Thursday, 31 December 2015

Top Ten Books I Read in 2015

2015 was a great year in books for me. Choosing just ten books for this list was a tricky task, but there were some that really stood out. Some are debuts, others are older books that I've only just got around to reading. All are brilliant in their own right, and I implore you to read them for yourself!






1) Kit by Marina Fiorato. My book of the year. If you like Mulan you'll love this!

2) The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements. The tale of Katherine Ferras, highwaywoman.

3) The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice. An older book, but an instant favourite.

4) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Such a lovely, quirky, funny book.

5) The First Wife by Erica Spindler. So gripping that I read it in less than 24 hours.

6) Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz. Bond is back.

7) The Affair by Gill Paul. The story of one woman's life-changing summer in beautiful Italy.

8) The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. Think Sliding Doors meets One Day.

9) Amy Snow by Tracy Rees. Foundling Amy Snow embarks on a life-changing treasure hunt.

10) The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah. The welcome return of Monsieur Poirot.

You can check out the full list of books I read in 2015 here...



Review: The Affair by Gill Paul

 Rome 1961. The cameras roll on the film set of Cleopatra and the explosive Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton love affair is about to capture the world’s attention.
 

When Diana Bailey begins work as a historical advisor, tensions are running high. The film is in financial crisis and a media storm is brewing over the Taylor-Burton relationship.
 

Diana adjusts to a new life away from her troubled marriage, and strikes up a close friendship with Helen, a young make-up artist, as well as seeking solace in Ernesto, a charismatic member of the film crew. But Helen is harbouring a dark secret - one that will affect Diana in more ways than she could ever imagine…
 

An enthralling story of love and passion, set against the stunning backdrop of one of the most iconic Hollywood movies ever made

I've been wanting to read this book for a while so was pleased when I finally got my hands on it. The plot is much deeper and darker than I was expecting, which can only be a good thing. What really sells this book though is its setting, and it's easy to see how Diana was seduced by the glamour and beauty of the Italian film set. The Taylor/Burton romance is one that fascinates the public even to this day, and the glimpses into the world behind the scenes of the making of Anthony and Cleopatra made the novel even more interesting. Gill Paul's research into her subject and attention to detail really pay off, leaving us with a wonderful novel with many layers and storylines that all intertwine. I couldn't help but feel for Diana and I understood why she acted the way she did, and I really wanted Scott to get the career making scoop that he craved. This book was everything that I hoped it would be and more. Easily one of the best books that I've read this year!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Review: The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements

The legendary figure of Kate Ferrars, the infamous highwaywoman, is brought gloriously to life in this gripping tale of infatuation, betrayal and survival. 

1648: Civil war is devastating England. The privileged world Katherine Ferrars knows is crumbling under Cromwell's army, and as an orphaned heiress, she has no choice but to do her duty and marry for the sake of family.

But as her marriage turns into a prison, and her fortune is decimated by the war, Kate becomes increasingly desperate. So when she meets the enigmatic Ralph Chaplin, she seizes the chance he offers. Their plan is daring and brutal, but it's an escape from poverty and the shackles of convention. They both know if they're caught, there's only one way it can end... 




Just when I thought I had my best reads of 2015 list all sewn up along comes this wonder! I've always been fascinated by outlaws and highwaymen and the legends that accompany them, so I knew from the off that the plot was right up my street. But I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. I literally couldn't put it down - and as I often say when a book keeps you up reading until 3am you know it's a good'un.

Katherine's writing style hooked me from the start; she's a very talented writer and has clearly researched her subject well. I'd actually not heard of 'The Wicked Lady' before, but after this I think I'll be embarking on some research of my own! Katherine Ferrers was wonderfully written - even though many of her actions were morally questionable I completely understood why she did what she did. Cast aside and downtrodden by her husband she yearns for a life of excitement, a way of bettering her circumstances without relying on men. Although Rafe does look out for her she likes the idea of their relationship in both a professional and personal sense being a partnership, a match of equals. I loved Rafe from the start - it's impossible not to be drawn into those amber eyes. I longed for Katherine and Rafe to find a way to be together, but of course this is not your standard historical romance fluff, and so things aren't quite so straightforward. Without giving too much away there's a twist that I was desperately hoping wouldn't happen, and I genuinely ended up reading a few pages through my fingers. I was absorbed completely in Katherine's story, and was sad to see it come to an end. That said, the way the book ended worked really well, especially the epilogue from Martha's point of view.

As Clements writes in her Author's Notes, Katherine Ferrers is a real historical figure, which only serves to make the story even more fascinating to me - although most of her 'The Wicked Lady' associations are but myth and legend. The historical context of this novel - the time of political unrest during and after Cromwell's regime - creates a tense backdrop, and with aristocrats and their peers displaced in society it is no wonder that some of them turned to extreme measures to ensure a future for themselves and their families.

5/5 stars: Katherine Farrers is a fascinating subject and character. Her story is the stuff of legend - prepare to be gripped. Easily one of the best books that I've read this year!

***Thanks to bookbridgr for providing a copy of this book in exchange for a review!***

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Spotlight / Giveaway: Callie's Christmas Countdown by Julie Ryan

As the countdown to Christmas is well and truly under way, what better book to feature on my blog today than Callie's Christmas Countdown by Julie Ryan:

Callie is an event planner, organising weddings and corporate parties. What she'd really love however, is to organise the perfect Christmas. How difficult can it be after all? She simply needs to get her divorced parents talking to each other, sort out a Christmas Eve wedding for the daughter of a millionaire and wait for her hunky, rich boyfriend to propose. What could possibly go wrong?

Amazon UK   Amazon.com

About the Author
Julie was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and two cats, a rescue cat and a dippy cat with half a tail.  She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance, as she can’t bear to get rid of any! They have been attempting to renovate their home for the last ten years.
She is the author of the Greek Island Mystery series, Jenna’s Journey, Sophia’s Secret and Pandora’s Prophecy, each of which can be read as a standalone. She considers Greece to be her spiritual home and visits as often as she can. 

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http://www.allthingsbookie.com     
http://www.juliesworldofbooks.blogspot.co.uk
 
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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Top Ten New to Me Authors I Read in 2015




 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I've read books from plenty of new authors this year, and these are just a few of my favourites:

1 Eva Rice - The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is just so beautifully written.

2 Erica Spindler - The First Wife was so gripping that I read it in a day!

3 Tracy Rees - Amy Snow won Richard and Judy's Search for a Bestseller, and it's easy to see why.

4 Marina Fiorato - Kit is my book of the year by a mile. More on that next week!

5 Louise Candlish - The Sudden Departure of the Frasers had me intrigued from the start.

6 Gill Paul - The Affair, with it's backdrop of the Burton/Taylor romance in Italy, is stunning.

7 Sophie Hannah - The Monogram Murders marks a welcome return to fiction for Monsieur Poirot.

8 Graeme Simsion - The Rosie Project is just hilarious and wonderful.

9 Laura Barnett - The Versions of Us is a very clever book. This girl has talent.

10 Zara Stoneley - Stable Mates/Country Affairs are my guilty pleasure reads of the year.

Who made your lists this week?

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

December Blog Update

You may well have noticed my posts have become more sporadic of late. In the past couple of months I've gone from having one job (part time farm worker) to three. As well as helping on the farm when time allows, I now also work in the box office of a local theatre and as a Christmas temp in Waterstones - every book lover's holy grail! So while I spend all day reading (the commute is up to an hour each way), selling and talking about books, I now have very little time to actually write about them. I do have a few yearly wrap up posts/top ten lists scheduled for the next few weeks, and I'm aiming to get some more reviews up in the near future too - I miss blogging! So bear with me dear readers, and forgive me if I haven't had time to read and comment on as many of your posts as I'd like to. Once the Christmas madness is over normal service should hopefully be resumed :)

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Review: Masquerade by Joanna Taylor

1786 : Regency London. Everyone is hiding something. But someone is hiding everything.

Lizzy Ward never meant to end up working the streets of Piccadilly. So when a mysterious noble pursues her, it seems her luck is changing. But though Lord Hays offers to grow Lizzy's fortunes, his price is unexpected. She must masquerade in the sumptuous gowns and social mask of a true lady.

With the stakes so high, love is out of the question. But as Lizzy navigates the fashion and faux-pas of the London elite, she finds her tough facade failing her. Lord Hayes wants to show her that nobility is more than skin deep . . . and as the connection between them grows, it's no longer certain who's wearing the mask. As the street-girl and the lord collide, Regency London is poised for scandal . . .  



It was only after finishing this book that I found out it is essentially a scene by scene retelling of Pretty Woman set in the 1800s. While I picked up on the street girl/gentleman comparisons I have to admit that I've never actually seen the film the whole way through. Therefore I enjoyed this book for what it is - Lizzie's journey from rags to riches. Edward was dashing from the start, but never had me entirely convinced. Lizzie on the other hand I loved. The story is told from her perspective and you really feel for her. Packed with period detail, this was a true Georgian fairytale. 4/5 stars.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Review: Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

Abandoned on a bank of snow as a baby, Amy is taken in at nearby Hatville Court. But the masters and servants of the grand estate prove cold and unwelcoming.  

Amy's only friend and ally is the sparkling young heiress Aurelia Vennaway. So when Aurelia tragically dies young, Amy is devastated.  

But Aurelia leaves Amy one last gift. A bundle of letters with a coded key. A treasure hunt that only Amy can follow. A life-changing discovery awaits... if only she can unlock the secret.
 

I've been excited to read this book ever since I first heard about it. For a debut novel it is very impressive, full of wonderful characters with a plot that will keep you reading.

I did find Amy as a narrator a tad overdramatic, but you can't help but feel for her - especially considering her history. I found myself questioning her unwavering loyalty to Aurelia at times, and my opinion of Aurelia constantly changed throughout the course of the novel. All we know of Aurelia we learn through her letters and Amy's memories of her - yet she has such a strong presence in the story that she is still very much a character. Henry Mead was delightful, but I had also hoped to see more of Quentin Garland - however much of a scoundrel he may be he definitely had more to offer the story. My favourite character though has to be Mrs Ariadne Riverthorpe. Full of witty retorts and brutal honesty, revelling in scandal and causing a stir, she was just brilliant.

The 'treasure hunt' itself wasn't as compelling as I was expecting, and it's made clear relatively early on what the great secret is going to be. The real story is Amy's journey from shrinking unwanted orphan to a bright and confidant young woman, and I left the novel feeling as if I had taken that journey with her. The 'treasure' Aurelia leaves for Amy is not just her secret but the ability for Amy to build a life for herself and make her own way in the world.

The Epilogue written from Lady Vennaway's point of view worked really well, and while it didn't quite redeem her actions towards Amy it went some way to explain why she was so averse to her.

At 550 pages this book is definitely on the long side, and it is a little drawn out in places, but don't let that put you off! This is a coming of age story of friendship and family, so gently compelling that I raced through it in a couple of days.

4/5 stars - It's easy to see why Amy Snow won Richard and Judy's Search for a Bestseller competition! I'm certainly looking forward to reading more from Tracy Rees.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Film Review: SPECTRE



Regular readers of my blog may well know by now that I am a huge fan of James Bond. I have been waiting for this film for so long. As soon as the credits rolled on Skyfall I was already longing for my next Bond fix. The past three years I've followed every rumour and development with bated breath. It's only natural then that I saw SPECTRE on it's opening night. I was buzzing about it beforehand and haven't stopped talking about it since!

**I try to keep all of my reviews spoiler free, but of course if you don't want to know anything at all about the film, it's perhaps best you stop reading here!**

Fair play to the lad who turned up in a tuxedo to watch it! It was either his own choice, a dare, or he had a fancy dinner party beforehand, but either way it made my evening before the film had even started!

Sam Smith's theme song, Writing's on the Wall, which I wasn't all that keen on on first listen, has really grown on me, and it fitted the opening credits perfectly! The rest of the soundtrack is gorgeous too, and it was no surprise to learn that Thomas Newman was behind it - he also scored Skyfall.

The whole film is beautifully shot - particularly the opening sequence in Mexico which is just stunning! In true Bond style there's plenty of exotic locations and beautiful scenery to complement the storyline. The major plot points I actually found pretty predictable, but this didn't affect my enjoyment one bit! Tanner, Q, Moneypenny, M and Bond make quite the team, the five of them against the rest of the world, and I loved how the other four fought Bond's corner when he was unable to do so. Ben Whishaw as Q was a risk that has more than paid off - over the course of his two films he's really made the role his own and earned himself legions of fans in the process. Naomi Harris's Moneypenny has real chemistry with Bond, something teetering on the edge between friendship and flirtation, and the scenes between the two of them never fail to make me smile. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't really miss Judi Dench. It's not that I don't love her - I adore her - I suppose we simply aren't given time to miss her! I'm still not entirely sold on Ralph Fiennes as M, but he's growing into the role, and Dench's M wouldn't have fitted this film at all.

SPECTRE views almost as a love letter to classic Bond. It's packed with homages to previous films, and whilst the links between SPECTRE and Daniel Craig's previous films are made obvious, there are plenty of subtle nuances to Bond of yesteryear. A more seasoned fan would certainly spot even more than I did, and I'm sure I'll pick up on more when I see it again! The quips and banter which started to make a return in Skyfall are also cranked up a notch, bringing light relief without it being cheesy. Even the gadgets are starting to make a return; after being told in Skyfall that they don't really go in for 'exploding pens' anymore, Q must have had a change of heart as he hands Bond a watch with a 'loud alarm'. Interestingly my sister preferred Skyfall (as a psychology student she claims she found it more interesting), whilst I preferred SPECTRE. To compare the two, however is fruitless as they are so different, and each brilliant in their own right. Skyfall is darker, more personal between Bond, M and Silva, but to me SPECTRE feels like a full return to form for the Bond film as a genre.

Christoph Waltz was perhaps a predictable choice for a villain, but a reliable one. He was perfectly suited to his role as Franz Oberhauser - he plays crazy well! I can't say much more about him without giving anything away, but as soon as I saw a certain sidekick of his on screen I knew my suspicions were spot on!

I can hardly write a review without also discussing the 'Bond Girls'. I expected much more from Monica Bellucci given how hyped her role was (although I love how Daniel Craig defends her character as someone Bond's 'own age' rather than an 'older' woman). Lea Sedoux as Madeline Swann is just amazing, and my sister and I spent the majority of the film in envy of her wardrobe! How she managed to pack a suitcase before going on the run with Bond I'll never know. Sedoux and Craig had real chemistry and I was interested to see how Madeline and James' relationship would work out.

I'm fairly certain this this will be Craig's and Mendes' last Bond film, and for that I am very sad. They have become a kind of dream team, and between Skyfall and SPECTRE they have put Bond back on top where he belongs. But if they were aiming to leave on a high they are most certainly able to do so. SPECTRE is a masterpiece in cinematography, in screenwriting, in all things Bond.

***Credit to Sony Pictures for the images in this post!***

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Blog Tour: And Baby Makes Four by Tilly Tennant



Mishaps in Millrise – a four-(novella)-part romantic spin-off from Mishaps and Mistletoe

Part 4 - And Baby Makes Four

Could Phoebe and Jack finally have put their troubles behind them? All is calm at Hendry’s toy store, and Jack’s mother has even developed a grudging respect for Phoebe. If Archie is serious about addressing his issues, then things are really starting to look rosy for the couple again. But when did Phoebe’s life ever go to plan?

As they prepare for what should be the happiest day of their lives, fate decides to throw them yet another curve ball. What they face will test them to the limit, but Phoebe might just believe in miracles before it’s through.


Buy links: Amazon UK    Amazon US

Review 
I'm always a little sad when a series comes to end, particularly one as good as this! Throughout the course of the four installments I've become quite attached to the characters, especially Phoebe. My favourite characters are still the adorable Maria and Midnight - so wacky that she deserves her own series- so I'm glad that they made an appearance! I've never been quite sure what to make of Jack, but he manages to redeem himself here, and he and Phoebe do make for a realistic couple, facing the trials of life together. Everything is wrapped up nicely in this final installment, but I do hope that we might read more about the characters in the future - I'd be interested in checking in with them in a couple of months to see how things are getting on! 
4/5 stars -  A great conclusion to the series, written with hunour and heart.

About the Author
Tilly Tennant was born in Dorset, the oldest of four children, but now lives in Staffordshire with a family of her own. After years of dismal and disastrous jobs, including paper plate stacking, shop girl, newspaper promotions and waitressing (she never could carry a bowl of soup without spilling a bit), she decided to indulge her passion for the written word by embarking on a degree in English and creative writing, graduating in 2009 with first class honours. She wrote her first novel in 2007 during her first summer break at university and has not stopped writing since. She also works as a freelance fiction editor, and considers herself very lucky that this enables her to read many wonderful books before the rest of the world gets them.

Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn was her debut novel; published in 2014 it was an Amazon bestseller in both the UK and Australia. It was followed by Mishaps and Mistletoe and The Man Who Can't Be Moved. Find out more about Tilly and how to join her mailing list for news and exclusives at www.tillytennant.com
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Monday, 26 October 2015

Review: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming / Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz

With the much anticipated film release of SPECTRE just around the corner, tonight in fact, this lifelong James Bond fan is in her element. However, I have to admit that I have actually read very few of the original books - Sebastian Faulks and William Boyd have both written credible additions to the Bond canon, Devil May Care and Solo respectively, and those I have read - but The Spy Who Loved Me was, until recently, the only one of Fleming's books that I remember reading! Around this time last year I was lucky enough to grab the boxed set of Fleming Bonds for £10 (yes, a tenner for the whole set, thanks The Book People!), but for some inexplicable reason they remained untouched, until now.

Again, it was around this time last year that I found out one of my all time favourite writers, Anthony Horowitz, had been commissioned to write the next James Bond book. For those unfamiliar with him -although regular readers of my blog will have seen many a post talking about his greatness - he is the man behind the frankly brilliant Alex Rider series of books, the books which actually got me into spy fiction in the first place! He's also written for TV shows including Midsomer Murders, Foyle's War and Agatha Christie's Poirot, all of which I love, and has written not just one but two Sherlock Holmes novels to boot. The man is a genius. Fangirling over, I reserved my library copy of Trigger Mortis the day it appeared on the catalogue. Then I discovered that it is written as a kind of sequel to Goldfinger. What better time to read an original James Bond book than right before it's sequel? As I read them back to back, it seemed only right that I wrote the reviews that way too - so here we go with my thoughts on Goldfinger and Trigger Mortis:

Yes it's sexist, misogynistic and every other feminist buzzword going, but original Bond is a product of it's time, and as with the films you have to read/watch them with that in mind. Personally I loved Goldfinger! In fact I would even go so far as to say I prefer the book to the film. As is always the case the James Bond books are far more detailed, and we got a much deeper understanding of Bond's psyche. Another huge surprise for me was that I actually found myself picturing Daniel Craig as Bond. I've always been a Pierce Brosnan girl myself but I have to admit that, minus the black hair, Craig suited Book Bond very well. Film Bond and Book Bond are almost two completely different characters, and while Craig doesn't quite fit in with his predecessors of the former, he encompasses the latter completely. Fleming's writing style is addictive, action packed and to the point - there's no fluffing around with too much description, or indeed character development which is perhaps the only downside. I couldn't put it down, and to be honest I didn't even notice the lack of character development until I thought about it just now, that's how absorbed in the story I was!

Setting Trigger Mortis straight after the events of Goldfinger was a great idea - not least because it gave me an excuse to read Fleming's work first! However this also inevitably leads to a close comparison between Horowitz and Fleming. The 'tick-list' mentioned in the blurb for Trigger Mortis immediately sets the book up as a bit try-hard, desperate to appeal to the fans of the original books. Keeping Pussy Galore in admittedly adds to the continuity of the two stories, but having her and Bond together in London, living together no less, did seem a little far fetched and out of character for both of them. Horowitz should have had confidence in his own characters, and indeed the story only really got going for me once Bond arrived at Nuburgring race track. Jai Seong Sin, or Jason Sin as he is known by the Western World is a worthy adversary, and as dangerous and deadly as any other Bond villain I've come across. Without giving too much away, I LOVED his playing card 'choose your fate' method of dealing with any potential threats, and as macabre as it may sound I can't help but feel that it was underused! That said the card Bond drew, and his subsequent experience, is literally the stuff of my worst nightmares, and I'm very glad I didn't read that particular chapter late at night that's for sure! The novel definitely had a feel of classic Bond about it - fast cars, heart stopping suspense, memorable villains, and beautiful women. Jeopardy Lane is a refreshingly different Bond Girl - without her Bond would almost certainly have failed in his mission. She is feisty and independent - Bond is actually in awe of her at one point- yet she is still a woman, and the way things ended between herself and Bond was perfectly bittersweet. I know the tendency these days is to get a new writer for each James Bond book, but if Horowitz wanted to write another that would be fine by me! Or even better, how about some grown up Alex Rider books for the original fans of the series?! A girl can dream.


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Review: The First Wife by Erica Spindler

Despite the ten-year age gap and the differences in their backgrounds, Bailey was meant to marry Logan - she's sure of it. But when Logan brings Bailey home to his magnificent estate, her dreams of happily ever after begin to unravel. She can't ignore the rumours about what happened to Logan's first wife and then when a local woman goes missing, all signs point to Bailey's husband.

Suddenly Bailey is facing an impossible decision: should she believe what everyone is saying, or should she bet her life on the man she loves, but hardly knows?


I knew immediately from the blurb that I would love this book. And I was right. I was so utterly gripped that I raced through it in a day! After a whirlwind holiday romance Bailey Browne finds herself married to Logan Abbott. Only once they arrive back at his estate does Bailey become aware of the rumours and secrets that plague the life of Logan and those closest to him. Logan was dark, mysterious, and downright gorgeous! Like Bailey, I really wanted him to be innocent, and to believe him when he said as such. Even as the mystery begins to unravel it is still impossible to predict what happened to True (Logan's first wife) and to the other missing women. Looking back on it now it seems obvious, but I honestly didn't guess until the very end. I tend to shy away from modern thrillers, often because they are too gory/graphic/grisly. I was worried that this would go that way too but thankfully it didn't. It's more of a suspense packed whodunit, which can only be a good thing! Bailey was a brilliant character. Thrust into a world so alien to her, rife with rumour and speculation about the man she has entrusted her life to, her strength and bravery impressed me. She was determined to find out the truth, as much to reassure herself as to prove her husband's innocence.

5/5 stars: Packed with drama and suspense; when a book keeps you up reading half the night you can't give it anything less!


Saturday, 17 October 2015

Review: The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst

Family secrets. Forbidden love. And the true price of wealth.

Thomas is a small-town boy and when Lily invites him to a dinner party, he gains access to the exclusive upper echelons of Hollywood society. As he enters a world of private jets and sprawling mansions, his life and career take off beyond his wildest dreams.

Then he meets Matilda Duplaine.

Beautiful and mysterious, Matilda has spent her entire life within the walls of her powerful father’s Bel-Air estate and Thomas is immediately entranced by her. But what starts as an enchanted romance soon threatens to destroy their lives and the lives of everyone around them.

As soon as I read the blurb for this book I was immediately reminded of The Great Gatsby, one of my all time favourite novels. Young reporter Thomas Cleary is sent on an assignment to meet Lily Goldman, the daughter of the late Hollywood great Joel Goldman, to get some quotes for his obituary. A seemingly routine encounter, but one that will change his life forever. Through Lily, Thomas gains access to the opulent world of the Bel-Air elite, and he finds himself increasingly drawn into their lives, their confidences, and their secrets. Suddenly Thomas is the hot new talent on the journalist scene, and as the social invitations pour in he can't believe his luck. Then he meets Matilda Duplaine. Matilda has spent her entire life on her father's estate, shut away from the dangers of the outside world. Thomas is immediately beguiled by her and suddenly nothing else in his life matters. As romance blossoms between them, questions begin to form in his mind. Who exactly is Matilda, and why is she a secret? His journalist instinct kicks in, but what he discovers has the potential to rock Hollywood, and the lives of his new found friends, to its core.

I really enjoyed this book. As I mentioned earlier there are definitely echoes of Gatsby about it, and although it is set today there is a real old Hollywood feel about it. Matilda is an intriguing character. She is undoubtedly enchanting, but she has a real 'spoilt princess' quality about her that made me wary of her. She is Rapunzel waiting in her tower of an estate for a prince that may or not ever come for her. She is a naive childlike girl who thinks life in the outside world is like an Audrey Hepburn movie. In the time she spends with Thomas she quickly matures first into a stroppy adolescent (and a horrid one at that!), and finally into a young woman.

Thomas on the other hand is a very likeable character. Like Nick Caraway in Gatsby he is the outsider seduced by the glamorous life of his rich associates. For those of you familiar with the TV Show Gossip Girl (I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read the books), Thomas is also comparable with 'lonely boy' Dan Humphrey - the aspiring writer who happens into the social circle of New York's Upper East Side, and becomes involved with the society golden girl. Just as Thomas, Nick and Dan were seduced by the wealth surrounding them, so we the reader are seduced. There is a real opulence in Alex's descriptions of the lavish parties, the sprawling real estates and the beautiful landscapes, that makes us yearn for the lifestyle ourselves - however superficial it may seem.

I wasn't all that keen on the ending when I first read it, but, sort of spoiler alert, as both Thomas and Matilda reiterate, life isn't like the movies. On reflection, the ending actually works really well!

5/5 stars: The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine is an enchanting read about love, life and Los Angeles.

*Thanks to Netgalley for providing an e-copy of this book in exchange for a review!*

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Review: The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan

Gwenni Morgan is not like any other girl in her small Welsh town. Inquisitive, bookish and fill of spirit, she can fly in her sleep and loves playing detective. So when a neighbour mysteriously vanishes and no one seems to be asking the right questions, Gwenni decides to conduct her own investigation.

I'll admit, it was the beautiful cover that first drew me to this book. The blurb sounded unusual so I was excited to give it a go. This book was not at all like I was expecting, but then maybe that was the author's intention. The plot is as much an exploration of mental illness as a a detective story - I won't say any more so as not to spoil it. It's clear to the reader from the start exactly what's happened to Ifan Evans, Gwenni's neighbour, so the 'detective' side of things is simply Gwenni finding out the truth for herself, growing up along the way. It is darkly compelling and a quick read. The child narrator, first person present, worked really well and I grew to really like Gwenni. Her naivety and ability to always see the best in people, her childlike view of the world and her boundless imagination really endeared her to me, even if the other villagers considered her 'odd'. From the cover and blurb I expected a novel set in the present day, but from what I read I would guess that it is set in the 1950s. The date is never actually stated. but Strachan paints a charming picture of rural nostalgia, of a Wales long gone. There is a real sense of community about the novel, everyone knows everyone and there's plenty of gossip and curtain-twitching going on among the adults. There are a few loose ends at the end of the novel, things I expected to be explained but never were -again I won't say what- and again I'm not sure whether it was deliberate. A thought provoking novel about life, secrets, and growing up.

4/5 stars: Very well written, unique and compelling, just not at all what I was expecting.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Blog Tour / Giveaway: The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan by Whitney Dineen

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan by Whitney Dineen!
Read on to find out more, and don't forget to enter the giveaway to win yourself a copy!


Thirty-four year old, Mimi Finnegan is the third of four daughters and in her eyes, by far, the most unremarkable. She has no singular accomplishment that can stand up to any of her sisters. And if that isn’t enough, she is the only single sibling in her family. Mimi’s sisters decide that it’s time she gets serious about husband hunting, so they begin a campaign to find Mr. Right for her. Considering her most recent dating encounters include a night club owner who stuffs bratwurst in his pants and a WASPy trust fund baby, living happily under his mother’s thumb, Mimi is more than ready to meet THE ONE. Enter celebrated British novelist Elliot Fielding. Sexual tension and anger heat up between the duo and it isn’t until Mimi discovers that Elliot is almost engaged to another that she realizes she is head-over-heels in love with him. The journey will make you laugh, cry and want to pull your hair out from frustration! Mimi eventually learns that she is quite remarkable in her own right and never needed to worry that she lived in her sister’s shadows.

The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan is the perfect laugh-out-loud, feel good book for any woman who has ever felt that she wasn’t good enough.

Buy links: Amazon UK    Amazon US

About the Author
While attending the University of Illinois in Chicago, Whitney Dineen was discovered by a local modeling agent and began an unexpected career as a plus-size Ford model. She modeled in New York City before moving to Los Angeles with her husband. When she wasn’t modeling, she was in the kitchen, baking delights to share with friends. Soon, her friends began asking her to send baskets of her wonderful candies and cookies to business associates, agents and production studios. Word spread like wildfire, and the rest, as they say, is history. Whitney’s sensational creations are still in great demand by her loyal celebrity clientele (www.WhitneysGoodies.com). During “The Hollywood Years,” Whitney was bitten by the writing bug and started creating characters that are inspired by strong women with a great sense of humor. In addition to her love of chick-lit, Whitney has also written a series of adventure books for middle readers The first of which, Wilhelmina and the Willamette Wig Factory is available now.  Whitney and her husband, Jimmy, have relocated to the beautiful Pacific Northwest to raise their children, chickens and organic vegetables.

Her first rom-com, She Sins at Midnight recently won 2015 Reader's Favorite silver medal in chick-lit and Mimi was #1 or #2 in humor satire on Amazon for over 2 weeks.

Author Links: Facebook    Twitter    Goodreads    Website


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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Blog Tour: The Parent Trap by Tilly Tennant




Mishaps in Millrise part 3
A shock development turns Phoebe’s world upside-down. But it’s one that Jack has difficulty coming to terms with too, and they seem to be growing further and further apart. Archie continues to stir up trouble between them, until one night his reckless actions almost end in tragedy. And he’s not the only one causing problems in Phoebe’s life, as Midnight adds her own peculiar spanner in the works.

Phoebe buries herself in her job, and it looks as though Hendry’s might actually be on the road to financial recovery. But if she loses Jack and Midnight, what will it all be for?
The Parent Trap is the third instalment in the Mishaps in Millrise series.

Buy links
AMAZON UK
AMAZON.COM

Review
Yet another gripping installment in the Mishaps in Millrise series! This one is packed with plenty of drama and emotion. As always it's full of characters that you love (Maria), and ones that you really hate (Carol)! I really liked May, Phoebe's mother who we meet in this installment. All of the characters are realistic, and by this point I feel as if I know them, especially Phoebe. As she faces pressure in her home life as well as at work, Phoebe and Jack's relationship is being tested to it's absolute limit, and matters aren't helped by Jack's annoying brother and Phoebe's admirer Adam. But then Phoebe has an unexpected surprise, a life-changing one, and worries how people will take the news.  The story ends on a cliffhanger, of course, and I can't wait to find out how it all ends!

About the Author
Tilly Tennant was born in Dorset, the oldest of four children, but now lives in Staffordshire with a family of her own. After years of dismal and disastrous jobs, including paper plate stacking, shop girl, newspaper promotions and waitressing (she never could carry a bowl of soup without spilling a bit), she decided to indulge her passion for the written word by embarking on a degree in English and creative writing, graduating in 2009 with first class honours. She wrote her first novel in 2007 during her first summer break at university and has not stopped writing since. She also works as a freelance fiction editor, and considers herself very lucky that this enables her to read many wonderful books before the rest of the world gets them.

Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn was her debut novel; published in 2014 it was an Amazon bestseller in both the UK and Australia. It was followed by Mishaps and Mistletoe and The Man Who Can't Be Moved. Find out more about Tilly and how to join her mailing list for news and exclusives at www.tillytennant.com

www.tillytennant.com
https://twitter.com/TillyTenWriter
https://www.facebook.com/TillyTennant

1ST Prize - £10 / $15 Amazon Gift card a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 11 September 2015

Review: Rogue Knight by Regan Walker

York, England 1069… three years after the Norman Conquest

The North of England seethes with discontent under the heavy hand of William the Conqueror, who unleashes his fury on the rebels who dare to defy him. Amid the ensuing devastation, love blooms in the heart of a gallant Norman knight for a Yorkshire widow.

A LOVE NEITHER CAN DENY, A PASSION NEITHER CAN RESIST

Angry at the cruelty she has witnessed at the Normans’ hands, Emma of York is torn between her loyalty to her noble Danish father, a leader of the rebels, and her growing passion for an honorable French knight.

Loyal to King William, Sir Geoffroi de Tournai has no idea Emma hides a secret that could mean death for him and his fellow knights.

WAR DREW THEM TOGETHER, WAR WOULD TEAR THEM APART


War erupts, tearing asunder the tentative love growing between them, leaving each the enemy of the other. Will Sir Geoffroi, convinced Emma has betrayed him, defy his king to save her?


Review
Rogue Knight is yet another brilliant novel from Regan Walker. It is the second in the Medieval Warriors series, and although the characters from the first installment do make an appearance it is a standalone story. I love fiction set in the medieval era, and this one is the perfect blend of historical romance and action. Emma and Geoffroi are two characters that you really root for, and I was willing Emma to follow her heart as she was torn between her duty to her father and her love for the Norman Knight. It's easy to see why she fell for him. Geoffroi is honorable, courageous and loyal, the perfect knight and worthy of his title. Emma herself is brave, generous and devoted to her family. It is clear that a lot of research went into this book; the attention to historical detail is spot on. You can easily picture war torn York and Geoffroi's picturesque home of Talisand as if you are seeing them with your own eyes, and yet the detail is not overwhelming. It is very much a character driven novel, and every character adds something to the plot - even if they only make the briefest of appearances. Regan is a master of her craft - her novels instantly draw you in and keep you reading, and leave you with a smile on your face.

*Thanks to Regan Walker for granting me a free copy of this book in enchange for a review!*

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Review: The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas


You can buy almost anything online these days. For Ruthie Collins, it was an Italian farmhouse.

Yet as she battles with a territorial goat and torrential rain just to get through the door of her new Italian home, the words of Ed, her ex, are ringing in her ears. She is daft, impetuous and irresponsible.

But Ruthie is determined to turn things around and live the dream.

First, though, she must win over her fiery neighbour, Marco Bellanouvo, and his tempestuous family...and then there's the small matter of running an olive farm. As the seasons change and new roots are put down, olives and romance might just flourish in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun.

Review
I loved Jo Thomas' first novel The Oyster Catcher so I was excited to read this! I have to admit that it took me a little longer to get into this one than her previous stories, I think I was missing the Celtic charm of her first novel, but it soon drew me in. The plot is pretty similar to The Oyster Catcher too, although I didn't actually notice this until the end so it's not conspicuous. A newly single girl moves on a whim to a tight-knit rural community in a foreign country packed with stereotypical locals for a fresh start. To make a living she has to farm, learning her craft from a grumpy but attractive neighbour that she grows to love. Predictable stuff, but I enjoyed it nonetheless - it's an easy read and I raced through it in a couple of days!

Jo Thomas novels read like rom-coms; they have exactly the right balance of drama, comedy and romance to keep you reading and leave you with a smile on your face. As always it's the animal characters that made the novel for me - Daphne the goat was just brilliant! I liked Ruthie, and although she has her cringey moments I was willing her not to give up. A fun read for the summer sunshine, or what's left of it anyway!

**Thanks to Bookbridgr for sending  me a copy of this book in exchange for a review!**

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Review: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz


Sherlock Holmes is dead. 


Days after Holmes and his arch-enemy Moriarty fall to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls, Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase arrives in Europe from New York. The death of Moriarty has created a poisonous vacuum which has been swiftly filled by a fiendish new criminal mastermind who has risen to take his place.

Ably assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard, a devoted student of Holmes's methods of investigation and deduction, Frederick Chase must forge a path through the darkest corners of the capital to shine light on this shadowy figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, a man determined to engulf London in a tide of murder and menace.



I absolutely loved Horowitz's first Sherlock Holmes novel The House of Silk, and so was very excited when I finally got my hands on this. I was initially disappointed to discover how little Holmes appeared in the book - and what kind of Holmes novel is narrated by someone other than Watson!? But Frederick Chase soon drew me into his story, as he and Jones became a sort of detective duo themselves. The reader is taken on a journey into the grim underworld of Victorian London, a world that Horowitz brings to life every bit as well as the great Conan Doyle ever did. Then, just as you think you know what's going on, BAM! There comes the mother of all twists! I have to admit that I had sort of suspected it, but the way it was revealed certainly took me by surprise that's all I'm saying. As always Anthony Horowitz is a master of his craft, and he remains one of my favourite authors - you have no idea how excited I am for his upcoming James Bond novel Trigger Mortis. Moriarty is brilliantly written and a very clever concept, it was just hoping for more Holmes.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Review: The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah


Hercule Poirot's quiet supper in a London coffee house is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified, but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.


Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at the fashionable Bloxham Hotel have been murdered, a cufflink placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim…


I'm ashamed to admit that I have read very little Agatha Christie, although I am a big fan of the TV adaptations, especially Poirot. I've been eager to read this since I first heard about it last year - it's a very brave move taking on such an iconic character written by such a beloved author and I was interested to see what Sophie Hannah had achieved. The character of the great Belgian detective was written very well - I could actually hear David Suchet's voice in my head while I was reading. One thing that must be lost in translation from book to screen (for I'm told this is true for the Christie novels as well) is how frustrating a character he actually is. Refusing to let you in to his thoughts and theories until his theatrical 'big reveal' and constantly slighting the intellect of those around him - I certainly wouldn't want to work with him! Catchpool made for an interesting narrator - there was something a little Holmes and Watson like about his relationship with Poirot and his writing down of the story. Although how he knew so much detail about the events that he wasn't actually present for is beyond me, and he's awfully squeamish for a police officer! He's not the sharpest tool in the box either - I cottoned on to Poirot's hints and clues before him many a time. Although the list of suspects is relatively small by Christie standards I didn't predict the ending, and the plot is full of twists to keep you hooked - I couldn't put it down! Rest assured that I will be reading some of the original Poirot novels in the very near future, and I would be interested to read more from Sophie Hannah.

It's interesting to note that my mum, a lifelong Christie devotee, initially didn't like this book and gave up after the first few chapters. After I said that I had enjoyed it she gave it another go, and couldn't put it down! She said that the solution, while very clever, was a little confusing and drawn out but all in all she was impressed. It clearly doesn't come close to the originals for her, but as a detective story in its own right it is definitely worth reading, whether you are a Christie fan or not!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Review: Kit by Marina Fiorato

As regular readers of my blog may have noticed, every once in a while a book comes along that I can't stop raving about. Last year it was The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas. This year it's all about Kit.

Dublin 1702. Irish beauty Kit Kavanagh leads a comfortable life running a tavern with her beloved husband Richard. But everything changes one night when Richard is taken for a solider. Not content to sit at home and wait for news Kit disguises herself as a man, and, taking her late father's sword with her, enlists in the Duke of Marlborough's regiment and follows Richard to war-torn Italy. As Kit risks her life in battle she soon forms a bond with her regiment, the Scots Greys Dragoons, particularly with her handsome commander Captain Ross. When a duel lands her in prison she escapes by dressing once more as a woman, soon catching the eye of the scheming Duke of Ormonde who recruits her to masquerade as a French countess and spy upon the enemy. Torn between Captain Ross and her husband, with two false identities to her name, Kit's greatest danger is discovery...

My love affair with Kit began the second I first saw the cover, it's just stunning! Then I read the blurb - it sounded like some kind of Irish Mulan and I was immediately intrigued. It's been a while since I've had time to read a book that I can fully immerse myself in, and this fitted the bill nicely. I don't know what it is about the book that grabbed me so - the plot, the settings and the characters all just had me hooked. The attention to detail is perfect, and you can easily picture the changing landscapes and characters of Kit's journey without being overwhelmed with information.

Kit is everything I wish I could be. She is brave with an unquenchable thirst for adventure (not to mention that fact that I'm jealous of her hair!) She drew me completely into her story, and while I didn't want it to end I was also anxious about whether she would get a happy ending, so much so that it was a real struggle not to read ahead! The novel is split into two parts, 'The Sword' and 'The Fan', each detailing one of Kit's identities - the soldier and the lady respectively. Despite all of the acting that each role requires, the costumes, the accents and the mannerisms, we as the reader never lose sight of the real Kit, the girl beneath it all.

As for Ross.. I knew from the minute that we first meet him that I was going to love him. I loved the moments between him and Kit at the fireside, how he drew maps on the ground to help bring the reader up to speed as much as Kit. I loved how he loved his men, how he was their comrade as much as their Captain. I just loved him. Sigh.

Action and dialogue are balanced just right, and thankfully for me the battle scenes, while realistic, aren't too graphic- I'm incredibly squeamish and gore can put me right off a book. The plot is full of twists and is unpredictable to the last - I couldn't put it down!

The ending was just perfect, and I have to admit that the epilogue almost had me in tears - which is a big admission for someone who has never cried at a book, ever! It was also a wonderful surprise to find the historical note at the end telling me that Kit was a real person. Granted, a little artistic license was taken with her story, but there were more similarities than I would have expected, and to know that she, and Ross, actually existed just made the whole thing even more real to me. Fiorato also named the rest of the Dragoons after the men on her local war memorial which I just thought was such a lovely thing to do!

If you were to take everything that I love from historical romance and historical fiction and put it all in one book it would resemble something very much like this. Kit is the best book that I have read in a very long time, and is easily one of my all time favourite historical novels!

5/5 stars - and I'd give it more if I could!

*Thanks to bookbridgr for providing a copy of this book in exchange for a review!*


Monday, 10 August 2015

Review: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice

*Thanks to Bookbridgr for my beautiful signed edition of this book!*

Penelope longs to be grown-up and to fall in love; but various rather inconvenient things keep getting in her way. Like her mother, a stunning but petulant beauty widowed at a tragically early age, her younger brother Inigo, currently incapable of concentrating on anything that isn't Elvis Presley, a vast but crumbling ancestral home, a severe shortage of cash, and her best friend Charlotte's sardonic cousin Harry...

Oh I just adored this book! There's no emotional rollercoaster, no shocking plot twists, simply an enchanting coming of age story that in every way deserves the title of 'modern vintage classic'. It is truly captivating, beautifully written, and I became so attached to the characters that I was loathed to leave them at the end. I'm told that there are echoes of Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle here, which I have to admit I've never read, but if it's anything like this then I fully intend to! To call this novel 'nice' or 'charming' would be to patronise it, for although these are fitting adjectives it is so much more than that. Eva Rice draws the reader completely into the world of Penelope Wallace, her beautifully eccentric mother, her crumbling ancestral home of Milton Magna which is a character in itself, the heady romance of her teenage crush on Johnnie Ray, and her first experience of love. An all time favourite already!



Friday, 7 August 2015

Blog Tour / Giveaway: Just Like Rebecca by Tilly Tennant














Phoebe’s new role at work is keeping her busier than ever. Just as she’s finding her feet, however, new boss, Dixon, lands a bombshell: Hendry’s toy store is in dire financial straits and it’s up to him and Phoebe to save it. This isn’t exactly what she signed up for and she’s going to need all the help she can get. So it’s a pity that the only help she has comes in the form of Midnight, her purple-haired colleague who wouldn’t know an employee rule-book if it slapped her in the face…

At home, Jack’s brother, Archie, and their mum, Carol, seem determined to make Phoebe’s life hell, however hard she tries. And now Jack seems to have a new rival too: Adam Hendry, slick heir to the Hendry’s empire, who is making it very clear he’d like to involve Phoebe in a hostile takeover. Just how far will he go to get what he wants?

Buy Links: Amazon UK    Amazon.com

Review
I loved the first installment of this series, Little Acts of Love, and this follow up doesn't disappoint! The Mishaps in Millrise series follows Phoebe and Jack through the trials and tribulations of a relationship in the real world - pressure at work, family troubles, and in the case of Just Like Rebecca, meeting the parents. Splitting the story into novellas like this is a great idea, they're just long enough for you to read in one sitting - though they do leave you wanting more! To be honest I don't get the appeal with Jack yet - maybe I need to read Mishaps and Mistletoe (the novella where Phoebe and Jack first get together) to fall for him like Phoebe has. I'm certainly interested to see what's going to happen with the Adam Hendry situation! Midnight is still my favourite character, she's just delightfully wacky - and Maria is adorable. An easy read written in Tilly Tennant's signature warm and witty style - I'm looking forward to the next installment!

You can check out my review for the first part of the series, Little Acts of Love, here!

About the Author
Tilly Tennant was born in Dorset, the oldest of four children, but now lives in Staffordshire with a family of her own. After years of dismal and disastrous jobs, including paper plate stacking, shop girl, newspaper promotions and waitressing (she never could carry a bowl of soup without spilling a bit), she decided to indulge her passion for the written word by embarking on a degree in English and creative writing, graduating in 2009 with first class honours. She wrote her first novel in 2007 during her first summer break at university and has not stopped writing since. She also works as a freelance fiction editor, and considers herself very lucky that this enables her to read many wonderful books before the rest of the world gets them.

Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn was her debut novel; published in 2014 it was an Amazon bestseller in both the UK and Australia. It was followed by Mishaps and Mistletoe and The Man Who Can't Be Moved. Find out more about Tilly and how to join her mailing list for news and exclusives at www.tillytennant.com  

Website    Twitter    Facebook


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Monday, 3 August 2015

Blog Tour: To Tame the Wind by Regan Walker

04_To Tame the Wind_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

ReganWalker_ToTametheWind - 800pxTo Tame the Wind by Regan Walker

Publication Date: May 9, 2015
Series: Agents of the Crown (Prequel)
Genre: Historical Romance  

 Paris 1782…AN INNOCENT IS TAKEN All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell's schooner, the English privateer decided to take the one thing his enemy held most dear... her. A BATTLE IS JOINED The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire's father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises.

Buy links: AMAZON




Praise
“A sea adventure like no other, a riveting romance!” -NY Times bestselling author Shirlee Busbee “Another exciting historical romance from Regan Walker” –NY Times Bestselling Author Virginia Henley
“I was hooked from the first page! Political intrigue, a bit of mystery and a beautifully developed romance that swept me from Paris to London and to the waters of the English Channel! Very, very, very well done!” –The Reading Cafe

Review
I really loved this book! Any novel to do with pirates and sea captains is always a must-read for me anyway, and this is up there as one of the best. It is clear that Claire was never destined to be a nun - she is far too independent - and the swashbuckling Captain Powell is, of course, devilishly handsome. There is real chemistry between the two characters and I was really willing them to get their happy ever after. Regan Walker is a brilliant author. She transports you completely to another time and place, with characters that you can't help but love.

Masked balls, handsome sea captains, and a plot that will keep you hooked. What's not to love!? To Tame the Wind is romantic historical escapism at its finest - a historical romance fan's dream of a novel! 5/5 stars.

(You can check out my review of another of Regan Walker's novels,  The Twelfth Night Wager, here!)

03_Regan WalkerAbout the Author
Bestselling author Regan Walker loved to write stories as a child, particularly those about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.” And in each of her novels, there is always real history and real historic figures. Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses. For more information please visit Regan Walker’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Review: The Highlander's Choice by Callie Hutton

Lady Sybil Lacey is every inch an English woman. She's horrified her best friend is wedding a barbarian Scot. For aren't Scots naught but brutish, whiskey-swilling lechers? So to find herself
secretly attracted to the tall and devastatingly handsome Scottish laird of Bedlay Castle is quite disconcerting...

Liam MacBride is convinced that English ladies are silly sassenachs who think of nothing but social events and clothes. So why is he intensely drawn to Lady Sybil? All they do is quarrel... until loathing turns into undeniable lust.

A tempestuous, fiery romance between an English lady and a Scottish laird cannot end well.

Review
A quick, enjoyable read. I have a real soft spot for Scotland (and for Scottish men), so I was sold from the moment I read the blurb. I really loved Liam, and although it's set in a different era I couldn't help but picture Sam Heughan, aka Jamie Fraser from Outlander. I suspect that this was written with that particular fan base in mind. There's real chemistry between Sybil and Liam from the start, and the battle of wills between Sybil and her future mother-in-law made for interesting reading. However I wasn't keen on the way things ended - it felt more like a shotgun wedding to me despite their being a love match. That said it is well written and brought a smile to my face, and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, which tells the story of Sybil's twin sister Sarah!

*I was granted a free copy of this book by Entangled Publishing in exchange for a review!*

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Blog Tour: Another Heartbeat in the House by Kate Beaufoy

When Edie Chadwick travels to Ireland to close up her uncle’s lakeside lodge, it’s as much to escape the burden of guilt she’s carrying as to break loose from the smart set of 1930’s London.

The old house is full of memories – not just her own, but those of a woman whose story has been left to gather dust in a chest in the attic: a handwritten memoir inscribed with an elegant signature... Eliza Drury

As she turns the pages of the manuscript, Edie uncovers secrets she could never have imagined: an exciting tale of ambition, hardship, love and tragedy – a story that has waited a lifetime to be told. . .

Review
The title of this novel is just perfect - not only is the house alive with the past - it truly is a characters in itself- but the novel itself has echoes of classic literature, particularly Jane Eyre and of course Vanity Fair. There's plenty of name-dropping of other writers too such as Dylan Thomas, and I'm not going to lie, as soon as I realised that Edie's friend Ian was THE Ian Fleming I was sold and wanted to read an entire novel based on him! The novel is spilt between two time periods, the 1930s and the 1840s. Whilst the former is the era that appeals to me the most I found both narratives engaging - and despite the time difference Edie and Eliza actually have a lot in common. They are intelligent and independent, and it is interesting to discover how their lives intertwine. This is a captivating read, and one that you won't be able to put down!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Blog Tour / Review: Once Upon a Scandal by Julie LeMense


Today I'm excited to be part of the blog tour for Once Upon a Scandal, the new novel by Julie LeMense. I loved the first book in this series, so I jumped at the chance to review this one!


Synopsis
Caught up in a scandal of her father’s making, Lady Jane Fitzsimmons is now an outcast in the society that once prized her. So when Lord Benjamin Marworth offers to help redeem her good name, she leaps at the chance. Too bad his plan requires her very public demise.


Marworth, society’s darling, is actually a spy for crown, and important war communiques have been stolen. If Jane can carry off her disguise as the mysterious Madame Lillianne Fauchon, with close ties to Napoleon, she just might tempt the thief out of hiding. And tempt Marworth into something he has always studiously avoided … at chance at love.

Buy Links: Amazon


Excerpt
“Suffice it to say that in the wrong hands, the missing dispatches could change the course of the war. But I think you may be uniquely qualified to help find them.”
Jane pondered Lord Marworth’s statement for a long moment, replaying the words, hoping she’d misunderstood. But only one conclusion was logical. A dark one. “You are obviously having a bit of fun at my expense, although I fail to see the humor in it.”
“I'm quite serious, Miss Fitzsimmons.” He was staring at her intently now. “It is absolutely vital they be found.”
“And you are... what?” she mocked. “Some sort of agent for the crown, I suppose? Sent here to enlist me for service?”
“You could say that.”
A burst of anger, hot and devastating, surged through her. “It is one thing, Lord Marworth, to amuse yourself by imagining international intrigue,” she said, her voice rising. “But it is quite another to involve someone else in your fantasy. I'm afraid I haven’t the time for it. If you will excuse me… ”
She stood, intent on rushing from the room.
“This is no fantasy.”

She spun to face him. “You’ll forgive me, of course, for not believing you. Given your busy schedule of idle amusements and seductions, it’s hard to imagine you've the time for anything substantive. Like saving the country from Napoleon. That sort of thing.”
“Appearances are not always what they seem, Miss Fitzsimmons… ”


Review
In my review for the previous book in the series Once Upon a Wager (wow, was that post really over a year ago!?) I mentioned that I would love to read more about some of the secondary characters, namely Benjamin Marworth and Jane Fitzsimmons. Imagine my delight then when I discovered that they are the focus of this book! Benjamin is just adorable and Jane is a heroine who is not afraid to speak her mind. It was great for Sophia to make a reappearance too! Although this is the second book in the series, it is a standalone novel and makes sense without reading the first, but the references to Alec and Annabelle and their happy life together were very much appreciated!

As with the first book this is historical romance with intrigue, populated with wonderful characters both good and bad. I really liked the premise of the story - it keeps you guessing right until the end - and I couldn't put it down once I'd started! Julie's writing style really draws you into the story, and the epilogue at the end was a brilliant touch!

I have to admit that I'm intrigued by Lord Winchester, so if there is a third novel in the pipeline I'd love to find out more about him!


About the Author
A Georgetown University graduate with a degree in English Literature, I've loved the Regency romance genre since my first deliciously bad Barbara Cartland novel. These days, I prefer the complex characterizations and plotting of Julie Anne Long, Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, Courtney Milan, and Sarah MacLean. A member of the Romance Writers Association of America, I am currently working on my next novel, as the ghosts who live in my haunted, gilded-age home try to sneak their way into my stories.

Author Links: Website  Amazon  Facebook  Twitter: @julielemense
Email: julielemense@yahoo.com