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Ten Dates by Rachel Dove

I am a huge fan of Rachel Dove and it is a huge honour to be involved in the blog tour for her latest release, Ten Dates. The cover is bright and appealing, and definitely draws into the story, where two people meet for the first time …. again!

Blurb:

Is it the end of their love story or just the beginning?

Callum Roberts and Alice McClaren have spent two wonderful years building a life and a home and making plans for a future together. But when Alice is involved in a car crash, Callum fears that he has lost her forever. As he sits by her bedside he promises he’ll do anything if only she’ll open her eyes…

But when Alice does finally wake up, she has absolutely no memory of being in love with Callum or the life they once shared. In fact, all she remembers about him is how incredibly annoying he once was! How can she have forgotten him if she really did love him so deeply?

Callum is determined to prove to Alice that what they had was special, so he makes her a deal: he’ll recreate their first ten dates and make her fall in love with him all over again!

Alice isn’t sure Callum can fill in all the gaps in their story.And what if going back to the start only means the end?

My thoughts:

This has been my favourite romance read of the year so far. It was very addictive and based on a really interesting and original premise. Callum was a fiercely loyal, patient and kind partner as he helped Alice rebuild the pieces of her life after suffering a tremendous brain injury.

There were times through this story where I laughed and others where I sobbed my little heart out. It was a true rollercoaster that I experienced with the characters. The complexity of memory definitely comes through as Alice wonders why she remembers certain things and not others, leaving her to question some of the choices she made before the accident.

I was never in any doubt that Callum was perfect for her, but will Alice be able to place the pieces of the puzzle back together before she loses Callum for good?

The ending of the book was both devastating and beautiful. I felt like my heart had been ripped out, trampled on and then stitched back together.

A truly gorgeous, heart-warming read that explores human connection in its most complex, and yet simplest form – love.

This book and author is a perfect choice for fans of Beth O Leary, Rachel Marks and Jill Shalvis.

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Escape to Futtingbrook Farm by Nicola May

I am very excited to be sharing a book that I have previously loved, which has been given a gorgeous new cover and title! I absolutely love Nicola May’s books and this was one of my favourite. Scroll down for more 👇

Blurb:

Jilted by her soap opera fiancé, crime writer August Saunders decides to return to her roots in rural Wiltshire. Determined to reignite her writing mojo, she rents a desk in a shared workspace in local Futtingbrook Farm.

The converted barn comes with a motley array of fellow users, including a matchmaker, a TikToker with a dodgy nocturnal side-line and an ethical clothes designer – causing August to realise she doesn’t have far to look for real-life plot fuel!

There’s also a real-life mystery for her to solve. Why is Max Ronson, the handsome but volatile owner, so evasive about his past? And who or what is he hiding on the premises?

As August begins to unravel the shadowy secrets of Futtingbrook Farm, will her curiosity snuff out the spark of romance – or ignite it?

Nicola May uses her inimitable style to convey love, grief, and happiness, making Futtingbrook Farm as beloved a location as Ferry Lane Market or Cockleberry Bay.

Perfect for fans of Milly Johnson, Sarah Morgan, Jill Mansell, and Cathy Bramley.

My thoughts:

Nicola May creates characters that are wholesome, believable and raw. I really took to the character of August. As a writer, her qualities were complet5ely fitting. She appeared somewhat reclusive at times, also very nosy or interested in mystery, focused, determined but also capable of empathy. She was just a great main character.

Nicola’s writing style is very original and engaging. The book discusses some dark themes, including grief and suicide, but Nicola ensures the tone remains light through her dry and sarcastic sense of humour.

The romance element is also very believable and this part of the story definitely had me hooked. It felt relatable and real, as they struggle to navigate and find harmony between all the pushes and pulls of real life. I actually very much prefer this sort of romance in a story, when compared to the ‘sweep you off your feet’ idyllic romance.

To sum up, this was an entertaining, fun but also addictive and emotional read. It’s a great story about finding your place in the world and letting go of the past.

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I’ll Never Tell by Philippa East

This was our #Squadpod book club pick for January and I’m very glad we chose it as it was my first time being exposed to the fabulousness that is Philippa East! I’d also like to thank the author and publisher for sending advance copies 😊 ❤️

Blurb:

Keep your family close, and your secrets closer…

To the outside world, the Goodlights are perfect.

Julia is a lawyer, Paul a stay-at-home dad who has dedicated his life to helping their daughter Chrissie achieve her dreams as a talented violinist.

But on the night of a prestigious music competition, which has the power to change everything for Chrissie and her family, Chrissie goes missing.

She puts on the performance of a lifetime, then completely disappears. Suddenly every single crack, every single secret that the family is hiding risks being exposed.

Because the Goodlights aren’t perfect. Not even close.

My thoughts:

This has all the ingredients of what I consider to be a perfect thriller. A domestic setting that becomes increasingly creepy when a trail of clues could suggest what happened to Chrissie, a missing child, and a complex family that hide being the facade of wealth, music and noble occupation.

There was definitely a sense that this could go the cliche way though- girl is missing, boy is missing, girl turns up dead, boyfriend killed her. Thankfully, Philippa manages to avoid all the cliches and instead creates an addictive and original thriller.

I really had no idea where this one was going and I’ve shared a quote below from the book that encapsulates this. However, it also brings to light the sense we get from the novel that this is a broken family, with a damaged past and they themselves have no idea how they will navigate out of it.

“Everything in the rear view mirror is broken, and he has no idea what awaits him ahead.”

The characters are believable and most not very likeable, but I like that in this sort of book! There were times when I felt sorry for Chrissie, though. The grandparents were a great addition to the story and provided another layer of meaning which pieces the whole story together.

The psychological elements of the story, such as the exploration of flight or fight, the obsessive behaviour etc, are all really strong but then I should have expected no less from a trained clinical psychologist!

Overall, a gripping and unpredictable read that I’d recommend for fans of Lisa Jewell, K L Slater and Lauren North.

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A Winter Wish by Rosie Green

I adore this series but I think Clara might be my new favourite character. I am so emotionally invested in her, her future & her family now. I was really rooting for her find happiness in this one!

Blurb:

With her new-found happiness unexpectedly crushed, Clara is struggling to move forward. It’s hard – especially with step-sister Lois bouncing around the place with joy and making all sorts of plans for the future. When step-mum Irene starts behaving oddly and a neighbour makes a shocking accusation, Clara finds herself in an impossible position. And it’s a situation that threatens to destroy her blossoming romance almost before it’s begun . . .

My thoughts:

I absolutely adored this installment of the series. I am a huge must-read fan of this series and Rosie consistently creates likeable, sympathetic and believable characters.

Clara is hardworking, selfless and completely deserving of a Knight in shining armour! There is someone on the periphery who could be that for her, but circumstances mean that she is kept waiting.

This is not a straight forward love story and it definitely keeps you hanging on until the very last moment!

Clara has a lot to juggle within her family and domestic circumstance, with caring for her little brother, step mum and Gran, as well as trying to handle a job and dealing with a host of emotions when it comes to to the two men in her life. The way she handles it mostly with poise, calm and the kind heart that eminates from her is absolutely incredible and brings an understated magic to the book.

Overall, this is an addictive and endearing installment to my current favourite romantic fiction series. I am so excited to read the next one very soon! For anyone thinking they like the sound of this but feel daunted by the prospects of a series of 24 books, try starting with book 23 (Clara’s Secret Garden) as this reads like a little mini series with the wonderful Clara at the forefront!

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Just Say Yes by Maxine Morrey

I am a big fan of Maxine Morrey and have read a lot of her books. You Only Live Once is my current favourite, but I’ve never read one I didn’t enjoy. Once again, I love the intriguing title and the colourful cover!

Blurb:

There’s only one problem – dream cottages take a lot of work, and with a leaking roof, and not enough money to pay for it, what Maddie needs now is a big wedding to plan.

So she’s delighted when she takes on the wedding of Californian heiress Peyton, to all-round good guy Patrick. She’s less delighted to find out that she’s going to have help – from the admittedly gorgeous, but equally maddening, tall, dark and handsome best man Lorcan.

The wedding is set to take place in a castle in rural Ireland, and so, in no time, Maddie and Lorcan are on their way to Ballalee. Life hasn’t always been easy for Maddie, and work has become her refuge. But soon the warmth and humour of Lorcan’s Irish family and friends start to chip away at Maddie’s walls. And as the big day approaches, it might be time for Maddie to focus less on her clients’ love life and more on her own…

‘Read yourself happy’ with Maxine Morrey’s latest feel-good and utterly uplifting love story, guaranteed to make you smile. Perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane and Sophie Kinsella.

My thoughts:

This is a heart-warming and uplifting story. It’s a great reminder that you can find love and trust despite being hurt or let down in the last. Maddie is the epitome of a trustworthy and reliable character. She is so organised and regimented in everything she does, those close to her are even able to identify when she will eat, when she will bath and what time she goes to bed.

A creature of habit but also a pretty successful and definitely effective wedding planner, it appears that her organisational skills are used in order to help her feel in full control of her life at any point. She actually reminds me very much of a close friend, and this made certain points very relatable and also laugh out loud. You may read it and think, “Who actually colour codes all areas of their diary, down to what they will eat each night?” But having been friends with highly organised people, I could totally see it as believable.

I really liked the chemistry and fun between Lorcan and Maddie. For me, their connection and attraction was obvious but I did find myself both frustrated at how long they were taking to communicate their feelings to each other, but at the same time enjoying the build up too Peyton and Patrick’s wedding and seeing an emotional depth to the characters which is unexpected in a book like this.

Throughout the story, there is definitely drama, gorgeous scenes describing stunning scenery in Ireland, heartwarming dialogue and touching insights into characters’ vulnerabilities.

This book serves as a reminder that sometimes we must go with our heart and not our head, and take chances at the first opportunity. Because, if we don’t overthink it, it really is as simple as just saying yes!

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A White Christmas on Winter St

I was drawn to this book because I love Sue Moorcroft’s books and I am a huge fan of festive fiction. The cover is beautiful and encapsulates one of the main images in the book – Sky throwing herself into her Christmas decorations project in order to avoid dealing with some of her problems.

Blurb:

When Sky Terran returns to the village of Middledip after losing the job she loves, she anticipates a quiet Christmas getting used to her new life. However, the annual street decoration competition is coming up and this year, the residents of Winter Street are determined to win.

As she is pulled into the preparations, Sky quickly grows to love the quirky, tight-knit community she is now part of. Including the extremely handsome Daz, who soon becomes more than just a friendly neighbour.

But when Daz’s ex turns up determined to win him back and it seems he might not be the man Sky thought he was, she remembers how much allowing people into her life – and heart – can hurt. As the snow falls, will she and Daz find a way through – and help win a Christmas victory for Winter Street?

A gorgeously festive novel about love, family and the power of forgiveness from Sunday Times bestseller Sue Moorcroft, perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan and Phillipa Ashley.

My thoughts:

This book definitely has all the hallmarks of a brilliant Christmas book. A shocking opening that means that Sky is left at risk of being lonely and sad at Christmas, a beautifully Christmas setting including the aptly named “Winter Street’ and the huge community spirit at Christmas, including a friendly-on-the suface decorating competition.

What sets this book apart is that Sue is not afraid to deal with some of the harsh realities of family life and how they become more amplified at Christmas time. Sue deals with family issues related to fostering, identity, imprisonment and disharmony when business mixes with family. This level of depth adds so much to the story and at times I found this book very emotional.

Sky is a believable character and a true heroine of the story. She is hard working, but the situation at the start of the book teaches her that there’s more to life than work. Sky reluctantly throws herself into community life in Middledip, though she quickly embraces manly elements wholeheartedly, and she forges bonds with a whole host of interesting and likeable characters.

Daz is totally likeable. He comes across as selfless and helpful, with a great sense of humour and also a good level of dedication to his own work as a video game developer. I was rooting for the two of them but knew it was going to be difficult for Sky to put her trust issues and past aside.

Overall, a heartwarming and sparkling Christmas treat. This is perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan, Mandy Baggott and Trisha Ashley.

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Wendy’s Winter Gift by Debbie Viggiano

When I first came to Debbie’s books, she was a bit of an unknown quantity and not someone I’d really heard of. Now, she is a must read author for me and I absolutely adored all her books. Her covers and writing have a distinct style, which I absolutely love.

Blurb:

Everyone has secrets but some are bigger than others.

Wendy Walker can count on two fingers the number of birthdays until she’s fifty. She can also count on six hands the number of years she’s been married to controlling Derek. Whatever happened to the boy she used to lark around with in the back of a Ford Escort? Just like Derek’s hairline, that lad has gone.

Wendy yearns for freedom but is resigned to her lot. After all, there are others to think about. Like daughter Ruby who – as a teenage single mum still at home – needs supporting, especially since abandoning her hopes of being on Love Island and achieving fame as a reality star.

But secrets dare to spill at the most inopportune moments.

Ruby is nurturing a mystery romance that she frets about her mother discovering, while Derek finds himself under the spotlight in the most disastrous of circumstances.

But just when Wendy thinks her world is falling apart, she discovers that sometimes unexpected joy is just around life’s corner…

My thoughts:

I say this every time, but I think this might be my favourite Debbie Viggiano book to date. I adored the character of Wendy. She is likeable, reliable and hard-working. Her family set up and circumstances are very believable and it is clear that Wendy is the glue that holds the family together.

Derek is the perfect villain character, and Gabe the perfect hero. In some ways, on the surface, this appears like a straightforward love story. However, there are bumps in the road that are realistic yet not insignificant. You have Derek, with his difficult character and secrets and lies, which when coupled with Wendy’s lack of self confidence and financial reliance on Derek, plus Gabe and Wendy’s attempt to maintain their professional relationship, could mean a recipe for disaster.

There is a perfect balance of drama and comedy. The book touches on serious topics including loss, teenage pregnancy, and being complicit in another person’s unfair treatment of you. However, the dog walking antics, and Wendy’s inner monologue provides some perfect comic relief. The inner monologue definitely helped me build a big connection with Wendy, so that I was completely invested in her fure and happiness.

Overall, this has been the perfect, uplifting, heartwarming winter read and I couldn’t recommend Debbie Viggiano any more highly.

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Murder In Tuscany by T A Williams

I love T.A. Williams and I love cosy mysteries, so this seemed like a great option for me! The cover is beautiful and encapsulates the beautiful Tuscan landscape.

Blurb:

A brand new cozy crime series set in gorgeous Tuscany…It’s murder in paradise!

A remote retreat…

Nestled high in the Tuscan hills lies Villa Volpone, home to renowned crime writer Jonah Moore and his creative writing course. It’s also the last place retired DCI Dan Armstrong expected to spend his retirement! Dan’s no writer, but maybe this break will help him to think about the next chapter in his own life story?

A gruesome murder…

But only days into the course, Jonah Moore is found stabbed to death with his award-winning silver dagger! And Dan finds himself pulled out of retirement with a killer to catch.

Eleven possible suspects.

The other guests all seem shocked by Jonah’s death, but Dan knows that one of them must be lying. And as he and Italian Commissario Virgilio Pisano begin to investigate it quickly becomes clear that everyone at Villa Volpone has secrets to hide…

But can Dan discover who the murderer is before they strike again?

My thoughts:

This was quite a slow burn to begin with, but this was done purposefully as allowing us to get to know the characters and get to grips with the setting made the investigation easier to follow, following the murder.

Dan is a great character and I respected him a lot from the very beginning. It was clear that he was trying to make the most of his retirement, but also had a natural aptitude and desire for investigation following his lengthy career in the Met.

It didn’t quite sit right with me that Dan was so good at speaking Italian, despite claiming to be rusty but this was important in allowing him to have a central role in the investigation and be a bridge between the guests at the retreat and the local police.

With eleven suspects to choose from, it takes a skilful writer to manage and balance these investigations without the reader becoming overwhelmed, especially when trying to write cosy mystery. The focus on Dan and Oscar allowed this, as we followed the unravelling of the mystery from their perspective.

Overall, a lighthearted and engaging cosy mystery with believable characters and plenty of twists to keep you guessing!

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Blind Dates by Gordon Macmillan

I read Gordon’s previous book and debut release in 2021, titled Songs For Your Mother. That book took me by surprise as I was completely engrossed and would definitely name it as one of my favourite uplifting reads of 2021. Therefore, I had high hopes for this one. The cover is eye-catching and the title suggested it would be romantic and fun.

Blurb:

Tom has always been a hopeless romantic: but now he’s just hopeless. After lockdown in particular made the millennial a reclusive introvert, it was finally time to get back ‘out there’ – at least according to his best friends Adam, Allison and sister Sarah.

As the group sets up 10 dates to rejuvenate Tom’s love life, he soon realises how difficult the dating scene has become, along with juggling his Shakespearean-themed cafe and a hobby of romantic mixtape making.

As some of the dates turn into disasters, an old flame keeps reappearing in Tom’s sight – along with bitter-sweet memories. Fearing it may be too little too late, Tom must decide whether he can date his way to happiness, or find his true match was under his nose the whole time…

A warm, uplifting read about finding love while also finding yourself, for fans of Mike Gayle and Hazel Prior.

My thoughts:

I would definitely describe this book as romantic and fun, but there are many layers to this book. The main character, Tom, is likeable and easy to imagine.

Tom’s character is a well-developed character who comes across as independent, brave and hard-working. Tom’s choice to give up his job as a journalist in order to open his own coffee shop was a really interesting one to think about. There was a lot of discussion in the book relating to the old mantra that you either live to work or work to live. This was quite interesting, especially within the post-pandemic context in which this book is set, but also reflects the world we are all currently living in.

In his note at the end of the book, Gordon expressed that he wanted this book to some extent to reflect the pandemic, but not be about the pandemic in a way that was depressing or off-putting. I think he definitely achieved this, in this hopeful and entertaining book.

I could relate to Tom’s feelings of social anxiety and having almost become too comfortable in our own home environment, so much so that venturing out can still, even now, feel like a mammoth and unnecessary task. I think that the pandemic changed all of us, one way or another, and I believe that this should be addressed more.

This is far from the focus of this book though, and the fun and sometimes hilarious, sometimes brutal world of dating is definitely its focus. Gordon has somehow managed to use this popular romantic fiction trope in an original way.

After a series of dates, all with varying levels of success but each one entertaining to read about, it was still difficult to predict where this one was going. I loved that this one kept me guessing right until the very end.

Once again, Gordon has created an original and uplifting book with memorable characters that have warmed my heart. I think he is a brilliant writer!

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Clara’s Secret Garden by Rosie Green

I have read so many of the books in this series, and I just can’t get enough of them! In my opinion, they just get better and better. In this installment, the Little Duck Pond Cafe is on the periphery of the narrative for much of the story, I love how the cafe has allowed this series to take on a life of its own!

Blurb:

When Clara Bowes transforms a wilderness of a garden, she isn’t expecting to reconnect with someone special from her past at the same time.

Having Rory Angel in her life again is a dream come true. But life is never straight forward – especially in matters of the heart – and soon, a devastating revelation looks set to bring Clara’s hopes for the future crashing down around her.

Will she find the strength to reach for her dreams? Don’t miss this gorgeously sunny read, perfect for the summer months!

My thoughts:

Firstly, I loved the host of characters in this book, especially Clara and her Gran. I wasn’t so sold on Lois, and I was definitely disgusted by Ireme, though even she had her golden moments in the book where she showed that she does have a caring and supportive side.

Clara is an absolutely delightful human being. In developing her back story, Rosie creates a lot of sympathy for her and it is very clear that she deserves to be valued and loved.

The romance storyline is one hell of a rollercoaster! There are quite a few unexpected but completely believable twists, and Rosie keeps us guessing right until the end! Only to remind us, of course, that Clara’s story is far from over and we are going to meet her again in the next installment of the Little Pond Cafe, which I hope to read very soon.

Rosie Green’s Little Duck Pond Cafe series is uplifting, touching, addictive and consistent proof that some of the best things come in small packages!

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