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.

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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.

The Bridge of Dead Things by Michael Gallagher #FridayReads #BookReview

Bridge

This Young Adult book is the first story about 13 year-old Lizzie Blaylock, the involuntary Medium. Set in late Victorian London, Lizzie has been fortunate in receiving an education despite the poverty of her family. But this ceases, when a strange fit in the classroom causes teacher, Miss Smutts to expel her. Miss Smutts’ motives are suspect since she arranges employment for Lizzie as a maidservant in a rather odd household. Lizzie’s fit has revealed her special power to allow ghostly manifestations to return from the dead. Soon this gothic novel becomes darker as Lizzie is taken under the wing of Simeon de Florence, who purports to expose false mediums. There is relief from the weird experiences in the humorous characters we meet, such as Miss Otis, the kindly clairvoyant and the obsession with seances by many wealthy Victorians provides an exciting setting. I feel that Lizzie is more like a 20th century heroine in her speech and actions but the Victorian context is vividly described.

You can purchase The Bridge of Dead Things at Amazon UK

Gallagher

Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher is the author of two series of novels set in Victorian times. “Send for Octavius Guy” chronicles the attempts of fourteen-year-old Gooseberry—reformed master pickpocket—to become a detective, aided and abetted by his ragtag bunch of friends. “The Involuntary Medium” follows the fortunes of young Lizzie Blaylock, a girl who can materialize the spirits of the dead, as she strives to come to terms with her unique gift.

For twenty-five years Michael taught adults with learning disabilities at Bede, a London-based charity that works with the local community. He now writes full time.

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse (La Cour des Roses Book 3) by Helen Pollard #TuesdayBookBlog

Summer at

 Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?

It was lovely to catch up with Emmy still working hard at Rupert’s idyllic guest house in the Loire valley while developing her own business.  Her marriage to gorgeous accountant Alain is fast approaching, but Emmy’s mother is driving her mad, phoning from England at all hours, to nag her about wedding preparations.

There are amusing escapades amongst the guests and Emmy’s friends, Sophie and Ellie, also appear to have found love, but Alain’s family worries and Emmy’s frustration with her mother cause friction between them.  Then disaster strikes; will Emmy’s happy life in France fall apart?

This third story of the little French guesthouse contains so many fascinating characters, French and English and an unexpected twist in the plot to keep you turning the pages. This is a feel-good novel which restores your faith in humanity and makes you wish you could book a holiday at this wonderful location.

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse can be purchased at Amazon UK

My review of the first book about La Cour des Roses

Fear and Phantoms by Carol Hedges #NewRelease #RBRT #BookReview

Hedges CJ

I always look forward to another volume in Carol Hedges’ Victorian mystery series.  Once again, she has created an effective picture of the grime and poverty of 1860s London, filled with vivid characters, good, evil, peculiar and captivating.  In Fear & Phantoms, we face the very real horror of murder and fraud as well as a mysterious vision of the Madonna in the tunnel of the Metropolitan Underground railway.

An intelligent young woman, Helena Trigg, who works as a book-keeper, is baffled when her twin brother, Lambert, a senior bank clerk, disappears and comes under suspicion of fraud.  Luckily, she seeks help from reliable Detective Inspector Stride and kindly Inspector Greig, who wonder if there might be a connection to their current murder investigation. But nothing is that simple.  With wit and humour intermingled with suspense, Carol Hedges leads us through the parallel plot strands.

My favourite characters in this novel are the delightful journalist and author Lucy Landseer and the hard-working, irrepressible young cleaner, Pin.  Lucy is ahead of her time, determined to have a successful career, studying to improve her mind and certainly not intending to be dependent on a man. Pin is poor and downtrodden, but she takes care of “the boy, Muggly,” who has no-one else, and she will not tolerate unfairness or cruelty.  Both these young ladies participate actively in solving the mysteries.

There are so many delicious titbits to discover within this novel, such as names like the Hon. Tom Scallywagg MP and a creepy landlord called Mr Mutesius.  A must within a Victorian novel is a detailed description of the many exhibits in the taxidermists where we recoil in horror at the shelves, “of glass cases, full of birds and beasts in a variety of strange and unlikely poses,” but Pin loves to talk affectionately to “the tiny kittens in frilled bibs and tuckers… having a tea-party in their minute prison.”

This exciting tale can easily be read as a stand-alone or as an introduction to the wonderful series but those of you already familiar with thee Victorian murder mystery books will find all their expectations well-rewarded.

To buy Fear and Phantoms in the UK

To read my review of Diamonds & Dust, the first story about The Victorian Detectives

 

Painting Ruby Tuesday by Jane Yardley #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

Ruby Tuesday

Thanks to the introduction to the books of Jane Yardley by my friend Hilary I decided to read this book, mainly because of the intriguing nostagic title.

My Review

It is summer 1965 and ten-year-old Annie is whiling away the holiday in her Essex village with best friend Babette, trying to keep out of the way of her parents who run the village school.  But as she practises for her grade 5 piano exam and escapes into the latest Beatles or Rolling Stone song, the local community is shocked by a spate of murders.

 

At first, Annie continues to visit her favourite adult, Mrs Clitheroe, who shares her synaesthesia, the tendency to see music, days of the week etc as colours, absorbed in conversation with her while Babette leafs through an old photo album. But then the murders come closer to home.  Annie is a witness, but she has no intention of helping the police to find the culprit.

 

In tandem with the story of her childhood we meet Annie thirty years later, a musician and teacher with one failed marriage and another cooling.  She is offered a chance to move to New York, a place that has always been significant to her, but she needs to work on improving the relationship with her American husband, Alan.  But memories of her creative, chaotic first marriage to sculptor, Daniel are getting in the way.

 

This is a complex book about only children who live in a world of their own (I identify with this!) of the traumatic effect of discovering a murder scene and the way some people stay with you all of your life, even if you only knew them as a child.  It is amusing, mystifying and reveals the world of a sixties village very well.  It is a stimulating read which makes you think but it is also a great page turner.

Painting Ruby Tuesday is available at Amazon UK or at Amazon US

 

An interview with Colt McCall from “An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy”

My heart is pounding with excitement at the chance to interview the irresistible Colt McCall from June Kearn’s book.

Cowboy

What were your first impressions of Miss Annie Haddon?

First off? As if a scruffy dog had suddenly appeared and attached itself to me. Yeah, someone’s stray, a pampered pet – one that wasn’t particularly biddable, either. For such a small fry though, she seemed to have a pretty big mouth. A talker, too – mite too fond of her own opinions to my mind, at the time. No idea what she’d landed herself into, either. Not … a … single, solitary clue.

Annie called you intimidating and you certainly don’t suffer fools readily.  Would your life be easier if you were more diplomatic?

Let’s face it, shall we? Annie was white, English, opinionated. Not a hope in hell of understanding someone like me. As for diplomacy! Well, the West belongs to the meat-eaters, always has, always will. The meek don’t inherit much west of Chicago. Anyway, a man needs to show he can defend himself. If people think he can’t, he’s in trouble.

You seem to have a very bad opinion of the English.  What have they ever done to you?

Ha, tried to wipe out all rotten traces of Indian for starters. At Mission School, I was taught by an Englishwoman. She thought I was barely house-trained and had the idea that a daily dose of British poets and Shakespeare was the best way to civilise little hell-raisers like me. Along with not letting me speak my mother’s language, of course – shaving my head and beating manners and the Bible into me.

Yeah, one thing I’ve learned about the English: You don’t tell them, they tell you.

You don’t seem to be a typical Texan and yet you seem to have some good friends.  What do these friends have in common?

I guess they’re all … outsiders? Yeah, every damn one, when I come to think about it. The displaced, the hunted, the ignored. Mostly fighters for their own rights, of course, their own land. For years, we’ve been killing off their food, stealing their hunting grounds, robbing them blind.

Are the divisions of the Civil War still causing problems in Texas?

Well, what do you think? Draw a line down the middle of any country – you’re asking for trouble. Somehow, it makes some folk feel more entitled to boss others around. Take Southerners, for example. Robert E. Lee still adorns many a parlour wall round here. Oh, yeah. Plenty haven’t been too keen on freeing their slaves, either.

You seem to find Miss Haddon just a little too talkative, but do you think she has changed her feelings about Texas since you first met her?

Well, I guess when we first met, Annie was just trying to make sense of everything – questions, questions, questions. Her main concern, first off – if you’d care to believe it – was about losing those bound copies of Dickens in her trunk! While I was just hell-bent on getting us as far away as possible from the Comanche.

Even from her first arrival though, she seemed to love the landscape. Nothing had prepared her, she once told me – for that vast open space, the wide, wide vista. Fluted rock on the horizon soaring to meet limitless blue sky. The throat-catching beauty, the loneliness.
You can’t just pass through this landscape, y’know. It reaches out and draws you in, every time.

And now? Guess Annie knows that she belongs here.

And have you changed your opinion of her?

Oh, yeah. My opinion probably started to shift when she teamed up with two outlaws, swallowed a quart and a half of whisky and started a bar-room brawl – after trying to stare down that Comanche brave, of course.

It was her first ever time away from the protection of her relatives. I’d expected fear, silence, trepidation. Instead, she showed intelligence and courage, plus a real delight at being able to truly be herself.

Thank you, Colt, it’s been a privilege to hear your view of Texas both from your own opinions and those of  “the Englishwoman.”

You can read my review of June Kearn’s book here