Sunday, 14 July 2019

Something to Tell You by Lucy Diamond - A Gripping Story of Family Secrets

The Mortimers are a large, loving, happy family in York, until Frankie turns up at Harry and Jeanie's Golden Wedding party and says that she's his daughter.
Starting with this bombshell,  Something to Tell You by Lucy Diamond is a gripping story of all the secrets that the family have been keeping from each other which could ultimately destroy their cosy lives.

When Jeanie finds out that Harry's secret daughter was from an affair whilst she was coping with bringing up their four young children, she is heartbroken and goes off on what was meant to be their second honeymoon in Madeira, on her own.

Frankie, this daughter, is an illustrator for a weekly column about family life with a small son, written by her boyfriend, Craig, about his child, Fergus. They live together and he considers Frankie his mother, then Julia his birth mother turns up, making Frankie and Craig realise that they must tell him the truth.

Robyn, the wife of Harry and Jeanie's eldest son, John, finds out that he has been cheating on her too, and has been sacked into the bargain, and is going off to  live in Edinburgh with a twenty-two-year-old student.

Alison, Robyn's mother, has been keeping the secret of her father's death from her. She doesn't go out much, preferring to discuss her favourite TV programmes with an online forum to joining in the Mortimer family's parties and events, until something happens to make her change her mind.

Bunny, second son, Dave's, partner, also has a secret past which she has kept from him after making a new start in York, and again events happen which make her reveal all to him.

The only constant is Paula, Harry and Jeanie's only daughter, until Frankie turns up.
How does she feel about finding out she has a sister?
How can she hold the Mortimer's together?
Will her mother ever come back from Madeira?

Lucy Diamond has written a very clever novel weaving these stories together and keeping me eagerly reading right until the end.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Hazel Gaynor will touch your heart and keep you reading until the end!

Hazel Gaynor writes with such historical detail in her latest wonderful novel, The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter, but this doesn't get in the way of the heartbreaking story of Grace Darling, and the parallel story of Matilda Emmerson, sent  away in disgrace one hundred years later, to Newport Rhode Island to stay with a cousin in a lighthouse until her baby is born.
The part that Grace Darling played in the rescue of nine people from the wreck of The Forfarshire on the Farne Islands in 1838 is well known, but this story goes behind the familiar tale of the heroine to explore what her life must have been like, living in a lighthouse with her parents, wanting to be a lighthouse keeper herself, but knowing that in the mid nineteenth century, it was not a job thought suitable for a woman.
Hazel Gaynor not only shows how Grace dealt with the events of the night of the storm when she helped her father rescue the survivors, but also how she dealt with the unwanted media attention of the day with letters to answer, locks of hair to be enclosed, and even artists and sculptors coming to capture her likeness for the people to see because photography hadn't been invented.
Added to all this Hazel found a hint of a possible romance with a young man, and the name being mentioned of a George Emmerson, so she linked this to the true story of Sarah Dawson who Grace rescued on that fateful night, taking it and exploring how her life might have been if she had fallen in love with him.
From the story of George Emmerson and Sarah Dawson, his ficticious sister, comes the story of Matilda in 1938 with many links to the past, right back to Grace herself, and an unexpected family secret.
Both stories touched my heart and kept me rooting for Grace and Matilda until the end.
It is a wonderful book and I can't recommend it enough!

I am also looking forward to this novel about another amazing Grace, Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and her writing partner, Heather Webb, due out in paperback on 5th September 2019!

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Sail Away to New York with Celia Imrie - You will have a voyage of a lifetime!

Sail Away by  Celia Imrie takes you on a voyage of a lifetime as two ladies' lives collide when they find themselves on the same cruise ship in dire circumstances.
Suzy, an actress from a 1980s TV show, is offered a job in Zurich in The Importance of Being Earnest, but the show is cancelled before the rehearsals can even start and the cast lose their money, so she gets a job on a cruise ship leaving from Genoa.
Amanda has problems buying a new flat. Her son and daughter are too busy with their lives to help her out, so she finds it just as cheap to take a cruise as to stay in grotty digs, so she sets sail on the same cruise ship from Southampton.
Suzy is on board with Jason Scott, a young actor, who witnessed what went on the night before rehearsals were about to start at Herr Appenzell's flat, but is Jason implicated in the serious crime that was committed then?
Told in a funny and amusing style with lots of interesting background information about the world of the theatre and life onboard a cruise ship, the serious crime, unbeknownst to Suzy and Amanda, links them together.
This is a great mystery with a cast of wonderful characters to read on holiday, whether you are sailing to New York, or not, which keeps you guessing until the end.
This is the first book I've read by Celia Imrie and I'll certainly read her others set in the South of France.

Friday, 24 May 2019

The Temptation of Gracie by Santa Montefiore - Romance and Intrigue in 1950s Tuscany - Perfect for the Bank Holiday

The Temptation of Gracie by Santa Montefiore is a wonderful story of romance and intrigue, set in 1950s Tuscany.
When sixty-eight-year- old Gracie Burton suddenly decides to go on an Italian cookery course at a beautiful Tuscan castle, her friends and family are flabbergasted because she hardly ever used to leave her Devon village, even when Ted, her husband, was alive. However, her daughter, Carina, who has little time for her mother these days because she's busy running her PR firm, says she will go with her, if her daughter, Anastasia, will come along, as she's beginning to feel guilty that she spends so much time away from them both.

No one knows that Gracie has been to Italy before, but when she was thirteen, her mother's brother, Uncle Hans, offered to take her away to Tuscany to teach her how to restore valuable paintings. Grace's mother agreed, as she had little money, and so she went. There, Uncle Hans looked after her and bought her lovely clothes as she learnt the art of restoration. And there, Gracie fell in love with Count Tancredi.
But, why didn't she marry him? Why did she marry Ted instead? Why has she never told her family about her time in Tuscany? What draws her back there now?

Santa Montefiore paints a beautiful picture of Italy, from the Tuscan summer, to the snow-capped winter hills, where she sets her characters like Mama Bernadetta, whose traditional Tuscan recipes have a magical effect on the participants of her cookery course, including Grace, Carina and Anastasia.

I loved this book. It's the next best thing to going to Italy this Bank Holiday!

Sunday, 28 April 2019

The Lido by Libby Page - Beautiful and Uplifting

The Lido by Libby Page is the most uplifting and beautiful book that I have read for a long time with beautifully described imagery, beautifully drawn characters and tenderly expressed relationships.
We all think that we know Brixton because we've seen it on the news, but Libby Page describes what is really underneath: how people can get together and fight for a worthwhile cause, in this case The Lido.
She really gets under the skin of Kate too. She's a young journalist from Bristol, trying to make a career in London, but crippled by anxiety and panic attacks which are only relieved by being invited to swim in the pool by eighty-six-year-old Rosemary who has swum there all her life since it opened and wants to prevent Paradise Living from buying it and filling it in with cement to turn it into a leisure centre for its residents.
Libby's description of swimming in The Lido is stunning. Closing my eyes, I can see the cold sparkling water in the sunshine and feel the shivers as Kate slips in for the first time and swims.
Romance is at the forefront of this story, focusing on Rosemary's love affair with George, her late husband, in and around the pool, and giving her another reason to do all she can to prevent it closing, and Kate's own blossoming love affair as well.
This is a refreshingly wonderful book to make you think about the good in people and certainly one of the most uplifting books that I've read.
My friend lent me her copy to read, but now I've bought my own because I'm sure that I'll read it again.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Between A Mother and Her Child by Elizabeth Noble - Emotional, but Uplifting

If you are looking for an emotional, but uplifting book to read this Mother's Day weekend, then
Between A Mother and Her Child by Elizabeth Noble is for you.

Maggie met Bill when he was over on his gap year in Australia. She was a champion swimmer with a chance for the Olympics, but when she became pregnant, they married and returned to the UK where Jake was born.

Life was beautiful: they had two more children, Aly and Stan, and Bill's building business was going well. Then shockingly, when Jake was on his gap year with two friends in Thailand, he drowned in the Boxing Day tsunami.

The fact that this happens before the novel starts doesn't lessen the heartbreak for Maggie and Bill who deal with it in their different ways; she staying at home to try to come to terms with Jake's death and he going out to Thailand to find his body and give help to the people there in any way he could.

Kate has her own problems. In her sixties, she now lives alone, her life once so full of colour, is now monochrome. And it is Livvy, Maggie's younger sister, over from Sydney for Christmas, who suggests that she finds a 'companion' for Maggie now that Bill has moved in with young widow, Carrie, who he's met at his bereavement group, and who finds Kate through an advertisement.

It was intriguing to find out if Maggie would accept Kate and what impact she would have on Aly, aged seventeen, doing her 'A' Levels, but increasingly withdrawn since her brother's death, and Stan, aged ten, who suffers from dyslexia and dyspraxia and who is a challenge at the best of times.

Elizabeth Noble tenderly explores the relationships between all the characters, drawing a vivid picture of each one, but concentrating on the one between Maggie and Jake which is at the heart of this novel. It is emotional, but it is uplifting, and I was hooked until the touching end.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Still Me by Jojo Moyes - Louisa Clark Gets a Job in New York!

Still Me is Jojo Moyes' third marvellous book about Louisa Clark. You can read my reviews of the others, me before you and after you, here and here.
Louisa wants to prove herself and get over Will Traynor, but will she ever be able to? Nathan, who used to be Will's physio, finds her a chance to work in New York as an assistant to Agnes, Mr Gopnicks's young second wife. Sam, her paramedic boyfriend, encourages her to go  because he doesn't want to curtail her freedom, and anyway, it's only for one year, what could go wrong?
The Gopnicks live in a wonderful Fifth Avenue apartment in the Lavery, but Agnes is not happy. Louisa does her best to help with her demands, including a daily early morning run in Central Park, and waiting outside an artist's studio with Garry, their chauffeur, whilst Agnes learns to paint, but strangely, never brings any paintings home.
At one of the many charity functions that the rich and famous attend in New York, Louisa falls for Josh who is gorgeous and kind, but is it because he reminds her so much of Will?
But then, she is dismissed by Mr Gopnick for something she did in all innocence to help Agnes. Whilst back in England, Sam gets an attractive new partner to work with who seems to be taking Louisa's place in his heart.
How can she stay in New York with no job? Yet, how can she go back to Sam?
This is another wonderful book by Jojo Moyes with a cavalcade of characters like Mrs De Witt and her dog, Dean Martin, who lives on the same floor in the apartment block and who hates Agnes' piano playing; Ashok, the kind and helpful porter at the Lavery; Ilaria, the Gopnicks' cook, and Garry who learns Spanish whilst they wait for Agnes in the car.
Jojo Moyes also describes New York so well, it makes you want to jump on a plane and walk through Manhattan singing Let the Rivers Run, just like Louisa.
And yes, she still wears those tights that are striped like a bee!