First Lines Friday – The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

Something a little bit different from me on the blog today. I have lots of books sitting on my TBR that I pre-ordered this year and still haven’t got round to reading. I am big fan of Beth O Leary and I hope to pick this one up properly in the next few weeks. For today, here’s a blurb and a sneak peak at the ‘first lines’!

Blurb:

Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend’s wedding in the north of Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed.

But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie’s ex, Dylan, who she’s avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier.

Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they’ve totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with three hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can’t avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship…

Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly… is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?

First lines:

“The road of friendship never did run smooth, is what I’m saying,” Marcus tells me, fidgeting with his seat belt.

This is my first experience of a heartfelt apology from Marcus, and so far it has involved six cliches, two butchered literary references and no eye contact. The word sorry did feature, but it was preceded by I’m not very good at saying, which somewhat undermined its sincerity.

I shift up a gear. “Isn’t it the course of true love that never did run smooth? A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I believe.”

We’re by the twenty-four hour Tesco. It’s half four in the morning, the air thick with duvet-darkness, but the bland yellow light from the shop illuminates the three people in the car in front as if they’ve just moved into a spotlight. We’re close behind them, both following the slow, rattling path of a lorry ahead.

For a flash of a second, I see the driver’s face in the rear view mirror. She reminds me of Addie – if you think about someone enough, you start to see them everywhere.

Christmas In The Scottish Highlands by Donna Ashcroft

I was drawn to this book as Donna’s Christmas book last year was one of my favourite reads of the season, and considering I’ve read over 150 books since them I can still remember some of the characters and storyline vividly, which is testament to Donna’s excellent writing capabilities. Therefore, I was very excited to pick this one up!

Blurb:

Welcome to the gorgeous little Scottish village of Christmas, where snow is falling, presents are being wrapped and the locals are writing their festive wish lists. Will this finally be the year that Belle’s dreams come true?

Thirty-year-old Belle Albany is feeling lonely this Christmas. Another whole year has passed and her life is… exactly the same as it was last December. She longs for true love and a little bit of winter magic – but she’s almost given up on finding it in the sleepy Scottish community where she lives…

When Belle crashes into elderly Edina on her cherry red bicycle, it’s not the meet-cute she’d been hoping for. But she immediately recognises the lost look in Edina’s watery-blue eyes and resolves to organise a Christmas to remember for them both – brimming with mince pies, mulled wine and lots of sparkle. Although Belle hadn’t counted on Edina’s home being a crumbling Scottish castle and she certainly hadn’t been expecting Edina’s handsome long-lost grandson Jack Hamilton-Kirk to turn up on the doorstep in the middle of a snow storm…

Jack is arrogant, rude and bossy and Belle is convinced he’s about to ruin the seasonal cheer she has worked hard to create. He’s basically the Grinch in human form, so why does her heart race every time they’re in the same room? They disagree on almost everything, from menu choices to music, and yet she starts to glimpse a softer side hidden behind Jack’s clipped words and brooding countenance.

As they hunt down costumes for the annual nativity show and save a donkey from a snowy disaster, Belle can’t ignore their growing attraction. But will a secret from Jack’s past come between them? Or will this finally be the year Belle falls in love?

This gorgeous, festive read is like a warm hug in a book! The perfect cosy romance to snuggle up with this Christmas. Fans of Nicola May, Trisha Ashley and Debbie Macomber will love this wonderfully uplifting novel.

My thoughts:

I was immediately transported to and transfixed on the happenings within the community of Christmas island. The opening to the story is fun, engaging and straight away gives the story not just a festive but an escapist feel.

I loved the characters in this book as they do easily jump off the page. Belle is a caring, likeable character and I couldn’t help but feel quite sorry for Edina too. The development of the ‘relationship’ between Jack and Belle was very entertaining and appeared quite realistic.

Mostly, I just loved the Christmas spirit encapsulated in this book. There are twists and turns and drama to keep you hooked, but ultimately this is a story that promotes generosity, friendship and the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ with the sense of community spirit and fun that is shown.

This has been another fun and wonderful escapist and festive read from this talented author. I look forward to reading more by this author in the new year!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My Ten Year Crush by Olivia Spring

I absolutely adore Olivia’s books and so I am very honoured to be part of another one of her blog tours. Once again, the crisp, simple cover with the bright popping colours drew me in and I was also intrigued by the title.

Blurb:

The first kiss wrecked their friendship. Could a second chance lead to love?

English teacher Bella isn’t having much luck with her love life. No matter who she dates, no one seems to measure up to Mike: the ex-bestie she shared a drunken kiss with ten years ago, which led to the end of their friendship…

When Bella comes face-to-face with Mike at their university reunion, sparks fly. He’s smart, funny and even hotter than before, and despite trying to fight her feelings, Bella still can’t get him out of her head.

But after what happened the last time she stepped out of the friend zone, Bella isn’t in a hurry to be rejected all over again.

Should Bella risk more heartache by telling Mike how she really feels? Could the attraction be mutual? Or is it finally time to put her past behind her and say goodbye to a second chance at love, forever?

My Ten-Year Crush is a fun, sexy, friends-to-lovers romcom about second chances and stepping out of your comfort zone. Ideal for fans of Beth O’Leary, Mhairi McFarlane and Lindsey Kelk.

Order now and join Bella on her rollercoaster romantic adventures!

My thoughts:

I loved this book and devoured it quickly in a couple of sittings. The opening of the book is engaging, entertaining and in some places laugh out loud funny and I instantly identified with the character of Bella. Like me, she is an English teacher who worries about taking risks and career development. Also like me, she has struggled with love/romance and finding the right fit for her. Therefore, she felt like a really relatable and believable character.

All of Olivia’s characters are well-drawn and I love meeting them and being drawn into their lives, families, friendships and dilemmas. This book is no exception. We meet all the characters through Bella’s narrative point of view, which adds an extra layer of intrigue and fun to this book.

I loved seeing the development of Bella and Mike’s relationship. We learn about their back story, but even in adulthood their ‘spark’ and ‘crush’ is evident. This is definitely an uplifting and almost ‘fairy-tale’ like romance in some aspects.

I am so excited to know that there will be another book in this series focusing on the side character of Cassie. I love Olivia’s books so can’t wait for the next installment!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Sister Pact by Lisa Swift

I am so excited to be involved in the blog tour for another book by probably my favourite romantic comedy fiction writer, Lisa Swift. Once again, I have been drawn in by the beautifully intriguing illustrated cover and the title, which suggests this book will carry strong themes of not only romance but also family, too. I couldn’t wait to start reading!

Blurb:

Can two very different sisters band together when their family needs them most?

Thirty-year-old Brooke Padgett is the landlady of The Highwayman’s Drop in the beautiful Yorkshire village of Leyholme. Commitment-averse and obsessed with work, she isn’t looking for anything serious – and she certainly isn’t interested in the pub’s new barman, gorgeous single dad Hayden. Or is she?

Older sister Rhianna Garrett has fled wealthy husband James after discovering his infidelity. As she moves back to the pub with her children in tow, it’s clear that living together will be tricky for these two very different sisters…

Meanwhile, their widowed mum Janey is keen to rejoin the dating scene. But a lot has changed since her youth in the seventies – and she’ll need the help of her girls.

As the sisters join forces to help Janey, as well as fight off the chain circling the pub, their relationship becomes close once again. Until Brooke discovers Rhianna is hiding a secret that could drive a wedge between them all…

Can the two sisters come together to save The Highwayman’s Drop, their mum’s love life – and their relationship?

A funny, uplifting and romantic read that will warm your heart; fans of Jenny Colgan, Milly Johnson and Carole Matthews will be captivated!

My thoughts:

Lisa Swift is just an absolute queen of this genre. I have been hooked on this one from the very beginning and I love the fact that Lisa Swift is able to include humour laced throughout the book that always fits so well. It never feels forced, only natural and well-placed. She has the incredible ability to make you laugh out loud whilst still warming your heart and making the characters and story line appear believable.

Speaking of characters, I love the vibrant and lively mix of characters we meet in this book. I was definitely a big fan of Brooke’s straight away, and she came across as someone who was very family-orientated, selfless and hard-working. Her sister, Rhianna, appears as the polar opposite. At first, she seems selfish, controlling and lazy. However, I did warm to her more as I learnt more about her and her story.

There are many different strands to this story which make it very gripping. I loved the family dynamics and drama between the sisters and the twists I didn’t see coming in relation to that. The pub from the beginning is something that felt very sacred to me, I suppose probably because that how it feels to Brooke. The development of the relationship between Brooke and Hayden also felt very natural and at times was a lot of fun to read about.

This is a stunning book that has left me feeling fuzzy, entertained and uplifted. Lisa Swift has produced another jewel of a book and if I could give it more than 5 stars, I certainly would. This author’s work is perfect for fans of Milly Johnson and Jill Mansell.

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Cosy Cottage in Ireland by Julie Caplin

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to pick up a book by this author. She has been recommended to me many times, and I am always drawn into her beautifully illustrated cover. Once again, this cover definitely screams ‘cosy’ but also looks peaceful and idyllic. I couldn’t wait to pick up what I hoped would be an escapist read.

Blurb:

The latest book in the international bestselling series that has hit the charts in Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic!

Snuggle up in your favourite armchair and take a trip across the Irish sea for comfort food, cosy cottage nights and a heartwarming romance…

Talented lawyer Hannah Campbell wants a change in her workaholic Manchester life – so she books herself a place at the world-renowned Killorgally Cookery School in County Kerry. But on her first night In Ireland, sampling the delights of Dublin, Hannah can’t resist falling for the charms of handsome stranger Conor. It’s only when Hannah arrives at her postcard-pretty home at Killorgally for the next six weeks that she discovers what happens in Dublin doesn’t quite stay in Dublin…

Nestled amongst rolling green hills and breathtaking countryside, the cookery school throws Hannah and Conor together again–for better or worse.

My thoughts:

Despite this being the eighth book in the series and my first read by this author, I found I was able to settle into her easy, likeable and comfortable style very quickly. I immediately liked Hannah and respected her for making such a courageous choice to leave her ‘comfort zone’ and go to Ireland.

I loved how the story transported me to two very different settings. I loved the bustling, bright lights of Dublin and the clear descriptions brought back memories from my whirlwind tour of the city almost ten years ago.

However I definitely fell in love with Killorgary and the cookery school. Here we meet a vibrant and lively selection of characters and here the story really kicks up a gear in terms of drama, entertainment but also twists and turns. The romance between Hannah and Conor is one of the best romance threads I’ve read in a while, with the right balance of steam, drama and romance.

I definitely felt like this was a wonderful introduction to Julie’s work and I’m looking forward to reading more by this author. I’m definitely tempted to go back and read the previous books in the series as I loved Julie’s characterisation and descriptions.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

His Loving Wife by Miranda Smith

I knew I had to read this one as Not My Mother is one of my favourite psychological thrillers of the year so far. I adore the cover of this book, drawing you into that domestic setting but the murky, turbulent waters hinting at the secrets and danger ahead.

Blurb:

I would do anything to protect my family. It’s my fault they’re in danger…

Our vacation house is beautiful. With its pastel-blue walls, the swimming pool outside, the boardwalk stretching down to the shore. My children play in the waves and my husband grills burgers on the deck. It is so peaceful.

But I can’t relax. When I drive to the store, or stroll down the beach, I am always looking over my shoulder, my heart racing. I am looking for him.

The man who nearly destroyed everything, a year ago, because of the secrets I kept.

I swear I didn’t do anything wrong. But no matter how hard my husband tries to pretend, we both know it’s not over.

This vacation was meant to be a chance to heal. Instead, I think it might break us. Because my husband still doesn’t trust me… and I’m not sure I can trust myself.

My thoughts:

What a book! Miranda is a queen of this genre. Once again, she ensures that the reader is hooked and gripped from the very beginning by drawing us into a dangerous and unexpected situation. However, there’s more to this story than you first think…

The complex timeline ensures that elements of the plot are slowly revealed and this plays with the psychology of the reader as well as digging into the psychology of the characters, especially Kate. There are so many unanswered questions for much of the book, and the fact that there is so little relevant communication between Kate and Andrew only add to the tension and build towards an exciting and unpredictable conclusion.

This has been another book by this author that I found extremely difficult to put down. It is clever, original and the tension is palpable whilst the danger, for the most part, lurks beneath the surface. It has definitely been and intense and exciting reading experience. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Cover reveal: My Lucky Night by Olivia Spring

I absolutely love Olivia Spring’s books and I have a review of the first in this series, My Ten Year Crush, landing here on 13th October. However I am sharing the cover for the 2nd book in this series on today’s blog! 🤩

I absolutely adore this cover. It looks romantic and magical. The main midnight blue colour really stands out, but the colours of their clothes really pops too. I honestly can’t wait to read it! Find out more below 👇

Blurb:

She hates Christmas. He’s about to change her mind…
Cassie isn’t a fan of Christmas. After a string of unlucky incidents during the festive season—including getting dumped—this year she decides to spend the day at home. Alone. No men. No complications.

But then her nightmare boss demands she track down this year’s most coveted Christmas gift—and the only person who can help is an annoyingly sexy Frenchman she’s just met.

Nicolas might look hot, but Cassie can tell he’s also arrogant, irritating and in love with himself. Exactly the kind of guy she hates. Plus, he’ll only help her find the gift if she helps him with something in return…

Could Cassie’s festive fortunes finally be about to change? Can she learn to love Christmas again? And will Cassie get lucky in more ways than one?

Set against a gorgeous London backdrop with sparkling lights, Christmas markets and mistletoe, My Lucky Night is a fun, sexy enemies-to-lovers romcom novella that will give you all the feels! Ideal for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Mhairi McFarlane.

Read as a standalone novella or as book two in the My Ten-Year Crush series.

Fool Me Twice at Christmas by Camilla Isley

I love Camilla Isley’s books. Despite only having read Opposites Attract and I Have Never, I now consider her a must-read author. I love a festive read, especially a romance, and this one sounded like great fun. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

Blurb:

There are two types of relationships: fake and real.

Chuck and Kate’s used to be real, oh-so-real. But after she broke his heart four months ago, leaving him, it became all just pretense for the sake of their entwined families.

With parents who are best friends and business partners, it’s not easy for Chuck and Kate to announce they’ve split up. But with the holidays looming over them, they can no longer keep pretending.

They head home for Christmas, determined to tell the truth—and end up accidentally engaged instead. The more they try to pull apart, the more the Universe seems to push them back together, shortening the road to the altar. And when just-for-show kisses stir up forgotten feelings, things get even more complicated.

Now, with the midnight hour approaching, will Chuck and Kate’s relationship turn out to be fake or real?

My thoughts:

This has been a fun, light and entertaining read. It uses the ‘will they won’t they’ trope very well as it is clear from the beginning that Chuck and Kate have history, and they also have a lot of connections and complications which in some ways made it very easy to ‘couple up’ but not so easy to separate or disentangle their lives.

I wouldn’t describe this is a very heavily festive book so it’s made perfect reading for the end of September, when (to me anyway) Christmas still feels very far away. However, the Christmas connection is clearly there and is a huge part of the plot in the sense that the couple feel forced to put on a front to keep their close families happy at Christmas time.

This is a character-driven story and is told from the perspective of both Kate and Chuck which I really liked. It provides different perspectives and gives you a fuller understanding of their relationship and their issues. I did enjoy the claustrophobia of the small-town setting too as this also provided opportunities for mis-communication, misunderstandings and gossip to complicate things.

This is not a serious book but it does touch on some serious issues like society’s expectations of relationships and the importance of communication. It is mostly a light-hearted read with some very funny moments.

I have been hooked on this one from the beginning and keen to know how it would pan out. This has been part of a great start to my festive reading season. I would recommend this book and author to fans of true romantic comedy, and authors like Sophie Ranald, Mary Jayne Baker and Zara Stoneley.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Twelve Dates ‘Till Christmas by Jennifer C Wilson

I was drawn to this book by the cover. It’s crisp, it’s snowy, it’s fun, cute, romantic, animated… it’s basically everything you could want in the cover of a Christmas novella!

Blurb:

Winter 2019.

Callum and Lexie are perfect for each other – at least, that’s what everyone tells them. But they’re just good friends, aren’t they? And neither wants to ruin the solid friendship that’s treated them so well since university.

But when an old school friend of Callum’s asks Lexie for a date, and passions overflow on a work night out, could it be the trigger to show each of them what they have been missing out on all this time?

With twelve weeks until Christmas, that’s a lot of opportunity for romance – and for misunderstandings…

My thoughts:

This has been an easy and fun novella to read, with an original structure that allows for the plot to move forward quickly and provides an insight into both Callum and Lexie’s lives and thoughts.

This is definitely a will they, won’t they? sort of book and you are left hoping that they will once you get to know them both. Lexie is an independent, hard-working and sensible character, whilst Callum comes across as more of a cheeky chappy but you can definitely see that they both have their hearts in the right place and their loyalty to each other is strong from the beginning. But will they risk their friendship to embark on a romantic relationship?

This could have been a slow burn but the structure and shortness of it ensures that it’s actually quite a quick and pacey read, which I enjoyed.

This is definitely a book that I would recommend to fans of the romantic fiction genre and I hope to see the author writing more in this genre in the future.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Murder At The Wedding by Helena Dixon

I was drawn to this book as I’ve dipped in and out of this series, including reading Murder On The Dancefloor, which was one I really enjoyed. I love the bright illustrated covers which give a sense of the small-town but also historical fiction nature of these books.

Blurb:

Till death do us part may come sooner than they thought…

1934. Kitty Underhay steps out of the battered Rolls Royce and onto the gravelled driveway of Thurscomb Castle in deepest Yorkshire. She’s honoured to be a bridesmaid at her cousin Lucy’s wedding to the reluctant Lord Rupert Woodcomb, but as family and friends gather for welcome drinks, Kitty dodges intrusive questions about her own marital status by taking a stroll about the castle grounds. As she passes through the manicured gardens, a fatal shot rings out…

The valet, Evans, is dead. And Kitty can’t help but notice how rattled the man standing next to him seems. Could Rupert’s best man, The Right Honourable Alexander ‘Sandy’ Galsworthy, believe the speeding bullet was meant for him?

When she discovers that Sandy has been receiving blackmail notes, Kitty suspects that one of the assembled guests has plans to make good on their threats. The local constabulary won’t act on Kitty’s hunch, so, busy with her bridesmaid’s duties, she asks her beau, ex-army captain Matthew Bryant, to help.

The ceremony passes without a hitch. But when an anxious Sandy slips away during the dancing, Matt follows, only to make a hideous discovery: Sandy is dead, flattened on the terrace by some falling masonry.

Now the duo are sure that there is a murderer within the castle walls. But can they untangle Sandy’s final hours and catch this killer before they strike again, or will the wedding bells be replaced by a death knell for Kitty herself…?

My thoughts:

This is a great addition and continuation to the Miss Underhay series. The fact that we are taken away from the original setting to a new area for a wedding gives the book a fresh feel.

I love the historical nature of these books and the fact it is set in a different time just adds another layer of escapism, additional to reading a modern cosy mystery. Helena works well to bring the period to life through the details she describes.

Kitty is a great character. She is likeable, honest, brave and her deduction skills are to be admired as she works her way through the different suspects and lines of enquiry. The initial suspicion of ghosts follow by the murders obviously brings a level of darkness to the book, but this is balanced by the lightness we see through Kitty’s blossoming romance and relationship with Matt, which I loved seeing.

Overall, this has been an enjoyable and original read. I would recommend this book and author to fans of Katie Gayle and Fiona Lietch.

Rating: 4 out of 5.