Coming this week – my fiction picks to 12th June 2022

Here’s this week’s list of new fiction titles. These are titles appearing in hardback/paperback for the first time. In some cases the ebook might already be available. All titles are based on the listings found in The Bookseller, so I’m not working from a list of all titles being published.

Just a reminder I don’t see any advance copies, my choices are based on the blurb, gut instinct and what takes my fancy at the time.

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

Index

Crime, Thriller and Mystery

General Fiction

Historical (I tend to take this as pre 1960’s ie not in my lifetime!)

Crime, Thriller & Mystery

Murder Before Evensong by The Reverand Richard Coles

Canon Daniel Clement is Rector of Champton. He has been there for eight years, living at the Rectory alongside his widowed mother – opinionated, fearless, ever-so-slightly annoying Audrey – and his two dachshunds, Cosmo and Hilda.

When Daniel announces a plan to install a lavatory in church, the parish is suddenly (and unexpectedly) divided: as lines are drawn, long-buried secrets come dangerously close to destroying the apparent calm of the village.

And then Anthony Bowness – cousin to Bernard de Floures, patron of Champton – is found dead at the back of the church, stabbed in the neck with a pair of secateurs.

As the police moves in and the bodies start piling up, Daniel is the only one who can try and keep his fractured community together… and catch a killer.


Cat and Mouse by MJ Arlidge

When you think you’re safe,
When you think you’re all alone,
That’s when he’ll come for you…

A silent killer stalks the city, targeting those home alone at night, playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with the victims.

As panic spreads, Detective Inspector Helen Grace leads the investigation, but is herself a hunted woman, her every step shadowed by a ruthless psychopath bent on revenge.

As she tracks the murderer, Grace begins to suspect there is a truly shocking home truth that connects these brutal crimes. But what she will find is something more twisted than she could ever suspect…

Check the windows, lock the doors – this is a twisted page-turner that will prey on your darkest fears, in the way only M.J. Arlidge can.


Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton

Everyone watches their neighbours.

Elise King moves into the sleepy seaside town of Ebbing. Illness has thrown her career as a successful detective into doubt, but no matter how hard she tries to relax and recuperate, she knows that something isn’t right.

Everyone lies about their friends.

Tensions are running high beneath the surface of this idyllic community: the weekenders in their fancy clothes, renovating old bungalows into luxury homes, and the locals resentful of the changes. A town divided, with the threat of violence only a heartbeat away.

Everyone knows a secret.

This peaceful world is shattered when two teenagers end up in hospital and a local man vanishes without trace. Elise starts digging for answers, but the community closes ranks, and the truth begins to slip through her fingers. Because in a small town like this, the locals are good at keeping secrets…

Everyone’s a suspect when a local goes missing.


Drowning Not Waving by Kate Evans

A body pulled from the harbour drags DC Donna Morris into murky waters…

The lives of the people of Scarborough have always been tied to the sea. Often their deaths too. And when the body of a young man is pulled from the harbour, the police investigation has to dive into the tightly knit fishing community there. But DC Donna Morris, halfway through her probationary period in the town, finds very little is at it seems.

Is the killing to do with old rivalries or more contemporary enmities, or is it somehow linked with a shocking murder which took place in the town twenty years ago? Donna does her best to navigate the tides and currents of the place she calls home for now, but finds people are prepared to muddy the truth if it means preserving the past, and old reputations.


Her Last Words by EV Kelly

THE DEAD WON’T STAY SILENT FOREVER…

It’s a crisp spring morning when Cass drops her husband, a respected lecturer, to the beach for his medically prescribed swim. While waiting for him, something catches her eye. A young woman runs towards her husband and embraces him – until he holds his hand over her face and she falls down on the stones, dead.

In the backseat of the car, their seven-year-old son sits quietly. When her husband returns, he says nothing. Neither does Cass. Afraid to speak up in the immediate aftermath, Cass embarks on a solitary quest to unravel what has taken place.

Cass is quickly drawn into a web of lies that pulls her back to the previous autumn, when a beautiful Italian postgraduate student finds herself subsumed by an inescapable desire. It’s visceral. It’s destiny. But sometimes destiny can kill…


Storm by Stephanie Merritt

A beautiful French chateau
Jo Lawless is still grieving her husband when his oldest friends invite her to a weekend houseparty in France. She’s always felt like an outsider in the group but she decides to go, hoping their shared loss will bring them closer together.

An unexpected guest
But the weekend is disrupted by the arrival of an unexpected guest, whose presence brings old tensions to the surface. Long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and it’s clear that at least one person is bent on revenge…

A night that will end in murder
The cold light of morning reveals a horrifying discovery. And the killer isn’t finished. A storm is coming, and no one at this party is safe…


The Favour by Nora Murphy

Leah Dawson and McKenna Hawkins had a lot in common, but they had never met.

They are smart, professional women living in the same sunny, prosperous neighbourhood in lovely houses with picket fences and beautiful gardens. And they were both married to successful, good-looking men who both seem bent on having ‘the perfect wife’.

They don’t – ever – find themselves in the same train carriage or meet accidentally at the gym or in the coffee shop. And they don’t – ever – discuss their problems and find common ground.

But they do cross paths. And they see something each recognizes in the other.

That they are living in hell.

Neither narrator is unreliable. They always tell us the truth. And their truth hurts. A lot. Because these two attractive, intelligent professional women are living in a hell of their husband’s making. And there is no way to get out of hell. Is there?


The Companion by Lesley Thomas

In a grand old mansion in the middle of the Sussex countryside, seven people have seen more than they should… The new chilling thriller from Lesley Thomson.

James Ritchie was looking forward to a boys’ day out with his son, Wilbur – even if he was a little late picking him up from the home of his ex-wife, Anna. Annoyed by his late arrival, and competing for their son’s attention, Anna leaves the two of them to their day with the promise of a roast dinner when Wilbur returns.

But Anna will never see her family again. That afternoon, James and Wilbur are found dead, the victims of a double stabbing on the beach.

DI Toni Kemp, of Sussex police, must unravel a case which has shocked the county to its core. What she discovers will lead her to Blacklock House, a grand country mansion, long ago converted into flats. Here in the middle of nowhere, where a peacock struts the lawn, and a fountain plays intermittently, seven long-term residents have seen more than they should.

But this is a community who are good at keeping secrets…


To Kill a Troubador by Martin Walker

It is summer in St Denis and Bruno is busy organising the annual village concert. He’s hired a local Périgord folk group, Les Troubadours, to perform their latest hit ‘A Song for Catalonia’. But when the song unexpectedly goes viral, the Spanish government, clamping down on the Catalonian bid for independence, bans Les Troubadours from performing it.

The timing couldn’t be worse, and Bruno finds himself under yet more pressure when a specialist sniper’s bullet is found in a wrecked car near Bergerac. The car was reportedly stolen on the Spanish frontier and the Spanish government sends warning that a group of nationalist extremists may be planning an assassination in France. Bruno immediately suspects that Les Troubadours and their audience might be in danger.

Bruno must organise security and ensure that his beloved town and its people are safe – the stakes are high for France’s favourite policeman.


The Blackbird by Tim Weaver

Just before the crash, Cate and Aiden Gascoigne are recorded on CCTV, laughing and happy. Then their car plunges into a ninety-foot ravine.

Within seconds, the vehicle is an inferno – and the Gascoignes are trapped inside.

But when fire crews arrive, they find something impossible:

The vehicle is empty.

Cate and Aiden have vanished.

And only missing persons investigator David Raker can solve the mystery . . .


The Gone and the Forgotten by Clare Whitfield

An absent father.

A missing girl.

Buried family secrets.

Is the truth worth searching for?

Sixteen-year-old Prue has grown up around secrets. Her gran’s stern silence, her mother’s teary breakdowns, her aunt’s whispered assurances. But now, in the aftermath of her mum’s latest ‘episode’, Prue’s decided she’s old enough for the truth. She wants to know what it is that makes the adults around her turn tight-lipped and distracted. She wants to know why her mum can’t cope. Most of all, she wants to know who her dad is.

Forced to spend the summer in the Shetlands with her aunt, Ruth, and new uncle, Archie, Prue arrives determined to find some answers. But she soon finds herself caught up in a web of family secrets, betrayals and – perhaps – even murder…

Set during one long summer in Shetland, this is a beautifully drawn, psychologically astute novel about a young woman’s search for truth, even as she realises the lies that surround her have been keeping her safe.


Birthday Girl by Niko Wolf

Jonathan’s wife disappeared more than twenty years ago. Now he’s seeing her everywhere . . .

New York in the 1990s – impoverished writer Jonathan Dainty takes his wife Maddie out to the beach for her birthday. Hours later he finds himself at the local police precinct trying to explain how on earth he let his wife get into a stranger’s car, and allowed it to drive her away.

More than twenty years later, Maddie is presumed dead and Jonathan has channelled his grief into a best-selling series of crime novels. As far as he can, he is living the perfect life.

Then one day he catches a glimpse of his dead wife, moving through a throng of people. Is Maddie alive? Has she come back? And why does no one believe him? As Jonathan attempts to uncover the truth, it soon becomes clear that the people closest to him are hiding something, something that could change everything . . .


When the Night Ends by MJ Lee

A death in custody. A life in jeopardy.

When Ben Holdsworth dies alone in a police cell, riots erupt in Manchester. But after a post mortem, the authorities have decided nobody was to blame.

DI Ridpath is asked to investigate by the coroner before an inquest, and immediately uncovers some discrepancies in the witness statements.

Why was the CCTV not working that night? Where was the custody sergeant, and did he know the victim? Wherever he turns there are lies and gaps. It’s a dangerous game and the net is closing… On Ridpath himself.

There is only one way out: uncover what really happened in the prison cells on that dark Manchester night.


The Infinity Pool by Claire S Lewis

A body in a pool. A rifle. And a scream that carries across the valley.
But is that the end, or just the beginning?

It’s been a hard couple of years, but things finally seem to be looking up for Danielle. Her boyfriend Matteo has inherited a dilapidated old farmhouse in Tuscany, complete with olive groves, vineyards and – most importantly – a pool. They will swim, drink wine and sit out under the stars. It couldn’t be more perfect.

When she gets there, Danielle finds it’s not quite as idyllic as she thought. There’s a lot of work to be done on the house, but first she turns her attention to making the algae-infested concrete swamp into the infinity pool of her dreams.

As she digs up the old foundations, Danielle brings to light long-buried secrets that will shatter the tranquillity of her Tuscan dream forever – and make her question how well we ever know the people we claim to love…


The Mansfield Park Murder by Lynn Shepherd

A Jane Austen heroine murdered. A literary villain turned hero. And an investigator between it all.

The year is 1814 when Fanny Price is found murdered in Mansfield Park. Once a rich heiress who was spoiled, condescending, and generally hated throughout the county. But her death is none-the-less haunting.

It then takes Mary Crawford, who is now as good as Fanny was bad, to team up with a thief-taker, Charles Maddox, from London to solve the brutal crime. But with dramatic confrontations comes consequences…some even deadly.

A twisted take on Mansfield Park, Shepherd brings a brilliantly entertaining novel that offers Jane Austen fans an engaging new heroine – and mystery laced in every chapter.

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General/Contemporary Fiction

Of Saints and Miracles by Manuel Astur

Marcelino lives alone on his parents’ farm, set deep in the beautiful but impoverished reaches of northern Spain. It’s the place where he grew up, the place where he doted on his baby brother, the place where he protected his mother from their father’s drunken rages. But when Marcelino’s brother tricks him out of his house and land, a moment of anger sparks a chain of events that can’t be reversed. Marcelino flees to the wild peaks of rural Asturias, becoming a cult hero as he evades the authorities. Into this, author Manuel Astur interweaves family tales and fables about the sun and the moon, of death and love, and offers glimpses into the lives of other villagers and the history of their community. 


Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

Nora’s life is about to get a rewrite . . .

Nora Hamilton knows the formula for love better than anyone. As a romance channel screenwriter, it’s her job. But when her husband leaves her and their two kids, Nora turns the collapse of her marriage into the best script of her life. When it’s picked up for the big screen and set to film on location at her picturesque Hudson Valley home, Nora’s life will never be the same – especially after world-famous Hollywood actor and former ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ Leo Vance is cast as her ex-husband.

The morning after the crew leaves, Nora finds Leo on her porch with a half-empty bottle of tequila and a proposition. He’ll pay a thousand dollars a day to stay for an extra week. Seven days: it’s the blink of an eye or an eternity, depending on how you look at it. It’s enough time to fall in love. Enough time to break your heart . . .

Filled with warmth, wit, and wisdom, Nora Goes Off Script is the best kind of love story – the real kind where love is complicated by work, kids, and the emotional baggage that comes with life.


Meant to be Mine by Hannah Orenstein

A witty and modern new love story in the vein of Rebecca Serle and Chloe Benjamin about a woman who knows the date she’ll meet her true love – only he isn’t quite as perfect as she always imagined.

Edie Meyer knows her date. Her grandmother Gloria has accurately predicted the day every single member of the family has met their match. Edie’s is June 24, 2022, when she’s twenty-nine years old. That morning, she boards an airplane to her twin sister’s surprise engagement, and when a handsome musician sits beside her, she knows it’s meant to be.

But fate comes with more complications than Edie expected, and she can’t fight the nagging suspicion that her perfect guy doesn’t have perfect timing. And after a shocking revelation rocks Edie’s carefully constructed world, she’s forced to consider whether love chooses us, as simple as destiny, or if we choose it ourselves.


At the Captain’s Table by Gervase Phinn

A summer cruise should be just the ticket for a few weeks of luxury and relaxation – but for the passengers and crew of the Empress of the Ocean, the sights of the Mediterranean are nothing compared to the excitement on board…

For bickering couple Albert and Maureen, the trip might prove a much-needed escape – or the final straw. Elegant Frances de la Mare is determined to hobnob with the right kind of people – but her penthouse suite proves lonelier than she ever imagined. Meanwhile, precocious twelve-year-old Oliver discovers that guidebooks don’t teach you everything, sparks fly when the port lecturer finds himself upstaged by a popular author, dancers Bruce and Babs can’t keep in step, and cruise expert Neville just wants someone to speak to.

But as unlikely friendships are forged, feuds bubble in the laundry room, and everyone jostles for a seat at the Captain’s table, they might find all their plans going overboard….


Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander

Meredith Maggs hasn’t left her house in 1,214 days.But she insists she isn’t alone.

She has her cat, Fred. Her friend Sadie visits when she can. There’s her online support group, StrengthInNumbers. She has her jigsaws, favourite recipes, her beloved Emily Dickinson, the internet, the Tesco delivery man and her treacherous memories for company.

But something’s about to change.

First, new friends Tom and Celeste burst into her life, followed by an estranged sister she hasn’t spoken to in years, and suddenly her carefully curated home is no longer a safe place to hide.

Whether Meredith likes it or not, the world is coming to her door . . .


Dogs of Summer by Andrea Abreu

It is June and Shit is sad. She knows she will not get to leave her neighbourhood that summer, and the beach is far, far away. And that clouds like the bottom of a donkey’s belly will hover all summer over her town, high among the volcanoes of northern Tenerife.

But Shit – our nine-year-old narrator – has a best friend, Isora. Shit likes everything about Isora. The colour of her arms and her hair and her eyes. Her handwriting and the way she wrote the letter with a huge tail. The way she called her shit because poop was a beautiful thing like the mist round the pines. But she envies her too. Envies her grits and gut. The way she talks to grown ups. The fact that she had got her period and had pubes on her minky.

As the summer goes on, Shit finds it increasingly hard to keep up with Isora – one year older and growing up at full tilt without her. When Shit’s submissiveness veers into obsession and a painful sexual awakening, desire becomes indistinguishable from intimate violence. Braiding prose poetry with bachata lyrics and the gritty humour of Canary dialect, Dogs of Summer is a brutal picture of girlhood in the 90s and a story, told with exquisite yearning, of a friendship that simmers into erotic desire over the course of one hot summer.


Tiepolo Blue by James Cahill

Ben turns and grins ironically. ‘When you stopped just now and looked at the sky, you weren’t measuring it. You weren’t thinking about classical proportion. You were feeling something.’

Cambridge, 1994. Professor Don Lamb is a revered art historian at the height of his powers, consumed by the book he is writing about the skies of the Venetian master Tiepolo. However, his academic brilliance belies a deep inexperience of life and love.

When an explosive piece of contemporary art is installed on the lawn of his college, it sets in motion Don’s abrupt departure from Cambridge to take up a role at a south London museum. There he befriends Ben, a young artist who draws him into the anarchic 1990s British art scene and the nightlife of Soho.

Over the course of one long, hot summer, Don glimpses a liberating new existence. But his epiphany is also a moment of self-reckoning, as his oldest friendship – and his own unexamined past – are revealed to him in a devastating new light. As Don’s life unravels, he suffers a fall from grace that that shatters his world into pieces.


These Impossible Things by Salma El-Wardany

These Impossible Things charts the dreams and disappointments of a group of British Muslim women; Jenna, Kees and Malak. They have been friends for years: the three of them together against the world.

Yet one night changes everything between them and they are left adrift, marooned from each other as their lives take different paths. Without the support of each other, nothing seems to go quite right and in the wake of heartbreaks, marriages, new careers and new beginnings, they need each other more than ever. Will they be able to forgive each other in time?

These Impossible Things tells the story of three women coming to terms with the choices we make, of reconciling love, loss, faith, womanhood and friendship, and how one moment, in a life where everything feels at odds, can change everything.


This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

If you could go back, would you do things differently?

Alice Stern isn’t ready to turn forty. She thought she’d have more time to figure it all out. Above all, she thought she’d have more time with her father, Leonard – but he’s lying in a hospital bed and Alice isn’t sure if she’ll hear his voice again.

When she falls asleep outside their old apartment on the night before her birthday, she’s surprised to be greeted the next morning by a much younger Leonard, with a sixteenth birthday card for a teenage Alice who, far from clinging to her youth, is hurtling towards adulthood . . .

Alice soon discovers how she got back here, to 1996 and her sixteenth birthday, and realises she can keep on coming, whenever she chooses.

But faced each time with different versions of her life, and the consequences of her decisions, it’s on her not to lose sight of what she wants most . . .


Twelve Months and a Day by Louisa Young

Rasmus and Jay, Róisín and Nico – two beautiful, ordinary love stories, cut short by death. Jay and Nico don’t even believe in ghosts, yet they seem to be… still here. Still in love with Rasmus and Roísín. And maddeningly powerless.

Both are incapable of leaving the living alone: Jay plays matchmaker, convinced that Rasmus and Róisín can heal each other; Nico, plagued by jealousy, doesn’t agree.

Rasmus and Róisín are just trying to navigate their newly widowed lives.

But all four of them are thinking the same thing: what is love, after death? What is it for? And what are we to do with it?


The Setup by Lizzy Dent

SHE HAS A PLAN . . .
FATE HAS OTHER IDEAS.
—————–

There are two men in my life. But this is not a love triangle.


Mara Williams reads her horoscope every day – but she wasn’t expecting to be in a whole other country when destiny finally found her. Just as a fortune teller reveals that her true love is about to arrive, a gorgeous stranger literally walks into her life. And now Mara is determined to bring them together again . . . Surely even fate needs a nudge in the right direction sometimes?

But while Mara is getting ready for ‘the one’, the universe intervenes. Her new flatmate Ash is funny, and kind, and sexy as hell . . . There was no predicting this: it’s as if her destiny just arrived on her doorstep.

So will Mara put her destiny in fate’s hands – or finally trust herself to reach for the stars?


The Gin Sisters’ Promise by Faith Hogan

Three estranged sisters. Six months to come back together.

When Georgie, Iris and Nola’s mother died and their father disappeared into his grief, the sisters made a pact: they would always be there for one another, no matter what.

Now, decades later, they haven’t spoken for years and can barely stand to be in the same room. As his health declines, their father comes up with a plan to bring them back to one another. In his will, he states that before they can claim their inheritance, they must spend six months living together in their childhood home in the village of Ballycove, Ireland, and try to repair their broken relationships.

As the months progress, old resentments boil over, new secrets threaten to come out and each sister must decide what matters more: their pride, or their family. Can they overcome their past and find a way to love each other once more?


You Are Here by Eva Woods

Life doesn’t come with a map. Maybe you’re going the right way after all.


It is the morning of Ellie Warren’s wedding day and she is hiding under her childhood bed. She cannot shake the feeling that she isn’t where she’s supposed to be – the marriage, that is – but she can’t work out how she ended up here or where exactly she should be.

Ellie knows there wasn’t just one decision that led her to this day. Her life is made up of billions of choices but some of them must have changed the course of her life forever. Ellie is sure that if she can just find those moments, work out where she went wrong in the past, then maybe she can make things right in the present.

But what if Ellie is exactly where she is meant to be? What if all the missed opportunities and paths never taken are leading her to happiness?


The Way Back to You by James Bailey

When Simon reconnects with his first love Sylvie – the French pen pal he never met – he is determined to not let her go again.

Life may not be as straight-forward at sixty as it was at sixteen, but that won’t stop him.

Together with old school friend Ian, he sets off on the same bike ride – from Bristol to Bordeaux – that they attempted all those years ago.

But while they now have better bikes, more acceptable haircuts, and Google Maps, some things never change.

And it soon becomes clear that this trip will have even more bumps in the road than the first . . .


One Last Letter from Greece by Emma Cowell

Devastated by her mother’s death, Sophie longs to get away from an empty house full of memories and a life that hasn’t quite turned out as she had imagined.

So when a chance discovery among her mother’s belongings hints at a past Sophie knows nothing of, she jumps at the opportunity for escape and a chance to heal. The magical, idyllic Greek town of Methoni awaits…

But Sophie – determined to uncover her mother’s secrets – is about to discover so much more. Among the tranquil waters and cosy tavernas, Methoni’s locals offer Sophie the answers she craves, along with unexpected romance and, if she’ll take it, a chance at her own happiness…

Will walking in her mother’s footsteps help Sophie discover who she was meant to be all along…?


A Colourful Country Escape by Anita Faulkner

FALLING IN LOVE ISN’T ALWAYS SO BLACK AND WHITE . . .

When vibrant but penniless Lexie is dumped by her posh boyfriend who is looking for a more financially suitable match, she decides to pack up her beloved orange campervan Penny in search of a new path. Stumbling upon a vacancy at a family-run paint company in the Cotswolds, Lexie believes she’s found her perfect match . . .

Lexie arrives at Nutgrass Hall, home of Carrington Paints, but it seems that owner Benedict Carrington is less than impressed with her arrival, and Lexie realises she’ll have her work cut out for her if she’s to convince stuffy “Beige Ben” to trust her with rescuing his out-of-touch business. But Ben has more on his mind than just the company – his mother is determined to find him a suitable wife worthy of carrying the Carrington family name, or she’ll take the business from him.

As Lexie sets to work on injecting some life colour into Carrington Paints, Ben allows himself to be set up with Tewkesbury’s finest ladies. But the more time the pair spend together, the more they realise their feelings for each other aren’t so black and white. Will Lexie be able to brighten into Ben’s colourless world before it’s too late?


Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

When Vivian Howe, author of thirteen novels and mother of three grown-up children, is killed in a hit-and-run incident while jogging near her home, she ascends to the Beyond. Because her death was unfair, she is allowed to watch what happens below with her children, her best friend, her ex-husband, and a rival novelist whose book is coming out the same day as Vivi’s.

Vivi is also given the use of three ‘nudges’ so that she can influence the outcome of events in the world of the living. As Vivi discovers her children’s secrets, watches the investigation into her own death and worries about a secret from her youth coming to light, she must decide what she wants to manipulate – and what should be left well alone.


Love, Betty by Laura Kemp

One chance encounter might just change everything…

On the day that Betty meets Guy, her life is changed forever. She never thought she’d see him again, but a few months later, realizes she has something of his that needs returning…

So, she writes him a letter. It’s the perfect solution for Betty – it means she doesn’t need to tell Guy about what really happened that day, and the secret she’s been hiding.

For Guy, Betty’s letter arrives at his repair shop at the perfect time. His whole world has come crashing down around him and for the first time in a long time, he starts to feel hopeful.

But can you really begin to fall in love with someone you’ve only met once…?


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Historical

The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn

‘Maudie, why are all the best characters men?’
Maudie closes the book with a clllump. ‘We haven’t read all the books yet, Miss Cristabel. I can’t believe that every story is the same’

Cristabel Seagrave has always wanted her life to be a story, but there are no girls in the books in her dusty family library. For an unwanted orphan who grows into an unmarriageable young woman, there is no place at all for her in a traditional English manor.

But from the day that a whale washes up on the beach at the Chilcombe estate in Dorset, and twelve-year-old Cristabel plants her flag and claims it as her own, she is determined to do things differently.

With her step-parents blithely distracted by their endless party guests, Cristabel and her siblings, Flossie and Digby, scratch together an education from the plays they read in their freezing attic, drunken conversations eavesdropped through oak-panelled doors, and the esoteric lessons of Maudie their maid.

But as the children grow to adulthood and war approaches, jolting their lives on to very different tracks, it becomes clear that the roles they are expected to play are no longer those they want. As they find themselves drawn into the conflict, they must each find a way to write their own story…


The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan

After renowned London fashion designer Cressida Westcott loses both her home and her design house in the Blitz, she has nowhere to go but the family manor house she fled decades ago. She arrives with nothing but the clothes she stands in, at a loss as to how to rebuild her business from a quaint country village.

Her niece, Violet, is thrilled that her famous aunt is coming to stay – the village has been interminably dull with all the men off fighting. Meanwhile, the local vicar’s daughter, Grace Carlisle, is trying in vain to repair her mother’s gown, her only chance of a white wedding. When Cressida Westcott appears at the local sewing circle meeting, Grace asks for her help – but Cressida has much more to teach the ladies than just simple sewing skills.

Before long, Cressida’s spirit and ambition galvanizes the village group into action, and they find themselves mending wedding dresses not only for local brides, but for brides across the country. And as the women dedicate themselves to helping others celebrate love, they might even manage to find it for themselves . . .


Chronicle of a Good Looking Family by Lauro Martines

In 1950s Florence, there is an old saying: ‘If you are born beautiful, you are not born poor.’ The name Castellani ranks highly in the order of good-looking Florentine families. Lorenzo Castellani seems to have everything. Handsome, with a keen brain, he begins as a student of Renaissance art at the University of Florence, at a time when art history is still a subject for gentlemen, not pastry cooks such as his adoring family. But good looks and charms can sometimes turn to curses, as the Castellani family is soon to discover, when Lorenzo is forced to flee his beloved Florence for a very different life in Chicago. Moving between Florence and America, the novel follows the fortunes and misfortunes of three generations of the Castellani family, as each new generation brings with it new and passionate challenges, culminating in a sin so great that it is hard to see how the family will ever recover. An intriguing and reflective novel, an exploration of family loyalties and tensions, truth and lies, justice, and the conflicts and moral dilemmas at play behind an aesthetically-pleasing facade.

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So that’s all for this week.

Happy Reading!

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