Moonlight Kisses at Willow Tree Hall, Alison Sherlock
Genre: Women’s fiction, Romance
Gah, I hate Women’s Fiction as a genre heading, so outdated.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, after having read the first three books this one was like meeting old friends again, with new ones in Jack and Lily. Although all the stories are connected you don’t have to have read them, each are stand alone romances, but if you have read them it adds a bit extra to the stories, seeing how couples are doing some time on from when we left them.
So many things about this book resonated with me, I share Lily’s List addiction, I have lists for everything. I don’t have Lily’s control issues though, I understand why she does but it makes things hard for those around her and in the early days at the Hall it makes it hard for the family and for Lily. She means well but its simply not working out.
I loved how all the characters pulled together, how the villagers rallied round, how Hazy Memory and the wonderful Alex were included in this story, not family but almost family by adoption.
Rose – I want to be here when I’m older! I adore her. When she’s talking about her Tinder dates and her sex life and grandnephew Sam makes an abrupt turn for fear of hearing more….Arthur, still the benevolent patient Earl, who sees beyond the obvious, who’s at much at home in Bert’s shed as he is in the stately grounds of the Hall.
Jack and Lily, a couple who are perfect but have past issues to get over first. Their backstory affected how they were today, the needed to look at that, understand it, before moving on.
Its a lovely story, full of little side plots and issues, of everyone pulling together for a common cause, of mishaps and mayhem, of the struggle to make the Hall profitable, or at least self supporting, of such wonderful characters, I felt as if I knew them personally.
Its chic-lit at its best, an easy read, some gentle romance, and a story to just sit and relax with. Of course normal things like Health and Safety, Food legislation, insurance etc have to be forgotten…. There’s no way today’s Red Tape would let half the things happen that do in this book. No selling cakes without inspections of kitchens, certificates, data sheets on every ingredient and traceability of it. No running a fete or launch without endless risk and safety assessments, signs everywhere warning of xyz, insurance to cover every possible event. I’m in favour of H&S, it has saved lives but somehow I feel we’ve gone too far the other way and where events like this were common when I was a kid everything get stacked against them now. The traditional British country fair is getting certificated out of existence, and as we see here it can benefit so many folk. It was wonderful to read things that I recall actually happening. I need to mention the apples though, 20-30 per tree is a pretty poor harvest. We used to get around 12-1500 from my four apple trees…
Lily’s family are struggling, all of them in a tiny cottage, her, mum, dad and granddad, and her dad has just given up on life, after his amputation. I found that a bit sad, life isn’t necessarily like that, most folk pick up and forge a new life as he is beginning to at the end of the book, but it was annoying to read at first, everyone mollycoddling round him, not expecting more. If that happens to you or yours don’t be like Lily’s family, don’t just assume for them life is over. I’ve been there, it isn’t!
Overall its a lovely relaxing read, full of country air ( I’m a country girl at heart), terrific characters, some slightly manic times, its a book perfect for a holiday read, or to escape real life for a few hours.
Stars: Four. Great relaxing read. Meeting the family again was like coming home.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Exquisitely Hidden, M. Jay Granberry
I enjoyed this read, liked catching up with the characters and seeing some of book one’s events from a different angle. There’s lots of drama for the band here at times, at others it just kind of plods along. I did find myself skipping a little then which is why its four, not five stars.
I love this kind of read where one person is out and proud and the other…well, not. That’s Seth and Adam, Seth had been out for ages and doesn’t like being kept hidden like a shameful secret, but Adam doesn’t want to be the Poster Boy for Gays.
I can understand that, somehow its typical that we see folk who are different from the average person in terms of what they are, rather than who they are. I’m an amputee, I also paint. I want to be remembered for my art, not my disability, but whenever there’s been any media publicity about art shows I’ve been involved in guess which gets the focus? 😦 yep, the missing leg, and I’m more than that, just as Adam is more too. Gay is a part of him, what he is, but not all he is.
He’s got lots of other issues too from his past, some of which Sin is aware, but even his best friend doesn’t know everything. They’ve an uphill task if ever they’re to find grounds for a relationship.
I enjoyed the will they won’t they, on and off nature of their connection. Its hard, I so understood how Seth felt, and at times I dd get irritated with Adam, but such is the course of love, and I do like the downsides in my reading to cover a decent part. None of this its all off and heart break, then two pages later its all good stuff for me!
I did get confused over how the foster carer he had could be in her eighties? A bit extreme, it would make her in sixties when she had the kids in her care, I can’t see that happening. Likewise the issues over Tori, one moment its all in the air, then next he’s off on tour and we don’t know where she is. There were quite a few typos and grammar errors too that niggled, but I’m hoping that’s because I had an ARC and they’ll have been corrected for final edition.
Stars: Four, a read I enjoyed, and I especially like Adam’s Big Gesture at the end. Seth deserved that, he’d put up with a lot from Adam.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
Call Me, Maybe, Stephie Chapman
Genre: ,Women’s Fiction, Romance
Bah, Humbug. Women’s Fiction – that infuriates me. Why do we insist on having such an outdated category?
Well, that’s out of the way so on to the book…I liked it, a lot, but didn’t Love it. And I’d expected to, its got one of my favourite tropes.
Its got some fun characters, some humour that lifts parts and the potential for some great drama. I just didn’t feel it lived up to that potential. There were characters that were fairly major in parts who then just dropped away. There’s the mystery of Franco and its demise, which was kind of storm in a teacup when finally revealed, and the actions of some of the family over that seemed a bit OTT.
I was never really convinced of the romance between Cassie and Jesse, it seemed kind of insta-love and yet although they’re talking online they’ve only met a couple of times before they’re in deep….They were good together but I didn’t really feel I knew either of them well enough, and didn’t feel they knew each other well. Hot sex doesn’t make a relationship work, you need more.
The relationship between Cassie and her best friend for years seems rocky at times, and there’s no real explanation – like the romance issues its kind of hinted at, there are hurt feelings and then all’s OK again without any real exploration of what went wrong.
That Big problem, yes I can understand Cassie’s reaction at the way it came out, but TBH given that the real circumstances aren’t yet clear, no one has asked, or even really bothered to find out the essential question, and as it all happened well before Cassie and Jesse were in contact it seemed again an OTT reaction all round. By the time it had all happened simple maths would have given the answer too….It seemed too as if all the relationship issues were put down to that one problem but they had much wider ones, ones which if they didn’t explore would simply reoccur. Jesse cam close to seeing some of his issues but I’m not sure he was willing to look at changing them though. The same for Cassie, she recognised that maybe she’d over reacted but given similar issues I think she’d still be the same. I guess for me its back to that build a relationship – they didn’t really, but went from online chats to full fledged all in, and that middle part, the getting to know each there, is so important.
I did like Holly, I do adore a “good” nasty person, and she was a queen bitch! I wish there were more like her in books 😉
Stars: three and a half, a lot of potential, but for me it didn’t quite hit it.
Arc via Netgalley
Let It Snow, Sue Moorcroft
Genre: General Fiction (adult), Women’s Fiction.
Quick usual moan about the genre Women’s Fiction – why? Why assume men won’t read this? Men write romance, men read romance….
Well, I was late to the Sue Moorcroft appreciation group 😉 but she’s the kind of author whose books are worth reading multiple times. They’re so packed with mini plots, secondary characters, fascinating dialogue that I know on subsequent readings I’ll pick up things I missed this time round.
As usual its not just one plot, one strand of story but lots. I love that in a story, keeps things exciting. Some books are single plot and I find that can mean the story becomes a bit dull, fixated on one event but here we flip between plots, many of which prove ultimately to be connected.
Fabulous charters too, that make the story feel so real. They’re the kind of folk you find in any village, with all life’s dramas, the everyday issues we all face at times. There’s Lily, Zinnia and the two mums, and the issues that’s brought for all of them, and then Lily discovering her two half brothers, and what she should do about that. They have no idea about her, the mums and Zinnia are feeling a bit rejected, even though Lily still adores them. I guess that’s natural, how most parents would feel when their child wants to search out other family members. Til now they’ve been a tight knit unit of four, what will happen when Lily finds them.
Of course its not straight forward, Lily finds Harrison Tubb ( known to all as Tubb), he’s a well liked genial landlord of a village local, and she gets a job with him, intending to tell him who she is when time is right. Its never that straightforward though, and that simple quest gets more complicated as she falls in love with Isaac, who’s minding the pub while Tubb recovers from a heart issue in Switzerland with his brother. By now Lily has been at the pub two years, part time, while building her own business. That brings in an opportunity to work at an event in Switzerland, via Tubb and his brother Garrick, who still don’t know who Lily is to them.
Then there’s the singing group, who are also on the Swiss trip, singing Christmas songs, the other villagers, Isaac and his ex Hayley, and of course their dog, Doggo. He’s a real star of the book, so typically Dalmatian, full of exuberance.
Everything comes to a head just before, and on, the Swiss trip, its multiple dramas pulling Lily from all sides. Perfect read for me, I adore that kind of drama that makes you think, how can they get through this, will they even, or are the odds so stacked against them they won’t?
Its a perfect read for me, full of people and issues that feel so real and one in particular is handled very well, an illness that touches many of us. I’ve read similar plots in other books where it feels like its been brought in to add drama but just isn’t handled well, with parts being very unrealistic. Having had an illness similar myself I appreciated that this was written sensitively but realistically.
Stars: Five, a fun read, full of drama and subtle romance
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Reveal, K. Bromberg, Wicked Ways book two
Genre: romance, general fiction (adult)
Confession time: I loved KB’s Driven trilogy, which I read years ago, and I’ve enjoyed several of her follow up novels, so when I saw she was the author of this book I dived in and hit request. Wasn’t til it was on my kindle I realised it was second part of a duet. Luckily book one was on KU so I borrowed that – loved it BTW – and went on to this.
What I love in a story is romance, but I want a novel that delivers more than just A meets B, and after a few struggles they live happily ever after. I want my characters to really get put through the mill and KB delivers all that in spades.
I loved Ryker, the type of guy you hate until you see beyond his surface, and when he meets Vaughn he’s hooked, though he doesn’t yet realise it. When we learn about his background its easy to see how that has influenced not just his career, but his whole way of living, and until he meets Vaughn he thinks he’s content. Now he’s seeing that he can have more – if he’s brave enough to try. Vaughn though, that girl has some real problems….
I adored Vaughn, been through so much with the loss of her sister, with the awful family situation they had, and now she’s determined to get custody of her niece Lucy, who has learning issues. Lucy is just adorable and loves Vaughn so much you just want things to work out for them, but life is stacked against them. Its hard already with Vaughn working two jobs to pay off the huge debts she ran up for her sisters medical care. Of course one of those jobs has to be kept quiet, hidden from social services, but that’s the one that’s bringing in the money.
Slowly the worlds she tries to keep apart start to collide, problems from her secret job start to create real issues to her custody application, and to her safety. She has secrets on all her clients, but some are bigger than others, and one in particular is bringing her into real danger. She can’t trust anyone, she thought she could trust Ryker but the events at the end of book one threw that into confusion, and left her distraught and feeling so alone.
This book is action packed, full of drama, of secrets, of issues that seem to come between her and Ryker, even though its clear they are totally in love ( and lust!!!) Can they make it through, will her adoption of Lucy work out or is it all doomed to fail?
I had anticipated a few events but there were some that really threw me out completely, and the action – bam, bam, bam, with scarcely a break before she gets hit with the next problem. I so felt for her, I don’t know what I’d have done in the same situation to determine what was the right for her, Lucy and Ryker, but I was so holding out for them.
Stars: Five, a cracking duet, full of scorching romance,and non-stop suspense
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Reach for a Star, Kathryn Freeman
Genre: romance, humour
I loved Kathryn’s Before You, so when I saw this I was keen to read it. I have a weakness for the fame/ordinary person trope and this sounded perfect.
I really enjoyed it, but it didn’t quite have that five star magic for me. Michael was a wonderful man, and his loneliness, at the top of his career, his desire for something more, was clear. Until he met Jessie though he didn’t realise himself how he felt, and as he started to develop feelings for her he was also aware of his past where emotions were concerned. I so loved him, he was the perfect lead.
Jessie I really liked at first but I did get tired of her on/off/on feelings, doubts yes, but poor Michael really got put through the mill with her and he had the patience of a saint to put up with it all. I did understand her feelings about her family, but she was making decisions for Michael rather than talking through them.
Georgina – I had such high hopes for a really good B itch type and she started well but, well, I so love the chaos people like her bring to a romance but she didn’t. Works for others, left me a little disappointed though 😦
There is some great humour here, not in your face forced stuff, but subtle and funny. One bit got me though “damn it she was thirty six not sixty three. She didn’t want slippers. What she wanted was knock-em dead Louboutins” I’m not far off 63, I want Louboutins too, not slippers 😉
Her friend, her Ex and the boys were terrific side characters and added so much to the story, made it feel real. I like books that are rounded, not just single plot.
What if your dreams were so close you could reach out and touch them?
How could anyone resist Michael Tennant, with his hypnotic blue eyes and voice like molten chocolate? Jessie Simmons certainly can’t. But Jessie’s a single mum who can’t sing to save her life – there’s no way she’ll ever cross paths with the star tenor.
At least that’s what she thinks until she’s unexpectedly invited to take part in a new reality TV show. The premise? Professional singers teach hopeless amateurs how to sing. The surprise? Jessie’s partner is none other than Michael Tennant!
As she becomes better acquainted with the man behind the voice, will Jessie find out the hard way that you should never meet your idols? Or will she get more than she bargained for?
Stars: Four, a fascinating read, bring in life in a very personal way.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Night You Left, Emma Curtis
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.
I was on the fence about this, I love books about missing people, makes me wonder what happened, why, what were they thinking etc but there were a few reviews that made it sound not my kind of read. Still, took the plunge and really enjoyed it.
Unusually for me the majority of the people in this were irredeemably awful, and usually I need to like the majority, though enjoy a few bad to the bone folk. The only one’s I liked ( apart from Lottie and Kai) were Nick and Grace.
The book flits from past to present, at varying times and occasionally I needed to backtrack to see just what time we were in. I felt for Nick as a teen, his parents even then were self obsessed. Taisie, typical kid in her actions and if any of the parenst had looked beyond what she wanted them to see they’d have put a stop to things. Fact is none of the parents were really bothered what the kids did so long as it didn’t interfere with their fun. Pretty rough, and of course had some terrible consequences, not just immediate but long term.
Where the story fell down for me was the timing, with everything from years back coming together over just a few days. there’s a saying that truth is stranger than fiction, so to a degree I can deal with what seems like just too much co-incidence but in this book there really was a bit more than I could believe in. Still, I wanted to see what happened to Nick, couldn’t believe he’d just walked out but that’s what it looked like and I wanted to know why, and if not, what had happened. Its actually something that happens very often in real life, people do just walk out, start another life, but I didn’t feel Nick would do that. He seemed to adore Grace and Lottie, and even when Grace began to find out the secrets he hid I still don’t feel he’d just walk out. As things come to a head more and more long held secrets come to light, bringing in some very real dangers.
Its a nicely paced story, letting things come to light slowly, and though I’d guessed some of the things that happened, there were others that came as a real surprise.
Stars: Four, a story that had me reading “just a bit more” needing to know what happened. I do feel some events stretched credulity too far and that’s what stopped the five rating.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Lie With Me, Philippe Besson
Genre: LGBTQIA, Literary Fiction
When I started this I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, the description is pretty short on info, but its not a long read and something just drew me to it.
I thought for maybe the first 25% I’d made a mistake, I didn’t really like the way it read, mostly long monologues by the author interspersed with short snippets of dialogue between him and Thomas.
I struggle with that kind of read, for me dialogue telling the story works best, the show not tell approach, and yet as I continued I became engrossed in what was happening, worried for the boys, emotionally invested in the story. First Love is hard, and what they had and the need for secrecy made it harder.
I appreciated as I read more that actually this approach was the best way to tell the story and by the end I was in tears, its so incredibly sad.
I wasn’t – still aren’t – sure if this was really an autobiography, the book is dedicated to Thomas Andrieu, the name of Phillipe’s lover, and set in the village where he grew up. Someone on goodreads says its actually autofiction, short for autobiographical fiction, or fictional memoir. Apparently that’s very popular in french fiction.
If even a bit of it is true then what a sad tale, I’m so incredibly sorry for what the characters went through.
Whatever, its an amazing story, very moving and I’m so glad I did read it. Even if it made me cry at the end.
Its a story that could be mirrored today, but back in the 1980’s homosexuality was still very much hidden by far too many people, too scared to live their lives the way they wanted, and sometimes I’m not certain we’ve really progressed that much.
Though we like to think we are liberal minded just think of the furor when a footballer, or someone in another popular “mans” sport comes out. Think of the homophobic chants on the terraces, the people facing abuse every day. If you live in a small village or town think of how hard it is to be different, how just maybe its easier to live a lie, rather than face daily contempt and bigotry, possibly within ones own family….One day.
Anyway, I understood why there was all the secrecy but at the end all I could feel was how sad, the loss of potential happiness, the lives that could have been lived, the happiness Thomas and Phillipe could have had, and that’s kind of why it made me so choked, so sad. Just the waste of lives that never had a chance.
Stars: Five, despite my misgivings its an incredible read.
ARC via netgalley
The Long Way Home, Kate Sherwood.
Genre: LBGTQIA, Romance
I’ve enjoyed several of Kate’s novels and loved the prequel to this one, The Mark of Cain, so was delighted to be offered this for review.
Sean is an incredibly bitter individual after the accident, which caused him to lose both legs. He was pretty awful before the accident, homophobic, angry, racist and one of those folk most people try to avoid. His best friend Luke ( from Mark of Cain) is in a relationship with Mark, an ex priest, and Sean finds that difficult to accept, but he has respect for Luke, one of the few people he listens to, and Luke knows how to handle Sean.
Sadly for Paul, he’s gay, he’s coloured and he has Sean as a patient. Sean is full of anger, full of bile, he hates what his life has become, dependent on others for so much and as he sees it, no future, he’s got nothing to live for. I’m an amputee, though thankfully only one leg, and I wasn’t like Sean pre-amputation. Still, that change from being independent, working full time, looking after my family to losing a whole leg, losing my job, being so dependent came as a shock, and like Sean I felt at times death was a welcome way out.
I remember the first night after the op being in tears because I couldn’t even do a simple thing like turning over in bed anymore, had to be helped. So even though Sean seems irredeemably awful I have a little sympathy for him. He should have a future of possibilities stretched out as he’s in his early twenties, and yet he feels he has nothing left to live for. When he’s as horrible as he was to Paul though even my sympathy was stretched.
Of course Kate seems to excel at making the most unlikely people fall in love, but this seemed one that I thought even she couldn’t do successfully. I was wrong 😉 somehow she brings out the best in Sean, doesn’t turn him overnight into a saint, but with the help of Paul and Luke he finds life is still worth living, that he hasn’t lost everything, and whilst learning that he finds another side of himself that he likes better.
He’s still angry, still lashes out without thinking at times, still misses a fight, but the good things in his life balance it. I was glad she didn’t change his basic nature, that wouldn’t have felt real, the Sean we get to know through the end of the book is still the same guy, but re-balanced, the best in him was there all along but hidden, now its the worst bits that are still there but hidden.
Then there’s Paul, a dutiful son, very much in the family mould, his only rebellion was his career, he just couldn’t face life in the family business, successful though it is, and he wanted to choose his own future. He’s in what his family see as a good relationship with Bobby, seems to have life set out for a happy future, but is feeling as though Bobby doesn’t really understand him, but his family are so happy about his rich, successful boyfriend and their relationship he’s not sure what to do, is it easier to just go with the flow?
And then there’s the kittens…..who are the catalyst (that was unintentional!) for a host of changes.
I really enjoyed this story, seeing how Sean came to terms with his loss, how Paul learned to stand up for what was important to him, and of course meeting Luke and Mark again, knowing that they have made a life together successfully, meeting Elise again and seeing her sanctuary still going well. And the kittens, stars of the show, I fell in love with them.
At the start I was pretty convinced Kate wasn’t going t have me believing in this love story, it seemed a step too far, and yet by the end I was convinced, what seemed an impossible challenge wasn’t.
I felt too that the feelings Sean had and the struggles he faced with life after amputation were so very real. I’ve been down the road, albeit I am fortunate in still having one leg, and Sean’s emotions and physical problems were ones I’ve also faced.
I can’t really pin down why this isn’t a five star read for me, could be my subconscious feelings over mine and Sean’s shared issues – though it was all written perfectly, there are still days when life is a struggle for me, and I think unconsciously that bias has affected how I feel over this story. One of those Its me not the story issues others won’t face but I do.
Stars: Four and a half, not quite as gripping as Kate’s other stories but a solid, engrossing read once more.
ARC via author
The Jasmine Wife, A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women, by Jane Coverdale
Well, this one doesn’t feature my usual bete noire, the “women’s fiction” category, but that runner just after the title? “Novel for women” – it means much the same and just makes me think, Why? Why alienate a potential swath of readers? Men write romance, men read romance, its time we stopped categorising stories as men/women reads.
Anyway, the story. I love books set in other countries, especially India/China/Japan, and especially set in a period of history where life was so very different not only between sexes but between races.
I loved this book, really made me feel there with Sara, feeling the heat, enjoying the rich aromatics, the colourful landscape, the busy markets and shops.
Its a good story too, what happens to Sara was what sadly happened so often then. Orphaned, brought up by relatives, and encouraged to marry rather than stay with the family. Didn’t really matter whether the match suited her, the fact that someone with a position in India chose her was enough. For those without connections there was the notorious “ fishing fleet” where desperate girls came on spec, hoping someone needed a wife.
Its hardly a romance a marriage like this, more a match of suitability. Perhaps, they don’t really know each other well after all. Sara thinks she loves Charles but barely knows him, and the man she meets in India, after a years absence is very different.
By her background, her childhood in India with very open minded, liberal parents though she sees the locals as people, while the British enclave here now are determined to treat them as lesser, as unfeeling, as beneath any decent treatment. What this books shows is just how it was in reality, and the sheer, breathtaking arrogance of people just because the are British is incredible. Its always amazed me how one tiny, little country became such a world power.
Of course Sara is lovely, way to good for Charles and the British Enclave in Madras. Charles is ambitious, and not above using Sara’s beauty to further his position, and insidiously bullies her into behaving with those who can influence his future. He sees her as a tool more than a wife, but then sadly he’s not alone. Women were regarded that way, possessions to be used, to be paraded out with, to show off, while they kept an Indian woman for what they saw as their baser needs. Wives weren’t allowed or expected to enjoy sex, but remain above such things, while men had “needs”…… Incredible how men who denigrate Indians in public still wanted them kept quietly somewhere for those needs. Sadly that was the norm, accepted even, and the poor ladies, Indian or British, had no say.
Sara gets a rapid eye opening about her husband, and of course the wonderful, attractive Ravi is a temptation she can’t resist. I loved the idea of their meeting being fated, that the signs, the gurus, Sara’s history, all meant it was inevitable according to Ravi. This idea of fate v personal choice always fascinates me, and there are times when things seem impossible but somehow work out, as if fate lent a helping hand.
Stars: Five. A gorgeous read, transporting me to India, desperate for things to work out for Sara, for her to be happy.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers