Coming Home to Holly Close Farm, Julie Houston
Genre: general fiction (adult), women’s fiction
Once more, women’s fiction. Why, why alienate men? They read books like this too.
Anyway, I’ve loved all Julie’s past stories, but this one wasn’t a great fit for me. It could well be living circumstances, I’m between homes, living in my daughter’s conservatory so getting “lost” in a book hasn’t been easy. I may reread this at a later day and feel very differently.
Its full of the usual realistic characters and events, and peppered with Julie’s trademark subtle humour. I’m always nervous when a book promises to make me “laugh out loud” as too often I fond that really means the forced, very unfunny humour I hate. Julie’s style isn’t that, is much more soft and clever humour, not pushed-in-your-face stuff .
So, the story, its kind of in two parts, and I found I loved Madge and her backstory more than I enjoyed the current time romance. Madge had such a tragic past, I loved her stoic, never give in mindset, but found it hard to believe no-one knew about Holly Close Farm, how a property so valuable would have no evidence that family would have picked up on linking her to it. No bills from the council? No demands for utilities etc? It’s possible but a bit hard to believe given that now I seem to get bills from the council in numerous duplicates constantly! Her daughter Nancy was a bit weird, and I couldn’t see her missing out on any stray info that would lead to reward for her.
I wanted to like Charlie, felt so much for her over Dominic, sadly things like that happen, and people can be horribly plausible about absences. I just found it hard to really feel for her after that, she’s a little too me, me , me for my taste. Like I said, maybe its my mindset, and I’ll feel differently at a later date.
Stars: Three, a good story, great characters, but fell a bit short for me of Julie’s others five star reads.
Arc via Netgalley
Enchantée, Gita Trelease
Genre: Teens & YA, Sci Fi & Fantasy
I really enjoyed this, its a fabulous debut read, with a very polished writing style. I was absorbed into the story very quickly and felt as if I was there with the characters.
The magic part of the story felt genuine, as if it could be real. I liked that magic has a cost, the user needs to pay. I was really sympathetic to Camille and Sophie, they found themselves without parents, without money, without employment and with a drunkard brother, through no fault of their own. In real life, things like that do happen, and Camille reluctantly employs her small magic skills to buy them food and pay the rent.
Its not enough though, and faced with losing their home Camille uses a darker magic to create a persona who can gamble ( and use her magic to win) in the court of Versailles.
There were some wonderfully descriptive scenes there, and characters who were sometimes more than they seemed. Along the way there’s the puzzle of Lazare. He too may be more than a simple balloonist. Camille has a scary, dangerous path to follow. Will they have a romance or won’t it happen?
Its all set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, making a perfect setting.
There are more books planned but this one ends well, no cliffhangers but a neat closure. I don’t know it he next book will be about Camille, Sophie or possibly some of the other characters we’ve met but I’ll be keen to read it.
Stars: Five, Romance, mystery, history and Magic, all in one cleverly written story.
Arc via Netgalley
Any Old Diamonds, K.J. Charles
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
I love KJ Charles writing style, very typically British gentle, self effacing humour, subtle and understated clues to plots, and a rich, realistic historical setting. I don’t want in-your-face novels, I want to explore characters, work out scenes, pick up insinuated clues to what’s going to happen, try to work things out myself.
I loved the connection to some past novels, though you don’t need to read those. I enjoyed seeing those characters some twenty years on.
I adored Alec, so felt for him. He wanted to do what was right by his siblings, avenge his sister’s death, but when its your father, however awful he is, its a tough thing to face. The Lillywhite Boys, are commissioned by Alec to work the sting, with Jerry, one half of the duo, working closely with Alec, as his friend so that he can be in the right place at the right time.
I loved the slow developing romance between Alec and Jerry, the wondering from Alec is this is just a pleasant interlude for Jerry or could he dare hope he means more to him.? Jerry is such an enigma its difficult to feel how he thinks, work out what he really wants from Alec, and I wasn’t certain either until I was blown away by that magical, unexpected declaration.
As always historical novels bring the dangers to M/M romances to the fore, and Oscar Wilde and his stint in prison gets a mention – as does the fact that he was prosecuted but the Wealthy Society Gentleman also involved wasn’t. That links to the main plot here, how Lord Alec’s father, the Duke of Ilvar, literally got away with murder, being both wealthy and having the position to take out any repercussions. Old Boys Network at its finest. Its fiction here, but things like that did – and to a degree still do – happen all too often 😦
I thought I’d followed the clues, worked plots and answers out, but as usual KJ has surprises, events don’t go as I’d planned and everything changes in an instant. Its cleverly done, the way I’d thought it would go would have left severe repercussions whereas of course the way it actually happens works well for everyone. Well, apart from the Duke and Duchess of course!!
Stars: Five, another cracking read,. Romance, mystery, history all in one cleverly written story.
Arc via author
Always With You, Indigo: Book 3, Kate McBrien
Well, a very climatic, drama filled finish to the trilogy. TBH it felt – cough- a little too drama filled. I love action, intensity and drama but there was so much here that I felt it became almost wearying to the senses, took away from the actual events. Having said that its still and amazing read, and a fabulous trilogy for a debut writer. Very well written, full of excellent plots and very polished overall.
Lucy; at times I want to say to her “what are you doing!!” when she dithers. She’s grown in confidence though, and there’s a lot less of that in this final part. Justin, well, he’s just fabulous, so very solid in his love, so very protective and I enjoyed how the past events affected him in this life. I loved Lucy and Justin together, but did feel they got a little lost in the other events that filled this story. Sometimes Less is More, and for me less additional plots ( the Russian connection) and more of Lucy and Justin would have worked better. That’s just me though, others will love it as it is.
Edward…Gah, I hate that guy, but I love characters like his. He played a terrific part in the story, very believable. I wasn’t so convinced on the Rachel story-line, especially with how things ended. I disliked her intensely, didn’t want to change my stance on that and though events could have proved otherwise I’m holding fast to my dislike 😉
I would have liked to have seen a bit more connection between Justin and Lucy’s nightmares and the past, maybe snippets of what they were dreaming or something? The past in each book is really kept to just beginning and end, which makes for a wonderful ending, where we see just what did play out, but I’d have enjoyed a bit more linking through the story.
I love the way the Cross links past and present Justin and Lucy, and how its creation from Love held fast, and meant so much to them when they touched in in the present. I enjoyed the history, past and present story of Lapis Lazuli and the issues behind it. Everyone has heard of Blood diamonds, but I’d never connected this stone with terrorism financing.
From the book blurb, and important. Note to readers: This book contains scenes which may be triggering to survivors of sexual violence
Stars: Four and a half, a great trilogy, but I wasn’t quite as gripped by this part as by parts one and two, especially part one, which I loved.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers
Genre: Romance, LGBTQIA
I’ve enjoyed a few of Felice’s reads now, and was eager to read this one. It was a well written story but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d expected though.
I liked both guys, very real characters with very genuine problems though each are vastly different. I felt their first meeting was plausible, sometimes that first meet feels cliched and false but here I could see things playing out exactly like that. Dash is the kind of true Gentleman who would step in to help anybody. He’s a very likable man, loves his family, even though he can see issues with it, works hard to put himself through school, and Jesse comes from a world he can only imagine.
Jesse might look to have everything, money, family, good health but…after losing his father in 9/11 he’s left with a crippling fear of outdoors, hasn’t been past his front door for five years. He has everything set up to support him – money can do that – but it can’t make him happy, and he’s now realising he doesn’t want to stay confined but finding it incredibly hard to break through the fear. His desire for Dash helps him but its not easy.
At least not easy until suddenly it is. Well, not quite but I found it hard to believe after such protracted stay inside his flat, not venturing past the front door, he could move forward quite so quickly. likewise Dash and his problems with Jesse and money, somehow it all seemed to be huge hurdles one moment and poof, gone for love the next. It was a little too slick for me. I like a bit more struggle and angst.
Its an easy to read story, well set out and believable if only there had been a bit more distance from insolvable issues to -poof- all sorted now….I know love conquers all but I want a bit of struggle along the way.
Stars: Three, a good read but not quite up to some of her others for me. Could be just what you want though, reading is incredibly subjective.
ARC via author
Counting on a Countess, The most outrageous Regency romance of 2019 that fans of Vanity Fair and Poldark will adore, Eva Leigh
Counting on a Countess, The most outrageous Regency romance of 2019 that fans of Vanity Fair and Poldark will adore, Eva Leigh
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
* Sigh…Women’s Fiction again…Why? Why write off a potential clutch of readers? Men write romance, men read romance so this genre is sadly outdated.
I didn’t like Vanity Fair, and though I loved Poldark this isn’t in any way similar to those novels, except in the setting being Cornwall and past times.
Another historical that proved for me to be well written but not exciting. Its an easy read, a perfect book to relax with but not one to set the heart pounding, make emotions come alive.
I liked both characters to begin with, and love that Regency way of talking round issues, of pandering to society while working towards one’s own ends. Its a clever trick, a dance that’s hard to perfect and I love the way characters know what they want but have to use polite dissembling to achieve it. Here its Kit that needs a wife to secure his fortune and Tamsyn that needs a wealthy husband. Both have ambitions that need money, and a very short span of time in which to obtain it.
I loved the spark that ran between them, sexual tension, subtle wit and a sharp intelligence in both made them perfect for each other. Both though are holding a big secret, Kit wants the money for the dream that held him together in the depths of war, Tamsyn wants to buy her childhood home and the smuggling coves so essential for sustaining the villagers in these lean times.
It plays out well, gradually unfolding the plots each have to gain what they want. They marry, and then Kit receives a massive shock, control of the money is solely with Tamsyn, he has to ask her for everything, the promises he made about setting her up with an allowance, etc all fall flat. Tables are turned and its Tamsyn who has the deciding hand. Of course letting him have the money for his dream means letting go of hers, and can she do that with the village depending on her?
That’s where it fell back for me, she didn’t discuss anything, didn’t try to meet Kit halfway, just made her mind up and went ahead. I found that really unlike the character I thought she was, and to be honest, morally unfair too. It was Kit’s inheritance, but she’s happy to take charge of it and make all the decisions. Emasculating for any man, especially in that era. There’s also the fact that she knows how he feels about the Law, and yet she’s made him an unwitting accomplice, without ever trying to work things out another way. I’m not saying his ideas where necessarily right, but what she did felt so very wrong. I really didn’t like the way she just dashed his dreams, no discussion, no explanations just waded ahead with her own plans.
Then when it all comes to a head, well, that old 10cc seventies song springs to mind “The things we do for love…” I did find Kits about turn on what he had long believed a little hard to take, heat of the moment yes, but I thought there’d be some hard words in private, but he appears to have abandoned all his principles and it made me think less of him.
Still, its a romance, we can’t have an unhappy couple, and clever Kit finds a way to make both of them achieve what they want.
Stars: Three, a solidly written story, but at times I disliked Tamsyn intensely, and I felt Kit was way to quick to abandon all his long held beliefs.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Summoned to Thirteenth Grave. Darynda Jones
Genre:Mystery and Thrillers.
I’ve joined the blog tour as part of the release of this final book and we were asked to review another book from the series too. I’ve chosen the first book, seems ages ago I read that – when I very first bought a kindle. Charley and the gang have come such a long way since then so I’m looking forward to rereading the beginning – and I’ll probably work my way through the series once more! Good books are well worth that, I find I see things I missed first time round.
Anyway, this book. Well, after the ending of the last, where Charley was banished for 100 years what would happen why she returned, what happened to the humans she knew, what happened to Beep? So many things going on but as usual Darynda manages to give all the answers in a way that’s believable.
The thing with Charley world is you have to forget everything learned about supernatural fiction from other reads, and go with what Darynda has created. Its unique, time isn’t linear, isn’t even anything I’ve read before, but exists in a way that makes ends easy to tie up. Its worlds within worlds, past, present and future all existing within the same frame. There’s God, and his side, Lucifer and his side, and of course Charley, Reyes, and all their gang amassed over the series. If I think about it too hard its head-aching, so its easier to just accept it as is, and go with the flow.
I love Charley’s “voice”, her snark, her outlook in life. At times she sounds a little childish, but its as if that’s her way of coping with all that goes on in her life. She’s had it tough, and there are still some huge shocks to come for her in this book. What I love is that as usual she’s got the big question of Beep and Lucifer, and yet she takes time to deal with everyday issues that crop up, deal with friend’s little issues, missing people, possible murders, letting a few folk pass through her as she’s out and about. I loved that we see almost everyone I remember from the past books in this one, it really feels like a tying up of ends. I hate books where I’m left wondering “what about xxx, how did xx deal with it” and thankfully there’s none of that here.
Reyes, ah Reyes. That guy is so incredible, adores Charley, you know he always has her best interests at heart (can I sever his spine now?) He is just so gorgeous, everyone has the hots for him, but Charley really is It for him, he never even looks elsewhere. Well, he did create her for him, so I guess that’s to be expected. The fact that there are so many supernatural folk in this book, and none really fit the standard supernatural trope. Reyes isn’t one of the good guys, and yet he’s good, others are supposed to be God’s folk yet they leave things t play out, and as when Charley saved amber in the last book a good deed still has consequences for them. They seem to be all about non interference even when it means unjust endings.
Stars:Five stars, a fabulous finale. Forget all other supernatural stories, Darynda’s book are unique. Read them and lose yourself in an amazing world, full of incredible characters and a story that will stay with you for ages. I’m hoping we get more of Beep and her story, I’m not ready to leave all these characters yet
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Waiting for You, Indigo: Book 2, Kate McBrien
Well, at the end of book one Justin and Lucy were apart, the fame/media aspect scaring Lucy. Its one of those things that’s so hard, if she wants to be with Justin she has to accept that the fame and publicity are part of the package. Even if he gave up his music, he’d still be hounded by media for a significant time – and anyway, its part of him, part of the man she loves.
He understands her fears, blames himself for the awful events that separated him even though they aren’t really his fault and were done without his permission or knowledge. He’s left it up to Lucy to contact him, says he’ll be waiting.
Her parents though, they really don’t like him, and are determined to push Edward in her way. He’s got himself highly placed at her work too, so she’s really no way of escaping him. He is such a horrible sleaze and in this book we see more of that. I loved it, someone appearing so genuine, caring, respected outwardly, and yet behind the scenes, in the pursuit of what he wants he’s a horrible, manipulative bar- stard. That’s reality – we often see friends and family of people who’ve committed some awful crime saying it can’t be true, the person simply wouldn’t do that. But they can and do, manipulators are expert at presenting one face to the world while doing the opposite.
He arranges for Lucy to travel to London, with him of course, to deliver the Cross to its new buyer. As usual he’s moving events to suit his purpose but Justin is in London too, and Lucy is thinking its a chance, fate maybe, to reconnect. Once more though Justin’s fame comes between them with yet more horrific allegations against him. Its a time that’s testing Lucy to the fullest, and she needs to decide, trust her heart, her instincts or believe the media and of course the person behind things. I really wanted to shake her a couple of times, shout at her “c’mon Lucy, give the guy a break, he loves you, you love him” but she was so cautious.
I’ve seen criticism about the attack, that it wasn’t reported. In reality something like over 80% of attacks go unreported and given that only a small percent of those that are reported lead to conviction, its almost understandable why some women choose not to put themselves through the trauma of reporting and all it brings. I don’t agree with it, that’s what lets predators continue, but it’s reality and I can see why it went unreported.
In the same way the false allegations against Justin, that happens too, folk wanting revenge, wanting to cause harm, just making allegations for malicious purposes or attention. Sadly, things like that lead to the non reporting data, because people are afraid they won’t be believed.
The connection to the past, the supernatural element is very muted, only appears on a peripheral basis, it’s clear how events are linked re Justin and Lucy, but I’m not entirely sure if Edward is who I think he was, or if there’s some kind of turnabout coming….
Its another great installment, though I did get a bit cross at Lucy’s dithering. I adore Justin and none of what happened was his fault, sure he has a past, but he can’t change that, only change how he is in the future and Lucy needs to accept who is was, and who he is now. I did find it not quite as gripping to read as the first book, a bit slower paced, didn’t quite have me lost in the story the same way but its still a cracking read, especially from a new author.
Luckily I’ve book three on my kindle as an arc, but its out very soon, later this month, and the whole trilogy has been released within six months. I love that, hate waiting a year, eighteen months or more between episodes, its why when I’m buying I wait til story is complete before buying, so I can read all in one go, I find I enjoy the story best that way.
Stars: Four and a half, not quite as good as book one, the story lagged a little at times, but I really did like the reality of the attacks and how they were dealt with.
Arc via author and Netgally
A Place Without You, Jewel E. Ann
well, my third book by Jewel, loved the first, enjoyed the second but wasn’t a re-reader for me so I was unsure of how I’d feel about this. The description though, the “forbidden” romance aspect all drew me in. An aside: school kids I understand the no relationships between tutors and pupils, but once they’re past 18, legally adults, why not?
So I started reading, absorbed by the story, the setting but Henna. Good Grief she annoyed me at times, real poor little rich girl syndrome. Its easy to be flouting rules when school won’t do anything because of your parents, its easy spending the day drug addled on pot when your parents let you, encourage you almost in the case of Juni, and she has the excuse of “pain”. She had been in a horrific accident which left physical and mental scars, but somehow to me that’s just become an excuse to while through the day high on gummies….
Fortunately underneath that Henna is a really like-able girl, thoughtful and talented. I’m not sure she’d have found success as an artist quite so easily though, I know from my own art and friends that its a very hard world to make a living from, not as easy as just meeting someone who’s instantly able to put your art in front of top buyers, but again maybe the name, the fame, the money all played a part. Weird isn’t it how those with money have others falling over themselves to give them opportunities to make more.
Her mum, Juni, annoyed me. She’s a parent, not a friend and to me Henna needed the discipline a mother brings to the relationship, not another friend. She can find them herself but you only get one mum. Juni means well but for me she wasn’t a great parent, and its Henna’s own nature that stopped her being a horrible spoiled rich girl.
Then there’s Bodhi….gorgeous guy, talented drummer, and they meet at a music festival. I loved that setting, the way they met though even then there were little things about Henna that irritated me, where she’s being all madame of mystery I just got annoyed at it, needless subterfuge, that came over as more of the “look at my connections”.
Then its back to school and ….oops, Bodhi is Mr Malone, school guidance counsellor. In the same way as you need to suspend belief to accept Henna and the art sales you need to just accept that talented drummer, fallen through drugs, drink and other circumstances is now a school counsellor….its unlikely in real life, he’s still under thirty, he’d need a degree and further study to get into that field and with a rehab stint on record it would be hard. Still, fiction, go with the flow. I can do that but TBH I do wish authors would inject a bit more realism into situations, not let characters just swan into top positions.
Bodhi is a lovely man, needs his job, but its Henna and he needs her too….the more we learn about him though the more we see what he can’t afford to risk, and it irritated me that Henna saw that but still pursued him. Why not wait a year? But then there’d be no story 😉 so I have my answer.
Towards the last third of the novel there’s some very serious stuff, more about Bodhi’s past, more about his fractured family, there are some hard choices to be made and plenty of heartbreak and angst. I was thinking “what would I do” and its a tough question, guilty feelings whichever way one decides. Sadly its a situation so many folk find themselves in. Life isn’t always easy.
There was lots of angst in this novel, and I adore that in a story, but Henna let it down for me, I found it so hard to actually respect her. She’s not horribly obnoxious or anything, just been brought up by very indulgent parents and has no real understanding of other people issues, what a lack of job, money, means to them. She’d undergone something pretty horrific a couple of years previously and I think her parents let her down in not getting her more help, in letting her waste her days on a high, popping gummies for pain instead of sorting it another way. That’s not a long term answer, but goes along with the parenting that left her this lack of understanding of others, and made her a bit selfish.
Perfect ending though, I love an epilogue that isn’t long, just fills in how things work down the line. Those few pages were exactly what I want.
Stars: Three and a half. There were parts I loved, parts I felt were stretching credibility a little too much, and then Henna herself, the way she was didn’t make her a great lead for me. As always though she and the story are perfect for others and that’s OK, we all enjoy different things.
Arc via author and social butterfly PR
Don’t You Forget About Me, Mhairi McFarlane
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
I’ve really enjoyed some of Mhairi’s past works and fully expected to adore this one. But…I liked it, just didn’t love it.
Its got some great humour, allied with some very genuine “today” issues about women, sexism, expectations that made it feel very real, very contemporary.
We start with Georgina getting fired, not her fault, not the best job to have but its money and the rent is due. She then decides to call on her boyfriend for commiseration, and finds him in bed with someone else…. He’s a real charmer BTW, her friends have it spot on when they describe him as the worst boyfriend. I just couldn’t see why she was with him really, why she made excuses, maybe its because he seems to find her funny, and she wants to be seen that way, entertaining, popular and perhaps that’s how he makes her feel? Well, how she interprets his reactions anyhow. He’s actually selfish, annoying, sexist and she deserves better. That’s a huge part of her issues though, she’s always struggling to be seen as the fun girl, the popular one and its something that stems from issues at a really young age.
That part of her is why she acted the way she did in the Big Event, the one that’s tantalised throughout, and made me really sad for her when we saw what happened. Heartbreaking, but what does happen so very often.
I was astonished at Lucas, given their history, that he simply didn’t remember her. He makes the excuse later that everything between 18 and 25 is a blur, though never actually says why. I kept wanting him to see her as the girl he loved, who loved him, even if they hadn’t fully acknowledged that back then. He’s got his own issues though and reasons for his actions.
It all sounds just what I love to read, but somehow it felt so very slow, so padded out and full of inaction. Its not billed as Romance, but from the description I did expect romance to develop far sooner. I guess its a case of actual book v my expectations that made this just an OK read for me, where others of Mhairi’s have been 5star re-readers. I’m sure its perfect for others, but for me this wasn’t one I really enjoyed.
Stars: Three, some really topical and important issues contained here, but overall the story just fell short for me
ARC via Netgalley and publishers