felt nothing, it all felt very flat, and anticlimatic.
I wasn’t even sure if what I thought happened at the end did.

Its one of those reads where I can admire the writing style, admire how much research has gone into it, but where the actual story content just passed me by, where I could happily have done without ever picking it up.
Still, others love it and so you may too. I’d try another of Fiona’s books happily, it could well be its just This book that didn’t suit my taste.

Stars: well, two seems harsh but I really can’t give it a three, good book so its two and a half from me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Something in the Way, Something in the Way 1, Jessica Hawkins

Something in the Way, Something in the Way 1, Jessica Hawkins

Something in the Way (Something in the Way Series Book 1) by [Hawkins, Jessica]

Genre: women’s fiction, Romance

Gosh, this is a hard book to review. I’m really not sure how I feel about it – and yet I desperately want to read more….
Its a slow burn romance, but with who? Lake – or Tiffany? Its full of barriers to him being with Lake, but not really with Tiffany, and she certainly goes all out for him. He’s has a shadowed past, that affects him, but he’s working hard, trying to better himself, and he so deserves to be happy. I just don’t feel that will come with Tiffany.
I don’t feel its best for her either, she must know how he feels about Lake, its very clear even though they’ve done nothing more than innocent talk. Sometimes words and actions aren’t even needed, that magic spark is Just there and can’t be snuffed out, and thats what I feel is between Lake and Manning. Maybe its me projecting what I want to see though….

I’m conflicted over issues like Lake’s age, 16 v Manning’s 23. Here in UK that’s not really an issue, I met my husband at 15, we started dating just after my 16th birthday when he was 21 and we were married (when I was 18 and 10 days) 40 years before he died. Yet in the US under 18s, under 21s even, seem to be treated and regarded as kids and to be that feels very strange.
There were times when Lake showed a maturity way above her years, and then she’d be like some silly 13 year old. She was very changeable about some things, and yet so very definite and secure over how she felt about Manning.
She’s clearly very intelligent and yet the way her dad pressures her about her future, it never seems to occur to her to say no, to say “I want to do….” She just falls in with his plans, even if its not what she wants.

Tiffany, her elder sister, I hated how her parents treated her and it made me wonder, was she living down to their expectations, or was she really as shallow as she appeared?
I didn’t really feel she wanted Manning for himself as much as the prestige of having an older boyfriend, and a way to irritate, infuriate her dad. They really didn’t get on well, and she seemed to know just how to poke him. Though he was horrible the way he put constant praise on Lake and treated Tiffany as a dilettante.
I felt sorry for Tiffany and yet…I just couldn’t like her.
She was cruel to Lake, always mocking her, always trying to show her in a bad light, she knows how Lake feels about Manning but she wants him for herself and that’s that. She knows she’s beautiful and assumes all men want her, takes that adoration as her due, and that she deserves what ever she wants regardless of how others feel.

And then there’s Manning. You can feel the connection between him and Lake from that first meeting but why – why- can’t he leave Tiffany alone?
I just wanted him to have more backbone, to be different, to see the truth in what’s between him and Lake, but of course that would be a different book, a dull one and sometimes heroes do have feet of clay.
I wondered, does he really have feelings for both Tiffany and Lake? Can he really leave that strong connection to Lake, forget about her, convince himself she’s better without him?

Arggh…so many issues, so many questions, and looking at book two I know I can’t buy it yet as I’ll need book three straight after.
I hate books that end this way, that leave me waiting for more, so I’m waiting til book three is out and then reading all the story. And if Lake and Manning don’t get their happy ever after There Will Be Strong Words happening!

Stars: four, a great start even if the ending is frustrating and I’m full of unanswered questions.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

All That Makes Life Bright, Josi S. Kilpack

All That Makes Life Bright, Josi S. Kilpack

All That Makes Life Bright: The Life and Love of Harriet Beecher Stowe [A Historical Proper Romance] (Proper Romance Historical) by [Kilpack, Josi S.]

Genre:  Romance,

When I saw this for review the names seemed familiar to me but I passed that off as being typical historical names. Then I started it and found that Harriet was the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book many believed to be the force for change, pushing up the agenda for the abolition of slavery.
I haven’t ever actually read that book…but its free on kindle so I read a few chapters last night.

I loved the way Harriet was so convinced everything would work out just as she and Calvin planned. What’s that saying “man proposes God disposes”?
Well, she soon found the truth of that. It wasn’t long before she and Calvin were struggling, she with trying to cope with home and housework, Calvin’s and others expectations of her now, the change in finance and finding time to write.
It seemed to her all the things Catherine had said that she rubbished were coming true. Calvin still adored her and she him, but they simply didn’t understand the others views, issues, problems. Then The Trip occurs just as she finds she’s pregnant….

Its a wonderful read if you want to see the struggles women of the time had to remain themsleves, to keep their sense of worth, not just become wife, mother, daughter and lose themsleves in the unending drudge of home making. Its a balance of expectations on all parts, leveled with realistic practicalities. Calvin and Harriet are both very stubborn, both convinced they are right and its a real head to head theme at times. He supported her wring in theory, she was convinced she’d continue, its so easy when its all abstracts and theory but throw in Real Life and its very different.

It takes something huge to force them to make the change, to respect each others views, to find a way forward that allows them to still share their love and respect the other person.
Its a snippet of the times when slavery was just becoming seen as abhorrent by the enlightened few, but accepted as natural but many. It was hard sometimes reading this book of almost 200 years past, and knowing that there are people who still hold that same bigoted view 😦

I enjoyed reading this, it wasn’t a heart stopping romance, more a gentle view from the sidelines on two peoples struggle to make their romance work.
In a way the categorisation of romance is misleading, its a book with romance in, it’s a story of how life in that time was in practical terms for the duo.
It’s more a novel of two very strong willed, intelligent people falling in love and learning to live together without one subjugating the other.
Its not a book I’d reread but one I did enjoy very much.

 

Stars: Four, an interesting look at the early life of a very famous woman, how here writings became a catalyst for change.
It made me wonder what would have happened if Calvin stuck to his original stance and Harriet gave up her writing.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Lady Be Good, Heather Hiestand

Lady Be Good, Heather Hiestand

Lady Be Good (The Grand Russe Hotel) by [Hiestand, Heather]

Genre: Romance

I really wanted to like this book, its a fascinating time in history and the exiled Russians struggled with a complete lifestyle change.

I admired Olga, she was willing to work, to make her own way, not live off charity, though it doesn’t really look as if she had that option either. She did have connections with Russian ex-royals, but it doesn’t seem like they wanted her with them for long.
She was so loyal to her cousin, but I felt she was incredibly naive.
Douglas – double agent in the finest of the tradition, not for him the life of luxury, but a secret one behind it working in intelligence, something he’s got the sharp mind for.
I struggled though with the romance between him and Olga, I can see why she liked him, he paid her attention, flattered her, took her out and especially helped her with her art. He respected her and her need to earn her way, and that meant so much to her.
Its a struggle though knowing that at first he’s only staying close because of her connection to Konstatin, her shared name that makes him suspect she may be involved. I know things like this happen, are necessary even now, but I just find them particularly callous, and didn’t really feel that transition where he began to love her, to want her for herself, and that was sad, as she was so in love with him.

Still, that’s just me and my perceptions, others will feel very differently. Maybe its that fact of how he begins with her, how he’s using her that just puts me off him and makes me feel she deserves better.  I know he’s a good man, just didn’t feel that he really did love her.

Stars: 2.5/3, a decent read but which didn’t really work well for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Break, Marian Keyes. The Crossroads Duet, Rachel Blaufeld

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The Break, Marian Keyes

The Break by [Keyes, Marian]

Genre: Women’s Fiction, romance.

Its years since I read a Marion Keyes novel. Looking back on my reading history for me it seems to go through cycles, and its been a while since I was attracted to this type of novel.

Something about it called to me though and I am so glad, its an incredible, moving, thoughtful novel, not all doom and gloom and sad broken relationships but sharp, witty humour, a wry look at the realities of modern day family life, a look at how our pasts can affect the now and how even the most content seeming people can crack.

I’m blaming Marion for the fact that today I’m feeling – as my dad would have said “like a wet weekend”. I’d just finished the fabulous Clara Coulson novella Dream Snatcher at about 8.30 last night and decided to start this.

I knew it was long, I love long novels so planned on reading to maybe half way, but time ticked on, midnight came and went and finally about 2 am I finished….

I just couldn’t stop, I had to know what would happen next, how Neeve’s vlog was doing, what Sofia was planning, how Keira was coping, Hugh leaving affected so many people.

Amy’s work partners, they’re supportive and yet there’s a job to be done, and who can really understand what’s happening on someone else life.

Amy’s friends all have different views, coloured by their own experiences, and then there’s her extended family, sisters and brothers, children, partners, and her parents, dad with dementia who scares off all but the most hardy of carers, and mum, well, she was a terrific lady, finally seemed to have found life after years of ill health that left her children to really bring up themsleves. I loved her in Neeve’s vlog, her way of saying what she wanted, what wasn’t really quite acceptable but with a charm and sparkle that negated any possible offence.

Then there’s Hugh and Amy. Amy had been through a husband leaving her already, divorced at 22 with a young child her husband had never helped since, despite his fame as a footballer, and all his money. She was determined to never rely on a man again, and she’d picked herself up, finagled the balance of work, home, childcare somehow, all the while helping her extended family.

Then Hugh came along….he’s a charmer, wears her down and is just truly adorable. He treats Neeve as his own, adores Kiera when she comes along just months into their dating, and when Amy’s irresponsible brother and his weird partner finally – well, dump I guess – their daughter Sofia on her Hugh just accepts her as part of the brood, and life expands to fit in yet another member.

They really seem to have a perfect marriage, money’s tight, but then so it is for most people, and finally they have a tiny nest egg after Hugh’s father dies and leaves them some money.

His death affects Hugh badly though, and a close friend dying soon after tips him into, not really depression but a sort of discontent with his life.  Amy thinks later Could she have seen this coming? I don’t think so, its easy to use hindsight but at the time we’re immersed in the eternal struggle of home, kids, family, work and sometimes it takes away moments when we could have spotted an issue. Or not. who knows?

When Hugh drops his bombshell, he’s done the figures, he’s spending some of the nest egg on six months away, backpacking in Asia. He’s not leaving her he says, he just won’t be married for that time.

Wham, poor Amy, she’s gutted and who wouldn’t be? Lets be clear, he’s planning to act as a single guy, tells Amy she has the same freedon and that he’ll be back to pick up things in six months.

I was so angry and yet like Amy so confused. How on earth did he think they could just pick up the reins again after that?

She tries all sorts of arguments, she reasons, offers other suggestions, cries, tries persuasion, guilt, everything she has. She loves him, he’s been her other half, her help-meet for so long and she can’t imagine life without him.

She could have ranted, run him down to freinds and family and yet, he’s still her Hugh, still the man she loves. That doesn’t sit well with everyone, and no-one really knows what to say or do.

The final day comes though, Hugh is off and the family have to learn to live without him. I was thinking “what happens now? What if he meets someone, what if Amy meets someone, and if they don’t, how can they pick up life without resentment?”

I really wanted to hate him, call him all sorts of names, and yet I couldn’t because I knew he wasn’t a selfish man, he’d just reached the point of no return, knew if he didn’t do something drastic he’d crack and they’d all fall. This way, well – if he’s very, very lucky maybe, just maybe they can get their lives back.

I don’t think he’d really though beyond that “must get away” issue he had, in theory it all worked because he wanted it to work but life isn’t that easy. Its a huge gamble, and I just had to see how it played out, hence the 2 am finish….

It could be a novel full of doom and gloom, bitterness, sadness, fractured families, but its not. We see just how families can pull together while also being a huge source of friction, see how we do cope when we think all is lost, life does go on, work has to be done, food has to be bought, bills to be paid. That drudgery, that slog provides the reason to keep going. And the humour. Surprisingly there’s a lot of really sharp, funny humour, moments and phrases that had me sniggering. I’m a bit of a face-book addict, have to have a sneak each morning to see what friends have been doing, have posted, and this gem really rang a chord

“Instagram is the worst for that inspirational crap. Nothing is too banal or too obvious that it can’t be posted”

Oh yes, I’ve seen so so many of those!!

I’ll stop now, I’ve rambled far too much but it really is a fantastic read, sharp and observant, full of pathos, sadness and yet hope, looking at families, at modern issues, at falling in love, and very importantly, staying in love, and just how far a marriage can stretch before it fractures.

It made me think “what would I do” and to be truthful, I don’t know, any more than Amy did.

Stars: Five, terrific read, hard to put down, so just leave yourself time so you’re not reading into early hours as I did!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

 

 

Redemption Lane, Rachel Blaufeld
Genre:  Literature/Fiction, Contemporary Romance.
The Crossroads Duet by [Blaufeld, Rachel]

It’s on KU, and currently only 99p for the duo even if you don’t have KU. 

 

Genre:  Literature/Fiction, Contemporary Romance.

I haven’t yet read the second book, read the first ages ago and yesterday re-read that ready for reading book two. Today hopefully, maybe tomorrow. (edit 10 Sept – read it now – review at end)
Wow, what a read…its so packed with emotion, sadness, and really tugged at my sensibilities. I veered from hope to despair, from happiness to the depths of sorrow. It contains some really dark vibes at times – and of course that’s right up my street.
Its not all despair and melancholy though – there are breakthroughs when you feel this time they really will come through, and then dammit, something else happens and poor Bess or Lane is sent back to their demons.
I loved Bess, she’s really struggled to get back after hitting the bottom, nearly dying and ending in rehab. She was determined to put her past behind her – sadly though it wasn’t to be left behind but crept up, sneaking in by way of Lane.
Until then though she’s working hard, filling every hour she can with her job, attending meetings for addicts and with looking after the wonderful Brooks Bailey, her rescue dog. Its quiet up in the mountains where she lives but it suits her. She’s a small group of connections, they can’t really be called friends – more acquaintances really, from work or the addiction group. Somehow she’s getting by in life, its not fun but hard work but its all she knows now.
Lane, he’s got his own troubles and is always pulling his twin Jake out of situations. Then That night happens, when Bess collapses at Lane’s feet and somehow in the muddle of getting help for her he doesn’t follow up what happened, just leaves Jake and runs.
He’s now a rich and  successful CEO, and then on a working visit to a hotel he runs into Bess. Of course she doesn’t remember him, after all she was hardly in a position to notice anyone, and he just can’t stay away from her, there’s an attraction he can’t shut down. He’s never short of ladies, they flock to him being the magic duo of rich and good-looking, but it’s Bess he wants. Slowly he persuades her and they begin a relationship. Its fraught though from their demons of the past, from so many things that I began to think they’d never come through together. It was so tense at times, so edge of seat wondering what would happen, and then some beautiful moments when all was going well.
Of course secrets always come out in the end, and Lane’s knowledge of her collapse comes out just when things are going really well for them. Its not only that secret that comes out though, there’s the connections from the twins past, the secret that plagues Lane, gives him terrible nightmares, but he refuses to admit it or talk about it when Bess questions him. She loves him and wants to help, but each time he runs, just shuts her out and goes. It’s what he’s always done to cope but this time, if he wants Bess he needs to face up to his past.
It’s a complete novel, and wraps up beautifully with a quick glimpse into the future. Its a wonderful novel, more than just a simple romance, a feeling that this story could be real, and has some great secondary characters; Jake, Shirley, AJ, James – they all play a special part in making this book come alive for me.

Stars: Five, a great read, a romance but so much more than Just a romance…
ARC of book one provided by Netgalley and publishers.

Book two was so much luck book one, a very different story but with the same amazing characters, ones you love, ones you don’t…I so felt for Jake, his view of himself was so awful, he felt he didn’t deserve to be happy. I could understand his grudge against Shirley, what she said, what she did has left him with self loathing, with lifelong issues and he’s a broken man inside. Yet he’s such a generous person too, has good freinds, works hard, treats people really well. He’s turned his life around and yet still struggling to find his place in the world and then…he meets Allyson.
He’s besotted with her, in the same way Lane was with Bess. Its that Something – not really Love but some kind of powerful Pull – that made them both change their lives, made them decide That person simply must be part of it. Jake’s facing an uphill battle though. Like Bess, Allyson also has secrets, difficulties, things she hides from everyone. Slowly he wears her down – and what a man, he knows what he wants and goes all out. his past though isn’t all behind him, Allyson’s present brings her into real danger and at some point the two collide.
An amazing, emotional read, with real depth, not a light and fluffy romance but a very real feeling one, with some heart stopping moments.
another full five stars.
ARC provided by author and publishers

When Time Is A River, Susan Clayton-Goldner

When Time Is A River, Susan Clayton-Goldner

When Time Is A River: A Winston Radhauser Mystery: #2 by [Clayton-Goldner, Susan]

Genre: thriller, mystery and suspense.

I loved Susan’s A bend in the Willow, so when she offered me this book for review I jumped at it.
I’m primarily a romance reader, but enjoy other genres from time to time. A few years back I was mainly a thriller reader, and Susan’s style of writing reminds me of the best of them, Nicci French, Mary Higgins-Clark, John Grisham, James Patterson, Dick Francis ( the horses were the draw there of course!) All of those deliver a great story, slowly building up to a climax that keeps the reader wondering, from the little clues dropped in, just who is behind things and why.

The characters here are so real, flawed like most of us, and that always works for me. I want real people not storybook perfect clones.
Brandy loves her little sister but doesn’t get on so well with Step-mum Christine. She’s only four years older than Brandy. Prior to her dad meeting her at the university where he works she had Kathleen as her nanny since she was a toddler, and of course they all felt like one happy family and she resents Christine. Still, Brandy’s a sweet girl, loves her dad, adores little Emily, and tries with Christine and they’ve developed a kind of working relationship. I feel for her, it must have been hard when her father told her Christine was pregnant.
I feel for Christine too, a baby wasn’t in her plans, she’s had to give up university and her life has been upended. Instead of fun, parties and boyfreinds she’s married and looking after a toddler. That’s wasn’t in her plans when she started an affair with her professor.
Then there’s her dad, he’s like most, fallible, and his weakness in sleeping with Christine changed his life too. Of course there are others connected to them, who also have been brought into the group, had plans derailed, but would – could – any of them be responsible for Emily’s disappearance?

This awful event throws a deep crack into a family that’s kind of just getting along, still full of sharp edges and tentacles of resentment. Emily’s disappearance will either strengthen them or break them entirely.
Its not the first hard thing for Brandy and her dad top deal with, her mum died when she was very young, and she’s undergone many surgeries on her face from a horrific accident when she was tiny. She wants to be an actress, has incredible talent and wonderful voice but is scared her looks will fail her. Its a sad thing isn’t it, that we rely so much on beauty and supposed “perfection” in our celebrities.

We follow the story mainly via Brandy, and of course Radhauser. He’s no stranger to tragedy and each case like this takes a toll on him.
He and Brandy are both very conscious of the 48 hour timeline, that abducted people are less likely to survive after that and are pulling out all the stops to find Emily. He’s really good in that he doesn’t treat Brandy as just a kid, she’s 18, but that’s an age where some are adult and some aren’t. In some ways Brandy is older than her years, and the way her thinking runs, especially after the way Radhauser sets her tasks to recollect all her memories of the event, is crucial to the story. He doesn’t really know what he’s started on the steamroller juggernaut in search of answers Brandy becomes. At times he wants to just tell her to stop, that she’s in danger of hindering and not helping, but he can see why she’s so determined, and understands her reactions. And of course each time she finds out something relevant, however tiny the information, just makes her more determined.

I loved how we saw her thinking, how we understood along with her just how events could have played out, how she came to the conclusion she did because we also had the same information. Somehow Susan managed to get us to understand her thinking by way of letting us reach conclusions along with her. I hate it when a story “tells” me whats going to happen, rather than letting it play out and my reaching my own conclusions, and here Susan lets me work things out along with Brandy and Radhauser, though the ending and person completly caught me out.

It all takes place over a two day period, and seeing events come to light, adding up tiny clues to see which were real and which led no-where was fascinating. I usually like books that cover a longer time-span, but this is so detailed, the characters felt so real that I was pulled into the story and that just didn’t matter to me. Its another great read, out of my usual romance comfort zone but one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Stars: Five, a riveting and well planned suspense read, that kept me gripped to the end.

ARC supplied for review purposes by author
 

To Have and To Hold, (The Wife Book 1), M L Roberts

To Have and To Hold, (The Wife Book 1), M L Roberts
The Wife – Part One: To Have and to Hold (The Wife series, Book 1) by [Roberts, M L]

Genre: mystery and thrillers, women’s fiction

I loved the synopsis and looking on both amazon and goodreads its listed as a 400 page book, a four book series. I expected this part, part one to be 400 pages though, but its not.
I guess the 400 pages relates to the whole story 😦 as part one is 1402 kindle location…..I can’t seem to find info on when parts 2,3,4 are out and I so hate waiting. for me it spoils a story, divided like this, and TBH I feel in this case its unnecessary, it could have been put together as one book, or possibly two.
Four parts though? With no release dates for the rest? I’ll have forgotten much of this by then, certainly the drama will have lost its impact.

That’s a real shame as its a terrific story, carefully written so we think A is what happened, then clues laid out so we think maybe it was B instead. Then something else comes up so maybe it wasn’t A or B but C, and then maybe D and E are part of the story too. There are lots of clues laid out, but many send the reader off in the wrong direction. Or do they??

I really enjoyed this, what there was of the story anyway, and as a complete book it would probably be a five star, but divided as it is?
Well, the biggest emotion I feel is frustration, not knowing when I can read more, not knowing how long before I get the whole story, especially as it ends in my least favourite way, with a dam n sharp cliffhanger. Gah!!

Stars: Three, excellent writing, tantalising story but presented this way, divided into four parts, really spoils my enjoyment. I felt I’d barely got started before it was ending….

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

The Shark Club, Ann Kidd Taylor

The Shark Club: The perfect romantic summer beach read by [Kidd Taylor, Ann]

Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction.

I’ve mixed feelings about this book, I enjoyed it very much but it also left me feeling fainly unsatisfied at the end.
It’s not classed as Romance and yet…the synopsis certainly hints at a strong romantic content. Well, there is romance here, but for me not enough to justify inclusion in the brief description.
Its a story about so much more, loss, betrayal, families and coping, childhood bereavement, and of course Sharks and all the stories that surround them.

Maeve gets badly bitten as a kid, then becomes fascinated by them, and through her work we get to know so much more, how intelligent they are, that they’re not the hardened killers so often made out, but incredible creatures just living out their lives until we interfere. Through that we get the whole Shark Finning theme – something pretty horrific IMO, and I didn’t realise it was so widespread or such a lucrative trade.

Its got some great characters, some intense issues, starting with the twins parent’ death and subsequent upbringing by their aunt, childhood friendships, where they were so close with Daniel, he too having his own family issues. Then there’s the conundrum of relationships v career and that’s something that affects so many couples.
Some real characters her, I loved Maeve, felt a bit annoyed at Robin, though he’s just dealing with life his way, adored Daniel but them Nick….I loved him too.
Of course the real star is Hazel, 7 going on 37, a gem of a girl, confident and yet scared too. She was so perfect and the title reflects just how wonderful she was.

Its kind of a book that brings things out and explores them but doesn’t really give any answers. Maybe because there isn’t a right and wrong way, its not cut and dried but varies from person to person and all we can do is what feels right to us at the time. Certainly I can look back at my own life and see where I could have taken a different route, but at the time what I did felt right…
I enjoyed reading it but wanted more from the romance(s). I didn’t get the ending I wanted, perhaps that was just too predictable though, and I can see that it had the right ending, just not the one I necessarily wanted 😉
I did feel that some parts were treated very lightly, not just the romances, but Robin’s book, Daniel’s actions both past and present, Maeve’s uncertainties about love, her way of dealing with loss, and Nick and his problems. The Shark Finning though was especially ” missing” something for me, it’s so awful, so cruel and graphically described, and yet the conclusions just seemed so rushed and simple. I expected more action, more drama, or else to have left it as an unsolved issue. The way it was treated seemed horribly superficial, a slapped wrist for those involved and all over in a few pages ;-(
Despite my criticisms its still a story I enjoyed very much and would recommend to those who like thought provoking novels, ones that give you something to mull over in quiet moments, who want to read about real people, real issues and enjoy a story that will take you away from everyday life for a few hours.

Stars: four, an absorbing read but I felt some parts were lacking a bit for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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