The Heart Whisperer by Ella Griffin #TuesdayBookBlog #amreading

Heart

Claire Dillon still lives in the shadow of the past. On her thirty-third birthday, she gives herself a present. One year to change her future.

Claire Dillon’s mother had everything to live for. A husband, two children, a successful medical practice. Then, at thirty-three, she died in a tragic accident. And it was Claire’s fault.

Now Claire is the same age. A floundering actress with a broken heart, a collection of draft snakes, and a talent for self-sabotage. She is frittering her life away with the help of her oldest friend, the gorgeous ex-rock star, Ray Devine.
On her 33rd birthday she gives herself one last year to be more like her mother. But you should be careful what you wish for …

Her estranged brother Nick is back from America and keeping his distance from his clingy sister and his pathetic father while he reinvents himself as a daytime TV relationship guru. But Dublin is full of memories and Nick is already dreaming of escape. While his wife Kelly, has dreams of her own. Ones she isn’t telling him about.
What will happen when another accident throws the dysfunctional Dillons together? And the secrets they have kept from themselves and one another finally begin to emerge?

My Review

I’ve returned to writer Ella Griffin for another thought provoking, gripping story. Claire is wallowing in sadness and lack of motivation. Her childhood was tragic, and she seems unable to grow up. Her friend and housemate, Ray is in the same predicament but at least he has a successful past. Meanwhile Claire’s brother Nick is concealing his damaged youth in a “perfect lifestyle” and a blossoming career as a relationship guide. But they are all forced to face up to their past, Claire by the severe accident which befalls her father, Nick by a crisis in his perfect marriage to Kelly, and Ray when his past sins catch up with him.

Interwoven amongst these dramas are amusing incidents on a film set, and others with an angelic little girl and an enormous clumsy dog. Claire discovers a wonderful family she wants to be part of, Nick and Kelly fall apart, and Dog pulls at our heartstrings. This is a plot which captures your imagination and explores the way we deal with emotional crises. It kept me reading long into the night.

The Heart Whisperer on Amazon UK

My review of The Memory Shop

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A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews (Parish Orphans of Devon) #RBRT

Modest

Book Description

He Needed Peace…

Solicitor Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…

My Review

This unusual Victorian romance tells the story of two people who do not plan marriage with anyone. At 28, Jenny Holloway is a spinster “past her prime” and after life as a drudge caring for her ungrateful father, her ambition is for independence and the opportunity to travel. Tom Finchley is a successful, London attorney whose lonely childhood has given him the drive to work long hours, with little time for pleasure.  But as Jenny sets out to travel to British India with her legacy and two trustworthy servants, Tom finds himself compelled to accompany her.  Soon, despite antagonism, they draw closer and begin an intimate friendship not normally possible for respectable single men and women.

Mimi Matthews has the ability to reveal her characters inner most thoughts even when they are deeply confused.  The frank conversations between Tom and Jenny show that although they are strongly attracted to one another they are equally determined to keep their independence.  The plot takes us on trains, ships and gharries to Egypt and on to India.  The intense heat and tense atmosphere following the Indian mutiny is clearly described and the unfortunate early lives of Jenny’s Indian servants tells us much of the unfairness of colonial rule. This accurate picture of society’s expectations helps the reader to feel Jenny’s frustration at the entrapment of women within marriage, paralleled by the tight rigidity of her corseted costume.   And the addition of passion and love, results in an irresistible tale I did not want to stop reading.

Read about A Modest Independence on GoodReads

The Silver Dark Sea by Susan Fletcher #amreading #bookreview

Silver Dark sea

“I heard that there is hope on a coastline, it was my own self, speaking – me, as my comfort, trying to keep myself afloat.”

“There were so many stories on that island that it felt like they came in on the tide.”

 “The Silver Dark Sea” is perhaps the most significant character in this novel. For the inhabitants of the island of Parla, the sea’s moods, sounds, harvest and destruction rule their lives. This is not an easy novel at first; written in the main as the stream of consciousness of the key protagonists, interspersed with folktales from Abigail’s book, it slips from third person to first person and only becomes comprehensible when the reader identifies that individual.

The location of Parla is unclear but the intermingled fates of the Bright family from the lighthouse and the Bundy family from the farm “Wind Rising” provide the background to this tale of love and loss. The roles of women and men in this simple old-fashioned community are separate and clearly defined and after a tragedy 4 years earlier many have lost their stability and focus. Maybe if the story of The Fishman of Sye comes true, they will be redeemed.

I want to give this beautiful atmospheric novel five stars, but the slow laborious plot development makes me award it 4.5 stars. I was unsure how the story should end but for me the conclusion was just right. Susan Fletcher is an author to seek out.

The Silver Dark Sea can be found on Amazon UK

Susan Fletcher

Susan Fletcher

Susan Fletcher was born in 1979 in Birmingham. She is the author of the bestselling ‘Eve Green’ winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, ‘Oystercatchers’ and ‘Witch Light’.

The Winter That made us by Kate Field #FridayReads #Book Review

Winter that made us

It is so exciting finding a new author – someone whose books you will look forward to, who will not disappoint, and that is how I feel about Kate Field.

The Winter That Made Us is an apt title, describing what happened to two broken souls thrown together against their will in the village of Ribblemill.  Tess has returned to her home saying that her husband is working in Dubai, but she does not feel able to live with her parents due to her mother’s overanxious attitude. Cobweb Cottage on the Ramblings Estate seems the perfect bolthole but it has also been promised to the dour, uncommunicative, Noah Thornton. As the house is easily divisible, they decide to share the tenancy, but they usually have their meals together.  Their relationship becomes less frosty when they are adopted by Morag the kitten.

Eventually Tess discovers the horrific incident which caused Noah to avoid crowds and keep his own counsel, but she also has demons which she is reluctant to confront. They are lucky to be surrounded by a caring community and as Noah gains confidence reclaiming the walled garden, Tess uses her musical talent to organise a local choir, teach piano lessons and try music therapy.  As things begin to look up, disaster strikes twice. There will be no chance of a relationship between Noah and Tess so will she ever be able to face up to her failed former life and tell her parents the truth?

This emotional rollercoaster has magical moments and is a feelgood read, perfect for the Christmas season.

The Winter That Made Us is available at Amazon UK

Kate Field

Kate Field lives in Lancashire with her husband, daughter and cat. Her debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

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.

An Unconventional Officer by Lynn Bryant #BookReview

Unconventional

A story of love and war in Wellington’s army 

In 1802 Europe is going back to war, General Arthur Wellesley is commanding troops in India and the officers and men of the 110th infantry are about to get the shock of their lives as a new officer arrives in barracks.

Paul van Daan is young, wealthy, arrogant and ready to take on the Maratha, the French and whole of the British army. A talented and charismatic leader of men, he needs to learn to curb his temper and adjust to the rigid army hierarchy in order to rise in his chosen profession. On the way he makes enduring friendships forged on the battlefields of India and Europe and builds an unexpected bond with the difficult, unemotional commander of the Peninsular army, Sir Arthur Wellesley.

There are many women in Paul’s life but only two who touch his heart.

Rowena Summers, a shy young governess straight from a charity school. Serene and gentle, her love and companionship give Paul a stability he had not known he lacked.

Anne Howard the extraordinary daughter of a wealthy manufacturer who marries a fellow officer and changes everything Paul thought he knew about women.

Amidst the violence and tragedy of the war against Napoleon an unforgettable love story unfolds which affects the lives of everybody it touches and changes the 110th forever.

This is the first book in the Peninsular War series which tells the story of the men and women of the 110th infantry, a regiment like no other in Wellington’s army.

My Review

I have always been fascinated by the long years of battles and skirmishes in the Iberian Peninsular at the beginning of the 19th century. Here men from all backgrounds were thrown together to fight alongside Spanish and Portuguese soldiers against Napoleon’s army. The extra interest was the presence of many women, officers’ wives enjoying social interaction and soldiers’ wives surviving in camp in horrendous conditions by doing laundry and cooking.

But this book is no boring account of warfare, for the tension, jealousy, romance and passion of the main characters make it a real page turner. There’s a sprinkling of Bernard Cornwall’s Sharpe stories, the eroticism of an Outlander book and a totally original take on the role of women in this isolated community so distant from life at home in England.  In addition, there are terrifying incidents of danger and violence which keep you on the edge of your seat.

Paul Van Daan is an irresistible, irritating hero, who doesn’t obey the conventions or stick to military rules, but he has survived two and a half years in Nelson’s navy and his strict but fair way of treating the men of the 110th Light company keeps their loyalty and determination.  Though Paul finds it difficult to resist an attractive woman, he always treats them with respect and within this novel, he finds in his loyal wife, Rowena and in the forthright, stunning Anne, reason to live and to fight for justice.  The situation the trio find themselves in, is absurd and cannot have a happy outcome and yet they remain steadfast to each other.  It a very unusual plot but it works in a time when men lived by their wits and good and evil were more pronounced.

I loved this novel for its historical accuracy and its imaginative storyline. Highly recommended.

An Unconventional Officer can be purchased at Amazon UK

A Holiday By Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Mimi Matthews #NewRelease #RBRT

Holiday by Gaslight

A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion—or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things.

A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.

My Review

Sophie Appersett, the heroine of A Holiday by Gaslight, is the kind of girl I would love to have as a friend. Frank and honest, she speaks her mind and is determined to find the best in other people.  Accepting that she will have no love match, she is prepared to make a marriage of convenience to a man beneath her in rank but possessing a fortune, in order to save her family from ruin. Her profligate father has spent her dowry on modern gas lighting and has further expensive plans.

Ned Sharpe may be presentable, but he fails to converse properly. His stiff, abrupt approach is at odds with Sophie’s loquacious chat, so she finally decides that, they “don’t suit.”  However, his response to her termination of their potential betrothal, surprises her so she decides to give him one last chance at the Christmas party at Appersett House deep in the countryside.

Although set 50 years after the world of Jane Austen, Sophie reminds me of Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, prepared to put her family first but feeling affection for a man who seems unable to communicate with her.  But here we are in a mid-Victorian world looking to the future, where love matches can be achieved, and modern technology is embraced. A wonderful feel good read for the Christmas holiday.

A Holiday by Gaslight is available at Amazon UK

My Review of The Matrimonial Advertisemenby Mimi Matthews

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