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No Ex Before Marriage by Portia Macintosh

I absolutely adore Portia’s books and this is actually the fifth book by her to feature on this blog, making her possibly one of the most featured authors on here! She writes fun and heart-warming romantic comedies, so I had high hopes for this book!

Blurb:

While her friends join the “Wife Club” one by one, Poppy feels like that part of her life is done and dusted. Already married and divorced she’s not desperate to go through all that again.

But what if her divorce never actually went through…?

After a shock revelation Poppy not only discovers she is still married, but that Zac is about to have his second wedding!

Coming face to face with her (almost) ex-husband after six years apart is never going to be easy. And when Zac panics and tells his new wife-to-be that Poppy is family, things can’t get much worse as she is welcomed with open arms as part of the wedding party!

As the memories flood back, can Poppy really leave the past where it is? And can she watch the first love of her life walk down the aisle to say ‘I do’ once again?

My thoughts:

Let’s start with a bold statement! I actually think this is the best book I’ve read by Portia, and that is high praise indeed as I have enjoyed each and every one of her books.

When you read a book by this author, you are guaranteed to find likeable characters, interesting and comforting storylines, and bespoke and well described settings. This book has all of that. However, I also definitely found this a really touching and emotional read.

Poppy is a great character and I identified with her in a lot of ways. She is a strong, career-driven woman who has been through a huge amount of upheaval and is still trying to find her place in the world. (reminding me of myself!) I loved following Poppy on this journey and the fact that we get to see segments of her past, as well as details of her present and a glimpse into the future, ensures that her character is fully developed and the narrative satisfying and fulfilling.

The story itself takes you through a lot of ups and downs, and reminds us constantly of the importance of family, friends but most of all communication. In true Portia style, this is still a properly funny book in parts and will have you laughing at loud at times, and close to tears at others.

Zachary is also a great character, and I personally feel like he serves to highlight some of the problems with the “modern man”. Content for an easy life in terms of relationships, struggling with emotional communication and striving for success pretty much sums up Zach. You definitely get the sense that he is someone who, on the surface, has it all, but deep down is needing something more. Is the missing piece of the puzzle Poppy herself, or is there more to this story?

This is an absolutely gorgeous read and highly recommended for fans of true romantic comedy authors, such as Sophie Ranald, Carole Matthews and Camilla Isley.

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Birthday Party by Wendy Dranfield

I am a big fan of Wendy’s books and have previously enjoyed her Detective Madison Harper series, so I was excited to read this standalone crime thriller. The title and cover is definitely engaging and eye catching as you’d expect to be a birthday party to be a positive and happy experience, not the location of a horrible crime!

Blurb:

Charlotte waves at her mother across the crowded lawn. Little red boots on, cowboy hat crooked over her blonde pigtails, she’s been looking forward to this party for weeks. Moments later, she disappears without a trace…

Kathy Hamilton drives away from her sister-in-law’s pristine-white suburban house in Maple Falls certain she’s left her daughter in safe hands. On the hottest day of the year, a birthday is the perfect excuse to gather friends, family and neighbors around the pool for a barbecue. But when she returns hours later to find her little girl has vanished, her world shatters.

Nobody laughing and drinking in the garden that day saw anything unusual.

Kathy’s eldest daughter is anxious and hardly eating. Is she sick with worry for her sister, or hiding a terrible secret?

The phone rings and rings, but why can’t Kathy get hold of the babysitter?

And is she imagining it, or when her husband rushed from work to join the search, was he wearing a different shirt to the one she saw him leave the house in that morning?

As the temperature rises, and long-buried secrets begin to surface, it’s clear that even the most perfect families keep devastating secrets. But in a town as small as this, is there anyone you can trust?

A totally gripping and utterly addictive page-turner that will have you racing through and reeling at the twists. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Gone Girl and Teresa Driscoll, it will keep you up reading all night long!

My thoughts:

I have to admit that it took me quite some time to get into this story. It has a lot of the elements I enjoy in a crime thriller, including a relatable detective, short chapters and the emotional pull relating to the trope of the missing child.

However, apart from the admirable Chase, I really didn’t like any of the characters and that set me off kilter for quite a while. Once I’d come to terms with the fact that although I wanted this child to be found safe and well, I didn’t actually feel sorry for any of Charlie’s close family, I managed to get into it. This didn’t fit well with me at first, but at the story goes on, you come to realise that this may actually be the point and it casts suspicion on a far larger number of people than you’d originally suspect.

This, along with a fast moving plot and significant and unexpected twists make you question a lot of what is going on and really throws up into the air who is actually to blame for the girl’s disappearance.

There was one plot point in particular that I guessed quite early on, but this actually hooked me in more in a sense as I was wondering if I was right, and how it would play out when it happened. The ending is definitely the best part of the book and I struggled to put it down for about the last quarter.

It is clear that Wendy Dranfield is talented at creating believable characters, complex storylines and setting up and unpacking unexpected crimes. I am looking forward to reading more by this author.

🌟🌟🌟.5

A Nose For Mischief by K.T. Lee

I was drawn to this book by the fun and bright cover. I also love a cosy mystery, especially one with an animal companion! I had high hopes for this one after previously enjoying books by Syl Waters and Fiona Lietch.

Blurb:

When materials engineer Zoey Butler lands her dream job at Future State Energy, she believes her research in renewable energy will make headlines. Unfortunately for her, she’s right. Zoey is working on her latest experiment when FBI Special Agent Alexis Thompson and her K-9 partner, Waffle, raid Future State and arrest the head of the development for fraud. Zoey helps the FBI find answers in the aftermath, but she soon finds herself jobless and unemployable. Desperate and out of options, she reaches out to Alexis, the one person who knows Zoey was duped like everyone else.

Liam Graham is an FBI special agent and instructor at Riverbend K-9 Academy. When Alexis brings in a new recruit with an unusual background, Liam pairs her up with Tasha, a dog in need of a handler to stay in their competitive program. Zoey is thrilled to put her past behind her and give the mischievous rescue dog her own second chance. However, shortly after she arrives, the FBI realizes the Future State case is far from closed. And Zoey may be the key to solving it.

Zoey offers to go back to Future State to help the FBI end things once and for all. Only this time, she’ll have Liam and Tasha for backup. But, the problems at Future State are more explosive than any of them suspect.

My thoughts:

The mystery genre, whether that be cosy or otherwise, has become focused on the issues of murder and disappearance. Obviously, there are a much wider variety of crimes and mysteries out there that are, for a multitude of reasons, both difficult and necessary to solve. Therefore it was refreshing for me to read a book that focuses on another issue altogether.

The use and focus on dogs fits well into the story and of course, is a natural inclusion as their partnership and help with investigations and police work has long been known and respected. The dogs definitely provide an extra layer of fun in this book, as well helping Zoey to settle and feel safe during some surprising events.

I really liked and respected the main characters of Alexis, Zoey and Liam, but you are given full access to a wide range of vibrant characters which definitely bodes well for further books in the series.

I found the writing style easy and enjoyable, and the positive elements related to self-confidence, team-work and hints of romance definitely give this sometimes explosive mystery a cosy and comforting feel.

I will definitely be checking out more books by this author in the near future and looking out for the next in the series which is to be released in October, later this year. I would definitely recommend this fun and atmospheric book to fans of the cosy mystery genre.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Wedding At Hedgehog Hollow by Jessica Redland

Regular readers of this blog will know that I read a wide variety of genres, but romantic fiction is one of my favourites. Within that genre, Jessica Redland continues to hold the position as probably my favourite author! I named All You Need Is Love as one of my favourite standalones of 2021, but I also absolutely adore this series & as soon as I finish one book, I want the next! Write quicker please, Miss Redland 😂

Blurb:

It’s time for the wedding we’ve all been waiting for…

Life at Hedgehog Hollow is never dull, although Samantha hopes that the new year ahead will be a little less chaotic as she prepares to marry the love of her life, Josh. But disaster strikes when she checks the rescue centre’s bank account after the festive season and discovers it has been emptied. Who would do such a thing, and why? With the future of Hedgehog Hollow now in jeopardy, planning a wedding has lost its shine.

Phoebe is desperate to escape the shadow of her family, infamously known for their attacks on Samantha’s beloved rescue centre. Could the kindness of the Hedgehog Hollow team be the chance she needs for a fresh start, or will her family’s secrets continue to drag her back?

Top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland welcomes you back to glorious Hedgehog Hollow; full of love, family, friendship – and hedgehogs of course!

My thoughts:

I am so excited that I finally got to witness the wedding of Josh and Sam. Despite the title, the wedding really only plays a small part in this book, though of course it is a huge focal point and important moment for Sam and Josh. There are enough other juicy storylines to keep you interested but also to read this as a standalone story if you’ve never picked up this series before.

I love how Jessica Redland manages to balance this: bringing readers of the previous stories straight back into the action with their favourite characters, whilst providing enough opportunity for new readers to get involved, without spending pages or chapters going over old news! Whether you are a newcomer to the series or not, you are immediately drawn to the warmth of the main characters and intrigued by the beautiful projects and plans they have happening at Hedgehog Hollow.

I love how we are moving between characters and the fact that this story focuses very much on Phoebe. I was definitely intrigued by her story and felt sympathy for her. I was rooting for her to move outside her circumstances and achieve her goals, but with a family background as complex and nasty as hers, it’s definitely questionable whether she can.

There is a huge sense of mystery and injustice within this book that drives the plot forward and makes you want to carry on reading. There is romance but also drama, with Jessica even managing to sensitively handle and discuss issues such as fraud and abuse whilst still managing to maintain the feeling of comfort you ultimately get from these books.

At the end of the book, I still feel like there was more we could hear from Phoebe, as well as more exciting plans for Sam and Josh, so I was relieved to hear that there will definitely be a book five. I’m simply so excited to be back in this gorgeous setting and seeing what else is in store for this vibrant and likeable cast of characters. I really don’t know what I will do if this series ends as it’s such a source of joy for me!

Once again, a stunning, well-written and gripping storyline full of romance and drama, proving to all of us that home is where the heart is! It’s really difficult to put into words how beautiful and touching these books really are, so you will just have to take my word, trust my billion star rating, and see for yourself!

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 (billion)

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins

This was final read of 2021 and it definitely caused me a book hangover, so it’s taken me a few days to gather my thoughts. It was my bookish bestie’s book of the year for 2021, and after reading, I can completely see why. I treated myself a few months back to the hardback edition, and I was waiting for the opportunity to pick this one up.

Blurb:

Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.

Their ten year-old daughter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.

Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.

For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened that night – with devastating consequences for them all.

When I Was Ten is the highly anticipated, stay-up-all-night next book by acclaimed crime author Fiona Cummins.

My thoughts:

It is no exaggeration to say that I was hooked into this book from the opening pages. You immediately wonder who the girl is, why she is running, why she is scared and why on earth she is not safe and warm at home during an extreme thunderstorm. This book makes you ask question after question, and is even structured in such a way to ask and answer questions, as it is split into three key sections that explore: who, why and when.

“That’s the terrible truth about mistakes. We never know when we’re making them.”

This is an enthralling book about mistakes, secrets, lies and how difficult it is to face up to mistakes we, and others around us, have made. It takes on a journey over a number of years, following seemingly separate lives until we are able to uncover the truth of the situation, behind which many have tried to hide the shame of their mistakes and actions.

“The darkness was so dense it had texture.”

This is definitely a book that sums up my overall feelings of the book. It is so dark, it almost feels palpable. There are gory and gruesome scenes, but what probably carries the biggest weight in terms of darkness is the truth of what happens behind the closed doors of Dr Richard Carter, and his wife Pamela’s, impressive home.

“Every house has a history that creeps into cracks and contimates the atmosphere, but this is different. The house knows.”

Fiona writes domestic tension and drama extremely well, and there is much exploration in the book about the notion of a home, the pull and push of home depending on your circumstances, as well as the complexities of families.

I obviously don’t want to provide any spoilers, as it is imperative that you add this book to your TBR for 2022, but I just want to finish by saying this is an original, complex and page-turning novel that covers many issues without feeling overly lengthy and onerous. It is about family and friendship, trust and betrayal, old mistakes and new beginnings. It uses much of the fantastic structural elements of the genre, such as complex timelines, multiple perspectives and short chapters, yet Fiona still manages to create something that feels completely different to anything I’ve read before.

In summary, this gripping and engaging book is a must-read for all crime and psychological thriller fans. It is definitely worthy of five stars. If you’re tempted, the book is also currently 99p on Kindle for a limited time!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Girl From Paris by Ella Carey

I adore Ella Carey’s books and I named ‘The New York Secret’ as one of my top 21 of 2021. Only a couple of ‘historical fiction’ books made my top list, so I feel this is testament to Ella’s talent and my love of her books. Therefore, I was very to keen to pick up this new title from her.

Blurb:

Vianne rushes through the crowded streets of Paris as the German bombs begin to fall. As she rounds the corner she sees the familiar spires of the old church burst into flames. Too late, she realizes that her mother and sister are trapped inside…

Paris, 1918. The end of war is in sight, and young seamstress Vianne Mercier is longing for the day when she can stop sewing military uniforms and start creating the beautiful dresses that she has been dreaming up in her head.

But just when it seems like peace is within reach, Vianne’s mother and sister are killed in a terrible air raid. To make matters worse, Vianne’s brother has returned home a changed man. Controlling and cruel, he presents Vianne with an ultimatum; give up her dreams of becoming a designer, or be forced onto the streets, penniless and alone.

With nothing left for her in Paris but sad memories, she decides to sail for New York. Determined not to look back, she throws herself into her new life—spending her days sewing dresses for wealthy Upper East Side women, and her evenings dancing the Charleston to Duke Ellington in the new downtown clubs. When Vianne meets handsome Italian Giorgio Conti, he encourages her career, and she feels safe for the first time since she lost her family.

Then news of a terrible accident compels Vianne to suddenly return to France, where she discovers proof of a wartime secret that changes everything she thought she knew about her family. Facing the threat of sickness and ruin, the people who forced Vianne out of her home now suddenly need her help.

Will Vianne find the courage to follow her heart, return to New York and her life with Giorgio? Or will duty bind her to the family she had left behind and force her to remain in France?

Vianne rushes through the crowded streets of Paris as the German bombs begin to fall. As she rounds the corner she sees the familiar spires of the old church burst into flames. Too late, she realizes that her mother and sister are trapped inside…

Paris, 1918. The end of war is in sight, and young seamstress Vianne Mercier is longing for the day when she can stop sewing military uniforms and start creating the beautiful dresses that she has been dreaming up in her head.

But just when it seems like peace is within reach, Vianne’s mother and sister are killed in a terrible air raid. To make matters worse, Vianne’s brother has returned home a changed man. Controlling and cruel, he presents Vianne with an ultimatum; give up her dreams of becoming a designer, or be forced onto the streets, penniless and alone.

With nothing left for her in Paris but sad memories, she decides to sail for New York. Determined not to look back, she throws herself into her new life—spending her days sewing dresses for wealthy Upper East Side women, and her evenings dancing the Charleston to Duke Ellington in the new downtown clubs. When Vianne meets handsome Italian Giorgio Conti, he encourages her career, and she feels safe for the first time since she lost her family.

Then news of a terrible accident compels Vianne to suddenly return to France, where she discovers proof of a wartime secret that changes everything she thought she knew about her family. Facing the threat of sickness and ruin, the people who forced Vianne out of her home now suddenly need her help.

Will Vianne find the courage to follow her heart, return to New York and her life with Giorgio? Or will duty bind her to the family she had left behind and force her to remain in France?

My thoughts:

I do enjoy historical fiction, but I’m not a massive ‘history buff’ so it does take something a little extra special to keep me hooked and interested in this genre. Ella Carey delivers everything I look for in a story of this type.

It is a page-turner, and not just because of the huge political, technological and social changes that are described and that did happen as a result of the first world war and its aftermath, but also the believable, likeable and vibrant characters she describes and we are able to follow closely in this book. You cannot help but have admiration and sympathy with the main character, ‘the girl from Paris’, Vianne. She is a brave, considerate and resilient woman.

There is an underlying social commentary throughout this book – related to the position of women, the aftermath of war, PTSD, the pull of family ties and the notion of ‘home’. However, this commentary is subtle and only adds to the main plot. Therefore, you almost learn about the social circumstances without even realising you’re doing so.

The plot contains some fantastic twists and a great deal of romance and drama alongside the backdrop and aftermath of the war in both Paris and America. These twists definitely kept me hooked, as did the fast pace that resulted from the quickly changing perspectives and the cleverly constructed dual-time narrative.

Once again, Ella has produced an emotional and gripping historical drama that proves her talent at creating likeable characters and unique storylines that are peppered with important and thought-provoking social and historical commentary. This has undoubtedly been a five star read for me and I would recommend this book and author to fans of Victoria Hislop, Heather Morris, Meghan Masterson and Ellie Midwood.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Her Rival by Emma Tallon

I have read quite a few of Emma’s books now and I absolutely adore them due to their nail-biting brilliance. I was so excited when I found out that this new series was set in the same world as the Tyler books, but with some fresh faces and storylines. I hoped that it would live up to my previous experiences of her books.

Blurb:

Scarlet Drew is new to London’s criminal underworld, but she’s hell bent on making a name for herself as joint head of the family firm alongside her aunt Lily. But when Scarlet finds herself alone with a rival business owner at a black-tie event, she is little prepared for what happens next.

Determined not to let the drunken lech get away with his crime, Scarlet hatches a plan for revenge – she’s going to steal his most valuable asset and put her name on the map. But as she gets to work, she fails to notice a silent stranger watching her every move. Someone knows exactly what she’s up to, and is plotting their own way to get their hands on the priceless goods.

Face to face with a new enemy, Scarlet fears the Drews may have finally met their match. With the whole family at risk, it’s going to take everything they have to stop their empire going up in smoke. But will everyone survive the fight?

Her Rival is a gripping and addictive crime thriller that has it all – strong women, explosive action and an ending that will have you gasping for breath!

My thoughts:

Firstly, this is the second in a series that now has three books and hopefully with more to come! However, if you’ve never read Emma Tallon’s books, and have previously enjoyed work by Martina Cole, Casey Kelleher or Kimberley Chambers or just fancy a dabble in a fresh and exciting genre, you can read any of Emma’s books as standalones.

This book is another absolutely stunning read by this author and it was gripping from beginning to end. Once again, we are met with a lively and vibrant cast of characters that take us into a dirty and dangerous underworld but Emma still somehow manages to give a humane and sometimes sympathetic feeling to the book. At the forefront are strong and loyal women, and I love that aspect of these books.

I absolutely loved the thrill of the chase and the careful plotting in this one. It ramps up the tension completely and randomly, the fact that parts of it are based on a true scenario actually helped me get a bonus point in a quiz a few weeks later!

This is a book and series filled with grit, intrigue and unexpected twists and turns that will often leave you shocked and feeling like your heart has jumped into your mouth. Another brilliant addition to her growing catalogue of gangland crime books, by an absolute queen of the genre. I officially and undoubtedly LOVE Emma Tallon’s books!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello by Chris McDonald(Audiobook tour)

It was definitely the title and the unique cover that caught my attention when it comes to this book. I love the wording of the ‘curious dispatch’, giving nothing away about what actually happened to the mysterious Daniel Costello! The cover also made me draw similarities with an old-fashioned or classic murder mystery story, which I love. I do enjoy dabbling in audiobooks now and again, so I am pleased to having had the opportunity to read/listen to this book as part of the Isis Audiobook tour.

“Some people simply came into their own a little later in life, like a fine wine.”

Blurb:

Stonebridge is a small town on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Most of its inhabitants are friendly, happy people. Most of them…
Because bad things happen even in the happiest of places. It’s a good thing, then, that Adam Whyte and Colin McLaughlin call Stonebridge home. Armed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of detective shows, a misplaced sense of confidence and a keen desire to see justice done, these two are the closest thing the town has to saviours. Which isn’t that reassuring…

THE CURIOUS DISPATCH OF DANIEL COSTELLO

Wedding bells are chiming in the idyllic, coastal town of Stonebridge. For Sam and Emily, it should be the happiest day of their lives. But, on the morning of the ceremony, the best man is found dead. The police quickly write his death off as a tragic accident, but something doesn’t seem right to wedding guest and groomsman, Adam Whyte.


Armed with an encyclopedic, but ultimately ridiculous knowledge of television detective shows and an unwarranted confidence in his own abilities, Adam and his best friend (and willing Watson) Colin, set out to uncover what actually happened to Daniel Costello.

My thoughts:

This was a slow burn at first, but as this is the beginning of the series, I can see why the author took the time and effort to build a very clear image of the setting of Stonebridge and its inhabitants which are central to this story.

You can’t help but like the characters and get drawn into the build up and excitement related to the wedding of Sam and Emily. Adam and Colin make a great partnership, and their friendship shines through the early part of the novel. This all takes a turn though, as tension begins to build and we are witness to the ‘curious dispatch’ of Daniel Costello.

The book is cleverly constructed in order to make you question what exactly could have caused this unfortunate demise of a popular young man just days before what should have been the happiest day of his best friend’s life, of which he is a big part.

There is an underlying darkness to the story, but the likeable characters and positive attitude to ‘solving’ the case make this an entertaining, fun and light choice for a cosy mystery read.

Once again, the audio narration from Isis Audio is brilliant and really brings this story to life. I sometimes struggle to get into audiobooks, but Stephen Armstrong is a fluent and expressive reader, so it definitely kept me hooked.

I would recommend this book and author to fans of the cosy mystery genre, who enjoying reading books by authors such as Richard Osman and Alexander McCall Smith.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan

I adore Karen Swan’s books and I love the fact that the covers are absolutely beautiful, yet somehow almost mis-sell or even under sell her books. This is not a clear-cut, crisp and dreamy romance that you might envisage from the cover. It is however still, utterly brilliant.

Blurb:

Set on the beautiful island of Islay, The Christmas Secret is a gripping story filled with emotion from Karen Swan, author of Christmas Under the Stars.

Alex Hyde is the leaders’ leader. An executive coach par excellence, she’s the person the Great and the Good turn to when the pressure gets too much; she can change the way they think, how they operate, she can turn around the very fortunes of their companies.

Her waiting list is months’ long, but even she can’t turn down the unorthodox but highly lucrative crisis call that comes her way a few weeks before Christmas, regarding the troublesome – and troubled – head of an esteemed whisky company in Scotland: Lochlan Farquhar, CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, is a maverick, an enigma and a renegade, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees.

It should be business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, when she gets to the remote island of Islay, with the winter snows falling, Alex finds herself out of her comfort zone. For once, she’s not in control – Lochlan, though darkly charismatic, is unpredictable and destructive, her usual methods gaining no traction with him – and with Christmas and her deadline fast approaching, she must win his trust and find a way to close on this deal.

But as she pulls ever closer to him, boundaries become blurred, loyalties loosen and Alex finds herself faced with an impossible choice as she realizes nothing and no-one is as they first seemed.

My thoughts:

I am slowly but surely collecting and making my way through Karen Swan’s back catalogue and she simply had to feature in my 2020 winter reading season. Karen Swan’s style is unique, easily recognisable and in my opinion, utterly brilliant.

There is no mention of Christmas or indeed much hint of secrets for at least 170 pages, but yet she still manages to create an enthralling story with sympathetic characters and a escapist, stunning setting.

I really respected the character of Alex and everything she had done to build her career. She is clearly a hard-working, determined character with a good understanding of people. When I learnt more about her personal circumstances, it became even easier to like her as I did empathise with her. Some people may read and disagree with her personal choices, but I think it’s very easy to judge from the outside looking in and who knows what we would truly do if faced with the challenges Alex faces in her personal life?

Lochlan is definitely an enigma and quite a hard nut to crack. However, Karen has again succeeded at creating a complex and sympathetic character. The characters for me are definitely the driving force and the hook in this book.

However, this is a book about far more than you might expect. Yes, there are elements of romance, but Karen also explores issues of family, identity, money, business as well as the challenges and perks of small island living. The story is also, of course, laced with mystery and secrets as the situation and problems at Kentallen Distillery unravel and reach their climax.

For me, this has been another gripping and intriguing story that showcases what Karen Swan is good at. Creating a story that involves and follows interesting and sympathetic character, is layered with twists and complications, and explores some issues, such as trust, loyalty and wellbeing that can affect any one of us.

🌟🌟🌟🌟

Christmas At Fox Farm by Helen Pollard

I was drawn into this book which looks like a picture perfect Hallmark Christmas card. I was looking forward to a festive escape and adventure to Fox Farm!

Blurb:

Daisy is preparing to spend her first Christmas in the only place she’s ever really felt at home: beautiful Fox Farm. But when tragedy strikes, she will need all her festive cheer, and all the mulled wine, to keep Christmas from being cancelled…

Living atFox Farm, with its cosy café and charming pottery workshop, is a dream come true for thirty-one-year-old Daisy. The kindly owner, Jean, and the close-knit village feel like the family Daisy has never had. She’s been looking forward to finally having people to buy gifts for and to share cookies with in front of the fire after too much Christmas dinner.

When Jean suddenly falls ill, Daisy is the first to lend a hand in organising the holiday celebrations. She ropes in Alex – Jean’s handsome Scrooge of a nephew – to help her. From the get-go Daisy and Alex cannot agree on anything, butting heads through decorating disasters and tripping over each other at the holiday barn dance. Alex hates Christmas, and Daisy is feeling so festive she might as well be the fairy on top of the ten-foot tree. Can Daisy melt Alex’s icy exterior and prove to him just how magical Christmas can be?

But then Alex discovers Fox Farm is almost bankrupt, and suddenly its whole future is in jeopardy. They need a plan, and quickly, if Jean is to have a place to come back to this Christmas. Will Daisy be able to save the only real home she’s ever had? And might this Christmas be the beginning of something special?

Grab a mug of hot chocolate and a mince pie (or two!) and lose yourself in this utterly charming and romantic holiday tale that proves home is where the heart is. Perfect for fans of RaeAnne Thayne, Sarah Morgan and Heidi Swain, this is the book that will make your Christmas!

My thoughts:

I did enjoy some aspects of this book. Fox Farm is a beautiful and unique setting that is easy to visualise & escape to. I was pulled into the story initially and wanted to find out how it would play out.

The characters are believable and I particularly felt sorry for Jean initially and then the position Alex is left in. The characters definitely fit some archetypal roles of this genre.

This is a slow burn of a book and it took me a little while to get into. I’m not sure if I’ve just had my fill of Christmas romances for one year, but I found that this one, despite some great characters and a unique setting, fell a little flat, though it definitely fulfilled what it sold itself as in terms of clichés and expectations of fun and festive romance books.

I would recommend this book to someone for a light and easy read to finish off the festive season.

🌟🌟🌟