For the Wolf, Hannah Whitten
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy
I was so looking forward to this but the beginning…well, I had to restart a few times because, honestly, it was a slog. Once past that though it was a fantastic read, I’m so glad I didn’t give up, and I really want the next book Now!
I loved the Wilderwood scenes, they really were the best part. The slow burn romance, the Fife and Lyra interactions, the other characters, descendants of those caught in the past, and of course, the Wilderwood. A wood like no other, sentient, but focused on survival at all costs, and that’s meant the deaths of second daughters in the past.
What I wasn’t keen on was the Neve, Kiri part of the story, at least in the early stages. When the end grew near the two parts melded and became one but until then it was as if I was reading two different stories, only tangentially connected. It was hard jumping from one story arc to the other.
There were some terrific characters here, some horrific moments in the Wilderwood, and lots of things to learn, superstitions and stories, some of which were true, others not. I hadn’t read the connection to Red riding Hood, thankfully, as I don’t like re-imaginings of traditional stories and would have not requested this. To me, the only connection really is superficial, Red’s name and cloak, the woods and Eammon being known as The Wolf.
Its a fantastic read, once past the beginning I was gripped. Its very intense at times, lots of gritty drama and details, and the fabulous slowly unfolding romance. I am so hoping its not long to wait for more!
Stars: Five, If you struggle at first, stick with it, its so worth it. Fabulous, dramatic, intense story. And a gorgeous slow burn romance.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
Echoes of the Heart, L.A. Casey
Genre: Romance, general fiction ( adult)
I’ve enjoyed several of this authors books, and of course the rock star romance genre and second chance stuff always hooks me. I enjoyed this but not quite as much as I expected.
My heart broke for young Risk, and for how good Frankie was with him. Then when they were older I understood Frankie’s reasons for pushing Risk away, I agreed with them even, and yet somehow it irked me. I couldn’t understand how Risk didn’t see it, why he was so resentful.
He was all about everyone leaving him, very focused on that even years later. Still, you need to walk in someone’s shoes to truly understand their actions. Both Risk and Frankie were still clearly very much in love.
The big thing that breaks them was something I struggled with, I really didn’t see why it was such a problem. Though of course there has to be something doesn’t there or we’d get a very bland romance, and I’m all about the break up dramas….
Frankie’s mum, Michael, and the problems they had with her illness were heartbreaking. Its such a cruel disease, so hard on families more so than the person affected. Living bit not living, her mum, his wife and yet not that person. Tough and they were so good with her. For many its just too much to deal with, but they stuck by her no matter how hard.
I loved the other lads in the band, the band issues, the drug problems and the rabid fans. For me they all belong in a proper band read, and make the book stand out.
Its a fun read, just didn’t quite grip me as much as others I’ve read. I loved the setting, Southwold is about 50 miles from e, and a place I’ve holidayed at many times. It was fun to read it as the setting for fiction romance.
Stars: Four, a fun band read, great characters, brilliant setting!
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
Dance into My Heart, Maddie James
I wanted an easy light read. Sometimes I want historical, sometimes fantasy, sometimes deep, dark drama but yesterday I was in the mood for a gentle romance. This story is definitely that – but for me a little too sweet and gentle.
The characters and settings are good. I loved the small town camerarderie. Rick’s idea of the cafe bar sounded perfect. I know the US is a lot less strict that the Uk about planning but getting all that done in a month. Can that really happen? I so wish it could here, six months would be a good deal, but with council planning., sites visits, 101 forms to fill in it can be far, far longer. Life would be so much easier, more fun if it was only a few weeks.
Gracie has been through such a trauma, and is still recovering. Grief takes different times, some folk need just a few months, others like Gracie still feel after years. Then Rick and Iz come into her life. They turn it upside down, Iz is adorable, precocious as girls that age can be, but fun. And when she talks about her mum that’s so sad, poor kid.
Rick feels attracted to her right from the start, even though they get off on the wrong foot. Slowly their lives intertwine and mingle.
I enjoyed the story, but it didn’t have me gripped, it was just a little too light, almost twee, at times and I need a bit more drama. There is some towards the end, the sweet spot in books where just as everything seems to come together it falls apart. It isn’t really enough for me though. As always though its perfect for others, not everyone wants drama, we all like different things about stories, so though its not a reread for me it could be perfect for you.
Stars: Three, a little light for me, I needed a bit more depth and drama.
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The Midnight Bargain, C.L.Polk.
Magic meets Bridgerton in the Regency fantasy everyone is talking about…
I wasn’t sure about this book at first, but quickly became hooked and I loved it.
Its a mix, a magical world, but historical in the sense that women are property, and horrors, no matter how talented magically once married they lose that. As spirits can enter unborn children and take over women have to wear a collar to lock out their magic and therefore lock out any harmful spirits. Not just while they are pregnant, but from their wedding day to the end of their childbearing years. Beatrice is horrified, she is talented, thinks the system unfair and would fair rather keep her magic and remain unmarried. However her families future depends on her making a good marriage, thanks to some poor investments by her father, a fact she’s only just become aware of.
Poor Beatrice, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her only hope is to continue her magical education in secret and get good enough to convince her father she can help mend the families fortunes that way…
There are some great characters here, a lovely mix of friendship and the usual Mean Girls, as Beatrice isn’t quite from the top drawer. I was surprised how things with Ysabeta developed, loved it, it wasn’t what I expected. Ianthe, who couldn’t love him. One of the few forward thinking men of the time, who was prepared to try to understand what Beatrice had issues with. Like most of us, whats accepted as norm isn’t questioned, and though he knew Ysabeta has problems with it he hadn’t really though about it from a woman’s view. Of course he’s in the minority, and his mother certainly doesn’t share his views.
The star for me was Nadi, the luck spirit. I adored her, she made the book really special, her relationship with Beatrice. They both cared about the other, where convention said spirits needed to be kept in place, and didn’t have those sort of feelings.
Its a gentle romance, beset with society problems and a really fun read. I loved the magic, loved the problems that cropped up, loved the gentle mean girls stuff. It ends neatly, everything wraps up with a neat epilogue, and I’d love to read more from this world, see how the things develop with these characters and maybe others a couple of years down the line.
Stars: Five, a really magical read and I love this world. C L Polk, please write more!
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
Home on Folly Farm, The perfect uplifting romantic comedy for 2021, Jane Lovering
Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
I love Jane’s books. On the surface they’re a cute, HEA story but when you get into them there is so much more. This one is set in rural Yorkshire, small sheep farm, and was so well described I felt I was there, alongside the characters. It covers so much, teen pregnancy, depression, drug taking, coping with the loss of children, so many interwoven subjects, and all handled sensitively, and in such a way that they don’t drag the story down, don’t depress the reader but made me want to know more about the characters. And it’s full of quiet, subtle humour like this “ a bit like being haunted by Reebok” in relation to Thor and his trainers….you have to look for some of it or you’ll miss is, its so cleverly done.
I loved Dora – but then we’re seeing her via her own voice, so of course events are skewed to her perspective. I hated Cass to begin, in fact for the greater part of the novel, but again as we see at the end I’m viewing her through Dora’s perspective, not exactly unbiased. Nat, lovely, lovely Nat, quiet but firm, brilliant tutor, and not just to Thor. And of course that brings me to Thor, who was a fabulous character. I loved seeing his transformation from sullen, bored, preteen to excitable, normal twelve year old boy.
The sheep rustling scene is one that will stay with me, Thor and his Vlog followers, gang of teens dragging their parents out of bed at 4am for an adventure, and to rescue web famous lambs Flick and Knife – yep, Thor named them. I had tears running down my face, had to keep rereading as the words blurred, it was hysterically funny.
I hate when a book promises “ you will laugh out loud” because I find that rarely delivers, but this scene, well, it was just what I needed in these grim Covid days. An unexpected bonus.
Its a fabulous story, with so much real life packed in, so much abut human psyche, how we react to others, become whats expected. By the end I felt I really understood the characters, and could see events with a different eye. The same things happened, the same results, but the characters weren’t the dislikable, selfish ones I thought, but had reasons for acting that way and when Dora understood that it really improved her life and relationships too. The months on the farm transformed all of them, they all ended in a better place.
Stars: Five, a gem of a read, Jane’s wonderful writing, delivering another perfect story, pathos and humour, love and disasters, all in one great novel.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Earl’s Lady Geologist ,(The Linfield Ladies Series 1), Alissa Baxter
Genre: Historical Romance
I like to take a trip back mentally to the past when reading sometimes. A gentle era in some ways, but fierce in others and very bound by convention.
Cassie is determined never to marry, but wants to continue her geology work, fossil hunting, writing, and once she comes into her inheritance, opening a shop with her fossil hunting friend Mary.
She won’t be able to work in the shop of course, that’s too much a trip away from convention even for her, but her friend Mary is a different class, she’s freer to do what she wants, although she doesn’t have money to do it, she’s barely scraping a living selling her fossils. She’s made some great discoveries but being female cannot be credited with them. That’s left to the “superior” men. Sometimes little changes 😉 we’re still fighting that battle on some fronts!
And then along comes Rothbury, who’s shocked to see her on the beach, filthy and risking her life fossil hunting under dangerous cliffs and tides. I loved him, imperious, full of responsibility and yet something in Cassie appeals to him. I just couldn’t see hi married to some vapid miss, who’s conversation would be fashion and gossip.
Cassie’s family insist she has a Season, although she’s very open about her desire not to marry. Her aunt and cousins are so friendly though, she goes along with their plans as she likes them and doesn’t want to upset them.
She gets into a few scrapes with the cousins, that was fun, and I think like her I’d have wanted to go to the Hallowed grounds of the Geological Society, even though its not for women….
Rothbury is intrigued the more he gets to know Cassie, and slowly, against their wishes, feelings develop on both sides. Like any good romance though its not without a few hiccups and even some drama thrown in at the end. Its a novel with several different layers to it, which made it a very enjoyable read.
Its a fun read, fitted the time period well. I was mentally placed back in time, and enjoyed the descriptions of the balls, the fashions, the day to day stuff Ladies of the time occupied themselves with. Poor Cassie, it wasn’t fossil hunting, though she did find a niche where she could help and enjoy her passion for relics.
The characters felt very real, and the issues both Cassie and Rothbury had around marriage were very well thought out, understandable and neither had a sudden change of heart, but one that came around more gradually. I like that, I hate when a character throws away a long held belief just because they fall in love. There needs to be more, and here there was.
Stars: Five. A story I really enjoyed with enough in it for me to reread at a future date when I want a relaxing few hours with a gentler time…
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
The Man I Didn’t Marry, Anna Bell
Genre: romance, women’s fiction
And yep, that outdated category once more. Its 2020, not 1820! men write romance, men read romance…..
So, everything is wonderful in Ellie’s world, she had a perfect husband, man of her dreams, her best friends brother who she had a crush on for so many years. She never expected that he’d fall in love with her. She felt, still feels, that he’s far above her, that she’s nothing like the leggy beauties he used to date.
They have a beautiful daughter and she’s now pregnant with their second child. And then one Saturday morning when he’s gone in to work, she gets a call from her mother in law. Max has returned there and is acting very strangely.
He’s somehow lost the last five years of his life, has no memory of Ellie other than his sisters friend, and doesn’t realise he’s a father. Has forgotten his sister is gay, that his parents are separated. What a nightmare.
Of course the questions are numerous but the main ones, why did it happen, and when will he recover, have no answer. Its could be hours, days, years in rare cases. Poor Ellie is devastated.
Ellie has joined a group of other pregnant mums. Over the next few weeks they are a great support to her, though at first I really wasn’t sure about some of them, especially the well meaning but steamroller approach to everything lady, Annabel (I think that was her name..) Her best friend too, Max sister, the one he has forgotten is gay, reconnects properly with Ellie and really helps her. As is often the way, although they were still friends, they’d lost that closeness and through these events they found it again.
Max is a real jerk at first, back to his wandering eye, man whore ways, even when Ellie is trying to recreate their dates to jog his memory, and I so felt for her. Who wants your Adonis husband flirting constantly when out, especially when being heavily pregnant makes you feel not the most attractive. My heart broke for her at that point, so hard to take, it really brought home just what she was going through.
Fortunately that stage doesn’t last long, he’s still in a bit of denial there and confused, which is understandable, but as he comes to accept what everyone is telling him he changes his behaviour, tries really hard to be the man he should be, husband and father, even though its difficult when he has no memory of that man. He slowly gets closer to Ellie, comes to see her in a different light to his sisters friend, appreciates her for the woman she is now, and the attraction between them pulls at him and makes him work harder at being her husband. He realises what he’s in danger of losing if he doesn’t and though at first husband and father isn’t what he wanted to be, it scared him, slowly he realises that its exactly what he wants, where he should be at this part of his life. Ellie discovers to her surprise that he’s now not her Max, but actually a more considerate Max, active in helping her as a father, in appreciating her as his wife, showing his feelings.
Then just when things are going really well, when they’ve finally reconnected in a big way there are some major issues. His parents have hidden their separation from him, and when he finds out that – well, a very funny section there but he’s angry, angry that those he trusts now his memory is gone have been lying to him. Poor Ellie, she gets caught up even though she was against keeping it secret, but she didn’t feel it was her place to reveal it. And then on top of that another massive secret comes out. Ellie is devastated, and I can understand that. Can they find a way past it?
The things that have happened make Ellie look at her perfect marriage, and as with the new, improved Max she finds that actually there were things that weren’t right, that she wasn’t giving her all to marriage either. Pulled into motherhood it’s easy to let other things slide, no-one ever expects how all-consuming new babies can be.
Although what happened was an awful thing, getting through it gave Ellie an inner strength and allowed her to see herself as others did, that actually she was a beautiful, confident, intelligent lady, and well up to being wife of Max the Adonis. Not the lower standard, lucky lady that he chose her image she had of herself. I was really pleased about that.
Max too has learned from the experience, learned whats really important to him, learned that he shouldn’t take things for granted, that marriage and family need input, effort to get the best out of them.
I really wondered if Ellie could get past this last big secret, its a huge problem, and I understood exactly how it played on her fears, how she’s always felt. Yet I could see how much Max loved her, how she was his life, and I was desperate for them to find a way through.
Stars: Five. Its a great read, a mix of humour and poignancy, romance and practicality. I loved it.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
Say Hello, Kiss Goodbye, Jacquelyn Middleton
Genre: General fiction (adult), romance
This is one of a series of connected books, each are stand alone romances, but feature characters from earlier reads.
I really enjoyed this story, what I love is that like my favourite of these reads, London, Can You Wait? the part where the romance falls apart last ages, really wrings every bit of drama out, when you know both are so in love but circumstances and personal fears keep them apart. Its a good section of the book, chapters long rather than the too often two or three pages, and that works for me. I adore drama, love to wallow in the sad bits, really feel the emotions.
Of course as well as a cracking, drama filled story this covers so many other things. The waste in society, where we throw away so much. Leia uses old and unwanted fabrics to create her one off and small run creations, Tarquin restores and updates old buildings to give them new life. I love that, I’m very much a fan of reusing and updating, I hate that we have become a disposable society, when parts of the world would love to have what we discard without a second thought.
Then there’s Leia’s sister, in a wheelchair. Being someone in a wheelchair myself I loved her drive for more accessibility, for us to be seen, for our views to be recognised as valid. 25 years on from the Disability Discrimination Act and sometimes I feel so little progress has been made. There are still brand new businesses where access is limited or non existent, still transport that we can’t use, still homes and holiday places that claim to be disabled friendly but aren’t. Still folk who feel that being in a wheelchair seems to affect our brains, that we cant have opinions worth considering. Then depression and the stigma that surrounds it, is included in the story. That was well handled here, and sadly so very true. And there’s Saz’, Leia’s sister, issues with clothing, with nerve pain that were so very real, I’ve had those problems, and of course before becoming disabled I never gave a thought to it.
Having all those things in the story would make you think its a grim read, that its very negative, but its not, its full of vibrancy, positivity, uplifting and fun. Somehow Jacquelyn has taken these serious issues and woven them carefully into the story, making the reader think, but without bringing the feel of the read down, keeping the humour and fun to the forefront.
What most amazed me about the story was how I felt about Tarquin. From earlier books he appeared a very shallow, couldn’t care less type of guy, just out for sex and fun, ignoring any real feelings. I didn’t really like him. Then with Alex in the last book I got a glimpse of how he might be, and here learning so much more about him I just fell in love with him. I was so cross with Leia, so angry, and yet I understood her reactions, her reasons. I was rooting for them to be together, but of course if she had given in earlier I wouldn’t have got that lovely, long drawn out, sad drama section.
At the end of the book the notes are full of really interesting bits of research and anecdotes that went in to the creation of this book. They are well worth reading.
And Jacquelyn, I fully understand grieving for a pet, for most of us they are family and the grief we feel when they are gone, especially when we expected many more years, affects us and how we deal with life.
Stars: Five. A fabulous read, great characters, it’s of fun, filled with drama, with emotion and of course what made it great for me, with real life, real people like me.
ARC supplied by publishers
Christmas Wishes, Sue Moorcroft
Genre: general Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Romance
* sigh * women’s fiction, I seem to have been moaning about this genre for ages now. Its 2020, men write romance, men read romance, lets stop with the sexism.
Anyway, its Sue Moorcroft, an author I only discovered recently and I adore her writing style. This book was the usual well plotted, cleverly laid out story, that kept me reading right to the end. ( Sometimes I get impatient and skip bits when authors waffle…doesn’t happen with “good” – for me – books)
I loved the characters, loved when Hannah first met Nico again and thinks he’s fallen on hard times. She tries to help him by taking him for a meal, and it turns out she chooses the worst place for him 😉 How easily good intentions have the wrong result.
Albin, Hannah’s boyfriend was deliciously wicked, one of those folk you’re happy to thoroughly dislike, he was cold, calculating, cruel, and I wondered what Hannah ever saw in him. I guess he presented his best side to her then. I like a character like his in a novel, it adds to the drama. Manipulative described him well, and also Nico’s wife and mother in law. Its a treat to get some truly unpleasant characters in a novel 😉 Set against that Hannah’s family were lovely, close, accepting and encouraging. I adored Nan Heather, a loving and practical lady. There were a mix of other characters, some really lovely, tenants of the new shopping courtyard, others were not so much, like the owner of said place.
Its a fun story, hot and cold in that neither Hannah nor Nico really know whats happening to the other, and their attraction is there but the action hampered by misunderstandings and bad timing.
The real star of the show for me was Maria, “ Yozee! Snow!” Poor little girl. Sadly there are many like her, with unwilling or incapable parents, and Nico showed just what a big and caring heart he had.
The happy ending comes but there’s a long and angst filled journey to it – perfect for me. I love the drama of some angst and heartbreak….
Stars: 5 A fabulous romance, with realistic characters and a heartbreaking story line at times.
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A Tainted Marriage, Regency Marriage Laws series, Julie Roberts
Genre: General Fiction (adult)
I like to dip into historical fiction every now and then, everything seems gentler, less fraught, though of course life was still a real struggle for so many folk. I really enjoyed this read, it took some turns that I didn’t foresee and which were very real. I do like my fiction to have a sense of reality – even if its fantasy I need to think that events could actually happen that way. The things in this book, especially when Grace visits Greensleeves, I could see things happening just as they played out.
I really liked Grace, wasn’t so keen on Alex. I sort of understood his fears, but it was really hard on Grace and I could see how upset by things she was, and how she reached the conclusions she did. Later in the book it was easy to see why Alex, jumped to conclusions and I guess most would see things the way he did given the constraints on women at the time, the conventions of society that she wasn’t adhering to. Earlier in the book when he was so ,,dogmatic, autocratic, I’m not quite sure how to describe it, I had to keep reminding myself his actions were the norm for the time, when ladies were considered property of their husbands, of fathers, and decisions made for them. I guess that shows just how far we’ve come with women’s rights.
I was expecting a simple historical romance, what I got was just that, plus an interesting side story, that lifted the novel from “just” a romance, to a story that really made me think about conventions, about women’s rights, and about how easily some of these events could have turned to disaster for Grace. I even came round to Alex, he redeemed himself by his love for Grace and his willingness to admit where he’d been wrong.
Stars: Five, An enticing story with romance, drama, some fabulous obnoxious characters and a real flavour of the time.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers