Arc Review – The Christmas Holiday by Phillipa Ashley @PhillipaAshley @AvonBooks #TheChristmasHoliday #ArcReview #ChristmasBook #BookReview

I have not come across a book, by Phillipa Ashley, that I haven’t loved.  I’m loving her Golden Cornish series and looking forward to the next instalment.  That said, there’s a very special place in my heart for her Lake District-based books, which I simply adore.  I was thrilled to discover that The Christmas Holiday had a Lakeland theme, and it didn’t disappoint.  If you’d like to read some of my previous reviews, click on these links: A Surprise Christmas Wedding and A Golden Cornish Summer.

Synopsis

Krystle didn’t have a normal childhood and longed for warm family Christmases with presents under the tree. Now she makes sure everyone else has the perfect Christmas she never had, bringing beautiful decorations to cheer as many people as possible.

With her festive business booming, she decides to celebrate by renting a secluded house in the Lakes, with a plan to make this the ultimate yuletide getaway.

But fate immediately throws a spanner in the works in the form of a broken-down car, a flooded river and Max; a man who despises Christmas.

Krystle becomes determined to show Max the joys of the holiday. She won’t take no for an answer.

Can she melt Max’s Grinch-like heart? And can he show her that life doesn’t need to go to plan to take you somewhere magical…

The Christmas Holiday will be published on 10th November 2022

Available in eBook and Paperback

Review

The story opens with a flashback to a time in Krystle’s life when she holds her saddest and yet happiest memory. Forced to attend a centre that is geared up for underprivileged children, Krys feels ashamed that she is wearing borrowed clothing and yearns for a happy family life.  She glimpses a home which exudes everything that she craves from a family Christmas and imagines how her life could be.

Fast forward to the present day and Krys has used a bequest from her aunt, to hire that same house from her childhood dreams.  Determined to have her best Christmas ever, with her boyfriend Brett, she has rented Holly Manor for two months. As they are both workaholics, it will be a total change for Krys, but Brett has only been able to commit to weekends as his job is very demanding. Immediately falling foul of wintry Lakeland weather, they have to be rescued from a flooded beck as Brett’s posh SUV is swept away and lodged under a bridge.

Max, their rescuer, is a dark and broody loner who has no desire to meet new people and certainly doesn’t want to make any friends.  After offering them shelter, for the night, in his rather primitive home, a vaguely modernised Bothy, Max lets Krys sleep in his bed while he bunks down in the lounge with Brett.

As the story continues, we learn more about Krys who is known professionally as Mrs Christmas.  This moniker is the result of her work in the Christmas decorations industry.  Her whole life is geared to creating the magic of Christmas, one bauble at a time.  At the other end of the spectrum is Max who couldn’t be less festive.  It’s clear that he is hiding a tragic secret, but he’s guarding that secret very closely. 

I do love a Christmas story and this one ticked every box.  The kindness of Krys, facing her fears and visiting the shelter that she’d hated as a child, was rather emotional, but her ability to rise above her own feelings and offer hope to a new set of children was straight from every positive Christmas tale.

As I’m not particularly mobile, I loved reading about the MRT (Mountain Rescue Team) and their work on the rugged landscape of the National Park.  The descriptions of the peaks and Scafell Pike had me imagining myself climbing in the snow.

The other members of the MRT added wonderful depth to the story, as we are reminded that all those who risk their lives on the mountains are volunteers.  I particularly loved the idea of paramedic/drag artiste, Hector!

For me, however, the best character was Max.  His simple life alongside Border Collie, Jake, was equal measures brave and tragic.  As his story emerged, it was impossible not to feel deep compassion for his lost life. Yet, despite his personal heartache, he is still able to create kindness for others and feel the pull of his connection with Krys.

This may very well be my favourite Christmas book of 2022, and it’s not yet October.

Author Bio

Phillipa Ashley is a Sunday Times best-selling author of heart-warming romantic fiction. After studying English at Oxford University, she worked as a copywriter and journalist before writing her debut novel, Decent Exposure.

It won the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Award and was filmed as a Lifetime TV movie starring Kristin Chenoweth and Josh Hopkins.

Her novels have sold almost a million copies and been translated into many languages. She is also an Audible number 1 best-seller.

Phillipa lives in an English village with her husband, has a grown-up daughter and loves nothing better than walking the Lakeland hills and swimming in Cornish coves.

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Blog Tour – Dreams Come True at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters @Vicky_Walters @rararesources @HeraBooks #BlogTour #DreamsComeTrueAtGlendaleHall #BookReview

I started reading the Glendale Hall books long before I started my blog, so it was a real treat to discover they were featuring with one of my favourite tour organisers.  I have found the entire series to be thoroughly enchanting, but I thought it was over.  This may prove to be the final instalment, but what a way to end.  If you’d like to read an earlier review, you can click on this link: Always and Forever at Glendale Hall.

I am grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources and Hera Books for the advance reading copy which was gifted to me in exchange for an honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

Lorna is following her dreams. But can she follow her heart?

Lorna Ferguson has dreamt of opening her own bed and breakfast in the village of Glendale for as long as she’d pictured falling in love. While her love life remains frankly hopeless, Lorna is determined to secure Dove House – the home she imagined living in as a child – to start this new venture with her family.

Along with brother Adam, Lorna starts restoring the house to its Art Deco glory, but faced with a whole host of renovation problems and their money fast running out, they worry that Dove House will never be ready to open in the New Year.

When a mystery man turns up, needing to fulfil a promise he made to his dying father and find the object he left at Dove House many years ago, Lorna’s heart goes out to him. But what they find there is going to change both of their lives forever.

Facing problems at every turn, and distracted by her heart, Lorna is going to need all the magic that her beloved Glendale can supply to make all her dreams come true..

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Review

It was such a treat to return to Glendale and catch up with all the fabulous characters that captured my imagination over this wonderful series.  This time, we get to know Lorna Ferguson and her brother Adam.  We first met them in Always and Forever’ where they both discovered unrequited attraction.  I was thrilled to discover that they were getting their own story.

The story opens with a flashback to their late mother showing them the wonderful Art-Deco, Dove House.  Fast forward to the present day and we discover that Lorna and Adam now share their mother’s dream of buying the beautiful house and converting it into a B&B.  Having failed to make the winning bid in a previous sale, Lorna is reluctant to risk her hopes and dreams for a second time.  It takes her brother’s confidence, a word of encouragement from a handsome stranger, and support from Glendale Hall, for them to finally make the purchase.

Despite careful planning, they soon discover that the renovations are beyond their budget, and it seems like all could be lost.

One of the many joys of Victoria Walter’s writing is her skilled character development.  I always feel like I’m being introduced to new friends, and I feel real connections with their stories. Lorna is a fabulous lead character and I just loved everything about her, from her strong work ethic to her large heart that certainly valued friends as extended family. 

As Lorna becomes drawn to the mystery man who is staying locally, his secret opens up a whole can of worms for Lorna and her family.  The details of the secret add an intriguing layer to the story of their connection to Dove House and I just loved the symmetry of the past meeting the present.

I make no apology for being an old romantic and I definitely loved this charming story and its message of hope and inclusion. 

Author Bio – Victoria Walters is a full-time author living in Surrey. Victoria writes cosy books including the bestselling uplifting and romantic series GLENDALE HALL and the new gripping and charming crime novel MURDER AT THE HOUSE ON THE HILL. She has been chosen for WHSmith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for two RNA awards. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star.

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Blog Tour – Lost Luggage by Samantha Tonge @SamTongeWriter @rararesources @BoldwoodBooks #boldwoodbloggers #BookReview #LostLuggage #BlogTour

There’s something rather special about discovering a new book from Samantha Tonge.  Over the last few books, I have witnessed a real change of style which has lifted her from the realms of a good author of romantic fiction to becoming one of my favourite authors.  Her new voice is just perfect for the more considered stories that she is now creating, and I simply cannot praise her enough.  If you’d like to read a couple of my previous reviews, follow these links: Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage and Under One Roof.

I am grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources and Boldwood Books for my advance reading copy, which was gifted to me via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

Brand new from the bestselling author of Under One Roof.

One lost suitcase. Two strangers. And a notebook that will change lives.

For almost fifty years, sisters Dolly and Greta have lived together – getting each other through the good times and the bad.

Except this year, Greta isn’t there and Dolly is feeling lost and alone. In memory of her sister, Dolly heads to the lost luggage auction where she and Greta go each Christmas. But her bid reveals a gift she never imagined.

Amongst the clothes is the notebook of a reclusive woman who has hardly been outside for an entire year, but who isn’t ready to give up on life. The notebook’s contents resonate with Dolly. With the support of her neighbours, retired Leroy and eleven-year-old Flo, Dolly decides to take on the year of firsts Phoebe had planned.

But, can you have a year of firsts when you’re seventy-two? And is Dolly ready to discover the notebook’s secrets, or are some secrets better left lost at the airport?

Purchase Link  

Review

It’s hard not to sound like I’m gushing, as I review this book, but it really is rather special.  Samantha Tong has created a group of people who couldn’t be less likely to be connected, yet they work perfectly.  The story examines the loneliness of life’s misfits with a kindness that should be more common in the modern world.

As the synopsis explains, Dolly is feeling bereft after the loss of her sister, Greta.  Her life has taken a downward spiral and her lack of self-care has reached challenging limits.  Craving some of the routine that she enjoyed with her late sister, Dolly visits a lost luggage auction, as they had done together for years.  Digging through the case that she buys, she discovers a notebook with a list of firsts, which captures her imagination, and offers an opportunity to reunite some of the items with their original owner.

Dolly has an eclectic mix of friends which include Leroy, her retired neighbour and Flo, the eleven-year-old daughter of her other neighbours.  She also has a fish who she dotes upon. As the story progresses, we witness this rag-tag group each discovering their own potential, and their transformations are beautifully handled.

I cannot tell more of the story without running the risk of revealing spoilers, which is something that I would hate to do.  The layers of this story are carefully crafted, and as they are peeled back, the reader and Dolly learn more about a past that is filled with assumptions and heartbreak. 

Picking a favourite character, other than Dolly, is a simple task; I just adored young Flo and her story arc.  I found myself willing her to find the love and acceptance that she was craving and to find a way to bond with her parents. 

This book is an absolute triumph and I feel privileged to have been able to read an advance copy.  It’s going straight in as one of my books of the year.

Author Bio

Samantha Tonge is the bestselling and award-winning author of over 15 romantic fiction titles published by HQ, and most recently Aria. Her first book for Boldwood, Under One Roof, was published in February 2022 and her move to Boldwood marks a broadening of her writing into multi-generational woman’s fiction. She lives in Manchester with her family.

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Blog Tour – Making Waves at River View Cottage by Jennifer Bohnet @jenniewriter @rararesourceces @BoldwoodBooks #BlogTour #boldwoodbloggers #Review #MakingWavesAtRiverviewCottage

It was a real treat to be invited onto another book from Jennifer Bohnet.  She has been one of the architects of some of my favourite book escapes.  This latest offering was no exception and I loved everything about it.  If you’d like to read some of my earlier reviews, follow these links: Villa of Sun and Secrets and Summer at the Chateau.

I’m grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources and Boldwood Books for gifting me an advance reading copy, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

Cassie Lewis, a widow for over 20 years has begun to realise there must be more to life.

In-between working at the family boatyard in picture perfect Dartmouth and raising two children, she wonders where the years have gone.

Both her children, Tom and Polly, have inherited their father’s love of sailing and currently Tom is preparing for a gruelling round the world race. When an accident forces Tom to pull out, Polly, to Cassie’s horror, insists she is capable of taking his place.

As Polly prepares for the race, Cassie unexpectedly finds herself with two keen and eligible men vying for her love.

With her BIG 5-0 birthday approaching Cassie knows she has some big decisions to make but will the worry over Polly’s safe return, cloud her judgement?

Originally published in 2003 as Call of the Sea

Purchase Link

Review

Despite this being a rerelease, I had never come across this gorgeous book before.  Cassie is the central character, and her story is a particularly sad one.  Widowed over 20 years previously, she has raised her two children to enjoy their lives to the full.  They all live and work at the family boatyard that is run by Cassie’s Dad.

Tom, Cassie’s son is married to Mai, and they are expecting their first child.  Both her children have inherited her late husband’s love of yacht racing and the story opens with Tom completing a practice run for the world-famous round-the-world yacht race.

Daughter Polly is equally keen to become a successful yacht racer and she has all the skills required which is serendipitous as she finds herself stepping in when Tom has an accident which rules him out of the race.

I particularly enjoyed learning more about the technical side of yacht racing and was surprised by how invested I became in the process.  After his accident, it becomes clear that Tom will need a more accessible home, so Cassie lets Tom and Mai have the family home, swapping with them to take up residence at Riverview Cottage.  After 20 years of living her life through her kids, Cassie now feels that she’s ready to put herself first.  Suitors are readily available, and she finds herself being courted by two men.  One an old friend and the other an ultra-wealthy businessman. Following these courtships, we learn more about Cassie’s train of thought and her hopes and fears.

This book offers everything that I needed to keep my attention glued and I finished the story in a single sitting.  The romance is perfectly framed, and I was thrilled when Cassie chose the suitor that I preferred.  I’m sure that Jennifer Bohnet planned that I would favour one over the other, but the storyline felt completely natural. This isn’t a story about a widow needing to find a new partner, it’s about a woman, who has been grieving, coming back to a life that has been waiting for her.  Cassie is strong and more than capable of enjoying her life alone, but she discovers love on her own terms.

I enjoyed escaping onto the high seas and discovering that life can begin again at 50.

Author Bio  

Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 12 women’s fiction titles, including Villa of Sun and Secrets and A Riviera Retreat. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.

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ARC Review – Love Untold by Ruth Jones @penguinrandom @NetGalley_UK #LoveUntold #BookReview #BookBlogger

I have been fortunate to read Advance Reading Copies of all Ruth Jones’ books and have thoroughly enjoyed each one.  She has a style which strikes a chord with me and resonates on every level. More famously known as Nessa from TV’s Gavin and Stacey, Ruth Jones is definitely an author that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.  If you’d like to look at my review of her last book, you can follow this link: Us Three

I am grateful to Penguin Random House for the Advance Reading copy, which was gifted to me via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

Grace is about to turn ninety. She doesn’t want parties or presents or fuss. She just wants to heal the family rift that’s been breaking her heart for decades.

But to do that she must find her daughter Alys – the only person who can help to put things right.

And when she finds her – if she does – she risks betraying granddaughter Elin. Who is far less forgiving of the past, with its hurts and secrets and lies. Meanwhile Grace’s great-grand-daughter Beca is oblivious to all these worries, too busy navigating the highs and lows of teenage life and keeping secrets of her own.

All families have their problems. And most of them get resolved. But Grace’s problem is thirty years old. And she doesn’t have time on her side.

So is it too late for her to make peace? Or is reconciliation still within reach?

Review

This beautiful, multi-generation story examines the lives and loves of four women, played out against the backdrop of a planned surprise party. About to turn ninety, Grace is aware that time is running out if she is to repair the rift in her family.  Estranged for thirty years from her daughter, Alys, Grace has raised her granddaughter Elin and Great Granddaughter Becca.

Grace was widowed at a young age and, with her daughter, relocated into the home of her friends, brother and sister, John and Cissie.  The subsequent years saw her relationship with Alys deteriorate dramatically, leading to full estrangement when granddaughter Elin was a young teen.  The present-day sees Elin wrestling a career as a headmistress with the challenges of an unacademic daughter. When Elin learns that her husband is leaving her for a younger woman, her life begins to spiral out of control.

This incredible story is packed with some of the most fabulous characters imaginable.  Seeing Beca flourish as her friendship with free-spirited Soozi developed was beautiful.  Becca’s story was an absolute joy to follow; her initial awkwardness transformed into a remarkable strength of character which saw her support the amazing women in her life.

My favourite character was definitely Grace.  As the chapters fell away, I began to understand how much of herself she had sacrificed to support her family and friends.  Her relationship with John was rather special, yet I felt saddened that the story picked up too late to learn more about Cissie.

The cast is beautifully developed and perfectly characterised.  I could honestly imagine Grace striding into the sea for her bi-weekly wild swim.  Equally, the images of Alys, discovering her lowest points were gritty without being depressing.  I felt waves of sadness when I imagined how desperate she must have been to surrender access to her child.

Ruth Jones creates characters whose stories are just bursting to be told.  I found myself turning pages into the wee small hours as I couldn’t bear to miss what would happen next.  As the story swaps from one character to the next, the overall picture gently forms, leading to a quite spectacular conclusion with a most satisfying finale.

Straight into my top ten of the year!

Publication Day Push – A Chance in a Million by T.A. Williams @tawilliamsbooks @rararesources @Canelo_co #PublicationDay #AChanceInAMillion #BookReview

T.A. Williams is another author who I ‘met’ on Twitter and was introduced to via Rachel Gilbey.  I’m delighted to have been on nearly every one of his blog pushes since. I instinctively know a couple of things when reading his books; there will be a happy ending, I will have a guided tour of a foreign land, and last but not least, there’ll be a Labrador in there, somewhere. If you’d like to take a look at a couple of my previous reviews, you can follow these links: Under a Siena Sun and An Escape to Remember.

As ever, I am grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources for arranging this tour, and to the author for the advance reading copy, which was gifted to me in exchange for my honest review. You can read my thoughts below

Synopsis

Fate brought them together, now it’s up to them to make it work…

Having left the army to recover from a traumatic experience, Captain Jane Reed is on her way to Venice to assist Lady Veronica Cooper, a world-famous writer who has lost her mojo. Plagued by grief and sleepless nights, Jane soon finds a kindred spirit in Veronica, coping with her own loss after the death of her husband.

When the two relocate to Veronica’s villa in the countryside to escape the summer tourists, Jane meets the rest of the Cooper family – including Veronica’s brooding son, David. With his own tragic past, David has resigned himself to a life of solitude. Jane finds herself determined to bring joy back into his life, even if it means finally spilling her secrets.

Can Jane and David help each other heal, and find love in the process, or are some scars too deep to treat?

Purchase Link  

Review

Having never been to Italy, it’s always a treat to read about it.  It’s even better when a book takes me to Venice. A Chance in a Million gave me the best of both worlds with Venice and the surrounding hills. Once again, I am planning to get there, one day.

Captain Jane Reed is immediately likeable.  The opening pages of the book give us a glimpse of why she left the army, but it takes slightly longer for the reader to understand the full horror of her experience. Determined to discover a new focus in life, she accepts a job which is based in Venice, where she will be both a companion and support to celebrated author, Lady Veronica Cooper. Expecting to find an escape in Italy, she soon discovers that she has more in common with the author than she originally assumed. Having lost her husband, she has now lost her writing mojo.

As the busy summer months descend, the story moves to the hills that surround Venice, and Lady Veronica’s summer residence.  Here, Jane meets the rest of the family including former soldier, and Veronica’s son, David who has withdrawn from life.

There’s a lot to unpack with this story and I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed working my way through the layers and discovering more about the complex characters and their histories. One of the many joys with this author is his ability to create strong characters who have endured personal challenges yet continued on despite the weight of their memories.

As I have come to expect, each character is developed to the point of being able to picture them and feeling the loss of their company as the book drew to a close. Of course, there is a Labrador, but you will need to read about him when you embark on this wonderful story.

The subject matter may have included darker than usual elements which could have made this a difficult read, but I genuinely felt the positivity leaping from the pages, and I instinctively knew that there would be a joyful, uplifting conclusion.

The nod to Hollywood glamour was perfectly handled and I could only imagine having access to such beautiful garments. The idea of owning such a wardrobe is the stuff of fantasy along with my hopes of exploring the Italy about which T.A. Williams writes so beautifully.

Author Bio  

I’m a man. And a pretty old man as well. I did languages at university a long time ago and then lived and worked in France and Switzerland before going to Italy for seven years as a teacher of English. My Italian wife and I then came back to the UK with our little daughter (now long-since grown up) where I ran a big English language school for many years. We now live in a sleepy little village in Devonshire. I’ve been writing almost all my life but it was only seven years ago that I finally managed to find a publisher who liked my work enough to offer me my first contract.

The fact that I am now writing escapist romance is something I still find hard to explain. My early books were thrillers and historical novels. Maybe it’s because there are so many horrible things happening in the world today that I feel I need to do my best to provide something to cheer my readers up. My books provide escapism to some gorgeous locations, even if travel to them is currently difficult.

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Blog Tour – Sunny Skies and Summer Kisses by Eliza J Scott @elizajscott1 @rararesources #BlogTour #SunnySkiesAndSummerKisses #Review

Having discovered this author via blog tours, I always try to make room for her books.  I love the way that she has created a wonderful community around Danskelfe Castle and the neighbouring village, with some wonderful, revisiting characters. There’s also the thrill of new stories in Micklewick Bay, the seaside town just beyond Lytell Stangdale. If you’d like to read a couple of previous reviews, you can follow these links: A Christmas Wedding at the Castle and the start of her Micklewick Bay Series The Little Bookshop by the Sea.

I am grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources for arranging this tour and for providing me with an advance reading copy, which was gifted to me in exchange for an honest review.  My thoughts are below.

Synopsis

No matter how hard you fight it, love will always find a way…

Ever since she was a little girl, dance teacher Anoushka Cartwright has dreamed of opening her own dance studio near her home on her beloved North Yorkshire Moors. And when she gets the chance to do just that she can hardly believe her luck!

Life is sweet. Or it would be if it wasn’t for her relationship with Damon which has been growing increasingly toxic, much to her family’s concern. Critical of her dreams he can’t understand why she won’t move to the city of York and live with him. He refuses to accept their relationship is floundering until the day Anoushka breaks up with him.

Popular indie/folk singer, Gabe Dublin, hails from Southern Ireland. He’s been head-over-heels in love with Anoushka ever since he first set eyes on her at a wedding two years earlier. She’s the reason he keeps returning to the area, staying with his friends, Lady Caroline Hammondely and her husband Sim, at Danskelfe Castle. Gabe and Anoushka have become good friends, but she’s always made it clear they could never be anything more, which is tearing Gabe’s heart in two. He knows he won’t be able to love anyone else the way he loves Anoushka.

Her family and friends can see how perfect they are for each other but Anoushka is adamant, after her experience with Damon, she has no room for a man in her life. She makes a pact with herself to focus all of her attention on her dance school. And she intends to keep it. The only thing is, it’s not as easy as it seems.

When an unexpected situation throws them together, Anoushka’s feelings are exposed for the world to see. The question is, will she act on them or will she stay true to her promise to herself?

Join Anoushka and Gabe – and all the other Life on the Moors Characters – for the latest heartwarming visit to the characterful village of Lytell Stangdale in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors.

Purchase Links

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Review

I do find that I really enjoy my trips back to the North Yorkshire Moors, and to Lytell Stangdale. It was a genuine pleasure to discover that another book was heading for publication and that Gabe Dublin may finally find his happy ever after.

The story centres around dance teacher, Anoushka Cartwright.  Her partner, Damon, may seem desirable with his good looks, flashy car, and high earnings, but the reality is that he’s controlling and seems set on limiting her access to her friends and family.  He’s insanely jealous and a cause for concern for her family.

Anoushka is starting to see Damon for what he is, and she’s determined to end her relationship and start over in the arms of her family and friends.  Sadly, she’s not looking for another relationship, so Gabe Dublin will have to settle for being friends. Focussing all her efforts on growing her dance school, Anoushka is becoming tired of all her friends and family telling her what a great couple she would make with Gabe.

I first encountered Gabe in the Christmas Wedding at the Castle, hailing from Southern Ireland, he’s a successful indie folk singer with a legion of female fans. He has found his muse on the North Yorkshire Moors and is building a life there, with support from his friends, Lady Caroline Hammondely and her husband, Sim.

This is a slow-burn romance which caused me to get quite impatient, as I waited for Anoushka to see what and who was right in front of her.  That said, I completely understood her reluctance to start anything whilst she was still feeling the spectre of her former relationship.  It was a pleasure to visit the local pub, catch up with friends and see that new babies were on the horizon.  These are some of the joys in reading books in a series, but this can easily be read as a standalone story because there’s always background information as characters reappear.

This is a gorgeous story which I highly recommend.  It made my heart happy.

Author Bio

Eliza lives in the North Yorkshire countryside with her family. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found with her nose in a book/glued to her kindle or working in her garden, fighting a losing battle against the weeds.

Eliza is inspired by her beautiful surroundings and loves to write heartwarming romance stories with relatable female characters. Her books will always have happy endings.

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Blog Tour – Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow by Jessica Redland @JessicaRedland @rararesources @BoldwoodBooks #PublicationDay #BlogTour #ChristmasMiraclesAtHedgehogHollow #boldwoodbloggers

Anyone who has followed my blog should know that Jessica Redland is one of my favourite authors.  She has written several wonderful series, but I think there’s something extra special about her Hedgehog Hollow stories.  If you’d like to read a couple of my reviews, then please follow these links: Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow and Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow.

I am grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources and Boldwood Books for my advance reading copy, which was gifted to me, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

It’s the countdown to Christmas at Hedgehog Hollow Wildlife Rescue Centre, and everyone is gearing up for a festive season to remember…

It should be the most wonderful time of the year for Samantha and Josh as they prepare for the arrival of their first baby. But life at Hedgehog Hollow rarely goes to plan and the pair are faced with adversaries, old and new, and unexpected challenges to overcome.

Fizz’s job at the heart of the rescue centre is a dream come true but her personal life is more like a nightmare. With her love life a disaster and her past about to dramatically catch up with her, she needs the love and support of her Hedgehog Hollow family more than ever.

As the snow falls over Hedgehog Hollow, will Samantha and Fizz find the Christmas miracle they need to overcome their heartache and find happiness?

Purchase Link

Review

I always knew that this would be an emotional read. The final instalment in a series which has been filled with joy and heartbreak would have to rise to the occasion and tie up any loose ends.  I can confirm that not only were those loose ends tied up, but they even received a big bow.  That said, it was not an easy read, and I found a couple of aspects of the story to be personally challenging.

It was lovely to be back with the wonderful characters at Hedgehog Hollow and to catch up with Sam and the rest of the gang. Once again, Sam and Josh feature in the main story, but this time, we learn more about Fizz and her love of unicorns, sparkles, and hair colour. Her presence in the earlier books has always been welcome and her dad, the local police officer has made more than a couple of trips to the farm.  As the story unfolds, we learn about the heartbreaking experiences that young Fizz endured.  Her story is not for the faint-hearted, but Jessica Redland is not afraid of tackling the big issues in life.  After breaking up with her girlfriend, Fizz finds herself living alone in one of the holiday rental cottages. She draws strength from an old friend and confides her darkest secret in him, which leads to her being ostracised by some parts of her own family.  However, Fizz remains oblivious to Phoebe’s mounting attraction to her.

As Sam and Josh prepare for a life-changing arrival, Sam encounters a difficult character named Brenda.  Her attitude makes life challenging, and it becomes clear that Brenda is hiding her own sorrow.  I was able to identify with this experience as there are plenty of Brenda’s in this world.

I really don’t want to share any more of the story as I would hate to include any spoilers, but I can confirm that this story is exhilarating, challenging, and ultimately uplifting.  Jessica’s characters are all beautifully developed with each one following a life-affirming story arc which leads to this fabulous conclusion.

In case you haven’t guessed, this is a truly wonderful story, and I absolutely loved it. If this is your first visit to Hedgehog Hollow, then you can enjoy it as a standalone story because Jessica includes a quick recap of the recurring characters. However, I would wholeheartedly recommend going back and reading the rest of the series.

A perfect ending to a fantastic series!

Author Bio

Jessica Redland writes emotional but uplifting stories of love, friendship, family and community. Her Whitsborough Bay books transport readers to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast where she lives with her husband, daughter and sprocker spaniel. Her Hedgehog Hollow series, set in a hedgehog rescue centre, takes readers into the beautiful rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds.

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Blog Tour – The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson @katethompson380 @randomttours @HodderBooks #BlogTour #TheLittleWartimeLibrary

When I first started my blog, one of my earlier reviews was for Secrets of the Lavender Girls by Kate Thompson (Link to my review). The story captured my imagination, and I was determined to read more of her work.  Alas, my tour schedule saw other options and it is now more than 2 years later.  I was delighted to be invited onto this tour and very much enjoyed learning more about the Little Wartime Library.

I’ve grateful to Random Things Tours and Hodder & Stoughton for my advanced reading copy, which was gifted to me, in exchange for my honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

A gripping and heart-wrenching novel set in London in World War Two,

following the two women who run a secret underground library.

London, 1944.

Clara Button is no ordinary librarian. While the world remains at war, in East London Clara has created the country’s only underground library, built over the tracks in the disused Bethnal Green tube station. Down here a secret community thrives, with thousands of bunk beds, a nursery, a café and a theatre offering shelter, solace and escape from the bombs that fall above.

Along with her glamorous best friend and library assistant Ruby Munroe, Clara ensures the library is the beating heart of life underground. But as the war drags on, the women’s determination to remain strong in the face of adversity is tested to the limits when it seems it may come at the price of keeping those closest to them alive.

Based on true events, The Little Wartime Library is a gripping and heart-wrenching page-turner that remembers one of the greatest resistance stories of the war.

Published by Hodder & Stoughton, The Little Wartime Library is out now and available in paperback, audio, and eBook formats.

Review

Clara and Ruby were too unforgettable characters who brought a pinch of magic to this wonderful story.  Widowed in the war, Clara has dedicated her life to working as a librarian. Her mother and former mother-in-law hated her choice of work and made their opinions known. Viewed as a mere woman by Mr Pinkerton-Smythe, the chair of the library committee, she was solely responsible for rescuing the books from the war-ravaged library and opening up over the tracks at the unfinished Bethnal Green Tube Station. Down in the gloomy depths, a whole community had developed, and it offered temporary sanctuary to all manner of people.  There was even a theatre, a hairdresser, a café and, of course, the library.

Ruby had witnessed the terrible events which saw her sister crushed to death on the station’s steps and was haunted by flashbacks and survivor’s guilt. Her trademark red lipstick and willingness to offer herself to any soldier had gained her a reputation, but she couldn’t seem to care less.

The stars of the book are the library users themselves; children left with little access to education.  Scared women being bullied by their husbands.  Widows and widowers, looking for some company. There were many positive stories which resulted from having access to the library. My imagination was captured by three characters: Sparrow, Marie, and Beatty.  Their stories were filled with the kind of heartbreak that is so often associated with the victims of war, they saw and endured more than anyone should ever have to.

The way that Kate Thompson brings this story to life is incredible.  I could almost taste the soot from the tunnels and feel the claustrophobia from being stuck underground.  There are some difficult elements to this book as the realities of war are not the stuff of fairy tales. There are stark reminders of how far women have come in their fight for equality and how truly appalling some women’s lives actually were. Despite the desperate theme, this is a truly uplifting story.  There is strength in surviving and Clara and Ruby add a dash of colour to a very dark time.

I can highly recommend this terrific book.  It is based on a true story and did bring me to tears, but at its heart, this is a story of love, hope and survival. One of my books of the year!

Author Bio

Kate Thompson is an award-winning journalist, ghostwriter and novelist who has spent the past two decades in the UK mass market and book publishing industry.

Over the past eight years Kate has written nine fiction and non-fiction titles, three of which have made the Sunday Times top ten bestseller list.

The Little Wartime Library will be her twelfth book.

Please check out the other stops on this very special blog tour

Blog Blitz – A Scandinavian Summer by Helga Jensen @HelgaJensenF @rararesourvces @HeraBooks #BlogBlitz #AScandinavianSummer #BookReview

Having read and reviewed Helga’s first book, Twice in a Lifetime (link to my review), I jumped at the chance to be on this blog tour, for her second book. I must say, it was a great decision and I loved reading about Martha’s Scandinavian adventure.

I am grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources and Hera Books for my advance reading copy, which was gifted to me in exchange for my honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

It’s the right time for love, but is it the wrong place?

After the tragic, premature death of her husband Anthony, Martha has spent all her time focused on her teenage daughter Rosie in their small Welsh village.

But with Rosie leaving the nest, and Martha’s own job on the line, it feels that life is passing her by.

Inspired by her love for Scandi-noir dramas, Martha impulsively books a trip to Denmark, determined to push herself out of her comfort zone – even if the thought terrifies her…

Her trip to the tiny island of Fano becomes something much more: in the form of handsome stranger, Lars. Can Martha find love under the Scandinavian skies… but more importantly, can she find herself?

A romantic, warm and uplifting read, guaranteed to leave you smiling. Fans of Jenny Colgan and Kathryn Freeman will adore this feelgood read!

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Review

This story jumped straight into the action, with an enormous row between Martha and her husband.  He stormed out of the house and that was the last time that she saw him alive. Fast forward 2 years and I got an immediate feel for Martha and her state of mind.  Since losing her husband, she has focussed almost entirely on her daughter, Rosie.  Her job at the local library has come under fire as cutbacks are being made, and Rosie is about to depart for a 6-month trip to Borneo to study Orangutans.  Her only constant is her Scandi noir drama on TV. Determined to find herself a life, she takes leave from the library and heads to Denmark in the hope of bumping into a handsome actor from the drama. 

Eventually, Martha finds herself on the tiny Island of Fano. She rents a cottage and a bicycle and immerses herself in her holiday adventure. Here, she discovers a calmness that she is unfamiliar with and an adventurous spirit that she had forgotten she possessed.  Over an omelette, she meets Lars, a handsome stranger and her journey of discovery finds a new focus.

There are several twists and turns for Martha and Rosie as they each find strength in their new surroundings.  Of course, the story centres around Martha and her adventures.  I found myself unable to put this book down and read right through to the early hours. There wasn’t a huge cast of characters, but the ones mentioned all contributed to the story and were developed nicely. My favourite character, besides Martha and Lars, was Mrs Morris from the library; at first glance a vulnerable old lady, she helped Martha to reconcile her past and her future.

I can highly recommend this gorgeous tale of self-discovery and finding love for an empty nester.  It was a joy to follow Martha’s journey and I loved escaping to Denmark.

Author Bio

Helga Jensen is an award-winning British/Danish best-selling author and journalist. Her debut novel was a winning entry in the 2017 Montegrappa First Fiction competition at Dubai’s Emirates Literary Festival. Her debut was also a contender for the coveted 2021 Joan Hessayon Award for new writers. Helga’s second romantic comedy, A Scandinavian Summer, went straight to number one on the Amazon Kindle charts for Danish travel on its publication day. Helga holds a BA Hons in English Literature and Creative Writing, along with a Creative Writing MA from Bath Spa University. She is currently working on a PhD.

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