Cottage on a Cornish Cliff, Kate Ryder
Genre: women’s Fiction, Romance
Gah, women’s fiction…men write romance, they read it too, so I hate this category. Sexist and outdated.
I hadn’t read book one so borrowed it via KU.
I enjoyed it though I had a few reservations, especially the way Oliver is so – well – spineless. He lets Sylvie walk all over him, he lets Deanna run their lives and when he meets Cara he finally takes something for himself but he still hasn’t sorted out his marriage and the ending I thought was so sad.
I was so hoping in book two he’d finally step up, man up, be responsible. When he was with Cara he seemed a different man, and I loved him, then he’d get depressed again and just let events happen. I know depression is hard, but its not just him suffering, its his family, children, and of course Cara and her family. He knows he has an issue – I just wanted him to try to take steps to deal with it. He seems to use it as an excuse…. “the Grey Mist descended” and he just lets it.
So I was really hoping for good things for Cara in book two, wanting her and Oliver to be together. When he was with her he really seemed a better man. I didn’t like Deanna, his wife, felt that she wanted the celebrity aspect, the wealth and benefits more than she really wanted Oliver. He seems almost like an afterthought in their marriage. Maybe it started differently but now they’ve become two separate people held together by the children.
Cara’s art career is blooming, helped along by Greg. I did not like that man, he just seemed so sleazy, being overly touchy with Cara even when his publicly beloved wife was dying. Inevitably Cara gets swept along by the changes he says she needs to make to reach the top in her art, but I kept thinking did she want that or was it Greg? She was happy painting, selling online and in her gallery, and now the pressures built was she still happy. Had her art become more burden than pleasure? It certainly appeared that way.
There’s the same mix of secondary characters as in book one but somehow I didn’t enjoy this as much as that one, even though I didn’t like the way book one ended 🙂
Its kind of a sad story here, no-one seems really happy, Oliver is back with the family but its clear things aren’t right there, Deanna is stretching out picking up her career, but doesn’t want full independence, doesn’t want to lose Oliver – or at least I felt she didn’t want to lose the lifestyle, Greg is carefully grooming Cara but I felt it was more for the career prestige of discovering a new top artist than for herself, and Cara misses Oliver badly, and seems to be taken in by Greg and his advice for her art even though its not making her happy.
I found most of the story a bit hard going, even though its perfectly written. I was so convinced Oliver was leaving it too late, that Cara was going to move forward with Grey. Deanna? Well, TBH I never liked her so I wasn’t bothered what she did as long as she let Oliver move on. In both books there are odd snippets of precognition, or the supernatural and I felt it jarred rather than added to the story.
Stars:Three, a well written book, but a story that just didn’t connect closely with me.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
The Turn of Midnight, Minette Walters
Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (adult)
I adored The Last Hours, such a realistic read, I felt I was there with the characters. I’ve been looking froward to this. Its a very detail dense read, and I did put it aside a couple of time to fully absorb what had been written and think about what transpired.
In this next book we can see how some of the characters have changed, matured in the case of certain younger ones, some of the older ones having the reservations about Lady Anne and what she was doing reassured with her successes.
Develish has come through the plague thanks to Lady Anne’s early closing them off to the rest of the country. A hard decision, as was the exclusion period for those that had been out to see what was happening in the rest of the country. One too, of which the priest was certainly not in favour of, the line of the day from Pope Clement was that constant prayers and repentance for sins would stave off the disease. Those who died were not devout enough, full of wickedness, the plague was God’s punishment.
Once more Thaddeus is the hero of the hour, and the lads that went out with him in book one returned as men, banding together and seeing Thaddeus as their leader, honouring and respecting his decisions. He listens to them first though before deciding a course of action and they feel as if they’ve had some input. Its clear to see Lady Anne’s influence on him here, its similar to the way she rolls up her sleeves and gets on with jobs alongside her people, not just sits lazily, expecting them t do the work.
Thaddeus and the lads find out just how badly the rest of the country has suffered, especially among the labouring classes, and its clear there is going to be a huge shortfall in those with the knowledge to grow food, look after livestock, all the day to day jobs so essential in life. He and Lady Anne come up with a plan to secure independence for her folk, but its fraught with danger, and their worst fears come true.
They’ve changed some opinions by their example, Bourne has taken to heart what he learned in Develish, and with Thaddeus advice intends to implement much of it on his own estates. He can see their ideas for the future ring true, that workers more than scribes are needed now, that more profits produced when workers are treated with respect and fairly rather than the whip and fear. I feel much of his changing ideals come from the profit angle but that works and everyone benefits so….
Sadly when Thaddeus and the lads seek to bring about the plan he and Lady Anne have come up with to set their people free, they find they’ve been nurturing a viper.
Some have come round with kind words and deeds, and seen the example of what can be achieved that way, Bourne and Lady Eleanor for example, but someone else treated with the same kindness is still harbouring thoughts of vengeance, and it brings them into a very dangerous position.
Its a great read, transporting me back in time once more. The characters feel so vivid, and I feel I’ve got to know Thaddeus and the lads really well. Joshua’s dogs play a great part here, hard to think of what might have happened if Thaddeus had his way and they’d been killed. They’ve proved their worth and loyalty time and again. There were times when I struggled to see how Minette would brings these characters through, how would they slide through the murky waters of the deception they planned.
I’m sure much of the UK did look like this after the plague, it decimated the countryside, leaving orphans, ruined homes, fallow fields and a dearth of workers to rebuild. The few who survived in Blandeford were probably very typical of the time, they were so busy deciding who had more rights to what, to ensuring that everyone received a fair share that they didn’t actually achieve anything, didn’t work together, didn’t do what was needed, just struggled on day to day until Thaddeus and Lady Anne explained what happened at Develish, and set them to forming their own leaders and teams. Its pretty typical of what happens in any disaster, there are a few that get on with things while the majority bicker and decide they aren’t being treated equally. Its human nature I guess, but once Thaddeus spoke to them about leadership and what could be done they did seem as if they’d move forward. I’m sure there were many Lords though that didn’t share Lady Anne’s views who insisted their serfs still pay the full tithes even though there were few people to work the fields, mill the flour, spin the wool, butcher the livestock etc.
For those like the workers of Devilish its a time of opportunity, and I’m really keen to see how book three come about, how the events play out.
Stars: Five, another rich, enticing read, that had me fully absorbed in life after the plague.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.
Hard Truths, Alex Whitehall
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
I thought I’d read books by this author before – but I haven’t – so lots of new to me reads to enjoy 😉 I loved this read, heartbreaking at times and sadly, so very,very real.
I loved Isaac and his sister, Sue. They’re very close, which is good as his parents are…well, my age but I feel a million miles from them.
They’re old fashioned, with sadly outdated views. Mum is desperate for grandchildren to spoil, even though, as Isaac muses, she never wanted to spoil him or Sue. Dad is one of those I’m-head-of-family, my word is Law types, the sort where clear lines are drawn, he’s The Man, brings in the dosh, and housework, childcare etc is Not His Province, women’s work.
Despite the weird parents Sue and Isaac love them, just hate the way every family occasion leads into nagging about marriage and children.
Desperate one Thanksgiving Sue brings home a date, a fake one, just to shut mum up. He’s big, burly, tattooed and ….coloured, and she knows her parents will hate him. She’s asked him to be polite but play up the stereotype, so he is guarded about his job, hinting at freelance, letting them think the worst, and true to form they are reasonably polite but Not Happy and make it clear.
Isaac is shocked though when Logan discreetly makes a pass at him…til he finds out the truth. I loved that family meal!
Soon Logan and Isaac are together but each family meal means Logan stays away, and Isaac gets more lectures on finding The One and grandchildren. I felt so sorry for him, for too many families this is life. It shouldn’t matter who we love, so long as we’re not harming others, parents should just want their kids happy, not set conditions on happiness and love.
Of course the inevitable happens and Logan wants to be with Isaac all the time, not tucked away from his parents like a dirty secret. Its not hard to see the way things would go, although it was stronger than I expected, and once more I kept thinking “this is how life is for so many kids” Awful isn’t it? I can’t conceive of being that sort of parent, though I can see faint echoes in how my parents would have reacted.
In between Isaac and his family issues there’s the deal of Logan and his friends and Isaac and his, both close knit groups who react differently to new people, to pressures and events. I get the feeling Logan is more confident, outgoing, able to accept others where Isaac is a bit like me, diffident, cautious, careful of feelings. There are times when he isn’t sure if his friends are pushing him aside, when in fact they’re probably just busy, and I can empathise with that think the worst outlook.
When the big Fallout hit its dual pronged for Isaac and I so felt for him, and Logan of course. The way that drama played out, really let emotions flow, let Isaac’s thoughts run riot was just perfect for me. I love to wallow in the sad parts, and then feel uplifted when all ends well.
Stars:Five, a very real feeling drama with the perfect HEA.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.
I Invited Her In, Adele Parks
Genre:Mystery & Thrillers
I enjoy books like this, they challenge me to think “what would I do?” At first I was interested but I did get tired of the way the story was told, via inner thoughts, when for me dialogue based works better, where we have a slip back in time to see events as they happen. Well, see from that persons POV anyway 😉 Later in the story we do get some of these but the start nearly made me give up. Works for some readers that way though, but like me, not all.
I could see where Mel wanted to give a good impression to Abi, everyone is proud of their homes and family and want others to see them at their best, but couldn’t see why she didn’t simply ask her how long, set a time limit in the visit especially as Ben isn’t happy about an open ended stay. Its not like they’ve been close for the past 17 years, even if they were Bfs at uni. It seemed a bit strange, and then of course I started to put things together, though I wasn’t certain.
Its a fun read, very real characters, events that I could see easily working like that in real life. I didn’t like Abi, not one bit, but even so hadn’t guessed exactly what her angle was. I was shocked by events, thought I liked the ending and then, those last couple of pages….Nope, I didn’t want that even though they are not real characters. They felt real to me and I cared about them as if they were real.
Stars:three, I guessed a chunk of the plot, enjoyed the story and was surprised by other parts but I did get tired of some daily trivia that didn’t add to the story, felt repetitive.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, The most heartwarming and feelgood novel you’ll read this year, Lisa Hobman
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Gah! Once more “women’s fiction”, and as usual I have to have a quick moan – why do we do this – cut off potential readers? Who says men won’t/don’t read romance, they certainly write it, so why exclude them this way?
So, this story…I’d loved Lisa’s A Year of finding Happiness, the only other book of hers I’d read, and was hoping for something similar, romance, with a solid story and some drama. I did get it but…in a much more muted way.
I couldn’t see why Cassie ever thought she was in love with Seth in the first place, he was clearly so arrogant and supercilious, and when he’s caught out his reaction is exactly as you’d expect. I also wondered why Seth was with Cassie. Did he ever love her or did he just want a complaisant wife he could mould, as he clearly was already shaping Cassie’s day to day behaviour. I like to think he loved her at the start at least, and just maybe it was Cassie’s low self esteem that let her stay with him when clearly he was trying to change her.
Then That happens, and Cassie’s off. Wow girl, you go! I was cheering her on even while I could feel her heartbreak, and up til now things kind of went as I expected.
When she reaches the new home though she’s really a first class b itch to Mac, she’s hurting I know, but it wasn’t Mac that hurt her. They have a few not so good interactions, but slowly she opens up, and Mac tries for a fresh start and to help her. He’s a genuinely kind man, one of the good guys, and for all Cassie’s rudeness he sees she’s hurt and still looks out for her. I loved Mac. And his uncle Rab, they felt like people I’d love to know. Cassie – well, I so felt for her at first but she was so outright rude to Mac I got cross with her. I hate plain rudeness.
Looking back at A Year of ….I can see what I enjoyed about that, and its the drama and the unpleasant ex that topped the story for me. We’ve both of those here, but Seth somehow didn’t engender the same feelings. I guess I felt the drama in the later part of the book just didn’t fit the character I felt he was, whereas in A Year of it was exactly what I would expect Alice to do. The actual drama itself was fine, added to the story, and worked to move things forward.
I adored Rab, was so emotional over him, the village setting and characters were perfect, Mac was just wonderful, Cliff gets a special mention, and an extra helping of imaginary dogs treats 😉 I guess its just the Cassie/Seth relationship and the actions that sprung from it that didn’t work so well here for me. Its a good read, but unlike a Year of, it was one I could, and did, put aside at times for other things. I did love the ending, kitsch, but still just perfect and left me feeling a little choked. The magic moment all we romantics dream of!
Its a perfect beach read, or one for those times when you need a story you can pick up and put down for a while, but it wasn’t a must-keep-reading five star for me.
Stars: Three and a half, some really great elements let down for me but a few things that felt out of place. As ever though, that’s just one opinion, it will be perfect for others.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Lawbreaker, Kat Bastion with Stone Bastion
Genre:, New Adult , Romance
I got caught out by this book, I’ve loved every other one in both series, adore the characters and usually get quickly sucked into the story and settings. This time though it didn’t work like that.
It started well, that antagonistic confrontation, that stand off, battle of wills between Ben and Shay promised so much. After that though I just felt a bit lost, not really convinced by the story that was unfolding in front of me. Somehow it seemed to be more about what wasn’t said than what was, that I needed to read between the plot lines, and I just felt I was drifting through the story confused.
It was great to catch up with the earlier characters, and see how their lives were progressing. I loved Ben, full on but not afraid to say when he’s wrong. I wanted so much to like Shay, I felt so sad for her, so sorry that she had a childhood like that. I just didn’t feel her story was plausible though, to be a runaway at such a young age, and in truth I admired her but didn’t really like her.
Once we got on to the big con, well, I was lost, hadn’t a clue how they did it, even the why was a bit out of reach. Was it really a good thing, the right thing? How could they be sure they had the right people? I couldn’t really see that working out in real life, couldn’t see hacking skills getting into that kind of security, and along with Shay’s implausible teen years I felt this book was just a story that wasn’t right for me. I’m sure others will love it, I was shocked that I didn’t , given how much I’ve enjoyed the others in the series.
Stars: Three, parts I really enjoyed, but as a whole it wasn’t a book that worked for me.
ARC supplied by netgalley and publishers
Home to McCarron’s Corner, Lily’s Story, Sharon K. Middleton
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
I love this kind of novel, one which has day to day minutiae of life in times long past and was eager to get started.
I found a number of things that bothered me though. Lily takes going back in time in her stride, to the point where she acts as if its perfectly normal, and those back in the past act as if her appearance is an everyday thing. I know they’ve the advantage of superstition and a prophecy but it felt kind of wrong somehow that everyone was so open and accepting. Then there’s the stuff she just happens to ave on her that play such an important part in the story. Does she really always carry stuff like that around with her. The blood cards in particular, just how many of them did she have? The way people in the past just happily let her test them in a time when anything out of the ordinary was viewed with suspicion was a little weird too for me.
Then there are the many parallels with the Diana Gabaldon Outlander stories. Having read those books several times over I noticed a number of themes that crop up in both…..nothing in fiction is every really unique, but sometimes there were parts that for me felt a little too close. The language and idioms used, I accept Lily would use 21st century speech but the way so often no one queried it? And even used expressions themselves felt a bit wrong.
The story itself was interesting, but I wished there was more from the McCarron’s Corner and the prophecy in it. The first part of the story is there but it seemed to move on to town very quickly.
If you can get past these barriers then its a story you may love, there are some inviting parts but for me the quirks were more than just a minor irritation and the story fell short because of it.
Stars: Two and a half, a story with great potential but which was let down for me by the things I’ve mentioned.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp, Sarra Manning
I hadn’t read Vanity Fair, but I’m a sucker for romance and this sounded a fun read – plus I’ve loved some of Sarra’s past stories.
I’d not class it as romance though…there is some romance via secondary characters but that’s just a tiny fraction of the story, and for me sitting it in the romance genre was wrong, and I was disappointed at that part of the story.
I struggled at first, maybe if I’d read Vanity Fair I’d have found the start easier. I almost gave up at one point, the characters all seemed irredeemably dislike-able, but persevered and once into the story found myself hooked on Becky’s actions.
Was she right in what she did? Was she fair? Was she treated fairly by others? So many questions this book threw up and its easy to judge Becky as amoral and avaricious, but with a past that gave her nothing was she just making her way in the world as best she knew? Would be have felt better about her if she accepted her lot and lived on the street begging? Pretty much sure that’s a No from what gets said in current news. Or maybe if she took a zero hours contract and lived day to day on min wage sharing a room with someone else. Why should she just accept that as the best she can hope for though?
Some of the other characters didn’t act any better but their actions – as happens so often in the real world – get excused under work pressures, family issues, social obligations etc. Its only accident of birth that placed George, Amelia, Dobbin etc where they were and not where Becky was in life.
I didn’t like Becky but in way by the end I did admire her. She was tough, grabbed life’s opportunities when they came and worked the to her best advantage. Its would be easy to say she took advantage of others and yet weren’t they doing that to her? Did Amelia and her family treat Becky fairly? What about the Pitts? What about George’s actions, the way he treated Amelia? I think the only person I liked was Dobbin…and Amelia by the end. The section with the news magnate had me thinking “News of the World anyone? Murdoch and the scandals there…”
Its easy to sit in judgment if you’ve never known homelessness, never gone hungry, never had to shop in jumble sales and charity shops. I have. Would I act like Becky if the chance arose? I’d really, really like to think my moral compass points in a different direction but until it happens who knows what we’d do.
Marie Antoinette’s apocryphal “quote” of “Let them eat cake” when told the peasants had no bread sums up so many governing figures attitude to those in need now. They genuinely have no idea of the issues facing so many people, and yet sit in positions making judgments that affect the lives of those people.
Stars: Four, a slow start for me, that may have been better had I read VF, an annoyance that its not what I’d call romance, but a story that was a fun read.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.
Love at First Hate J.L. Merrow
Genre: Romance, LGBTQIA
Porthkennack and Garret Leigh – real treat to read.
Like the Bluewater Bay series, also from Riptide, Porthkennack covers books written by different authors about the same place.
For me it means even when books are approaching double figures they still retain that freshness first books in a series have, as each author puts their own ideas and spin to the stories.
I didn’t connect this book with Wake-Up Call at first, Dev and his story rang a bell when it was mentioned, and I had to flick back and look it up. Its really interesting to see it from the other side, and I understood so much more about bran’s awful reaction to Dev in that book.
I felt for Bran here, he’d had a tough upbringing, just duty, duty, duty really, and he comes over as quite aggressive almost, very taciturn, and not an easy man to get along with. Yet when we learn more of him I felt I understood him, and that the front he presented too often was just that, almost as if that he makes himself dislikeable then he’s controlling others reactions, not them disliking him when he’s trying to be nice, but in an almost unconscious way. Well, that’s how I see him, garbled though that explantation is…
The plots were as always very intriguing and multi layered. The romance though, well, here it fell short for me. Bran and Sam don’t even meet til a good way into the book, and its as the title says, hate at first sight, and second and third. Slowly though that changes, but I found the slip from dislike to lets get together didn’t really give me the feelings they were invested in more, they could have just been a one night hook up, and then suddenly there’s indications for a future…possibly…maybe…when the stars align, then a big blow-up and its all off.
They do get past that and have a possibly HFN but I didn’t ever get that sense of passion, of emotions other than lust, and I needed that for the five.
Stars: four, fabulous plot(s) but somewhat understated on the romance side
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
The Artisan Heart, Dean Mayes
Genre:Woman’s fiction, romance
First a quick rant – why “women’s” fiction? Why exclude 50% or readers….this categorisation makes me so cross. Who’s to say sex determines what we enjoy reading?
Its a great story, written so intelligently, not dumbed down as so many are now. No grunting heroes here, no page after page of repetitive sex, but a romance in the truest sense for me, where the characters really spend time getting to know each other. Having said all that there were times when I floundered a bit within the story, where I got a bit bored with the pacing – but that’s my issue, my problem not the book.
There are some terrific characters here, Hayden and Isabelle, and Isabelle’s little daughter whose a real star. Max and Annette, friends of Hayden’s parents, Chas, one of those characters that makes a village, eccentric,at times careless but so full of life, so joyful he brightens others day. I had hoped for a bit more unpleasantness from Bernadette, she’s pretty ambitious and will stop at nothing to get ahead, and her plans and Hayden’s don’t necessarily match. All the things I love from a “nasty” character but she really wasn’t in the story that much, enough to throw a few spanners but nothing more.
Its an interesting read, Hayden’s initial issues really felt so genuine, its something I could see playing out all too easily and as he says, that could end his career. All that hard work, years of study, gone in a moment. I loved Isabelle and her determination, adored little Genie, so irrepressible and entertaining, loved the way the village rallied round its inhabitants. I really wanted to give this book five stars and yet…I kept putting it aside, losing interest and I’m really not sure why. It had everything I love, intelligent writing, real characters, excellent plots, not just a sweet, simple romance but a more involved one but for whatever reason it didn’t pull me in to a cant-stop-reading mood.
Stars: Four, a good story, well written with terrific characters, but not quite the magic five for me.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers