Thriller

Haunted or imagined?

‘The Woman in the Woods’ – Lisa Hall

5-star-rating

The Woman in the Woods

When Allie moves to a quaint old cottage with her husband, it’s their dream home. Nestled in the village of Pluckley, it seems a perfect haven in which to raise their two children. But Pluckley has a reputation. It’s known as England’s most haunted village. And not long after the birth of their new son, Allie begins to notice strange things…   

What’s the flash of white she sees moving quickly through the woods to the back of their house? And what’s the strange scratching noise from the chimney?

As Allie discovers more about the history of their new home, she uncovers a story of witchcraft and superstition, which casts a long shadow into the present day. And not everything is as it seems. Her family might well be in danger, but it’s a danger none of them could have foreseen…

Approaching Halloween, this is the perfect read to get you in the mood. It is chilling, it is atmospheric and will have you questioning Allie and her actions throughout.

Moving into the spookiest village in Britain, I think Allie knows, deep down, that there are going to be some ghostly tales that she learns about. What she wasn’t anticipating was that these legends even feature her own house. With this knowledge comes fear and superstition as Allie becomes increasingly convinced that she is being haunted by a woman who used to live in the house hundreds of years ago. However, Allie’s husband and close friend are dismissive of her claims, excusing her delusions for new-baby stresses.

This book covers a range of topical issues, including mental health and the stresses of motherhood. I did forget the name of Allie’s baby as he is so often referred to as ‘baby’; I think the writer could have used his name a bit more to make it more personal and for her relationship with her son to be more convincing. Exasperated for Allie when no one seems to believe her about seeing something in the woods behind their house, Hall also explores the sensitive issue of mental health and how precarious it is. Whilst I was frustrated and sympathetic that everyone around her is so dismissive, I do think Hall uses this topic rather carefully, especially when combined with postpartum feelings.

For sure, this book is incredibly atmospheric, particularly when Allie experiences such ghostly occurrences around the house. The chilling landing, the reflections in the mirror, voices, scratchings in the chimney… this book has the ingredients for a spine-tingling, atmospheric read. The isolation that Allie feels as a new mum is symbolised by the woods that seem to engulf her back garden. Therefore, I was convinced that believing she can see a figure in the trees became a metaphor for Allie desiring to reach out and her opinions being accepted. She is determined she is not ‘crazy’, but not even her husband seems to trust her. How can she change his opinion?

The theme of witchcraft was fascinating and I enjoyed reading the history of Allie’s house. Furthermore, when trinkets are discovered in the house, it added to the idea of spells and charms. I loved reading about the legends of Pluckley but think the writer could have developed this slightly further and allowed more magic and witchcraft to take more prominence in the story.

Quickly captured by this story, I found I could not put it down. Obsessed with Allie’s story, I was so curious to discover what the explanations would be behind her many accusations. In truth, I was surprised by the ending and think it could have been elaborated further, making significant connections to the history of the house but, it seemed to satisfy the overall atmosphere of the novel. At the same time, I thought Allie’s treatment at the end was quite sad because it justified how other characters behaved towards her in the novel. I think I was desiring more strength from Allie after all she had experienced.

This was an immersive read with a haunting setting, a haunted house and a woman haunted by what many consider as a figment of her imagination… or is it?

With thanks to HQ Digital and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Womaninthe Woods_BTB

Teenage

Beware the bayou

‘Dark and Shallow Lies’ – Ginny Myers Sain

3-star-rating

Dark and Shallow Lies

La Cachette, Louisiana, is the worst place to be if you have something to hide.

This tiny town, where seventeen-year-old Grey spends her summers, is the self-proclaimed Psychic Capital of the World–and the place where Elora Pellerin, Grey’s best friend, disappeared six months earlier.

Grey can’t believe that Elora vanished into thin air any more than she can believe that nobody in a town full of psychics knows what happened. But as she digs into the night that Elora went missing, she begins to realize that everybody in town is hiding something–her grandmother Honey; her childhood crush Hart; and even her late mother, whose secrets continue to call to Grey from beyond the grave.

When a mysterious stranger emerges from the bayou–a stormy-eyed boy with links to Elora and the town’s bloody history–Grey realizes that La Cachette’s past is far more present and dangerous than she’d ever understood. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who she can trust. In a town where secrets lurk just below the surface, and where a murderer is on the loose, nobody can be presumed innocent–and La Cachette’s dark and shallow lies may just rip the town apart.

I had high hopes with this young adult, supernatural read. I loved the idea of mysticism against the backdrop of Louisiana however, unfortunately I predicted too much of the plot far too early on, and I thought the conclusion became rather prolonged.

This is intended for young adults. There is only one sexual scene so I think it is best suited for more mature readers. Other than that, this story is about the mysterious disappearance of Elora. Vanishing from the swamp town of La Cachette, the return of Grey several months later, leads to the questions increasing about how her best friend has disappeared. Grey, unlike so many of the residents of La Cachette, does not seem to have any supernatural abilities. Yet, her return causes her to start seeing flashes of what she believes are the events heading to Elora’s absence. Grey does not trust these insights and keeps them a secret, even from her grandmother. However, as the questions mount and the lack of answers continue, Grey knows she needs to discover the truth about her best friend.

Despite Elora being missing, there is a significant lack of police presence. Zero indication is given to a police investigation and I found this definitely lessened the reality of Elora’s disappearance. Whilst the supernatural does play a role in this story, I was hoping that the writer would still depict a more believable scenario. Instead, it is like the entire town has forgotten about Elora and it is only the few remaining teens that seem just slightly concerned.

The fragility of human nature is explored in this story as it runs parallel with the psychic powers that so many characters have. I liked how varied these powers are: from communicating with the dead, to influencing the weather, and even being able to experience other people’s emotions. It creates an interesting cast of characters but I do not believe that the writer full explored this. I think there were plenty of opportunities to develop this part of the story further, whilst perhaps lessening Grey’s own enquiries – they did drag on a bit and felt rather repetitive. It is clear that the youngsters appear to have difficulty coping with these abilities which, coupled with the disappearance, demonstrates the lack of guidance these teens have in the town.

Pathetic fallacy intensifies the run up to the final revelations. With Storm Elizabeth due to hit, La Cachette has to be evacuated. The writer draws on scenes we have witnessed in the past with such devastating storms and I found the descriptions particularly vivid and adding to the drama of the story. It is clear that Grey is in for some important discoveries when the wind, rain and even lightning, intensify. However, I believe that the delivery of this could have easily been shortened by several chapters.

This was an ok book, overall. I think young adults will appreciate the mixture of mystery and supernatural. Unfortunately for me, I guessed too easily how the plot would develop and I became bored by the lack of progress over Elora’s disappearance. There’s a lot of teen emotions that run through this book, making it even more suited for young adults. In my opinion, there’s an interesting premise here but I think a bit more punch, a bit more character development and this would have strengthened the novel significantly.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Historical

Seeking out the spy

‘Her Secret War’ – Pam Lecky

4-star-rating

Her Secret War

A moment that ruins her life

On 31st May 1941, Germany drops bombs on neutral Dublin and Sarah Gillespie loses her family and home that fateful night. Days later, the man she loves leaves Ireland to enlist in the RAF.

A decision that changes her life

With nothing to keep her in Ireland and a burning desire to help the war effort, Sarah seeks refuge with relatives in Hampshire, England. But before long, Sarah’s family history catches up with her.

A mission that could cost her life

Sarah is asked to prove her loyalty to Britain through uncovering a spy at Vickers Supermarine, the manufacturers of the legendary Spitfire fighter plane. But to progress with her mission, she must become involved with a fifth columnist. And so the most dangerous game she’s ever played ensues…

It’s been a while since I have read a book set during the Second World War and I was intrigued by Lecky’s plot that explored an Irish woman working in England, whose family history seems to follow her across the sea.

I admit, it took me a while to get fully invested in the plot as I thought it was particularly slow to get going. Lecky takes time to establish Sarah’s character and the events leading up to her move to England were carefully described. However, once Sarah’s mission became clear, I was keen to see how it would conclude and had my own theories about the war that she was dealing with.

Ireland’s position in the Second World War is something I know relatively little about. Therefore, the bombing of Dublin in 1941 demonstrated how the country was forced to become involved. The fear and panic that Lecky conveys shows a careful understanding of this significant event and I truly felt for Sarah as she learns the full tragedy of that fateful night. However, it was not until Sarah is on her mission to uncover a Nazi sympathiser, that I really got the sense of how paranoid one could become during the war. I completely sympathised with Sarah’s desperate need to confide in her Uncle about her circumstances yet, at the same time, not fully convinced that those she worked with could be trusted. Sarah is trapped in her own war of loyalties and lies, making the title of this book even more significant.

Whilst I was able to foresee how the story would unfold, I was especially interested in Sarah’s role at the Supermarine. Her position as a tracer was not something I knew about and, when Sarah’s loyalties are called into question, I was curious to understand how she would escape without raising plenty of questions. Indeed, the lack of trust she has towards her colleagues really intensified the panic and tension at the height of Sarah’s mission.

The final chapter was an unexpected surprise and one that left the book open. Does this mean we will see more of Sarah’s spying in a later book? She is a strong character and proves she will not be duped, even when her life is at stake and her family are threatened. I found the ending to be particularly exciting and I think this helped to make up for the slow start to the story. I grew to like her as a character and I would be keen to see Sarah’s employment taking her to the heart of Nazi Germany, should there be a sequel to this story.

Espionage and lies dominate this narrative and I enjoyed reading a story that was not just about trying to survive during the Second World War. Lecky adds an interesting layer to the plot with Sarah’s Irish heritage and I would be keen to see how this is developed further… please continue with a follow-up story!

With thanks to Avon books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Women's fiction

A most eventful time of the year

‘A Not So Quiet Christmas’ – Suzie Tullet

3-star-rating

A Not So Quiet Christmas

A solo getaway at an English country cottage is a pleasant way to spend the holiday—but it takes two to really make things merry . . .

Antonia prefers a quiet Christmas. She’s happy to spend it on her own, watching Hallmark holiday movies in her pyjamas, eating what she wants, when she wants.

Antonia’s friend Jules, on the other hand, loves a big Christmas celebration and plans on travelling to the Yorkshire Dales for a festive break. But when Jules breaks her leg, she persuades Antonia to make the trip on her behalf. Arriving at the little cottage, Antonia meets the handsome property agent Oliver. But she can’t escape the weird locals—or avoid embarrassing situations like mistaking a cow for a burglar.

As Christmas approaches, the attraction between Oliver and Antonia grows. She could choose to return to the bustling city and spend it alone. Or she could choose love and have a not so quiet Christmas . . .

Whilst this book certainly oozes with Christmas spirit, I thought the plot itself was a bit bland and lack-lustre. I loved the romantic, wintery setting of the Yorkshire countryside and thought Tullett went to town with a festive read. 

Antonia is a warm character and a lovely friend to Jules. Agreeing to come to her aunt’s cottage and help sort it out on Jules’s behalf, Antonia quickly finds herself falling into a range of mishaps, much to the amusement of the locals. From getting stuck up a mountain, to nearly confronting a local burglar, this doesn’t seem to be the quiet, low-key Christmas that Antonia was hoping to get away with! Despite regularly checking in with her friend, Antonia grows to realise that, for Jules’s sake (who is a massive Christmas fan), she should probably host a celebration that her friend would be proud of. Of course, even this doesn’t go completely to plan.

This was a surprisingly short read and I think developing the plot would have made for a more interesting novel. Learning that Antonia is sorting through the cottage, I wanted this to be more of a feature. I think there was opportunity for lots of reminiscing and I was fascinated by the brief glimpses of the possessions that have been collected over the decades. True, the scene where Antonia is rummaging through a wardrobe was great fun and I would have preferred more like this to feature in the story.

I really enjoyed reading all the different Christmas facts that are scattered throughout the novel I genuinely hope they are true! It added to the entertainment of the story and made the supporting characters more likeable too: it really proved what a lovely community that Antonia found herself in.

Overall, this book certainly ticks all the boxes for a Christmas read. I liked that the plot flowed so rapidly and, because it is quite a short novel, think this would become a perfect Christmas Eve read. There is a lot of love and happiness in the story and Tullett has hit the right note with creating a festive story that celebrates all the lovely things about this time of year. However, I do wish there had been a bit more plot development because it felt like Antonia was jumping from one disaster to the next.

With thanks to Bloodhound books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Romance

Master chef

‘The Cosy Cottage in Ireland’ – Julie Caplin

5-star-rating

The Cosy Cottage In Ireland Cover

Snuggle up in your favourite armchair and take a trip across the Irish sea for comfort food, cosy cottage nights and a heart-warming romance…

Talented lawyer Hannah Campbell is after a change in her workaholic Manchester life – so on an uncharacteristic whim she books herself a place at the world-renowned Killorgally Cookery School in Country Kerry. But on her first night in Ireland, sampling the delights of Dublin, Hannah can’t resist falling for the charms of handsome stranger Conor. It’s only when Hannah arrives at her postcard-pretty home at Killorgally for the next six weeks that she discovers what happens in Dublin doesn’t quite stay in Dublin …

Nestled amongst rolling green hills and breath-taking countryside, the cookery school throws Hannah and Conor together – for better or worse.

Once again Caplin delivers a great read as this writer becomes my ‘go to’ author for cosy romances that feature beautiful settings and fantastic food! Heading to Ireland this time, we follow Hannah as she embarks on a cookery course, only to realise that her desserts go beyond a perfect soufflé.

Two of the most memorable things of my last Caplin read was the vivid setting and mouth-watering food. Readers will not be disappointed here as we firstly head to Dublin and then the idyllic Irish countryside. Personally, I have many warm memories of Dublin and I think Caplin’s description perfectly captures the atmosphere, energy and aesthetics of a beautiful city. Yet, only a small fraction of this book takes place here as Hannah moves to the Irish coast to learn how to cook. It reminded me a bit of Master Chef and The Great British Bake Off as we watch many scenes of Hannah’s attempts to improve her culinary skills. I truly sympathised with Hannah as she realises she is not as good as her classmates, but perseveres nonetheless.

Living on the working farm/cookery school, Hannah learns not just about the importance of food, but to take time out for herself. Hannah is able to admit that her life in Manchester isn’t really living: her apartment is just a place to sleep; she is fully dedicated to her job with little room for anything else; and she lacks the confidence to take risks and make a change. Therefore, the cookery course is symbolic of the transformation that Hannah undergoes, which she herself begins to recognise (calling it her ‘Ireland Hannah’ when she sees that difference emerging). This was a really enjoyable aspect of the story and one that I recognised from Caplin’s previous read, where characters go on a journey of re-discovery and evaluate what is most important to them.

The Cosy Cottage In Ireland

Of course, one thing you expect from Caplin’s novels is a sweet romance. This happens with the dishy Conor and I loved imagining his Irish accent! The first scenes where Hannah and Conor meet are delightfully entertaining and, whilst it is easy to foresee how their relationship will develop, added to the cosy atmosphere of the book. As I said, this author is perfect for writing books that will make her readers feel all warm and content on the inside.

I really enjoyed the vast variety of characters in this book, particularly Hannah’s fellow cooking classmates. The people are all different in their own way and have such contrasting personalities. Jason was definitely my favourite chef, as I loved reading his rebellious behaviour and the money he had to donate to the swearing jar! He is a lovable rogue and I thought his final actions towards the end of the story simply proved how many good friends Hannah had made on the course.

For sure, my love for Ireland gave me a biased head-start with this book! It is a lovely read and I enjoyed relaxing to see Hannah’s cooking disasters and how she learned along the way. This is a sweet story that did not disappoint and I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Author bio:

Julie Caplin, formerly a PR director, swanned around Europe for many years taking top foodJulie Caplin Bookshelf and drink writers on press trips (junkets) sampling the gastronomic delights of various cities in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Copenhagen and Switzerland. It was a tough job but someone had to do it.

These trips have provided the inspiration and settings for her Romantic Escapes series which have been translated into fifteen different languages.

The first book in the seven strong series, The Little Café in Copenhagen, was shortlisted for a Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

 Social Media Links:

Twitter: @JulieCaplin 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JulieCaplinAuthor/

Instagram: @juliecaplinauthor

Purchase Link – mybook.to/CosyCottageEB

With thanks to One More Chapter, NetGalley and Rachel’s Random Resources for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Thriller

Just follow your own advice!

‘Last Girl Ghosted’ – Lisa Unger

3-star-rating

Last Girl Ghosted

Think twice before you swipe.

She met him through a dating app. An intriguing picture on a screen, a date at a downtown bar. What she thought might be just a quick hook-up quickly became much more. She fell for him—hard. It happens sometimes, a powerful connection with a perfect stranger takes you by surprise. Could it be love?

But then, just as things were getting real, he stood her up. Then he disappeared—profiles deleted, phone disconnected. She was ghosted.

Maybe it was her fault. She shared too much, too fast. But isn’t that always what women think—that they’re the ones to blame? Soon she learns there were others. Girls who thought they were in love. Girls who later went missing. She had been looking for a connection, but now she’s looking for answers. Chasing a digital trail into his dark past—and hers—she finds herself on a dangerous hunt. And she’s not sure whether she’s the predator—or the prey.

I fell out of love with this book because I was frustrated by Wren’s actions. As a successful agony-aunt, she is very good at giving out advice but rubbish at following her own common sense! This dating thriller fell flat about half-way through the story as it became a game of cat and mouse with no real sense of danger or threat.

Unger’s story is definitely reflective of the times with using apps to find your true love. Wren has not gone on many dates but it would seem her connection with Adam is genuine. Consumed by her feelings for him, it doesn’t take long for the couple to call in to the honeymoon stage of their relationship: they cannot spend enough time together and isolate themselves from their friends. Although Wren’s close friend, Jax, voices concerns, this does not step Wren from falling deeper in love with Adam. Convinced that this is a secure relationship, Wren opens up to him in a way that she hasn’t ever before. However, the following day, Adam abruptly disappears. No responses to her texts, a phone that goes to voicemail, and uncertainty over where he actually lives, Wren comes to the realisation that she has been ghosted.

Yet, this is just the beginning. Although Wren advises people of New York city about how to handle relationships, she seems a fool when it comes to her own. There is even an acceptance from the character herself that she cannot follow her own advice. Rather than letting this relationship pass her by, Wren’s obsession with wanting to know more leads her back to her home town. It is at this point that the novel takes a different turn and rather than just being about an obnoxious man who suddenly dumps women, there is a focus on Wren’s family and her childhood. It all gets a bit sinister.

I was intrigued by Wren’s past and could not foresee how the plot would develop. This was definitely an important element as I struggled to sympathise with Wren’s circumstances. Even when a Private Investigator calls at Wren’s house, also searching for Adam, does she not take this as a warning to back off and move on with life. It’s a grim portrayal from Unger about how people can be fully invested in a relationship but this is not always returned.

About half way through the novel, I decided that I could not feel sorry for Wren because she was behaving so erratically. Despite being respected for her sound advice to others, she sure made some foolish decisions and could not see how ill-thought her actions were. I couldn’t understand the appeal to Adam because he behaves like a jerk but, I guess Wren was reflecting the known proverb of love being blind.

Although my attention in this story did wander, I found myself being gripped again in the last few chapters. I was curious to see how the plot would conclude and Unger does the story justice. Therefore, I think the best parts of the book were the first and final quarters, with the rest a bit slow and lacking tension. It was a good concept for a story but, because I was so annoyed with Wren, this impacted how much I enjoyed it.

I know that this writer is well-celebrated for their thrilling books but this one did not deliver. It’s my first read by this author and I will certainly not be put-off with this taster! This read is a decent enough thriller that explores the emotions of developing relationships. The hidden past adds a different dimension to the story but I think a bit more tension and excitement would have been well-received.

With thanks to HQ Digital and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Last Girl Ghosted_BTB

Thriller

Protective parenting becomes obsessive revenge

‘The Heights’ – Louise Candlish

5-star-rating

The Heights

He thinks he’s safe up there. But he’ll never be safe from you. 

The Heights is a tall, slender apartment building among the warehouses of Tower Bridge, its roof terrace so discreet you wouldn’t know it existed if you weren’t standing at the window of the flat directly opposite. But you are. And that’s when you see a man up there – a man you’d recognize anywhere. He’s older now and his appearance has subtly changed, but it’s definitely him.

Which makes no sense at all since you know he has been dead for over two years.  You know this for a fact.  

Because you’re the one who killed him. 

I enjoyed my last read by Candlish so much, that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this latest release. It was staring at me from my bookshelf, boring a hole into my head with the anticipation of what this thriller would bring. And I was certainly not disappointed with this exciting, unnerving and unpredictable story from a great writer.

This book is told predominantly from the perspective of Ellen, who clearly is struck by a traumatic event that has happened to her. Gradually, readers learn about Kieran, a new boy at her son’s school who rapidly becomes his best friend. But, true to being a protective mother, Ellen cannot stand him and resents the increasing negative influence he seems to have on her high-achieving boy. 

Yet, these negative feelings spiral out of control, moving into obsession when Ellen’s family is torn apart. Not content with moving on with her life, Ellen’s story demonstrates a desperate need to control circumstances around her. Trying to put the metaphorical breaks on life, readers witness her behaviour deteriorate in attempts to serve justice where she feels it has failed. 

Breaking up this narrative are interesting excerpts from The Times newspaper, an article clearly reporting on Ellen’s story. Ambiguous at first, I grew keen to see what the reporter’s take on events were, particularly considering they were in a more informed position than myself. This all leads to a shocking climax at the end and I could never have predicted how the story would conclude. It was a thrill that I have been seeking for several books now.

Candlish’s narrative manipulates the reader and their sympathies. Any parent can relate to Ellen’s protectiveness yet, she takes it to a new level with the obsession that comes from it. As an outsider, you can see the consequences this has on those around Ellen but, at the same time, I feel I would have tried equally as hard to ensure my family were protected. After all, this is surely all that Ellen really wants to do at heart?

Ellen is a strong character and I supported her cause for most of the story. However, Candlish raises some interesting questions for the reader. Definitions of parenthood and how far you influence your children are one of the key themes. Furthermore, how far would you go to ensure retribution is served? But when does this become obsession and revenge? When does it stop?

I loved the different layers to this narrative and how, from about half way through, Candlish encourages readers to question their own judgements. It’s an involved story and I enjoyed trying to find out the truth behind Ellen and Kieran’s bizarre connections. 

I could not put this book down and would have happily read this in one sitting. It was such a satisfying read and, even when the book was closed, I became as obsessed as Ellen, trying to decipher the truth behind the story.

Thriller

Hidden affair leads to trouble

‘The Couple in the Photograph’ – Valerie Keogh

4-star-rating

The Couple in the Photograph

On their anniversary, Keri and Nathan Metcalfe’s children surprise them by having a honeymoon photo blown up to poster size and displayed around the city, captioned “Twenty-five years of marital bliss.” Nathan is thrilled—but Keri is worried that the man she’d been having an affair with will see it . . .

He does. And he doesn’t take it well. When he says she’ll regret it, Keri grows concerned. A funeral wreath is delivered to their home—and then an employee at Keri and Nathan’s company is murdered.

Now Keri is faced with some pressing questions: Is her ex-lover responsible or is someone else behind the threats? Can her marriage survive? And is it always right to tell the truth?

I have read many of Keogh’s books now and I know that there is a decent story hidden behind the covers. This novel did not fail to disappoint, although I think I would have preferred some structural alterations to make it a more engaging plot.

Whilst Keri and Nathan’s children are helping to celebrate their parents’ wedding anniversary, Keri has hidden guilt. Realising that the affair she is having does not fulfil her and she should try harder at her marriage to Nathan, Keri ends the relationship. Yet, soon after, threats start to appear on the family doorstep and Keri cannot help but suspect her spurned lover. Still trying to keep the façade of a happy marriage, Keri begins to notice that even her husband is acting differently. Does Nathan know about her infidelities? Working in business together, Nathan manages to avoid having any decent conversation with his wife, fuelling Keri’s paranoia and conscience even further.

I liked the story because domestic thrillers are appealing to my reading tastes at the moment. Keogh expertly portrays a web of lies from Keri as she desperately intends to keep her affair hidden from the rest of her family. At the same time, whilst readers are looking one way at an obvious suspect, a new plot twist begins to emerge in the pages. As a result, I could not foresee how the story would develop and was really surprised by the answers that are gradually revealed.

However, structurally, I do not feel that this book had enough suspense and tension. Consequently, I struggled to connect with either Keri nor Nathan, finding it difficult to believe that they have had a lengthy, happy marriage. After all, the relationship is introduced when Keri has already been unfaithful, so I did not get a sense of true love that she claims to have for her husband. Furthermore, this was quite a short book (around 250 pages) and the chapters were infuriatingly brief. A couple of pages in and the chapter ends so suddenly… only to continue on almost immediately with the plot. Personally, this significantly lessened the tension of the story and I grew disgruntled with the rapid breaks in the narrative. I think the plot would have been far more powerful if the chapters had been longer and more developed.

Despite this criticism, I have enjoyed this latest book from Keogh. It is not my favourite because I don’t think I was blown away by how the story finally progressed. Yet, I wanted to know how Keri would be able to continue to hide her affair when the threats towards her and her family intensify. Therefore, I think Keogh is most successful here in causing the reader to question whether Keri deserves this secrecy or if her honesty would lead to more of a happy ever after.

With thanks to Bloodhound books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Women's fiction

Sisters are doing it for themselves

‘A Little Piece of Paradise’ – T. A. Williams

4-star-rating

A Little Piece of Paradise

The inheritance of a lifetime… with a catch

When Sophie’s uncle leaves her a castle in the Italian Riviera in his will, she can’t believe her luck. The catch? She and her estranged sister, Rachel, must live there together for three months in order to inherit it.

Having worked in Rome for four years, Sophie’s excited to revisit to Italy, even if it reignites memories of a cheating ex who soon learns of her return and wants to rekindle their spark. Sophie realises that distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder – but for her friend back home, Chris, who she discovers is more to her than just a friend.

With the clock ticking, can Sophie and Rachel stick it out and heal old wounds, or are the sisters destined to go their own way at the end of the three months? And does Chris feel the same way about Sophie as she does for him?

Another solid, summer offering from Williams and once again, we return to the beautiful Italian coast. This time, Williams’ story is not just a romance and I enjoyed watching a growing relationship between sisters, Sophie and Rachel.

I think the inheritance clause adds another element to the story, meaning this is not just about love and relationships. Family connections take centre stage as Sophie and Rachel are forced to live together for three months, after being estranged for several years. The sisters needs to talk and explain past behaviours; this castle in Italy is the perfect location for this to take place.

Once more, Williams perfectly captures the Italian geography as I felt transported to the coast over the summer months. The descriptions were relaxing and vivid and I enjoyed exploring the terrain as much as Sophie. Coupled with the luscious references to food and drink, it was like I was on holiday too – bliss!

A Little Piece of Paradise

Watching Sophie and Rachel rebuild their relationship was really interesting and I liked seeing their eventual honesty. Personally, I thought it went a little too smoothly but I think this reflects the gentle narrative itself. 

On the other hand, Sophie and Rachel do not have easy romantic connections! Along the way we discover more about the ex-boyfriends of the sisters and I enjoyed seeing how they gradually go to support one another. At first, they seem to be living in the castle simply because they have been told to and it is part of their inheritance. However, their transformation over the story reflects their strengthening bond and desire to look out for one another. Indeed, the final chapters of the book did have my heart in my mouth, wondering whether Williams would throw a tragic curve ball at the end!

I think this is a summer romance book with a difference because it shows how two sisters can overcome their personal conflicts to reunite once again. Romance is not the central theme but more about recognising that family offers support and, without it, you realise that romantic relationships just aren’t the same.

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.

Social Media Links:TA Williams

Website: www.tawilliamsbooks.com

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/tawilliamsbooks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrevorWilliamsBooks/

Purchase Links:

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09F5QJQDZ

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09F5QJQDZ

With thanks to Canelo, NetGalley and Rachel’s Random Resources for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A Little Piece of Paradise Landscape

Thriller

Lies, lies, and more lies

‘Her Perfect Family’ – Teresa Driscoll

5-star-rating

Her Perfect Family

It’s their daughter’s graduation and Rachel and Ed Hartley are expecting it to be one of their family’s happiest days. But when she stumbles and falls on stage during the ceremony, a beautiful moment turns to chaos: Gemma has been shot, and just like that, she’s fighting for her life.

PI Matthew Hill is one of the first on the scene. A cryptic message Gemma received earlier in the day suggests someone close to her was about to be exposed. But who? As Matthew starts to investigate, he finds more and more layers obscuring the truth. He even begins to suspect the Hartleys are hiding something big—from him and from each other.

While Gemma lies in hospital in a coma, her would-be killer is still out there. Can Matthew unravel the family’s secrets before the attacker strikes again?

This was a great, thrilling read that had me hooked from the beginning. With tense scenes at Gemma’s graduation, what follows is a story that has the police trying to find the suspect. However, it also turns out that Gemma’s family is far from perfect, with a web of hidden deceits under the surface.

Driscoll has structured this narrative so that it shifts to different characters: Gemma, the parents and Matthew. This made for an interesting story because you get so many varied perspectives. In addition, some of the narrative is before the accident, giving readers a greater understanding of Gemma’s past, along with her parents too.

It’s certainly a tragedy, watching Gemma’s parents remain by the daughter’s bedside, waiting for her to wake up from a coma. At the same time, I was fascinated by all the secrets that are gradually revealed; no one in the family is exempt from deception. The way we learn about Gemma’s past is through essay titles that disguise her confessions, like a diary, and I found these most interesting. These snapshots provide subtle clues about the present circumstances and I loved being able to piece it all together.

I knew this was going to be a great read from the beginning and, even though I guessed how some of the story would conclude, I enjoyed the buzz as the plot reached its climax. It is a race against time as police fear the attacker will strike again, versus the faint hope that Gemma may wake up from her coma. Driscoll cleverly reflects the adrenalin of the action onto the readers of the book and I really got caught up in the exciting chase for answers.

This was another thrilling read from Driscoll that had me on the edge of my seat. I could not put the book down and the short chapters meant that I flew through this faster than I expected. I have read a book by this author before and was not disappointed. Reading this newest release makes me even more determined to check out Driscoll’s other books in the future.