The Captain and the Prime Minister. Catherine Curzon , Eleanor Harkstead
Genre: Romance, LGBTQIA
I really enjoyed this. I’m not convinced by insta-love stories but in this one, although when they do take that step and go from 0-60, they have known each other a long time, and Tom has been part of the family for years so it wasn’t an issue.
I loved them both, Tom, strong ex soldier, but a softie with the twins, and Alex who’s been through so much while in the public eye, misses his late wife still, but discovers his feelings for Tom are more than just friendly. That part was handled so well, it wasn’t a “turning a straight guy” story, but one where Love was the focus, not the gender of either of them. I always think in those Straight guys stories, that there must have been some leanings, you can’t “turn” a straight guy any more than you can turn a gay person straight.
Publicity – it doesn’t get much more public than being PM, with the press focusing on every move. I’ve written before how I hate the way the media just love to dig out anything they can make sound salacious – the TV interview was so very well done. I could see those questions being asked by someone very like the presenter portrayed in the book. Its all “in the public interest” excuses when in fact unless the PM was heavily against gay rights it wasn’t anyone’s business.
Given how many folk are LBGTQIA its a wonder there aren’t more in the Gov, maybe, as in football and some other celebrity occupations, they just hide what they are. Justin Fashanu, the first openly gay UK footballer, had a really tough time, being adopted, and black also. Brave kid, sadly died too young, but it amazes me that out of over 800 premier league footballers currently not one is openly gay. I suspect the media furore people in the public eye face when they come out is what prevents them. That’s pretty damning in 2020 that some still feel they have to hide who they are 😦 It made the press scenes, the way events and texts were twisted, in this book feel very real, though sadly I think in real life the endings would have gone down differently.
I understood how Alex’ in laws felt, understandable, and was so glad that worked out. I loved the way the twins were told, and that’s how it should be, no big deal, just everyday life. Kids are accepting, its adults who have issues.
Alex and Tom both had some tough decisions to take, a big risk for them both if they got it wrong.
Its a lovely story, touches on reality, but with a happy ending, which I need, not the sadly unhappy one I think reality would bring 😦 we have a long way to go, but at least are going in the right direction.
Stars: Five, a lovely read, one I wish real life was more like.
Arc via Authors
Marry Him, Marina Ford
Genre: Romance, Humour
I’ve had a slew of books recently that were perhaps bad choices on my part and I really hate writing low star reviews. I always try to point out though that although I didn’t gel with the story others will, that reading is very subjective. This book illustrates that perfectly. Already I can see a few two star reviews, even a couple of ones and yet I loved it. Absolutely loved it.
It made me snigger with the scatty humour, and for anyone ( a few reviews mention it) who thinks life isn’t like that – it is. I don’t have Joe’s exuberance but do have his problems with everything going t$ts up, with my careful plans descending into chaos, although mostly I just go with the flow and don’t make strict plans. Everything goes wrong when I do so why bother? The nurses were sniggering when I broke my hip falling out of my wheelchair, moving the electric fence for my horses, then recently my scooter suddenly ran out of charge just before home and a big slope. I had to accept a push from a poor man who was using a stick to walk…then there’s the time I super-glued my hand to the kitchen worktop. I was putting it away safely so the grand-kids didn’t get it.
Frank is so like my late husband, that full on persona, always talking to strangers like long lost friends, always full of weird and wonderful ideas.
I enjoyed the very different personalities of Harry and Joe, again my late husband and I were very different, and yet it worked, we were together over 40 years, so there’s no reason why Harry and Joe couldn’t make it work too.
I wasn’t so keen on the timing, the way it was five years past, six months past and then present, it worked to tell the story but I found it frustrating jumping back and forth. That’s a small crit though and as I’m not a writer maybe that’s the only way the story would work?
I did like the different people, the prejudice, the way Joe was casually called “ the Gay “ from folk who’d be astonished at the suggestion that wasn’t really polite. Casual sexism, prejudice, bigotry like this is insidious, people only see the open hatred as being prejudiced whereas actually its far more and something people face daily but shouldn’t have to. Being a wheelchair user I get that kind of thing when folk talk to whoever is pushing the chair, offer them the change even though I’ve paid, ruffle my hair like I’m a pet. One day….
The story itself has some great dram that unfolds to a real climax at the end. I couldn’t believe it would really unravel, and yet the clues Marina set up for it all going wrong were incredibly real and believable.
Looking on goodreads Marina is a new to me author, I’ll certainly look out for her books in future.
Stars: five, a cracking read that had me sniggering at several points at poor Joe, and empathising with him having done the same kind of thing.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
Undone, Kelly Rimmer
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.
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The Bromance Book Club, Lyssa Kay Adams
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….
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If I Never Met You, Mhairi McFarlane
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
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.
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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
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
Kind of Famous, Mary Ann Marlowe
I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this from the author, book is out next April. I loved the first two in the series, and this was a great addition.
Well, after finishing this I have to go back and read the first two again, I really enjoyed catching up with Adam and Eden, Jo and Micah. And I have to say what a name, Theatre of the Absurd. Its wonderful, wonderful 😉 Though the abbreviation TotA somehow always reminds me more of the British T and A abbreviation…….
I understood much of the web stuff, I too have a blog ( two actually, art and books) but mine are way, way into the minor league compared to Layla’s. No forum either, though in the pre-FB days I did have an active arts forum.
What kind of went over me was the fan stuff, I guess its me, I just cannot understand people who are obsessed by who they think a person is, and like Layla, I’m shocked at how people treat the objects of their obsession. Sometimes its as if they forget they are people, and we see that here so clearly, the thin line between a fan and a stalker, how the celeb has to balance between not upsetting fans, and letting them maul him/her…
I did feel for Layla when she first meets Adam, I guess having said all this stuff, if Brandon Flowers was to be in my view I’d have dropped jaw too!
I so felt for Shane though when she continued to get star struck, but she really couldn’t help it. For some folk its almost a Pavlovian reaction, and only continued proximity lets them see their obsession is just a real person like anyone else. I do think she could have tried a little harder as time went on.
Layla has a great opportunity with her new job, and the events that followed, the way she came to meet with the band felt very natural. Its a tough thing I think, to get your characters where you want them to be but making it feel genuine, not forced, and Mary Ann does that so well.
I like the mix of folk at the office, the way her job, new friends and internet presence all linked up. I kept thinking “what would I do?” and wondering why she didn’t just give up the fan site to someone else – but of course that’s me. Layla has needed that friendship that came from her internet friends in the past, and maybe she’s just not quite ready to leave them.
I’m socially a bit awkward too, find making friends difficult so I sympathised. Its easier to spill your thoughts out online. We differ though in that I’m me online, I don’t have a pseudonym, a user name hiding who I am. It means perhaps that I’m more cautious about what I write. As Layla knows to her cost, words on the net stay, even when deleted they’ll still be around somewhere, and what you may have felt five, ten years ago can be very different to now, and yet folk will pull it up regardless.
Shane, oh what an intense guy. I could feel that attraction between him and Layla right from the start. I so felt for his “no-one sees the drummer” and how so called fans would use one member of a band to get to another. That’s awful, but sadly happens all too often. Must be a big ego suck, and Shane didn’t seem to have a huge stack of self confidence anyway, it was almost as if he was waiting for something to go wrong between him and Layla. Being in a relationship with someone who has jealousy issues is hard, and that part, the tension it caused was perfect. Real people, real problems.
It brought in some devastating drama and for me I’m all about drama and angst….loved it. I did like Gabriel in the office, I love characters like his, adds some terrific “nasty” into a read 😉 and he was perfectly positioned for maximum effect.
If I have a criticism its that everything takes place over such a short time, a few weeks and Shane and Layla move at warp speed into a relationship, when she’s just started new job, needs to find new accommodation, and yet she just threw herself into it. The short time span made it a little harder to feel the depth of the drama, and didn’t really give time for all of those issues that caused problems to get permanently resolved, though I did like the decision Layla took, and how hard she found it. Understandable.
Stars: Four and a half, I would have liked events to have run over a longer time span. That’s a tiny crit though, very minor.
Arc via author
Izzy’s Christmas Star, Berni Stevens
Well, this was a fun read, one of my favourite genres, the rock star trope and of course choc-lit always deliver for me so I was looking forward to this.
Its an easy read, nothing too dramatic, a simple story. I really liked the characters, and the Santas added a quirky touch, but the lack of real drama made it a four star for me, not the magic five.
I was reading through, hooked onto what would happen next and about the three-quarter mark I was waiting for something to go wrong, as it usually does. Sadly for me its one of those reads where it doesn’t, it just charts the track of a sweet romance.
Izzy is a sweet character, felt like someone I could know and like. Seth too was past the rock star bit, and finds Izzy refreshing, not the shallow type he’s so used to. I loved the Christmas gifts too and the little touches like the impromptu Christmas concert. I love books set around this time of year, there’s something special and its easier to believe in a little supernatural help from Santa 😉
There was the potential for some fireworks with an ex that won’t let go, but rather than any huge whizz-bangs its more of a wet sparkler effect. That could have developed into some real dramatics, and I was hoping, but doesn’t 😦
Still, that’s me, I do love some drama and heartbreak in my happy stories, though of course they need to end well or I feel cheated 😉 It has the perfect happy ending.
Stars: Four, a read I enjoyed,perfect to curl up by the fire and read on a wintry day. I’d need a bit of extra drama and heartbreak for a five, but four is well deserved.
ARC supplied by publisher
The Light in the Hallway, Amanda Prowse
Genre: Women’s fiction, General Fiction (adult)
Gah, I hate Women’s Fiction as a genre heading, so outdated. Men and women can read the same books….its 2019, not 1919.
Anyway, that’s just my personal gripe so…the book. Wonderful. One more Amanda delivers a story that’s thought provoking, gripping, realistic and with gentle touches of humour when parts get too dark.
Nick, oh poor Nick. I’ve been there, had those days when you look around at the empty house and wonder “is it really worth carrying on? What’s the point of it without your love beside you?” Yet he finds the strength to continue, mostly for his beloved son Oliver, who’s also struggling, not just from having lost his mum to cancer, but with his first few weeks at university.
Nick talks to Kerry in his mind, seeking her advice, and I still do that with my husband nearly four years later. He pretends she’s just in another room, and that’s so real, I know I did that too, taking comfort from the fact that maybe, just maybe, they really could be there. Even now some nights I reach out in bed and pretend my arm is resting on his body. Logic tells you they aren’t there of course, but comfort lets you believe the lie for a bit longer.
Its seems like it would be a heavy, sad story but its not. As in real life things happen that tug at the heartstrings whilst making you smile. The three boys, Nick, Eric and Alex and of course Half Bike. That’s was such fun to read even while I shared their struggles. The story veers between Nick, Eric and Alex now and as young lads, when everything can be an adventure. I adored Eric, as a lad and a man. He had such a wonderful sense of humour, his constantly calling the others female names “ You OK Shirley?” stuff like that, he managed to make me smile even when I veered on tears.
Its not just a snippet of time, a vignette of life story, but one where the characters go through the tragedy of Kerry’s death, and try to move forward. Such is the way of life that it moves on whether we are ready or not, so we see Olly’s struggles at uni in his first days, Nick’s return to work, trying to pick up his life, and of course his sister in law who’s determined no-one will replace her sister.
Nick going to the shop the day after her death to be told by his mum he couldn’t, it Wasn’t Done. He’s so right when he says its like wading through a minefield of unwritten rules, never knowing when you’re about to break one. When he’s talking about it only being x months since Kerry died, and yet for him he’d been grieving ever since they knew she wasn’t going to recover, more than a year ealier. That’s so true, that last year they went through she was alive, but not really living, and I can see how Nick’s grieving started much earlier than people would suppose.
Slowly Nick starts to pick up his life and move forward, helped by his childhood friends, mostly the wonderful Eric. I adore that man, he made me laugh so many times with his phrases, and also made me tearful at what happened to him as a young lad.
Amanda really can write characters well, both as adults and as kids. I really believed in those boys, was there alongside them shouting sh it-sticks on the camping trips, searching for bits for the bike, heartbroken at the idea of Eric moving away. I keep thinking of little bits that made me laugh, other than Eric’s wonderful name calling, and one that just sprung in my mind was the baby, when the boys wonder how long are women pregnant. “ They take at least a year to bake” says Eric knowledgeably, shocking Nick and Alex. I could just imagine the three of them mulling over the weird ways of adults.
Its a wonderful story, and one I really enjoyed once more. Amanda delivers the kind of story I love to read, real people, real scenes, stories that I can easily imagine happening, and of course always with an ending that neatly wraps things up. This time she really did bring things full circle, showing a path of happiness for these characters that had been through so much.
Stars: Five, another wonderful read. full of heartbreak and happiness, tears and triumphs.
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