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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

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

Grown Ups, Marian Keyes

Grown Ups, Marian Keyes

Grown Ups by [Keyes, Marian]

Genre: Women’s fiction, General fiction (adult)
Sigh…..women’s fiction – just why? Why alienate potential readers, men read and write romance too.

Well. Marion Keyes, an author whose work I usually love. I went onto this expecting to be engrossed in a family saga. Well, family saga it is but there were so many characters, that it got confusing, I had to keep flipping back well into the story to see who was who and how they fitted in.
Its a well written story once you have it clear who is who and how they relate to the others but…. a huge failing for me was that the more I read the less I liked the characters. I did like Nell til further in when I just was rolling my eyes at her behaviour, and the more I read the less I liked everyone else. I guess Jessie, the one I probably liked least to begin became the only one I really liked. I felt she was trying, even if too hard and her actions were OTT, at least she meant well, whereas the rest seemed to display some horrible self centred traits. Sadly for me that made the story a fail – I can see its a five star perfect read for others, and that’s how it goes with stories, some you love and some…you just don’t. I’ll be back when the next MK book is out, I’m sure this is just a glitch for me with her work.

Stars: Two, I really struggled with this, well written but ultimately I just didn’t care about the characters enough to enjoy the story.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Bromance Book Club, Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club, Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club: The utterly charming new rom-com that readers are raving about! by [Kay Adams, Lyssa]

Genre: Romance

Y’know, so very often books promise “you will laugh out loud” or maybe “gut clenching humour” and I find that actually they don’t, the humour is forced and more slapstick than comedic. This one promises nothing and yet was incredible. Clever subtle humour at times that had me smiling gently, and at other times ? I was snorting at the mental images.

Wonderfully written, you feel for both characters, and I adored them even if I could see where they were harsh with each other in expectations and of course, saying just the wrong thing at the wrong moment!
Gavin, he was wonderful. Top baseball star, dad of adorable twin girls, and thinks he has the perfect marriage and then….That comes out. Poor guy, all this while he’s been thinking he’s keeping his wife happy sexually, and then suddenly he finds out she’s never reached the big O. He (IMO) over reacts, a mix of feeling humiliated I guess, and feeling that she’s lied to him the three years they’ve been married.

Thea, suddenly found herself pregnant early in her relationship, and twins demand all your time. She loves Gavin, that’s clear, but feels an outsider in his closed Baseball world. I can see that, many wives/partners grow up alongside their partner, from junior ranks to the big time but Thea got dropped straight in, and it feels like she’s always trying to blend in, to belong, and yet never really fits. Of course there’s the classic mean girl, the type who says one thing while making it clear its not praise but an insult, Rachel, wife of one of the other stars, and I do love a character like hers. I wish she had a bigger part. I love the drama that follows people like her.
Then with the arrival of the twins Thea’s own career has ground to a halt too. She adores Gavin so how do you say “actually Gav, you’ve not hit the spot” and when? Once you’ve let that magic, hidden moment pass its gone. How can you respond when he says “why didn’t you tell me before?” and so it becomes a long secret.
The book club guys, they were just wonderful. I love First Rule of Book Club, you don’t talk about Book Club. The sheer silliness of modern day men, bug Alpha males, taking tips from fictional Regency Lords and their problems. And yet it was working…I guess times never really change. I love the way they convinced themselves the book was relevant to modern society, the way they used words to parallel it to modern feminism…and of course the wonderful Regency style insults and phrases that pop into Gavin’s head. It was the little touches like that which add so much depth and fun to the story
Its one step forward and two back for Gavin as both he and Thea learn slowly about the issues from their own pasts that have influenced their marriage. If they had dated for longer then maybe they wouldn’t have had issues, would have known more about each others triggers but…the twins came.
I think my favourite bit was the night Gav was looking after the twins and the book club lads had a meeting at his house. Thea and sister Liv came home early to find decorated beards and hair, big burly guys with painted nails, and of course The Russian and his stomach and flatulence issues. I actually had tears of laughter at the mental images in my head.
Its a great read, lovely romance with incredible humour that was just perfect for me, fitting to the story, not squeezed in regardless for a cheap laugh as in so many books. I look forward to the next in series.

Stars: Five. A wonderful read, romance, humour and sharply modern issues that were helped with ancient advice….

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Truth Hurts, A captivating, breathless read, Rebecca Reid

Truth Hurts, A captivating, breathless read, Rebecca Reid

Truth Hurts: A captivating, breathless read by [Reid, Rebecca]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Women’s Fiction

Moan: women’s fiction – why alienate potential readers? Men write books enjoyed by women and men alike, and they read the same.

Secrets, its a novel about secrets and of course they never stay hidden. I kept wondering: what was Poppy hiding, what was Drew’s secret? I was puzzled at first when we met Drew and Poppy, and then moved on to Agnes and Caroline….but it all comes together slowly, though the secrets don’t come out until almost the end.
Its told in past/present format for Poppy, but Drew remains an enigma, a man who adores Poppy, seems to be just too good to be true. Gina, Poppy’s friend certainly thinks so, but she’s guardedly cautious, after her first open enthusiasm about him.
I loved when Gina was staying with Poppy at Thursday house, and they do the makeover, transforming it in the few days Drew was away. Then Drew’s friends arrive for a weekend and that was fun, the old friends come to meet ( aka gossip and judge…) Drew’s surprise new, young wife….some great snark there.

It’s fun read, cleverly paced so you’re always wondering what did happen, what are they hiding. Was it so bad, was it what I suspect, why are the locals so unfriendly?
There are lots of little clues, but I was never quite sure where they were leading, or if I was down the wrong track.
Then all is revealed, very suddenly near the end, but that’s not all the surprises, there’s one last one that really caught me out, shocked me and changed how I’d begun to see everyone. I really didn’t like what happened, yet it was the perfect ending, really unexpected, and something that made me feel somewhat uncomfortable about it.

Stars: five, a cracking read, surprises all the way and an ending that caught me out. Its not one I’d reread, for a long while at least, knowing the secrets now but its still an amazing read.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Lady of the Ravens, Joanna Hickson

The Lady of the Ravens, Joanna Hickson

Genre: historical

I loved this, it was a book I savoured over several sittings, not devoured in one go. I find for me that works better with historical reads, gives me time to mull over events, to think about the characters and actions, with them being so far from how we live now.

I really enjoyed the day to day bits, what they wore, what they ate, Joan chatting to her friend in the sewing trade, what each person did in the duty of the royal household. I loved it when we finally got the Raven connection, that seemed to take time and I found the story a little slow at first.

Henry 7th isn’t someone I’ve read a great deal about, I know him from the periphery of stories about his son, and of course the whole York/Lancaster issues. Turbulent times to live in when one could be royal one day, deposed and in the tower the next. Of course that stood for followers too, one day landed gentry, the next everything goes to the crown and they were out, let live if lucky, tower or death if not.
Hard decisions, yet as Joan sees, however one sympathised if a potential heir was living the followers would always be a danger, even if there was no intention on the potential heir’s part to rule.

I enjoyed reading about his royal household, the children, though was sad at how fragile life was even for royal families. Disease and death was very prevalent then, and even royals succumbed far too often.

Reading too about how children were sent away from families at such a young age, for politics, for family power, for alliances and of course for their personal futures was hard. Seemed really sad to me, that close family contact was rare in wealthy households, that parents had children they rarely saw, and who could be sent hundreds of miles away, to other countries even when still only very young. They grew up quickly then, as we see from their speech and education while still little more than toddlers.

I loved reading about Sim and the Ravens, about Joan’s championing of them and the issues she faced. Its a fictional snippet of history with roots in reality, and certainly the Raven/Tower legend is still strong. I believe the Ravens actually have their own guardians officially now.

Joanna is an author new to me, I’d be happy to read more from her when in the mood to get lost back in history for a few hours. She writes in a way that had me totally immersed in what was happening, feeling it was real, and that’s always the best stories for me.

Stars: Five. I thought at first it was a little slow, but that’s really scene setting as I discovered when I read further, and its a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

Arc via publishers and Netgalley

If I Never Met You, Mhairi McFarlane

If I Never Met You, Mhairi McFarlane

If I Never Met You: Deliciously romantic and utterly hilarious - the funniest romcom of 2020! by [McFarlane, Mhairi]

Genre: Romance

I loved this book, romance, humour, pathos and drama, loads of drama, the stuff of tears, long lasting not the two pages on all is well type. All the ingredients for a five star read from me.

Laurie, poor Laurie, she’s reached that age where the baby decision is looming, and thinks Dan, her partner since uni, is there with her. And then he drops the bombshell, its not just a baby he doesn’t want, but the whole life he and Laurie have created.
She’s heartbroken, gutted, and although he does the “its not you its me, of course there’s no-one else, I wouldn’t do that to you”, she’s nitpicking her way through their past interactions, trying to see where she went wrong. Because of course it must be something she did, or didn’t do in her eyes. Her friends tell her no, things happen, and she fast discovers that the mutual friends they have soon divide off into his and hers….
Its made worse by the fact they work together, Dan asks her to keep their breakup quiet and she does, sobbing silently in the loos when it gets too much. Only her best friend Emily knows the truth.

And then – Dan comes to see her, the man who wasn’t ready for a baby yada, yada, yada, to tell her his new GF is pregnant and of course Laurie starts counting just how long they’d been together, was it all lies he told her. She’s gutted, stricken, heartbroken just when she was getting on with life without him.
She gets stuck in the lift one evening with Jamie, a man from the office she only knows by rep, and that has him as a classic jack-the-lad Lothario, and sees he’s not quite as he’s portrayed. He’s a little younger than her and devastatingly good looking. He’s ambitious too, and wants to make partner despite his age, but has been given the hint that if he had a steady partner it would help. He proposes a fauxmance, he’ll impress the bosses, Laurie gets to keep her head high in the office, and stick it to Dan. Win win.
Of course it never works out that easy and along the way to happiness lies some real angst, tears, embarrassment and soul searching. Both Laurie and Jamie learn a lot about themselves.

The office politics was played perfectly, offices always seem to be hotbeds of gossip, taking every little hint and embellishing it “in confidence” of course, and there’s always an office gatekeeper who takes his/her role very seriously and has favourites. I loved that Bharat wasn’t put in that overworked, tired, bitch queen role, but was instead a loyal, funny and sharply intellectual man. He had wit but not the cruel type gays so often get tarred with. Laurie being mixed race is dealt with well, those questions “ where are you from”, “ Yorkshire”, “ no I mean where are you from…”.
Emily, her best friend, had her share of woes in the story, and we see just how friends support each other, and that’s one of the things that made this such a special read for me. It was about people, real folk we meet day in day out, not some book trope caricatures. The humour fell naturally, there were subtle little quips that had me sniggering, then the next line would be something that had me on the edge of tears. There one section towards the end, that being me had me really happy, a feeling of reap what you sow schadenfreude! Loved it.
We learned so much about what made the main characters the way they were, about why they were seen a certain way, and of course what their hopes for the future was. Its a wonderful read, I love Mhairi’s stories, had a little hiccup with Don’t you forget about me, but this one is anther solid five star keeper.

Stars: Five, fantastic read, great mix of life, people, drama and humour, and a wonderful HEA.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

This is Not How it Ends, Rochelle B. Weinstein

This is Not How it Ends, Rochelle B. Weinstein

This Is Not How It Ends by [Weinstein, Rochelle B.]

Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction.

And my usual moan, why do we have women’s fiction as a category? Men read romance, men write romance. We call out for equality and then slap in this outdated and ludicrous category 😦

Anyway, my first read by this author so I didn’t know what to expect, but I really liked the sound of the description. It proved to be a book that was way above what I anticipated, a thoughtful and moving read.
There were times I found myself irritated with Phillip, when he was away so much even though he knew Charley was upset by it, when he never offered to take her. I didn’t feel he was the sort for an affair – he adored Charley and I couldn’t see him ever wanting anyone else, but why wouldn’t he suggest she come with him? Why did he keep going away for work when financially he didn’t need to, and it ought to have been clear his absence was causing issues between them. As I got further into the book all became clear and made me love him even more.
Then there’s Ben, and what a wonderful guy he was too, and he’d been through such heartbreak. Circumstances put him and Charley together so much, and I was torn for what might happen, and in tears when I got towards the end. Its not a conventional love triangle, though there is such a lot of love in the book, its tempered with incredible sacrifice too. Its does have a HEA among all those tears.

Stars: Five. It was incredibly moving, a story I really didn’t anticipate enjoying as much as I did. Those characters, Phillip, Charley, Ben and the secondary ones with stay with me for a while.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Love Lettering, The Charming feel-good rom-com that will grab hold your heart and never let go, Kate Clayborn

Love Lettering, The Charming feel-good rom-com that will grab hold your heart and never let go, Kate Clayborn

Love Lettering: The charming feel-good rom-com that will grab hold your heart and never let go by [Clayborn, Kate]

Genre: Women’s fiction

Gah, I hate this genre heading, so outdated. Men and women can read the same books….its 2019, not 1919.

So, I started eagerly, as an artist I so admire those who can do wonderful lettering. I wish I could but alas, my lettering as abysmal 😦 Yet, for the first quarter maybe I was floundering, not really sure what was happening, where the thrust of the novel was going – and waiting for the romance to start. It seemed Meg and Reid were certainly not going to be together, they barely seemed able to look at each other. Then slowly it coalesced and I began to be gripped, by Meg’s ideas, by the way Reid seemed to slowly come round to understanding them and they way he pulled in to help. Yet they were still edgily polite to each other, ultra cautious, each expecting the other to say “ that’s enough now”. Neither was willing to put themselves forward in a big way, but they inched their way closer and it was wonderful to watch, with me desperate to know if they would take that magic step into couple-dom ( yep, I succumbed and took a peep at the end . For me it doesn’t spoil the story, just lets me enjoy it without that awful worry of It Might Not Happen)
I loved the way her and Reid’s walks took in parts of the city others wouldn’t notice, how she taught him to look beyond the obvious, to seek out hidden gems. I loved both of them, and yet Reid’s caginess about himself, his work, his moodiness spelled caution, for Meg and me. Then when it all comes out, well, instead of the gentle romance I’d been reading it was Drama, Drama, Drama all the way. I do so love that, so it was perfect for me even if possibly not overly true to how things would run as others seem to feel. I have no idea in real life so I just went with the story and looking back I could see, as could Meg, all the little hints where Reid was struggling.
Its a beautiful read and the way Meg’s writing and business was described was wonderful, seeing the way she got inspiration, seeing what got her down – not another Bloom where you are planted. I hate those overused, trite, twee expressions too…. Stick with it if like me you flounder a bit at the start. Its worth it.

Stars: Five, a lovely story. Slow burn romance with some beautiful moments.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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