Sunday, 12 January 2020

Coming Home to Winter Island by Jo Thomas - Beautiful, Sensitive and Romantic!

I was captivated right from the beginning of Coming Home to Winter Island,  Jo Thomas' latest novel. It is the story of Ruby Mac, a singer with a band just on the brink of stardom when she loses her voice. Planning to go to Tenerife for Christmas for some rest and recuperation on the advice of her doctor, she receives a phone call from a solicitor, as she's her grandfather's only living relative, asking her to go to a remote Scottish island to sign some papers so her grandfather, who she's never met, can sell his house and go into a care home on the  mainland.
Not letting Joe, her boyfriend and manager, or the rest of the band know what she is doing, she sets off to Scotland, thinking it will only be for a day or two and she can still get to the retreat in Tenerife by Christmas.
However, things turn out to be more complicated. She meets Lachlan, at her grandfather's house, Teach Mhor. He's been living in the attic and looking after Hector, her grandfather, whilst foraging for food over the island for them both and selling his dishes to the local pub.
Hector who is losing his memory spends his time looking in cupboards for something that is lost. This turns out to be the recipe for Teach Mhor's unique gin. Lachlan thinks that if they can find the recipe and distill the gin, they may be able to save Teach Mohr itself.
They have until Candlemas to find it and raise enough money for the care home or Hector's place will be given to someone else.
Will they find the recipe?
Will they raise the money?
Has Ruby found her home on the island?
Will she uncover the family secret that drove Hector and her father apart?
This book is beautifully written, capturing the wild winter on the island, the local community, and the world of Ruby, the singer. It sensitively shows Hector's mental frailty, and the rare moments when he can remember the past and romantically, it shows the growing relationship between Ruby and Lachlan as they fight for Teach Mohr.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella - An hilarious and touching novel, perfect for the Christmas holidays!

There's still time to share Becky Brandon (neé Bloomwood's) Christmas preparations, especially if you are sitting by the fire with a glass of wine, worn out by all your festivities!
In this very funny novel, Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, Becky, her hapless heroine, has a festive season where everything that can go wrong, really does, and that is enough to make anyone else's Christmas preparations seem like a sleigh-ride in the snow.
It all starts when her parents move to trendy Shoreditch and let Becky's sister, Jess, and her husband, Tom, who are hoping to adopt a child, stay in their house. This means that Becky will have to host Christmas for the first time at hers. As always, her husband, Luke is very supportive. I don't know how he puts up with her purchases and pandemonium. Though to be honest, she's very good at hiding all the things that she's bought!
Other characters also get involved in all the chaos, including Becky's old friend, Suze, who she works with at the Letherby Hall gift shop; Steph, who's got problems of her own; Janice, Tom's mum, and Becky's old flame, Craig and his girlfriend, Nadine.
Read it to see how she copes with purchasing the Christmas dinner, decorations and presents, keeping in mind that her sister is an eco-warrior, and find out what lengths she goes to to get Luke the perfect gift.
This is an hilarious and touching novel, perfect for the Christmas holidays!

Sunday, 10 November 2019

One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom is her Best Novel Yet!

One Winter Morning is Isabelle Broom's best novel yet! It is in turns brilliant, fabulous, engaging, emotional, heart-rending, and beautiful.
Set around Christmas, it's not a traditional Christmas story with turkey, tinsel and mistletoe, because this December, Genie sets off to New Zealand to find her birth mother, Bonnie, but ends up finding much, much more.
It's nearly a year since her adoptive mother, Anna, died on Christmas Eve in an accident on Genie's horse, Sukie. Genie blames herself for the death of the mother she loved so much, and the horse the meant so much to her.  She's spent the last year unable to forgive herself or forget that fateful day. However, when David, her adoptive father, tells Genie that her birth mother is living in New Zealand, she just has to go.
Isabelle Broom's beautiful description of this special country makes you feel that you are really there and adds a deep dimension to the story. Also, the characters are believable and you feel that you really know them and really care how things work out for them.
Apart from New Zealand, being an important background to the novel, there are also the stables both there, and in England, where the horses add another dimension to the storytelling.
This book reminds me of the earlier ones by JoJo Moyes, and Isabelle Broom is proving to be another such accomplished writer.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Meet Me In Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb - A Beautifully Romantic Novel!

What a fantastic writing partnership! What a fantastic book!
I've read all of Hazel Gaynor's books, and tempted by the story of Princess Grace's wedding, I decided to read Meet Me in Monaco, which she wrote together with award-winning American author, Heather Webb.
The fairytale romance between Hollywood's darling, Grace Kelly, and Prince Rainier of Monaco in the 1950s is mirrored in this book by the one between French parfumier, Sophie Duval, and British photographer, James Henderson, who meet when Grace Kelly ducks into Sophie's shop to avoid the paparazzi; in this case, James, himself.
The whole story is told beautifully, illustrating their emotions with the perfume of the flowers that Sophie grows, and with the eye of a photographer, James.
A clever touch are the articles written by a fictional reporter, Angeline West, from Philadelphia, Grace's home town, which give the point of view of the press to the unfolding events of the romance between the prince and the actress. And Angelina even grows too, with her own story arc.
The novel is written with one chapter in Sophie's words and the other in James', and it deals delicately with their growing love, despite Sophie's rich bullying boyfriend, Lucien, and James' ex-wife, Marjorie, and her rules about him seeing Emily, their daughter.
We all think we know about Grace Kelly marrying Prince Rainier, but Hazel and Heather go behind that film star façade to give us some idea of how that Philadelphia girl really felt.
Also, Grace and Prince Rainier's love affair depended on letters, and so did Sophie and James', in a time when communications were all the more leisurely and written on scented notepaper.
I loved this book. It was beautiful and it was a great pick-me-up as I read it in two days when I was recovering from the 'flu!

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts - A Magical Novel About the Making of The Wizard of Oz

If you are of a certain age, you probably looked forward to watching The Wizard of Oz on Christmas afternoon. It used to be on every year and we think we know it so well, but in Finding Dorothy, Elizabeth Letts looks at the true story behind L Frank Baum's magical book.
To do this, she follows the life of of his wife, Maud, daughter of the famous American suffragist, Matilda Joslyn Gage, who was sent to Cornell to get an education, but who gave it up when she fell in love with an itinerant actor called Frank.
Finding Dorothy is a magical novel in that it is set not only in the late nineteenth century, but also in 1939 Hollywood when Maud Baum, now seventy-eight years old, attempts to enter MGM Studios to talk to Louis B Mayer to ensure that the film stays true to Frank's work.
Through Elizabeth Letts' narration, we meet the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion, and we meet Dorothy - Judy Garland, of course - and find out about her difficult life too. This is all the more interesting this year, eighty years after the film was released, and also in the light of the new film, Judy, starring Reneé Zellweger which comes out in the UK on October 2nd.
Finding Dorothy isn't just about the character Judy portrays, it goes much deeper but you will have to read the book to find out how!
I'm off now to watch The Wizard of Oz and marvel at the beautiful voice of Judy Garland singing Over the Rainbow, knowing so much more about the story of Judy and Dorothy, thanks to Finding Dorothy and Elizabeth Letts.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

A Home from Home by Veronica Henry - An Amazing Novel That Would Make a Fabulous TV Series!

If you are already missing Poldark, then this modern day story about two Somerset families and their two houses split by a disaster that has kept them apart for over a hundred years, might fill the gap in your heart.

The Melchiors have lived at Dragonfly Farm ever since Great-great-grandfather Joseph won it in a game of cards from Casper Culbone. And Casper stole Eleanor, the love of Joseph's life, in revenge.

When Gum, Great Uncle Matthew Melchior, dies after a road accident, his will has great ramifications for Tabitha and her cousin, Georgia, his great nieces, especially when they find that Gabriel Culbone has also been included as a beneficiary, and Dragonfly Farm will be split three ways. How can Tabitha continue to live there and what about her plans to produce a sparkling apple wine from the orchards in honour of her late great aunt, Joy?
Gabriel, too, is shocked to find he's been left a share of the farm that he's never heard of. How can he uproot his partner, Lola, and their daughter, Plum? Does he even want to? He's never heard of these Culbones and he's got enough business problems, as it is.

For thirty years the Culbones' home, Rushbrook House, has been empty, but Dash Culbone has decided to leave his job in the City and carry out some ambitious plans. Unfortunately, he is the one who has to tell Tabitha about Gum's accident because Gum had pulled out in front of him. She becomes attracted to him, but how can she be when he is a Culbone?

Secrets abound in this amazing book with fantastic characters you can really believe in, and several intriguing stories woven together to make a gripping novel. I think it would make a fabulous television series!

Monday, 26 August 2019

Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay by Ali McNamara - A Perfect Bank Holiday Read!

It's not too late on this Bank Holiday afternoon to get Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay on your Kindle and lie back and enjoy Ali McNamara's magical story.

Amelia is amazed to have inherited Chesterford Castle, set on the Northumberland coast, plus an earldom for ten-year-old Charlie!
Although there are live-in staff like Arthur and Dorothy, the butler and the housekeeper, she is also helped by Benji, the genealogist that tracked her down and Tom who arrives to help restore some antique furniture, and some spooky goings-on!

But, there are not many visitors to play the bills and keep the castle afloat.
So how can Amelia get the business on track and save the castle for the local people and posterity?
Also, can she put her own life back together after her husband has left her and Charlie to fend for themselves? Perhaps she needs a little summer magic to find her own Prince Charming?

I really enjoyed this book, and it is perfect to read on holiday, or in the garden under a shady tree.