Arc Review – The Witchs Tree by Elena Collins

I missed the boat on the blog tour for this book, I thought I’d hit send on the email, but I didn’t. Elena Collins is a pseudonym for the wonderful Judy Leigh whose books I always want to read and have me in stitches.  I was intrigued by this departure in style, and I loved every element of it.

I am grateful to Boldwood Books for gifting me a digital ARC, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Published on 17th May 2022 by Boldwood Books

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Synopsis

As a love affair comes to an end, and with it her dreams for her future, artist Selena needs a retreat.  The picture-postcard Sloe Cottage in the Somerset village of Ashcombe promises to be the perfect place to forget her problems, and Selena settles into her new home as spring arrives.  But it isn’t long before Selena hears the past whispering to her. Sloe Cottage is keeping secrets which refuse to stay hidden.

1682

Grace Cotter longs for nothing more than a husband and family of her own. Content enough with her work on the farm, looking after her father, and learning the secrets of her grandmother Bett’s healing hands, nevertheless Grace still hopes for love. But these are dangerous times for dreamers, and rumours and gossip can be deadly. One mismove and Grace’s fate looks set…

Separated by three hundred years, two women are drawn together by a home bathed in blood and magic. Grace Cotter’s spirit needs to rest, and only Selena can help her now.

Review

I feel like I have read a few dual timeline books recently, and I have enjoyed them all.  This is the first one that has taken me back to medieval times and I found it compelling.  The writing is as I would have hoped but there was no sign of the comedic hand that is certainly the author’s usual style.

Even though the title suggested the fate that could befall Grace Cotter, I found myself crossing fingers and toes that she would find a happy ending, despite the way that she was treated by the very people that she endeavoured to help.  It’s almost impossible to imagine a life without mod-cons, reading about life in 1682 reminded me how fortunate we are with even the most basic of conveniences like medical care and hot water. The thought of living in a time of so much superstition was honestly chilling.

As we jumped forward to the present day, I was moved by Selena’s tragic loss and completely understood her need to flee her hometown and find sanctuary in the Somerset countryside.  The cottage was easily imagined as the descriptions take in every last detail.  I thoroughly enjoyed imagining Selena’s landscapes and envisioning the sights that she saw as she visited the local beauty spots.

One of the gifts that Judy Leigh never fails to demonstrate is her ability to develop a character to its full potential with expert ease.  She may make it look easy, but I know it’s not.

Whilst elements of this book seem desperate and hopeless, I found the overall story to be positive and uplifting. 

Author’s Amazon Bio

You may have read some of my novels writing as Judy Leigh, uplifting stories of the lives of older women and the possibility of second chances.

I’m so excited to introduce you to my dual timeline stories under the name of Elena Collins: the name is a tribute to my grandmother who was a teller of stories and fortunes and she had healing hands.

These new novels bring together three things I love: delving into history, exploring stunning locations and evoking the possibility of the supernatural. They are tales of people’s lives then and now, and there will be some spine-tingling moments.

I love writing, travelling, reading, music and theatre. I have an MA in Professional Writing. When I’m away from my desk and my three black cats, you’ll find me researching my next novel in some of this country’s most beautiful locations and beyond.

Blog Tour – The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by Erin Litteken

I was drawn to this book because of current events in Ukraine.  My family take a dim view of me reading or watching anything related to wartime, as I was brought up being very aware of the consequences of war by my parents who lived through WWII.  In particular, my dad pulled no punches when describing the full horrors.  As a result, I cry, a lot, when exposed to any graphic imagery.  Naturally, I didn’t tell anyone what I was reading and spent a couple of nights melting into tears.

I am grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources and Boldwood Books for gifting me a digital ARC, via Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

In the 1930s, Stalin’s activists marched through the Soviet Union, espousing the greatness of collective farming. It was the first step in creating a man-made famine that, in Ukraine, stole almost 4 million lives. Inspired by the history the world forgot, and the Russian government denies, Erin Litteken reimagines their story.

In 1929, Katya is 16 years old, surrounded by family and in love with the boy next door. When Stalin’s activists arrive in her village, it’s just a few, a little pressure to join the collective. But soon neighbors disappear, those who speak out are never seen again and every new day is uncertain.

Resistance has a price, and as desperate hunger grips the countryside, survival seems more a dream than a possibility. But, even in the darkest times, love beckons.

Seventy years later, a young widow discovers her grandmother’s journal, one that will reveal the long-buried secrets of her family’s haunted past.

This is a story of the resilience of the human spirit, the love that sees us through our darkest hours and the true horror of what happened during the Holodomor.

May we never forget, lest history repeat itself.

A share of proceeds will be donated to DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

Purchase Link  

Review

Considering that this is a debut novel, I must commend Erin Litteken for creating this tragic, haunting, and yet uplifting story.  I was immediately pulled into Katya’s tragic world and learned about an element of history that I had been oblivious to. 1930s Ukraine sounds like the hell on earth that my dad described to me, and I found the descriptions of the dreadful treatment of the Ukrainian farming families abhorrent.

This book works in a dual timeline format.  We hear from Katya and her family and then switch to a more modern-day perspective from newly widowed Cassie in 2004.  As the result of an horrendous car crash, which took her husband’s life, Cassie’s daughter, Birdie, has not uttered a word. Assured that there’s nothing physically wrong with her, Cassie knows that it’s just a case of waiting and hoping.  She returns to stay with her grandmother, Bobby, to both bring Cassie nearer to her mother and to keep a watchful eye over her grandmother’s deteriorating health.

I found that the switching between timelines helped me reconcile what I was reading with how little I had known about the previous Ukrainian struggles.  I followed Katya’s desperate story and then found respite in Cassie’s world.  I then found myself eager to return to Katya and praying for some easier experiences for her and her family.

The connection between Bobby and Birdie is quite magical and I found their relationship to be completely uplifting.  As Cassie works her way through her grandmother’s journal, the truths of the horrors that she witnessed are brought to the forefront and the revelations have a massive impact on their lives.

This is not an easy read, by any standards, but it is an essential read and I am grateful for the opportunity to be an advance reader and to help spread the word about this precious story.


Author Bio  

Erin Litteken is a debut novelist with a degree in history and a passion for research. At a young age, she was enthralled by stories of her family’s harrowing experiences in Ukraine before, during and after World War II. Her first historical fiction title, drawing on those experiences, will be published by Boldwood in June 2022.  She lives in Illinois, USA with her husband and children.

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Blog Tour – Summer at the French Café by Sue Moorcroft

There have been a few Social Media posts, recently, asking people to identify their favourite author of romantic fiction.  I can honestly say that Sue Moorcroft is mine.  I discovered her writing after moaning on Twitter that I’d read all the books by Jill Mansell and Katie Fforde, and they only seem to publish one per year.  It was Katie who suggested that I read Sue’s books and the rest is history. 

I find myself more critical of Sue’s writing as I am always determined that my reviews are unbiased.  I am delighted to say that this is another wonderful story that allowed me to escape reality for a few hours.  As I write this review, the news is full of the horrors in Ukraine, and I certainly needed this distraction.

I’m grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources and Avon Books for the digital ARC received in exchange for my honest review. You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

Sparkling sun, strolls in the gorgeous French countryside, that first sip of cool, crisp wine – Summer is Kat’s favourite season. And this year should be no exception…

As soon as Kat Jenson set foot in the idyllic French village of Kirchhoffen, she knew she’d found her home. Now she has a dreamy boyfriend, a delightful dog and the perfect job managing a bustling book café in the vibrant Parc Lemmel.

But when she learns her boyfriend isn’t all he seems, it’s the start of a difficult summer for Kat. Vindictive troublemakers, work woes and family heartache follow, and the clear blue sky that was her life suddenly seems full of clouds.

Then she gets to know the mysterious Noah, and her sun begins to shine brighter than ever. But Noah has problems of his own – ones that could scupper their new-found happiness. Together, can they overcome their many obstacles, and find love again?

The perfect summer read for fans of Trisha Ashley, Sarah Morgan and Carole Matthews.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK

Kobo

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Amazon US

Review

With the vibrant yellow cover, Summer at the French Café was always going to create the warmth of a summer’s day as Kat and Noah’s story unfolded.  I was immediately drawn to Kat, her job at the book café in Park Lemmel sounded idyllic, as did the village of Kirchhoffen.  The opening pages set the scene as Kat’s romantic future implodes with the revelation that her boyfriend isn’t as available as he had seemed.  The fallout of this revelation will resonate throughout a huge part of the story, but it is certainly not the main theme.

Kat is a capable, independent woman whose childhood was affected by divorce, leading her to feelings of both abandonment and displacement.  Despite that, she has developed a better relationship with her stepbrother, Solly, since he arrived to spend the summer working at the Parc.  It’s Solly’s roommate, Noah that helps Kat to move on from her heartache and push forward with the book café.

Noah has his own issues as he is dealing with his own familial heartache having arrived at the Parc, hot on the heels of his ex-wife and his daughter Clemence.

I just love romantic fiction, I doubt anyone who follows my reviews will be surprised by that statement, but I love it when a story brings a couple together and unites them early on.  Seeing them work together and battle through their challenges as a couple is somehow more romantic than some other tropes.

There is a strong supporting cast in this story, and I just loved the way they all fell into place.  Kat’s relationship with her father was the perfect motivation for Noah’s determination to remain part of Cle’s life. Sadly, it’s this determination that Kat is sorely missing from her life; nobody has ever seemed to put her first, a fact that she finds hard to reconcile.

Part of the joy of Sue Moorcroft’s writing is her ability to create fabulous, well-developed characters who are instantly believable.  Her stories are often complex and deal with some serious aspects of life. She doesn’t pull her punches as difficult topics are explored, but it never feels like heavy going as she steers the story to its perfect conclusion.

I enjoyed my escape to France and am already excited about the next book from this wonderful author.

Author Bio

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author. She’s reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle UK and Top 100 on Kindle US. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Novel of the Year, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary.

Her novels, short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

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Cover Reveal – The Only Exception (Love in the Comptons book 2) by Claire Huston

I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the cover reveal for this gorgeous new book from Claire Huston. The artwork seems to scream romance and I’m delighted to be part of the book tour, next month.

Synopsis

Lucinda Green knows something is missing from her life. But what? Her catering business is enjoying modest success and she loves her cosy house, even if she does have to share it with her irritating ex-fiancé.

Whatever’s making her unsettled and edgy, Lucinda’s certain that a lack of romance isn’t the problem. How could it be when she doesn’t believe in true love?

But Lucinda’s beliefs are shaken by a series of electric encounters with Alex Fraser, a newly-notorious actor who gradually proves himself to be infuriatingly funny and smart, as well as handsome.

Not that any of that matters. Because Lucinda doesn’t believe in all that ‘The One’ nonsense. That’s the rule.

But doesn’t every rule have an exception?

This uplifting grumpy-meets-sunshine romance is perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Phillipa Ashley and Milly Johnson.

Pre-order Link  

Publication Date: 7th June

Author Bio

Claire Huston lives in Warwickshire with her husband and two children. She writes uplifting modern love stories about characters who are meant for each other but sometimes need a little help to realise it.

A keen amateur baker, she enjoys making cakes, biscuits and brownies almost as much as eating them. You can find recipes for over a hundred sweet treats at clairehuston.co.uk. This is also where she talks about and reviews books.

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Blog Tour – An Island of Secrets by Eva Glyn

I first discovered this author on a blog tour for one of her books written as Jane Cable. I was immediately enchanted by her atmospheric and haunting writing style.  That book, Endless Skies, has stayed with me.  I also read and enjoyed The Missing Pieces of Us and The Forgotten Maid.  I can highly recommend them all and you can follow the links to read my reviews.  Naturally, I was delighted to accept the invitation to join this, Blog Tour.

I am grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources and Eva Glyn for the digital ARC, which was gifted to me, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

For fans of Dinah Jefferies, Victoria Hislop, Lucinda Riley and Rosanna Ley, this is a stunning and sweeping WW2 novel that shows a side to the war not often seen before.

That was then…

Seventy-five years ago, British SOE spy Guy Barclay was forced to leave behind the woman he loved in war-ravaged Yugoslavia.

…This is now

As ninety-three-year-old Guy’s days draw to a close, he asks his granddaughter, Leo Holmes, to go looking for answers. Given that her marriage has imploded and her City job is on the verge of killing her, Leo agrees and rents a house on the island of Vis, where her grandfather was stationed in the Second World War.

But as Leo’s search takes her down unexpected roads – and into the path of a gorgeous local, Andrej Pintaric – she begins to wonder if this journey down memory lane might yield unexpected results for more than just her beloved grandfather…

Purchase Link

Review

I often find myself referring to this author’s work as atmospheric.  I can honestly say that each of her previous books, that I have read, have transported me into the heart of the story and I have been moved by them all.  An Island of Secrets is another dual timeline which switches between WW2 Croatia on the Island of Vis and a more modern-day experience in the UK and Croatia.

I must confess to being somewhat ignorant to the struggles of wartime Yugoslavia and was only aware of the more recent troubles in Serbia.  However, I must have had some awareness as I certainly remember hearing of President Tito and his somewhat cruel regime.

In 1944 we meet Guy Barclay, an SOE officer embedded within an allied force supporting the Partisan efforts against the Nazi occupation.  The depth of research never fails to impress me, and I learned of the struggles that the resistance faced both in the face of the Nazi regime and at the hands of their own leaders.  It was difficult to discover the fate of any female Partisan, or Partizankas, should they be found to have been fraternising with their male counterparts.

Along with Guy, we are introduced to 3 incredibly brave women; Kata, Ivka and Anka.  Their stories and how their lives impacted Guy create the muse for the modern-day element of the book.

Guy’s granddaughter, Leo, is asked to travel to Vis and see if she can find out more about the fates of the women, as a last request from her dying grandfather. There she meets Andrej who acts as her guide and helps to piece together the tragic story of her grandfather’s time in Croatia.  What Leo doesn’t realise, when she first sets off, is how much she needs the break from the stresses of her own life.  Finding closure for Guy may just be exactly what she needs to put her own life back in order.

I know, without a doubt, that this book will stay with me for some time.  The seamless way the timelines blended was a testament to the author’s exquisite talent.  I genuinely felt the pain and desperation described in this beautiful but difficult story, but I also felt the love and optimism that the characters were driven by.

I cannot recommend this book enough and am now, once again, moved to visit the beautiful country of Croatia.

Author Bio

Eva Glyn writes escapist relationship-driven fiction with a kernel of truth at its heart. She loves to travel and finds inspiration in beautiful places and the stories they hide.

Her last holiday before lockdown was a trip to Croatia, and the country’s haunting histories and gorgeous scenery have proved fertile ground, driven by her friendship with a tour guide she met there. His wartime story provided the inspiration for The Olive Grove and his help in creating a realistic portrayal of Croatian life had proved invaluable. Her second novel set in the country, a dual timeline looking back to World War 2, will be published in the spring of 2022, also by One More Chapter.

Eva lives in Cornwall, although she considers herself Welsh, and has been lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for twenty-five years. She also writes as Jane Cable.

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Blog Tour – The Meet Cute Method by Portia MacIntosh

It was an easy decision to join the Blog Tour for another Portia MacIntosh romantic comedy.  Having read quite a few, I often find myself chuckling away at some of the situations that she describes.  The Meet Cute Method was no different and I simply loved this hilarious story.  You can follow these links to read my previous reviews: Make or Break at the Lighthouse B&B was my first of her books and No Ex Before Marriage was the most recent.

I’m grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources and Boldwood Books for my digital ARC which was gifted via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

Do movie romances ever happen in real life…?

Frankie doesn’t believe in true love. As relationships expert at popular magazine Stylife, she has learnt that dating disasters are far more common than happy ever afters.

So when she is tasked to find out if meet cutes can work in real life she is up for the challenge – but whether it’s being a damsel in distress with a flat tyre, or spilling coffee over a stranger, she isn’t convinced this can really lead to love.

But little does Frankie know that the ultimate meet cute opportunity is just around the corner. As she is whisked off her feet (all in the name of her work project of course…) perhaps true love isn’t just for the movies after all…?

Purchase Link  

Review

With this cute and often hilarious story I found myself plunged, headfirst, into the often-cutthroat world of magazine journalism.  With every story aimed at shocking or motivating the reader, there’s no room for a pedestrian approach.  Faced with losing her job, Frankie blurts out an idea in a morning meeting that leads to her trying to recreate some of the meet-cute scenarios from romantic comedies of the silver screen.

I totally bought into the concept of this story as I still believe in finding love in a more old-fashioned manner.  I know that apps are all the rage, but I guess I’m from a different generation.  Frankie is a walking disaster, her lackadaisical approach to both work and life have left her feeling alone and unfulfilled, however, if she wants to get out of her house share, she will need to excel at work.

Max is so wonderfully laid back, I immediately liked him.  Yes, he was hiding a huge secret, but who wouldn’t in the same position?  His independence was admirable, and I thoroughly enjoyed both his story and his moral compass.

As Frankie launches into her task of recreating a meet-cute, the hilarity is never far away.  My favourites included rescuing a dog and gate-crashing a child’s birthday party.  Besides the hilarity, the incredible chemistry and resulting romance were wonderful elements.  Seeing Frankie take charge of her life was fantastic and way more impressive than snorkelling in a crystal-clear sea.

This fun-filled escape would perfectly translate to the screen, and I would certainly want to watch it.

Author Bio  

Portia MacIntosh is the bestselling author of over 20 romantic comedy novels.
From disastrous dates to destination weddings, Portia’s romcoms are the perfect way to escape from day to day life, visiting sunny beaches in the summer and snowy villages at Christmas time. Whether it’s southern Italy or the Yorkshire coast, Portia’s stories are the holiday you’re craving, conveniently packed in between the pages.
Formerly a journalist, Portia has left the city, swapping the music biz for the moors, to live the (not so) quiet life with her husband and her dog in Yorkshire.

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Blog Tour – Lemon Drop Cottage by KT Dady

I’m not sure if I would have discovered this gorgeous series if it wasn’t for Rachel Gilbey. Being part of her tour team has introduced me to some wonderful authors and KT Dady is a perfect example.  I have read and reviewed all the previous books in the Pepper Bay series, and you can check out a couple of my previous reviews by following these links: Starlight Cottage where it all began and Pepper Pot Farm which was the last book.

I’m grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources and KT Dady for the digital ARC, which was gifted to me, in exchange for an honest review. You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

Welcome to Pepper Bay. A small close-knit community where you’ll find chocolate box cottages, quaint shops, love, drama, and a happily ever after.

Snuggle down with this cosy, feel-good, comfort read that whisks you away to a beautiful bay on the Isle of Wight – Perfect for fans of Christie Barlow, Phillipa Ashley, and Holly Martin.

The Pepper Bay books are standalone stories that intertwine with recurring characters. Best read in order for maximum enjoyment.

Lemon Drop Cottage: At first glance, Scott Harper is a shy artist who keeps himself to himself, but he isn’t the man everyone thinks he is. Scott has a secret. One that has kept him firmly away from any chance of having an intimate relationship. The only woman in his life is the one he talks to online but has never met. It’s easier that way, for them both.

Dolly Lynch has just taken over her aunt’s shop in Pepper Bay. Between looking after her teenage son, running around for her old aunt, moving home, and opening a new shop, she barely has time to herself, so she really appreciates the moments she spends talking online with a man she’s never met. Little does she know he’s the same man who lives just up the road in the cutest cottage she has ever seen.

Purchase Links

UK  

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Review

It was lovely to find myself back on Pepper Lane, looking forward to catching up with fictional friends from the earlier book.  Lemon Drop Cottage offered only a small dose of opportunity for visiting as I was quickly introduced to the backstories of Scott Harper and Dolly Lynch.  Of course, I met them in passing previously, but they had a gorgeous story of their own to share.

Scott had only been referenced previously as he worked in the bookshop that Anna owns.  Now on honeymoon, Scott is taking care of her business whilst coming to terms with a career change that he’s not completely reconciled with.  There is a running theme which illustrates his indecision in that regard. He is, however, grateful for Lady Light, the virtual friend that he’s discovered, and he spends his spare time messaging her. 

Dolly has inherited her aunt’s shop and has moved to Pepper Bay in the hope of finding a new start for her and her son after the tragic death of her husband.  She would welcome a little romance in her life, but she will only open herself up to someone who can be completely honest with her.  She has enough to keep her happy as she shares messages with her online friend.

It doesn’t take long to figure out the identities of the virtual friends, but that doesn’t make for a happy ever after.  There’s added intrigue surrounding the fate of the retirement home where Dolly’s aunt resides and, of course, news of Anna’s baby.

I immediately took to both Dolly and Scott, it was frustrating that Scott made some poor decisions, but it was fun to see how he would recover from his mistakes. Despite his secret past, he was a genuinely kind and caring soul. The romance was gentle and incredibly lovely.

Don’t worry if you’ve not read any of the previous books, they can all be enjoyed as standalone stories and you can always go back and read them later.

Author Bio

Amazon best-selling author, reader, mum, chocolate lover, and a huge fan of a HEA. I was born and raised in the East End of London, and I’ve been happily writing stories since I was a little girl. When I’m not writing, I’m baking cakes or pottering around in my little garden in Essex, trying not to kill the flowers. I’m the author of contemporary romance, middle-grade, and the thought-provoking thriller about mental illness, The Focus Program.

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Blog Tour – We’ll Always Have Venice by Leonie Mack

This was my first book from this author, but I feel sure it won’t be my last. In recent years, my husband and I have talked about the fact that we rather fancy Italy, despite previously not fancying it.  Similarly, I’ve never fancied Venice, until now…

I am grateful to Rachel’s Random Resources and Boldwood Books for the digital ARC which was gifted via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

Who can resist the romance of Venice… 

When Norah arrives in Venice for a ten-week internship she is surprised to discover that her guide for her work trips around the lagoon is the undeniably gorgeous and kind Gianluca. She can’t help thinking he might be too good to be true, with his endless fascinating local stories, and his infectious laugh.

Norah is still bitter after an accident left her with a serious injury and also meant the end of her long-term relationship. And besides, she’s serious about her career and that means leaving Venice at the end of the summer. 

Gianluca has had a summer fling before that led to heartache for him and he won’t do it again. He enjoys the long hours out on the lagoon with Norah, but after a storm strands them on a picture-perfect island for a night, they agree they should just be good friends for the summer. 

But life doesn’t always go to plan, and when it’s time for Norah to go, they have to decide whether what they have between them is really just a friendship, and not something more… 

Purchase Link  

Review

I must say, I really identified with Norah, I also walk with a stick after a particularly nasty broken ankle and subsequent arthritis.  I’d love to think that I may be as feisty as she is, but I do share her positive and determined outlook.

Gianluca is a perfect leading man. A perfect study in the genre of tall, dark, and handsome.  At least that was how he was in my imagination.  My habit of casting a movie version saw him played by Bobby Cannavale – Ok, a younger version, but you get my drift. He had a calmness and patience that added to his allure.  Despite guarding a family secret, he still maintained a kindness that was able to penetrate Norah’s romantic armour.

Having been abandoned by her former partner, at the worst time in her life, Norah is determined not to be drawn into any form of summer romance and she’s convinced that Gianluca wouldn’t give her more than a passing glance. She is confident of her professional abilities but lacks that same confidence when viewing herself from a more personal standpoint.

Of course, there is an array of supporting characters and they each add to this gorgeous story.  From Gianluca’s nonna to Norah’s mother there is a wonderful range of differing personalities.  I even warmed to Manu, Norah’s success-driven boss, in the end.

My favourite character was the Lagoons and Islands of Venice.  The descriptions of the sights and sounds had my imagining that I was reclining on a boat in the sunshine with the tips of my fingers trailing in the water.  What I didn’t realise was the difference between the various watercraft of Venice, not every boat is a gondola and not every pilot is a gondolier.

This was a wonderful escape which has certainly inspired me to seek out the sights and sounds of Venice.

Author Bio

Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great international locations. Having lived in London for many years her home is now in Germany with her husband and three children. Leonie loves train travel, medieval towns, hiking and happy endings!

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Blog Tour – The Serial Killers Girl By LH Stacey

I simply love Lynda Stacey’s writing and so it was an easy decision when I was invited onto this Blog Tour, of course, I wanted to be involved.  I first read The Fake Date after seeing ads for it on Twitter, in fact, that was one of my first blog reviews.  I then reviewed No Place Like Home which has now been retitled as The Sisters Next Door.

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

Synopsis

Does a killer’s blood run in the family?

Lexi Jakes thought she could run from her past.

But when her biological mother is found dead, strangled with a red silk scarf and holding a chess piece, Lexi knows that her worst nightmare has come true. Because the murder has all the hallmarks of her own serial killer father, renowned strangler Peter Graves.

Now with her own precious daughter’s life in danger, Lexi will do anything to keep her child safe…she is her father’s daughter after all.

Purchase Link

Review

When I first finished The Serial Killer’s Girl, I immediately felt that it was a definite 4-star book which I was more than comfortable with.  The writing is incredibly atmospheric, and I felt fully engaged with the mounting tension.  My instinct with the star rating was based on having figured out the plot twist. However, I hadn’t expected the story to resonate with me quite so intensely so I’m throwing in a bonus half star.

The story sets off immediately as we are first introduced to the thoughts of the copycat as their desire for revenge is made clear.  We then drop into Lexi’s world as the news of the copycat breaks and her life turns on its axis.  The sinister signature of her father’s crimes becomes all too real as it’s announced that Lexi’s biological mother has been killed in the same way.

Lexi’s world is purposely small, made up of boyfriend Nate, daughter Isla and kitten Agatha.  She feels a need to control what happens around her and that is clearly a throwback to discovering that her own father was a serial killer.

When the copycat strikes a little too close to home, Lexi feels that she has no alternative other than to flee to the one place where she feels safe.  She heads to the Isle of Lindisfarne, the island community that is cut off from the mainland by tidal waters, twice daily.

I felt that Lexi is beautifully developed. I admit that I misinterpreted some of the writing as superfluous, but it was with hindsight that I realised that it painted the picture of how thoroughly she questioned every relationship in her life.  Her repetitive thoughts made sense as I considered how I would process the very real danger of a copycat killer having me in their target.  Let alone, my daughter. That is the stuff of madness.  Even writing this review I can feel the tension returning.

Successfully identifying the suspect was not the key to this thriller, it was feeling the abject terror related to the desperation of wondering when and where a killer may strike.  If you read this book from Lexi’s point of view, worry less about identifying the perpetrator and feel Lexi’s fear, you may understand why this story has affected me so deeply.

Author Bio 

Lynda Stacey is the bestselling psychological suspense author of over five novels. Alongside her writing, she is a full-time sales director for an office furniture company and has been a nurse, an emergency first response instructor and a PADI Staff Instructor. She lives near Doncaster with her husband.

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Publication Day ARC Review – A Taste of Greek Summer by Mandy Baggot

This is the fifth title that I have read and reviewed by Mandy Baggot.  I really enjoy her style of writing and the way she includes contemporary references.  Of course, this one was inspired by her adventure on Ready, Steady Cook and you can easily sense that inspiration as the story develops.  If you’d like to read a couple of my previous reviews, here are a couple of links: Staying Out for the Summer and Christmas by the Coast.

I am grateful to Embla books for the digital ARC gifted to me via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  You can read my thoughts below.

Synopsis

Lydia Broom is living her second-best life. With her dreams of being a chef left in the dust she instead finds solace writing about the dishes she wished she created. When Lydia’s sent to Corfu on an assignment, she’s excited to see what culinary delights the island has to offer, but nothing seems to tickle her fancy – until she tastes the creations of local cook, Thanos Nicolaidis.

After one sizzling afternoon in the kitchen together, Lydia and Thanos both allow themselves to dream of the futures they desperately want. And as they grow closer, sharing secret ingredients and family recipes, Thanos begins to realise he has to show Lydia the parts of him he’s done so well to hide…

Get ready for the hottest Greek meze on the menu as Lydia and Thanos discover that amid the sirtaki dancing and the smashing plates, they might just be cooking up their very own love story.

Review

A Taste of a Greek Summer is a fabulous escape to the Greek island of Corfu.  We are transported to a place where food and family take front seat and life falls into place along the way.

Lydia is a little bit broken, and we discover how deeply she has been affected by betrayal as the story unfolds.  Her former passion for cooking has been forced to take a back seat and she is unable to even consider working with food ever again.  As a lead character, Lydia is perfect and her relationship with her best friend and colleague Caroline is the perfect foil to her cautious nature.  As Lydia craves Michelin inspired food, Caroline craves anything that has been in recent contact with a deep fat fryer.  None of this is helped by her difficult relationship with her parents.

Thanos is the archetypal Greek God.  Described as tall dark and brooding he is definitely a reason to consider Corfu as a holiday destination.  That said, he’s not just eye candy, he is a kind gentle man with a strong sense of family and responsibility.  He may be a gifted chef who can create unrivalled food, he is also a brother and a part of a lovely community. 

Of course, Lydia is only visiting Corfu as part of a magazine assignment so there’s no point in them becoming involved as it will be over before it has begun.  However, what they can do is help each other from a culinary perspective.  Thanos needs to recognise his ability and Lydia needs to rediscover her passion for the culinary arts.  With help from a meddlesome octogenarian and a street dance-loving teenager, there’s an enjoyable summer to be experienced.

Ismena was probably my favourite character.  Whether you’ve visited the Greek islands or the mainland, you have definitely met a woman like her.  Fiercely determined and impossible to defy.  I could imagine her tiny house and her grumpy cat.

This is a fun book, and it has a comedic undercurrent that is a signature style for Mandy Baggot.  With Caroline’s sketchy itinerary and Ismena’s increasingly wilder publicity stunts, there’s a lot going on.  But this light-hearted story has romance at its core and a generous portion of sexual tension.

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