reviews

‘Mad’ by Chloe Esposito #BookReview #FridayReads

mad

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Alvina Knightly: Uncensored. Unhinged. Unforgettable. 

‘There’s something you should know before we go any further: my heart is in the wrong place. Now don’t say I didn’t warn you . . .’

Perhaps that’s why nothing in Alvie’s life has ever gone right? Until now.

She can finally abandon her credit card debt – and her fruitless three-way relationship with Tinder and Twitter – when fate gives her the chance to steal her identical twin’s perfect life.

It’s just a shame Beth had to die to make Alvie’s dreams come true.

So begin seven days of sex, violence and unapologetic selfies – one wild week that sees Alvie break every rule in the book. She never did have much respect for boundaries.

It might be madness, but rules are meant to be broken. Right?

Mad is the first in the sexy, shocking and compulsively readable Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know trilogy.

Alvie is a twin, and her life in London couldn’t be more different from that of her happily married sister Beth, in Sicily with her gorgeous husband and adorable baby, wearing designer clothes and living in a luxurious villa in the shadow of Mount Etna. Beth has the life Alvie wants.

Then Alvie gets an invitation (and a first class ticket) from Beth and she begins a sex and drug-fuelled trip that turns into a killing spree. At last Alvie’s found something she’s good at. But what’s really behind Beth’s invitation?

This is a really different book. It’s definitely uncensored and Alvie is definitely unhinged. It’s violent and Alvie is clearly a psychopath. But she’s also horribly funny and some of the situations she gets herself into are so mad that it’s difficult not to laugh. But she’s a horrible person and there really isn’t anything about her to counteract the terrible things she does.

But I think that that’s what makes this book so different. It makes you feel uncomfortable; Alvie makes you feel uncomfortable. There are no soft edges to her, nothing that invokes your sympathy. And that’s a brave character for the author to write.

I did think there were a few places where the writing could be tightened up a bit and where things were a bit too extreme, even for Alvie. But on the whole this is a fast-paced, uncomfortably funny book. And I’ll read the next in the trilogy, just to see what on earth Alvie gets up to next.

4 stars

Thanks to the publisher for a free copy for review

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New hashtag for book posts: #TuesdayBookBlog from #RBRT

RBRT (1)

Most Twittering bloggers know about the benefits of ‘blog share’ days; it all started with Rachel Thompson and her fabulously successful #MondayBlogs.  Now, there is also #wwwblogs on Wednesday (Wednesday women writers), #SundayBlogShare, #ArchiveDay on Saturday, and probably others, too.

Since Rachel started #MondayBlogs, she’s been battling against people using it for book promotion; her view is that you have six other days of the week to promote your books, but #MondayBlogs is about the writing itself ~ in other words, blog posts about anything other than your book!  She now states that there should be no book promotion of any sort on #MondayBlogs, not even third party reviews, which is understandable as there are so many ways in which her guidelines can be abused.

Because there are so many avid readers, writers and book bloggers who understand the benefit of blog share days, Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team is introducing a new hashtag on Tuesdays for book posts only: #TuesdayBookBlog.  The first day this will be used is Tuesday, November 3rd.

As anyone who starts a hashtag knows, the main difficulty involved is dealing with ‘hashtag abuse’ ~ tweeters who spot a popular hashtag and add it to any tweet, whether relevant or not.  We will do our best to limit this; please feel free to point someone in the right direction if you see this happening.

So what are the guidelines for #TuesdayBookBlog?

DO post:

Blog posts only!

Book reviews ~ either for your own books, or other people’s, or book reviews you’ve written on your blog.

Author Interviews ~ yours or others’.

Cover reveals ~ yours or others’.

Upcoming/new releases ~ yours or others’.

Articles or guest posts about books/writers ~ you/yours or others’.

DO NOT post:

Anything that isn’t a blog post

Blog posts that aren’t about books/writers.

Porn.

Blatant promotion of an existing publication that isn’t a proper article – in other words, we don’t want to see a blog post that consists of nothing but the cover of your book, Amazon blurb and buy links.  This was one of the ways in which #MondayBlogs was abused, after people were told they couldn’t use the hashtag for tweets with Amazon links.

To get the most out of #TuesdayBookBlog:

Retweet others on the hashtag and spread the word.  Hashtags work best when you do your bit, too.

The power of Twitter is in the retweet, more than the tweet.  Hashtag retweets are never guaranteed, but do remember that the more you do, the more you are likely to get back.

We hope you will achieve good results from #TuesdayBookBlog, and look forward to seeing you there!

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(Thanks for the image Barb!)

#BookReview: À la Mod: My So-Called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France by Ian Moore

a la mod

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

I bought this book after seeing it included in a post as part of Rosie Amber’s Friday Five Challenge. As I’ve mentioned before, several times, I love France and, as we are planning to move over there in a few years’ time, this story of a family who have done just that really appealed.

There have been lots and lots of books written about the British relocating to France but this book is different. Ian Moore is a comedian, and a mod. And a mod who is determined not to let the fact that he is living in rural France get in the way of his sense of style. He refuses to wear wellington boots, for example, even when the land is knee deep in mud.

His reasons for moving are ones I can really identify with. Why, in Britain, do we pay huge amounts of money for tiny houses and a square of back garden? Why do we accept that that’s how it must be? Bravely, or stupidly, Ian and his wife buy a house in the Loire on impulse, attracted by the space it will give to their growing family.

But it’s not all idyllic. Moore has to travel back and forth to the UK to work, leaving his wife Natalie alone with their children. Often exhausted when he returns home, he also makes the return journey full of trepidation as to how many new animals his wife and boys will have acquired while he’s been away. These animals, including a horse with an intense dislike of Moore, a dog that continuously makes amorous advances to anything that stays still and a band of feral cats that accept no rules, become the bane of Moore’s life. But his wife continues to add to the collection, even trying to save the mice left half dead by the cats. I have an uneasy feeling that this is how it will be for us, and I will spend my life picking up the endless piles of various animals’ poo which is how Natalie seems to spend most of her days.

Funny, very readable and honest too, this book doesn’t give a glamorous, how wonderful it is, fake picture of life in France. It isn’t all drinking wine in the sunshine. There are relentless winters, gales that blow trampolines through the garden, struggles and misunderstandings due to Moore’s inability to pick up the language, and times when it all seems too much. Yes, it’s light-hearted and fun, but it’s also realistic. Does it put me off going to France?  No. Will I be reading the next book – C’est Modnifique? Definitely.

4.5 out of 5

#RBRT ‘Piano from a Fourth Storey Window’ by Jenny Morton Potts @jmortonpotts

Rosie's Book Review team 1

I reviewed ‘Piano from a Fourth Storey Window’ for Rosie Amber’s book review team.

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Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com

Set in Brighton, this lovely, beautifully written, at times funny novel tells the story of the romance between eccentric bookshop owner Lawrence Fyre and teacher and ex-Jehovah’s Witness Marin Strang.

The title of this novel is from a song lyric – ‘love is a piano dropped from a fourth storey window and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ The quirky title is spot on for a quirky read although Marin is the right place at the right time when she meets Lawrence.

Their relationship is the backbone of this story and it’s unusual because they are unusual. Their relationship is touching in its honesty, in its realistic ups and downs, its misunderstandings and its genuine warmth. I like Lawrence and Marin immensely, and the parts of the book that gave detail and insight into their pasts were, for me, the most enjoyable aspects of this novel. Lawrence’s relationship with his sister is brilliantly portrayed and is really touching to read, as is Marin’s strained relationship with her father.

There were, however, some aspects that I was less keen on. Lawrence’s imaginary audience, the ‘ladies and gentlemen’, didn’t really work for me and neither did the imaginary servant ‘Lolita’. The sections involving these characters were rather drawn out and didn’t add much to the story – it’s quite a long novel and I felt that these sections were unnecessary and could have been cut.

I also felt that some of the minor characters weren’t fleshed out enough and verged on the stereotypical.

The author also switched tenses a great deal. I wasn’t sure if this was stylistic or a mistake – if it was stylistic, then it really didn’t work for me.

That aside, this was, on the whole, an enjoyable read – and one that I’d recommend.

4 stars

#BookReview ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed

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I had this book on my Kindle for a couple of months before the film came out, then decided I’d better read it before I watched the film (I hate to watch films before I’ve read the book). I couldn’t avoid the hype though, so had huge expectations.

I’m not entirely sure those expectations were realised. There are undoubtedly places where this is a very good read, and Strayed was incredibly brave (if a little naive) to walk the Pacific Crest Trail alone as she did. There are moments of real emotion and tension; I related so much to the way Strayed felt when her mother died – the way this was depicted was incredibly realistic and emotional for me. I could imagine her pain too, when her boots hurt her feet, when she ran out of water, when she felt threatened and vulnerable alone on the trail. And Strayed writes with an honesty that some may find difficult – she certainly has elements to her character that aren’t easy to like. At times she comes across as selfish and self-indulgent but she doesn’t shirk from that. The way she treats her ex-husband is dreadful, and many readers will find one particular scene, involving the death of a horse, incredibly upsetting and disturbing.

For me at least, there was something lacking in this book. After a while, as I’m sure the walking did for Strayed, it all became rather monotonous. The writing lacks the emotional depth and insight that I was expecting and I found myself skipping forward as Strayed hiked further along the trail. And like Strayed, I was counting the miles to the end so I could stop reading.

All in all I was left feeling slightly disappointed. Still haven’t seen the film.

three stars

Find a copy here

Author focus – Elizabeth Hein

rosie3                           Elizabeth book cover

I reviewed Elizabeth’s book ‘How to Climb the Eiffel Tower’ for Rosie Amber’s blog.  The book follows the story of Lara as she undergoes treatment for cancer – I lost my mum to cancer so I was worried that I would find the book upsetting, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was surprised to feel so uplifted – this was a book that, while telling it like it is, wasn’t depressing or maudlin in any way. I’m delighted to have Elizabeth as a guest on the blog to find out more about her, her writing, and what inspired her to write.

Tell me a little about your writing history. 

I was an avid reader long before I ever put pen to paper. As a kid, I spent my afternoons reading in my room. My parents tell me that I have been making up elaborate stories since I was a little girl. When I saw a person in the grocery store buying five gallons of vinegar and a box of trash bags, I would tell my mom an elaborate story about a lady who was pickling her giant vegetables while they were still on the vine. Thank goodness, my parents had the patience to let me rattle on all the time.

It wasn’t until after I had been diagnosed with cancer in 2002 that I started to start writing my stories down. My experiences with cancer treatment taught me that life is too short to waste time doing anything that is not your passion. Once I decided to write, I jumped headlong into learning as much as possible about the craft of writing. The stories were always there, the techniques needed to be practiced.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

I had a terrible time coming up with a name for my latest book. I brainstormed dozens of bad names that were too esoteric or plain old boring. When I sent the manuscript to Light Messages Publishing, I made it clear to my editor that I needed help with the name. She sent me several perfectly good possibilities before we agreed on How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. Once I heard that title, I knew it was the right one. The two main characters talk about climbing the Eiffel Tower in the first scenes of the book and the idea of travelling to Paris comes up several times in the novel. Also, like healing from a traumatic experience, climbing the Eiffel Tower is difficult, but worth it.

Who is your favourite/least favourite character in your book?

Although I love Lara and Jane, the two main characters in How To Climb The Eiffel Tower, my favourite character is Nurse Rosaria. She is a kind woman who is firm with Lara when she needs firm reassurance and soft with her when Lara is afraid. Rosaria only appears in a few scenes in the book, however I wrote pages and pages of backstory on her. She lived a fascinating life before she ever meets Lara. Only a few paragraphs of that life made it into the book, but I feel it was important to do all the pre-writing work of knowing Rosaria so well.

What was the hardest part of writing the novel? 

I would have to say the hardest part of writing this book was the process of learning how to write a book. This book took me eight years to write because, not only did I have to develop the story and characters, I had to make all the usual mistakes a new writer makes. That took at least four years in and of itself. Also, it was difficult to separate my experiences as a cancer patient from Lara and Jane’s experiences. At one point, I had to put the manuscript aside and write another book. That book turned out to be Overlook, a fun book about a how a slightly unbalanced woman deals with her cheating husband. Starting fresh with different characters and different themes helped me regain my perspective on Lara and Jane. When I returned to How To Climb The Eiffel Tower, I could incorporate the humour and hope that I knew it needed.

What are you working on now? 

My writing life is a bit scattered right now. I’m hoping to finish up the sequel to my first book, Overlook, so it can be released next fall. I am also working on a mystery series about two friends who travel the world, a historical novel revolving the concept of beauty, and another women’s fiction novel set on Cape Cod. I am not sure which piece will get to publication first.

Do you have any advice for other writers? 

Don’t give up. Keep showing up at the keyboard every day and you will eventually get results. Writing is not a pursuit for the faint of heart. An author spends years tapping out draft after draft of a novel, will invariably receive a multitude of rejections, and is at the mercy of a changeable publishing industry. It helps to have a stubborn streak.

Also, don’t go it alone. Find some writer friends, either in real life or on the internet, and work together. The road to publication can be a long rough ride, so bring snacks and a friend.

Which writer would you choose as a mentor? 

Wow, this is a tough question. I admire many authors for so many different reasons. I guess if I had to choose just one, it would be Ruth Rendell. She has written in several different genres, yet still has a distinctive voice. She can plumb the deep dark places in her characters’ minds without making them caricatures of themselves, and she has continued to write excellent books over many decades.

What book are you reading at the moment? 

I am always reading several books at a time. Right now for my craft book, I am reading Now Write! Mysteries edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson. It is a series of essays from successful mystery and thriller writers on different aspects of writing. I am also reading The Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable, The Stories We Tell by Patti Callahan Henry, and If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that you love about their work? 

Right now, my favourite author is Mary Doria Russell. When I read her first book, The Sparrow, it changed the way I looked at speculative fiction. If you are not familiar with the book, it is the story of a group of Jesuits and civilians that travel to another planet and questions traditional concepts of right and wrong. Each of her books is different the last. She has written about the Middle East after WWI, Jews escaping through the mountains of Italy in WWII, and has lately been writing about the American West. I admire her writing style and her ability to write about different historical eras so well.

Tell me something unusual about yourself.

Before I decided to become an author, I ran a small drapery design business out of the storage room in my attic. I loved playing with fabric and solving my clients decorating problems. I specialized in making expensive looking drapes on a shoestring budget. Some of the knowledge I developed about colour theory and fabric shows up in my novels. Colour subtly effects how people think and feel. Colour is a theme that runs throughout How To Climb The Eiffel Tower.

Elizabeth author pic

Author Elizabeth Hein

Elizabeth Hein grew up in Massachusetts within an extended family of storytellers. In 2002, Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer. During her extensive treatment, she met dozens of other cancer patients and developed close relationships with several of them. These friendships were the inspiration for How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. She learned that a cancer diagnosis is a life changing experience, yet it does not necessarily change a life for the worse. Prior to the new book’s publication, Elizabeth was invited to attend the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) conference.

Elizabeth Hein writes women’s fiction with a bit of an edge. Her novels explore the role of friendship in the lives of adult women and themes of identity. Her first novel, Overlook, spotlighted a housewife dealing with a cheating husband and the pressures of keeping up appearances. Elizabeth has published several short stories and is currently writing a novella and beginning to write a historical family saga about how love and identity effect four generations of women. She and her husband now live in Durham, North Carolina.

Connect with Elizabeth:

Elizabethhein.com

scribbling in the storage room

Twitter

How to Climb the Eiffel Tower

Lara Blaine believes that she can hide from her past by clinging to a rigid routine of work and exercise. She endures her self-imposed isolation until a cancer diagnosis cracks her hard exterior. Lara’s journey through cancer treatment should be the worst year of her life. Instead, it is the year that she learns how to live. She befriends Jane, another cancer patient who teaches her how to be powerful even in the face of death. Accepting help from the people around her allows Lara to confront the past and discover that she is not alone in the world. With the support of her new friends, Lara gains the courage to love and embrace life. Like climbing the Eiffel Tower, the year Lara meets Jane is tough, painful, and totally worth it.

Excerpt:

Ellery Cancer Center protruded from the hospital’s facade like a glass tumor. The night before, a Kafkaesque voicemail told me to report to the reception lobby by 7:00 for my 9:00 appointment. I left the house at 6:00 sharp even though the hospital was twenty minutes away. An appointment with some strange specialist wasn’t going to make me deviate from my routine.

My footsteps echoing through the brightly tiled lobby accented the nervous murmuring of the people waiting in line as I strode past them to the reception desk. The receptionist didn’t even look up when I said, “Blaine. Lara Blaine. I have a 9:00 with Dr. Lander.” She robotically found my file in the tall stack to her left, handed me the itinerary clipped to the front, and moved my file to the short stack to her right. My itinerary said to report to the red waiting room by 8:00.

I stood to the side of the room and watched people until I understood that the lines of multicolored tiles in the lobby’s floor were not decorative. They were paths to the color- coded areas of the Cancer Center. I followed the line of red tiles from the reception desk to the red waiting room. A clot of people sat on crimson and burgundy couches clutching their itineraries. I sat just inside the doorway and watched as people disappeared one by one through the slick red doors at the far end of the room. No one came back. An hour later, it was my turn. On the other side of the red doors, an old man with hairy knuckles checked my name against his orders then jabbed a needle in my arm. We didn’t say a word to each other. I liked that.

The next stop on my itinerary was the green waiting room. A line of green tiles in the floor led me back to the lobby and up two flights of stairs to another room with worry worn carpeting and faded couches sagging under the weight of their occupants’ despair, but all in green. I’d roamed the Ellery Cancer Center for nearly an hour and had yet to speak to a soul. I slipped into the crowded room, commandeered the pea green love seat in the corner, and opened my dog- eared copy of Great Expectations. I held the tattered pages in front of my face, yet couldn’t read. I watched the elderly couple across from me over the top of the book.

I don’t belong here. I’m not like these people. I’m young.

I crossed one leg over the other and clenched my thighs together. There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s just a false positive. I’m fine.

The elderly man’s hand shook as he lifted a cup of tea to his wife’s lips. The limp paper label dangling over the edge of the foam cup taunted me. I should have been researching the effect of the recent earthquake in Northern China on the green tea crop for my boss’s presentation the following week, not sitting in that waiting room. This is such a waste of time. So what if I have weird periods? Doesn’t everyone?

I turned away from the old people and focused on the normal looking woman in a black suit slowly making her way down the corridor. I assumed she was a doctor or pharmaceutical salesperson until she stopped in the doorway to hack into a tissue. She saw me looking at her and lurched over. “May I sit with you?” I expected the woman’s voice to be as smooth as her grey silk blouse, but it sounded as scratchy as wool against bare skin. I moved my battered leather backpack to let her sit down.

“Jane Babcock-Roberts.”
“Lara Blaine,” I replied with a curt nod.
“I think you sprinted past me on the stairwell earlier,” Jane sighed. “I used to be able to run up stairs like that.”
“I’m good at stairs. I climb the Eiffel Tower every Tuesday.” Jane dabbed perspiration from her upper lip with a clean tissue and tucked it in her sleeve. “I climbed the Eiffel Tower once. What a view, huh?”

“I haven’t actually been to Paris,” I replied. “It’s a setting on the stair stepper at my gym.”

“That doesn’t sound nearly as fun.” Jane flipped her long silver-blonde hair over her shoulder. “And there wouldn’t be any croissants when you finished.”

My Review

Lara Is 29 and lives a solitary, friendless life, working, going to the gym and eating takeout every night. Then she is diagnosed with cervical cancer and her life is changed, but in surprisingly positive ways.

This book is harrowing at times, as Lara’s background story is revealed and the reasons for her fear of people become clear. But watching her finally make friends and finally live is really rewarding and a pleasure to read.

Her relationship with Jane is a stand out of the story and the kindness of Vanessa is heart-warming. But this book isn’t soppy or sentimental; neither is it preachy. It is simply a tale of a lost, lonely girl who learns to live when confronted by her mortality.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the recounting of Lara’s dreams, although I can see why they are included. This was my only issue with the book. Aside from this, this is definitely worth a read and I recommend it.

4 stars

Buy a copy:

Amazon UK

Amazon.com 

And watch the trailer

Author Interview and Review – Jan Ruth

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I’m thrilled to have Jan Ruth on the blog today. I reviewed Jan’s ‘Wild Water’ for Rosie Amber’s blog earlier this month. I loved ‘Wild Water’ and can wholeheartedly recommend it. In case you missed it, my review follows Jan’s interview, as does an excerpt from another of her books, ‘Midnight Sky’.

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Tell me a little about your writing history/background. What inspired you to write?

Inspiration? Moving from Cheshire to Snowdonia, twenty years ago kick started my writing obsession.

This ancient, romantic landscape is a perfect setting for fiction, although I write contemporary stories. I’d have to describe them as mostly about people, with a good smattering of humour and drama, dogs and horses.

I’ve written all my life. Winning prizes at school is my earliest memory (I was the book nerd in the corner) and then about 30 years ago I wrote a novel called Summer in October. Amazingly, I was picked up fairly quickly by an agent who wanted to try something different, but she failed to get financial backing and it all came to nothing. The entire experience was a learning curve though – a lesson in patience, how to re-write and edit, and develop that essential thick skin. Some years later, my second attempt – Wild Water – was again picked up by an agent, which again… came to nothing! Various publishers did ask to see subsequent books but my work was ‘between genre’ and anything new and difficult to pigeon-hole was considered a risky investment, so that was that.

I continued to write; and then Kindle happened and changed everything. I’ve since self-published five novels and two sets of short stories with a third set of Christmas stories due out very soon. My books are in print too, in a local bookshop and across Welsh libraries. This sounds like an easy success story and in some ways yes, self-publishing can bring rewards but there are downsides. I think the industry is in a massive state of flux. The volume of books for sale is now overwhelming, a teetering slush pile. How to find the gems without resorting to the powerful gatekeepers of traditional publishing, is something of an obstacle for both authors and readers alike.

How did you come up with the title of ‘Wild Water’? 

‘Llyn Gwyllt’ is a lake which features in the book: meaning wild water. Once I had this title in place, Midnight Sky, White Horizon and Silver Rain followed quite easily; I think it’s important to build a theme or a branding across your work. The sequel to Wild Water, Dark Water is my latest title. Now I’m wondering about a third… Silent Water?

What was the hardest part of writing for you? Were there any particular issues or hiccups when writing ‘Wild Water’?

With my first novel I went through several entire re-writes. My strengths are character development, pacing, and dialogue. My weakness had always been over-explanation, something which has been rigorously worked on. Less is more. Subtle is actually more powerful, and it was understanding the confidence to write in this way and never to underestimate the reader. I’m not great with punctuation either!

What are you working on now?

A sequel to Midnight Sky, which is currently titled Palomino Sky. The cover image and some plot outlines are in place but it’s very early days, but it’s good to have something on the go. (MIDNIGHT SKY is currently on sale at 75p)

Do you have any advice for other writers? 

Yes… I wrote a funny blog post about this called The Wisdom of Hindsight.

https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/6507992-the-wisdom-of-hindsight

Who is your favourite author and what is it that you love about their work?

At the moment I’m really enjoying Clare Chambers. I love her British sense of humour, those coming of age observations about adults and relationships. Her books tend to be set in the seventies and eighties, around the time I was a teenager too. Her style is wry, witty.

Wild Water – My Review

Wild Water MEDIUM

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read that, at times, I found hard to put down. Jack is forty-something, successfully running the Wilmslow branch of the family’s estate agency. He has it all, the big house, the Aston Martin, and is still good-looking and charming. But beneath it all, his life has reached a crisis – his wife is behaving strangely, his daughter is craving his attention, and his teenage son is struggling with school. Then his dad suffers a heart scare, and Jack travels to Wales to look after the office there, where he finds one of the clients is his childhood sweetheart, Anna.

Everything comes to a head at Christmas, and Jack has some tough decisions to make in this charming, funny, at times heart-breaking novel. You’ll find yourself willing Jack to make the right decisions, and really caring that he finds the happiness he deserves.

Jan Ruth manages to make you care for her characters, and skilfully contrast upmarket Wilmslow with the ruggedness of the wild Welsh countryside, bringing both to life. The relationships between Jack and his children are well-drawn, particularly between Jack and his youngest daughter Lottie – their conversations will make you laugh and cry.

Recommended – I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

‘Wild Water’ is available on Amazon in the UK here and in the US.

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‘Midnight Sky’ is available now and is definitely on my TBR list. Here’s an extract to whet your appetite:

Midnight Sky Cover EBOOK

Her biological clock had started it. Before it sounded its alarm, Laura had been perfectly content. Maybe she should have taken the battery out a bit sooner, but it was more likely it ran on hormones, and they could be tricky.

She drove much too fast along the M56, recklessly even.

The mobile phone on the passenger seat took message after message from Simon. She glanced at it from time to time, then finally switched it off and threw it on to the back seat, where it lay silenced, buried under sample swatches of wallpaper and fabric.

She was already running late because of their argument.

It hadn’t started as an argument; it had started as a discussion. Before she knew it, Laura was fighting her corner again. The discussion was all about family, to start with. It was different for Simon; he had loads of relatives, while Laura only had her sister. It was unfair of him to moan about her spending so much time with Maggie, when the demands of his ex-wife and kids were at times off the Richter Scale.

The forty-minute drive from Chester into North Wales led her off the dual carriageway and through the tiny village of Rowen. She sped past The Farmers’ Arms, its smoky dimly lit windows just visible in the January dusk. She turned left at the crooked chapel, where her mother lay beneath the dark stars and the shadow of Cefn Bach. Laura shivered but not with the chill of the evening. Although brought up a farmer’s daughter, Laura could never decide if it was habit or a desire to understand her dislike of it, which brought her back to her rural birthplace. It certainly wasn’t sentiment, and yet this time she felt an unexplained stirring of hope.

She was forced to slow down and concentrate; the turning for Hafod House was easily missed on the narrow twisting lane. Seconds later, she was pulling up outside the Victorian property, where her elder sister Maggie lived with Pete and their daughters. Before she announced her arrival, Laura opened the car window and lit a cigarette, but Maggie had heard the car and trotted across the forecourt, wearing a typical combination of tracksuit and a plastic apron with love spoons on the front.

‘Happy birthday!’ Laura said, but Maggie ignored this and peered sideways through the top of the window. ‘Where’s Simon? Is he coming on later?’

‘No. Sorry he’s got to work, bit of an emergency,’ Laura lied, grounding out the cigarette and avoiding her sister’s knowing eye.

‘Oh, that’s a shame,’ she said, pulling a face. ‘Eleven is an odd number. I wanted him to meet the Morgan-Jones’. Could be loads of work in it for you. The brother took a lot of persuading to come at all.’

‘Well, they’ll just have to meet me instead,’ Laura said and even managed to turn a bright smile in Maggie’s direction.

Once in her room, Laura scanned through the messages from Simon, then deleted them all and cried in the noisy privacy of the shower. Why was he so stubborn? He was the same in his business affairs, but that was different, attractive even. Sometimes he only saw it from his side of the fence, but that was why they made such a good team. Laura always put the client’s feelings forward, and Simon saw the black and white business plan. Somehow they all came together in the middle, and everyone got a deal.

Dragon Designs was their joint venture. Five years ago, they had purchased a rundown riverside apartment in Chester, and with the help of Simon’s father, had transformed it and sold it for twice as much as its original worth. Encouraged by the property boom, they went on to purchase two more apartments in the same block, with the same success. Simon, more or less gave up his job as a surveyor to work alongside his father’s building yard, buying run down houses in the right area and getting them up to scratch.

Laura was the creative head of the team. It was her job to dress the finished shell, to use all her skills as a designer to give the property a new identity. Dragon Designs was born, and financially, they’d never looked back.

Peering at her reflection in the gloomy mirror, Laura dried her shoulder- length hair. An almost natural dark blonde, helped along a little with subtle highlights every now and again, Laura was blessed with a classic face and a generally well-behaved complexion. Although it was slightly spoilt now with puffy brown eyes, she concealed the worst of it with carefully applied, mostly neutral make-up. Pleased with her appearance, but feeling unsettled and miserable inside, Laura knew she’d have to work hard to hide her angst from Maggie, and keep herself together enough to talk shop.

Simon was good at mixing business with pleasure, gently filtering in the right information, so subtle, the recipient didn’t feel pressured or monopolised. Laura had no such skill. She found her way into the impressive dining room, and the buzz of pride it gave her lifted her spirits. Designing and helping to furnish the dining room had been Laura’s gift for her sister’s thirty-ninth birthday last year. Laura had ripped out the sixties era attempt at modernisation, and restored it back to its original style, with cream walls, ornate cornicing and a rich mahogany floor. To complement all the dark furniture they’d found in local junk and antique shops, Laura had handmade the soft furnishings in a combination of powder blue, cream and white. The effect was quite dazzling, especially when there were logs roaring in the massive fireplace and the chandeliers lit up the silverware on the huge table.

Pete passed her a glass of wine. They exchanged the usual pleasantries, but Laura struggled to make conversation with Maggie’s husband. He had fairly set opinions about most things, and the only time he became animated was when the subject included football or council business. Dinner was late because Maggie was hopelessly disorganised with everything and Pete never offered to help. Well not properly, he always pretended he’d been thrown out of the kitchen and shambled in with a hangdog expression and another six-pack. Eventually though, Maggie materialised with the starters, and everyone took their place.

‘This is my sister everyone!’ Maggie said, loading Laura’s plate with prawn and olive salad. ‘I know she doesn’t look related to me because I’m fat and forty, and she is so obviously not.’

Everyone made polite laughter, and Laura made the usual token protest. Her sister was always running herself down, but Maggie wouldn’t be shushed, ‘She’s an interior designer so if you want one of those make-over jobs she’s your woman.’

After a few moments, the woman seated opposite Laura said, ‘I believe you did this room for Maggie; it’s just so beautiful. Really complements the house.’

‘Oh, thanks,’ Laura said, and pushed some food around her plate.

‘I’m Liz by the way, Morgan-Jones.’

‘Laura Brown. My sister said you had some cottages you wanted to renovate,’ Laura said, trying her best to be professional and not let the opportunity pass.

‘Well, I think so. Nothing this grand though,’ she said, glancing at the swag and tail curtains, then leant in more discreetly across the table. ‘I’m afraid my brother doesn’t agree with my plans, and he has the majority share in the business.’ She inclined her eyes to the left, and Laura looked across the table at the exact second Mr Morgan-Jones did. He looked to have been in conversation with Pete, but met Laura’s curiosity with a blank stare. Liz said something about her brother being unsociable, and the elderly male guest sat at Laura’s right butted in, ‘James is a genius, he’s allowed to be unsociable, if that’s how he feels.’

‘Yes, but not all the time, surely?’

Laura took in Liz’s outdoor complexion and the strong-looking hands, no nails and the no-nonsense outfit. From what she could ascertain, without staring, the unsociable majority shareholder was wearing a barely ironed shirt, with the sleeves pushed up; and favoured the same dark weathered look. Farming, or horses she thought. Great. Just about the most uninspiring combination she could possibly think of. She missed Simon’s clever banter. He would know what to say.

The downside of that skill was his ability to make her feel crushed; he could defeat her with his logic as if she were a business problem and it could all be subtracted away with a calculator. Well, this one wasn’t going to be solved with hard fact. Sometimes life happened without prior warning or planning, and that was when Simon struggled to cope.

Suddenly, aware of staring at her plate, Laura speared a prawn and looked back at Liz.

‘What is it you do?’

‘Horses. Private liveries and teaching is the main bread and butter, and that’s mostly what I do,’ she said, glaring at the old gent, and began to butter her bread roll briskly. ‘Anyway, I’m getting too old to be working outside. A menopausal woman shouldn’t be expected to stand shouting in driving rain.’

‘And, your brother, what does he do?’

‘James? Oh, a multitude of side-lines,’ she said with a tired smile. ‘No, to be fair he looks after about forty acres of land. His real time is taken up with training and specialist teaching. Only he prefers the more dangerous stuff,’ she went on, ‘you know, horses destined to be shot because they’re loopy, or half dead. He loves nothing better than resurrecting a lost cause. All very commendable, but have you any idea how long these projects take? And you can’t get rid of them because of their history.’

The man next to Laura vacated his seat and a woman with overpowering perfume slid into his place. ‘Excuse me, but are you talking about Indiana Morgan-Jones?’ she said smoothly, wine glass tilting.

‘Why do you call him that?’ Laura said, unsure whether to laugh.

‘Because he has a big leather whip for one.’

Laura did laugh then, but Liz said, ‘Oh, leave it out, Carla! Laura, this is Carla. She’s had about three hundred riding lessons with my brother, with the sole intention of seducing him.’

‘It’s true! He’s one of about, oh, let me see, two, eligible men of this parish. I’ve even bought a bloody horse off him,’ she said. ‘I’ve got thighs like steel and I can mount without stirrups.’

Liz rolled her eyes in Laura’s direction. ‘Carla is the queen of double entendre on the yard.’

The roast minted lamb arrived with jugs of red wine jus, and Laura was a bit disappointed when Carla went back to her seat and the old man returned.

‘Help yourself everyone,’ Maggie said, plonking down huge silver platters of roasted vegetables between the candelabra.

‘For goodness sake sit down and start enjoying yourself!’ Laura said, but Maggie just wiped her brow with her napkin and flapped it vaguely at Laura’s glass. ‘I am, I am! Why is your glass empty? And have you met Liz? I’m taking Ellie up there for a riding lesson tomorrow, why don’t you come?’ she said loudly.

‘Could you?’ Liz said, unfazed by Maggie’s total lack of discretion.

‘I could take a look,’ Laura said slowly. ‘To be honest all the initial estimating is my partner’s territory.’

‘Oh, I only want ideas at this stage,’ Liz said, ‘you know, something to entice James round to my way of thinking.’

‘Did someone say entice James?’ Carla said.

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