The Chess Men (Lewis Chronicle 3) by Peter May #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

“The shadow of a massive rock rose up ahead of him, and he felt his way around it to the leeward side where he was briefly out of the wind. He pressed himself back against the sheer face of this giant slab and stood there gasping for breath. He had never in his life felt so small, or so vulnerable. The scale and scope of the land and the power of the elements, dwarfed him into insignificance.

He found himself shivering now with the cold, teeth chattering. To stop would be fatal. He had to find shelter. As he turned again to face the black uncertainty that lay ahead of him, the sky lit up in a series of lightning flashes that cast their ghostly effulgence across the valley that fell away beneath him. It was startling and bleak in this unforgiving light, a landscape so alien and primordial that it would not have been out of place on the moon.”

Chess Men

This final book of the Lewis Trilogy finds ex policeman, Finn MacLeod starting work as a security officer on a large estate on the Isle of Lewis.  Looking out for poachers seems an odd choice for him, especially as one of the poachers is his old friend, Whistler.  When he and Whistler discover a plane at the bottom of a drained loch the author takes us back to the disappearance of Roddy, star of a Celtic pop group, 17 years earlier.  Both Fin and Whistler were teenage friends of Roddy and the other members of the group and that time is returning to haunt them.

After reading the earlier books in the trilogy I thought I knew everything about Fin’s youth but suddenly we meet several more old friends and many life-changing experiences not mentioned before.  The technique of moving from present to past and back again seems overworked and slightly annoying in this book and revealing the lies and secrets is a very slow process.  There is however far more action especially in the last few chapters but I wished Fin and Marsaili would sit down to talk about their future.

As I have begun to expect from Peter May the descriptive passages are spell-binding and the characterisation of young Anna Bhaeg, Whistler’s estranged daughter, is superb. Crime and coming of age are intermingled in this story but like Inspector Gunn I feel frustrated by Fin.  There could be 4th book one day!

The Chess Men on Amazon UK

My Reviews of The Black House and The Lewis Man

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One by Jennifer L Cahill #FridayReads #RBRT

One

 

One” is a light hearted, easy read, set in 2005. The first of a trilogy, this retro contemporary novel will remind you of the simpler life of work, friends and relationships in the “noughties.” Focused on Penelope, a 28-year-old investment banker, we share her search for a significant relationship while maintaining a high-powered job and enjoying time with her friends. In parallel we meet Zara, her young house-mate, newly arrived from the country and struggling with London life.

 

We also encounter Charlie, a musician, who was at University with Penelope and also shares their house; Richard, an annoying ex-Uni friend of conspicuous wealth and Alyx, an irresistible, handsome young lawyer, who travels widely with a successful pop group.  The fact that both Alyx and Richard own castles in Scotland is hard to believe and it is no wonder that Zara feels out of her depth amongst such an affluent group.

 

Each of these young people are looking for good relationships and successful careers but juggling these is not easy and we see the possibility of Penelope being dragged into the life of a stay-at-home wife and mother. It is clear that in the last 14 years women’s roles have moved on.  It is easier to identify with Zara and encouraging to see her increased confidence as she learns to navigate the underground, finds a new job and gains friends.  The books conclusion is dramatic, leaving the reader longing to know how the next few years will pan out for this colourful group.

One is available on Amazon UK

JC

Jennifer Cahill was born in Dublin in Ireland and was educated at University College Dublin. She honed both her ability to write, and her love of writing, in UCD while studying Spanish, which was one half of her International Commerce degree. She went on to Business School in Dublin and moved to London after graduating, and life has never been quite the same for her since. When she is not writing she works with individuals and blue-chip clients to help them navigate and master change. She spent ten lovely years living in Clapham and now lives in Notting Hill in West London.

The Black House (Lewis Trilogy #1) by Peter May #FridayReads

blackhouse

I have recently discovered the delights of Tartan Noir and more specifically the mystery of unexplained deaths on the sparse vegetation of the windswept northern Isles.

In The Black House the preface shows us the body of an unpleasant murder victim hanging on the island of Lewis. DI Fin MacLeod is sent over from Edinburgh to liaise with the locals as he was brought up on Lewis, but there are reasons why he left the island as soon as he left school and some of his reunions bring back distressing memories.

While the present-day investigation continues in the 3rd person, Fin tells his own story from the past in alternate chapters.  There is a mystery to be solved which may link to a similar murder in Edinburgh, but the increasingly tortured Fin begins to realise that he is still part of the community and he must open up old wounds.

This is a beautifully written novel, with striking descriptive passages, of the beauty of Lewis in the sunshine, of the terrifying voyages out to the island of Ag Sgeir and the despair of young people who give up hope.  The description of the Guga hunters, men who risk danger to take gannet chicks from the rock once year, is not pleasant but is essential to the plot.

This exceptional book is a compelling read and I shall certainly be moving on to the sequel.

The Black House on Amazon UK

The Hollow Heart: Love will find a way by Adrienne Vaughan #BookReview

The Heartfelt Series Book 1

Hollow Heart

This heartrending mystery thriller is the story of Marianne Coltrane a feisty, award-winning journalist who uncovers a devastating travesty of justice involving the sale of babies by the church in Ireland. Fighting her corner in the male-dominated world of newspapers she witnesses a terrorist attack that changes how she thinks about her future and what she really wants. Taking herself off to the wilds of the west of Ireland to re-evaluate her life, she encounters the soon to be world-famous actor Ryan O’Gorman, to her mind the most conceited, infuriating man in the world. He in turn loathes journalists, especially female ones. One thing they do have in common is they both think their chance of true love has passed them by. As they both begin to fall in love with Innishmahon, their spiritual home, they discover the very fabric of the island is threatened and as the islanders find themselves in grave danger, Marianne and Ryan join forces to save that which they hold most dear. But the road is rocky for this fiery, opinionated pair … and when Ryan discovers his ex-fiance is carrying his child, things take a turn for the worst. Can he talk his way out of this one? And will Marianne even care, when she unwittingly reveals the most devastating secret of all, the truth behind her past and her own parentage.
Sexy, moving and funny, this heart-warming duo and cast of colourful characters will stay with you, long after the last page leaves you smiling.

My Review

The Hollow Heart is a tempestuous, erotic love story about a complicated couple.  Marianne’s previous relationships have resulted in disaster and tragedy and her own upbringing has made her the caring, campaigning journalist who has no truck with unethical, obtrusive probing into private lives. Thus this story is more than a simple romance.  Other characters, such as Oonagh, a flamboyant, fun-loving landlady desperate to have a child, capture our heart and the Irish village of Innishmahon becomes as important to us as Marianne’s happiness. Alongside many heartbreaking events we come to love Monty the cute Westie who is her constant companion and we laugh at the eccentric Miss MacReady with her extraordinary wardrobe.  Film star Ryan probably doesn’t deserve Marianne but his struggle to prove his love and commitment enrich the story.

This is a book of layers and substance. It deals with the important qualities of life but also takes us on a breathtaking, erotic romp. Adrienne Vaughan is an incomparable romantic author and I am lucky that I still haven’t read all her books.

The Hollow Heart is currently on offer at Amazon UK

My review of The Summer at the Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan.

A Village Affair by Julie Houston #NewRelease #TuesdayBookBlog

Village

Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy head at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being ‘outed’ at a village charity auction – he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends.

 As if that weren’t enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the forefront of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape.

 But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet…

My Review

In A Village Affair we are first introduced to Cassie as a woman who, “has it all,” a handsome husband, two teenage children, good friends, a beautiful house and an exciting new job. But the plot is about to become far more interesting; husband Mark has betrayed her, and she finds herself challenged, both in her career and her personal life.  What makes this story such a pleasure to read is that both Cassandra Moonbeam, as her mother called her, and the author, have a great sense of humour.

We travel back in time to Cassie’s conception in 1976, discovering how different she is from her hippie mother. Paula, we meet grandfather, Norman, defending his beautiful meadow from developers and we enter the enchanting primary school with its diverse staff.  This is a character driven novel which engages the reader and you cannot help rooting for Cassie against impossible odds.

As a former primary school teacher, I was pleased with the accuracy of the present-day school and admired Cassie for her nurturing approach to her pupils.  Her friend, Fi, a farmer’s wife, was credible and likeable, but I wish the book had included a confrontation between Cassie and Tina, after her betrayal, to see how they both dealt with the situation. Mother, Paula, grandpa Norman and Latvian lolly-pop lady, Deimante, add great depth and interest to this lively story.

Julie Houston has blended romance, every day crises and light-hearted humour effectively, providing easy reading with realism.

A Village Affair is Available to purchase on Amazon UK

Julie Houston

Julie Houston

Julie lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire where her novels are set, and her only claims to fame are that she teaches part-time at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old junior school and her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author, Joanne Harris. After University, where she studied Education and English Literature, she taught for many years as a junior school teacher. As a newly qualified teacher, broke and paying off her first mortgage, she would spend every long summer holiday working on different Kibbutzim in Israel. After teaching for a few years she decided to go to New Zealand to work and taught in Auckland for a year before coming back to this country. She now teaches just two days a week, and still loves the buzz of teaching junior-aged children. She has been a magistrate for the past nineteen years, and, when not distracted by Ebay, Twitter and Ancestry, spends much of her time writing. Julie is married, has a twenty-four-year-old son and twenty-one-year-old daughter and a ridiculous Cockerpoo called Lincoln. She runs and swims because she’s been told it’s good for her, but would really prefer a glass of wine, a sun lounger and a jolly good book – preferably with Matthew Mcconaughay in attendance.

Gift Horse by Jan Ruth #NewRelease #BookReview

Gift Horse Cover MEDIUM WEB

 A time-slip novel about the choices women make, the healing power of horses, and the devastating consequences of human error.

Imagine living eighteen years of your life around a mistake…

Caroline Walker’s daughter suffers a horrific riding accident. Her distraught parents wonder if she’ll ever walk again, let alone ride. And when Mollie’s blood group is discovered as rare, her husband offers to donate blood. Except Ian is not a match. In fact, it’s unlikely he’s Mollie’s father.

Eighteen years previously, Caroline had a one-night stand with Irish rock star, Rory O’Connor. Caroline fell pregnant. Deeply flawed boyfriend, Ian, was overjoyed. And Caroline’s parents were simply grateful that their daughter was to marry into the rich, influential Walker family. Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

Caroline turns to Rory’s friend Connor; and although his almost spiritual connection with his horses appears to be the balm she needs, Caroline cannot forget Rory, or her youth – both lost to a man she never loved. Eighteen years on and after surviving cancer Rory lives as a virtual recluse in the Welsh mountains. Through his well-meaning but interfering sister, he is shocked to discover he has a teenage daughter. Or does he? As the truth begins to unravel, Caroline finds herself faced with a complex trail of moral dilemma.

Someone has made a terrible mistake… someone is going to get hurt…

My Review

Caroline has it all, a rich successful husband, a large beautiful home and a daughter they both love.  But Mollie’s terrible accident while competing on her horse, Sahara Sun, exposes cracks in their apparently happy life and Caroline’s past catches up with her.  Can she take Mollie from Ian, the father she loves so much, and will Mollie ever forgive her secrecy?

Travelling back to the millennium we join Caroline and her flat-mate Niamh at a party in the Welsh hills.  Already in a relationship with Ian, she realises that the life she will have with him will be very different from that lived by Niamh and her charismatic pop-star brother, Rory.  Will one night of happiness change her path or be a last fling?

However, this tale is more complex. More mistakes are made in 2017.  As Mollie struggles to come to terms with her injuries, Caroline hopes that she will agree to try horse therapy with Connor, an unusual man who helps people to cope with pain and confusion through their interaction with horses.  Meeting Niamh and Rory again, adds further complications as she strives for independence, developing her illustration business and facing up to her own weaknesses.

Gift Horse is an unusual novel which shows the shallowness of material wealth and respectability, but it also deals with crises of injury and betrayal. I was expecting more details of the horse therapy, which I would have enjoyed but perhaps that might have loosened the taut plot and surprising conclusion.  A remarkable story of a woman discovering her destiny.

Gift Horse can be purchased at Amazon UK

And my review of Midnight Sky by Jan Ruth

Gold Plated by Christine Campbell #FridayReads #RBRT

Gold plated

Rosanna and Paul are celebrating their Golden Wedding with a grand party at the local Golf Club.  Aided by their only daughter Heather, Rosanna is making sure that everything is perfect including baking a delicious cake and buying Paul the ideal gift, but have all their years together been so perfect?

The clock is turned back to 1964 when Rosanna started at Art college and Paul was her young, charismatic tutor.  Lacking confidence in herself, she was astonished that he chose her as his “secret” girlfriend, but against all odds, they have now been married for 50 years.  Abandoning her earlier artistic ambitions, Rosanna has looked after their lovely home while Paul continued his successful teaching career.

Christine Campbell is skilled at putting us inside Rosanna’s head.  We begin to understand her calm, quiet personality and her loyal, loving nature.  We can see that Paul takes her for granted but they seem to have a happy marriage.  But at the party everything changes in a dramatic way. Secrets are revealed, treachery exposed, and Rosanna’s life is in tatters.

This is a story, with which we can all identify in some way.  It is sadly true that many women, and men, can suddenly find themselves alone as old age approaches and dealing with the collapse of all they believed in can be catastrophic. But this is not a sad story, there is a positive message that life is what we make of it and Rosanna discovers new personal qualities of independence and self-reliance as well as rekindling her creativity.

Personally, I would have preferred the story to have been written in the past tense, especially for the scenes from the past, but that is probably just my particular bête-noire!  The detailed involvement in Rosanna’s rollercoasting emotions and cleverly plotted, surprising events make this book a very rewarding read.

Gold Plated is available on Amazon UK

Christine Campbell

Christine Campbell

Christine Campbell lives in a small village outside of Edinburgh with her husband, whatever assortment of children and grandchildren happen to be visiting at the time, and awaiting her first great-granddaughter. How exciting is that?

When she has a moment of peace, and is not distracted by the varied wildlife currently taking up residence in her garden and the field beyond, Christine writes novels or posts on her blog at cicampbellblog.wordpress.com as well as producing occasional videos about her writing on her Facebook page and YouTube.

Lifting The Lid Off Christine’s Kist Of Stories can be found on Facebook

My review of Searching for Summer by Christine Campbell