Romance

‘That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel’ by Adrienne Vaughan #BookReview #FridayReads

seahorse

Amazon.co.uk

Mia Flanagan has never been told who her father is and aged ten, stopped asking. Haunted by this, she remains a dutiful daughter who would never do anything to bring scandal or shame on her beautiful and famously single mother. So when Archie Fitzgerald, one of Hollywood’s favourite actors, decides to leave Mia his Irish estate she asks herself – is he her father after all? That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is a tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal – and the ghost of a secret love that binds this colourful cast yet still threatens, after all these years, to tear each of them apart.

There are some authors that you just know won’t disappoint, and Adrienne Vaughan is definitely one of them. This is another lovely novel, full of warmth, drama, romance, but, as always, with that little something extra, something a little dark, to lift it up from other novels in the genre.

Mia is a lovely main character, realistic, clever, tenacious and insecure, like a lot of women. Her mother, Fenella, is so strikingly portrayed, you can almost hear her theatrical voice. And Archie is lovely, a joy to read.

The setting is described beautifully, with a real warmth and affection that comes across very clearly.

I’m not a fan of over the top, saccharine romance, and that’s another reason why I like this author’s books so much. The romance is never over the top, and while it’s an important part of the story, there is enough drama here to keep a variety of readers happy. The story of Fenella and Archie’s past throws light on a history of hypocrisy and injustice, there’s betrayal here, and mystery and grief and friendship – so just about all human emotion!

Well-crafted and a lovely bit of escapism. Recommended.

4 stars

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‘The Break’ by Marian Keyes #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

 

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Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Amy’s husband Hugh has run away to ‘find himself’. But will he ever come back?‘Myself and Hugh . . . We’re taking a break.’
‘A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?’

If only.

Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her.

He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.

Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . .

However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge.

For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman?

Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then so is she . . .

The Break is a story about the choices we make and how those choices help to make us. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best.

I’ve read a lot of books by this author but not for a few years. I’m not sure why – they just haven’t been on my radar for some reason. So I was really looking forward to reading this. I remember from previous books lots of funny, real women, with real lives and believable problems. And this does deliver – some of the time. But it just misses the mark for me.

I really like Amy, and really enjoyed the antics of her Irish family – something that Keyes always writes so well. I thought Amy was well-drawn and her reactions to Hugh’s bombshell were very realistic. I felt so angry with him, but as the narrative progressed, I began to feel a little bit of sympathy. And I think it’s a real strength of the book that Amy isn’t completely blameless.

There are some great characters here, and lots of really interesting and entertaining side plots. And Amy’s relationship with her daughters and niece, and their relationships with each other bring a real warmth to the story.

I see that the author has been criticised by some reviewers for the storyline around abortion. I thought this was really well done – sensitively handled and not at all preachy. Travelling to England for an abortion is the reality for many women in Ireland – it actually happens, and the consequences can be dreadful. Well done to the author for showing what this is like. Novels should highlight the social and political issues of the time and place in which they are set – and any story set in Dublin that has female characters of child-bearing age surely is the place to show what this can be like. There has always been an edge to Marian Keyes’ work that lifts it above other novels in the genre – and that is what she has done here.

So great characters, great storylines and lots of fun and drama, but it was just a bot too long. And I really didn’t like the epilogue. It was too much, and I think the book would have been stronger without it.

It is definitely worth a read though, and I do recommend it.

4.5 out of 5

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

‘White Lies’ by @EllieHWriter #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I read ‘White Lies’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

white lies

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Sam Davenport is a woman who lives her life by the rules. When her husband Neil breaks those rules too many times, Sam is left wondering not only if he is still the man for her but also if it’s time to break a few rules of her own.

Actions, however, have consequences as Sam soon discovers when what starts out as an innocent white lie threatens to send her world spiralling out of control.

White Lies is a warm, engaging read about love, deceit, betrayal and hope.

Sam and Neil’s marriage is already on dodgy ground – his affair has left her shaken, unable to move past what has happened. But she’s trying. Then they’re involved in an accident, a motorcyclist badly injured, and the lie they tell leads to bigger lies.

‘White Lies’ is about relationships, and trust, and how the past can blight the future. And it’s also about how the best intentions can leave us vulnerable and how we can be our own worst enemies.

It’s very well-written. The characters are believable, and the situations they find themselves in wholly feasible. At first, Sam annoyed me. Her life, despite the affair, was perfect; she was perfect – beautiful, talented, well off, gorgeous husband, thriving business, lovely kids, beautiful home. But as the novel unfolded, her vulnerability came through, which made her more likeable (if really frustrating at times). Her confusion was very well-drawn; she really didn’t know what to do, and everything she did do seemed to make the situation worse – that’s something most of us can relate to.

My only issue is that I felt the rather dark traits in one of the main characters (I don’t want to give spoilers here, so can’t say too much) were, I felt, handled a little too lightly. The way this character behaves is quite disturbing, and I felt that this was dealt with a little too flippantly. The character’s experiences weren’t excuse enough for that behaviour and I felt that they shouldn’t have been quite so easily forgiven.

I loved the side plot around Daphne – it was really lovely; genuinely heart-warming without being sentimental.

Overall, really well-written and definitely recommended.

4 stars

‘Mediterranean Summer’ by Jane MacKenzie #RBRT #FridayReads #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I read ‘Mediterranean Summer’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Mediterranean-Summer-cover

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

‘Beautiful artist, beautiful woman, and beautiful lover.’ 
May 1968 and Paris is hot with rebellion, passion and hope, as protestors clash with the riot police. Brilliant art student Laure stands boldly on the barricades, heady with her new-found defiance, and is swept into romance with Lolo, the fascinating student leader. But youthful rebellion comes at a cost.
Two months later, the excitement is over. Laure heads home for the summer to Vermeilla, her picturesque Mediterranean village. She looks forward to the simplicity of village life, and to a summer in the sun with family and friends, but is aware that the new Laure may shock her little Catalan community.
But even Vermeilla isn’t protected from the forces of change. Shadows hang over both Laure and her village haven. Can she battle the menace that has followed her from Paris? And can she trust Robert, the aloof lawyer who may be the only one who can keep her safe? 

I’m a bit of a Francophile. France is definitely my favourite place to visit and I plan to move there permanently one day – Brexit permitting. So I love reading anything set in France and this novel, set just after the civil unrest of Paris in 1968, sounded intriguing.

Art student Laure is returning home to her quiet village after her involvement in the Paris demonstrations. She needs to rest and recover, and she also needs to find a way to resolve the problem hanging over her – a problem that could mean the end of her studies.

At first the peace and solitude are soothing, and Laure enjoys reconnecting with her family and her childhood friends. But her brother-in-law Daniel has a new job at the Nobel factory in Paulilles, and trainee doctor Martin, his brother and Laure’s best friend, is worried about the risks the workers there face from exposure to nitro-glycerine.

The gorgeous summer is clouded by these issues and with Laure’s worries over what has happened in Paris. Then Martin’s cousin Robert, a lawyer from Paris, offers to help. The novel focuses on these relationships – between Laure and Robert, Laure and her family, and Laure and Martin’s family.

There is romance here, and conflict, and at the heart is a girl trying to find her place in a changing world. Laure is a lovely main character, and the interactions between the characters are well-written. There are some beautiful descriptions, of the little towns, the gorgeous countryside, and, of course, the wonderful food, and this part of France is really brought to life through the writing.

It’s a gently-paced read, which works well with the setting. However, it was too slow at times, and, while the descriptions were beautifully done, there were places where they went on for too long, and I did find myself skipping ahead. I do feel that this novel could be quite a bit shorter.

It was also a little difficult to keep track of the many characters and their complicated relationships – though it was worth persevering. The writing was a little too formal at times as well, and came across as a little forced and unnatural. However, on the whole this is a lovely novel, just right for a summer read.

4 stars

‘Silver Rain’ by @JanRuthAuthor #FridayReads #BookReview

silver rain

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Al is the black sheep of his family, Kate, the good shepherd of hers. Can black and white become silver, or just a dark and dangerous grey?
Alastair Black has revealed a secret to his wife in a last ditch attempt to save his marriage. A return to his childhood family home at Chathill Farm is his only respite, although he is far from welcomed back by brother George.
Kate, recently widowed and increasingly put upon by daughter, sister and mother, feels her life is over at fifty. Until she meets Alastair. He’s everything she isn’t, but he’s a troubled soul, a sad clown of a man with a shady past. When his famous mother leaves an unexpected inheritance, Kate is caught up in the unravelling of his life as Al comes to terms with who he really is.
Is Alastair Black her true soulmate, or should Sleeping Beauty lie?

I’ve read a few of Jan Ruth’s books before and particularly enjoyed the ‘Wild Water’ series. The author has a real talent for painting beautiful settings, and her characters are so appealing because they are ordinary – although certainly not boring! These are proper grown-ups – even if they don’t always behave that way – and make a really refreshing change.

I liked Kate immensely – she’s very well-written and very believable. Her relationship with her mother was particularly well done; that sense of guilt at the sheer exasperation of having to deal with petty little problems, mixed with real love, is something most women of a certain age will relate to. Alastair is great too – one thing that Jan Ruth does particularly well is writing male characters. The men in her books aren’t merely romantic distractions, and they aren’t heroes either. They’re real – flawed, funny, and authentic.

The author knows her setting so well and it is beautifully and effortlessly portrayed here. There’s a real sense of time and place. And the dynamics between characters, the conflicts and misunderstandings draw you right in – these are characters you really care about.

That said, I found it very hard to like Fran; she seemed very selfish and unreasonable. And I felt that there could have been more sympathy for Jo’s situation – I did feel that her opinions and views were rather dismissed and glossed over.

But aside from that, this is a really well-written and enjoyable read.

Recommended.

4 stars

‘Forbidden’ by F. Stone #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I reviewed ‘Forbidden’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

forbidden

Amazon.co.uk     Amazon.com

Better Wear Your Flak Jacket
Gunfire echoes within the walls of a Middle East police compound. Screams of terror are brutally silenced. Police captain Hashim Sharif captures one survivor. Soon Eliza MacKay will wish she had died with her companions.

The vile act of terrorism is covered-up. Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city’s bloody secret – and the witness, MacKay. His corrupt superiors have a gun rammed against his skull. Disloyalty to the mayor will be rewarded with being buried alive.

Whatever the cost, his government’s honor must be restored. Secretly, Sharif hunts forensic evidence. Who is responsible for the murder of fifteen American volunteers? And, why did MacKay lie about her identity? He can’t trust her. Her mental illness is going to get both of them killed.

When he receives orders to dispose of MacKay, his Muslim faith is tested. Murder an innocent in cold blood? He will suffer Allah’s eternal wrath.

CIA Agent Hutchinson has the lying Sharif in his cross hairs. Sharif dodges the agent’s traps almost as easily as the hitman on his tail. When Sharif discovers the shocking truth, he loses all hope of survival.

What is worth dying for? Perhaps it’s not bringing a madman to justice. Could it be saving the life of a woman who kick-started his numb heart? On the knife edge of risk, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.

This was a difficult review to write because there are some really good elements to this book. The author has obviously researched extremely thoroughly. She has also put a huge amount of work into this novel and it is clear that she cares deeply about her characters and about her story.

The plot is a good one and there is plenty of drama here to keep the reader entertained and the two main characters certainly lend themselves to a potentially explosive and compelling romance. There is a good mix of conflict and attraction between the two.

The setting and the storyline are timely and the idea behind the story is sound.

However, in my opinion the novel needs another edit. There are too many issues with both the story and the writing itself that should have been picked up and improved upon prior to publication. There are places where the writing needs tightening. There are common issues like exposition, unnecessary dialogue tags and awkward prose that need a thorough going over.

I also felt that some of the characters were a little stereotypical. And I wasn’t convinced by the ‘seer’ aspect of the story. It felt under-developed and unnecessary.

I do hate to be negative, and I’m sure there will be a lot of readers that will really enjoy this novel. But for me, it needed an extra polish.

three stars

‘I Promise You This’ (Love in Provence Book 3) by Patricia Sands #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Rosie's Book Review team 1

I reviewed ‘I Promise You This’ for Rosie Amber’s Book review team.

Suddenly single after twenty-two years of marriage, the calm of Katherine Price’s midlife has turned upside down. Seeking to find her true self, she took a chance on starting over. A year later, she is certain of this: she’s in love with Philippe and adores his idyllic French homeland, where he wants her to live with him.

But all that feels like a fantasy far removed from Toronto, where she’s helping her friend Molly, hospitalized after a life-threatening accident. Staying in her childhood home full of memories, Katherine wonders: Is she really ready to leave everything behind for an unknown life abroad? And if all her happiness lies with Philippe, will it last? Can she trust in love again?

Searching her heart, Katherine finds the pull of the familiar is stronger than she thought. An unexpected meeting with her ex, the first time since his cruel departure, and a stunning declaration of love from an old flame spur her introspection.

With sunlit backdrops and plot twists as breathtaking as the beaches of Antibes, author Patricia Sands brings her trilogy about second chances to a provocative and satisfying close that proves that a new life just might be possible—if you’re willing to let your heart lead you home.

promise

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

I read the first in this trilogy ‘The Promise of Provence’ last year and very much enjoyed it. Although I haven’t read the second book, the author does a good job of letting the reader know what has happened since the end of Book One, so it wasn’t too difficult to pick up the threads of the story.

Katherine is back in Toronto, taking care of her friend Molly who has suffered severe injuries in a car accident. Being back in her home city with her family and friends and her memories, and being away from Philippe makes Katherine begin to doubt her certainty that France is where she belongs. She loves Philippe, but she wonders if that is enough.

What I really enjoyed about the first book was that Katherine had a humanity to her – she wasn’t perfect, she didn’t find things easy, and she suffered, like we all would, when her world came crashing down. I was happy that she was happy at the end of the novel. She deserved that happiness. In this book, however, I felt that the relatable and human side to her wasn’t as well-drawn. She was a bit too perfect, a bit too wonderful and kind and desirable. It didn’t feel real. Her relationship with Philippe, despite her cold feet, was also too perfect; he was too perfect.  While I enjoy a bit of escapism, I do like to be able to identify with, sympathise with and relate to characters. I found that quite difficult to do here. The other characters all seemed far too kind-hearted and generous and supportive too. While people can be all these things, they aren’t all of them all of the time, and for me that meant the book lost the edge of the first in the trilogy.

I also felt that a lot of the dialogue was unrealistic. There were a few occasions, particularly at the beginning, where it seemed to be used to pass information to the reader.

That said, the descriptions of France, as in the first book, were wonderful and engaging and very enjoyable to read. The ending, while sentimental and beautifully soppy, was lovely, and absolutely perfect for the trilogy. I may even have had a tear in my eye. But for me, the book didn’t work as well as the first.

3.5 stars