It Started with a Secret by Jill Mansell

The official blurb courtesy of Amazon

The trouble with secrets is that you can’t guess what the consequences will be . . .

Lainey has lost everything. Luckily one little fib (OK, quite a big fib) helps nail her dream job. Soon she’s living in a stunning house by the sea, fending off obsessed fans for a retired – if far-from-retiring – actor and organising his charming but chaotic family. It’s definitely worth the challenge of keeping her secret.

At least Lainey isn’t looking for love. It’s time for a break from all that. And yet . . . Seth, the actor’s grandson, really is rather attractive. There’s growing chemistry and a definite connection between them. But how would he react if he knew she hadn’t been honest with him?

Lainey’s not the only one with a secret, though. Seth has one of his own. And everything’s about to start unravelling . . .

Review

If you’ve read my Bio, you will know that Jill Mansell is one of my favourite Romantic Fiction authors.  I’ve not met a book that I’ve not enjoyed and It Started with a Secret didn’t disappoint.

The story opens with a catastrophe of a proposal triggering a chain of events which leave Lainey single, jobless and homeless. 

Lainey and Kit, her best friend, hatch a plan to interview for a fabulous job in Cornwall.  Hired on the spot, they fall easily into their new roles and strike up great relationships with all of the new family that they’re working for.

Of course, there’s a drop-dead gorgeous man in the mix, the lovely Seth who has his own secrets to contend with.

Of course, Seth is in a relationship and Lainey is protecting her secret so, there is no chance of any romance, is there?

Jill is a master at her craft and, despite knowing that there’s going to be a happy ending, you can’t assume anything.  I love the way she writes characters that I want to be friends with and some that I don’t care to ever come across.  Yes, Anton and Christina, I’m speaking about you!

If you enjoy a feel-good story with a real heart, look no further and, if you’ve not read anything else by Jill Mansell, what are you waiting for?

Learn more about Jill here.  Follow Jill on Twitter

A Year of Chasing Love by Rosie Chambers

The Official blurb from Amazon

The last thing top divorce lawyer Olivia Hamilton ever expected was to be served her own divorce papers! To escape her marriage troubles, she agrees to go on a year-long trip to find the ultimate guide to love.

Travelling the world, surrounded by stories of love and happiness, it’s not long before her thoughts turn to Nathan, her soon-to-be ex-husband, and she starts to take note of her own lessons in love…

But with Nathan over a thousand miles away, will it be too late?

Review

Olivia Hamilton loves her job and her life. She is dedicated to her job and enjoys the rare occasions that she can spend time with Nathan, her husband.  Her world comes crashing down when she is served with divorce papers, out of the blue.  Stunned, she is then told that she must take an enforced, 10-month, Sabbatical from work.

Olivia’s friend quickly encourages her to take her new freedom and carry out research for a paper that she’s writing. In short, Olivia is asked to report on what makes marriages break down in different countries and, on a personal level, to send her insights on love and relationships with her two best friends.

The story takes us on adventures to Malta, Denmark, Hawaii and Singapore.  Singapore being where Liv’s soon to be ex-husband is now living, the final destination is Paris, a bittersweet city as Liv had planned to meet Nathan there for a holiday but, as usual, had to cancel.

As she carries out her research, Liv discovers what her priorities are and wonders if it’s too late to realise how important Nathan is to her.

A Year of Chasing Love puts work life balance into perspective.  I think that we are all capable of losing sight of what is important to us, prioritising work successes over personal time.  I love the way this story gently opened Liv up to realising what really matters to her and to discovering that love is worth chasing.

Learn more about Rosie Chambers here.  Follow Rosie on Twitter.

Make do and Mend a Broken Heart by Katey Lovell

The official blurb from Amazon

When Leanne and Richard bought a dilapidated old seaside cottage to renovate together as their forever home, their future was full of hope and promise.

But heartbreak was just around the corner: fast forward a few months and Richard is gone. With his death, Leanne finds herself stony broke, faced with an uninhabitable home and lacking even the basic skills to do it up herself.

With the help of the friendly woman who runs the library and the reluctant assistance of the man who works in the local hardware shop, the cottage is lovingly restored. But broken hearts aren’t so easy to fix… are they?

Review

I found this book to be enchanting.  I knew from the start that Leanne would find a happy ending but, it’s how she gets there that makes this book special.

A lack of funds and DIY know-how are only minor issues in the grand scheme of things. Leanne knows nobody in the seaside town of Rockgate Bay and everything that she owns is in danger of becoming ruined if repairs to Sea Glass Cottage are not forthcoming.

There is a huge amount of work required at Sea Glass Cottage and Leanne finds herself camping in the one room that is in better shape than the rest.

Leanne’s Mum urges her to make friends and fast so, when faced with Milo, a friendly Golden Retriever, she is annoyed that his handsome owner is less than friendly.

At the library, Leanne meets Mary and an instant friendship is formed which will lead Leanne into becoming a part of the community at Rockgate Bay.

With so many jobs required to get the house into shape, Leanne visits the local diy shop where she comes face to face with Harry, owner of the shop and Milo, the friendly Golden Retriever.

It’s immediately apparent that Harry has a very low regard for Leanne and Leanne takes an instant dislike to him.  Fortunately, Leanne’s need for help is greater than her dislike for Harry and a fragile truce is built.

I don’t like to give away spoilers so, I will leave the review there.  If you are looking for an uplifting story, this is a sure thing and you won’t be sorry you picked it.

Learn more about Katey Lovell here.  Follow Katey on Twitter.

Unexpected Lessons in Love by Lucy Dillon

The official blurb from Amazon

Jeannie always wanted to fall in love, and now she’s finally got the whirlwind romance she dreamed of. Dan’s gorgeous, he’s a successful young vet, and he flew her to New York and proposed on Brooklyn Bridge. Jeannie has to remind herself this is actually her life. It seems too perfect, too magical, to be real. Yet it is.

But now she’s on her way to the wedding she can’t shake off the tight sensation crushing her chest. Is it just nerves . . . or is this all happening a bit too fast?

Jeannie has one last chance to shout, ‘Stop!’ But just as she grabs it, a twist of fate throws everything she knows into the air like confetti. What Jeannie learns about Dan, about her own heart, and about the power of love itself, will change her world for ever . . .

Review

This story had me guessing and hoping all the way through.  I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews and apologise if I give anything away.

Jeannie is forced to analyse her feelings for Dan and her guilt is tangible as we follow the aftermath of their big day.

As Jeannie’s tale unfolds, we are introduced to a range of adorable characters, some with 2 legs and some with 4!

Dan’s new boss at the veterinary practice, George and his wife Rachel, along with Dan’s best man, Owen, provide the support that Jeannie needs to get through the turbulent times ahead.

I particularly enjoyed seeing George and Rachel investigate their own marriage as Jeannie dealt with her problems.

Owen was the best friend that either Dan or Jeannie could hope for and, without question, his gentle yet strong spirit made me hope that there are more people like him in the world.

I laughed and cried with this book and certainly enjoyed the happy ending.  Would love a follow up story as I believe that theirs is room to revisit these characters in the future.

Read this book, I wholeheartedly recommend it and feel sure that you will learn some unexpected lessons in love.

Learn more about Lucy Dillon here.  Follow Lucy on Twitter.

The Lost Frequencies – The Soul Prophecies by Caitlyn Lynagh

The official blurb from Amazon

During a salvage hunt in the desolate wastelands of Planet Iyeeka,  a strange naked woman is discovered inside a metal machine. No one has lived in the area for decades.

Ten wise Iyeekens are drawn to the woman through their dreams and eventually follow her, along with the three who found her, through their war-torn land in search of truth. They believe she is the key to saving their dying planet. She has knowledge even she doesn’t understand. Yet.

Who are these aliens she so vividly remembers? What is the significance of this planet Earth and its inhabitants? And why is her knowledge essential in saving their world?

Review

This book took a couple of chapters to get into, it’s a completely new genre for me but, I found the story intriguing.

I hadn’t realised, when I agreed to read and review that this story is part of a series but, that said, it certainly doesn’t need the rest of the series to be understood and enjoyed.

The essence of the story, to me, was viewed as an allegory for how mankind is abusing earth’s natural resources.  How Earth might be viewed if we continue to take nature for granted.

The story opens 700 years in the past on the planet Iyeeka, with a character named Arkeenell talking about how he has seen the future and leaving a message that he hoped may never be read.

The main story hinges around the characters of Varth and Zerren.  Varth is a member of the NIL, the Neo Iyeeka Liberation group which is led by the ruthless Syvvak.  Zerren and his brother Roarn are recruited by Varth to search for metal which can be reutilised as it is one of many depleted commodities.  Varth’s main intent is to recruit Zerren and Roarn into the NIL but, he doesn’t show his hand immediately. Whilst searching for metal, Zerren hears voices in his head, pointing him to a certain area.  He discovers a capsule which he triggers accidentally.  Once the capsule opens, a young woman escapes.  She doesn’t speak and has purple hair and eyes; Zerren names her Ehi. Zerren and Ehi form an immediate bond of trust.

Iyeekan’s defend themselves using a powerful substance known as Lif.  Lif is stored in amulets and it is wielded through mind control.  When Varth shows his hand and tries to recruit the group into the NIL, a fight breaks out and each uses their Lif but, Ehi is able to control all 3 Lif sources and helps Zerren and Roarn overpower Varth.  The ability to control another person’s Lif has never been seen before and Syvvak insists that Varth captures Ehi.

The scene is now set for Zerren to try to get Ehi to safety whilst being pursued by Varth.

I don’t believe in spoilers but, I can promise you that this is only a part of the main story.  I found it easier to read the story with a translation as several new words were introduced.  For example, I read Yebon as vehicle, Kaelo as radio and Eyeleetansy as a butterfly.  I may be way off base but, it helped me.

I have no point of reference for this genre but, I was fascinated by the premise and, once I got into it, I enjoyed the story.

Read more from Caitlyn Lynagh here Follow Caitlyn on Twitter

The Sacred Spoils by Will Adams

The official blurb courtesy of Amazon

To the victor go the spoils…

Historian Carmen Nero, in southern Italy to help a friend search for ancient riches, is caught up in the murderous schemes of the Calabrian Mafia.

Cesco Rossi, a quick-witted conman on the run from a brutal group of neo-Nazis, is about to be confronted by his tragic past.

Israeli Professor Zara Gold is on a mission to find Judaism’s most sacred relic.

For the tomb of Alaric I, the Visigoth king who sacked and looted Rome of its most fabulous treasures, is on the point of being revealed. And who knows what secrets may lie within?

The race to uncover history’s greatest lost fortune has begun…

Review

With an archaeological theme, this story follows Cesco Rossi and Carmen Nero as they race to find the lost treasures of Alaric, Visigoth King, whilst avoiding the clutches of the ‘Ndrangheta, Calabrian Mafia and Israeli Secret Service. 

Legend has it that Alaric, and his men, sacked Rome and stole all the treasures collected by the Roman Empire.  Upon his death, Alaric’s army diverted a river and dug and crypt in the temporarily dry river bed.  For centuries, Alaric’s final resting place has remained undiscovered.

Carmen is an up and coming archaeologist with a lot of respect within the community.  Rossi is a trickster with an eye on a fortune and has no problem who gets hurt as a result of his cons.

This book was a new genre for me but, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I went from loathing Rossi to hoping that he could be redeemed.  The story does jump around but, stick with it, and I think that you’ll enjoy the ride.

The way that the truth of Rossi’s story unfurled was terrific and I felt a clear shift in my opinion of him.

I really loved the way that the locations were described, I could almost feel the sun’s heat.  I have never visited Italy but, I am certainly intrigued to explore Southern Italy after reading this book.

Follow Canelo on Twitter to discover more about this series

Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm by Jaimie Admans

The official blurb courtesy of Amazon

All she wants for Christmas…

Leah Griffiths has woken up after a few too many glasses of Prosecco with a hangover – and discovers she’s accidentally bought a little Christmas tree farm in Scotland!

At first she’s horrified, but perhaps it’s the perfect way to forget all about her cheating ex.

And when she meets grumpy (but ridiculously gorgeous) pumpkin farmer Noel underneath the mistletoe, Leah begins to believe that at Christmas time, anything can happen…

Review

When Leah Griffiths outbid R-5-hyphens-81 on an eBay auction to buy a Christmas Tree farm in Northern Scotland, she was drunk.  So drunk that she had only vaguest recollection of any of it.

Now, Leah is sober and moving her life to Scotland.  She’s sorry to say goodbye to her best friend, Chelsea but, other than that, London holds nothing for her.  Her relationship with her philandering boss/boyfriend is dead in the water since she caught him cheating on her.

Still reeling from the deaths of her parents, Leah had been idly viewing the eBay listing and dreaming of owning a Christmas tree farm.  Sure, her Dad was Scottish and this would have been his dream but, would he approve of Leah spending her inheritance in such a way.

Noel, from the neighbouring pumpkin farm has his own views on whether Leah is the right person and, he knows that she will have a major job on her hands if she decides to stick it out.  There’s also the small matter of the local market being closed and the village turned into a bus terminus.  Can Leah handle this much pressure?

I really enjoyed this story and, as I like to cast stories, in my mind, I saw Noel being similar to Zach McGowan from Black Sails… Not the same mental image as the author but, it worked for me!  I loved that this didn’t follow a fairytale path with easy solutions to all of Leah’s woes.  This book is a lovely, festive treat.

Read more from Jaimie Admans follow Jaimie on Twitter

The Christmas Countdown by Donna Ashcroft.

The official blurb – Courtesy of Amazon

It’s that time of year again, snowflakes are fluttering and the countdown to Christmas has begun! Holly Devine is returning to the only place that feels like home, hoping that some festive magic will help to turn her life around…

Twenty-seven-year-old Holly Devine has just had her heart well and truly broken. Hurt by the two people she loves the most, she flees to her eccentric Aunt Clara’s cosy cottage to hide away over the winter season. But kind, impulsive Aunt Clara has other ideas… She’s not about to see her favourite niece wallowing in sadness during the most wonderful time of the year. So, with the help of her close circle of friends and plenty of gin, she creates a handmade advent calendar for Holly.

Every day in December, Holly opens a new door and has a different task to complete. She soon finds herself asking out a complete stranger – gorgeous, cheeky pub landlord, Finn Jackson. But as handsome Finn gets involved in her festive challenges, Holly’s determination to avoid romance is put to the test. Still, Finn’s far too carefree and single for true love, isn’t he?

As Holly begins to embrace each day – a complete makeover, building the biggest snowman she’s ever seen, singing in a karaoke contest – Finn is there adding fun and laughter to every moment. Holly starts to realise that she can become the person she’s always wanted to be…

But a secret from Finn’s past threatens to turn Holly’s Christmas upside down and makes her question everything she has experienced in the last few weeks. Will Finn open up to Holly in time to show her how he really feels? And will she complete the advent calendar challenges and fall in love this Christmas?

Review

I could read a Christmas story in Spring.  I just love the genre of romance during the season of goodwill.

Fleeing from heartbreak, Holly Devine arrives on the doorstep of her Aunt Clara.  Sunflower Island, in the English Channel is the setting for this tale and is where Aunt Clara has her home which comes complete with its own Gin Palace.

Holly has been devastated to learn that her twin sister, Lucinda has been cheating on Holly with her boyfriend Marcel.  After discovering them kissing at the office Christmas party, Holly decides to get away and try and find herself.

Aunt Clara is the kind of Aunt that we’d all love, a giant heart and a wise mind.  Together with her fellow members of the local WI, Aunt Clara creates an advent calendar with a difference.  Each day, Holly will be challenged to perform a task which will help her rediscover her spark.

Of course, romance comes in the form of the grieving pub landlord, Finn Jackson.  Finn can’t let go of the heartache of losing his girlfriend when she died suddenly.  The timing isn’t right for either of them to embark on a relationship but, they are both ready for a bit of fun with no strings? 

I read this book in two sessions and found it to be a lovely page-turner.  All of the characters were likeable and, I found that I was rooting for Finn and Holly to overcome their pains and find a little happiness, no matter how brief.

I would certainly like an Aunt Clara of my own.

Find more books by Donna Ashcroft here Follow Donna on Twitter

A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan

The official Blurb – Courtesy of Amazon

n the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding.

First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret about their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland.

Rosie’s older sister Katie is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself. If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans…

Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiance but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived – how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget.

Review

I found this book enchanting.  The lives of two families start to blend but, not without several admissions tears.

Maggie receives a call from her youngest daughter, Rosie.  Rosie and her boyfriend Dan are in Aspen for Thanksgiving and he’s just proposed.  This lovely news is overshadowed by the short notice as the wedding is set for Christmas!

Rosie has a history of asthma attacks and Maggie has cocooned her, adding protection from things that could cause her hurt.  Such as, the fact that Maggie and Nick, her husband, are estranged.  Katie, Maggie’s eldest daughter has a dark secret that she’s not shared with any of the family and she’s not ready to tell.  All she is ready for is a fight to make sure that Rosie doesn’t go through with the wedding and make the biggest mistake of her life!  Can Maggie, Nick and Katie make the trip from Oxford to Aspen and find out what the urgency is?

I loved the way this story opened out.  Having lived in Colorado, the descriptions of the mountains in the snow brought back beautiful memories.  I can confirm that Aspen is a gorgeous place.

The way Sarah wove her tale of the intricacies of relationships was magical.  I knew there was a happy ending coming but, at what cost?

Read this and escape to a lovely place.

Find more from Sarah Morgan and follow Sarah on Twitter

The shape of night by Tess Gerritsen.

The Official Blurb – Courtesy of Amazon

We’ve all done things we’re ashamed of . . .

When Ava arrives at Brodie’s Watch, she thinks she has found the perfect place to hide from her past. Something terrible happened, something she is deeply ashamed of, and all she wants is to forget.

But the old house on the hill both welcomes and repels her and Ava quickly begins to suspect she is not alone. Either that or she is losing her mind.

The house is full of secrets, but is the creeping sense of danger coming from within its walls, or from somewhere else entirely?

Review

I was already familiar with Tess Gerritsen and her characters, Rizzoli and Isles.  I didn’t know what to expect with this story but, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Brodie’s Watch, a clifftop home in New England is the main star of the story.  Built by a long deceased ship’s captain, the building commands stunning views out to sea.

Ava has rented the house as a base for her cookery book writing but, more than that, she is running from a secret that leaves her devastated and avoiding her sister.  Ava’s relationship with alcohol is spiraling out of control as she tries to numb her memories in order to sleep.

A dark spirit roams the house in the form of Captain Brodie. At once, Ava feels the pull of this dark and mysterious form.  She knows that he can’t be real but, she can feel him and, as the days pass, Ava begins to experience strong sexual encounters.

Ava tries to seek comfort and escape with the handsome ‘Dr Ben’.  A gentle man who paints in his spare time and gently woos Ava. He is obviously attracted to her and offers his support.

Haunted by the fact that the previous tenant disappeared mysteriously, Ava seeks the help of a local medium who warns that there are dangerous events happening in the house.  A body is found in the sea and identified as the previous tenant, Ava must face up to the dangers of Brodie’s Watch and find safety in a new place.  Can she escape the draw that the house holds over her?

I found this story really interesting but, it did seem to struggle with finding its identity.  Not specifically a thriller or an erotic novel, I wasn’t sure where the story was leading but, I was happy with the conclusion.

Discover more from Tess Gerritsen here Follow Tess Gerritsen on Twitter